Hi guys! Welcome to my ‘Jaina; Mother of Dragons’ Deck Guide. Today I thought I would share with you my little baby, its my own deck that I have been playing and tinkering with for a short while.
I consider this deck to be a ‘hybrid'; much in the same way ‘Hybrid Hunter’ combined elements of ‘Face Hunter’ and ‘Mid-range Hunter’ this deck takes a number of elements from ‘Freeze Mage’ and combines them with some of the more traditional attempts at building ‘Dragon Mage’. The result of this fusion is a unique and complex play-style that may take some getting used to. This article is intended to be an introduction to the deck, there are another guides (detailing things like Mulligan decisions & Match-up Analysis) which you can see here (note: premium membership required):
- Mother of Dragons: Advanced Strategy
- Mother of Dragons: Match-up’s & Mulligans
As always guys, comments, likes, questions, etc are welcome and appreciated.
Okay, let’s begin!
Let’s start with a brief lesson in History. The day before the release of the TGT expansion I must have spent several hours theory-crafting, the fruits of that labour was a deck that I eventually wrote this guide about (please not that viewing link requires Premium Membership). The linked guide chiefly focused on my idea’s about how to build the deck (as opposed to trying to explain how to play it, which is the prime focus of the guide you are currently reading).
When I finally crafted the cards I needed I took the deck to ladder and was somewhat surprised that it was performing reasonably well, usually when building decks your first attempt is terrible and you end up iterating and tweaking several times before you finally arrive at a playable list. But on this occasion the only change I have made from the initial ‘Theory-craft’ to the present-day deck was to cut Ice Block
I cut Ice Block because in most games it wasn’t being triggered, and if it was triggered usually I wasn’t in a position to win the game from that point. In other words, Ice Block felt unnecessary when things were going well and was simply not good enough when things were going badly. I replaced the card with Effigy because I thought that secret would add more late-game power and offer a more ‘pro-active’ defence; By having more minions on board to fight with my health total is likely to take less of a beating. After playing twenty or so games post-change I am certain that this change was correct.
And that brings you to the present list. I would like to stress however that this is my own deck and I haven’t really seen anyone else doing anything like this. Control Warrior (and other meta-decks) meanwhile has had thousands of people test and tweak those lists, and so therefore they are probably close to optimal. This deck meanwhile has not had that treatment, and so therefore it is entirely possible that some bright-spark out there can take my list and improve it. How exciting!
A Future version?
+ 1x Blackwing Technician
This is currently an experiment I am running to see if I can improve upon the current iteration of the deck. I explain the Rationale behind this potential change in the “Card Replacements” section of this guide.
Okay, so in this section I’m going to talk about all the card choices, I’ve decided to group the cards thematically (or in “Packages”). One advantage of laying out content in this way is that you start to understand the synergy between the cards and also realise the multiple roles some cards fill.
The ‘Secrets Package’ is (as the name suggests) all the cards and combinations related to our secrets. The Cards in this Package are: Mad Scientist
This deck is for the most part very slow, often we have to wait until Turn Four before we can start fighting for the board effectively. Mad Scientist manages to inject a lot of pace (‘tempo’) into the deck as well as adding a bit of consistency. Overall a great card and completely irreplaceable.
Since Duplicate puts cards into you hand it has natural synergy with Dragons; If I play my only Dragon onto the board and it then dies (triggering Duplicate) then I have Dragons in hand which obviously means that the Battlecry of Blackwing Corrupt0r ‘goes live’. Moreover, since Duplicate puts cards into your hand this secret can often be used to boost the size of our Twilight Drake
Against Aggro you mostly want Duplicate to trigger on Taunts (e.g. Twilight Guardian
Bad Duplicate targets (versus Aggro and Control): Malygos, Rhonin, Acolyte of Pain (this is because these cards are usually “too slow”).
Effigy works really well in this deck owing to the fact we run very few small minions (i.e. only 5 minions cost 2 mana). In a nutshell, it often functions as a pure value card, provided you can set it up.
If Duplicate is in the deck to mostly excel in the Control Match-ups the reverse is true of Effigy: this card is meant to help us stabilise against the Aggro decks. For example, a random four-drop hitting the board just after the enemy has punched its ways through Twilight Guardian often proves too much for them to handle.
With that said it would be incorrect for you to think that Effigy sucks versus Control. If you draw into the card (as opposed to getting it via Mad Scientist) then it is often possible to time this card and get yourself a big fat juicy 7+ mana drop with it. (e.g. Turn Eight: Doomsayer + Frost Nova + Effigy. Turn Nine: Alexstrasza). Turn Ten Chillmaw + Effigy is also quite effective.
