Hearthstone is a game that's meant to be played for fun. In this series, we try to make the game fun for everyone by spotlighting and breaking down decks that are maybe memes but definitely fun. Most importantly, these are decks that just about everyone can put together and play while saving their dust.
This is Budget Deck Breakdown, and this week we're featuring Sand Witch Elemental Mage.
Ice Cream Sand Witches
Tempo Elemental Mage has technically been a deck you could play since the Elemental tribe was added to the game in Journey to Un'Goro. Generally, it has had enough tools to be good but not great and was continually overshadowed by more powerful Mage decks. The closest the Elemental package got to prime time was with Frost Lich Jaina, and only then as part of a slow Control strategy. Blizzard keeps printing Elementals and Elemental payoffs for Mage, but a Tempo Elemental deck has never truly had its time in the limelight; Until now. If, by "limelight" you mean, "as part of an online article series about budget decks."
There are some very efficient tools for building a solid Elementals deck in Standard, especially if you're committed to playing on a budget. The main issue right now with Elementals is the cavernous gap between a solid first few turns of good minions and powerful late-game finishers like Grand Finale. For this deck, we've looked to obliterate that gap by utilizing Naga Sand Witch's Battlecry to reduce the cost of those expensive spells and get them into play much earlier.
I wasn't expecting much when I first started testing the deck, but I've been impressed by what Naga Sand Witch allows this deck to do. It's sometimes easy to underestimate the power level of cards that sit at lower rarities where you might not expect to find game-winning synergies. Despite its humble origins, Naga Sand Witch has a lot of power and goes a long way towards making Tempo Elementals a thing. If, by "a thing" you mean, "a budget deck that is fun to play."
The key card in this deck is Naga Sand Witch. I've built the deck specifically to pop off from her Battlecry. Everything we want to do involves drawing big spells, then playing Naga Sand Witch and overwhelming our opponents. Elemental Allies accomplishes our first goal with flair. We don't run traditionally useful cheap spells like Magic Trick or Ray of Frost for that exact reason. We want Elemental Allies to draw as many big spells as possible. This is the main strategy of the deck.
Now let's talk about the spells we want to discount. How did I pick these cards? It's pretty simple: These are the most expensive spells that Mage has at Rare and Common. However, don't underestimate them. Deep Freeze is very powerful (especially when you reduce the cost to 5), and a fully operational Grand Finale forces your opponent to have an answer or you win. If you gain any sort of board advantage before slamming one of them, your opponent is going to have a very difficult time getting back into the game. Mask of C'Thun is also here.
I also want to briefly give a shoutout to Water Elemental, an unassuming 4 Cost 3/6 that is a must-answer for decks whose strategy revolves around weapons and swinging with them. It does an incredible job of slowing those decks down (if only sometimes for a turn) while we slowly take over the board. Often if they can't answer it they just lose (but let's face it, they usually have an answer for it). It's not a true silver bullet for those decks, but it does make their lives difficult just long enough to give us an advantage.
Mulligan and Gameplay Tips
You're gonna want to mulligan for your cheap Elementals, specifically Confection Cyclone, and Elemental Allies. If you have the Quest and feel confident that you can complete it by turn 5, it's a good idea to search for Naga Sand Witch as well, because completing the Quest will give you at least two big spells (if not the full three) to discount with an on-curve Sand Witch.
Against aggressive decks, you likely want to look to keep Lab Partner for a body to get in the way of their march to your face. Quicksand Elemental is a great, cheap way to let your minions value trade with your opponent's board, and pairs extremely well with Animated Broomstick in the mulligan. Gyreworm is a super-efficient 3-drop that you should keep if you have an Elemental to play on turn 2.
Against slower decks, you want to find Elemental Allies and Naga Sand Witch; Starscryer is also a fine keep in that matchup.
This deck mostly likes to play a very tempo-focused game, getting the most out of our mana each turn. The only times we take a break from that is when setting up an Elemental Allies or play Naga Sand Witch. Otherwise, it's all about contesting the board while waiting to create a huge swing with a discounted spell. To that end, the minions in this deck are either tempo-efficient Elementals or efficiently aggressive minions. Animated Broomstick is great at helping to win back the board, Frozen Shadoweaver helps slow down their biggest threat, and Wand Thief can find more big spells or whatever the situation might call for.
Card Replacements for the Rich and Famous
If you're looking to de-budget the deck, adding two copies of Power of Creation is a great place to start. I would remove the Mask of C'Thun and either a Living Dragonbreath or Frozen Shadoweaver. And of course, I never say no to a Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron if you're feeling particularly spicy. If the meta is slower and you need more late-game threats, you can cut the copies of Lab Partner for Animated Avalanche.
Additionally, there are a few budget options for changing the deck. If you're facing more aggro, you can cut Starscryer and Mask of C'Thun for Frostbolt or Ray of Frost for more early game interaction. This will come at the cost of Elemental Allies less reliably drawing your big spells. If you feel you need more Elementals in your early game, replacing Starscryer and Mask of C'Thun for two copies of Arcane Servant is probably the best you can do.
And that's the breakdown. The deck isn't perfect and it's probably too dependent on one or two cards, but it is stupidly fun to play when it's working. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of playing it as I did building it.
What do you think of this deck? Have you got any interesting budget decks of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments!