I've spent the past two days tweaking my AOE intensive deck, which features 8 card combos (all listed below) that can deal 2 AOE damage in one turn. 5 of these combos only cost 4 mana, which I see as a better Consecration. Not only that but the late game is great; you can burst for 5 AOE damage late game, without needing Flamestrike while also developing your board position! There's also a total of TWENTY-FIVE single turn AOE burst combos. This paves the way for a small fleet of minions to deal large amounts of damage. On top of all of this, the curve is nearly as perfect as you could hope for. Intrigued? Read on; here's the deck list with brief card explanations, and more in depth strategy can be found below, with a tl;dr at the bottom
-=CARDS TAKEN AND CARDS NOT=-
Visual Deck: http://imgur.com/Yw9m7yMRemoved
HearthPwn Deckbuilder: http://www.hearthpwn.com/decks/24237-mage-enrage
Mana Wyrm x2 - Good removal bait early, good coin combos, strong mid/late game Arcane Explosion x2 - allows large AOE burst from T4 onward when combined with Kobold, stays relevant all game with spell power Amani Berserker x2 - strong enrage 2drop Kobold Geomancer x2 - amazing scaling and combo potential Arcane Intellect x2 - card draw to fuel spell onslaught during late game Emperor Cobra x2 - Often 2 for 1 early game, hard removal late game. Good play at all stages. Harvest Golem x2 - amazing trade potential and minion control to survive early game Raging Worgen x2 - great enrage mechanic, stays relevant midgame Fireball x2 - it's Fireball, duh Polymorph x2 - it's Polymorph, duh Sen'jin Shieldmasta x2 - Taz Dingo! solid, low-cost protection for key players Azure Drake x2 - fuels AOE damage and card draws on a 4/4, so terrific Fen Creeper x1 - more taunt protection, safer lategame Gurubashi Berserker x2 - incredible synergy with Fireball, can carry games alone Blizzard x2 - better than Flamestrike with this deck imo Flamestrike x1 - a good failsafe, no mage deck is complete without one (and this deck only needs a singleton)
Acidic Ooze x2 - weapon kill is nice but the card's too situational Owl - we have Polymorph, it was a mistake to put this in in the first place Novice Engineer x2 - Card draw is strong, strong cheap cards are better Frostbolt x1 (total zero now) - doesn't do enough, better cards to take Sun Shattered Cleric x2 - our minions buff themselves. Good card, suboptimal for this deck Dark Iron Dwarf - same explanation as Cleric Defender of Argus x2 - Not useful enough, as this deck shines with few minions on the field (it's a waste to play Argus on one minion) Boulderfist Ogre x1 - Nice and fat, but no added benefit. Gurubashi's better in every way. Flamestrike x1 (retained one) - Powerful spell, but hurts the curve. One is plenty. Pyroblast - too costly and does nothing for board control (or is a waste if used on minions), kills the late game combo possibilities
Why Not This Card?
Mana Wyrm x2 Frostbolt x1 Amani Berserker x2 Raging Worgen x2 Sen'jin Shieldmasta x2 Fen Creeper x1 Blizzard x1 (2 total now) Secrets - easy to play around, too often winds up not worth the 3 mana. Counterspell and Mirror Entity are nice, but risky for the aforementioned reason. I've never played with Spellbender which looks like it could work nicely; let me know if you try this. Sorcerer's Apprentice - too weak early game Water Elemental - We don't take Ice Lance, and we have enough control already. Better to take taunt minions. Bloodmage Thalnos - too poor :( I suspect Kobold's extra one health is better for sustained casting anyways. Dalaran Mage - attack is weak, offers no more spell power than Kobold and doesn't combo as well due to costing an additional mana. Not worth it at all over our other 3s. Ogre Magi - Not stronger than our enrage minions and too expensive to combo effectively with. Also redundant with Drake, which gives us card draw for one mana more. Ancient Mage - The mana curve on this deck is tight, and doesn't feel worth taking since our spells aren't aimed at the face. Violet Teacher - not strong enough, too vulnerable to silence, our main spell casting takes place late Legendaries - if you have em use em, though I feel the current curve is near perfect and the cards have good synergy. Doesn't feel like the deck needs a legendary, and can answer them just fine.
This deck has three focuses: bringing fairly consistent strong AOE damage (beginning at turn four), abusing Enrage minions for their strong synergy with our innate, and (oddly enough) late-game Mana Wyrm cultivation (though it is also very strong early game as well). I made this deck to deal with Warlocks specifically, but I've been having good success against other classes; this much AOE is simply unbearable, assuming you survive the early game and get even a small amount of card draw. To compliment this constant sweep, the deck is packed with enrage minions, which due to their high efficiency allow us to utilize our spells for board control while still outputting high damage. In addition to the three main features that lead to victory, this deck is fueled by strong card draw and hard removal, as well as a few taunters to protect the main cavalry during the mid and late game. Here are a few quick, highly important notes before we get to the meat and potatoes:
1) In this deck, Fireball's primary use is as removal; you will generally get more damage from your minions and it is better to protect them.
2) Never be afraid to make a good trade or even trade during early game; your late game is strong and has answers to pretty much every class and threat, so press advantages when you can but don't feel as though you're losing if you don't do 10 damage in the first 4/5 turns. In many of my games, midgame will see me at 17ish damage with my opponent around 26, but if played correctly this deck should be poised to arrest total board control.
3) When given the choice, always use Fireball to remove a threat instead of Polymorph. You never know what threats are down the line, and Polymorph answers much more strongly than Fireball can.
4) Don't play Kobolds and Drakes into empty boards unless you're certain you have complete control and they won't be removed.
5) When possible, save Wyrm for late game (more on this below), but capitalize on opportunities to combo him with spells (especially Arcane Intellect, Coin, and Arcane Explosion).
And now for the real strategy.
Heavy AOE Damage
Once called the king of AOE, people believe that mage's area of effect capabilities have been crippled by the nerfs to Cone of Cold and Frost Nova. While this may be true (I began playing after these nerfs, so I can't speak from experience), I've found that our AOE game can still be devastating. This is due to the strong synergy (and high efficiency) of combining spell power minions (Kobold and Drake specifrically, and Thalnos in place of Kobold if you're rich) with Arcane Explosion, Blizzard, and Fireball (and Flamestrike as well, though to a lesser degree, and I'll explain why later).
Kobold is the star here, honestly. Think of him solely as a combo card, with these combos:
Kobold + Arcane Explosion = 2 AOE damage, 4 mana: This is what makes this deck overpowered against Shamans and Warlocks. Turn 4/5 is when both classes try to gain momentum with increasing minion advantage before Flamestrike comes online. If you've been playing turns 1-3 properly, they should have spent that time clearing away your clear-resistant minions (more on that below) and be poised to strike on turn 4. You ruin their day by playing two cards and wiping out their army of 5+ minions. I cannot stress how amazing this combo is; every time I lay it down I'm either given a "well played" or a threat. Playing this on turn four, or even five, covers the gap before you gain access to Blizzard, at which point the odds tip highly in your favor. Huge momentum shift, best combo in the deck imo.
Kobold + Blizzard = 3 AOE damage, 8 mana: Another game changer. I actually prefer this combo to Flamestrike for two reasons. First, even if you don't outright kill the enemies (which is possible at that late stage of the game), they're useless for a round (barring Ragnaros etc.), giving you time to wreak more havoc. Second, while Flamestrike often depletes your options for that turn while often offering only a clearer board, this combo leaves Kobold behind which will make your other spells better as well.
Kobold + Flamestrike = 5 AOE damage, 9 mana: While this is not my favorite combo, don't let that diminish how powerful this is. Often opponents will attempt to maintain a minimum of 5 health on at least one minion to protect themselves from Flamestrike. This gives the finger to their careful precaution. If you don't have board control after playing this, you were going to lose the game anyways.
