Post-nerf Update: Since Mana Wyrm got nerfed to 2 mana, I cut them for Thalnos, Flame geyser and I cut Lifedrinker for Mana Addict. The deck's aggro matchups aren't hurt but matchups like Druid, Warrior, and Hunter really took a hit.
Video explaining my thoughts on the nerf: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNz9YqmUXrM&lc=z22gcvnibmzlhvfaa04t1aokgboylkg11053xdekr31prk0h00410
Hey it's Apx and I'm back with another mage guide! I've been playing and building competitive level mage decks ever since Flamewaker was released 3 years ago. I've accumulated over 10,000 ranked mage wins and I'm happy to say that Boomsday Aggro Mage is one of the better mage decks we've had in a while. I figured now is a good time to write a guide since I've played almost 1000 Mage games since Boomsday came out in August and I feel like I'm beginning to master the deck. I Apologize in advance for any grammatical errors.
So far I've achieved top 50 ladder finishes, hit rank #1 6 times and climbed to legend on different servers with this deck. IMO in the right hands it's one of the best decks to climb with right now. Other players have also seen success with the deck too.
"Why would I need an aggro mage guide all u do is go face and draw mana wyrm lol!"
Well, with this mindset you'll be stuck at rank 20. Sure some games the mage will draw Mana Wyrm > Arcanologist > Kirin Tor Mage and you're opponent won't have an answer, but this is the vast minority of games. If you want to keep up a good winrate you have to play well especially when you're in tougher situations and you don't draw like this or your opponent has the answer to it. In hearthstone 60% winrate is a massive improvement from a 50% winrate.
If you're a beginner with this deck I recommend you read as much of the guide as you can but if you're familiar with the deck then some parts of the guide might not be that useful. If you read the old guide then some information might be redundant but the deck has undergone a few big changes, and the matchups on ladder are very different so I suggest giving it another read, especially the matchup section. I also expanded on the Deck Analysis section a fair bit.
Link to old guide: https://www.hearthpwn.com/decks/1105163-rank-3-legend-in-depth-aggro-mage-guide-apxvoid
Twitter Proof: https://twitter.com/Apxvoid/status/1049549023646871552
Vod of the rank #1 climb: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/320256406
Aggro/Tempo mage is unique to other aggressive decks and more for the most part decision making is required than decks like odd rogue and zoo. The general play-style of the deck isn't too complicated, but what separates the good mage players from the average is the ability to consistently make the best decisions in tough situations, and finding out the lines of play that have the highest probability for success. The hardest decisions are usually when you're faced with choosing between which RNG based card to play. Now you're probably getting the impression that you're just supposed to get lucky with the deck but that's not true over a large amount of games. It's all about giving yourself the highest percent odds to win. For example sometimes you will need to decide whether you should try for a Arcane Missiles/Cinderstorm clear or go for a Glyph removal. This is a lot harder than it sounds, you don't need to do precise calculations but having a general idea of your odds will help you win a lot of games you wouldn't before.Trust me you won't play this deck near perfectly until you have 1000's of games.
This isn't a brainless face deck like many people think it is. It is very important to remember that you are usually the control deck vs Odd rogue Zoo, paladin and any other aggro decks. This is because mage has access to removal spells and card draw so pushing damage early isn't so important as long as you can out value them later. Rogue and Zoo almost always naturally take damage from their hero powers and any missed missiles or Explosive Runes damage. You would be surprised at how easy it is to keep up in life total without ever attacking face in those matchups.
It is also very important to remember that almost every spell in your deck can be used as both Removal and Burn Damage. You cannot get stuck on the mindset that you always need to go face when you will often need to use spells to protect your minions. You have to learn that minions are your primary source of damage and spells are secondary and mostly there to protect your minions. Of course cards like Fireball are better at going face then clearing board but a fireball can be a very useful board clear tool and never overvalue it for its face damage. Sometimes fireballing a minion even if its something as little as a 3-3 can go a long way if you're opponent is playing a deck that cant easily deal with your board from their hand. Like odd paladin or Zoo.
