Mage has had a hell of a time these past few expansions. With new cards creating whole new archetypes and others winking from existence by nerfs and a changing meta, Mage is always in flux. The top archetypes now are completely unrecognisable from their forebears from a couple of years ago. But with so much of Mage’s identity defined by recent releases, can Jaina cope with the coming rotation?
Un’goro: Primordial Power
Although Un’goro was arguably Mages strongest expansion in the Year of the Mammoth, many of its most powerful cards go unplayed today. In today’s 2-drop phobic meta, the likes of Arcanologist and Primordial Glyph don’t make sense in the likes of Odd Mage and Big Spell Mage. But it’s important to remember just how busted these cards once were. These two cards brought Tempo Mage back into the top tier with their terrifying efficiency and versatility.
But efficient 2 cost card wasn’t all Mage got. The Mage Quest, the third most potent after Warrior and Rogue, was a terrifying Control killer with its infinite damage combo. Though it was never quite as dominant an anti-Control deck as the Rogue Quest, it could nonetheless pull off some exhilarating victories.
Finally, one reliable Un’goro workhouse was Meteor. This flexible 6 cost removal spell will be sorely missed by any kind of Controlling Mage decks. Though fear not, Mage fans – the hard counter to Ultrasaur may be gone, but so is Ultrasaur itself.
Although only Meteor sees much play today, the loss of these cards will severely diminish the viability of future Mage playstyles that don’t depend on Baku.
Knights of the Frozen Throne: Frost Lich Jaina, and Some Other Cards that Don’t Matter
Frozen Throne at first looks like a really weak expansion for Mage. Doomed Apprentice, Glacial Mysteries, Ice Walker, Breath of Sindragosa – these cards don’t exactly scream “power creep”. Luckily, Mage got one card that made the expansion for it. I’m talking, of course, about Frost Lich Jaina. Though arguably not as definingly powerful as Bloodreaver Gul’dan, it nonetheless opened up an entirely new controlling playstyle.
The power of Jaina isn’t just in its raw strength. The card would be good in any class, but especially so in Mage. Frost Lich solves two massive Control problems in one well swoop; continuous lifegain and a long-term win condition. Previously, Mages were forced into a Combo playstyle due to an inability to sustain a long, grindy game. This demanded the stall and burn tactics of Freeze and Quest. With Frost Lich, Mages could finally utilise their powerful removal options to grind opponents out of the game with an endless stream of Water Elementals.
Without Frost Lich, Control loses its single most vital tool. Vanilla Jaina will certainly need some other method of value generation and continual lifegain if it wants to have a Control deck in its future.
Kobolds and Catacombs: Fury and Greed
Like most classes, Mage got a ton of great options in Kobolds. First off, Tempo got some amazing cards. Aluneth and Explosive Runes slotted into the Secret Tempo Mage package, leading to a terrifyingly powerful deck. Even after Mana Wyrm bit the dust, Aluneth remained a vital tool in Murloc variants and even some combo decks.
Meanwhile, Control really took off through cards like Arcane Artificer, Dragon’s Fury and Dragoncaller Alanna. This trio of cards gave late-game Mages a ludicrously efficient board-clear, lifegain to survive until Jaina, and a late-game bomb to blow out the opponent. Though the loss of Frost Lich will undoubtedly be more impactful, these three going wild will likely be the final nails in the coffin for Control Mage.
A Loss of Identity?
All these rapid changes may leave the class adrift. Its most powerful archetypes are losing their most defining cards, and it may be a long time before they get significant replacements. Though some variant of Odd deck may limp on, the class needs powerful, defining cards ASAP if it’s going to retain an identity beyond its upgraded hero power.
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