Welcome to the second entry of the newest THL blog series; THL Fiery War Primers! In this series, we will bring you all you need to know about some of the strongest decks, from the best THL players, with new guides coming regularly. Our goal here is to bring you intel on the major aspects of a deck: core cards and card choices, piloting advice, advice when playing against it, and how it can fit into your THL lineups. We’ll bring you a different deck every week(ish), based on meta trends.
It has been a long time since a meta took as long to develop as Scholomance Academy is taking. By this point in a regular meta, we’d already know all the tier 1 decks, and no big news would happen other than nerfs. This time, it feels like a new deck is coming up every single week. Even when nerfs come, it looks like a lot of decks are already poised to take the newly formed vacuum. Cyclone Mage, also known as Tempo Mage, Small Spell Mage, and Spell Damage Mage, is one of the latest decks to follow this trend.
-LotusKnight, BZRK, basedinc, Icicles & rebobson
3) What Other Cards can be added to the deck?
As I mentioned yesterday, there are a multitude of cards that can be added to the deck, with a variety of different archetypes or strategies in mind, all with different benefits and drawbacks. I have broken these up into several different groups, each of which benefit the deck in various different ways, allowing you to build the deck for how you see fit.
Category1: Card Draw/Generation
First up, are the cards which give the deck that little bit of extra gas, while generating some amount of tempo in the process. Violet Spellwing acts as an extra 1-drop, which allows a little extra fight for board in the first few turns; it saw inclusion first at the height of Stealth Rogue, as the Arcane Missiles provided extra defense against 1-health aggressive minions, while it still provides an extra tool against Face Hunter. Wandmaker is another card which has recently seen near-core inclusion since its popularisation by Orange, with the 2 mana 2/2 providing a solid body alongside the added value. Wand Thief fills out the trio of ‘practically core’ cards, with a solid body, as well as the added bonus of being able to choose your discover options rather than relying on purely random generation. Finally, a card which has in recent times fallen out of favour over minion-based card generation, is Arcane Intellect. The thinking behind its recent omission is largely that fighting for board is so much more important than simple card draw, while Cram Session is largely efficient enough to see it be cut.
Category 2: Tempo Cards
Jandice Barov occupies this category by herself, as she is really the only card which sees some play in the deck purely for being a standalone ‘good’ card. She puts a fairly impressive amount of stats on the board, as well as giving your opponent some occasionally tricky decisions to have to make through her effect. The main downside to Jandice is her lack of synergy with the rest of the deck; this has led to some players dropping her in order to streamline the deck’s synergistic gameplan, though many players also opt to include her for raw stats. She is particularly useful in matchups where Mage acts as the aggressor.
Category 3: Payoff Cards
Naturally, there are additional payoff cards which can be included in Cyclone Mage beyond Mana Cyclone and Mana Giant, and which of these to include depends wholly on which matchups you are intending to play against, and subsequently beat. Chenvaala is the most common additional payoff card, often allowing a 3 mana 7/10 to come down as early as Turn 4, when combined with the coin and a Sorceror’s Apprentice. This can be the deciding factor against decks whose removal takes time to come online, such as Druids or Bomb Warriors. However, the principle downside to the card is the window of effectiveness narrows quickly, and it can quickly become a dead card in the later stage of the game. Conjuror’s Calling is a huge amount of cheap stats when combined with a 0-cost Giant, and can often be used to solidify a close board advantage into a crushing one. However, the card can be clunky to use without an ideal setup, leading to many to choose not to include it. Finally, the slowest possible payoff card, and a traditional one, is Archmage Antonidas. In matchups where you are not expecting to win through board, either through excessive removal or stall (think Turtle Mage, Control Warrior), Antonidas can be saved to generate a handful of Fireballs and set up an unavoidable 2-turn lethal from hand.
Category 4: Anti-Aggro Options
Obviously, we find ourselves in a fairly aggressive meta right now; though there is quite a lot of diversity, Face Hunter and its matchups dictate a lot of what you may see on ladder. Thus, options to beat these faster decks are paramount right now. Firebrand is the premium anti-aggro tech, often allowing you to swing the board decisively in your favour come turn ¾; aggro decks currently lack comeback mechanics, so Firebrand can often be the deciding factor in whether you close out a game or take too much early damage. In a board fight with wide board decks, Ras Frostwhisper is one of your best cards, as when combined with a cheap Spell Damage minion he provides a recurring Consecration effect, which if unanswered, will completely lock your opponent out of the game. Mirror Image and Brain Freeze are both niche anti-aggro options which fit very specific roles; Mirror Image allows you to shut out Weapon-based decks like Soul Demon Hunter or Bomb Warrior for a turn or 2 to set up a counter-offensive, or simply to try and stay alive, while Brain Freeze is a solid single-target removal, akin to Holy Smite in Priest. Devolving Missiles fits an increasingly important niche given the recent uptick in both Pure and Broom Paladin; an early Devolving Missiles is key to removing those decks’ Libram of Wisdom, and nullify their snowballing win condition.
