I hit legendary this season playing aggro mage and am surprised at how uncommon this deck is considering its strength. My win rate was around 65-70% and I would say my deck was favorable or even across the majority of the matchups. I believe aggro mage is one of the strongest decks in the current meta so I thought I’d write a short guide on it.
Originally I used the classic aggro mage deck with wolfriders which got me to around rank 7 but I found I was having trouble after I lost control of the board vs. shaman and druids (which can be some of the trickiest match ups for the deck imo), so I added some AoE as well as the all-mighty Archmage Antonidas.
My final deck looked like this:
Arcane Missiles × 2
Ice Lance × 2
Leper Gnome × 2
Mana Wyrm × 2
Mirror Image × 2
Arcane Explosion × 1
Frostbolt × 2
Knife Juggler × 2
Kobold Geomancer × 1
Loot Hoarder × 1
Sorcerer’s Apprentice × 2
Arcane Golem × 1
Arcane Intellect × 2
Fireball × 2
Water Elemental × 2
Azure Drake × 2
Archmage Antonidas × 1
Flamestrike × 1
Few things to note – I did not have Thalnos but found that the kobold works fine. I mainly played him for extra damage when I wanted to finish my opponent off with a spell combo or clear the board by pairing it with arcane explosion (devastating vs zoo). Arcane golem can add that little bit of extra power to finish someone off. Be careful when you play it in certain matchups or it can lead to earlier big threats.
The numerous 1 cost spell cards are very strong with Antonidas. He is a huge win condition for this deck should the games drag out and holding off to play him until the perfect time can be very important. Sometimes I like to guarantee at least two fireballs in hand before I play him against certain classes.
Here is the run-down of the main matchups:
Warlock: you should be happy to see them. Difficulty 3.5/10
Handlock – Handlock shouldn’t be too much trouble although giving them early cheap giants before you have the means of finishing them off is definitely something you don’t want to do. I like to play super aggro at the start and hopefully force a hellfire rather than them playing a drake. Always calculate how much mana they have left and how much a potential molten giant would cost. The better handlocks will not life tap needlessly and sometimes prioritize siphon souls on my minions to keep their health up over putting down giants. If they have 2 taunted giants and still haven’t played their farseers, etc, you have probably lost. What you want to do is keep them around 15-16 hp and finish them off with a spell combo. Don’t get them low unless you’re holding the cards to finish them – focus on card draw and hold back on damage.
Zoolock – Zoo is a very predictable deck once you know what to expect. It should also be one of the easiest matchups. Generally mulligan for wyrms, knife jugglers, mirror images and missiles. A water elemental if you have coin is also great. Don’t be shy to frostbolt their early minions, the problem with zoo lies with letting them grow out of control and flood the board too quickly, therefore board control is the name of them game until you can finish them. Pump up mana wyrms with spells, play knife jugglers along with mirror entity to take out 1 health minions, arcane missiles and ping off weak minions, etc. Save you fireballs to either finish them off or kill their doomguards. If you can stay ahead on health by having them focus on clearing your board, and you’ve drawn that flamestrike, the game is yours. Save arcane explosion and pair it with spell power when you can, it can turn the game around if you’re behind.
Druid: can be a pain in the ass. Difficulty 6.5/10
I’d say this is a pretty even match. If they draw into their removal early on (wraths, swipe) it can cause huge problems for you. Living through one swipe is ok early on, living through two is much less than ok. Against ramp you want to be as aggressive as possible because once the big taunts come out your damage output will be crippled. Save fireballs for their big taunts and try get as much value as you can out of flamestrike. This game can drag on if the druid uses his anicent of lores for healing. I used to have a lot of trouble against druids, but if you have Antonidas they are not as scary. Antonidas allows you to be liberal with your fireballs early on against their high health taunts. Spells like arcane missiles/ explosion are not great against druids therefore casting them with Antonidas can net you a couple of fireballs to win the match. At times I even save the coin for an extra fireball. If they have no answer to him when he comes out (and if they have been using ancients for heals, there is a decent chance that they don’t) you are at a tremendous advantage. Token druids are similar to ramp in some ways but their creatures are much more manageable. It is not uncommon to force token druids to use their combo prematurely to kill off your early aggression- this is a good thing. Always be careful about getting too low against a druid/ leaving some of their minions on the board as force of nature/ savage roar can quickly end you. Sometimes it is necessary to freeze certain targets with frost bolt/ ice lance to buy more time. Generally if you’re heavily behind on board and without a flamestrike, you will lose.
Mage: an interesting match at times. Difficulty 4/10
I didn’t run into too many mages on ladder. The ones that I did run into were a range of deck types, some were aggro, some were secrets and some were freeze/ OTK. OTk can be a problem if they draw into their iceblocks as you want to rush them as fast as you possibly can. Make them use spells on your minions and only kill doomsayers if you think it will pay off. Against other aggro mages, board control and killing off mana wyrms while keeping yours alive is the key. Saving a flamestrike for the right time can swing the game. Overall when you play aggro mage you will know their strengths and weaknesses, use them.
