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Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way, there are tons of ways to play every character class in Hearthstone. There is no best way to build a single deck, this is not an end all be all guide, this is simply what I’ve found to work well.

Just like my Pally guide, I have not spent a single dollar on opening packs to build the Mage deck that is now laid out before you for the world to see.

I enjoy a good control deck and that’s the main principle behind the way I play the mage class. I have situational cards that help me keep my opponent’s side of the board wiped clean, my creatures are not very important to this deck but they do force my opponents into playing in a predictable manner, which makes it all too easy to plot their destruction.

So if you look at my mana cost spread, I only have four cards that cost more than four mana. Two of them are the devastating Flamestrike a card that deals four damage to all minions my opponent controls and the other two are the Gurubashi Beserker, an interesting minion card that beefs up his attack by +3 every time he takes damage. We’ll get to those two particular cards later on in this guide though. For now let’s concentrate on the base mechanics of how to run this deck and by extension, run the board.

The main strategy behind this deck is to constantly keep your opponent’s side of the board clear of minions while establishing a strong defense for yourself and dealing damage to the enemy Hero at your leisure. A beautiful opening hand for this deck would be Mirror Image, Mana Wyrm, and some other low cost spell card such as Arcane Missiles, Arcane Explosion or Frostbolt.

Going second with this starting hand is a huge advantage too. Turn one you can lay Mana Wyrm for one mana, pop The Coin to gain an extra mana and then lay Mirror Image. This serves two purposes, one it allows you to gain a sizeable defense that often takes the opponent up to turn four to break through. The second is that playing Mirror Image procs Mana Wyrm’s ability, giving him +1 to his attack, turning him into a 2/3.

It is a huge advantage to be starting the game out with 3 minions on the board. From here you can burn down your opponent’s minions, deal damage with Mana Wyrm and let him scramble to defeat your two minions with taunt. Remember what I said earlier about how the creatures aren’t very important to this deck, but they do force your opponents into playing a particular way?

Well this is example one of that strategy in action. While they’re so focused on killing your two useless 0/2 minions with taunt so they can get to Mana Wyrm, what they perceive to be as the real threat on the board, you’re already on your way to activating your next strategy.

The other creatures in the deck, Ogre Magi, Dalaran Mage and Kobold Geomancer are mainly just buffs for your spell cards. Having multiples of them out at one time can be extremely rewarding, boosting cards that deal minor damage to cataclysmic levels.

Your Arcane Explosion can go from dealing 1 damage to all minions to dealing 3 very quickly and it’s all for the low cost of 2 mana. If your opponent’s smart they’ll work hard to take out your minions that boost your spell power, which is really falling directly into the way you want them to play, since it doesn’t really matter if they take them out or not.

It’s a sort of damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. If they don’t take them out then I’ll gladly use the boost in spell damage to destroy them, if they do take them out then they’ve wasted valuable resources to kill expendable minions.

So while they’re focusing on taking out your minions you continue to build your defenses with cards such as Ice Barrier. This card is particularly devastating and it only costs 3 mana, it reads like this: “As soon as your hero is attacked, gain 8 Armor.”

Once your opponents clear out your taunt enabled minions and finally get to strike at you chances are you’ve drawn one of these cards already. Suddenly they’re large hitting creature dealt no damage to you and raised your defenses by giving you such a large amount of armor. This card is so wonderful it’s hard to believe that it’s only of common rarity.

Polymorph gives you the option to eliminate cards with Deathrattle without letting them proc their abilities and it can help you get through enemies with high HP or divine shields very easily. There’s nothing more rewarding than letting an opponent play what they assume will be a devastating minion, only to have it turned into a 1/1 sheep and then seeing it Fireblasted into an early grave.

Remember those two high cost cards I was talking about at the beginning of the article? Flamestrike is an amazing card that can easily clear out your opponent’s minions, four damage is extremely high and more than enough to take out most minions people run with. This can be paired with low cost minions like Kobold Geomancer or Dalaran Mage, both of which add +1 to your spell damage. This turns the already devastating effects of Flamestrike into enough damage to take out higher HP, popular, cards like Lord of the Arena. In addition to anything else your opponent may have played.

Gurubashi Beserker presents an option that is unique to the Mage deck. Since the Mage class has the ability to deal 1 damage to anything on the board with her Hero Power you can even use it to activate the Beserker’s enrage ability. This turns your tame 2/7 into a monstrous 5/6 whenever you see fit. Want to amp up his damage even further? Just deal another 1 damage next turn and now you have an 8/5 on the board.

Lastly I wanted to talk a little bit about the Water Elemental, for four mana you can play a 3/6 which has the unique ability to freeze any character that was dealt damage by him. This comes in handy when you’re fighting against Warriors, Rogues, Druids, Paladins or in some cases Hunters.

Any class that builds its primary strategy by having their Hero character attack will have a tough time getting around this card. His high HP allows him to withstand most attacks and his ability to freeze makes it so Hero classes that rely too heavily on the use of weapon cards won’t be able to do much of anything until he’s dead.

So there you have it, my strategy to a winning Mage deck. I’m particularly proud of this deck because if you notice their isn’t a single card that is over a common rarity level, proof that you don’t need to spend all of your time (or money) farming for legendary cards to win at Hearthstone.