Our Spell Mage deck list guide for the Ashes of Outland expansion will teach you how to play this budget list. This guide includes Mulligans, Gameplay Strategy, Card Substitutions, and Combos/Synergies!
Introduction to Budget Spell Mage
In terms of budget decks, things aren’t looking too bright for Mage. You basically have two options – the usual Secret Mage (which was our budget choice for the last… I don’t even remember how many expansions) or a slightly gutted version of Spell Mage. Secret Mage is, let’s just say, not a great deck. You can build it without using any Epics or Legendaries, but it will only be usable in low ranks. Spell Mage is still not a high tier meta deck, but it’s been performing quite fine. However, the problem is that we’ve decided to stick to two Epics at most per budget deck, so we had to choose between Apexis Blast and Power of Creation. The choice here is simple – who doesn’t want to have a 5 mana Firelands Portal in their deck? However, Power of Creation is also a staple, so losing it hurts. That’s why if you have a slightly higher budget, I would recommend getting it in the first place.
Still, after testing the deck for a bit, it’s actually not that bad. You can still perform your main game plan, the deck still feels quite the same, the only big issue is that you have less ways to close out the game with minions (for obvious reason). If you like a more “solitaire” gameplay, the deck is mighty fun too. Most of the time you will be either removing or freezing your opponent’s board and trying to sneak in some damage here and there. If that’s not your style, however, I’ll still showcase the Secret Mage list at the bottom if you prefer a more proactive style.
Budget Spell Mage Mulligan Guide
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Font of Power – Getting 3 cards for 1 mana, lots of which will synergize with your deck? That’s a steal!
- Learn Draconic – Good thing about this Quest is that you don’t need to complete it right away. And since you will be casting spells every turn, you should be able to finish it around T4-T5.
- Ancient Mysteries – Good Turn 2 play, cycles through the deck, gives you some tempo.
- Incanter's Flow – Probably the best card to get in mulligan. Since your deck is 100% spells, discounting everything by 1 is an amazing effect.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Arcane Intellect – Keep in slower matchups. Drawing cards is great, but you don’t want to spend your turns doing nothing against faster builds.
Budget Spell Mage Play Strategy
Spell Mage has kind of an unique gameplay, making it a bit hard to classify. I’d say that “Control” fits the deck most, however it also feels like the oldschool Freeze Mage at times. You can clear minions, stall the game by freezing the board etc. for multiple turns, but that won’t win you the game. At the same time, you don’t run any kind of combo that would let you finish the match. Which means that you have to rely on your minions (and some burn spells for that matter). The way you will win most of your games is sticking some minions to the board (when opponent can’t remove them) and then keep freezing / removing your opponent’s stuff and getting the minion damage in. Then possibly finishing the game with some burn.
Talking about burn, you actually have quite a bit of that. Between 2x Frostbolt, 2x Fireball and 2x Apexis Blast, you could in theory kill your opponent with just the spells + a few Hero Powers. However, in reality it won’t work like that. You will use your spells as a removal, not to mention that lots of opponents will have some sort of healing, so you need something more than one-time source of damage. Still, it’s good to keep in mind how much burn can you do. Sometimes getting your opponent to 15 health with minions is enough to just seal the game with spells afterwards.
Font of Power is a card I want to talk about more. Obviously, getting 3 minions for 1 mana is great, but what’s even better is that those are Mage minions – most of which have some kind of synergy with spells, Secrets etc. Not to mention that minions are even more valuable in a deck which, by its nature, runs no minions at all. The randomness of this card is one of the difficulties of this deck. You need to adapt to whatever you get. If you get some Secret synergies (like Ethereal Arcanist or Cloud Prince), you want to set those up well. If you get Sorcerer's Apprentice + Mana Cyclone combo, that’s also great, more spells for you. But probably the best one you can get is Archmage Antonidas. Since you run a lot of cheap spells AND you make them even cheaper with Incanter’s Flow, it will be very easy to generate 4-5 extra Fireballs. And if you do that, you can perform your burn plan quite easily as long as you survive.
Secrets are a pretty big part of your deck. They try to cover most of your bases – Netherwind Portal gives you more minions to work with, Flame Ward is a board clear and Ice Barrier gives you more time to do what you want to do, great against Aggro decks. And, of course, Ancient Mysteries lets you draw one of those and discount it to 0. While Portal and Ice Barrier can generally be used right away, sometimes it’s worth to wait a turn or two to bait your opponent into thinking that he faces Flame Ward (but it really depends on the situation). Flame Ward itself, however, is not a Secret you want to play right away. If your opponent has only 1-2 small minions on the board, it’s not worth it. You will deal with those with your Hero Power or small removal spells. Wait until he creates a slightly bigger board and then play Flame Ward. What if he doesn’t play more minions because he knows that you have it in your hand? Well, that’s also a win for you, because he won’t put too much pressure.
In the mid/late game, once you stick a minion or two, focus on freezing the board and dealing as much damage as you can. And that’s pretty much it. Things will vary from game to game depending on the random minions you get from Font of Power, Apexis Blast and Netherwind Portal, but that’s something I can’t really account for when writing this guide.
Future Card Replacements for Spell Mage
As much as I really like to play the deck, even in the full meta version, Spell Mage is not the strongest deck. It’s probably somewhere between Tier 2 and Tier 3, at least at the time I’m writing this. Which makes it okay, but not amazing, but it also means that the budget version is even worse. There are a few cards you want to add in order to make it better, one of which is a Galakrond’s Awakening card:
- 2x Power of Creation – Those two are really a must. It’s your main way to summon minions, and let’s just say that minions are really important in Hearthstone. Lots of the time you will make it cost 7, which means that you might be able to combo it with Frost Nova on the same turn.
- 1x Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron (OPTIONAL) – Not every build runs Puzzle Box and it’s really up to you. The card is very random – sometimes it will win you the game, other times it will do more harm than good. I’m not a big fan, but some builds do run one.
- 1x Evocation – More spells! Evocation is great, because it gives you an option for nearly every situation. Most of the time it will give you at least some removal options (possibly doubling up as burn), stall options and value options. The only downside is that it will be a dead card throughout a big part of the game. It’s bad in the early/mid game (unless you’re really desperate), it gets better the more mana you have and the less cards you have in your hand. One additional advantage is that if you make it cost 0, Pyroblast is going to win you the game sometimes (normally you can’t use it because you’re left with 9 mana after casting it).
- 1x The Amazing Reno – The adventure card I was talking about – The Amazing Reno is a staple in this build. It’s the only real “board wipe” Mage has access to, and it works wonders in lots of matchups. For example, I can’t imagine winning against Resurrect Priest without it. The random spells you get afterwards can be hit or miss, but from my experience, there’s a slightly higher chance for a positive one than a negative one (especially if you’re behind on the board).
And here are the flex slots you can use to fit the cards above:
- 1x Frostbolt
- 1-2 Secrets (I think that 5 is optimal, but some builds run 4 – which ones you cut depends on the matchups you face most often, but I’d probably cut 1x Ice Barrier).
- Deep Freeze – Replace only with Power of Creation. IMO the optimal distribution is 2x Power of Creation and 1x Deep Freeze, but different builds run 0-2 Deep Freezes.
And here’s the Secret Mage build I’ve promised at the start. I think that it’s weaker, but also doesn’t require any Epics: