In this Hearthstone Journey to Un’Goro deck tech, I take a look at one of the hotter new Mage decks in the expansion: PsyGuenther’s Discover Burn Mage and its many variants.
As is often the case, a new deck has many names. It’s called Guenther Mage or Gunther Mage according to its original creator, Discover Mage because of the abundance of discover mechanics in the deck, or just Burn Mage as it is quite aggressive and has mostly replaced the earlier, Hemet-running pure aggro Burn Mage.
Be that as it may, it is a very interesting deck that is able to play an aggressive game or a long value game depending on the matchup and game state.
PsyGuenther Discover Burn Mage
This is the original list that started it all:
The deck bears similarity to Tempo Mage, Aggro Freeze Mage, and Freeze Mage, leaning closest to Freeze Mage.
It has some powerful aggression early on and is able to deal chip damage with its early minions, which is very dangerous with the amount of burn it has available later in the game.
Babbling Book and Mana Wyrm bring the deck on the board early. Babbling Book gives additional resources and can contest the board together with the Mage Hero Power, whereas Mana Wyrm is a more proactive threat.
Arcanologist doubles up as a good early-game minion and targeted card draw that picks up a defensive, long-lasting secret, which in turn also serves as an activator for Medivh’s Valet. That secret can come down on three to set up for Medivh’s Valet on four, or it can be played together with Medivh’s Valet on turn five for some immediate damage either to the board or to the face. Medivh’s Valet can also be played as a vanilla minion on two just for the board presence.
Ice Block is a crucial part of the deck’s gameplan. With Ice Blocks reliably available again thanks to Arcanologist, the deck is able to set up multi-turn lethals while protected by one or more Ice Blocks – thanks to all the discover mechanics, it is possible to play two, three, or sometimes even four Ice Blocks in a single game. Whether you are offered Ice Blocks in your discovers can significantly affect your gameplan: multiple Ice Blocks encourage abandoning the board in favor of burn while protected, whereas burn or board clears encourage other strategies. Choosing the right strategy for each game supported by what you discover is a key aspect to succeeding with the deck and creates variety between games, making it a lot of fun to play.
Discovers are plentiful in the deck. With two copies of both Primordial Glyph and Kabal Courier, the cards you find in your discovers have a significant effect on the overall strategy in each game. Kabal Courier can sometimes be a little slow, and that starts to distinguish the deck from more aggressive Mage lists.
However, the deck does not have any board freezes in it. No Frost Novas, no Blizzards. This is not a deck interested in stalling a board state. It can contest the board with spells and deal face damage with minions, or it can just make its minions threats that the opponent is forced to trade away, but purely stalling is not part of the gameplan. Meteor and Flamestrike support this strategy: they can remove the opponent’s board over just stalling it, which allows the deck to either gain board control or delay the opponent’s attack, not just delay like freezes can.
The burn package itself uses pretty regular Mage cards, but a lot of them: two copies of Frostbolt, two copies of Fireball, two copies of Firelands Portal, and one copy of Pyroblast. This is a fairly extensive burn package, using Pyroblast that is not seen in Tempo Mage and also Firelands Portals that are not seen in Freeze Mage.
Finally, the big boys. Medivh is a key card that enables Discover Burn Mage to go the distance and fight a long value game thanks to a bunch of big minions from spells cast while Atiesh is equipped. Alexstrasza allows for variations in strategy, making it possible to also use some burn for board control and hit the opponent down to 15 later in the game or to survive against aggro on Ice Blocks and target yourself with Alexstrasza to heal up out of reach.
The domination of Discover Burn Mage at Dreamhack Austin 2017
Discover Burn Mage had its breakthrough performance in tournament play at Dreamhack Austin, where three of the four semi-finalists had it as part of their lineup – and a crucial, match-winning part at that.
Shoop ended up taking the trophy with this list:
His changes from the original list were to cut both copies of Babbling Book and replace them with a Volcanic Potion and a Polymorph, setting up for a little more defensive gameplan with an additional anti-aggro tool in Volcanic Potion and a hard removal card with Polymorph. Incidentally, these were the techs suggested by PsyGuenther himself for a more anti-aggro build.
