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Demystifying the PVE Mage

Much to my surprise, here I am, dear reader, writing a PVE article. As many of you may know, PVE is not my forte for Hex, as I am much more of a competitive PVP player. However, as with many of you, when PVE hit, I was right in the thick of the campaign playing through it. As Twitch streams, chat conversations, and team debates indicate, mage is one of the harder classes to play when compared to the options (and health totals) of cleric and warrior. This, however, should not worry you as this article will detail three strong mage builds you can use to grind PVE content. For newer players, the decks listed here involve some pricey cards and this may not be the best guide for you; however, you can certainly substitute some of our choices we offer here.

Of note, my very first character was a “Hard-Cory Mode” necrotic mage named Zerorez. Necrotic lore dictates that the name of necrotic must be palindromes which, after going through hundreds of names in my team chat, seemed to be the best name for a hard-core character (of sorts). The character took me all the way to Wiktor; however, Wiktor got the best of me too many times and I opted to abandon the purist victory and go for a win.

To beat Wiktor, I patterned my deck on a very old, Set 1 meta archetype.

Back during alpha, I was working on a Blood/Diamond build for the next big tournament when a friend and future teammate, nononsense, showed me the power of Cerulean Mirror Knight right after it came into the client. His deck was excellent at gaining huge amounts of card advantage and, despite this new possible archetype, I went forward with my Blood/Diamond deck. The next day during the big tournament, I saw the Blood/Sapphire deck from Mantic (now a Hex QA tester) in the quarterfinals of the tournament; this was followed by infam0usne0 in the semifinals abusing the power of Cerulean Mirror Knight with cards like Eldritch Dreamer and Xentoth’s Inquisitor. Even with my suite of removal, they kept getting their troops back and their hands full. After that, Blood/Sapphire saw some life in the Set 2 meta, as Deckofmanythings was able to take down a tournament with a new version of the deck. In set 3, the power of Reese and Phenteo (who are, apparently, BFFs) also came as a contender in the first few months of the meta. The power of Blood/Sapphire has stuck with me and I figured this could be a weakness of Wiktor; all I had to do was fill my deck with solid Blood/Sapphire troops and I could withstand his punishment.

Necrotic Mage

My current necrotic mage decklist:

Zubirn’s Blood/Sapphire Necrotic Mage (Level 8)

Champion: Zerorez

Troops (25)

2x Adaptatron
2x Angel of Foresight
2x Xentoth’s Inquisitor (Brutality)
2x Darad, the Scourgeblade
1x Leeching Burrower
2x Corrupt Harvester
1x Vampire King
2x Cerulean Mirror Knight
2x Eldritch Dreamer (Mind)
2x Ancestors’ Chosen
2x Storm Cloud
1x Monsuun, Shogun of Winda’jin
1x Reese the Crustcrawler
2x Vampire Princess
1x Phenteo the Brood Lord

Actions  (10)

3x Arcane Focus
2x Kill
2x Morphology
2x Extinction
1x Mastery of Time

Artifacts/Constants (1)

1x Zombie Plague

Resources (24)

10x Blood Shard
10x Sapphire Shard
4x Shard of Cunning

Equipment

Crown of the Ancient Kings (Ancestors’ Chosen)
Wisdom’s Band (Angel of Foresight)
Cog of the Machine (Adaptatron)
Mighty Morphing Glove (Morphology)
Bloodworm Boots (Leeching Burrower)
Mim’s Staff (Angel of Foresight)

