This edition of Creative Questing is a spur of the moment kind of thing and owes its existence to a single, unassuming Hearthstone card.
Yesterday I constructed a Mage deck inspired by last weekend’s Tavern Brawl and its ridiculous numbers of Unstable Portals. I’ve been a fan of the Unstable Portal since its introduction and so the time had clearly arrived to construct a diverse and Ladder-viable deck around the unpredictability it promotes. Here’s the card list as it currently stands:
The key elements of this very cleverly named RandoMage deck are:
2 x Unstable Portal (2 cost, add a random discounted minion to your hand)
2 x Jeweled Scarab (2 cost minion, choose a 3 cost card from random selection of three to add to your hand)
1 x Effigy (3 cost secret, when a friendly minion dies a random replacement of the same cost is summoned)
2 x Piloted Shredder (4 cost minion, replaced with a random 3 cost minion when destroyed)
2 x Tomb Spider (4 cost minion, choose a beast from a random selection of three to add to your hand)
2 x Ethereal Conjurer (5 cost minion, choose a spell from a random selection of three to add to your hand)
1 x Summoning Stone (5 cost minion, summon a random minion of the same cost as any spell you cast)
1 x Grand Crusader (6 cost minion, add a random Paladin class card to your hand)
1 x Sneed’s Old Shredder (8 cost minion, summon a random legendary minion when destroyed)
As almost half of the cards in this deck generate an additional randomly selected minion or spell, each game unfolds organically with its own variation of the core play style. Another pleasing side effect of an expanding deck is that in at least half a dozen marathon, ‘war of attrition’ matches against deep Druid and Priest decks I’m yet to hit the bottom of the barrel and start taking fatigue damage.
But enough with the mechanical details. Story time!
Coming straight off a loss against a seemingly identical control Priest, the epic battle that I’m about to recount was one of the most dramatic games I can recall. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be a post-match summary function when playing Hearthstone on Android so I can’t give a blow by blow recount, but the action basically played out in three stanzas.
Mulligan provides me with a decent hand including a Jeweled Scarab and Unstable Portal. My opponent runs the usual heal-and-draw Priest early game, constantly bobbing back to full health as mine gradually sinks to sub-20. An inauspicious start to say the least and feeling eerily similar to the previous match 10 minutes earlier.
The wrestle heats up as they Entomb, Shadow Word and take control of my more aggressive minion plays.
My opponent summons a gold Trade Prince Gallywix created by a Sneed’s Old Shredder they nabbed with Thoughtsteal, temporarily putting the clamps on my spell casting ways. With nothing on the board strong enough to clear it immediately I’m forced to play – and thereby hand them a copy of – Vaporize in order to stop Gallywix running amok and buy some time.
Defeat looms all the nearer as my health is shaved to 1 and my only Ice Block triggers. Here, however, the random generation aspect of this deck procs in my favour. Prior to taking what would have been the winning hit, the HP altering dragon Alexstrasza had appeared in my hand courtesy of Unstable Portal. Wow – talk about timing! The following turn’s restoration to 15 health means that my opponent’s HP was now ‘only’ double mine and the subdued flames of competition flicker once more. Alexstrasza also provides the physical presence necessary to rid the board of that pesky Trade Prince.
Things continue to look dire as the Priest Mind Controls (surprise, surprise) the second of my duplicated Sneed’s Old Shredders, and some intricate minion maneuvering is required to keep the match alive. Once more I find myself on a single point of health, reprieved by a second Vaporize helpfully offered up by an Ethereal Conjurer. The Priest is unable to land another hit and my Archmage Antonidas winds up on the back of my remaining Unstable Portal. This is the moment you can see captured in the header image: 18 attack on the board and a regenerating Fireball in hand having rapidly cut the Priest’s health to single digits. It was still anybody’s game, but luckily for me this opponent couldn’t find another point of spell damage with which to finish me off. After a good ten minutes of utter dominance their demise was astonishingly quick.
I’ve stated before in relation to my SpectralPaladin deck that climbing the ladder is no longer my top priority. Developing creatively themed (hence their inclusion in this Creative Questing series of articles) decks that achieve success where they possibly shouldn’t is much more entertaining. This week’s RandoMage experiment has proven once again that being willing to lose a few games for the sake of drama like this is a much more rewarding way to get the most fun out of the limited Hearthstone time I have available. I can’t wait to see how this promising deck develops as it is played over weeks rather than days, and would value any refinement suggestions from more dedicated deck builders than me as to how it could become more competitive whilst retaining the big random streak!
UPDATE 21/4: Since publishing this article I’ve found that the card list shown above often lacks tempo and can struggle to sustain early game pressure without an extremely lucky Portal pickup. My solution has been to drop an Ethereal Arcanist and Ethereal Conjurer in favour of a pair of Knife Jugglers. Their random damage antics align with the deck’s theme and at 3/2 for 2 mana represent good value in any early game situation (at least until the scheduled nerf down to 2 attack takes effect).