On a more technical note I much prefer this over Ice Block
- Getting an Ice Barrier stolen by a Kezan Mysticis a lot less painful than getting Ice Block stolen.
- Since Ice Barrier often gets ‘popped’ quickly, drawing the second copy doesn’t stay a ‘dead card’ for long.
- In many cases, Ice Block gives you only a turn which means that you basically need to win the game on the turn its triggered or you lose, whereas gaining 8 life can easily buy you 3-4 turns if you are lucky.
Small removal Package
The ‘Small Removal Package’ consists of all the cards and combinations we use to try and kill all the small little things (e.g. minions with 3 or less health) that are often played early in the game.The Cards in this Package are: Frostbolt
Frostbolt is one of the most efficient small removal cards in the game. Absolutely critical in surviving the early game.
Dealing 3 damage to any target we like is decent, coupled with a 5/4 body and we are getting a great deal. Given the high number of Dragons in the deck the Battlecry reliably triggers, which therefore means Blackwing Corruptor is a good card for clawing back a lot of the tempo we lost in the early game.
Although the main use for Doomsayer is dropping it alongside Frost Nova for a big clear it is also worth pointing out that you can sometimes simply drop it on Turn Two. In such cases Doomsayer will kill whatever minions they have on the board and will often deny the opponent tempo as well.
Mage Hero Power
The ability to deal one damage to an enemy minion is always nice and this is something we will often to. For example, against a Turn One Leper Gnome
Big removal Package
The ‘Big Removal’ Package consists of all the cards and combinations of cards we use to try to remove the enemies big minions (e.g. Minions with health of 6 or more). The Cards in this Package are: Fireball
Fireball is a very straightforward card; 6 damage for Four Mana. When playing with this deck we must be very careful what we chose to Fireball, since this card represents one of the very few ways we have of dealing with Big Threats (e.g. Dr. Boom
Doomsayer + Frost Nova Combo
Normally this combo is intended as AoE. However, owing to the fact that the deck does not run Polymorph
The AoE package consists of all the cards and combinations we use to clear the enemy board. The Cards in this Package are: Chillmaw
When the Deathrattle triggers (and that will happen often due to the high number of Dragons) you basically get a Hellfire
In the case of Duplicate, being able to cast multiple Chillmaw’s in a row is a great way of clearing a board full of high health minions (provided the enemy does not have access to silence, of course).
The Doomsayer Synergy can be rather sweet as well: the 6/6 body (with Taunt) initially protects Doomsayer, and if the enemy cannot do six damage and then have a further four damage surviving the Hellfire then the Doomsayer Triggers. This combination can be great for clearing ‘sticky minions’ (e.g. Haunted Creeper
Doomsayer + Frost Nova
Ah, the bread and butter of Freeze Mage. It doesn’t matter how big the minions are this combo can clear it. As a quick tip I would recommend that When you want to get this combo to trigger try sacrificing a few cards to make it happen. For example, playing a Taunt + this combo increases the probability that the Doomsayer combo will trigger (e.g you are protecting the Doomsayer against Weapons and minions with Charge). The other advantage of playing minions into your own Doomsayer Combo is that if the enemy has silence (e.g. Ironbeak Owl
The opponent might sit there thinking:
“I can Silence the Doomsayer and that will save my 6/6 minion. But this play also saves my opponents 4/4. Maybe I can get better value from Silence by waiting?”.
Notice that this sort of logic rarely applies to Freeze Mage due to the fact that that deck runs so few mid-sized minions.
Malygos + Arcane Missiles
The Arcane Missiles must be acquired from Rhonin
Unfortunately you don’t get to pull this combo off often but it is nonetheless I nice little trick that will put a smile on your face.
Arcane Missiles x3
Even without Malygos, the Arcane Missiles when used all at once can act as a decent board clear. This combo costs a win condition, but nonetheless a 3 mana Avenging Wrath is reasonably decent.
As the name might suggest, the Dragons Package consists of all the Dragons in the deck. The Cards in this Package are: Malygos, Alexstrasza
Azure Drake is a really nice fit for the deck since everything it does is relevant; the Spell Damage makes our Frostbolt’s and Fireball’s more powerful and of course Card Draw is always useful. The icing on the cake is that this little guy is also a Dragon. In a nutshell this card adds consistency and flexibility to the deck. A great card and an obvious include.
A 3/6 Taunt for 4 mana is a sweet deal, and this is the sort of card we need in order to slow down some of the more aggressive decks in the format.
