Constructed play has a quickly shifting meta game that favors a different class every week. Arena, on the other hand, has had one top dog class for an extended period of time. Mage is a powerhouse in arena even after getting heavily nerfed in constructed. If you want to be successful in arena you have to learn to beat Mages. Of course, you can also just pick Mage yourself but that’s the easy way out. Let’s take a look at why Mages are so good in arena and what you have to do to beat them. The road to 12 wins will always go through Mages at some point so beating them is a key to success.

Mages' Arena Fuel

What makes Mages so good in arena? Mages have some of the most efficient removal in the game and almost all of the cards that make mage so good are common cards which means they have a high chance to be offered up in arena drafts. These cards are:
  • Flamestrike - In constructed play this card is often too slow and by the time you can play it you might be dead. In arena where the style is more control oriented this card really shines and it’s mere existence forces people to play differently.
  • Frostbolt - 3 damage for 2 mana is a good deal but the added ability to freeze gives the Mage another way to deal with larger creatures as you can Frostbolt then ping creatures to death or set up bigger Flamestrikes. This card also synergizes with Ice Lance for some finishing burst.
  • Fireball - This card is the one that really sets Mages apart. 6 damage will kill most big creatures but if the Mage uses them on creatures it almost feels like a victory because they’re at least not going to your face. Either way, for 4 mana this card is incredibly strong.
  • Cone of Cold - This card used to be better but after it was nerfed to 4 mana it has seen a lot less play. It’s still a fine card and allows Mages to stall for even bigger Flamestrikes or burn spells.
  • Water Elemental - Mages not only get all that sweet removal but they get a 4-drop that actually outshines a Chillwind Yeti. The 6 health on this card makes it very difficult to remove which means it often costs 2 cards to take care of.
  • Mana Wyrm - Mages also have the ability to start furiously fast with this 1-drop that grows for every spell cast. Mana Wyrm + The Coin + Mirror Image can straight up lead to free wins as the damage just snowballs from there.
  • Polymorph - in combination with the Mage hero ability this card means that no creature is safe no matter how much health it has. Killing Mages with their own sheep is probably the most satisfying moment you will ever have in Hearthstone, however, so at least there’s that.
  • Arcane Missiles - this card is not as strong as the others but gets an honorable mention because it can often deal with stealth creatures and helps grow Mana Wyrms. It also has a 50/50 chance to kill most 2-drops for 1 mana which can lead to some big tempo swings in the early game.
Mages also have arguably the best hero power in the game in Fireblast. 2 mana for 1 damage seems inefficient but when you take into account that the damage can go anywhere, this ability becomes extremely advantageous. Pinging off Divine Shields, finishing off creatures or even enraging the Mages own minions are all useful applications of the hero power and make a lot of cards more valuable for Mages than other classes. Cards like Raging Worgen, Amani Berserker, Gurubashi Berserker and Acolyte of Pain become much more dangerous when played by a Mage.

Overall, Mages just have a lot of tools for controlling the board partnered with burn spells and strong minions. Every arena player is aware of how strong they are which is why they get picked much more than any other class. This adds on to issue. According to May report, even though Rogues had a higher win rate, Mage was picked about twice as often. So the question becomes, how do we beat the Mages?

Beating Mages

Let’s start with the draft. Cards with 1 health are usually bad in general but because Mages can clean them up so easily they become even worse in arena play. Unless the 1-health cards do something when the hit the board it’s best to avoid them during the draft. You also start to value health totals over 4 a bit more. Cards like Spiteful Smith, Chillwind Yeti, Archmage, etc. are very good because the live through Flamestrike. Cards with Divine Shield or Deathrattles are also good for surviving Flamestrike. Once you get to turn 7, you should never feed a Mage more than 2 cards with under 4 health. Trust me, Mages always have Flamestrike.

You cannot draft only big cards and expect to win, however, so drafting a good curve to get pressure on early is also important. The best anti-Mage 2-drop is the Faerie Dragon as it cannot die to Frostbolt. Pick it early and often. Harvest Golem is also a great early card against Mage because it needs to be killed twice. Another card that can be very helpful against Mage is Spellbreaker. Spellbreaker has 3 health and can either silence a berserker or silence your own frozen minion allowing it to attack which gives it a lot of utility against Mage.

Playing against Mage really comes down to being patient and paying attention to their tells. When a Mage pings something down to 4 health, that’s a sign that a Flamestrike is imminent. Do not load the board up the following turn. Playing around Flamestrike is also not the only answer. It’s important to bait it out when the value is actually diminished. Putting cards out like Gnomish Inventor and Azure Drake can pressure a Mage to Flamestrike without getting as much value as these cards cycled themselves. The downside to Flamestrike is its cost and you can take advantage of that.

Testing for secrets properly is another important skill to develop. Most of the time in arena the secret is either Mirror Entity, Vaporize or Counterspell. Test these with lower cost minions and spells to avoid losing tempo.

Lastly, value your health more against Mages than most other classes. In constructed play there are plenty of built in combos that require players to keep their health at certain levels. In arena these are less common but Mages can always get their burn spells through and they have a lot of them. Frostbolt, Ice Lance, Fireball and Pyroblast can all hit the hero so do your best to keep your health as high as you can.
Playing against Mage can be frustrating but they are not unbeatable. It requires smart and tactical play but if you avoid over-extending you can keep a tempo advantage and win. Reading the official Hearthstone forums can make it seem like Mages make up 80% of arena opponents. Actual statistics indicate the number is closer to 20% so while it’s not an epidemic Mages do see more play than any other class in arena. This is why you must learn to beat Mages to be successful in arena.

One last thing, if you play as a Mage and you Pyroblast my face for the win, don’t say, “well played”. It wasn’t well played. No one played well. Just Pyro me and we’ll both move on with our lives. /salt