Hey, I'm Apxvoid and I'm an avid Hearthstone player, with mage being my favorite class at nearly 9000 constructed wins. You might have seen me from my stream, or maybe you've seen some my decks around . I spend most of my time in Hearthstone building, testing and climbing with all sorts of mage decks. I got a lot of requests to write a guide, so I decided that now would be a good time since yesterday (April 29th) I hit rank 3 Legend on Asia server and Rank 4 legend NA. I believe aggro mage is currently one of the strongest and more underrated decks on the ladder right now. Most of my games are on stream and all Vods of my climb can be found here:
This is also my first guide so I apologize for any errors and if I ramble on a bit too much.
I finished April 2018 at rank 3 Legend on Asia (Proof) and peaked at rank 4 legend NA on the same day. I have had multiple people show me their success with the deck in high legend as well. I have been playing aggro mage pretty much exclusively in Witchwood (with the exception of about 100 control mage games) and almost all of my ladder games this month can be found on my stream vods: Here
Contrary to popular belief, the key to Aggro mage isn't drawing Mana Wyrm. As the title says, this is aggro mage but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a brainless face deck. It's actually quite difficult to efficiently manage your damage while maintaining board. Since this deck is built to curve aggressively, we run Aluneth to draw through our whole deck. This synergizes very well with burn damage since some decks just can't keep up with how much pressure you can apply when drawing through your whole deck in only a few turns.
You need to be able to decide when to use burn spells on minions to protect your board/life total or on your opponents hero. It's not easy to explain in a guide when to go face and when not to since every game is different and it is highly depending on many different factors. The playstyle of this deck also varies depending on the matchup, but I'll talk more about the matchup strategies in the matchup guide.
The general strategy is to do your best to protect your early minions so that they can push damage making it easier to finish your opponent off with burn spells. It is important to know what removals your opponent's deck is playing. This helps you to decide if you want to prioritize face or trade into minions.
To decide when to start going face it helps to have a game plan. This sometimes requires you to plan your future draws for example if you have 1 fireball and a frostbolt in your hand and your opponent is at 15 you might want to use those prematurely on your opponents hero to set up a fireball/pyroblast draw, but there is lots of other damage options in the deck. Usually you do this once your board is cleared or your opponent has too many taunts and you will no longer be able to push face with minions. This might be obvious to a lot of players but one of the biggest mistakes I notice when coaching Aggro mage is that people miss lethal setups very often. I don't just mean setting up lethal for the next turn, but I mean setting up lethal for the turn after the next, or even later than that sometimes. It is very important to get into the habit of always counting damage even if you don't have all the spells in your hand currently.
Using burn spells to clear board is a lot more viable if you have Aluneth in hand and need to survive to play a 6 mana card that doesn't immediately impact the board. Especially against aggressive/ mid range decks. If you can play your Aluneth while you're ahead on board then you are very likely to win.
Managing your Post-Aluneth turns is also extremely important and one of the most difficult parts of the deck. It's hard to explain all the different factors but some examples include: Using Sorcerer's Apprentice efficiently and not wasting it, knowing when to play burn spells and when to develop minions, what situations to use Arcane Intellect after Aluneth (which isn't very often)
Counterspell and Explosive Runes are so important and you can often play mind games with your opponent and make them guess between the two. Sometimes you can bluff one secret when you have the other and can be very rewarding.
Card Breakdown/budget substitutes
In this section I'm going to talk about some of the card choices and why they're in the deck and also suggest replacements if you don't have them.
- Mirror Image: This wasn't in my first iterations of the build but with the rise of Baku rogue and Even pally I began to really like this card, and it's also really good in the mage mirrors. It's main purpose is to protect your early game minions so you can ignore opponents board and go face and can also protect opponent from hitting your face. I find it's too low value to run two though.
- Amani Berserker: This is one of the more interesting cards in the deck. This is the "30th" card in the deck so it would probably be the first card I would cut if I wanted to run something else. I like it because I wanted to run another 1/2 mana minion in the deck to make my early minion curves more consistent, and this seemed like the best 2 drop to run. I also like it because it's a 2-3 which is really nice vs rogue, paladin, hunter and druid since 2-3 trades into most of their early minions pretty nicely. Also good against certain AoE like Defile and Wild Pyromancer and Cinderstorm
- Sorcerer's Apprentice: I'm sure most of you understand why it's included in the deck, but I wanted to talk about this card because of how important it is to correctly use it. This card can make your turns so much more efficient and powerful, especially after Aluneth is played. It can allow you to do things like Fireball, Fireball,Frostbolt on 9 mana, find crazy glyph lethals and all sorts of things. It is important that you don't waste this card in the later stages of the game but it if you draw it early game don't overvalue apprentice and not play it if it's effect won't be useful in the next 1 or 2 turns.
