If you happen to keep up with my weekly ManaGrind Wrap-Up articles, you might recall that I’d predicted that someone would make their mark on the competitive Hearthstone scene by creating a control deck able to deal with the crushing firepower of Warlock aggression. After four weeks atop the North America ManaGrind tournament rankings, Warlock aggro was finally dethroned by a Mage Control deck that apparently originated in Korea. While there’s no individual player to thank for this deck like we’ve had in times past, the deck has definitely left an imprint.
Cards sorted by Low Cost
- Frost Nova x2
- Frostbolt x2
- Arcane Intellect x2
- Cone of Cold x2
- Counterspell x2
- Ice Barrier x2
- Ice Block x2
- Fireball x2
- Blizzard x2
- Flamestrike x2
In a refreshing change a pace, there are a number of cards in this deck that are not featured in every other deck on the scene, especially when it comes to neutral minions.
In this super aggressive meta, a lot of decks have begun neglecting their silences, and some even forego crowd control altogether in order to run more low cost minions. Doomsayer boasts a beefy seven health, making it difficult to take out under normal circumstances. Against a Mage armed with Cone of Cold, Blizzard and Frost Nova, the tasks becomes almost impossible, assuring that an opposing board is wiped clean. While the deck does feature Flamestrike, that requires seven mana. An effective Doomsayer combo can be done with four mana, which makes it incredibly strong against Warlocks.
Alexstrasza is a versatile big that can either jack up your health or diminish your opponent’s, depending on the circumstance. There’s interesting potential for a combo wherein, once under ten health, you drop two Molten Giants (featured in this specific deck) for free, before summoning Alexstrasza to bring your health back up to 15.
Why Mountain Giants and Molten Giants?
First of all, they’re large, and they also hit very hard. That much is obvious. They’re perfect finishers, but in the right circumstance can be dropped on the cheap and demand attention.
Control players often have a lot of cards in their hands because their strategy is to be reactive. While aggressive decks throw stuff on the board in a frenzied effort to quickly incinerate their opponents, control decks hang back, watching, waiting. Mountain Giant’s mana cost goes down based on the number of cards in your hand, so there’s an obvious synergy.
In the process of securing board control and waiting out your opponent’s hand, taking a bunch of damage is a real possibility. What better way to punish your handless opponent than by dropping a pair of 8/8′s, potentially for free? Depending on how much punishment you absorb in the early to midgame, this strategy is totally viable. Worst case scenario, you play them at full cost and you’re not in any real danger.
This deck’s primary objective at all points it survive until it has enough damage to kill an opponent. This might feel similar to Reckful’s Innkeeper’s Invitational deck, but there are actually a number of core differences. Where as Reckful’s deck froze you over and over until it drew the correct assortment of spells to KO you in one to two turns, this specific Mage deck relies more on minions. It features one Pyroblast, as opposed to two, and a good selection of hard hitting minions, listed above.
Cone of Cold, Frost Nova and Blizzard are all cheap enough to give this deck great odds at containing the horrible hordes featured in the standard Warlock aggro deck. Whatever isn’t dead come turn seven will quite likely perish at the hands of Flamestrike, which this deck features two of.
Ice Barrier and Ice Block give this deck an even greater degree of survivability, giving the Mage more time to stall and draw the necessary board clears and spells.
The name of the game here is containment. Utilizing powerful control spells and stall tactics, this deck can wear down an opposing hand before advancing in for the kill with large minions, or spells such a Pyroblast and Fireball.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Already mentioned earlier, this deck is great at controlling crowded boards, making it naturally strong against some of the common aggro decks floating around. Aggro Rogues, Warlocks and even Paladins will quickly find themselves in trouble if they’re not careful. Where this deck will have problems is against opponents that are more spell oriented, or feature a lot of minions with charge. Frost effects obviously don’t do much if they never have the chance to touch a foe. There will also be a chance to use silence mechanics to exploit the all important frozen status. Spellbreaker, already fairly popular as the go to silence could see even more play, alongside Ironbeak Owl and class specific spells.
The Deck in Action
I recently had the chance to face this deck in a ManaGrind tournament, and it’s rough to deal with, especially once it gets going. As seen below, I approached the first match in the series cautiously, not being sure what I was up against. It did not pan out. Once FireSale obtained the specific cards he needed, I’d basically already lost, despite playing more of a midrange Paladin setup.
So what do you do against this deck? While powerful, all control decks face one glaring weakness. They require specific cards at specific times. I realized that my best chance at beating FireSale was to turn on the aggression, but with buffed minions instead of a whole bunch of small ones. This specific Mage deck does not feature Polymorph, making it susceptible to larger minions early on. The goal was to take him out before he got the cards he needed. In this specific instance, it was successful. It might not always be, but it’s better to try going fast than to wait for slow, icy doom.