Our Un’Goro Freeze Mage deck list guide will teach you how to pilot this popular Season 38 deck! Our guide features mulligan, play, and card replacement strategies!
“Freeze Mage is dead” – first time I heard it after the nerfs to Freeze cards back in the Closed Beta. Then I heard it again when the meta was infested with Control Warriors. Then I heard it once again after the last year’s Standard rotation – when Mad Scientist was out. Recently I heard that once again – this time people were 100% sure. After all, Emperor Thaurissan – rotated out. Forgotten Torch – rotated out. Ice Lance – rotated out. But no, the deck is not dead and it will probably still be a common tournament pick. Maybe even a ladder pick depending on the meta.
Sure, the deck has lost a lot, but at the same time, Reno Jackson has rotated out of the meta, which makes the Freeze Mage’s life much easier. The 20+ damage burst turns were really necessary mainly because if you didn’t burst your opponent down to 0, they played Reno Jackson and you had to start over. Now it’s impossible and so the two turn kill of Alexstrasza -> burn is much more feasible than it was before.
This is probably the strongest Freeze Mage build right now. It was created by Monsanto, a high Legend player from Canada, and successfully piloted to top 100 Legend on NA server. But Chinese player Payton has piloted a very similar list to #1 Legend on NA, so the deck is definitely viable.
UPDATE – FREEZE MAGE IN MAY 2017, SEASON 38
This Freeze Mage build is up to date. The deck doesn’t really leave a lot of room for improvement. The only things that can really change are tech cards you run. E.g. some builds run Cone of Cold instead of a second Ice Barrier. You can also choose between Loot Hoarders and Novice Engineers as the source of card draw. Laughing has recently teched in a single Flamestrike too. But that’s pretty much it.
If you’re looking for an alternative Mage deck, you can check the new b787’s Control/Burn Mage list here. He hit #1 Legend with it and it looks quite powerful.
Freeze Mage Mulligan Strategy & Guide
I’ll divide the mulligan section into two – against fast decks and against slow decks. Fast decks are generally the Aggro decks (e.g. Pirate Warrior) or high tempo Midrange decks (e.g. Midrange Hunter). Slow decks are slower Midrange and Control decks.
Vs Fast Decks
Higher Priority (keep every time):
- Arcanologist – The best card draw for fast matchups. Not only is it a 2/3 minion, which is much better for trading than Loot Hoarder, it also gives you a guaranteed turn 3 play if you didn’t have one before (a Secret).
- Doomsayer – It’s the strongest card you can get vs fast decks. While you usually combo it with Freeze, if you drop it on turn 2 and your opponent can’t kill it, it gives you a lot of early game tempo and stops the aggression, making you more likely to survive until mid/late game.
- Frostbolt – You keep it in fast matchups as an early game answer for whatever threats he might play.
- Medivh's Valet – If you miss your other turn 2 play, you can just drop it as a 2/3, but the card shines on turn 4 or 5. If you play Ice Block on turn 3, then Medivh’s Valet is MVP on turn 4 (you can play it with ping, Frostbolt, Loot Hoarder, whatever). You can also play a Secret + Medivh’s Valet combo on turn 5. It’s like playing a Frostbolt to kill something, but dropping an extra 2/3 on the board for free, it’s absolutely amazing.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met):
- Loot Hoarder – Keep it if you don’t have Arcanologist. If you do, Arcanologist is a better turn 2 play and since you will have turn 3 covered, you won’t likely be able to play it until turn 4, where you actually might already have drawn something else to do.
- Arcane Intellect or Ice Block – Missing a turn 3 play is pretty awkward, because just pinging or playing 2-drop on turn 3 is pretty weak. That’s why I like to keep one of the two best turn 3 plays IF I don’t have Arcanologist (then I simply don’t need one and I prefer to mulligan harder for e.g. Doomsayer).
Vs Slow Decks
Higher Priority (keep every time):
- Arcanologist – Even though your priority against slow decks is a bit different, Arcanologist is still the best card draw. You keep it 100% of the time. Hell, you probably even want to keep 2 of them if you get them!
