HearthStone

A 100-wins-but-at-Gold player’scomprehensive guide to: Hero Tower Mage

So as someone who hasn't been playing Hearthstone in ages, I've been having fun climbing out of Bronze 10, mostly using Hero Tower Mage. I wasn't convinced by the decks on HSreplay at the time, it's a fun deck, and I wanted to show they could be better… but given that I was on Bronze 10, I had a climb to take. Got to Gold 7, 63% winrate, before the teaser of a balance change hit and decided, hey, people aren't going to want to hear "Can this beat meta" (spoiler: no), they want to hear how it fares against everything else! So given my experience in "The meta made of things that can't beat the regular meta", I have a lot to say!

So after over 100 games, and a 63% winrate (but not at Diamond), I present: a short guide to Hero Power Mage!

Decklist I used: https://playhearthstone.com/en-us/deckbuilder?class=mage%2Cneutral&deckFormat=standard&deckcode=AAECAf0ECtnRA%2FbWA%2FroA9jsA%2BfwA6iKBKqKBLCKBOXRA5boAwr3uAObzQOk0QOO1AP36AP46AP56APT7APW7APAoAQA&multiClass=mage&set=standard&textFilter=scorp
Stats: https://i.imgur.com/ifJV8sT.png – deck revisions are slight changes, but they're great for showing progress. v1.3 is when I about reached Gold. You can see it start hitting a wall then.


So what IS Hero Tower Mage

Quick introductionhe new Mage hero power support cards are… really good! In a vacuum. The problem is that there's so few of them – 3 new ones and 2(ish) old ones. So with only 9/30 of your deck being your actual plan – 11, including searchers – there's the question of what to do with the rest of them. Two approaches:

  • Take Spell Mage, remove the worst cards, add the Hero Power set. Sounds clunky, but because of the strength of the new hero power set, it work…ed for a while. It's winrate is now down to 45%, so Welp.
  • Go in the complete opposite direction to No Minion Mage, and strip the deck of every spell but Wildfire and maybe one more, for ultimate Starscryer-tutoring.

Thus, what is called "Hero Tower Mage" could be better called "Many Minion Mage".



Cards:

  • *—2x Wildfire, 2x Reckless Apprentice, Mordresh Fire Eye *

These are the bees knees! A single Wildfire early makes a huge difference, a second is nice too. Apprentice after a wildfire will nicely take care of large boards. And Mordresh is the big big payout that's surprisingly easy to trigger. There's a reason HSreplay puts the DrawnWR for the last two at 63.5% and 62% respectively.

  • —2x Tour Guide, 2x Fallen Hero

These… are not as good. HSreplay statistics put them somewhere middling in the deck, and I'd concur. It's entirely possible that one or both of them could be replaced in the future, but for now, they're good enough.

  • –2x Starscryer, Lorekeeper Polkelt, Taelan Fordring

Searchers. Starscryer searches Wildfire (or Mankrik's wife, if you're lucky), and the other two get Mordresh or your other big threats. Fordring's protected taunt makes it exceptionally good too, while Polkelt is… Polkelt, I'm not wild but he gets the job done.

  • –2x of each Watch Post + Kargal Battlescar, 2x Ogremancer
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So what's the point of these? To delay the game. Between Wildfire and Mordresh, the longer the game goes on, the stronger the deck gets – usually winning at turn 10-12 if you're not unlucky. But in the early game, it sucks beans! The Watch Posts/Ogre exist Buuut since they're the most interesting parts, let's go over them real quick:
-2-mana Post: This does unexpectedly little to stop Aggro, and unexpectedly a lot against anything else. Coin it out for good fun!
-3-mana Post: It's cool. Not much to say about it, you've all presumably experienced it by now.
-4-mana Post: I swear this is good, I swear this is good. Because of the large number of minions in the deck, it's not unusual to have board control full of small minions, so this Post can clean win games on it's own. Plus, it's rarely ignored. …Except by Aggro. I can't emphasise enough how the deck is strong to anything but Aggro.
-Kargal Battlescar: Wow this does not have a good winrate for what it is. The nature of the deck makes it very turn-10-or-bust, so Kargal is very often a dead card. Still worth it, I think, but only with all Watch Posts.

  • –1x Potion Of Illusion

This one needs explaining. See, this card is crazy strong in the right situation, because the deck is almost entirely minions with great effects. But it comes with a hefty downside: it's a high mana cost in a deck that wants low mana cost stuff. It simply won't get prioritiy over whatever else is in your hand until minimum turn 6 or 7. Having 1 in hand is risky, but having 2 is awful – and keep in mind that this is seearched by Starscryer. So I settled for 1x Potion. 0 might be best, 2 might be better,

  • –Mankrik, Jandice Barov, Alextrasza

The generically good cards. Mankrik's wife is great value and occasionally tutorable in this deck. Jandice is infamously good. Alextrasza is for the much needed direct damage.