Kobold + Fireball = 7 damage, 6 mana & Kobold + Frostbolt = 4 damage w/ Freeze, 5 mana: Think of these as combo-setups to lead into the above combos. These are best played with a taunt minion on the board to keep the opponent from killing your Kobold (as all their removal spells should be burned by now; more on this later). You play this one turn to neutralize the biggest threat on the other side, then follow through with one of the AOE spells. Also great as a finisher.
As should now be apparent, Kobold is amazing for raining fire and brimstone during mid and late game. What makes this even better is that, if you manage your hand properly and get somewhat lucky, you can play double Kobold with these combos to add another point of damage and utter domination of most enemy boards; most notably, this works with Explosion at turn 6 for THREE AOE DAMAGE COSTING 6 MANA. Yes, that is the same cost as Blizzard, and yes, in some situations it is far superior since you now have +2 spell power on the board (better in every situation where you don't need the freeze and don't have great fear of sweep). You can work out the math on Blizzard, Fireball, and Frostbolt yourself; it's always useful. This combo is actually why I favor Flamestrike less highly than the other spells and only take one; you already have strong AOE damage, and I've found that one is strong enough for board control when you need to hit the panic button, whereas with two the second either gets left stranded in my hand when I don't want to waste it on one minion or leaves me so depleted on mana with no addition to my board position that I feel it doesn't offer enough tactically. For this reason I replaced the second Flamestrike with Frostbolt, for added utility and better efficiency in low enemy number situations, as this leaves me capable of further summoning or spell casting in the same turn as opposed to Flamestrikes "here's a nuke, and here's the end of my turn."
Now, as much as I have spoken about Kobold, Azure Drake is also a strong late-game carrier. Use Kobold to vigorously take board control, then play your Drakes once you have it. They're more durable so they're good for maintaining sustained spell casting; protect them with taunts when possible for added safety. On top of this, the card draw is clutch and will win you games. Kobold is the star of the show, but Drake comes in for the big finish. Also, it's often useful to combo Drake and Explosion instead of playing a Flamestrike; you get to keep your ace in the hole and it'll be stronger to boot.
Also, as promised, here's the list of eight 2 damage AOE combos, and the rest of the combos are mostly intuitive. For reference, the largest burst AOE possible is Kobold + Blizzard + Explosion = 5 AOE damage, for a full 10 mana. You can also Kobold + Flamestrike for 5 as well, at 9 mana.
Arcane Explosion + Arcane Explosion (1 combination)
Kobold Geomancer + Arcane Explosion (4 combinations, each geomancer with each explosion)
Azure Drake + Arcane Explosion (2 combinations)
There are also 3 combinations that do 5 damage, another number I've found to be key.
Kobold + Flamestrike
Kobold + Blizzard + Explosion
Flamestrike + Explosion (though this is less efficient as you remove the opportunity to scale either spell with Kobold or Drake later)
When I created this deck, I believed the power of this deck lied in the constant AOE damage. While that is a powerful component of the strategy, I've come to realize that the enrage mininons are the actual key to victory. Because of the high sweep and removal power you'll have through spells, Cobras, and Golems, your enrage minions are capable of staying on the board for several turns, allowing their incredibly efficient damage to run wild. To recap, there are three double sets of enrage minions in this deck: Amani Berserker, Raging Worgen, and Gurubashi Berserker. (Gurubashi is technically just self-buffing, but I digress). The mission of these is simple: force the opponent to use removal spells and minions during the early and midgame, or punish them for not dealing with the threat.