Category 5: Dragon Package
The Dragon Package was originally popularised by Orange, alongside Wandmaker, as his choice for how to build Cyclone Mage. Arcane Breath is primarily early-game removal, which will generate some further value if you are fortunate enough to have 1 of your 2 Dragons currently in your hand. Cobalt Spellkin generates 2 premium cards to fuel your Giants and Cyclones, relying on the high value of 1-cost Spells in Mage currently. However, the principle drawback to this package is the unreliability of Arcane Breath due to the low Dragon population, and the relatively weak body for its cost of Cobalt Spellkin, when compared to a card such as Wandmaker. However, one matchup where these cards do shine is in the mirror; the age-old adage than in an aggressive mirror, the player whose deck is slightly greedier will have an edge still holds true, and the added value from the Spellkins is key to having an edge in the mirror.
Category 6: Fringe Inclusions
Naturally, there are a plethora of cards which have seen some amount of experimentation with within the archetype; we can think of this section as the ‘Best of the Rest’. Frostbolt is cheap removal, which also has the added upside of being able to Freeze your opponent’s face; very useful to prevent a Soul Demon Hunter from healing with Aldrachi Warblades or set up their own lethal with Glaivebound Adept, or simply for staving off a Bomb Warrior or Weapon Rogue. However, even in those matchups it is not the most useful card. Sea Giant is a useful option against wider aggressive decks such as Face Hunter or Zoo, especially when utilised alongside Mirror Image and Conjurer’s Calling in order to get ahead on board. Pen Flinger allows for some extra pings alongside your cheap spells as either removal or face damage, similar to its usage in Broom Paladin. Imprisoned Observer allows for some extra defensive measures against wide board decks, and has recently been pushed heavily by Jambre as a proponent of the card, so it may yet take off further.
4) What are some example cyclone mage lists?
Naturally, with a deck with so many variable card slots, and this many authors, it was inevitable we would each be playing a slightly different list. What better way to showcase building Cyclone Mage in different ways with different intentions, than to just show you all of our lists? Each of our own ladder lists and Orange's Dragon-centred list, as well as our justifications for our card choices are showcased below, with all the Deck Codes available at the end of the article. Core cards are greyed out, with differences of opinion highlighted in green. Yellow represents cards we believe should be considered core in the future, with red highlighting any divergence from that opinion.
basedinc - This list is suited to handle board based strategies including a single copy of Devolving Missiles and both copies of Firebrand. The exclusion of Conjurer’s Calling and Arcane Intellect change the way the deck plays in slower match ups, and requires a different valuing of resources. In many slower match-ups cycling Cram Sessions for 1 is fine but less often against decks like Priest and Bomb Warrior with this specific list. You lose games by gassing out against these classes so be sure to stretch your generation and Discover with that game plan in mind. This is quite well positioned if your ladder climb is full of Hunter, Paladin and Rogue.
Icicles - The greediest of these lists, includes two copies of AI and our old friend, Archmage Antonidas. This version is specifically tailored for dealing with the slowest decks out there, such as Priest and Turtle Mage. All of the small spells synergize well with Tony in the late game, you can determine whether you need as many fireballs as possible by pairing Tony with Apprentice, or if you need 18 damage specifically with both Apprentices still in hand, playing Tony and 3 spells the turn before will give you that final burst. Not recommended for ladder, but an interesting option for tournament play if you feel your competition will be going for a more controlling strategy.
LotusKnight - The average list. Playing AI and Conjurer’s calling means you have a lot more game against warrior and priest. You do not play the super greedy cards, but you have more room to play some of the anti-aggro tools.
BZRK - My list is almost exactly the same as LotusKnights; I just have a Firebrand instead of AI in order to help me against primarily Face Hunter.
Rebobson - My list I think most heavily respects Paladin, as I think that is probably the best and most underrated deck right now, so I hard run 2 Devolving Missiles in order to try and remove their Librams as early as possible. Besides that I think my list is pretty standard, with the 2 5-drop Legendaries, and a single Firebrand to help me deal with Hunters and Druids.
5) Is it possible to play this deck on a budget? What are some suggested budget replacements?
With only 4 epics absolutely necessary to play the deck, you technically can get away with it, but the Legendaries are instrumental to improving the deck. In order of importance those legendaries are: Evocation, Astromancer Soularian, Chenvaala, Raz Frostwhisper and Jandice Barov. Notice our list uses only cards found in various lists but combines them into one list. Here is our example list:
Thank you once again for stopping by to read all of our thoughts on Cyclone Mage construction! There was a healthy amount of discussion that went into this chapter, and we hope you learned in something. Tune in tomorrow for the final instalment, where we will be talking about playstyle, mulligan strategy, discover options, and everything else! All the deck codes for the lists mentioned throughout this chapter can be found below.
-LotusKnight, BZRK, basedinc, Icicles & rebobson
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