Our Big Spell Mage deck guide goes through the ins-and-outs of this updated deck from The Boomsday Project expansion! This guide will teach you how to mulligan, pilot, and substitute cards for this archetype.
Introduction to Big Spell Mage
One could say that the history of the Big Spell Mage started in Un’Goro with Burn Mage, a slow deck, which wanted to control the board through majority of the game, and then turn around and start killing your opponent with big tempo swings. This deck is similar, but it leans even more on the control side. The “real” Big Spell Mage was created in Kobolds & Catacombs, when Dragon's Fury, Dragoncaller Alanna as well as a few more “Big Spell” synergies were printed (although cards like Spiteful Summoner or Arcane Tyrant rarely see play in this archetype). The deck was never a top tier meta deck, but it was a quite popular off-meta choice.
Sadly for the Mage fans, Ice Block has rotated to Hall of Fame, and Ice Block was a pretty key card in the slow builds like this one. However, players have already figured out how to play it without the removed Secret, simply because the deck didn’t lose much besides it. Between all of the stall tools, single target and AoE clears, it’s usually enough to survive until the late game, where Frost Lich Jaina takes over – health shouldn’t be a problem at this point. As for the new, Witchwood cards players experiment with – Voodoo Doll and Arcane Keysmith are the most popular options. However, cards like Witchwood Piper (to fetch an Arcane Artificer, which is the main life gain option before Frost Lich Jaina) or Rotten Applebaum also see a fair share of play.
Right now, the archetype is doing quite fine. With lots of board flood decks on the ladder, having so many AoEs really pay off, while Polymorph counters some of the strongest strategies of the slower ladder decks.
Boomsday Project Big Spell Control Mage Deck List
This is a potential Boomsday version of the deck. It has yet to be fully refined, but if you are looking to try Control Mage in the new expansion this might be the way to go! We will be refining our lists and guides as soon as we can!
Check out alternative versions of this deck on our Big Spell Control Mage archetype page!
Big Spell Mage Mulligan Strategy & Guide
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Doomsayer – Keep in every matchup. No matter what deck you play against, you want to stall the early/mid game and Doomsayer is the best tool to do that. Play it on a boar with 1 or 2 small minions and force your opponent to use a Silence or skip a turn.
- Raven Familiar – 2/2 for 2 that usually draws you a card… it’s the only proactive Turn 2 play you can make, so you want to keep it.
- Stonehill Defender – Against Aggro, it can stop some attacks and possibly even clear a small minion or two. And against Control, you can discover some bigger Taunt instead of skipping Turn 3.
- Arcane Keysmith – Works surprisingly well in most of the matchups. After playing with the card for a while in this deck, it’s very rare that you get 3 bad Secrets to choose from.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Gluttonous Ooze – Keep against decks that run weapons – e.g. Odd/Even Paladin, Face Hunter or Cube Warlock.
- Dragon's Fury – Keep against Aggro, it’s often your best Turn 5 play in those matchups.
- Skulking Geist – Keep if you’re 100% sure that you face deck against which you want to destroy 1 mana spells – e.g. Combo Priest (Inner Fire) or Taunt Druid (Naturalize).
- Frost Lich Jaina – If you’re 100% sure that you face a slow, Control deck. It’s a bad keep against Aggro, but it’s the main way to win the game in slow matchups, so you always want to have it as soon as possible.
Big Spell Mage Play Strategy
Versus Fast Decks
When you face a fast deck, there is basically one thing you want to do: survive. This is generally going to be harder without Ice Block, that’s why you want ot use every resource to minimize the damage you take. Your goal is to survive until you run your opponent out of resources, then stabilize with a Taunt or Frost Lich Jaina. Alternatively, survive until Turn 9, then drop Dragoncaller Alanna and set up a very quick clock.