  • –4x Anything Else (Warning: boring)

Here's the problem – nothing else fits in the game plan. I've checked every relevant HSreplay deck, but nothing has quite the winrates that stand out. So to go over options:
-Wand Thief: fills a nice 1-mana slot, which is good given how very skewed the mana curve is. Easy to activate. But HSreplay stats aren't convinced. I went with 2x anyway.
-Babbling book: With no spell damage minions, this one's spells are rarely doing much. Winrate stats are awful.
-Overlord Runthak: you remember this guy, right? 5-mana 3/6, rush, buffs your hand every turn. Great stats and greater effect, given it's a super-minion deck, but there's already 5 other guys in this slot. I run 1x, because it's important to have fun with Timmy cards, and it does have rush + soft taunt to make up for it's slowness.
-Venomous Scorpid: I am truly disappointed this has poor winrate stats. I have genuine trouble understanding it, it gets good value when I play it. Still, I trust the stats, so 1x.
-Imprisoned Observer: got potential for sure. I just don't trust how slow it is. Still dealing with an aggro problem.
-Astromancer Solarian: Having a crazy-good 9-mana drop with Lorekeeper Polkelt sounds great, but it gets played simply too rarely.
-Death Head Cultist: Poor winrate stats. I guess the effective +8 health to you just isn't worth it.
-Wandmaker: Eh. Not bad, but it's yet another 2 mana.
-Manafeeder Panthara: Same boat. And it's just not doing enough early game to be worth being a little better late game.

  • –0 x trash that is trash and should not be played
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People seem to think you're meant to use these, so I'm putting them here or people will ask "Why not Varden?"
-Coldarra Drake: wasn't good then, isn't good now. That it needs to have enough Wildfires played and survive a turn makes it too weak.
-Varden Dawngrasp: this has a strangely high drawn winrate for what HSreplay gives a played winrate of Absolute Garbage. I side with the latter the freeze just isn't doing much in the deck other than… freezing for a turn. But with no Flamestrikes or Devolving Missiles or any freeze spells at all, I don't see this ever doing enough for it's poor stats.
-Armor Vendor: whoever keeps putting this in the deck is forgetting that this is basically a burn deck.



Matchups:

I would like to once again remind people that this is in Gold rank. Take my interpreations with a grain of salt. The decks I played seemed to match the netdecks pretty solidly.

My stats, again: https://i.imgur.com/ifJV8sT.png
HSreplay matchup stats: https://hsreplay.net/archetypes/442/hero-tower-mage#tab=matchups (keep in mind, this is for ALL Hero Tower decks, including ones without Crossroads and Ogremancer)

Did you get the impression yet that I hate aggro? It's not the decks only weakness, but I can tell you this much: that 12-5 vs Paladin was from getting lucky and facing predominantly Libram Paladins.


Meta decks:

No minion mage: it's the same as for a lot of matchups – if the opponent has played zero early Incanters' Flow, it's a sure win. If they've played one then it's a roughly even game. If they've played two, or an early Deck Of Lunacy, the deck folds. Really nothing more to say.
Aggro Secret Paladin: I think I won exactly once. And that was after they exhausted their entire deck.
Libram Paladin: HSreplay says it's a 40% winrate for the deck type, but mine has definitely been doing better. Libram Paladins have way too much trouble with Crossroads and Ogre. Buuuuut this could all be a statistical anomaly.

So in short: beats one meta deck regularly, loses to the other more often than not, and has real trouble with the third. So to answer my original question: no, it does not work in the current meta.


Other decks:

Warlock: 7-3 in Gold rank. I'm telling ya, Crossroads and Ogre. Warlocks target them immediately.
Rogue: good vs miracle rogue, not so much vs Weapon. Neither is a sure matchup. HSreplay thinks it's much more favoured to the Mage though?
Priest: haha priest.
Warrior: haha warrior.
Druid: haha oh god why can they summon 14/14 by turn 6?! There's literally no way to beat Token Druid except pure luck. Celestial is a fun match though.
Demon Hunter: HSreplay thinks this should be Mage-favoured, and also not horiffic to play. I disagree. Especially Deathrattle, dealing with the 7-mana legendary is nigh-on impossible.
Regular hunter: Warsong Wrangler ruins my day. Otherwise, not bad. Spell Damage mage: ehh, 50/50 I think? I don't have any proper stats for that.

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Okay, but what about nerfs?

Yup, that's the unfortunate part. Everyone's expecting at least one Watch Post nerf, and a lot of people are expecting two and a Jandice hit too. So for my thoughts on that:

It depends on how hard the nerfs are. A -1atk or -1hp nerf to either/both Watch Posts isn't that impactful – it's obviously worse, but given that the Watch Posts' winrate in the deck (and others) are so high, they'll still be plenty playable and it'd make up for the poor meta matchup. Anything more than that will put the entire deck idea in question, because the Watch Posts tend to depend on having good stats for cost. If they rely on having both board control and no enemy spells to spend to be good, I don't see them being good.
As for Jandice? That'd sting, it's the 3rd best card in the deck. Probably still playable at 6 mana, but just like with Battlescar, that's very likely too slow. But I'm still convinced it's not the Rogue nerf Blizzard was hinting at.

In any case, it all comes down to Blizzard's nerfing plan. They could take the calm and collected approach and hit slight taps to make it balanced, in which case, it'll totally be more playable after the patch than before. Or they could take the Blizzard Classic and whack the deck 200 yards down the freeway.


And you're not waiting a few days to find out what they are?

If they end up harsh, people will look at this post and think "Haha, Hero Tower Mage? Get with the times, gramps! We're theorycrafting for the 20.0.2 meta now!" and not be so interested in this big post anymore. And if it's light, then I'm getting ahead of the game and posting before it becomes potentially meta.

I'm being cheeky that way!

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