As I have stated, this deck thrives on the spell power granted by Kobold and Drake. One thing you may have noticed about spell power minions, however, is that they essentially have an invisible taunt label stamped across their foreheads; any competent opponent will remove them from the board as quickly as possible. To properly utilize this deck, you must know when to allow this and when to protect them. In some cases it's better to allow them to kill your spell power minions after they've blown their spell load in order to enable safer enrage play. The ideal situation is to clear with the spell power to a safe board, allowing you to both have empowered spells and protected enraged minions. At other times it's better to use your enrage minions to soften up the enemy for a clean sweep when you bring out the big guns. This will largely be dependent on what cards you have in your hand, and can change in the middle of a game; if it's mostly enragers, use spell power to open opportunities; if there are lots of spells, use enrage power to make sure your spell power minions will stay on the board for several turns. Depending on which strategy you need to pursue, toss out the minions of the other strat in order to soak up damage and removal spells.
I assume this is common knowledge, but for newer players let me explain: due to our innate, we can activate enrage minions at will, assuming we have 2 mana. This makes them incredibly card efficient, as we can keep our curve low while having high damage threats. No one wants to deal with a windfuried Worgen on turn 4, so opponents will dispatch him with whatever means possible. This means fewer tools to kill our spell power guys when we play them, which is great! As a note, think carefully about playing taunt minions for these guys. You want to save those for your spell power cards whenever possible, but not at the cost of taking too much damage. Use your judgment well.
Amani Berserker is barely ahead of Wyrm for our best two-drop coin (trust me, the Wyrm is good, I'll explain below), and remains a good play for turns 3 and 4. This will weed out those pesky Shadow Word: Pains, Hammers of Wrath, and the like.
Once Amani begins to fall off, Worgen takes over and serves the same funtion; soak up removal spells and hopefully 2-for-1 with enemy minions/cards (or even killing buffs like Sunpriest and Iron Dwarf).
And Gurubashi needs no explanation; if they don't kill him, he will outright win the game on his own.
I picked these three specifically because they cover all points in the game - Amani Berserker for T1-4, Worgen for T3-6, and Gurubashi for T5+.Note that a two drops remains relevant in turn four - Amani is that good. Worgen also stays relevant long past it's first summon opportunity. Gurubashi, when well primed, can take down giants and legendaries, and helps to round out our late game along side the spells
Mana Wyrm Cultivation
I know what you must be thinking. "Mana Wyrm? That pitiful little thing? You expect me to depend on Wyrm to make a difference?" Yes, yes I do, because with the number of spells packed in this deck he's actually quite powerful. He has two functions, one early game and one late game.
Early game: In the early game, Wyrm functions much like your enrage minions in that it should draw out removal power from your opponent due to the threat of growing bigger. In some cases, this will be an empty threat, but one that will still net you some removal commitment in some games. In other cases, he actually becomes a threat. Here are the plays you should aim for if possible:
T1 Wyrm, T2 Wyrm + Coin 2 drop: This treat doesn't come often but when it does it's terrifying. If the first Wyrm isn't cleared during the start of turn 2, you now have 2 2/3 Wyrms and an actual 2 drop (ideally Amani Berserker but any will do) on the board. Your enemies will empty their hands before they lose to a Wyrm army, which paves the wave for Kobold and Drake. That or they can't clear them and you actually gain huge momentum from this. Against classes with early sweep, this is actually a great sacrifice as it's cheap and will make your midgame safer. Against classes without it, you're likely going to overwhelm them. T1 Wyrm, T2 Coin Arcane Intellect: Coin Arcane Intellect? What kind of madness is this! Hear me out though. For one thing, this deck depends on having strong AOE clear capabilities by turn 6 at the latest, and heavy card draw early makes this happen a lot more reliably. Secondly, you just played two spells meaning that your Wyrm is now 3/2 and a big early game threat - not bad for 1 mana, eh? The enemy will waste resources killing your 1 drop while you've set yourself up for a stronger midgame - win win. Play this whenever you aren't deathly afraid of their 2 drop; losing a bit of health in the first couple turns will be worth it when you have a handful of sweep and removal by turn 5. edit: As I've played with the deck more and made adjustments, this is strongest when the rest of your hand is filled with spells and high cost minions, and is situational otherwise as it leaves you vulnerable to charge minions on T3, which leaves you with an empty board. Be wary. T4 Wyrm + Explosion + 2 drop: Essentially, you now have two 2drops on the board as well as clearing theirs. Incredibly strong tempo swing, as enemies usually will have to commit 3 damage to removing the Wyrm or let him sit and grow. Either way this is a strong play, assuming you aren't overwhelmed by 2hp Murlocs or the like.His uses go on; play around and find different things that work. Also, Wyrm should be the first thing to go if you need to test the waters. If you want to check that enemy secret, summon/attack with Wyrm before your other mininon; if you think your opponent may have a removal spell that would kill one of your enrage minions, sacrifice the Wyrm and let your enragers rage on. This can apply late game as well, though you may want to pursue the following strategy.
