Hi everyone! I recently came back after an 8 month hiatus to explore the meta and all that TGT brought to the game. Struggling to deal with the Secret Paladins on the ladder, I ended up tweaking an old Freeze Mage build to reach Legend with nearly free wins in the matchup.
Why Malygos Freeze Mage?
In the current meta, there are few decks that counter Freeze Mage. The Midrange Druid is not too common, and neither is the extremely unfavored Control Warrior matchup. Cards like Antique Healbot, Flare, and Kezan Mystic are not regular tech choices. Many Secret Paladins, Tempo Mages, and Dragon Priests run greedy decks without silences, giving Doomsayers great value.
Malygos, combined with Emperor Thaurissan, gives Freeze Mage strong one-turn-kill (OTK) potential. Unlike Antonidas-decks, you are not reliant on sticking any minion to the board to get good value from it. With a consistent 26 damage burst to finish off games, your opponents will very rarely play around your lethal, holding on to their defensive counters for too long, or simply playing “safe” by denying your minions, not realizing that danger is imminent.
The current Warriors in the meta are almost always certain losses as your card draw will be outpaced by their armor gain. But as long as Secret Paladins remain at the top of the meta, we won’t see too many Warriors around.
Why not Antonidas?
Antonidas is a great card, but it relies on activators and is a much slower finisher than Malygos is. You will find yourself needing at least two more turns after Antonidas hits the board. Malygos can consistently kill your opponent right after Thaurissan hits the board. As with any OTK deck, the surprise factor can’t be understated. Even if you generate 4 Fireballs on the same turn that Antonidas hits the board, it will take you at least 2 rounds to use said Fireballs. In addition, you are inviting your opponent to play Loatheb. Against a Malygos Freeze Mage, the correct use of a Loatheb would be right after Thaurissan is played. But this is harder to both anticipate and execute.
I have seen some Antonidas-decks listing Malygos as a possible addition. The problem with doing this is that they both rely heavily on Frost Bolt and Ice Lance to get their full value. If you use your FB/IL with Antonidas, you won’t get value out of Malygos, and vice versa. But doesn’t this bring more win conditions? Yes, but not in a good way. Your deck becomes more clunky, as Antonidas and Malygos fill literally no function outside their separate combos. In an already packed deck full of crucial cards, it is simply hard to justify an inclusion of both. Pyroblast is a more consistent alternative. While clunky, it can function both as an offensive Alexstraza and as a finsher if the game stalls.
Malygos + Frost Bolt + Ice Lance gives you 17 damage when two of those cards have had their cost reduced by Thaurissan.
Malygos + Frost Bolt + Ice Lance + Frost Bolt/Ice Lance give you 25/26 damage when 3/4 of those cards have had their cost reduced.
Malygos + Frost Bolt + Ice Lance + Frost Bolt + Ice Lance gives you 34 damage when all five cards have had their cost reduced.
Admittedly, the latter is not what you are aiming for. 26 damage is enough to kill off most opponents. Pyroblast/Alexstraza followed by 17 damage is often enough.
How to Freeze Mage
General mulligan: Loot Hoarder, Mad Scientist, Arcane Intellect, Bloodmage Thalnos, Doomsayer, Acolyte of Pain
- Draw cards. Since you rely on combos to win, you need to draw fast to win. Don’t be afraid to play greedy with the card draw. Taking damage is not a huge deal as you can draw into your stalling cards. Extremely aggressive decks like Face Hunter require you to think twice about drawing, but as a rule of thumb you always want to draw.
- By turn 5, play for more card draw if you are not in immediate danger. Acolyte + Ping and taking 8 damage to the face is completely fine. Stall with your defensive cards if their aggro is very strong. With plenty of stalling cards in your deck, you are very likely to have an answer. If you don’t, spending a Frostbolt/Fireball/Ice Lance to buy another turn is fine.
- By turn 9, you have probably stalled with freeze and soaked up plenty of damage with Doomsayer/Ice Barrier/Healbot heal. Don’t be afraid to leave enemy frozen minions on the board. As long as they don’t hit you, you extend the game further, and it gives you more time to draw into your combo faster. Look for an opening with Thaurissan + Frost Nova/Ice Block if you are sitting on combo pieces. Try to keep another Frost Nova/Ice Block in case of Loatheb. Drop Alex when possible if they are sitting at unreachable hp.
Secret Paladin is a very strong matchup. Deny their Juggler with Mad Scientist/Loot Hoarder. Acolyte and Doomsayer are strong mulligans in this matchup. Remove their Secretkeeper if it grows too quickly, but it’s really the Juggler that you want to remove first as it gets value through freeze. Without any burst damage outside the weapons and Consecration, you should be able to easily stall out the game until you draw your combo. Their Truesilver response to Alexstrasza plays right into your 17 damage combo. Don’t trigger their +3/+2 secret if you don’t have freeze, and never drop a Doomsayer into the 1 hp trap.