- Bloodmage Thalnos: This is also not core to the deck but it's nice to have spell damage sometimes. There aren't many good spell damage minions currently and I found thalnos to be the best since it can still cycle a card and it's 2 mana so you can combo it with mulitple spells. Substitutes could be: Black Cat, second Amani Berserker, Acidic Swamp Ooze, or even Spellshifter
- Cinderstorm: When Witchwood first came out this card was rated pretty poorly. I previously wondered why we would play this when arcane missiles is 2 mana cheaper but only 2 missiles less. It turns out that more face damage in this deck is really, really good. Ideally against control classes you get missiles to hit face, but against paladins hunters, rogues or any aggro decks it can be a great board clear tool.
- Lifedrinker I originally had 2 of these in the list but cut one for Amani Berserker because I found they're a bit too expensive sometimes and can cause awkward hands if you don't draw well. That being said I do still like the card in the deck because it can automatically does 3 damage guaranteed, and also will put a 3-3 on board which if connects to face at least 1 is already 6 damage. The heal is also nice, especially in aggro mirrors since they often are really close.
- Aluneth This is hands down one of the most important cards in the deck for obvious reasons. Most decks will not be able to survive all of your burn spells, depending on how much minion damage you can push. I will suggest substitutes but I highly recommend that you craft this if you like the deck.
Substitutes: Archmage Antonidas, Hemet, Jungle Hunter
- Pyroblast: This card can be amazing, but it can also sometimes be a dead card in your hand. I find that it will win games enough of the time to be worth it. Especially with all the warlocks and priests on ladder, or any control deck really. It still can be useful in any matchup though but ideally you don't draw it early. Substitutes: A second Lifedrinker, or even Archmage Antonidas
This is probably the most important and long part of the guide since every matchup can change the mulligan and playstyle. I will only do matchup guides for decks that can be commonly found on legend ladder. I will write the mulligan for the class in general (instead of every deck) since most of the time you won't know what deck exactly you're playing against in the mulligan phase.
In the Mulligan sections below the class guides, The cards that I think are most important to keep are listed first. I also add (with X) after some cards if you have both of those cards in your mulligan and will only keep it if you have the other synergy card.
Some general tips for mulligan are:
- You will usually only keep spells like Frostbolt, Primordial Glyph, Arcane Missiles when you also have cards like Mana Wyrm/Sorcerer's Apprentice in the mulligan, but there are some exceptions.
- Cards you will never keep in your mulligan against anything are: Pyroblast, Fireball, Lifedrinker, and Bloodmage Thalnos.
- Cards that are very situational and highly depend on the rest of your hand that you will only sometimes with certain synergies are: Mirror Image, Arcane Intellect, Explosive Runes, Counterspell, Primordial Glyph, Cinderstorm
- Cards that you will pretty much always keep in the mulligan are: Mana Wyrm, Arcanologist, Kirin Tor Mage (especially on the coin)
- Aluneth is kept vs every class except for: Rogue and Hunter.
- You usually only keep glyph if either you have Mana Wyrm and you are going first, or you have Mana Wyrm Coin + Sorcerer's Apprentice.
This is Aggro mages toughest matchup but luckily there aren't too many of them on the ladder. It's difficult because They run so many taunts and removals to stop your early minion damage and they also have a ridiculous amount of armor gain with cards like Branching Paths, Ultimate Infestation, Oaken Summons
I do win this matchup from time to time, so it is winnable with a bit of luck. Luckily for mage, the secrets can be really good against their expensive spells and minions. These will help protect your minions and clear the board. You have to hope they don't have enough removal to clear your board since minion damage is so important against decks with lots of heal/armor gain. Aluneth is also key in the matchup since sometimes you can draw through your whole deck before they find all of their armor gain.
Another important strategy is delaying their Ultimate Infestation by playing a secret. Even if you play Explosive Runes, they will often be too scared too risk playing into Counterspell
This matchup isn't nearly as bad as Taunt druid so I'm always relieved when I see spiteful druid. The nice thing about playing against spiteful druid is that they lack removal (only 2 spells) and apart from Malfurion the Pestilent they don't have much armor gain. I find that it's really easy to win when you have strong minion openers since like I said they don't have much removal so it's usually pretty easy to protect minions with spells and go face. On the contrary, if you're behind early game you have to hope they don't have spiteful or you're going to have a really hard time.
It's important to remember that Counterspell isn't very useful in this matchup since their only spell is Ultimate Infestation and that doesn't happen until way later in the game if at all. My point is that you don't need to prioritize spending mana on a CS in the early game if you can play something else. If the game does go long and Ultimate Infestation would help them, then playing Counterspellis probably a good idea.