In the early game protecting your board is very important so you'll need to make lots of trades and use spells to clear before you can focus on targeting face. Ideally you're clearing board with spells while pushing face damage with minions like Mana Wyrm.
"What is Tempo?"
Knowing what Tempo is and when to do 'Tempo plays' is crucial. If you don't know what Tempo is, it's basically building a lot of momentum or pressure with the least mana possible, therefore making it difficult for your opponent to have an answer with the same amount of mana. A tempo play often sacrifices value and card advantage to immediately have a powerful play leading to more board control. An example of this would be using two 0 mana spells to clear one minion to protect your board. Not all tempo plays are inefficient though. For example you can get a lot of value and Tempo with Cosmic Anomaly + Shooting Star. You will have to use your own game sense to decide when these Tempo plays are correct or when its more valuable to hold your spells for more value. Low value tempo plays should usually happen a lot if you have Aluneth in hand since value shouldn't be an issue. An example of a bad Tempo play is to turn 1 Arcane Missiles face just because you have 1 mana. This doesn't help you accomplish anything.
On the other hand, resource management is very important too. I find one of the biggest problems that people have when learning the deck is incorrect resource management. What I mean by this is wasting spells for no good reason. If you don't have aluneth you're going to need to get a lot of value out of your spells so frostbolting face just cause you have extra mana, even with a Mana Wyrm on board isn't necessarily better than just passing or using hero power. There are definitely situations where you do want to spend your extra mana to use spells without a lot of value but thats usually when you have lots of card draw or you have an aggressive hand and can begin to start setting up lethal. The longer you can live the more time you'll have to draw through your deck and only a few deck are able to survive through all of mages spells. Try not to overvalue Cosmic Anomaly spell damage to face when a ping will often only be 1 less damage, but it allows you to save the spell for something more useful later. There are definitely situations where you will want to squeeze out every damage possible though.
Another important skill later in the game is to always know exactly how much face damage you have and potential face damage with certain draws. If you always know your 'reach' it becomes a lot easier to set up lethal the following turns even if over more than 1 turn ahead. Hearthstone Deck Tracker is very useful for keeping track of your deck I recommend it.
Ordering and why it's very important
Proper ordering is an important habit to pick up. This is usually fairly simple but can be complicated at times. A basic example would be using Arcane Intellect to draw before using non-rng cards like Frostbolt or a secret. Now it's not always this simple, sometimes you have to decide if it's worth it to Mana Wyrm first or whether you want to play an Arcane Missiles or Cinderstorm first and then depending on the missiles outcome you can decide if you would rather Hero Power a minion or still use the Arcane Intellect. So don't feel bad if you Draw or glyph last as long as it made sense.
Sometimes people will just automatically play a Mana Wyrm before playing a Primordial Glyph and this can throw the game if you needed that extra 1 mana for a better spell. Never overvalue a Mana Wyrm's attack because if the wyrm lives then chances are you're in a pretty good spot anyway and all that's lost was 1 attack. It helps to know exactly what spells you are looking to take from the glyph before you play it. For example you can decide that there isn't a single 4 mana spell that you would play off this glyph and it's correct to play Mana Wyrm first.
Another tricky part of the deck is being able to figure out the best Aluneth turns. What I mean by that is how well you can manage your hand when you have 8-10 cards and are drawing 4 more cards every turn with Aluneth. Once you are at this point in the game you generally want to play as much as possible since you'll be drawing through your whole deck. Sometimes it can be difficult to manage these hands but I find it helps if you start off by counting the total mana cost of the cards that you might want to play that turn, before playing anything. You should also count your total damage in hand/ on board at this time. Once you figure out how much you can play then you figure out what you want to play. Always remember if you have more than 6 cards in your hand when you end turn with Aluneth you will mill so try to have 6 or less. Don't worry too much about milling cards though, sometimes you have to and can be correct to let yourself mill.
Card Breakdown/budget substitutes
In this section I'm going to talk about some of the card choices and provide replacement suggestions if you don't have the card. I'm also going to talk about some cards that I'm currently not running in the deck and why I didn't include them.