Since many people asked me to elaborate on the early game of this matchup, here’s a more detailed summary:
- Look at his hand when he mulligans. How many cards does he keep? The ones he keeps should be one of the following: Secretkeeper, Juggler, Muster for Battle, Coghammer, Shieldbot, and possibly secrets to go with an early minion.
- Is his first play Secretkeeper? Was it a topdeck? Did he play also coin a secret that wasn’t topdecked? A 2-drop minion is a great answer either way. The worst scenario is when you have zero plays, and face coin Secrekeeper + secret, followed by Juggler and Muster. Try to identify from his mulligan how likely this particular play is. Focus on drawing cards and ping the Juggler if options are few. You will have taken 11 damage by turn 3 in the worst possible scenario, and 21 damage by turn 4 if he has the perfect follow up. But with 18 cards being usable for denying aggression, you rarely find yourself completely out of answers even if the early game spirals in the Paladin’s favor. Note that this represents a fraction of all the games in the matchup.
- Granted that he kept many cards during the mulligan, but didn’t play Secretkeeper, a turn 1 secret or pass often means that you will see an incoming Shieldbot or Juggler. If Shieldbot, a turn 3 Acolyte is fantastic. If he has the coin AND skips turn 1, chances are high that he will coin out a Muster for Battle on turn 2. This is great for you as Muster is no threat on its own. In any case, you’d want to play a Loot/Scientist ASAP to get card draw going and contest the board. Popping secrets early is preferred, even if you risk buffing a Secretkeeper or Minibot with +3/+2. Doomsayer is often fantastic, but never drop it on an empty board in the early-game. A naked Doomsayer will kill almost anything on turn 2 and 3. Dropping it in response to a Juggler is always a good as the Paladin will need perfect Muster hits to bring it down (12.5%). No decent Paladin players go for this gamble. Don’t play into coin Truesilver/Blessing.
- If you draw Frostbolt, is it worth keeping? Try to extract info from his mulligan. Did he keep every single card? If that is the case, I would consider keeping Frostbolt. Personally, I almost always discard Frostbolt. If you sit on another possible turn 2 play like Scientist, Loot, or Thalnos – Frostbolt is pretty much a dead card. It is a good defensive card, but Paladin’s aggression isn’t nearly as fast as Face Hunter’s. I’d much rather have an Arcane Intellect that can enable me to stabilize in the mid-game. You have 8 minions that are great against Paladin early, so trying to draw into one of those, or one of your Arcane Intellects, is generally preferable. If you happen to be sitting on a hand with Ice Barrier, Healbot, and Fireball after your mulligan, I would never consider using my Frostbolt as taking damage won’t be one of you 99 problems.
- Always use your coin. Making use of that dead turn 1 gives you a ton more presence in the first couple of turns. Even if you have no follow up to Coin + Loot, you always have your ping that can help take down Shieldbots or a buffed up Secretkeeper. It denies the turn 2 Juggler play which is huge. Also, don’t feed that Secretkeeper with a turn 3 Ice Block.
Mid-range Paladin is a strong matchup. Like their Secret-based counterpart, they have no burst outside their weapons and Consecration, so you can go fairly late if needed. However, Alex is slightly weaker in this matchup due to Lay on Hands and Healbot. You can get them down to combo-range without much resistance as they’ll sit on their heals, anticipating Antonidas or Alex. Keep tabs on Equality, Owl, Justicar, and the Quartermasters.
Face hunter is a strong matchup. Contest their early game with your small minions and Frostbolt. Doomsayer is insanely strong on turn 2, even against Haunted Creeper. Drop Doomsayers throughout at pseudo taunts. Don’t be afraid to burst down their minions with your damage spells. Stall until you can clear board and Alexstrasza yourself. Abuse their lack of Loatheb.
Mid range hunter is an slightly unfavored matchup. Many times, you’d rather want to ping your Loot Hoarder than attack into a possible Freezing Trap. Abuse their lack of healing and burst to and go for a late game Malygos or offensive Alex to finish off the game.
Tempo mage is a favored matchup. Kill their Flamewalkers at any cost and you should be fine. Identify when their Mirror Entity is played and win the game with Doomsayer. Kill off a turn 7 Antonidas ASAP if you find yourself far from the combo. Abuse their lack of Loatheb and heals. Be vary of the odd Counterspell.