Finishing the game is not a problem – surviving until you can do that is. There are two kinds of Aggro matchups and it’s important to identify which one you’re facing. First one is board-oriented – like Odd Paladin or Zoo Warlock. Those decks are generally easier for you to deal with, simply because they don’t run much in terms of burn damage. As long as you keep the board clear, you know that you will be relatively safe. When you play against this type of deck, remember that they can usually flood the board a few times before running out of resources, so you need to be a little bit more greedy with your AoEs. At the same time, with less burn damage, you can take a bit more hits before getting to a dangerously low levels of health. For example, do not play Blizzard against three or four 1 Attack minions, unless you think that your opponent can have some way to buff them. Try to bait them into playing more before you AoE, especially if you don’t have many AoEs in your hand. Such a board is also a good time to drop a Doomsayer – if they decide to Silence it or play some Charge minion/buff to deal with it, not the board is a more juicy AoE target. If they don’t – well, you’ve got yourself a free turn.
Then, there is another type of Aggro decks – “face” or “burn” decks, that can deal a lot of damage even without the board. Those are some of the hardest matchups on the ladder. On the one hand, you can remove everything they play pretty much immediately, but on the other hand, removing the minions is often pointless, as they already did their job. For example, them dropping a Wolfrider and going your face means that it already did its job – of course you have to remove it, but damage has been dealt. That’s why Odd Face Hunter is such a bad matchup – they can pump out so much damage even without any kind of board. In this kind of matchup, you absolutely need to preserve every point of life. The best way to win this matchup is sticking an Arcane Artificer – first you play Artificer + a spell like Polymorph or something, possibly Artificer + Meteor or Blizzard if it’s already so late into the game, gain some Armor and hope that it survives. Generally, once you get to Frost Lich Jaina you should be fine, with the 5 immediate Armor and then extra healing every turn, but getting there is really hard without an Ice Block. Since those decks are usually much less minion-heavy, it’s okay to drop an AoE vs 1-2 small minions, especially if you have more AoE in your hand – try to keep your life total as high as possible.
Keep in mind that Baron Geddon heals you, usually for A LOT, after you’ve already turned into Frost Lich Jaina. Jaina into Geddon on the upcoming turn is often an immediate win. However, using Geddon BEFORE Jaina is not a bad idea in the board-focused matchups – it’s a repeated AoE, which really helps with clearing the board, and the 7/5 body can put a lot of pressure on your opponent. You can actually win the game on the back of Geddon if you stick it – hitting with it twice + its effect triggering 3 times is a whooping 20 damage.
Witchwood Piper draws the lowest cost minion in your deck – in this case it’s Arcane Artificer (unless you’ve drawn both already). You can use Piper to fetch an Artificer to set up for a big AoE next turn – it’s always better to gain some extra Armor if you plan on dropping e.g. Blizzard anyway.
When it comes to Arcane Keysmith Secret choices, it’s very situational, but I’d say that in general, Ice Barrier is always good against Aggro. Then, Explosive Runes or Counterspell are good to control the board / stop a burn damage or a buff. Talking about buffs, if you play against a deck such as Even Paladin, Spellbender is great too – you can sometimes steal a Blessing of Kings or Spikeridged Steed, or at least prevent your opponent from playing them. Vaporize can be situationally good if you face a single big minion, but keep in mind that some decks can proc it with a small Charge minion first.
Versus Slow Decks
Slow matchups are much more interesting than Aggro, simply because the game doesn’t finish when you play your Frost Lich Jaina and such. There is also a lot more strategy, like how much removal you need to keep for their X plays, what cards you want to Polymorph etc.
First of all, your early turns are very slow anyway. There is no real pressure you can put, so that is basically never your win condition. I’ve played dozens of games with this deck, even more against it, and I’ve never seen Big Spell Mage winning with early/mid game minion pressure. So going for the tempo plays instead of planning around the future turns is a bad idea. For example, dropping that Gluttonous Ooze on T3 vs Warlock just to put pressure is a terrible idea. You very much prefer to keep it against Skull of the Man'ari, which can completely destroy you.