Due to the nature of PVE, building a consistent deck is difficult, leaving you two choices: build a deck with several substitutes (cards that fulfill the same function like in a Ruby/Wild elf warrior ramp build) or accept the variance, but have that variance contain lots of threats. In this case, the deck excels in card draw with Morphology (with equipment, this card is amazingly good and should probably be in most of your Sapphire decks at this point), Angel of Foresight, Cerulean Mirror Knight (can combo well with Xentoth’s Inquisitor), Storm Cloud (combos really well with CMK and Mon’suun), Eldritch Dreamer, and your champion power. The deck has quite a bit of needed lifedrain with Leeching Burrower, Corrupt Harvester, Vampire King, Vampire Princess, and Adaptatron. The deck offers control with Xentoth’s Inquisitor, the vampires (hand control), Phenteo, Extinction, Kill, and Zombie Plague. The deck is packing win conditions depending on what your opening draws look like and how the game evolves: an early Ancestors’ Chosen or Phenteo can set you up for a mid-game win, the evasive vampires, harvester, or dreamer can punch through damage, Reese can spawn an army of robots to get you the win, Adaptatron becomes a 9/9 beast with swiftstrike, steadfast, skyguard, and lifedrain that most AI cannot deal with, and Angel of Foresight combos very rapidly to make you an army of angels on the board and puts all of your best actions into your hand. Of note, Angel of Foresight can and will hit the actions Wiktor puts into your deck.

This deck is modular based on what you have in your collection or in your budget as well. Blood Auras were in the original version of this deck before I found the Adaptatron equipment. Zombie Plague and Phenteo are less good late game and could probably exit the deck. Instead of Morphology, CoachFliperon suggests adding Dream Eagles to the deck with their equipment (both cards use gloves). Doing this, Dream Eagle becomes one of the best draw cards in the game (you can discard the card to pick a card from the top four cards of your deck). Since there is quite a bit of variance with the legendaries, you can likely move some of these around as well. Leeching Burrower is a solid two drop, but is much less powerful as a singleton in your deck.

Another solid option for Eldritch Dreamer is to gem him with the Major Blood Orb of Cruelty to return troops in your crypt into your hand. If you are having issues with your powerful troops dying, or want to really beat the first encounter with Wiktor, this gem will make sure your pumped troops keep coming back to play.

In terms of equipment, you have a few options. I chose the Crown for the Chosen, as I want to increase my chances of getting 2/2 fliers on the board as soon as possible. However, the Inquisitor helm could be acceptable as another source of lifedrain (for your Xentoth’s). The helm for Adaptatron is an option as well, but seems inferior to the other two choices. If you choose to have Blood Auras in the deck, you can sub out the Adaptatron chestpiece (I would not, but it is an option) for the Dara chestpiece to make his death a scarier prospect for the AI. If you are playing Angel of Foresight, then the rest of the equipment seems pretty straightforward. The boots are a choice between two different legendaries, and I think speed on the Burrower is better than retunneling Monsuun for 6 from play.

For talents, at level 8, I take:

Spell Sprites (Chump blocker and deal with many x-1s)
Learning (Sometimes starting with up to 6 spellpower gives you an additional use of telekinesis which can be pivotal in tough fights)
Telekinesis (Bounce opposing threats, save your own)
Spry (Mages need health and it unlocks two things we care about)
Secret Knowledge (This talent is amazingly powerful in most fights, but even more important in ones with early threats. A t2 Vampire King can happen. Being able to Kill or Morphology the Spitfire elemental on turn 1 against Wiktor is pretty powerful!)

At level 9, we will take Self Knowledge to increase our starting draw.

The only real tough fight I have in Devonshire is the Mindpyre encounter. We have several 4 drops that it can target, but usually our lifedrain and ability to discard cards can carry us through. Just be careful with that Xentoth’s Inquisitor, as your cards do not lose the damage text when they enter play. Additionally, any cards that have lifedrain in your hand will not result in life loss, as the damage from Mindpyre Wraith counts as damage dealt by the card and is instantly healed. I had a Vampire King with three instances of “At the end of your turn, if this is in your hand, it deals 2 damage to you” while I was at one health. While I still took the damage, it was never considered fatal damage.