Druid mulligan is pretty simple since in both matchups early minions are important. Explosive runes is really nice against druid in general.
Baku Face Hunter
Some people tend to think that face hunter would win this matchup easily since mage has no heal and aggro has generally been good against tempo mage in the past, but this is far from true. This matchup is favored for mage due to mages efficient removal and high pressure minions. By efficient removal I mean cards like Cinderstorm, Arcane Missiles. You can't ignore mages core minions (Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer's Apprentice) or they will snowball out of control. It's very easy to protect these minions since Arcane Missiles Cinderstorm [/card]and even Hero power are all effective against Odd hunter minions. [card]Mirror Image and Lifedrinker are also great tools in the matchup
In this matchup you mainly want cheap minions + cheap spells to get through the first couple of turns. Aluneth might be useful against slower archetypes of hunter like Spell hunter, but I have played almost none so I just mulligan for Baku hunter.
Aggro Mage (mirror)
The mirrors can be tricky sometimes since you can't really ignore each others minions. Generally having the coin helps a lot since it can be used to proc Counterspell, but going first is usually fine especially since you can Aluneth first. Early board is important since it's usually really hard to come back if you're ahead and have secrets up.
The general strategy is to either Snowball an early board that they can't deal with so that even Alunethisn't enough for them to come back or if you didn't draw really well you can use all your spells to remove to try and survive until Aluneth and then with a lot of resources in hand you can swing the game back in your favor by clearing, developing and pushing damage.
You might not play against this deck as much as some of the other ones in the guide, but I love control mage so I thought I would write about the matchup.
As many know, this is favored for Aggro mage since they often can't keep up with your pressure due to how powerful Counterspell is, since it can easily stop them from Dragon's Fury/Meteor/Blizzard/Flamestrike clearing . Going second helps so that they can't use the coin to proc counter. Explosive runes is really nice to beat their artificer turns as well.
I'm only going to talk about this Paladin deck since it's by far the most common and also the other matchups (Murloc Pally and Baku pally) are played pretty similarly for the most part.
People often look at stats and see paladin as a counter to mage and while I do agree that paladin is favored I would definitely not call it a counter. According to my stats I win 52% of my games against paladins, which I realize is a higher winrate for mage than the HSreplay and Vicious Syndicate stats.
This matchup really comes down to how well your first 4-5 turns stack up against theirs. Sometimes you will get games where you draw poorly and get blown out by Call to Arms, but other games you will be able to blow them out with early minions into a well timed Counterspell.
The reasons why I think this matchup isn't too bad for mage is because mage has some really helpful tools against pally to help us keep up on board and deal with all the minions. Cinderstormand Arcane Missiles are both great tools for clearing 1-1 and 2-2 boards. If you're able to clear their boards while developing minions you can easily push enough damage to win around turn 7-10.
I touched on it a bit earlier but Counterspellis amazing if they don't save the coin since it will hit some high value spells like Call to Arms, Consecrate, or even Avenging Wrath sometimes. If you drew Explosive Runes instead of Counterspelldon't worry too much since you can usually bluff Counterspellat least for a turn until they play a minion, since people will usually be too scared to play Call to Arms into an unknown secret.
Like hunter you want your early game cards to out tempo your opponent. Even Paladins turn 1-4 is pretty weak so keeping removal isn't that important but it's nice if you have spell synergy like Mana Wyrm and Apprentice. Counterspell is very important if you are going second since they can't easily proc it and play the call to arms.
Alunethcan also be really useful in the matchup since if you're not too far behind on turn 6 then you can play it and then comeback with missile/bolt/glyph clears.
Priest lost quite a lot in the new set, which is great for mage. Combo priest used to be pretty tough but I find this new mindblast priest a lot easier to beat. This is because they have a lot less early game pressure / removal. They do have more heals than the old combo priest but I find that if you can draw enough cards or have a strong opener you can still push enough damage.
Mindblast priest also lacks consistent AoE clears. Wild Pyromancer is not consistent removal especially with Explosive Runes countering it. Of course theirs Duskbreaker but I find that they don't have it on turn 4 or 5 nearly as much as they used to with less dragons in the deck.
All that being said it's still not an amazing matchup, but it still seems mage favoured and my recent stats are 10-5 against mindblast priest. They can win if they have board clear for your early game and you don't have enough card draw or just Aluneth it can be hard to keep up and suddenly they will be in their late game where they will be able to deal with your threats and usually heal your burn. Although if you do draw Aluneth I find that the matchup becomes very easy to win given that they don't have weapon removal in their hand which doesn't happen often. When trying to set up lethals be extremely cautious of Alexstrasza so that it doesn't get a lot of heal unless you are in a situation where you just cant beat it. Sometimes you can use damage spells to bait Alexstraza and then follow up with double Fireball Frostbolt. This is a pretty consistent strategy if you have the setup.