- Shooting Star: This card isn't really optional but I just wanted to talk about how great of an addition it was to tempo mage. If anyone remembers Arcane Blast this is similar but imo even better. Sure it can't go face but it can do a great job clearing the board and is even better with anomaly. Against classes like druid it can still be really helpful vs spreading plague.
- Arcane Intellect There's been a little bit of controversy about this one so I'll talk about it. I've had a lot of people ask me why I don't run 1 AI like RDU and Thijs recently did but I am very confident that 2 ai is core to the deck and makes no sense to cut one for a card like Amani Berserker. One who doesn't play the deck much might think that Aluneth, Luna and 1 AI is enough draw but it's not. With so many low value cards you need to be able to keep up in card draw even vs aggro. If you don't draw Aluneth in opening hand you need a lot of card draw to keep up. Having AI lets you out value decks like Odd rogue. It's also good synergy with Apprentice.
- Counterspell: I wanted to talk about this card since a lot of people ask me why I only run 1 copy of CS. The deck doesn't have a lot of secret synergy anymore all it has is Arcanologist and Kirin Tor Mage so 3 secrets is good enough and 4 isn't needed. It's pretty uncommon that Arcanolgist doesn't pull a secret and extremely uncommon for that to happen on turn 2. Explosive Runes is an extremely good card so in most matchups I would rather have a higher chance of finding that secret off Arcanologist.
- Stargazer Luna: This was another Boomsday addition that I love and can be really fun when it gets out of hand. Luna is at it's best if you have the most mana so don't be too hesitant to play Luna for tempo without getting draw, that way you force your opponent to deal with it and if they can't then you can get a lot of value. A lot of decks have a hard time dealing 4 damage early in the game like Evenlock, and druid.
As much as I like this card it's not core to the deck so if you don't have it you can sub it with something like Bloodmage Thalnos, Amani Berserker, Second Counterspell.
- Cosmic Anomaly: This is my favorite card from the set and Blizzard finally gave mage an awesome spell damage card that I've been looking for since Azure Drake was hall of famed. This card is amazing in the deck since you have a lot of cheap spells and it can be used to help clear board and also push more face damage.
- Lifedrinker: I used to play these in Witchwood but since Boomsday came out I haven't used this card until recently, so for now this is what I have in the '30th spot' in the deck and I've liked it so far. I don't have a lot to say it about it, it's just a solid minion that guarantees damage and heal. If Lifedrinker can hit face even once then it's already done 6 damage and that can make a difference. Can be really good to counter lethal setups cause sometimes people don't expect heal in mage too.
- Aluneth This card is very important in the deck and there's nothing worth cutting it for. You can try to play a budget version with maybe thalnos or antonidas instead but I wouldn't recommend it unless you have no choice.
Cards that I'm not running right now:
I'm pretty final on the first 29 cards in the deck but these next few cards can work as the 30th card Currently the 30th card that I'm using is Lifedrinker.
- Bloodmage Thalnos: Not a lot to say this card is nice, not good against anything in particular but the extra spell damage can sometimes help and I find it to be a better option then the other 2 mana spell Damage minions.
- Amani Berserker: Amani is another card that I used to play in the old Witchwood version of this deck. Another minion is nice vs control classes and since it's a 2 mana 2-3 it can find uses VS. other aggro decks. I just find that it's not impactful enough but it's definitely not a bad option especially on a budget.
- Celestial Emissary I ran this card in my first build of Boomsday Aggro mage but the more I played the deck the less I found it necessary. Spell damage is good in the deck but too much can be overkill since you can often just save your cheap spells for anomaly. Overall it's pretty weak vs control but can be nice vs aggro especially zoo. Would only run if meta was aggro dominated.
- Mana Addict If you haven't been in the loop with recent mage decks then this might come as a surprise but this card is honestly pretty powerful in the deck. It's meant for the druid, warrior and other control matchups. I used to run this card for quite a while and really enjoyed it but it just suffers too much vs aggro when you can't get ahead on board. Can be very strong late in the game, or at least put another 2 mana threat on the board that they usually can't ignore after Aluneth.
- Mirror Entity This isn't too uncommon in Aggro Mage and can sometimes throw off your opponent when they're trying to play around other secrets and don't expect it. I don't think this is worth a spot in the deck unless you're cutting a Counterspell but I prefer the utility of CS.