I don't mind your pyre

Also, I always take the left path after the initial encounter to unlock the Power of Sapphire. The fights are trivial for this deck, award some gold/xp and gaining efficient draw and charges seems worth it (as well as another Angel of Foresight target).

go away rotmutt

For the second fork in Devonshire, after the fight in the vestibule, I tend to go right towards the kitchen as it has one fewer fight, and the spores tend to be trivial to beat (if you attack, they will block and we have lots of removal if we need to use it). You can also Kill or Morphology a single zombie in response to the Spore Shambler’s power. If you are purely grinding, going right will turn Devonshire into a 5-fight encounter.

no charge power for you

The deck is also fun to grind with, as your win condition can vary from fight to fight (unlike Ruby/Wild ramp). Sometimes Adaptatron carries the day, sometimes you get an army of Angels, and other times you evasively lifedrain to victory.

If Blood/Sapphire is not your cup of tea, I have two other mages that can carry the day, thanks to the lists provided by my teammates.

Elf Mage

Kroan, who encouraged me to write up this list has the following elf mage:

Kroan’s Ruby/Wild Elf Mage (Level 6)

Champion: Siluria

Troops (23)

3x Howling Brave
3x Ashwood Soloist
2x Lightning Elemental
1x Nerissa
3x Lithe Lyricist
2x Prospero, Sylvan Enchanter
2x Wrathwood Master Moss
2x Jadiim
2x Eternal Sage
2x Arborean Rootfather (Ferocity/Empowerment)
1x Inferno Goliath

Actions  (13)

3x Burn
2x Chlorophylia
3x Crackling Bolt
3x Stirring Oration
2x Titania’s Majesty

Resources (24)

8x Ruby Shard
9x Wild Shard
4x Shard of Savagery
3x Feralroot Acorn

Equipment

Wooden Bident (Nerissa)
Conflagration Handguards (Burn)
Soloist Suit (Ashwood Soloist)
Gardener’s Hat (Chlorophylia)
Poor Yorick (Stirring Oration)
Enchanter’s Footwraps (Prospero, Sylvan Enchanter).

This deck follows the Ruby/Wild ramp build, though it does not run Eye of Creation and favors the power that is Stirring Oration. Of note, your champion is an elf and is sufficient to proc the chance that it will come back to your hand. This mage deck can carry you through Devonshire with ease.

In my Ruby/Wild builds, I really like the power of Scourgecrag Witch in accelerating my early game and stealing resources from my opponent. Running her also makes Eye of Creation a very powerful card; though, she can be hard to find as she is a rare from Set 1 chests and is commanding a 500p price at the moment. I tend to also run two copies of Eternal Guardian to lock up some games that might be otherwise difficult (such as Army of Myth, level 6 or a few Devonshire fights) and enjoy the powerhouse that is Synn, Etherdrake Nomad.

Dwarf Mage

Finally, turning to Dwarves, CoachFliperon takes on the popular Slaughtergear archetype to crush every encounter:

CoachFliperon’s Dwarf Mage (level 9)

Champion: Slaughterer

Troops (24)

2x Synn, Etherdrake Nomad
2x Slaughtergear’s Replicator
3x Dream Eagle
2x Slaughtergear’s Guardians
2x Eternal Sage
3x Slaughtergear’s Reaver
2x Technical Genius
2x Glendower
3x Adaptatron
3x Gearsmith

Actions  (12)

3x Crackling Bolt
2x Heat Wave
2x Morphology
2x Fuel for the Fire
3x Arcane Focus

Resources (24)

8x Ruby Shard
8x Sapphire Shard
4x Shard of Innovation
4x Crackling Vortex

Equpiment

Slaughtergear’s Crossbow (Slaughtergear’s Reaver)
Reaver Ringmail (Slaughtergear’s Reaver)
Slaughtergear’s Advanced Technology (Slaughtergear’s Replicator)
Grounding Boots (Glendower)
Adaptive Helm (Adaptatron)
Eagle Feathered Gloves (Dream Eagle)

CoachFliperon harnesses the power that some of us have tried in arena for the pure brutality that is Slaughtergear. If you have seen the high prices of Slaughtergear PVE cards, this deck (and its stronger arena counterpart) are why. It can consistenly put out huge threats early on and take a game over on turns 4 and 5. My third character is a dwarf mage, and he is following this route, as it mimics my favorite arena deck and may be one of the fastest decks for grinding PVE content. Also, remember, you can’t spell Slaughtergear without laughter.