The other semi-finalists who brought Discover Burn Mage had also teched it to their liking.
Trump chose to cut Gluttonous Ooze (clearly a tech card, anyway) in favor of anti-aggro Volcanic Potion.
Reynad took a different approach, targeting Taunt Warrior by cutting Flamestrike for a second copy of Meteor and cutting Gluttonous Ooze, Bloodmage Thalnos, and Ice Barrier for The Black Knight and two copies of Sorcerer’s Apprentice. These changes made the deck much less defensive, but with some additional means to deal with big taunt minions.
Building it the way you like it – flex slots
As it is, there are quite a few flex slots in the deck. Perhaps this will change as the deck is refined further, but right now there are quite a few things you can do to tech the deck to the meta you are facing.
The deck probably always wants to run some area-of-effect damage. The basic package of one Meteor and one Flamestrike is pretty easy to tweak by running two copies of either if that’s what you need.
Furthermore, there are at least five non-core slots you can work with:
- Babbling Book (two copies)
- Bloodmage Thalnos
- Gluttonous Ooze
- Ice Barrier
The examples from PsyGuenther’s anti-aggro list run by Shoop and Reynad’s anti-Warrior techs show two different approaches on where to take the deck: the anti-aggro list with more ways to defend and fight against aggressive decks, and Reynad with no early defense but pressure and ways to deal with individual (taunt) minions instead.
Before teching a deck, you want to understand how it performs against the meta. In case of Discover Burn Mage, you get crushed by Jade Druid – the bane of slow decks everywhere – and you can also struggle against Murloc Paladin (too much damage) and Dragon Priest (outvalues you, steals your win conditions, and heals itself).
Without Volcanic Potion, Aggro Druid is also an issue, which, by the way, can also be a reason to play Freeze Mage, as Freeze Mage is favored against Aggro Druid, Quest Rogue, and Murloc Paladin, while Discover Burn Mage handily beats Freeze Mage.
Some key matchups are also quite even: Midrange Hunter and Quest Rogue can sometimes race you, and even Taunt Warrior is a bit of hit-or-miss: a lot relies on either the Warrior not running enough armor generation to flee your reach with Alexstrasza or getting enough value from Medivh to bring them down even if they have that armor. If you cannot find Medivh or get it pulled from your hand by a Dirty Rat, you can lose the game.
Discover Burn Mage, like other Mages, is good against Miracle Rogue, able to defend with Ice Blocks and just burn down the Rogue who has no means of healing.
The slower the Paladin deck, the better the odds for Discover Burn Mage, as they are unable to race you and playing around with the right mix of threats from burn and Alexstrasza can exhaust their healing capabilities.
Teching the deck
From these matchups, we can see the attractiveness of Gluttonous Ooze (deals with weapons, good for mirror), Volcanic Potion (helps against Aggro Druid, Murloc Paladin, and Midrange Hunter), and Polymorph (helps against Paladin – Spikeridged Steed, Blessing of Kings, Tirion – as well as against Midrange Hunter and Priest).
With the general aggressive nature of Hearthstone, anti-aggro techs are some of the most common ones you will want to include. Against Priest or Taunt Warrior you could also go for additional value in the form of Elise the Trailblazer, Cabalist’s Tome, or maybe it is even possible to fit in Archmage Antonidas.
Against Paladin, Spellbender is another potential tech card, as the only targeted spells most Paladin decks run are their buff cards-–-Blessing of Kings and Spikeridged Steed – which are not bad cards to steal.
If you want to get started a little faster, Sorcerer’s Apprentice remains an option as well.
Discover Burn Mage is a strong and interesting deck. Jade Druid is the only extremely bad matchup, and you can tech the deck to accommodate most other foes you face. With discoveries, you can, and need to, adjust your gameplan in most games, so the deck does not feel monotonous to play. There are many roads to victory, and successfully piloting through the various paths can be rewarding.