How to Draft Mage in Arena - Hearthstone BRM Edition
How the Meta has Changed
There was a time when the number of good cards in Hearthstone were relatively limited. Back before Goblins vs Gnomes, arena decks had more bad cards on average. These days there are plenty of strong minion options which can push through a game and in some cases even end it before the Mage Flamestrikes come down or soon afterwards.
Back in the day, you would draft almost purely for value in arena. Does Chillwind Yeti have more health and attack then whatever alternative 4 drop? Then you probably take it. While that's still usually the case and cards like Chillwind Yeti are fantastic in arena, there is something to be said about your ability to kill your opponents quicker. Getting more 2 drops and even 1 drops has become very important because if you play nothing by turn 3, then you will fall too far behind against good decks and players.
- A proper curve that opens with 1 - 2 - 3 -4, 1 - 2 - 2 - 4, or 2 - 3 -4 is incredibly important. Playing from behind means your opponent can get free hits on you because they know you have to trade with them to survive. Spend too many turns just trying to survive and they will ramp up the aggression and finish you off before you run them out of cards.
- Playing cards aggressively has more opportunities to be correct in the current meta. Often, the deck who curved out more effectively and keeps up the pressure is the one who wins instead of the deck that has better cards but a bad curve.
- Mage is still one of the slowest arena classes. You almost always take Flamestrike when its given to you and many of the most valuable common minions to Mage are Mid game around the 4 / 5 mana turns.
- Unless you manage to keep minions on the board and then freeze your opponents tempo with a card like a blizzard that allows you to push for damage, you will likely be playing rather defensively.
Around 7-10 Cards Should be Spells and the Rest Minions
- 3-5 One Drops
- Somewhere between 7-9 two drops - Most of whom are minions
- 6-7 Three Drops
- 5-7 Four Drops
- 4 Five Drops
- 4-6 Cards 6 Mana and above including at least one Flamestrike
Cards 1-10 : Pick Cards Based Purely On Value
Cards 11-20: Look at your curve. Do you have no or very few two drops yet? Then you should start prioritizing those cards but still prioritize value to a degree. Don't pick a Goldshire Footmen over a Yeti because you had no one drops.
Cards 21-30: Seriously look at your curve. You need to try to fill in the gaps as best as possible. Obviously, the value and rating of a card still is important but if you're given the option between a strong two drop and a strong 5 drop but you have less then 5-6 two drops then you should take the two drop.
Almost always take Flamestrike unless you already have 3 or more. One Flamestrike almost always gets value, two is still very good, and three is usually better than the alternative card selection.
- Water Elemental
- Piloted Shredder
- Sorcerer's Apprentice
- Flame Cannon
- Hungry Dragon
- Chillwind Yeti
- Harvest Golem
- Spider Tank
- Azure Drake
- Bomb Lobber
- Sludge Belcher
- Fel Reaver (Just One)
- Pilotted Sky Golem
- Sea Giant
- Echo of Medivh
- Dr. Boom
- Sylvannas Windrunner
- Emporer Thaurissan
- The Black Knight
- Archmage Antonidas
- Foe Reaper 9000
How to Utilize Flamestrikes and Blizzards
One of the Most Important things with playing Mage and playing against Mage as well is managing the Flamestrikes correctly. Since it's a common, almost every Mage will take one in their arena draft.
- You want to have minions alive on the board the turn before you Flamestrike.
- Make careful note of any Deathrattle minions that summon a new minion that your opponent may have. Flamestrike is best when you clear their entire board but Flamestrike doesn't stop deathrattles.
- The more minions you can kill with Flamestrike the more value, but it's not always correct to wait. Determine what your win condition is. Are you trying to run your opponent out of cards or establish a stronger board so you can push for damage. A lot of this has to do with the curve of the deck you drafted (Too Late game or a Good Solid Early Tempo Curve)
- Many players will try to play around Flamestrike going into your turn seven. They will give you as few minions as possible until you burn it. You can often fake your opponent out by delaying the flamestrike and playing as if you didn't have it. Even better may be if you have two flamestrikes in hand and then they overcommit after they see the first one and get punished for it.
- The more pressure you have on your opponent, the more minions they are forced to commit to the board for defense. Therefore, decks with strong pressure can often get better Flamestrikes.
- Blizzard can be played effectively the same way as Flamestrike. Blizzard is great because people don't expect it and it can lead into a future Flamestrike or you can turn aggressive on the enemies face since all their minions are Frozen.
- Blizzard + Ping can often get pesky stragglers. Just like Flamestrike, its better when you have minions on the board.
Trading or Go Face?
There was a time when it was often correct to make trades with your minions on the board even if it put you at a slight loss because you were trying to keep your opponent completely surpressed and HP "didn't matter".
These days, the value of getting 3 or 4 damage in on your opponent shouldn't be underestimated. Typically, ,you should only make trades now if either the opponents abilities are too dangerous to keep around like a Flamewaker, if they will have lethal damage or are outpacing you too much to survive, or if you will get value out of trading (you kill a monster without losing one or you kill a bigger one).
Going for your opponents face, when appropriate, has two huge benefits. Firstly, your opponent will generally be put on the back foot. They are now in the position of responding to you which means they will be thinking about killing your minions and not you. Most players, especially in arena, will go all out to try to surpress your minions EVEN WHEN IT MEANS THEY GET VERY BAD VALUE FROM THEIR CARDS. If you have the hand to carry you through the game despite your opponent getting better card value, then it is often correct to go face. The second benefit is of course, your opponent takes damage and loses their minions when they trade while you only lose your minions. They might keep they guy alive at one hp, or eventually build a bigger board then you but Mages have some nice answers to that.
- Fireblast Hero Power - It's almost always correct to use this to take out enemy minions when you have the extra mana to spare for it. If it puts a 4/2 at a 4/1, then it's still usually better to do so forcing him to do something with it or lose it to a Fireblast in the following turn. Fireblast the face only when you know you will have lethal within a couple turns.
- Flamestrike - Opponents that get so defensive that they have to drop their whole hand just to survive are prime flamestrike targets. Good players with slow decks will not overcommit to the board if they feel they can survive what you throw out there. If your opponent loses their entire board of 3+ minions from a Flamestrike while your 2 or 3 minions get to continue the pressure to his face, then you usually just win.
- Fireball, Frostbolt, Pyroblast - Even if your opponent manages to kill all of your minions or set up a taunt, it might not matter in many cases. Whoever kills the opponent first wins, and if your minions got him to a low HP total then your spells may be the finishing blow.
The key to knowing when to go face or not is figuring out how your opponents card curve looks. Did they not play a single card on turn one or two? Then they're probably either incredibly unlucky in the draw or a very slow deck - Pressuring the face might be correct.
Have they been playing a lot of aggressive cards correctly like Leper gnome, shielded mini bot with face attacks, or even more telltale - using weapon charges or spells on your hero? Then it's likely their gunning for a killing blow. Evaluate whether you can kill him faster or not - In most cases you will not be able to out pace someone who's already committed to going face so slow him down with minions like Sludge Belcher and Frost Bolt as Removal - Blizzard and Flamestrike can also be good defensively if your opponent doesn't have many minions left in hand.