- Loot Hoarder – Card draw is most important vs slow decks, so you basically want to have as much of it as possible. Loot Hoarder is slightly worse than Arcanologist, but still good.
- Arcane Intellect – Even more card draw, this time for 3 mana. Generally on turn 3 Arcane Intellect is usually better than Acolyte of Pain, unless your opponent has some 1-2 attack minion that you will likely be able to bump into. But…
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met):
- Acolyte of Pain – It’s still a solid turn 3 play, because – you’ve guessed it – it draws cards. But if I had to pick between Arcane Intellect and Pain, I’d pick Arcane Intellect most of the time.
Freeze Mage Play Strategy
The play style hasn’t changed too much from the last Standard rotation. The deck has became less bursty and now relies more on the Alexstrasza and gaining extra burn from Archmage Antonidas. But like I’ve mentioned already, the extra burst isn’t that necessary, because there is no need to get passed Reno. The deck feels much more like the classic Freeze Mage played back in the day than the burst-heavy lists we had in the last months. Warriors are still hard matchups, but not unbeatable, because the current Taunt Warrior lists often don’t even run Shield Block and with Justicar Trueheart out of the Standard, their Armor gain is very limited.
Games vs Aggro are very interesting, because sometimes you win without even using a single burn spell from your deck on their Hero, even though that’s technically your main win condition. You use things like Frostbolt and Fireball as board control tools. Aggro decks are known for their poor ability to refill the board after a clear in the mid/late game and from having a really poor top deck mode. They will try to rush you down as fast as possible. Once they realize that you’re Freeze Mage, they’ll try to put as much pressure on the board as possible and kill you before mid/late game. And you want to do what everyone tries against Aggro – survive.
You still want to draw cards, but not as much as in the Control matchup. Drawing is most often a negative tempo play, so if you go all-in on the drawing, you’ll end up with losing board control and dying before you can utilize all those cards you have in your hand. Sometimes you prefer a ping to kill that 2/1 than drawing cards, because it actually lets you catch up on the board a bit.
Doomsayer is the best card. Sometimes you might want to keep him for turn 5, for the Frost Nova combo. Against Aggro it’s almost guaranteed board clear, it’s very unlikely for them to have a way to deal with it from their hand – even if they do they might not want to waste 7+ burn damage on a minion. But turn 2 Doomsayer might be even better. Whether you play it early or keep for the Nova combo is a hard decision, I’d say that generally if you don’t think that it will die on turn 2 while it destroys a 1-drop or two, it’s worth it. Also depends on whether the rest of your hand is good enough to survive until turn 5 with enough health left to comeback from that position. You can also combo Doomsayer with Frostbolt to counter one big minion you can’t answer (like Bittertide Hydra) and prevent them from developing for a single turn.
Frost Nova can also be used alone to “heal” you. If you have no good way to deal with the board or you want to stall until Blizzard turn, Frost Nova is a great way to do that. Some people think that it’s there only to combo with Doomsayer – no, that’s not true. If your opponent has 10 damage on the board, Frost Nova is really amazing – it prevents 10 damage. You can also use it when your opponent has a full board (which happens against Aggro), so they basically can’t attack with their minions OR develop anything new – they often have to skip their turn just like that.
Primordial Glyph is not a good turn 2 play most of the time. You prefer to drop a minion or sometimes even ping a 1/1. The thing about Primordial Glyph is that it gets much better later in the game, when you know what you want to pick. On turn 2 it’s hard to say whether you will need a single target removal, AoE, maybe another Ice Block, maybe more card draw. Of course, there are some things that are universally good to pick – like the Ice Block I’ve mentioned, or maybe Frostbolt (having a 0 mana Frostbolt for later can save the day). But it’s better to play it on let’s say turn 5 and 6, after looking at your hand. Maybe you don’t have any AoE? Then Blizzard will be a great choice. You’re running out of cards? Arcane Intellect etc. Still, try to not completely rely on that card, because even though you get 3 choices, there is a solid chance that you won’t get anything you need. Having to pick between Mirror Entity, Pyroblast and Greater Arcane Missiles is pretty difficult, because none of those choices are good.
