Our Budget Secret Mage deck list guide for the Descent of Dragons expansion will teach you how to play this budget list. This guide includes Mulligans, Gameplay Strategy, Card Substitutions, and Combos/Synergies!
Introduction to Budget Secret Mage
Mage is one of the three main Secret classes in Hearthstone (while Rogue also got a few, it seemed like a one-time thing), and probably the best one historically. Mage had a viable tempo deck built around Secrets in many metas, thanks to multiple synergies the class got. It is an aggressive deck that relies on establishing early board tempo by cheating out Secrets / playing oversized minions / taking advantage of having Secrets on the board to activate your minions’ effects.
Sadly, while Secret Mage is the best budget deck you can build for Mage, it’s not really a very powerful deck. Most of the meta decks have gotten way stronger in Descent of Dragons, while (already mediocre) Secret Mage didn’t really get anything strong. It’s not like Mage did not get anything at all – both Highlander and Cyclone build got some nice new options. However, the issue is that those can’t be built on a budget – they run a lot of must-have Epics & Legendaries.
It doesn’t mean that the deck is completely useless – you can still snatch some wins.
Budget Secret Mage Mulligan Guide
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Secretkeeper – The best minion to get in mulligan. It’s not that easy to clear on Turn 1 by many decks, and if you start playing your Secrets and buff it, it becomes amazing. Even just a single Secret makes it a 1 mana 2/3, which is great.
- Violet Spellwing – While not as good as Secretkeeper, since Secret Mage is a pretty aggressive build, having something to drop on T1 is solid. In faster matchup, you can get an early trade and then possibly use the free Missiles immediately. In slower matchups, it might push a few points of damage if not removed and then still get 3 more damage after.
- Ancient Mysteries – Not only it lets you technically play your Secret for 2 mana (which is good, a 1 mana discount is never bad), but also lets you buff Secretkeeper on curve OR keep it around to shoot 2 AoE damage with Arcane Flakmage.
- Sorcerer's Apprentice & Arcane Flakmage – Even though you might not utilize their effects to fullest extent by dropping them on curve, the thing is, you really don’t want to skip Turn 2. Developing board early is important, because you need to deal some minion damage or you won’t have enough reach later.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Flame Ward – Keep vs board flood decks. The Secret is pretty bad vs slow decks that won’t hit your face early, but it might help you survive if you play against decks like Treant Druid, Face/Quest Hunter or Aggro Shaman.
Budget Secret Mage Play Strategy
Secret Mage is a mix between a tempo and a burn deck. The ideal scenario is you taking control over the board early, dealing some minion damage, and then finishing game with burn. When it comes to burn – you have quite a lot of it in your deck. 2x Frostbolt, 2x Lifedrinker, 2x Fireball and 2x Cloud Prince is a grand total of 36 damage. Of course, you won’t realistically draw them all during a single game, but even drawing half of that means 18 damage from hand. Which means that in lots of matchups all you need is just a little bit over 10 damage with minions. Of course, this kind of strategy doesn’t work very well against decks that can heal or gain a lot of Armor. That’s why historically Control Warrior has been a bad matchup for the deck.
One of the best way to win in those difficult matchups is to snowball the early game (you can’t keep back or play around removals, you just have to go all in) – a Secretkeeper that gets to 3/4 or 4/5 can deal a substantial amount of damage over a few turns. But, obviously, you can’t control that. So the other good way is a perfectly timed Counterspell. The card is a key in those matchups. You want to use it right before their AoE turn. For example, against Warrior, you want to do it going into their Turn 5. Ideally, they will still try to Brawl and just waste their entire turn. But most of the time they will just check for it with a cheaper/less important spell. While it means that you’re still getting Brawled next turn, the key part is NEXT TURN – you have an entire extra turn of minion damage. Counterspell is much less effective when they have more mana, because then they can just play a cheap spell first and still AoE in the same turn. Either way, minions are key in those matchups, so try to prioritize them.
The only new card included in the build is Violet Spellwing. I like the card, because it gives you something to play on T1 (which is something this deck struggled with historically) and Arcane Missiles is a pretty solid card to get out of it – there are a lot of small minions in the meta, and it can also be used to deal 3 face damage on the empty board.
One cool thing about Ancient Mysteries is that you don’t have to play the 0 mana Secret immediately. Or rather, most of the time you SHOULDN’T play it right away if you play it on Turn 2 – the only exception is when you have Secretkeeper on the board so you can buff it right away. Not only you want to keep the Secrets for appropriate situations (e.g. Counterspell right before their AoE turn like I’ve explained before, or Mirror Entity before the turn they usually drop a bigger minion), but you can use them for your synergies. For example, Arcane Flakmage gets way stronger if you have 0 mana Secret in your hand, because you can turn it into 0 mana 2 AoE damage. Then, Sunreaver Spy, Ethereal Arcanist and Cloud Prince all require a Secret present on the board to take advantage of their effects. Which can – of course – be played earlier, but if you play it on a previous turn, there’s a chance that your opponent will trigger it and those will no longer get their effects. And while it’s still okay to drop a 2/3 Spy if you don’t have a Secret up, both Arcanist and Price should be kept for until you have one, because they’re 4 mana 3/3 and 5 mana 4/4 respectively (absolutely terrible).
After the early game, where you should focus on getting board advantage, in around Turn 4-5 you should start focusing on dealing as much face damage as possible. You’re not playing a late game deck. You don’t have Aluneth to keep you in game against Control. The only extra draw you have is Arcane Intellect, and let’s face it, you won’t keep up with any Control or even Midrange deck in terms of value. That’s why most of the damage you deal should go face – unless it will let you deal even more damage. For example, if your opponent dropped a Taunt on your way and you have some minions, then Fireballing it to keep your minions alive is perfectly viable. But if you don’t have a board, or your board is weak enough that it won’t deal much damage anyway, then just hit face with everything and hope that your opponent a) won’t kill you before you kill them (if they’re playing against a faster deck) or b) won’t be able to gain life (if you’re playing against a slower deck).
Future Card Replacements for Secret Mage
Budget Secret Mage isn’t that far off from the full meta version. Sadly, the full meta version is still not a great build. Still, here are some card changes you might want to make if you own those cards:
- 1x Lifedrinker -> 1x Leeroy Jenkins – Leeroy Jenkins has a slightly similar role to Lifedrinker, except that it does twice as much damage. Since the deck wants to close out games quickly, an extra burn damage in a form of Leeroy is a good thing to have.
- 1x Lifedrinker -> 1x Subject 9 – If you own Subject 9, you might want to diversify your Secrets and e.g. add Splitting Image instead of one Flame Ward so you could have 4 different ones in your deck. You’ll still usually draw 2-3 cards with it, and a 5 mana 4/4 that draws 2-3 cards is great. It solves your “running out of steam quickly” problems a bit, since it gives you an extra turn or two worth of plays. Pulling out Secrets from your deck also means that you’re more likely to draw your burn finishers.
However, if you really want to play Mage and have more Dust to spare, you should probably try going for a Highlander or Cyclone builds instead. The issue is that Highlander builds cost as much as 20k Dust, which is completely out of range of most of budget / new players. Cyclone Mage is a cheaper alternative, but it’s also mediocre and very difficult to master. Still, here’s a solid build if you still want to check it out:
I won’t be even trying to build a budget version of this deck, since it makes no sense.