There are five more races out there with mage classes. What is your favorite mage deck and build?

for the win

Michael Allen is a competitive HexTCG player, co-host of the 2 Turns Ahead podcast, and founder and moderator of the Hex Subreddit.

2 Comments on Demystifying the PVE Mage

  1. I’ve played coyotle mage through the campaign and I have a hard time playing anything else since I like this type of character/deck so much 🙂

    Playing 3-shard (and with double threshold on both wild and sapphire) with Coyotle Mage is rarely a problem between a starting hand of 8 cards (with talent), Howling Plains Bluegrass and Soothsaying/Arcane Focus to fish for more shards when needed. The deck plays very consistently and you rarely need to redraw.

    I’m sticking to just coyotle troops and keeping prophecies as a focus, but also playing pretty heavily on removal from diamond since it just increases its power so much.

    Windsinger is amazing in general, but with its equipment it’s even more so (although it’s often just a matter of “win more”).

    The low starting health is a bit of a problem. The life gaining cards are absolutely imperative to manage to stabilize in some fights, especially in Devonshire Keep.

    Having an extra talent point as Coyotle feels great for a Mage.

    The Coyotle spell (doing 0-3 damage to every non-coyotle, non-elemental) is a bit iffy though. As many others I loathe that sort of variance, but when it hits it can win games (just keep it as a last resort or when the other spells really won’t do much either).

    I think the deck can be varied a lot for taste and encounters, but here’s an example. The core parts that I probably wouldn’t touch soon is Windsinger, Prophet and Sight of the Sun, Arcane Focus, Chlorophyllia (with equipment) and Purge. Other than those most stuff can be replaced.

    Coyotle Mage
    ————

    Gardener’s Hat: Your Chlorophyllias have, “cost -1”
    Huntsman’s Grips: Each of your cards named Windsinger, Master of the Hunt have, “When you draw a card, that card becomes quick.”
    Scepter of Nightmares: Your Inner Conflicts have, “Target troop gets “At the start of your turn, there is a 50% chance that this battles a random troop you control.”
    Amulet of the Sun: Each of your cards named, Sight of the Sun have, “When you play a Coyotle for the first time each turn, ready Sight of the Sun.”
    (Prophetical Pipe: Your Prophet of the Suns have, “Coyotle you control have Crush and Lifedrain.”)
    Shoes of Divine Foresight: Your Zodiac Divinations have, “Drawn actions get “Draw a card. That card gets cost -1.”

    24 shards:
    ———-
    4x Howling Plains Bluegrass
    2x Shard of Purpose
    2x Shard of Instinct
    2x Shard of Life
    3x Diamond
    6x Sapphire
    5x Wild

    22 actions:
    ———–
    3x Arcane Focus
    3x Chlorophyllia
    3x Meek
    2x Repel
    3x Inner Conflict
    2x Countermagic
    2x Zodiac Divination
    2x Purge

    16 troops:
    ———-
    2x Brown Fox Scout
    2x Dreamsmoke Mystic
    2x Prophet of the Sun
    2x Sight of the Sun
    2x Indigo Dreamwalker
    2x Wakuna Crowfeather
    2x Lanupaw, Prophet of Fate
    2x Windsinger

  2. 1 small comment.

    Are you certain that the Stirring Oration will proc its return to hand effect if your champion is an elf? I had assumed that was how it worked since my elf warrior had seen it proc without troops in play. But the latest patch notes state: “Stirring Oration modified by Poor Yorick will no longer return to hand if the player controls no elves”. Since the patch my elf warrior has never had a proc without having elf troops in play. Could be coincidence, but probably not.

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