For much of Hearthstone's early life the Mage was considered the default pick if you were fortunate enough to see Jaina's face during the first step in the drafting process. Uther's taken her crown somewhat over the last 6 months or so, but there is absolutely no doubt that the Mage remains one of the most powerful Heroess you can hope to play in Arena.
In this guide, we're going to run you through what exactly it is that makes the Hero so dependable, provide some valuable tips on drafting a Mage deck, and then explain how you can gain an advantage, should you find yourself playing against this tricky character.
Drafting a Mage deck in Arena - January 2016
We don't believe in drafting any Arena deck based purely on tier lists alone. By doing so you are, on a card by card basis, looking at each option in isolation and without paying any attention to the synergies in your deck. Instead, we recommend taking a look through our general Arena guide to get a feel for the different Mana curve types available, so that you can build your deck accordingly.
With that out of the way, there are nevertheless some important tips that you should keep in mind while building out a Mage Arena deck.
- One of the Mage's key strengths lies in the fact that she has an excellent array of Common cards that suit very different playstyles. Cards like Fireball, Polymorph and Flamestrike allow you to take a very controlling position, while earlier cards like Mana Wyrm and Sorcerer's Apprentice allow you to be more aggressive from the start. Understand what type of deck you're beginning to form, and then focus on building on those strengths for your future picks.
- In the vanilla game it was a lot easier to get hold of the Mage's massive removal spells. These days, with the growing size of the card pool and the slight weighting given towards cards from the latest expansion, it's harder to ensure you'll get something like Flamestrike during the drafting process. For this reason, you should place much more value on just about any other removal spells you're presented with as the process wears on.
- Once you've got your first ten solid picks settled, take the time to review your deck every five choices or so. What kind of Mage deck are you building in terms of Mana curve - aggressive or controlling? Do you have enough of those vital early-game minions to help you gain board control and then develop tempo? As you reach the end of the drafting process, it becomes more important to pick somewhat sub-optimal cards in order to plug critical gaps in your strategy.
- Seek synergy in the second half of an Arena draft, not in the first. You can't guarantee you'll get cards that blend well together - you can only work to optimise the power of the ones you've already selected.
The best Mage Arena cards - January 2016
With our usual caveat that the value of cards change dramatically based on previous picks, there are some choices that are universally useful for every Mage Arena players to have in their arsenal.
Here's a quick look at some of our favourite Common class cards on offer during the drafting process, some of which are specific to the Mage class, some of which belong to the Neutral pile. You're likely to see Common cards more often than any other rarity, so understanding the power of these picks is vital.
Mage Common cards
|Fireball||Fantastic for clearing a stubborn minion or just for finishing the opponent's face off.|
|Flamestrike||Worth taking two of if you get the chance. One of the best board clears in the game.|
|Water Elemental||Often trades for two other minions, or frustrates a weapon-wielding opponent|
|Frostbolt||Great for clearing an early-game threat and gaining tempo.|
|Polymorph||Along with Hex, it's one of the best removal spells in the game. Always pick and save for a worthy target.|
|Mana Wyrm||The value of this card increases alongside the proportion of quality spells in your draft.|
|Sorcerer's Apprentice||Again, more spells plus the presence of the Mana Wyrm increase the value of this pick. Not a bad 3/2 regardless.|
Neutral Common cards
|Boulderfist Ogre||A long-standing favourite that provides exactly the stats you need for the Mana cost.|
|Chillwind Yeti / Mechanical Yeti||Great stats and annoying for the opponent to remove in the first half of a game.|
|Dark Iron Dwarf||Can provide a great tempo swing by helping an existing minion trade up against an enemy minion.|
|Harvest Golem||A very stubborn three-Mana drop that can force your opponent to spend many cards in order to fully deal with it.|
|North Sea Kraken||An impressive body on the board, backed up by a Battlecry that'll often clear off an enemy minion.|
|Piloted Shredder||Superbly stubborn minion. Arguably one of the best 4 Mana cards across any card quality type.|
|Sen'jin Shieldmasta||As the card pool grows, the number of Taunts available has thinned somewhat, so having one on your side can make a big difference.|
|Spectral Knight||Another tough minion for your opponent to clear off the board. Can't be targeted by spells.|
|Spider Tank||An extremely robust minion for the Mana cost, with an annoying health pool for your opponent to trade into around Turn 3.|
|Zombie Chow||Don't worry about the health-granting Deathrattle. This creature will often trade into a couple of early enemy minions while you develop the board elsewhere.|
Playing a Mage deck in Arena - January 2016
How you play as a Mage obviously depends a great deal on the type of deck you've drafted, and the precise make-up of it. With all that said and done, however, there are a few elements innate to the Hero that are worth factoring into your gameplay. Consider how these tips might apply to the very specific deck you've drafted.
- The Mage's Hero Power is a key part of what makes her such a dependable Hero in Arena. The extra point of damage might cost two Mana, but it'll often allow you to make a much better trade on the board as a result of firing it off.
- Unless you're working on a synergy play that, for example, empowers Mana Wyrm as part of a broader strategy, it's almost always better to trade off minions and lay down fresh ones, than use up a spell that can deal with a bigger problem down the road. There will always be exceptions to this rule!
- Bait out as much as you can before playing Flamestrike, but don't push yourself too close to lethal range by delaying. If you can get three decent minions with the Flamestrike, you're probably doing alright out of it.
- Don't be too quick to fire off that Polymorph if you have just about any other means of dealing with a problematic minion, and you also have the means to refuel your board presence. From Turn 6 onwards, that Polymorph can be used with your Hero Power to remove anything - anything from the board, and neutralise any Deathrattle effects in the process.
Beating a Mage in Arena - January 2016
In order to beat an Arena Mage, you must first of all understand what the Hero's weaknesses are. Obviously an understanding of playing the class yourself will make a huge difference here, but it's worth keeping a few things in mind as you evaluate the state of each stage of the game.
- Flamestrike will wreck your world and you should always assume there's the potential to see it on Turn 7. Right before this turn comes around, make sure you work the board to your advantage, or at least in such a way that you minimise the advantage your opponent will gain by whipping out this spell.
- Mage's hate having to use their Hero Power on Turn 3, as it almost certainly forces them to waste a Mana crystal, so use this to your advantage with cards like Loot Hoarder or Argent Horserider. This works particularly well if you have a solid curve of follow-up plays, and you can keep developing Mana-efficient threats against your opponent.
- Try to bait out a possible Polymorph by playing one of your decent - but not top-tier - minions onto the board. Give them a slight headache, and see if they reach for a quick cure before you really lay down the pain.
- It's true that Health is just another resource to be spent in Hearthstone, but keep in mind that the Mage may be capable of dishing out some devastating single-turn damage against you. By the time you're at 15 Health or so, it's time to start focusing on getting over the finish line fast.
- Sorcerer's Apprentice / Mana Wyrm - kill them. Do whatever it takes, because if you see them there's a good chance you're about to wave match tempo goodbye.
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