The Return of the Freeze Mage: The Emperor Strikes Back
Once upon a time the Hearthstone meta was dominated by Mages. Every archetype of Mage was top tier and that was because of the pre-nerf mana cost of some powerful spells as well as the lack of healing in Hearthstone. It seems crazy these days to think that not only did Mages have access to 8-mana but that all of the spells cost one mana less. This meant that Freeze Mage could start freezing your board on turn 2 and never let a single minion attack go through. Needless to say this was incredibly frustrating to play against and Blizzard decided to nerf all of the freeze spells by one mana in the name of fun. Freeze Mage was still viable but definitely became a much more balanced deck.
Enter the Black Rock Mountain adventure and a single Dark Iron Dwarf by the name of . His ability is one that was looked at as potentially game breaking before anyone had a chance to play with the card as he can essentially un-nerf certain cards. However, in practice, the card has not proven to be overpowered but does in certain decks provide a large amount of value. In my opinions Freeze Mage is the best equipped deck in the game to take advantage of the mana reduction that Thaurissan provides for a few reasons. Freeze Mage often has a very large hand since it features a high amount of drawing cards and also, the power of the Freeze Mage is in the ability to do large amounts of burst damage using a sequence of burn spells. Those spells costing less mana means that more of them can be fit into the same turn allowing for larger amounts of sudden damage.
Let's take a look at the deck and break down each card's place in the deck and then we'll discuss some important combos and possible replacements as well as general game strategy.
x2 - this card is there for it's burst potential in combination with Frostbolt. Sometimes you may need to use it to freeze a minion to prevent taking lethal damage but try to avoid that as it is the cheapest spell in the deck and offers 4 damage in exchange for only 1 mana. It is also one of the best ways to utilize and get some extra Fireballs.
x2 - this card is also there for burst potential but it is okay to use one for removal purposes early in the game. Certain cards are just too threatening to leave alive and this acts as a fantastically efficient removal spell.
x2 - since this deck is so reliant on a few important cards, namely , it is important the the deck cycles efficiently. This card does exactly that and also serves to thin the deck out so that you draw poorly less often.
x2 - the first of your board-wide freeze spells and also the cheapest. This card is fantastic to set up huge s as well as in combination with . You can really start to control the flow of the game with the freezing on turn 3 which means slowing the incoming damage and giving yourself time to draw into your finishers.
x2 - this secret acts as more stall and since it gives armor instead of healing it can be used early on without losing any value. It's best in this deck to get these for free with your if you can help it.
x2 - there are a lot of situations with a deck like this where you could win with just one more turn. This card gives you exactly that as you cannot be killed and can start to set up your lethal burst combos. Be aware that secrets do not activate on your turn. I have seen players lose games because they forget this and kill s. Fitting this in on the right turn is also very important as your mana becomes scarce later on when you're trying to fit in all of your burn spells.
x2 - not much to say here. It's burn that goes face. It's removal in a pinch. It's a Fireball!
x2 - this is the other board wide freeze and also does some damage so it can stall the game as well as kill off some creatures or soften them up for a .
x2 - the biggest board wipe in the game. Getting value out of this card is really important as you will usually only play it once a game. Look to get at least 3 for 1 with it if at all possible.
- most Freeze Mage decks in the past would run either this card or but these days you run both. It gives you the burn you need to win the game and this is the real key card against the worst matchup for the deck, Control Warrior. Make sure you get at least one spell off the same turn you play him as he is a huge threat and likely will only live one turn.
- this is the other finisher in the deck. If you have an up then this is a huge amount of burst that can get you set up for an easy lethal on the next turn. If you have to use this on a minion then it's likely you have lost the game already so do your best to avoid that.
- the only in the deck. It allows you to get 21 damage out of the Fireball, Frostbolt, Ice Lance x2 combo. It also cycles which is incredibly important for this deck so you can use the card early on without getting spell damage if you need to get to your finishers or other important cards.
x2- this guy is fantastic in Freeze Mage. You can freeze a huge board and destroy it all regardless of health with this and . 7 health is a lot to chew through and so even if the opponent finds an answer it is often essentially 7 life gain for 2 mana. One neat little play is to play one of these and kill as the opponents board will be wiped on their next turn.
x2 - Mages have the most expensive secrets in the game so if you can play them for free it is a huge tempo gain. This also gives you a body to use to trade which the deck lacks so keep these every time in your opening hand.
x2 - more card cycling and a body early on. You can ping your own Acolyte to guarantee at least 2 cards out of him as well and I recommend you do so liberally.
