What’s Mage Losing in the 2019 Standard Hearthstone Rotation?

Let’s face the facts: Mages had a tough year in 2018. First they had to say goodbye to Ice Block, one of the most important cards in the Mage toolkit, which meant that their journey into the Year of the Raven has been uncertain from the very start.
What started on a slightly rocky road ended with the October Balance Update, introducing a nerf to Mage’s early game powerhouse Mana Wyrm to make aggressive Mage archetypes substantially weaker.

In early 2019, the iconic spellcaster class boils down to two archetypes: Odd Mage, an aggressive archetype that destries to fill Tempo Mage’s shoes, and Big Spell Mage, a hyper-control list mostly carried by Frost Lich Jaina. With the Year of the Raven coming to an end, what will Mage be left with, and which archetypes could rise back to the top after the introduction of the upcoming Standard year?

Mage’s Lost Cards

Journey to Un’Goro

With the rotation of Journey to Un’Goro, Mage mostly loses cards tied to control archetypes. Arcanologist already lost a lot of value after the Tempo Mage nerf in October.

A much more severe loss will be Open the Waygate, making Quest Mage a Wild-only archetype. This incredibly unique list marked the upper ceiling of hyper-control lists and the dawn of creative OTK decks. Molten Reflection bites the dust as well,  ending the Standard life of OTK Antonidas Mage which derived from Quest Mage.

Besides that, Mage’s control archetypes have to take anotherbig hit: Meteor. Now only Polymorph is left as the one single removal spell, and that will make Mage’s life against lists like Deathrattle Hunter or Big Priest, two archetypes that very well could surive the rotation, even harder.

Primordial Glyph shall receive an honorable mention as well. This card serves as a prime example of the Discover mechanic: a well-designed card that resembles Mage fantasy and offers choice and versatility for only 2 mana.

In the Neutral Card section, Elemental Mage will basically lose 90 percent of its minions. A whooping four class-exclusive Elemental minions has been printed in the last three expansion, so Elemental Mage lovers can have to hope that Team 5 decides not to let this very unique and flavorful minion type die a slow death.

Knights of the Frozen Throne

From a number perspective, KotFT really didn’t have too much to offer for Mage. The loss of the one card that has seen regular play, however, will have incomparable impact on the Mage class as a whole: Frost Lich Jaina.

Especially after Ice Block has been moved to the Hall of Fame, Mage’s Hero Card has left its mark on almost every single archetype. The ability to control the game with an overwhelming amount of Water Elementals and other Elementals with Lifesteal may have been the biggest reason why multiple iterations of Control Mage lists were able to stay competitive throughout the Year of the Raven.

Mage players should not even think about life without Frost Lich Jaina yet, just because the future looks so grim already. It will take a whole lot of utility and design masterwork to replace such an insanely valuable Hero card. But as we all know, removal of both the other Deathknight Heroes and The Lich King will mean decrease in power level for most other classes as well, so there is at least that!

Kobolds and Catacombs

Kobolds and Catacombs provided tools for aggressive and control Mage archetypes alike. Both Aluneth and Explosive Runes played major roles in the rising of Tempo Mage. In the light of the recent nerfs, the loss of those two particular cards shouldn’t hurt too much.

The fact that Mana Wyrm received such a harsh change in stats may indicate towards some kind of intention that this kind of aggressive Mage list should not be played as of now.

The rotation of Raven Familiar, Arcane Artificer and Dragon's Fury will have a much bigger impact though. One of the reasons why Big Spell Mage made its way up in the tier lists was its massive boardclear potential against archetypes like Odd Paladin as well as Deathrattle Hunter or Big Priest. That combined with cheap armor gave control lists more support after the loss of Ice Block.

Now that both of these control powerhouse cards will be gone eventually, Control Mage as a whole needs to rethink its strategy and – last but not least – hope for the best to regain its strength in the form of new tools to control the board and its life total.

Mage’s Upcoming Archetypes

Compared to other classes, Mage doesn’t lose as many pivotal class cards. This and the fact that almost no neutral cards from Un’Goro, KotFT and KnC were played in any Mage archetype really shows one and only one thing: Mage still has one or if not the best Classic and Basic set amongst all classes.

That should be reason enough to not lose hope as a Mage player. Let’s take a look at what archetypes could remain after the rotation:

Odd Mage

This one should not come as much of an surprise. Rastakhan’s Rumble in particular catapulted Odd Mage up the tier lists by adding tons of Hero Power utility cards like Pyromaniac or Daring Fire-Eater.

In combination with old and new secrets and Secretkeeper, we could see some sort of board-centric mid-range version of Odd Mage making an appearance in the early phase of the new Standard year.

Tempo Mage

The Spell Damage package has been fiddled with for the longest time; of course, one could argue that cards like Black Cat would encourage players to use it within the Odd Mage Archetype.

But there are still many more even-cost cards like Celestial Emissary and Cosmic Anomaly that would love to help you launch 5-damage Arcane Missiles. All fun aside, this archetype should most definitely be on player’s radars after the upcoming rotation – it may produce Unexpected Results!