Medivh's Valet is obviously bad without a Secret in play. But against Aggro decks, the 2/3 body on the board might be valuable enough to play it without synergy than keeping it in hand and hoping that you will draw some Secret to combo it with. For example, if it’s your only turn 2 play, then you might drop it on the board. I’d keep it only if I had Ice Block in my hand, Ice Barrier doesn’t combo with it well until turn 5 (because it will be popped earlier, so you need to play those two together on a single turn).
When it comes to the win condition, I’d say that there are two main ones. You won’t deal much damage to your opponent throughout the game, so straight up “burn then when they’re low” is rarely a good win condition. With Fireballs and Frostbolts used as board control tools, you simply won’t have enough damage. The best way to win the game is survive long enough to Alexstrasza yourself. Then you have a decent life total, maybe even an Ice Block up, 8/8 minion on the board and you can start turning the whole game around. You’re no longer under any pressure, because your opponent is in topdeck mode. Alternatively, you can also Alexstrasza your opponent if you have enough burn in your hand to kill them before they kills you – that’s sometimes possible. The second win condition is Archmage Antonidas. A top decking Aggro deck simply has no way to answer it. And now you have a 5/7 minion and 2 Fireballs per turn. If Antonidas survives even for a single turn, you should win the game. Alternatively, if your opponent has a pretty big board that you can’t deal with, Antonidas + Frost Nova is a really powerful combo. They can’t clear it with minions, so if they have no burn damage to kill it, you’re set.
Taking the right opportunities and improvising is really great when playing in fast matchups. Let’s say that you have Acolyte and 2x 2 damage minion on the board. Your opponent might ignore them to hit your face. You might take your chance and Alexstrasza them, bring them down to 10 and then even if they pop your block and kills the board, you might finish them with Fireball + Frostbolt + Ping.
Playing vs slow decks can be really easy or really hard depending on the matchup. Alexstrasza + burning down the opponent next turn is great vs decks that can’t heal a lot. But if you play against Control Paladin or Priest, it gets much more tricky, because the “steady” burn over 3-4 turns can get countered by a lot of healing. Taunt Warrior is an interesting matchup – on the one hand it’s DEFINITELY easier than the old Control Warrior, but it’s still probably 70/30 in favor of Warrior, because of the Armor gain.
In slow matchups, your #1 priority is drawing cards. Working on a full hand gives you more options and you don’t have to worry about dying, because you can always Frost Nova, Blizzard, Ice Block or whatever. Also, the more cards you draw, the sooner you dig to your Alexstrasza and Antonidas, which are often simply necessary to win such a game. A lot of the games will go pretty much to the last card in your deck, so the faster you start cycling, the easier it will be. It’s harder to cycle later in the game when you have to answer the board at the same time. Try to squeeze some card draw into every turn – you shouldn’t be under too much pressure in the early game so try to use that time for drawing.
Mid game is mostly about even more drawing and stalling. Your opponent still isn’t likely putting tons of pressure on you, but the damage on the board might start to pile. Use cards like Doomsayer + Frost Nova or Blizzard to clear the board. You generally try to not use your burn to remove minions. There are only some cases in which you want to do that. If the minion you’re killing will generate more health over time (e.g. you want to Fireball + ping Alley Armorsmith if you can – otherwise it will give Warrior much more Armor if it stays on the board). Or let’s say if you have to kill the minion or it will simply put too much pressure. The general rule is that unless you HAVE to, don’t use burn on minions.
When it comes to Primordial Glyph choices, there are a few that work best. If you don’t need something immediately, you can pick a cheap spell to combo it with Antonidas. Also picking more burn, like an extra Fireball, is rarely wrong. High value picks like Cabalist's Tome can also be good – while it’s a bit RNG, there is a high chance that at least 1 or 2 cards will be very useful.
You generally want to wait until you can get 2 or 3 Fireballs immediately before dropping Archmage Antonidas, or alternatively you want to combo him with Frost Nova and hope that your opponent has no way to kill it. But if you’re desperate, just dropping Antonidas on the empty board and hoping that your opponent has no way to kill it can be a decent play. Of course, 90% of the time he will just die on the spot, but if you’re in a terrible spot anyway, that 10% chance to win the game might be good enough.
