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.
My current necrotic mage decklist:
Zubirn’s Blood/Sapphire Necrotic Mage (Level 8)
Crown of the Ancient Kings (Ancestors’ Chosen)
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.
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).
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.
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.
Kroan, who encouraged me to write up this list has the following elf mage:
Kroan’s Ruby/Wild Elf Mage (Level 6)
3x Howling Brave
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.
Finally, turning to Dwarves, CoachFliperon takes on the popular Slaughtergear archetype to crush every encounter:
CoachFliperon’s Dwarf Mage (level 9)
2x Synn, Etherdrake Nomad
Slaughtergear’s Crossbow (Slaughtergear’s Reaver)
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?