- this card is not required but I have found it to be valuable against Hunters as well as in the mirror match. This deck is all about stalling until you have the burst to finish so a card that heals for 8 can be very valuable to that strategy.
- the great enabler. Since your hand is usually very full you can jam this guy down and save 8 mana or more in future turns which can move your win condition up a whole turn. This deck is all about buying time and this card allows you to need less time which is incredibly powerful. In my opinion this card has put Freeze Mage back in the top tier once again.
- the most important card in the deck. It is possible to win without her but everything has to go incredibly right for that to happen. Since you have so much draw you can throw her back in your mulligan but just hope she doesn't find her way to the bottom of the deck. There are also going to be times when you need to use the effect for healing but the main function of the card is to deal half of the opponent's life total at once and then kill them the next turn.
Playing the Deck
In the mulligan phase you want to keep card draw and Mad Scientists. Keep cards like Acolyte, Arcane Intellect and Frostbolt. You want to draw a lot in the early game and get a big hand with all of your burst and control. It's also okay to hold on to Doomsayers if you know that you are playing control or midrange. You'll likely be using your hero power quite a bit to control the board. The early game can feel pretty scary for this deck since you are just biding your time and trying to live. You have to trust that you will be able to stall long enough so prioritize value over anything.
Most decks will start to either pull away in the mid game or fall behind but with this deck you are simply stalling. Try and find a good time for the Frost Nova + Doomsayer combo to clear the board and if you can't then just keep drawing cards. It is around this time when your hand might be nearing 10 cards though so be careful not to overdraw. Your opponent will likely have realized what deck you are running at this point to so they will start playing accordingly. You are going to take some damage in this part of the game but if you can keep drawing and stalling then you will get to your combo pieces so it's important to play fearlessly. You also want to start keeping tabs on the amount of damage you have in hand so that as you transition into the late game you are aware of how close you are to winning.
Late game is where this deck is at it's most powerful. If you have the right cards in hand by this point then there is really no deck that can beat you. That doesn't mean that late game is easy since you will need to navigate the last few turns correctly and be aware of the minefield that can prevent your win. If you have an Ice Block up, Alexstrasza in hand and several burn spells then you are primed for victory. The obstacles that can prevent this are healing cards and cards like . You must consider what will happen if these cards are played and try to have a back-up plan if they do. The great thing is that means nothing to you so these really are the only cards that need to be played around. Often times you will have enough burn to finish the job over two turns and this is where your Emperor Thaurissan turns can really give you an edge. I wish I could give hard fast rules for setting up lethal but it is something you need to practice to get really good at. There are many different permutations of the final few turns so try and piece the puzzle together to find the best chance for lethal before you run out of life yourself.
This deck does really well against any minion based midrange or control decks since you can stop the minions in their tracks and control the flow of the game. This includes decks like Paladin, most iterations of Warlock and Druid. Since there is so much burst damage in the deck you can win against anything but these are definitely your best match ups. One reason the deck has been picking up steam lately is that it is a strong tournament deck since it can find easy wins against some very popular decks. Ladder play is a bit tougher since you do play fairly slow games but the deck is quite challenging and fun so if you prefer that style then I recommend it.
The only truly terrible matchup is Control Warrior. This is because if the Warrior is able to hang back and armor up every turn then Alexstrasza cannot lower their health enough to finish them off. It is still winnable but you will need to keep the armor as low as possible and then get a lot of value from Archmage Antonidas. I actually did beat a Control Warrior in a local tournament the other night using this deck but I admit that I got the perfect draws to do so. If Control Warrior is popular it's a good idea to switch decks.
Freeze Mage received one of the biggest benefits from a single card in Black Rock Mountain and has been performing well in tournaments for some time. I know that many people are aware of the deck but I've also heard that it is intimidating to learn since the turns can feel very complicated. I hope that the information in this article will help people to get past that and give the deck a try as it is one of the funnest and most powerful decks in the game. Make sure to leave your feedback and any different versions or deck choices you have made in the comments below. More changes are coming in the next few weeks so I'm looking forward to doing some write ups on brand new decks soon!
Until next time, job's done!
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