Exodia Mage: From Rags To Riches
Welcome to our first look at the evolution of the Exodia Mage archetype. This particular archetype had humble beginnings with players praying for their opponent to kill their Emperor Thaurissan while Duplicate was in effect, so they could continue to discount their hand with extra copies, while fervently fighting to remain alive. The deck never showed any real promise and the combo was quite hard to pull off. However, all that would change with one fateful expansion that harbored enough power to propel the archetype into the spotlight in both the Wild and Standard formats.
The expansion in question was that of Un’goro, that saw fit not only to bless us with the wonderful minion that was Ultrasaur (let it never be stated that he was a pack-filler) but also brought about two devastatingly strong cards, namely Open the Waygate and Molten Reflection.
The first of the the two cards promoted a great array of TTK (Two Turn K.O.) decks that ranged from using Alexstrasza and a jolly assortment of Giants to using the extra turn to OTK your opponent using [Mimiron’s Head]. It was the latter however, that ensured that the Exodia Infinite damage archetype, which was only able to be achieved through painstakingly long and arduous gameplay in wild, would be readily attainable to anyone who had the patience to master the intricacies of the deck. Yet, the support for the archetype would not end there.
As Un’goro came and went and our beloved dinosaurs perished to the ice age brought about by the Death Knights, the Lich King himself saw fit to bestow the archetype with one more gift: Simulacrum. The aforementioned card although not extremely crucial to the archetype is often included to make the deck far more consistent and allow it to flow naturally and much quicker. The tale of this deck does not end here. Interestingly enough, should one look past the most played format; Standard and head into the depths of Wild, there is a decently heavy divide between competitive players concerning what the most optimum version of Exodia Mage truly is. The arguments are as follows:
The Big Debate
Emperor vs Open the Waygate
The people who favor the quest, Open the Waygate, argue for its superiority over the Emperor Thaurissan version with the following reasons:
1) Less vulnerable to Dirty Rat as the deck runs additional minions like Babbling Book.
2) Has a good chance of discovering additional answers through the random card generation aspect by virtue of Babbling Book, Cabalist's Tome & Primordial Glyph.
3) Does Not require a one turn setup.
Conversely those that favor Thaurissan, argue for his superiority over the Open the Waygate version with the following reasons:
1) The deck does not depend on Random Card Generation to win. It works much like the old freezemage lists in so far as you need to dig through your own deck.
2) You can custom build your deck around the meta i.e. include more anti-aggro options if there is such a prevalence.
3) There are less prerequisites to fulfill with the Emperor Thaurissan version as opposed to the Open the Waygate build-around. Essentially: Draw the Combo Pieces and Thaurissan + Play Thaurissan as opposed to Generate Random Spells + Complete Quest by Playing Random Spells + Draw the Combo Pieces.
I am more inclined to favor the non-quest version of the deck due to the lack of the random element. Not only is less RNG healthier for the game in so far as it actually allows your opponent and you to follow a set strategy but it also promotes the skill-aspect of Hearthstone.
The Story Continues
Normally, this is where our story would end. However, there is more yet to come since for the third expansion in a row, Blizzard has released a card that although may not do much for the wild version of Exodia Mage is sure to shake up the Standard version quite a bit. Invenglobal revealed a card from the Kobolds & Catacombs, Leyline Manipulator. This essentially means that people are free to ignore the quest and the random element associated with it and instead run two Simulacrum which in turn will be used to copy the Sorcerer’s Apprentices in their hand that will subsequently have their cost reduced to zero (0) mana. It is thusly very possible to create an entirely new archetype with an alternate exodia win condition. It looks to be actually quite frightening should one actually be able to pull it off. Whatever the case may be it is deeply fascinating that an archetype that was wholly considered to be a meme a few expansions ago has experienced a surge in viability. So much so that it seems people have forgotten about its predecessor, the mighty Freeze Mage.
Now, even when taking all this into consideration if you are a F2P player and invested your dust into crafting the aforementioned quest, then don’t you fear as it will always be useful. Not only will it allow you to create realistic as well as wacky OTKs but it will also survive as one of the best tech cards to break through ice block due to the fact that you can complete it simply through the fireball spam generated by your Archmage Antonidas during your miracle term.
On a final note, there is no need to panic just yet as the meta has never failed to surprise us time and time again. It may be the case that the meta is once again too fast for Exodia Mage or another combo deck might be faster in assembling its combo pieces. Only time will tell and one can only fathom what further wonders the Catacombs will have in store for us.