Don’t play Alexstrasza on your opponent just like that, just because you can. You want to wait with Alexstrasza until you have enough burn to kill them, probably even MORE than enough burn in case they heal. Dropping Alexstrasza and having no way to finish the game is often like giving up a win. You give your opponent a lot of time to react, they know that they are under a serious threat and they might start playing differently. Instead of trying to kill you fast, they might start cycling through their deck to find that heal. They might simply adjust their play style and you prefer to catch them by surprise. It’s also probably the worst play ever you can make against Priest, considering that they can heal for 2 per turn with Hero Power. You should do that only if you’re sure that your opponent runs no healing.
- If you pick a 1-3 mana spell from Primordial Glyph, you can keep it to combo with Archmage Antonidas. Without Emperor Thaurissan, it’s really hard to get a big Antonidas turn, but you can easily get 2 or 3 Fireballs if you pick the right cards from Primordial Glyph. And of course, it’s still a great card to have if your opponent happens to have no way to remove it.
- When you can choose between the two Secrets, I’d say that Ice Barrier is better in the early game when you’re mostly facing minion damage. Ice Block is always useful, but Ice Barrier becomes a dead card later in the game when they can finish you with burn and pass through it (most of the people will play around Barrier and not attack with a minion first if they can kill you with a spell).
- If you have some free mana and Acolyte of Pain on the board, you should consider pinging it to write an extra card. It’s a pretty slow play, but if you can farm Acolyte for 3 cards, then most of your card draw problems should be solved.
- The highest amount of burst you can do without any extra spell from Primordial Glyph is 15 with 2x Fireball + Frostbolt or Bloodmage Thalnos + 2x Frostbolt + Fireball. Those are the best combos to follow-up the Alexstrasza with.
- Sometimes you don’t even need Alexstrasza to win the game. If you did some early damage with your minions, or maybe pinged your opponent a few times, Pyroblast (10 damage) into your highest burst turn (15 damage) is 25 damage in total – usually more than enough to win the game. It basically means that you don’t automatically lose if you’re forced to Alex yourself or don’t draw her at all.
- If you desperately need to draw a card to e.g. find the Ice Block or the last burn spell, you can play your Thalnos or Loot Hoarder and ping it. It costs 4 mana to draw a card, but should be enough to play most of the things you draw.
- Remember that Ice Barrier activates only on minion/weapon damage, NOT on the Battlecries, Spells or Hero Powers. So you won’t get the 8 Armor when your opponent is trying to finish you with a burn spell. You might still try to fake an Ice Block and make your opponent hit with a minion first to pop it, but it will rarely work against good players.
Freeze Mage Card Substitutions
Sadly, this deck is full of expensive cards and the majority of them can’t be subbed, because they’re vital and the deck can’t operate without them.
- Bloodmage Thalnos is probably the only card that can get replaced without losing too much power. You probably want to play Novice Engineer in this slot – it’s more card draw and probably better than playing Kobold for extra Spell Damage – Spell Damage is pretty weak in this deck, because you can’t realistically play 4-5 or more burn spells in a single turn, which you could do before that with Ice Lances and Emperor.
- Primordial Glyphs aren’t technically necessary either. For example, pro player Abar hit top 50 Legend earlier this season with a build that played Dirty Rat instead (it was when Quest Rogue was all over the ladder). You can replace Glyphs with 2x Novice Engineer, or maybe also Dirty Rats if you play against a lot of Quest Rogues (it’s a great counter to the deck).
- Similarly, Pyroblast is technically unnecessary for the Alex -> burn combo, but it comes in handy if you don’t draw Alex or you have to use her on yourself. You MIGHT try playing without it (you can maybe add Flamestrike or Cone of Cold instead) but it might be harder.
- I’m afraid that Doomsayer, Ice Block, Archmage Antonidas and Alexstrasza can not be replaced. They’re really important and the deck wouldn’t work well without them.
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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!