And even if Spell Damage won’t make the cut, you still have the Archmage Arugal/Book of Specters combo. This pair of cards made both Murloc and Elemental Mage a thing on ladder, and if Mage will get some new cheap minions to support it, we could see some interesting experiments coming out of the Tempo Mage archetype.

Big Spell Mage

Similar to Odd Mage, Big Spell Mage will most likely make the cut after the rotation. The list uses a lot of Classic and Basic cards, and sleepers like Blast Wave have been waiting to be able to join new iterations of the list.

The question if the archetype can hold a spot at the top remains, just because Frost Lich Jaina makes this deck so much better than it actually is.

Elemental Mage

Despite the fact that Elemental Mage loses a majority of its minions with the rotation of Un’Goro, it could make a comeback with the new Standard year. Why else would Team 5 decide to print three cards –  Elemental Evocation, Scorch and Arcanosaur – with Elemental synergy with Rastakhan’s Rumble?

By the looks of it, we could see Elemental Mage become some sort of minion-centric archetype similar to early Dragon Priest – which would, by no means, be a bad thing, just because this would perform greatly in a supposedly much more aggressive early meta of 2019’s new Standard year.


Julian "Tharid" Bischoff, a dinosaur in the fast-changing world of esports and self-proclaimed Warcraft expert, already created Hearthstone-related content for Red Bull, ESL and Hearthhead.

Check out Tharid on Twitter!

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  1. […] the past weeks, we have explored the upcoming Standard rotation in several articles, such as What’s Mage losing in the 2019 Standard Hearthstone Rotation? and Will there be combo decks in Hearthstone’s Year of the […]

  2. […] The Hearthstone Standard rotation is rapidly approaching. In around two months, we will have a new expansion in Standard and the 2017 expansions, Journey to Un’Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, and Kobolds and Catacombs, will rotate out of Standard and remain available only in Wild. Deathstalker Rexxar, Frost Lich Jaina, The Caverns Below , and many other powerful cards will depart the format – a subject we’ve explored in more detail in articles such as What’s Mage Losing in the 2019 Standard Hearthstone Rotation? […]

  3. Njuns
    January 28, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Love your articles about the losses for each class Tharid, can’t wait for the next ones ! I’m really excited for that rotation, it feels like almost all Tier 1 deck we have now will lose so much that the meta will completely change

    • Tharid - Author
      January 29, 2019 at 2:49 pm

      Thanks for the kind words! We will indeed enter the darkest of timelines, but I always try to highlight those archetypes that may come out ahead after the – what WoW geeks would call – Great Sundering. 🙂

  4. SlapLaB
    January 27, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    What worries me is that after rotation there will be 2 classes with a near-infinite value DK (warrior and shaman) + one with an overwhelming tempo ability (hunter). How will the others like mage cope if they don’t print new DKs or similar cards?

    • Tharid - Author
      January 28, 2019 at 8:08 am

      Good question! I’ll try to go deeper into that topic when we publish the Warrior and Shaman piece, because your point may be one of the biggest value issues with the upcoming rotation.

    • DukeStarswisher
      January 28, 2019 at 8:13 am

      The answer is: They won’t.

      But seriously, they have been releasing one hero per expansion so they are slowly spreading out the power level across the board. It still means that come rotation there will be a surge of hunter, shaman, and warrior decks. Hero cards have proved to be incredibly powerful.

      (They also should be creating new legendary weapons each expansion too imo)

  5. Fictionman
    January 26, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    I’m thinking about YelloRambo’s article from a month ago: https://www.hearthstonetopdecks.com/were-the-lackluster-cards-from-year-of-the-raven-a-necessity/

    I think his basic point that the year of the Raven had intentionally less powerful cards to compensate for the much higher powered cards that are about to be rotated out of standard is a good one. Given that the next expansion will arrive in sync with the rotation, I think we can expect to see Mage get a replacement hero card to help fill the void of Frost Lich Jaina. True to the pattern of other hero replacements, I expect the power level won’t be as high, but if we are lucky, it will still provide some sort of enduring value like what warriors have with Dr. Boom.

  6. nickus
    January 26, 2019 at 11:16 am

    Very interesting read. The biggest question is what will lack of healing from frost lich jaina mean for the class survivability in the late game. Looks like more midrange, minion based archetypes might be the new direction for the class. It remains to be seen what tools will mage get in next expansions.
    I am looking forward to similar analysis for other classes as well.

    P. S. One note tough: the article says that both deathrattle hunter and big priest might survive the rotation. However, hunter is losing kathrena, devilsaur eggs, cubes and deathrattle triggers, whereas priest is losing ressurect tools in spellstone and eternal servitude. Unless both receive tools to fill those gaps, I don’t think those two archetypes will survive the rotation.

    • Tharid - Author
      January 28, 2019 at 8:10 am


      Regarding Priest and Hunter: You’re not wrong by saying that both archetypes lose a lot; but it’s also evident that both themes will stay relevant within both classes, right? Especially Big Priest could still be a very good deck with one or two new cards that revolve around the Resurrection theme.