Other options for this slot include Hungry Dragon
In short, Twilight Drake makes the cut not because it is exceptionally powerful, rather, it is in the deck because the other 4-drop Dragons are weaker. With that said, we can consistency play this minion as a 4/6 on curve and as a 4/8 latter in the game. So long as the enemy does not use silence, this card is often decent and sometimes fantastic.
Quick Tip: When playing against Shaman Earth Shock
Dragon Synergy Package
The Dragon Synergy package includes all the cards and combinations that benefit from the deck running Dragons. If you bothered to count you would realise that Dragons are 9/30 cards in the deck. Yes, Dragons make up almost one-third of the whole deck! Ergo the Dragon Synergy cards trigger consistently. The Cards in this Package are: Duplicate, Blackwing Corruptor x2, Twilight Guardian x2
I don’t think I have anything more to add to my descriptions of these cards. So let’s move on.
Win-condition #1 Package
Win-condition #1 involves us casting Malygos and triple Arcane Missiles in a single turn for a whooping 24 burst Damage. The Cards in this Package are: Malygos, Rhonin
This piece of the puzzle provides the damage; +5 spell power on each copy of Arcane Missiles is a huge amount. However this combo costs 12 mana which means if we want to play it then we need to do it over two turns or find a way to ‘cheat-it-out’ with other cards.
Emperor Thaurissan reduces the cost of all the different parts of the combo. Obviously if we play Emperor after the Deathrattle of Ronin the combo is easy to set-up. However, in a lot of situations we will want to play Emperor on Turn 6, which is a number of turns before we trigger Rhonins Deathrattle. This is a problem since it means that if we only reduce the cost of Maygos by one then that means we can only unleash 2/3 of the combo. This problem has sort of been solved by the inclusion of the Apprentice (explained below).
The cool thing about Rhonin is that in a lot of situations you are not that unhappy about seeing a Big Game Hunter
Tuck Fump. Oh man, I’m shit hot at puns.
Above I mentioned that it can be difficult to reduce the cost of Arcane Missiles directly owing to the fact that in numerous cases we have to play Thuarissan before we get a chance to kill Rhonin. Apprentice solves this problem and makes the combo considerably more consistent. With Apprentice in the Deck all we need to do in order to get our Turn Ten 24 damage combo working is for either Malygos and/or Apprentice to be reduced in cost by Thuarissan. For example an Eight Mana Malygos can be played on the same turn as Apprentice, and since Apprentice reduces the mana cost of the Arcane Missiles to zero we get the combo finish.
In short, Apprentice is intended to act as a ‘combo-enabler’, and so therefore in Control match-ups you keep her in your hand for most of the game. Against Aggro however, 24 damage combo’s is not the main way to win the game and therefore in these match-ups I recommend you use her much earlier in the game for board presence and tempo.
When going second you can also save the coin in order to get the combo (e.g. Turn 10 Malygos + Coin + Apprentice + Missiles x3). Obviously saving the coin til turn 10 is often really hard to do and is not something I recommend you purposefully try to do. Nonetheless, if you happen to hit Turn 6 and haven’t found a good time to use the coin maybe that is a good time to start thinking about whether you want to keep it for combo.
Win Condition #2 Package
The second win-condition of this deck involves surprising the opponent with Alexstrasza, and then finishing them off on the next turn. The Cards in this Package are: Alexstrasza, Big Minions (e.g. Rhonin), Fireball, Frostbolt, Thaurissan.
By setting the opponents health to 15 we can potentially win the game on the next turn with a combination of Fireball x2 + Frostbolt for exact lethal.
Unlike Freeze Mage however, we also have beefy minions in the deck as well. Ergo if say a Blackwing Corruptor is on the board and the enemy is at 30 life then (assuming no Taunts) we can shred 20 points of life in a single turn. This therefore means that in many cases we don’t need two Fireballs and a Frost to finish them; two attacking minions and a single Fireball is often sufficient.
It is also worth pointing out that Thaurissan can make this combo even faster. For example, reducing Alexstrasza by one Mana allows you to Frostbolt and the same time.
Win Condition #3 Package
Another win condition made courtesy of Rhonin; all you do in this scenario is let Rhonin die. Now Imagine a situation where your opponent has an empty board on your following turn: Arcane Missiles x3 + Hero Power is basically a 5 mana Pyroblast
The survivability package consists of all the cards and combinations we can use to keep us safe from death. The Cards in this Package are: Frost Nova x2, Alexstrasza, Ice Barrier x2, Frostbolt, Duplicate + Taunt, All Taunts
I have already mentioned how Alex functions as a win condition in the deck. Well, its defensive capabilities are not to be sniffed at either; bringing our life-total back to 15 is a pretty good way of getting out of Range of the odd fireball or Kill Command
We have spoken about how this card is used in conjunction with Doomsayer, but it is worth mentioning that this can be a decent card even without that combo. Sometimes stalling the enemy for a turn (while you push damage with your own minions) provides you with just enough time to draw into what you need or it may even give you a faster clock than the opponent, forcing them to play defensively.