Shaman: one of the harder matchups but not impossible 6.5/10
Playing against a shaman is kind of like Zoo – you can not let their board grow out of control. Unlike zoo, they have much more removal which can nullify your early threats. Focus on clearing their board and bait out as many removals with your weaker minions as you can since you can’t avoid them. Water elemental is very strong vs shaman and is one of your best answers vs wolves. Frostbolting flametongues/ unbound elementals can be necessary as they can be very frustrating to deal with behind taunts. I find that a well timed flamestrike/ spell power arcane explosion and make or break you in this matchup. Also be wary of lightning storms as they can quickly ruin your day, you will find that they can be baited out quite easily if the shaman has no answer to your board. It is their only aoe removal so once it’s gone, go crazy. Also remember that shaman normally don’t run heals, it can be very effective to rush them as much as you can early and finish them off with spells despite the condition of the board as they have relatively slow damage output outside windfury/ rockbiter combos.
Priest: the mythical opponent. Difficulty ?/10
I did not run into many priests but I do have quite a good understanding on them (thanks to Amaz). I was not sure what to rate this match in terms of difficulty because I think I ran into 2 of them from ranks 1-5. I feel like beating a priest is based on their cards. An early blademaster/ CoH can be very hard to deal with and may force a fireball, which means lack of damage to finish them off later. Between holy fires, hero power and holy nova, you have a lot of health to go through. Relying on Antonidas is a bit iffy due to shadow word death and mind control. However, if priests don’t get the start they need, manawyrms and early minions can pretty much stomp them down before they can answer with their aoe. Going all in with early frost bolts/ ice lances to the face with manawyrms and jugglers on the field can net you a very quick win. This can be risky as priests have very strong recovery mechanics after being behind.
Warrior: If aggro/ weapons, can be ok. If control, prepare to hover over concede. Difficulty 10/10
Luckily with the rise of shaman on ladder, control warriors are very rare. I don’t know what there is to say outside flood the board as much as you can and hope to outrace their armor stacking. Mirror image can protect your minions from the dreaded fiery war axe. Ideal opening would wyrm coin mirror image and just pressure pressure pressure. Control aims for late game, so if you let it drag on you might eventually be looking at 20hp and 33 armor :(. Weapons warriors you want to keep frozen as much as possible – water elementals are their bane. It can be a tough choice at times whether it is worth killing a minion or keeping them frozen with your elemental. This match is a race on who can burn the health of the other faster. mirror images are very helpful. Be wary of mortal strike once they are under 13 health as it can quickly burst you down.
Paladin: should bring a smile to your face. Difficulty 1/10
Paladin have become very popular lately which is good news for aggro mage. Once you figure out how they operate, you should almost never lose to them (outside of terrible RNG). Board control is the name of the game again and is arguably the match where it is the most important that you don’t let a single minion survive. Luckily your hero power directly counters theirs. Use arcane missiles, arcane explosion and knife juggler knives to kill their low health minions. Their board clears usually cost them a turn so you should always have something on the board before them. Reason why you want to keep the board empty is simple; their buff cards/ divine shield plays can quickly mess you up if you let them. Don’t worry about being efficient with your removal spells if you have no answer for that extra recruit- last thing you want is a double blessing of might hit that finishes you off. If they have true silver out, keep them frozen with elementals and spells – they will get no value from it. Save a fireball for 6/6 bloodknights
Rogue: not a problem. Difficuly 4/10
There are a lot of miracles on ladder and I believe that this is one of the best decks to use against them. The trick is doing as much damage as possible and making them use as many spells on you inefficiently before their auctioneer comes out and allows them to cycle through their deck. If you are holding flamestrike as they play auctioneer and conceal, play it. This pretty much wins the game for you then and there. Rush miracle as much as you can early and finish with spells later. Be aware that they can shadowstep their farseers and get extra health to avoid lethal and turn the game around. Mirror images can save you from the leeroy combo. Save some removal for an early Vancleef (if you pressure them well, it will come early). Keep an eye on their dagger and potential blade flurry combo, if it clears your board you’re still fine. If he tries to save the combo to play it with the auctioneer, punish him for it. Tempo rogues shouldn’t be much a problem either; control their board and chip away at their health.
Hunter: nerfed and much rarer. Difficulty 3/10
Quite easy after the unleash nerf. Aggro mage already had good tools against hunters but this tipped it further into mage favour. Against aggro hunters just remove their low cost minions and go for face. If they are sitting behind traps and you are low on health, draw into a nuke combo/ play antonidas and finish them without activating the traps. I don’t think I played any beast synergy hunters from rank 1-5. Remove their beasts as much as you can to stop them from buffing them with houndmaster, etc. They take a while to get into their big threats, try race them before they can bring them out.
Extra notes: BE BALLSY – you will find that relying on 50/50 RNG can be very worth the risk and heavily increase your odds for a win. Use that arcane missile to kill that 2 hp minion. Play that knife juggler + minion to knife that lone 1 hp minion. Plays like this will increase your early board advantage by a landslide, whereas simply pinging and passing can do the complete opposite. Be smart and think your turns through, think about what you opponent is holding and play around it. I did not take me very many games to hit legend with this deck, if i did it so can you.
Thanks for reading 🙂