Fair warning to all: I am not an experienced card game player. I did pick up Magic: the Gathering from time to time in grade school and college, but the sheer amount of cards plus the expense of purchasing booster packs and such always put me off in the end. This is one of the things that's been a relief to me when it comes to Hearthstone -- I find deck sizes much more manageable and the game sorts my cards for me so I don't get overwhelmed with choice. Plus I have non-monetary options to more cards if I want. Total money I've spent on Hearthstone so far? $2.99, baby. Aw yeah.
As a result I don't have any of the best cards for my deck. I'm okay with that! This article has been written in the spirit of the complete noob to mostly beginner player, because I get the impression that there are a good number of other folks like myself, who are interested in Hearthstone but don't have much of a background in card games. If you're an advanced card-game player you probably aren't going to find much in what's going on here, and that's okay! However, if you're a hesitant beginner, like myself, then please read on!
The mage (personified by Jaina Proudmore) is the default deck you get during the tutorial when you first open up the game. I personally found it fairly intuitive as well as fun, so I stuck with it and have enjoyed moderate success in both PvP and AI matches. Here's the deck I'm currently running with:
Goldshire Footman x2
Arcane Explosion x2
Frostwolf Grunt x2
Dalaran Mage x2
Booty Bay Bodyguard
Darkscale Healer x2
Lord of the Arena
Conceptually, the deck is based around doing damage with my mage spells, and buffing that damage with the addition of +SP minions. In playing this strategy, however, it quickly becomes clear that you need to protect your +SP minions so they can do their jobs, so most of the remaining minions in my deck have a Taunt ability, or a heal ability to help me last longer. The Taunt cards (hopefully) keep my opponent off the +SP minions, which then juice up my spells. Flamestrike already does +4 to every opposing minion on the board, make that +5 or +6, and you've got a really potent card!
Another important addition to the deck is the mage's Polymorph card. This is a powerful card that has saved my tookus more than a few times. It transforms the targeted minion into a 1/1 sheep, rendering even that fearsome Boulderfist Ogre pretty much harmless. Pair it with an Arcane Explosion and you've got an excellent combo for getting rid of powerful cards. Seriously, there's nothing more satisfying than seeing that enormous Core Hound card come down, knowing you've got a Polymorph + Arcane Explosion in your hand, ready to go.
Now, there are some pretty obvious things missing from this deck. In Hearthstone, there are some cards -- called "Secrets" -- that have abilities that are concealed from the opposing player, and activate once certain things take place (the card is destroyed, hero takes damage, etc). Right now, I believe only mages and rogues have cards with Secrets, but I'm sure that will change as the game grows and evolves. None of the Secret cards are in the starting sets, so you have to buy packs via real money or in-game gold in order to have a shot at gaining a Secret card. I have yet to find one, so I can't use them, however, I imagine you could build a very effective deck around playing Secret cards and following up appropriately when they trigger.
Another mage deck approach, which I can only slightly approximate with my cards here, is basically a frost-specced one. There are many frost-ability cards for the mage, but, like the Secret cards, they must be acquired through purchases. Frost cards are incredibly useful for their ability to freeze minions or even the hero, and prevent them from acting for a turn. Ice Lance is a very effective combo card, because it either freezes a target, or does 4 damage to one already frozen. I have not yet gained enough frost cards in order to make a frost-focused deck feasible for myself, but if or when I do, I can see that being great fun to play.
Lately I've been bashing my head over the druid deck (which, contrary to mage, I do not find intuitive at all, but I'm stubborn and want to learn it), so it's been a while since I've taken a good look at my mage deck. I can instantly see some cards that don't really seem to fit -- that Nightblade card, for example, while having a nice Battlecry ability, isn't doing much else for the rest of my deck. As I said, I'm a relative beginner when it comes to card games, so I'm still learning.
Have any of you been playing with a mage deck? What works for you? What's fun for you? How do you like to play? Let us know! And if you're not playing Hearthstone, but are nonetheless interested in the genre, how would you construct a mage deck? We'd love to hear from you!