- Flame Geyser: Yet another good addition to the deck. Can synergize nicely with Stargazer Luna since you can create a 1 mana 1-2 on the right side of your hand for more draw (as long as the Flame geyser isn't already on the right side of your hand). Also more spells for Mana Wyrm and anomaly. Good vs aggro and mage mirrors.
- Pyroblast: Dealing 10 damage to face sounds good in theory but now that damage can be made up by comboing Arcane Anomaly with cheaper spells. Pyroblast can be rewarding if drawn at the right time but it's very inconsistent since it hurts so much to draw it early on. Wouldn't recommend this even in the 30th spot.
This is probably the most important and long part of the guide since every matchup can change the mulligan and playstyle. I will only talk about matchups 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. The correct mulligan can take a long time to learn since there's so many factors to keeping certain cards.
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:
- Cards that you will pretty much always keep in the mulligan are: Mana Wyrm, Arcanologist, Kirin Tor Mage (on the coin)
- 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 that are very situational and highly depend on the rest of your hand that you will only sometimes with certain synergies are: Arcane Intellect, Explosive Runes, Counterspell.
- Aluneth is kept vs every class except for Rogue. I usually keep Aluneth vs Warlock since there's a lot of evenlocks in Legend but if you face mostly zoo's then you might not want to keep it.
- 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 matchup gets harder the more they tech vs aggro. Druid decks with Ferocious Howl and/or Wrath can be really tough for mage but Malygos Druid sometimes doesn't run them. Overall though this matchup isn't as tough as people think.
This matchup is all about how many minions you can get on board early and mid game. Druid doesn't have that much removal so if they run out of removal before you run out of minions then you should be in a really good spot since plague isn't always that effective against mage. Armor gain cards like branching paths don't do much if they can't kill your minions. The druid decks actual win condition (Malygos or Togwaggle) is almost always irrelevant in this match up since it will usually come down to whether or not they can survive your pressure. So just focus on maximizing damage over the long run. Try to save Anomaly shooting star for Plague if you have a board and then it will be easy to get through.
This matchup is actually easier than the more control/combo druids since token druid has less defensive tools like Wrath and Ferocious Howl. Early whispering woods and taunts should easily be dealt with by mage removal spells. The way that token wins is by ramping into Ultimate Infestation or Malfurion Deathknight. This matchup is slight favored for the Aggro Mage.
This feels the easiest of the druid matchups, which is weird since in Witchwood Taunt druid was a bad matchup. This matchup is pretty similar to the other matchups except for that Explosive Runes is usually a lot more effective. Taunt druid doesn't run the Deathknight or plague. The strategy in this matchup is to just build a board and use explosive runes to help get through their expensive taunts or dragonhatchers.
This matchup usually depends on how powerful the mage opener is. Egg + Terrorscale Stalker or Play Dead can often be too slow against aggressive openers like Mana Wyrm + Apprentice or Kirin Tor Mage
Hunter lacks heal so your face damage is valuable in this matchup. Don't be too afraid to use missiles/cinder on face since it can be bad against deathrattles like Devilsaur Egg. Egg hunter also lacks burst apart from King krush so if you can't deal with their board then sometimes its better to just go face and try to draw burn.
This matchup is a lot easier than it used to be and I believe it's mage favored if you play around the secrets well. Early game try to kill all the early beasts to play around Houndmaster. Ideally you proc the secrets with Arcanologist or Kirin tor since they're lower value on board than a mana wyrm or sorcerers apprentice. Later in the game when they have a lot of secrets its often better not to proc them at all if you don't think you can maintain board control. Spellstone can be an issue but not if you have Cosmic Anomaly + Shooting Star so make sure to save that if you can.
Aggro Mage Mirror
This matchup can be won one of two ways. First way is to out pressure them early game and finish off with burn. This can be done with Mana Wyrm/Arcanologist/Kirin Tor Mage curves. If you don't draw these cards don't worry too much since you can win the other way which is removing everything the opponent plays as soon as possible and then playing Aluneth on turn 6. This works if you don't take too much damage and also if they don't have a strong board developed on your Aluneth turn.
