A Big Opening for Mage
Playing a control deck in an unknown meta can be a bit of a gamble, but we're doing it anyway because we like to live dangerously. And big. And we're doing it precisely because this control deck contains broad answers and powerful interactions that give us a possibility to win versus almost any deck. Today, I'm going to talk Big Spells Mage, a deck that has seen a fair amount of tournament and ladder play over the last few months, propelled forward by its performances at Hearthstone World Championship in December in Amsterdam. In my opinion this was one of the most entertaining decks to watch at tournaments and is certainly one of my recent favorites to play.
The overall strategy of the deck parallels other control matchups: control the board, ease the tension on your life total, and general powerful advantages in the late-game. This deck is capable of doing all these things against most decks and with the right tweaks moving past the balance patch should be able to maintain a place in the metagame. The AoEs in the deck help to ensure that the deck almost always has a viable answer to whatever board your opponent creates. Dragon's Fury is your best early clear and almost always going to be able to punish an early over-commitment from your opponent. One general rule with the deck is that you should save your Arcane Artificers for later in the game to help catch you up on a turn where you can AoE + Artificer, ensuring you get value out of him. This may seem obvious, but I've seen far too many players run out an early game artificer as if it matters on board as a body at all.
In general, the deck is fairly easy to mulligan with: you want early defensive and advantage creatures such as Raven Familiar and Tar Creeper. The deck has enough AoEs that you are almost certain to draw them and clear any cluttered board. Obviously insanely fast zoo starts can be a problem for the deck, but any medium to slow draw is a death knell for them. The aggressive Paladin decks can have similarly explosive starts, but if you are careful with your removal (answering Call to Arms, hopefully) and aggressively position your Dirty Rats, you should be okay. The matchup requires an early start and an early AoE to alleviate pressure, but Big Spell Mage's late-game catchup is fantastic. Arcane Artificer + Jaina can often pull you out of near-death experiences.
Versus slower decks your diverse suite of threats helps to ensure you can stick one threat that will win the game. Medivh, Jaina, Alexstrazsa, and Dragoncaller Alanna all attack from unique angles that are difficult to answer generically. They each require their own type of answers and reactions. The diversified threats in the deck ensure that one of them will end the game for you (granted you survive long enough). Don't be afraid to pull the trigger on your larger threats if you sense the opponent is unable to answer a second one you have in hand. Big Spells Mage turns the corner from behind to winning very quickly and it's important to recognize when you can deploy your game-ending threats.
The worst matchup is probably control Warlock of various builds. There are too many must-answer threats for your Polymorphs like Voidlord, Doomguard, Guldan, Cube, or Giants that kill you anyway. Dirty Rat is a solid tech option as well that can help stop them from comboing/bursting you out, and from there the best bet is to grind through as much as you can with AOEs + Arcane Artificer and hope that Jaina or Alanna can take you home. Jaina can go a long way in off-setting a lot of the problems the deck gives you but you have to fight to stay ahead on board to ensure she's effective.