Seeds of Their Demise

Posted: 4th April 2013 by admin in World of Wracraft
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Strengths: For me the three main strengths of Mage decks are card drawing, interrupts, and targeted ally removal. Looking at the above list you can see a plethora of card drawing abilities from the one shot Mana Agate to the game changing Infinite Brilliance. You also have a very powerful flip with Zumix who allows for a mid-game hand refill. From the interrupt perspective you get the powerful and versatile Overload and Counterspell. While Overload has been a tournament staple since its printing, the power of Counterspell is very format dependent. With Legacy of the Legion, Avatar of the Wild, and Monstrous Upheaval being so popular, the playing of a full playset of the original interrupt currently seems like a no brainer. Mages have moved from masters of Area of Effect (AOE) damage to pinpoint ally removal. As allies shift into being both more aggressive and flexible, cards like Glacial Tomb and Polymorph are increasingly important. They are not devoid of AOE, however, and the presence of allies like Edwin VanCleef necessitates the use of cards like Firestorm or Whiteout. This removal will remain strong in the new environment, especially Glacial Tomb and Polymorph.

The various abilities are why I chose to run an Arcane Potency both at this tournament and at the 2012 World Championship. A turn 1 Potency sets up amazing plays from each turn afterward: playing a Mana Agate on turn 2 and having an open resource to Flame Lance or Glacial Tomb an ally, or simply drawing the two cards right away; dealing with an ally on turn 3 with a two cost ability and still having two open resources to interrupt their turn 3 threat; playing an Infinite Brilliance on turn 3 instead of turn 4, a much more important turn. Potency also allows you to play Shroud of the Archmage more efficiently and as a real win condition. The ability to play it on turn 5 allows it to keep pace on an open board, instead of having to worry about leaving two open for a various interrupt even going into turn 6. While all of these plays were amazing, at the end of the day you need Potency in the early game, preferably on turn 1, to be very effective. The power of Ice Barrier cannot be ignored with a game winning damage ability wrapped up with a needed damage prevention shield mechanism.

The Horde ally suite also played well into the Mage build. Baxtan, Herald of the Flame is simply game changing, wiping the early boards and leaving a legitimate threat on the table. Daedak the Graveborne is your win condition in the deck, turning your Firestorms into game enders. His ability to both deal with a troublesome ally and heal/deal really helps out the mid to late game push. Finally, the power of Mazu’kon is well known but his presence here is particularly important. His primary purpose is to deal with the troublesome duo of Vanessa Vancleef and Lord Kur’talos Ravencrest who see various amounts of play depending on the metagame. If these types of allies did not exist, the use of a full playset of Mazu’kon would be superfluous to the rest of the deck. Unfortunately, he is a necessary evil.

Weaknesses: the main problem with any deck is having the right cards at the right time and Mages are no exception. While they have a plethora of card draw, they still have to have access to the right answers and the resources to use them, quickly. The 25 health is a real factor in an aggro based environment, and stalling the board can only take you so far. In reality, however, Mages have very few internal weaknesses. They have in class answers to both allies and abilities (both on board and when played for each card type) and enough card drawing to play the utility allies to deal with various forms of equipment. Granted, they no longer have catch-all answers like Spell Suppression, but Miniature Voodoo Mask fills in holes nicely. Most of the problems Mage has is in the metagame shifts that will exist as a result of their actual or perceived dominance, which I will look at under threats below.

“Magic is natural to Wizards, and only a little harder for the rest of us.”
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Opportunities: The big win for Mages in Betrayal of the Guardian is Frost Stasis. This card solves all the problems that cards like Glacial Tomb had by giving you an added benefit after you AOE away the ally later in the game. The timing rules on the card also make the creation of six or nine Water Elementals a real possibility. You can stack the damage triggers in such a way as to create an army of 2/1 tokens at the end of your opponents turn, setting you up for a one turn win the next turn. You can combine Frost Stasis with Abyssal Maw to heal your hero for a tremendous amount of damage. Now, the problem with this is that your opponent needs to be running targetable allies to make this dream a reality, again an outside threat you may not have the ability to combat. You also have to watch out for that pesky Marundal the Kindred (man that guy’s good!).

The other real opportunity for Mages in this new world is which faction to run. If you are assuming, as I am, an increase in the amount of ally light decks, all is not lost. You can simply switch your faction to account for this problem. Both Gilblin Plunderer and Jeishal are viable options to deal with those types of decks, and the amount of card drawing you have in Mage will make it seem like you always have access to them when you need them. Testing will tell the tale if they are enough to deal with these perceived threats, or if those decks can even survive in the meta. You can also play various singleton cards to deal with a full board, like Glyphblade Ritual Knife since again your card drawing prowess will outshine the rare nature of getting these types of cards when you most need them.

Threats: Here is where the problems lie. You see, Mages are a true factor in the metagame, and their threat combined with Warlocks makes for a potentially very hostile metagame. Mage’s main problems are Spellshield/Untargetable/Abberration allies (especially those with over three health) and armor based control decks. They suffer in general against solo decks, simply because they need to dedicate so many resources to stopping allies and abilities that they may not have the room to be the catch-all answer deck they once were in the good ol’ days. There are many viable Spellshield/Untargetable/Abberration allies in the current meta and depending on which you run into you could be in for a long day. While Spellshield/Untargetable will dodge all your pinpoint removal, the popularity of Warlocks may move the format towards an Aberration based ally base as well. Allies like the VanCleef clan and Lord Kur’talos Ravencrest were problems before, now they are exasperated by the likes of Moroes and even a simple Night Elf Grovewalker. These allies can go the distance against the unprepared Mages of the world, who may be powerless to stop these threats.

Solo decks, especially armor based, are the real threats, however, and their presence in the current RCQ/future DMF:St. Louis meta are a real factor. I am not sure you can run enough utility allies to help you deal with these threats, and they gained enough new toys to be a real threat in the meta. You are fighting an uphill battle if you expect to win the day against these types of decks. Have we really reached a point where Mages need to main deck Shattering Blow? Perhaps, but this may still not be enough. You cannot fit all the answers in one sixty card shell and expect to take the day, so I suggest heavily testing against various armor builds in an attempt to solve the mystery!

Mages will remain a viable deck in the metagame, assuming they can solve the various external threats they should expect to face. They are no longer the “Rock” of the environment, handing that crown over to Monster Hunter, but are still a big enough perceived threat to suffer from hate. They gained some new toys, especially Frost Stasis, and we will see if they continue their controlling hand in this brave new world. 

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