Paladin isn't so common anymore on ladder but this matchup seems a lot better than it was in Witchwood. Shooting star is a great addition for this matchup. The way that you play this matchup is pretty straight forward. Mana Wyrm/Sorcerer's Apprentice can be very important since the paladin has a tough time dealing with them if you're able to protect them with removal spells. Try to save Frostbolt for face to play around Vinecleaver if it's late in the game.
This deck has been popular over the past few weeks and I've played the matchup enough so I'll talk about it. This is played pretty straightforward as the mage. Early Mage minions are very powerful since the Priest deck doesn't have very good removal tools. A strong early game curve is usually enough to beat down the priest. Don't be too afraid to drop the Cosmic Anomaly for tempo since it is tough for the priest to deal with. If you're early game doesn't quite get there then Aluneth can usually kill the priest fast enough. If possible don't play into spiritlash late game and you should be fine as long as they didn't get lucky Shadow Essence RNG on a Zilliax or a Obsidian Statue. This matchup is mage favored. 65%-35% IMO
Mechathun priest isn't that common but I wanted to write about this one since it's pretty much 100% winrate for mage if played properly. You can get the worst opener ever and still win as long as you don't allow the priest to pull off the combo or fatigue you. This matchup is 100% because even if they make it all the way to the mechathun win condition you can easily counter it with a well timed explosive runes. Once they're down to 5 cards then you can play the runes and counter the mechathun combo (Reckless Experimenter, Ticking Abomination x2, Coffin Crasher, Mechathun). The explosive runes will kill the Reckless Experimenter making the combo impossible. Can be fun fatiguing priests :)
This matchup is widely seen as Odd rogue favored but I would disagree after having a 60%+ winrate over 100's of games. Went 9-0 vs Odd rogue on my recent Rank 1 climb. It is very important that you know when to throw away minions into the 2-2 dagger and when not to. For example playing a Mana Wyrm on turn 1 is bad if they have a firefly or diremole on board already since they'll just trade dagger. It's better to save the Mana Wyrm for a turn where you can either clear their board so it won't die to the dagger, or when you can develop multiple minions so that he can only dagger one. Usually with a Sorcerer's Apprentice. Although there are some situations later in the game where you have to play these minions into their dagger/minions just to take their attention off of your hero so you can survive longer.
This matchup is all about removing the rogues threats as much as possible. Rogue has a very tough time once you're able to start clearing their boards. They can't use cards like Coldblood or Fungalmancer if they don't have a board. Those dead cards in hand can make a huge difference since rogue has no card draw apart from Myra's Unstable Element. That card usually isn't that effective in this matchup since they start taking fatigue damage fast.
In the late game as long as your HP isn't too low your late game draws should on average be a lot stronger than the rogues since you have more Card Draw. Also the rogue should naturally be taking damage throughout the game from daggering your minions and cards like Missiles, and Explosive Runes so you should never be too far behind on the face race late game.
I'm sure most of you know this by now but this is currently one of the most polarized matchups. This is because mage has so much pressure that the rogue can't really keep up. Explosive Runes and Counterspell are amazing at disrupting the rogues game plan and also pushing damage. It's about 92% winrate for the mage. Once you get later in the game and can start to set up one or two turn lethal it's fine to trade your board off so they aren't able to use Vicious Scalehide for rush lifesteal.
Rogue Mulligan (I always mulligan for odd rogue)
Mana Wyrm, Arcanologist, Explosive Runes (with coin), Kirin Tor Mage(either with coin, or Explosive Runes, or both), Primordial Glyph (only with Mana Wyrm ), Frostbolt (With Mana Wyrm)
Never keep Sorcerer's Apprentice vs rogue even with a lot of spells and a mana wyrm. Too bad vs dagger, coin SI, backstab.
This matchup is pretty dependant on the mage's opener and how many 3's the Shaman can roll on Lightning Storm. This matchup would be really easy if it wasn't for Healing Rain and now Elektra Stormsurge can sometimes be like a 3rd Healing Rain.