Late game: I wouldn't say this if I hadn't seen it several times in my own game, but mid/late-game Wyrm is actually quite strong. Early game, Wyrm will often be wiped out by incoming minions. In mid/late however, unless your opponent favors charge minions then your AOE and removal spells will often keep the little twerp safe, while concurrently making him more and more of a threat. On top of this, most removal spells have already been blown, so he has surprising staying power. When played at the right time, Wyrm can actually deal a surprising amount of damage, and may very well be my favorite 1 mana minion in the game (though Priestess is also lovable in the right situations). Here are a few specific combos:
T5 Wyrm + Kobold + Arcane Explosion: In many cases, this will be a wild swing in tempo. This is one of the few cases where, in so many words, sacrificing a Kobold is worth it. By playing him turn five, you often wipe their side of the board if you've played your early game well (whittling down a fleet of minions to 2 hp each). T6 they'll focus on the Kobold, which often lets your Wyrm grow from your impending spell flurry. As a note, you can also use a 2drop in place of the Kobold; this is superior if you don't need the extra one damage. T7 Wyrm + Blizzard: If given the chance, I will play this over Flamestrike if I have both in my hand. You instantly create a safe environment for your Wyrm (barring removal spells/Rocketeers/etc. from the enemy, which is a bonus if they blow them on Wyrm) and can often get at least one or two turns of spell buff on him. Very useful for chipping the opponent down while using AOE to keep their side of the board under control.Late game Wyrm is flexible. He's only 1 mana, so use him when the opportunity presents itself and you'll be surprised at the results. For this reason, I prefer to save Wyrm for late game when possible, though I don't hesitate to throw him out turn 1 if I don't get any 2drops.
In addition to lots of AOE clear, this deck has high single target removal strength as well. This comes in the form of Fireball, Emperor Cobra, and Polymorph, and they should be used in that order of priority.
Fireball is a massive 6 damage beginning at T4; don't waste it if you can make a good trade - instead save it for when you need to clear a threat that would otherwise become a problem or for when you're ready to take the lead and go on the attack (I often use this to clear high health taunt minions if my side is prepped with 2-3 attackers).
Emperor Cobra should be played at any time you don't need a stronger play and it will survive. Worst case is it absorbs a removal spell, which is fantastic. Best case, you have a prepared answer for any large threats/legendaries/tanks. The exception is against Mages and Rogues; Mages can clear them with Flamestrike so play around this, and Rogues can use them as combo springboards, so be cautious.
Polymorph should be saved whenever you can help it, and should be thought of as a "in case they play a legendary" card. It's best used late game when an opponent commits all or most of their mana to a strong minion, which you can nullify for the low cost of 4 mana, leaving you with 4-6 mana to further develop your board position (2-4 if you use Fireblast to clear the sheep). Use it on threats or midgame tempo killers (as this is when the deck begins to pick up speed), but I cannot stress enough that this should be used with the utmost care. Use your judgment.
With this deck, your mulligan picks will vary depending on matchup. In general, I always hold on to Kobold and Explosion when they're dealt with a few exceptions, and I practically never toss Golem. I also like to keep Wyrm + Intellect if I have coin and I'm not against Warrior, Warlock, or Rogue. Here's a general guide for how to mull against classes.
-=GENERAL STRATEGY NOTES=-