The Grand Final: Tom vs. Chris
Chris: The thing about mages is that you know exactly what they're going to do. Build a big wall of creeps? Flamestrike. Buff up a single minion? Polymorph. I play as my paladin to throw Tom off and get off to a good start. Tom wipes most of my minions with a Flamestrike but a Stormwind Champion survives. I heal him, place taunts around him, and go to work. No more boardclearing spells are forthcoming, giving me a clear run into game two.
Tom: My simple mage tactics have served me well, but the paladin is terrifying. Chris wins a few minion exchanges and soon has a daunting row of minions. Most are cheap and unthreatening alone, but together form a menacing mob. Mages counter this with Flamestrike, which deals a flat four damage to every enemy minion on the board. But I can't dislodge Chris' more powerful minions. Defeated!
Chris: I switch to my shaman. The early game goes well, although my momentum is slightly off—I use my first overcharged card earlier than I'd like, slowing my mana progression. Then Tom gets his second Flamestrike followed by a couple of Stormwind Champions and I'm unable to rebuild my minion line. Suddenly I'm left with a poxy gnome and a 1/1 totem. I play Elite Tauren Chieftain in desperation, but with no taunt cards I'm in trouble.
Tom: They call me Tommy Two-Taunt for a reason. Mirror Image gives me a nice early barrier, and my Raid Leader gives them one attack each. Not for long, as a Lightning Storm turns them to dust. I'm outraged before I remember that Lightning Storm is the sort of thing mages do to other players all the time . I rebuild my forces and get ahead in the minion exchange with the help of another Flamestrike. Stormwind Champion gives other minions an extra attack and defence point. Two Stormwind Champions buffing each other can be a scary thing, and they give me the raw damage to finish Chris off, but not before he plays Elite Tauren Chieftain. A rock-and-roll way to die.
Chris: I switch back to my paladin for game three, and it starts well. I use Blessing of Kings and Blessing of Might on a Raid Leader and bellow “Behold the Mega-Orc!” for effect. The Mega-Orc is enough to get Tom to half health. I have Deathwing in my hand, a ten-mana legendary that will let me wipe the board of minions if it comes to it. I'm feeling comfortable, so I use the Mega-Orc on Tom again instead of destroying his beefy Frostwolf Warlord. Immediately I know that I've lost the tournament. Remember that thing I said about mages? You always know what they're going to do: screw you with spells.
Tom: I'm struggling to handle the paladin again. A middling Orc is magically transformed from minion to boss monster and slams my mage into the red. I kill it eventually, and we swap a few powerful minions. I somehow manage to get a Frostwolf Warrior and a minion-buffing Raid Leader into active play to start dealing some regular damage. We enter the final phase of the fight closely matched. Just when I think I've lost, there's a ray of light—a ray shaped like a six-damage Fireball. I keep it in my hand for emergencies, and it gives me a vital damage boost. One more turn, and I'd have been crisped by a dragon.
Chris's final words: I realised that my deck just isn't built to deal with mages. As much as I hate the way spells change the tone of the game, I can't argue with the result. Tom won because he had power when it counted.
Tom's final words: Good players will try to coax a mage's powerful direct damage cards early, which adds an interesting element of brinkmanship to cards like Flamestrike. As a mage, you have to be comfortable snatching victory from the red. It's a dramatic way to win, but for the other player, a painful way to lose.