Building a Better Robot: Mech Mage and Mech Shaman Decks for Hearthstone

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The release of new cards is the most exciting time in any collectible game. New content is what keeps things fresh and exciting. It’s not at all surprising that the Goblins vs Gnomes release on Monday saw an enormous spike in Hearthstone’s viewership on Twitch, with the game overtaking perennial leader League of Legends as players couldn’t wait to see the new cards in action and new Hearthstone decks being built.

While many players, including myself, shared their thoughts about the new cards as they were revealed, speculation is a far cry from experience. And while it was cool to draft the new cards in Arena prior to the full release, you can only learn so much playing with them in a limited format. But finally, the last few days have given the world a chance to actually play with the Goblins vs Gnomes cards in constructed.

The biggest difference between limited formats like Arena and constructed play is the ability to build around synergies. For instance, prior to the Gnomes vs Goblins release, Hunter was arguably the strongest class in constructed play, largely due to how effectively it could use cards like Undertaker and Kill Command to pressure opponents. These cards are highly reliant on deathrattle minions and beasts, respectively, which is a big reason why they aren’t nearly as big of a factor in the arena, where you can’t ensure that you have those types of cards as reliably. Hunters as a class aren’t nearly as successful in that format, because other classes – like Mage – have more generically strong cards.

But when a new set comes out, I always like to try to build decks based around whatever the core mechanical theme is. If nothing else, it’s fun to see new synergies in action, and there’s usually something powerful going on there too. Building around the deathrattle theme in the Naxxramas release worked out pretty well for me, so I decided to take a similar direction with my approach to Goblins vs Gnomes. It’s certainly reasonable to look at the new cards and just identify what might be good to slot into decks that already exist, but I find it a lot more interesting to explore the entirely new things that the set makes possible.

In the case of Goblins vs Gnomes, the new thing is clearly Mechs. There are a whole array of new Mech minions, as well as spells and other class-specific cards that interact with Mechs in various ways. So after my first GvG stream where I opened packs and made a Shaman Murloc deck by popular demand (which turned out to be about as good as you would expect), I focused my attention on exploring different mech builds. I tried a couple builds of MechWarrior and MechPriest without really getting excited about anything that was going on before trying out the first version of a Mech deck that felt like it was really doing something powerful: MechShaman.

MechShaman

The Shaman Mech cards are Whirling Zap-o-Matic and Powermace, each of which is actually just a pretty powerful card independently. The Zap-o_Matic feels like a card that may fit into non-Mech decks because it just hits very hard very quickly, especially with any kind of attack boosts. The Powermace spends a bit more of its power budget on Mech synergies. As a 3/2 weapon for three mana, it’s like an Eaglehorn Bow that can’t recharge via secrets. That’s not super exciting, though it’s still reasonable in the right context. On top of that, though, the weapon has a deathrattle trigger that gives one of your random Mechs +2/+2. That’s a pretty significant boost, since it will generally allow you to win combats up curve pretty readily or survive hits from on-curve weapons. It also happens to combo very well with Whirling Zap-o-Matic, since the otherwise somewhat fragile Windfury bot can suddenly start attacking for ten damage each turn. I felt these two cards lent themselves to a very aggressive build, so I built the rest of the deck accordingly.

The most powerful card in this deck, along with all of the different Mech decks I have tried, is Mechwarper. I called Mechwarper the scariest card that had been revealed from the new set in my first review, and I stand by that. Cost reduction effects are extremely powerful, especially when they aren’t bounded to one. Mechwarper lets you cast Clockwork Gnome for zero, and two Mechwarpers lets you flood the board incredibly quickly. This deck generally aims to end the game very quickly by using cheap removal to take out opposing minions and clear the way for pumped Zap-o-matics or other bots to take chunks out of your opponent’s life. With so many cheap cards, you can easily run out of action quickly, and the Shaman hero power is not particularly effective at giving you much value over the course of the game. Thankfully, you have a dutiful mechanical butler to help – Jeeves.

Jeeves is one of the most important cards in this deck, and I’m sure he’s going to be a major player in a lot of different decks as the Goblins vs Gnomes metagame matures. He basically makes a deck like this possible, and potentially viable. Without a cheap way to refill your hand, this kind of deck would easily just get wiped out by a single board clear, but thanks to Jeeves, I’ve won games against control priest decks that very nearly went to fatigue, simply because my little robot buddy kept kindly bringing me more and more cards. I would often find myself just casting everything I had in my hand, even if it barely impacted the board, just to let me dig deeper and reload. That’s the biggest reason this deck has such a low curve. You don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of expensive cards in your hand and find yourself unable to use Jeeves effectively. In fact, even the Spare Parts that you get from Clockwork Gnome and Mechanical Yeti can be somewhat annoying to play to keep your hand size low. The absolute worst is generally getting Time Rewinders, which usually cost several mana just to get them out of your hand.

On top of the Powermace and Zap-o-Matic, I really like how Shaman offers a bunch of cheap utility spells. Rockbiter, Earth Shock, and Lightning Bolt are all reasonable answers to opposing Undertakers and Mechwarpers, and also happen to be cheap enough that you can just burn through them if you’re looking to dig with Jeeves. I could see possibly replacing Earth Shock with Crackle or something similar, since you can often just a bit more finishing power and Earth Shock is certainly the worst of the three one cost spells. It’s also possible that you just want fewer reactive cards in general. I could see cutting some of the one cost spells and some of the non-Deathrattle mechs like Micro Machine and adding Undertaker and Leper Gnome. The fact that Clockwork Gnome, Harvest Golem, and both Mechanical Yeti and Piloted Shredder have deathrattle means that you can look to exploit those potentially overpowered openings too. Can you imagine Undertaker plus Coin into Leper Gnome on turn one, followed up by Mechwarper into Clockwork Gnome on turn two? That’s sure to frustrate your opponents to no end.