Sometimes later on a game you use this card more for its ability to Freeze Targets than the 3 damage. Stopping a big minion (or a weapon) for a turn is sometimes all the time you need to find a way to win/survive.
Card Draw Package
The Card Draw Package consists of the cards and combinations we use to draw cards. The Cards in this Package are: Duplicate, Azure Drake x2, Acolyte of Pain
Acolyte of Pain
The natural replacement for this card is Arcane Intellect
In short: against Aggro Acolyte typically draws one less card than Arcane Intellect but the former card requires the opponent to spend resources dealing with it, and in my opinion slowing the opponent down is a lot more important than drawing one extra card.
A second advantage of running a minion for card draw is that we are a tiny bit less vulnerable to stuff like Loatheb
One of the downsides to this deck is that it is expensive to craft and there are few budget replacements for cards.
The problem with this change is that it makes Malygos
The problem with this change is that by cutting a Dragon cards like Blackwing Corruptor
Of all the Legendaries in the deck the only one that I think is replaceable is Alexstrasza
Cut 1x acolyte of Pain for 1x Blackwing Technican?
This is the only change I am currently considering testing. Here I give up a little bit of card draw for better board presence and a slightly better Duplicate. When Building decks I usually consider 6 card draw to be the bare minimum any Control deck should run. If I assume both Acolytes only ever draw one card then the deck has a total of about 8 card draw (note my working definition of card “draw” includes Mad Scientist, Duplicate, and Rhonin), depending on how you count. Thus, I think experimenting with one Blackwing Technician in place of Acolyte could be worthwhile. This change will mean smaller Twilight Drakes, but on the plus side it will also make Rhonin and Duplicate slightly easier to fit into turns due to a lesser chance of over-drawing. If this change is a success the natural progression is to see if Double Technician is just right or one too many.
Cut Duplicate for ??
Of all the cards to remove Duplicate is probably the easiest to play without. Thus, you could experiment by replacing this card with a Polymorph or Blackwing Technician, Ironbeak Owl, Big Game Hunter, Acidic Swamp Ooze
In a nutshell, I cannot current see too many experiments worth considering, but then again this deck is very new and maybe a fresh pair of eyes (e.g. YOURS) can spot something that I have missed. Happy experimenting, guys.
The Three Problems…
If you decide to take it for a spin on ladder don’t say I didn’t warn you!
- The games are long (regularly 10-15 mins in length).
- The deck is very hard to play.
- One of the worst Match-ups for the deck (i.e. Secrets Paladin) is currently very popular on Ladder.
All decks have their share if problems, the above three things are some of the biggest issues I have faced playing this deck this season.
Regarding point (1): The length of the games makes this deck not especially well-suited to grinding the ladder. As we all know a fast deck with a mediocre win-rate is often better for ranking up than a slow-as-a-snail high win-rate deck. That’s just the way ladder is, I’m afraid.
Regarding point (2): In my time I have played plenty of decks and in my personal opinion this deck ranks right up there in terms of difficulty to play. Sure, it’s a lot easier to pilot than say traditional ‘Freeze Mage’ or ‘Grim Patron Warrior’ but nonetheless when you play this deck you will find yourself faced with numerous complex decisions. In the strategy section of this guide (and in the advanced guide), I aim to help you understand some of these more difficult points.
Regarding point (3): The third reason to not play this deck is Secrets Paladin. This is the worst match-up for the deck and that is unfortunately made significantly worse due to its popularity. Right now (9th Sept) I’m 8-10 versus Paladin (44%). This figure though includes Mid-range and Control Paladins (which we tend to beat), so once you take away the Paladin decks we can beat we are probably looking at a win-rate close to 35% against Secrets Paladin. Maybe this match-up could be improved by better Mulligans or by adding a few tech cards (e.g Blackwing Technician?). If anyone has decent success against Secrets Paladin with this deck please tell me what you did in the comments section.
On the Bright side, the only other Bad Match-up is Dragon Priest (approx 40%) everything else seems about equal or favourable.