This matchup seems pretty close. The poisoned dagger can give the mage a really hard time but the mage will actually do well if you make it to the late game where the dagger is less significant. The key to this matchup is drawing as many of your 3 health minions as possible since they don't die to dagger and can help deal with their board or push face damage. I find that if you can get through the midgame without losing to much HP then you should be fine. Rogue doesn't have much card draw or efficient removal whereas mage does so as long as you don't get bursted down you should be fine. Since rogue uses poisoned dagger to attack your minions in the early game you can often keep up in lifetotal and sometimes you don't need much burn to finish them off, so it's very important to start planning damage in the late game and not wasting any on unnecessarily board clear.
This one's a fun one. Well for mage at least. As most of you probably know, quest rogue doesn't do well against aggro decks, especially mage in particular. This is due to their lack of removal, heal and defense in general. Their win condition is too slow to pull off unless they draw very very well, or you draw very poorly. The strategy as mage is pretty straight forward, just play early game minions and put pressure and occasionally kill minions that they can bounce back to their hand such as Glacial Shard, Vicious Scalehide or Sonya.
So honestly I wasn't exactly sure what to do here since I have played very few shamans in the past weeks, so there's not really a common deck but I find that most run some sort of Shudderwock Grumble, Worldshaker, Saronite Chain Gang combo. This matchup doesn't feel difficult. Counterspell and Explosive Runes are good tools against shaman and they often can't deal with early pressure. I also find that even though they run healing rains it's often not enough to beat Aluneth or lots of burn draws.
I grouped these two decks into one since they both are very similar and you often cannot tell which deck you're actually facing until halfway through the game. This is one of the most common matchups you will face. This is mage favored but not as much as some people tend to think. I would say it's somewhere around 56% mage favored.
The strategy to this matchup is mostly just go face. You will only kill a minion if it will allow you to push more face damage, or it is very threatening to your life total. It's important to properly manage your early game since it's nearly impossible to win if you don't have early pressure before the Voidlordcomes out. It is important to have pressure against their Kabal Lackey turn so they can't easily make a Voidlord and when they do their life total is too low and you can finish them with spells.
Counterspell can be very important in the matchup especially going second since it stops hellfire/spellstone on turn 4. So if possible I try to play Counterspell on turn 3 and if you do you have a board and Counterspell then you should be in a good spot.
Explosive runes can be both good and bad. You want to play Explosive Runes as early in the game as possible to hit cards like Stonehill Defender, Doomsayer, or anything but Carnivorous Cube and sometimes Kabal Lackey. There are some situations where you will pass over playing runes to avoid this punish. It is okay to runes into a lackey turn (since it's 4 face damage) if you are okay with them getting a Voidlord, so this would usually be when you run out of minions that can hit face. The other best times to Explosive Runes are turn 7 or 8 where they are less likely to play Carnivorous Cube.
Cinderstorm and Missiles can also be really good in the matchup. Most of the time the goal is to get them to hit face since big Voidlord boards will usually block them, so you want to try to get the Cinderstorm/ Arcane Missiles damage before they have these boards when they have 1 or 0 minions. It is completely okay to Cinderstorm a warlock in the face for 5 damage and in fact is really good if you can afford to.
In this matchup especially it is always very important to count your damage and plan 1 2, or sometimes more turns ahead and make sure you are being as efficient as possible with your damage and pings too. You will often ping over using a spell to get the maximum possible damage.
You don't actually want to keep too much early game since it can often get wiped by Hellfire and you won't have enough time to play everything before Voidlord so you will want a balance of minions and spells usually. Counterspell is very good on the coin since you can often stop Hellfire/Spellstone. You can situationally keep Arcane intellect if you have a very early game heavy hand like double Mana Wyrm or Mana Wyrm + Sorcerer's Apprentice
Control Baku Warrior
Warrior is another class that is currently underrepresented on the ladder right now, but this is definitely the most popular warrior deck which is unfortunate since they are favored.
Obviously, the main reason why it's unfavored is due to them having Tank Up.
For mage to win, it helps to have very minion heavy openers since they often don't have enough removal to deal with your threats. Especially when you can counter Rush cards with Explosive Runes, and spell removal like Brawl with Counterspell. Aluneth is also very helpful if they don't have weapon removal since even with tank up they often can't keep up with the amount of damage in the deck.
So hopefully this guide is useful to some of you and will help you with your ladder goals. I enjoyed kicking ass with this deck and hopefully you will too! I can't teach everything about the deck in a guide, but you can watch me play on my Stream and I also offer coaching. If you're interested in 1 on 1 coaching you can message me on Twitter, twitch, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org