Of course, I’m not sure anyone could be more frustrated than this guy. Sorry – did you want a fourth turn?

Turn4Kill

Yeah. Mechwarper certainly allows for some powerful starts.

As fun and explosive as the Shaman deck is, I found it to be rather inconsistent, and rather than work to tune it more, I decided to turn my efforts to another class – Mage. While Soot Spewer isn’t very impressive, both Snowchugger and Goblin Blastmage are extremely powerful, and I wanted to explore a deck that tried to use them with the rest of the Mech shell.

Here’s where I started:

MechMage

This deck aims to fight for the board early with the potentially explosive Mech starts and then build toward a late game powered by Gazlowe and Archmage Antonidas. I think the Archmage might be one of the biggest winners from the original set in the new expansion, because he plays extremely well with the cheap spells that Spare Part produce. Tinkertown Technician really shines here, providing you with a big body that also fuels Mana Wyrm, Archmage, and Gazlowe. Sorcerer’s Apprentice can even let you cast your Spare Parts for zero mana, which turned out to be more cute and amusing than useful most of the time, but could certaily come in handy.

Compared to the Shaman deck, this version felt much more stable and consistent. Frostbolt and Fireball are great removal that can also finish the opponent off, and Goblin Blastmage was more impactful than Powermace in most situations. Perhaps more importantly, the Mage hero power actually synergies with what this deck is trying to do, while the Shaman power didn’t really gel with an aggressive deck’s core strategy.

Snowchugger is fantastic, and not just for its sound effect. On several occasions, I’ve outright locked Warrior decks out of the game by just hitting them with Snowchugger over and over and leaving them totally unable to use their weapon. Talk about glorious.

Goblin Blastmage is also very powerful, especially against decks like Hunter or Zoo that frequently have a bunch of small minions in play. A Blastmage that connects with the right targets can sometimes just end a game on the spot. Getting a 5/4 body down and wiping out your opponent’s field is a massive tempo swing. The biggest downside of Blastmage is its cost. Four is a heavily contested spot on the mana curve here, with both deathrattle mechs and Fireball fighting for space. With two of each, you can sometimes get somewhat choked on four cost cards, though Mechwarper can do quite a bit to help smooth things up with its cost reduction for the mechs.

MechMage2

This was my next rendition. I wasn’t thrilled with how often I was ending up with a hand that was choking on late game cards, or cards that didn’t impact the board like Arcane Intellect. While the Toshley plus Gazlowe package seemed good in theory, the reality was that once I actually got to the late game against a lot of decks, I couldn’t afford to try to play a long value game. Antonidas is great because he flat out ends the game by providing you with a string of Fireballs, but with Gazlowe you don’t actually feel the impact of his triggers until several turns after you actually got to play and use him. You still have to invest the mana in playing the Mechs that you get, and then you still have to wait further to attack with them. This version of the deck aimed to be more aggressive in general, replacing the end game cards with Polymorphs to try to ensure that I could contain my opponent’s big threats (or, more frequently, their big taunts) and break through to win.

This version includes Unstable Portal, largely at the urging of my stream’s chat. I played with it a bunch, but didn’t really like it, even though it probably gave me far better than expected returns on average. The big problem with it in a deck like this is that you really want to spend your early turns either developing your own board or responding to your opponent, and casting Unstable Portal doesn’t reliably allow you to do either of those things. It can certainly be very powerful, and perhaps overtly game-winningly so given its effect, but it’s not really a card that I was happy using myself.

MechMage4

 

A little from column A and a little from column B. This deck brings back Gazlowe and Toshley in lieu of Arcane Intellect as a long game plan, in large part due to the removal of Sorcerer’s Apprentice (which, as I mentioned, was often more cute than anything else). I’m not totally happy with the plan, but

The hole in the curve at two gets filled by Annoy-o-Tron, which is actually shockingly effective. It’s not only a great defensive minion against small creatures, but also serves to protect Mechwarper and other key minions from weapon attacks, and can absorb a lot of damage in the mid to late game when the board has mostly been cleared of the small stuff.

I’m still working on trying a bunch of different stuff. I have a bunch of things I want to experiment with that isn’t listed in any of the decks here because I haven’t had time yet. Some of these are:

  • Cogmaster – replacing  Mana Wyrm, especially now that I’ve cut a lot of the cheap spells, like Portal and Arcane Intellect, as well as Sorcerer’s Apprentice
  • Echo of Medivh – you can often build a pretty crazy board very fast with Mechwarper. With Echoes and two Mechwarper on board, you could just play your entire hand again.
  • Piloted Sky Golem – additional late game, just as a big sticky body that happens to be a Mech. May just be better than Gazlowe and Toshley
  • Fel Reaver – or maybe you go really big really fast and try to avoid the late game. Can ramp it out with Mechwarper, and it can close things out fast. Dangerous, though.
  • Enhance-o-Mechano – can make some of the big boards you build up a lot more threatening
  • Jeeves – This doesn’t fit as well as in the Shaman list, I think, because there are a lot more expensive cards, but it’s worth a shot
  • Undertaker – It’s possible this should be a hybid Mech/death rattle deck much like Hunters are generally death rattle/Beasts. Lots of both are already there.

And a whole lot more.

 

I’ve been having a blast with GvG, and I’m going to keep building and tuning these decks, among others. I’m going to be sharing that process with you all not only here at BMKGaming, but also on my stream, which is now happening daily! I plan on going live every weekday morning by around 10 AM PST at twitch.tv/bmkibler. Don’t miss it!

 

PS – bonus screenshot of a game that I was playing with my latest version of the deck this morning. Mechwarper is a totally fair card, right?

mechmageturn3

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