Strategy & Play-Style
As I mentioned earlier this deck is rather difficult to play. I think part of that difficulty stems from the fact that the play-style is defensive and the deck doesn’t really have a lot of ‘come-back’ mechanics. And then to compound these difficulties you have a difficult mid/late-game decision to make concerning what win-condition you want to play for.
Early Game (Turns 0-3)
Unless we get a good draw (e.g. Mad Scientist, Frostbolt) this deck very quickly finds itself losing board control against most Mid-range and Aggro decks. Your chief concern during these stages of the game should be to harass and slow them down; try to keep the life total as high as possible whilst also trying to ensure that you have a strong ‘mid-phase’.
For example, against ‘Tempo Mage’ I would recommend taking two damage from a Mad Scientist as opposed to Frostbolt-ing it. This is basically because they may play a better Frostbolt target next turn (in which case, you use Frostbolt off-curve) and secondly because giving the Mage Mirror Entity
Against much slower decks (e.g. Control Warrior) most of the time you can chill out and relax; the Warrior won’t be doing anything scary during that time and you may actually be the first to player to dominate the board.
Against Aggro feel free to drop the Apprentice for a 3/2 body. Against Mid-range only drop her if you can get a valuable tempo boost (e.g. a 1 mana Frostbolt). Against Control don’t play her at all (she is much more valuable as a combo piece).
Mid-Phase (Turns 4-6)
Against Aggro and Mid-range decks, the mid-phase is all about trying to stabilise on board as much as possible; Big Dragons and Blackwing Corruptor should really help claw back a lot of the tempo you lost on the early turns. Remember that against such decks your primary goal is to simply “not lose”, if the game goes long we basically win by default.
Against Control/Combo you need to be stabilising the board but in addition to that you need to start making a ‘mentality shift’ from thinking about the game defensively and start wondering how you aim to win the game; the nature of the match-up, board state and your hand should dictate what sort of win condition you should go for.
You should also be looking for ways to gain “card advantage” over the opponent and finding ways to generate value from Effigy and Duplicate.
Late-Mid Phase (Turns 7-9)
Against Aggro the plan is basically the same as it was in the mid-phase; simply focus on staying alive. If the position is bad look for high risk plays, bluffs and maybe even try to kill your own Scientist in order to fetch Ice Barrier.
However, against Mid-range decks you shouldn’t need to be as defensive or as desperate. On the contrary! You should start asking yourself whether you can start setting up win conditions (and if so which one). If your situation is good you may even be able to switch from playing a defensive role to being the aggressor. For example, if you have a 5/4 and a 2/6 in play and the opponent drops a Dr. Boom. Then, supposing you have a little bit of burst in hand (e.g. Fireball) it might be possible to just use a Frost Nova to Freeze and push for face damage.
Against Control your focus should be trying to find ways to keep the pressure up, if you are able to make the opponent fear that dropping Ysera is likely to lose the game (because it is “too slow”) then you are doing a good job (remember that most of our late-game minions are combo related, whereas the opponents late-game could be ‘value-related’ and thus without pressure we could easily start to fall behind on board). With that said don’t generate pressure at the expense of sacrificing combo win-conditions.
Late-game (Turns 10+)
Against Aggro and Mid-range by now you are either on ‘death’s door’ or are in complete control of the game. In either case there is little for me to say.
Against Control now its all about setting up the combo finish and denying the opponent value from some of his/her crazy plays. If the game looks like it may go to fatigue then start preparing for that eventuality by making ‘high value plays’ yourself.
Against Combo, it is often all about who has the biggest & baddest combo at this point, you should try your best to promote your own win condition whilst also defending against theirs (e.g.Chillmaw is decent versus Grim Patron
On my Youtube Channel I have now uploaded a few videos of me playing the deck, In the spoiler below I have a video showcasing how you win the Dragon Priest Match-up. Enjoy!
Okay that’s the end of the beginners introduction to playing this deck. In the reading list below you can find links to articles that contain even more information about the deck. In the meantime though, feel free to ask me questions in the comments below, I’ll try to get back to you promptly (but no promises
And now let me end the guide by showing you a 52 damage OTK combo:
References & Further Reading
- Smashthings, Smashthings’ Quick Brew: Dragon Freeze Mage
- Smashthings, Jaina; ‘Mother of Dragons Deck: An Introduction
- Smashthings,Jaina; ‘Mother of Dragons’ Deck: Match-ups & Mulligans
- Smashthings, Jaina; ‘Mother of Dragons’ Deck: Advanced Strategy
- Stonekeep & Smashthings, In-Depth Turn Analysis #17: 7 Isn’t Always the Lucky Number