It's important to give the shaman little time to heal and draw cards. It's also important that you are able to develop minions after their overload turns. For example if you're opponent coins a volcano or plays Lightning Storm early in the game it is very likely that they won't be able to immediately deal with your next board. So don't play all in into these AoE's unless you're desperate. If they aren't able to deal with your boards than the healing rains will be far less useful since they'll just keep taking minion damage. Ideally in the late game you have them in a spot where you develop a board and set up lethal so they can't clear the board and heal on the same turn. If they choose to clear they die from spells and if they heal they die to minions.
I haven't played this matchup as much as I would like to but it seems Even Shaman Favored. Early Murkspark Eel's and flametounge can sometimes be huge problems. If the Even Shaman doesn't have a good opener and the mage does have a good one the mage should usually win though. This is because even shaman doesn't have AoE cards like Lightning storm and single target removals like Hex are usually too slow. They also lack heals so if you can get that aggressive early game they'll have a hard time coming back. The matchup gets scary for the mage if the shaman can curve into the big high HP threats like sea giants. Those are really hard for the mage to deal with.
This is a pretty controversial matchup. Zoo players say its zoo favored, mage players say it's Mage favored. I've played the matchup a lot as both the Zoo and the mage and if the mage plays well it's slight mage favored IMO.
Similarly to the Odd rogue matchup, turns 1-5 is all about managing their board and trying to play around turn 5 Fungalmancer. Zoo doesn't have a dagger though so developing minions like Sorcerer's Apprentice can be very important since the Zoo can only soulfire or Doomguard to clear from hand. Swing turns are very important so if you need to save some spells for a good board clear turn then thats fine. Usually this means saving Shooting Star for Anomaly. If you have at least two minions against an empty zoo board mage should almost always win.
Like the rogue the Zoo naturally takes a lot of damage, usually even more with Lifetaps and Flameimps so going into the late game mage should be in a good spot since you will start to draw fireball/burn spells to finish them off. Aluneth can also be very helpful in this matchup since it allows you to draw all your removal spells.
This matchup isn't as mage favored as some people seem to think. If evenlock is able to develop threats than you only have 2 or maybe 3 turns to finish them off since dealing with high HP minions can be really difficult without a good glyph. Hellfire is also a great tool so you can't play too much into that. Also never give the warlock a good on board defile unless you have no choice. The game will often come down to how many heals the warlock can find so you usually prioritize face when possible but killing minions is still sometimes necessary. For example if you have Aluneth in hand and your opponent has a Mountain Giant on turn 4 or 5 you're probably going to need to use burn spells to deal with the giant to survive until late game. Explosive runes can be very useful in the matchup to help deal with those threats preemptively. Counterspell can also win you the game if you can stop a turn 4 Hellfire
As you might have guessed this is a tough matchup for the mage. The tank up combined with efficient removal like Dynomatic, Shield Slam, and Reckless Flurry can give the mage a tough time. But never lose hope, mage can beat anything if you draw well but also play it properly. I played against 5 Warriors from rank 3 legend to rank 1 legend and I went 5-0 so don't lose hope!
This matchup is kind of similar to defensive Druid decks. Even though the warrior has little pressure, they will fatigue you if you don't push enough minion damage since they can often gain more armor then all the damage from your spells in the deck combined.
If you can get through the turn 5 with a board then you should be in a good spot. This can be done by using Counterspell to stop Reckless Flurry/ Brawl. Don't be afraid to use Counterspell against the coin because it can be extremely good denying the Odd warrior a coin 5 mana play since they usually can't do much with 4 mana. It's also very important to develop a board that has more than 5 health to play around Dynomatic. In unfavored matchups like this sometimes you just have to play into these cards if you don't have a good hand you need to hope they don't have the right answers.
Well that's everything I can think of for now but like I said earlier a lot of the advanced mage plays are very situational so I recommend watching my stream or stream Vods to see what I do in tricky situations. I try to explain my thought process the best I can. If you want to go even further with the deck, I do offer 1 on 1 coaching which you can inquire about on twitter or twitch DM, or look me up on Gamersensei.com.
Thanks for reading good luck on the ladder!