During the early and mid game, you mostly want to collect the resources. Draw your single target and AoE clears. Slow decks rarely put enough pressure in the early game, but some of the builds already start dropping big guns on Turn 4 – e.g. Mountain Giant vs Cube Warlock or Twilight Drake vs Control Priest. Against Warlock, you prefer to keep Polymorph for the Demons, so it’s better to use Voodoo Doll on the Giant, but if go for the Polymorph if you have no other choice – you can’t take 8 damage just like that, especially since you risk him copying it with Faceless Manipulator or Carnivorous Cube.
Polymorph gets an extra value of your opponent not being able to revive certain minions. This is huge in certain matchups. I’ve already mentioned the Cube Warlock – ideally you want to keep Polymorph for Demons – Doomguards or Voidlords. Even though it seems counter-intuitive, you prefer to Polymorph a Doomguard – Cube Warlock can beat you through the pressure, and reviving Doomguards is much more pressure than reviving Voidlords. Plus, Voidlords dillute his pool of Demons with Voidwalkers. But of course, if your opponent gets Voidlord from the Lackey on Turn 5-6, you still want to Poly it, you don’t have much choice. While Cubelocks don’t really run it, if you face a Control version, try to keep a Polymorph for Rin, the First Disciple.
Another matchup in which Polymorph is super important is Taunt Druid. Not only the 1/1 Sheep is a Beast, which means that they can low-roll their Witching Hour, if you Polymorph their Hadronox, you basically win the game on the spot. However, since they usually pop it immediately with Naturalize, there is another card that comes into action first.
Skulking Geist is the MVP of those kinds of matchups. If your opponent has a key 1 mana spell, then Geist can really win it for you. Just like in the example above – normally, Druid will play Hadronox only when he can Naturalize it, reviving a big board and then he can get it back from Witching Hour. If you Geist, he can’t naturalize it, which means that he can’t pop it immediately and you can Polymorph it, meaning that his win condition is basically gone – now you have to deal with whatever Taunts he has left in his deck and that’s it. Similarly, the card is amazing against Combo Priest. While the deck is not that common right now, getting rid of Inner Fire means that your chance to win is way higher. The card is also great against Warlocks – Dark Pact gone means that they can’t immediately pop their Carnivorous Cubes so easily, which in turn means that you might get a chance to Polymorph one. Same goes for Control Warlock and Rin.
When it comes to Secrets you pick from Arcane Keysmith, you have even more options in the slow matchups. First of all – Mirror Entity and Mana Bind (after your opponent has used a Coin already) get much more value in those matchups. While your opponent might obviously play around them, if he plays INTO them, they can lead to some serious swings from your side. Counterspell and Explosive Runes are always good. Ice Barrier is often useless in slow matchups, but if your opponent is pushing you hard, e.g. had an early Giant, then you can still pick it. Frozen Clone gives you more value – just remember to have enough space in your hand before you pick it! Spellbender is often a good mind games card, since it can’t be triggered by the Coin. Your opponent might think that he’s safe to play a spell, e.g. Dark Pact on the Rin, then then it suddenly redirects itself. One of the Arcane Keysmith’s main advantages are the mind games – for example, when playing against a Cube Warlock, if you drop it against their T4 Giant, they will really hesitate and often skip an attack when they’re afraid of Vaporize… even if you didn’t pick it! Of course, in this situation it’s still nice to pick it just in case they decide to go for it and attack, but sometimes you won’t get it offered and still gain 8 life just because they aren’t sure.
Frost Lich Jaina is the main win condition you have against slower decks. After you play her, your opponent will do whatever he can to not give you ping targets, but not only you can generate some on your own, but also set up his minions with AoEs. Try to plan ahead to get as many Water Elementals as you can. E.g. if your opponent drops a 2/2 minion and you have no board, you can simply ping it and pass your turn (2/2 is not a big pressure anyway). Next turn you can ping it again and get a Water Elemental. When it comes to AoE’s, Blizzard can set up 3 health minions in the ping range, Flamestrike – 5 health minions and Meteor – 4 health minions (if it’s the adjacent one). On top of that, if you roll the 3 damage AoE or 5 single target damage from The Lich King, you can use those to set up minions in ping range too. Basically, it’s incredibly hard for your opponent to not give you any targets – he might decide to not play any smaller minions, but that’s also fine. If he drops something bigger, Polymorph or Voodoo Doll + ping summon an extra Elemental.