Freeze mage is an even matchup. Since you don’t run Antonidas while your opponent most likely does, the opponent will control the game more and force out more spells on your part. Stall until late and conserve enough spells to make use of a naked Malygos when decks are running thin. Unless your your opponent got great value out of Antonidas, he will have no way of dealing with Malygos. Save your Healbot for your opponents Alex and keep a very close eye on your card draw. Since you are going late, you want to be behind in card draw to not be the one who dies from fatigue. If you opponent draws aggressively, aim to not trigger his Ice Block. Never go face with minions.
Echo mage is a very unfavored matchup. I never faced any on the ladder so I can’t comment much on it. p0rn did a write-up on the matchup in his guide to Echo Mage.
Aggro druids running Fel Reaver is a very strong matchup. Bait a turn 4 Keeper of the Grove with your Doomsayer. When Fel Reaver drops, use freeze to burn his entire deck. Proceed to trade cards for an easy win.
Mid range Druids are unfavored for you. With lots of burst, your freeze is not very effective. You will often need to use Alexstrasza defensively after your Ice Block is procced by his combo. A late 26 damage combo is your strongest win condition.
Very strong matchup. With him playing low damage/high hp minions, you will always go late. Shadow Word: Pain and Silences are very rare on Priests these days, opening for greedy plays with your freeze + Doomsayer combos. Make use of your Flamestrike whenever possible. Never drop Alexstrasza pre-emptively.
Zoo is unfavored. Use your Doomsayers as pseudo-taunts rather than board clears as they are countered by Nerubian Egg and Voidcaller. Don’t play Alex into Mal’ganis. Aim for OTK as they tap.
Handlock is a very strong matchup. Use your minions to combat early giants. Abuse their lack of burst and keep an eye on their Owl use. Don’t let them drop Moltens and Healbots. Play around Mal’ganis/Loatheb. Go for the OTK.
Extremely unfavored. Your win condition is pulling Alex into 34 damage before he hits 40-ish armor. Remove the Armorsmiths ASAP. Pray for a late Justicar.
Strong matchup. Play around Bloodlust. Keep an eye out for spell damage-decks. Drop Doomsayers early or bait Earth Shock with Thalnos.
Favored matchup. Keep their board clear and be vary of charge minions. Make sure to get your Ice Barriers procced.
+1 Acolyte of Pain, -1 Loot Hoarder
Turn 2 is your most important turn versus the many aggro decks on the ladder, which is why Loot is the better choice. Acolyte has its benefits as well, but you will generally keep it until turn 5, often making it your slowest draw in the deck. Acolyte sometimes baits out silence, which is great as it is not the primary silence target in your deck. It also has a situational use as a stalling card. If you have already drawn key late game cards but lack stall-mechanics, an Acolyte can bait the opponent into sacrificing some tempo in order to mill a card from your deck.
+1 Novice Engineer, -1 Bloodmage Thalnos
If you don’t have Thalnos, opt for more card draw instead of a Geomancer. With Malygos in your deck, +1 spell damage is redundant and not worthy a card on its own. The Thalnos acts as a pseudo-taunt in the same way a spell damage totem does. Baited silences benefits your Doomsayers and slows tempo. Another option to Thalnos is doubling up on both Acolytes and Loot Hoarders.
+1 Cone of Cold, -1 Pyroblast
I find Pyroblast to currently be the most replaceable card in this deck. It strongest property is its versatility. It makes you more resilient to bad draws in the lategame, as it is a half-decent replacement for Malygos in the 3-card-17-damage combo, and a half-decent alternative to Alex. Pyroblast also allows you to be more liberal with the use of damage spells. Against minions like Knife Juggler, Flamewalker, Armorsmith and Antonidas, you often want to spend a Frostbolt or a Fireball. Cone of Cold makes a lot of sense though, acting as a third Frost Nova. And just like Nova, it can be played during the same turn as Doomsayer or Thaurissan. I ran Cone up until rank 1.
Edit: I should clarify that this card choice is meant more as a +1 slow game -1 fast game. With CoC you have a solid mid-game play, you can stall for longer, pushing the game longer for you to draw your win conditions. Pyroblast broadens your win conditions, effectively making the deck more aggressive.
+1 Illuminator, -1 Healbot
After great feedback, I felt that this deserved a spot here. Illuminator can be played more flexibly due to its lower mana cost. It’s a card that your opponent often want to focus down, similar to Thalnos and Acolyte, effectively making up for the lower heal in solid damage mitigation. Healbot is often ignored due to enemy taunts, Paladin secrets, or Hunter secrets (Freezing trap might be an exception). Illuminator can’t heal you up without a secret, while a turn 5 Healbot sees little play due to Ice Barrier. Both are good vs late game aggro, where Illuminator can be played with Blizzard and Flamestrike for a very strong turn 9+, and Healbot can open for aggressive Doomsayer plays. Having an Illuminator late-game in the Freeze mirror can be crushing for your opponent if they spend their AOE damage early to avoid overdraw.