Hot off the heels of our preview of the Priest class, we at BlizzPro are taking a look at another explosive caster class, the Mage. Jaina Proudmoore has been a perpetual victim in the Warcraft universe, but it looks like she’ll get the chance to drop the hurt on her would be opponents in Hearthstone. The Mage deck, despite dealing with the numerous mysteries of the arcane, is actually a bit more straightforward than the Priest deck. It features a fair amount of freeze spells and in general a bunch of high damage nukes. Is it worth playing though? We’ll address that question by first looking at the multitude of spells and abilities available to the Mage deck.
In the last couple of weeks, we’ve discussed two different hero abilities that feature direct damage. We’ll continue that this week. Fireblast costs two energy and deals a single point of damage to anything on the board. While the Hunter and Priest abilities can do more for the same cost, it’s worth noting that both have restrictions. Priest requires an evolution card of sorts to unlock the ability to deal two (and then three) damage, and the Hunter deck can only deal two damage to the enemy hero, limiting it severely. Both are solid, and so is Fireblast. If you take the time to watch the Live Fireside Duel between the Shaman and Mage deck, (a match made in fan fiction heaven) you’ll see that Jaina uses the ability frequently to whittle down opposing minions.
All three sets of spells feature the ability to do direct damage, but the Arcane spells, predictably, also offer Jaina some utility options. While Arcane Explosion and Arcane Missiles are both solid spells, we’ll focus more on explaining the utility cards.
Magic the Gathering veterans will probably be looking for a lot of card draw, counterspells and annoying utility in a ‘blue’ deck. It’s definitely there, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent. Arcane Intellect is a straightforward example of what’s there. Three energy, draw two cards. It might seem strange, but I’m kind of on the fence about this card. Yes, card draw is important. It just always is. At the same time, a lot of the other decks feature better options, in the form of minions that allow you to draw cards based on meeting certain criteria. This is just a three mana spell. There is no creature or damage paired with it. It’s possible I’m over thinking it, but like Priest, Mage is going to be drowning in spell cards. It’ll be important to make the most intelligent choices in order to maximize this somewhat fragile deck.
This card turns a minion into a 1/1 sheep. It’s worth noting that it can still attack, should your opponent choose to buff it up. That won’t happen though if you make sure to finish it off with Fireblast. Energy cost is four, but still. Absolutely core, run Polymorph.
Similar to the Hunter deck, Mage features a good number of secret cards, and this one’s solid. Mirror Entity‘s three energy cost means that you’ll probably end up copying something smaller, but there’s always a chance you’re going against someone who’s not running a bunch of minions and that this secret will sit until later on in the game. At that point, it might be able to copy something bigger when it attacks.
Counterspell, the hallmark of the control deck. The moment your opponent plays a spell (95% of the time the turn after you play this) go ahead and counter it with this secret card. It’s essentially a no exception card and, depending on what you counter, it could be huge. Besides, if you’re going to play a Mage deck, you NEED some kind of spell countering card, right?
While this card looks really good, I’d be careful. If you’re not running a lot of minions, the effect of this card is decidedly minimized. If you are running more minions though, I like this Spellbender. Given that the minion summoned has three toughness, it might survive and then you have another minion. If it’s a huge spell, even better That’s a huge spell one of your far better minions is not taking to the face. The only other thing that needs pointing out is that area of effect spells do not trigger this. Not the end of the world, but definitely food for thought.
Staying true to the source material, the frost spells tend to trade damage for utility, in the form of the freeze mechanic. The short version on what this does is: frozen minions cannot attack on the next turn. It might be tempting to run a lot of frost spells, but I’m more of the mind that damage is the more valuable currency. Why freeze a minion when you can just take it out? It’s also worth noting that some cards just seem like more expensive versions of other cards with the freeze ability. Cone of Cold is just Arcane Explosion for one more energy with a sizable limitation on what it can hit. Call me crazy, but I’d just take Arcane Explosion. It’s the damage you’re there for. In short, look at the frost spell. Do you want damage, area of effect, or do you really want the freeze? To be thorough, we’ll take a look at some of the better frost spells.
Alright, this is solid. Three damage and freeze for three energy to a single target. It’s a cheap enough answer to problematic creatures that comes with a giant stop sign for next turn. Frostbolt is worth taking a flyer on when you’re building your deck. It’s also worth noting that, at a common rating, it wouldn’t be hard to grind up as dust goes. That might be enough to run it initially, while grinding out/buying better cards.
Five energy is not cheap, but this probably the version of Cone of Cold you want to run. Two damage to all enemy minions. Considering the +spell damage available, it can also be jacked up to a horrifying three damage with relative ease. Blizzard should effectively be the widow maker when it comes to facing Hunter pets and Shaman totems.
Other Frost Spells
Again, I’m just not sold. Ice Lance could be worth running if you deck features a lot of freeze, but then it seems like you’re gimping your damage. Ice Barrier is just not a good turn three card, and it gets progressively less valuable as the match continues. When it comes to Frost Nova, the card seems like a desperate measure to stave off a killing blow while you hope to top deck an answer card. I’d just honestly run more answer cards. It’s ultimately your deck though. You have to do what’s right, and fun, by you!
“Burn baby, burn”, said every single Mage I’ve tried to play in World of Warcraft. I’m naturally biased, but for my money, I want to have fire cards all day, forever. They deal the most damage, and at present, that’s how you get things done in Hearthstone. More cards will become available and as they do, the situation might change, but for now? Damage please. Fireball is a no brainer and should be run. I’m not going to get into that one much. Pyroblast, the epic fire spell card, is much the same. Both spells feature a beneficial energy to damage ratio, sitting at five for six and eight for nine, respectively. I’d recommend both as, despite their heavy costs, they bypass taunts, being frozen and all that nonsense and can win you the game later on.
I love this card, but I respect that it costs seven energy. If it pans out, it should absolutely hand you control of the board. If it doesn’t, well, it’s seven energy for four damage, and only to minions. It seems strange to so heavily endorse Blizzard and be so unenthusiastic about Flamestrike, but that energy cost is just punishing, and by turn seven, there’s always the chance the situation might be too far gone to be remedied. Honest advice, look at where your deck is in terms of high energy cards and see if it’s practical to run one Flamestrike along with two copies of Blizzard.
I love Vaporize for the Mage. It’s a straight up ‘hey get out of here’ kill card and the Mage deck has very few options like that. What I would recommend though is, hold on to this card. Don’t play it on turn three when you have the energy to do so. Try dropping it after say, turn five, to get rid of something that cannot be conveniently taken out by by Fireblast or your other, smaller spells. Turns five through ten are the best window for this spell.
Whew, that’s a lot of spells. We’ll figure out how to tie them all together on Thursday, so be sure to check back.
Miss some of BlizzPro’s earlier previews? Take a look at those and other Hearthstone articles here. Have a question about Hearthstone or just want to talk deck ideas? Drop me a line at @RobertAWing on Twitter, or at ZenStyle@BlizzPro.com.