Your more flashy win condition is definitely Dragoncaller Alanna. Generally, you play her a) against decks that might not have huge AoE clears to deal with her and b) when your opponent has used the AoE clears on your Water Elementals already. She’s a finisher, so you don’t have to hurry up with her most of the time.
One more extra note is that once you identify your opponent as a slow, grindy deck, you might actually not want to draw any cards. Sometimes it’s better to keep Raven Familiar and/or Witchwood Piper in your hand instead of drawing cards. It only applies to the matchups decided by the fatigue – if your opponent draws a lot of cards (e.g. Cube Warlock) or the games usually finish before the fatigue (e.g. Quest Warrior). But it’s a viable approach against, for example, a Control Warrior deck.
Big Spell Mage Card Substitutions
Big Spell Mage is a very expensive deck and there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it. Most of the cards in the deck are absolutely necessary and can’t be replaced. However, I will still go through all of the expensive cards, explain their role in the deck and try to offer some substitutes below.
- Baron Geddon – Not really necessary, but a very strong card to have. Before you turn into Frost Lich Jaina, it’s another AoE clear you have, but after you become the Death Knight, versus a wide board he can easily heal up you to full while clearing it. Insane synergy.
- The Lich King – It’s just a late game Taunt vs fast decks and a value generator vs slow decks. Not necessary in the deck.
- Dragoncaller Alanna – She’s a powerful win condition in slow matchups, but not really necessary in this deck.
- Frost Lich Jaina – You can’t replace Frost Lich Jaina. That’s it. She’s the deck’s main win condition.
- Doomsayer – Great early game stall tool. While you COULD play a deck without it, I wouldn’t recommend it.
- Gluttonous Ooze – Weapon removal is strong in the current meta. However, you can replace it with a budget option.
- Voodoo Doll – It’s an amazing mid/late game card to have in this deck – you CAN play without it, but again, I wouldn’t recommend.
- Arcane Keysmith – The card is really cool and pretty strong, it leads to some mind games. I like it, but it’s not necessary.
- Dragon's Fury – 100% necessary card – one of the reasons why you only play expensive spells in the first place. It starts as a 4 damage AoE for 5 mana and goes up to 7 depending on what you roll, it’s a very powerful card.
- Meteor – Well… When Firelands Portal was still in Standard, it was possible to replace Meteor and still have enough big spells. Right now, I’d say that Meteor is necessary.
Potential Substitutes / Tech Choices
As you can see, that’s A LOT of expensive cards. If you don’t have majority of them, or even one key card like Frost Lich Jaina or Dragon’s Fury, I’d say that you should give up on this deck for now and come back when you open them or will be able to craft them. I know it’s harsh, but without them, your deck will just be weak. However, if you’re missing only a few of the non-key cards, there is still a way to replace them while keeping the deck somehow viable (weaker, but viable). Here are some of the options you can use instead of the cards listed above:
- Acidic Swamp Ooze – You can use it instead of Gluttonous Ooze, but also as an extra, second weapon removal. Like I’ve said, weapon removal is strong in this meta, so running two is not as bas as it might seem.
- Acolyte of Pain – Turn 3 play. Since you can’t run Arcane Intellect, and you often want to cycle through your deck when you’re looking for Frost Lich Jaina, Acolyte is an okay option.
- Tar Creeper – Good early game defensive tool, useful mostly against Aggro decks.
- Arcane Tyrant – Can be a nice mid game tempo play after you drop a big spell. I’m not a big fan of Tyrant in this deck (because the extra tempo is not that useful in this build, and it’s really bad if you can’t combo it with a big spell), but it’s a viable option.
- Rotten Applebaum – It’s like a new version of Sludge Belcher. A solid card, good mid game Taunt that can heal you on top of that.
- Alexstrasza or Sindragosa – While not really a “budget” option, if you own Alexstrasza or Sindragosa, but you don’t have one of the high cost Legendaries such as The Lich King or Dragoncaller Alanna, those are viable replacements.