Matchup Analysis: Tempo Mage

Hey all! It’s me, Fireflyer, and I’m here to help you out with your Tempo Mage matchups. This deck is currently in the Top 3 for decks that people are using to climb to Legend with and can be “fun” depending on how much you enjoy . It’s a control-heavy deck that curves out really well with […]

Hey all! It’s me, Fireflyer, and I’m here to help you out with your Tempo Mage matchups. This deck is currently in the Top 3 for decks that people are using to climb to Legend with and can be “fun” depending on how much you enjoy Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End. It’s a control-heavy deck that curves out really well with early minions and finishes your opponent off with Fireballs and Frostbolts. As of the beginning of my data collection I’m currently sitting at Rank 8 and facing a lot of the same type of “top tier” decks so if you’re having trouble piloting this deck to Legend, check out the various class sections below and see if I have any helpful advice on how to battle some of the deck archetypes that are in your way.

Decklist: Typical Tempo Mage

If you look to the right you will see the most common decklist being run right now for Tempo Mage. Almost every card is vital and you only have a small amount of room to tinker it to your own version.

Here are my changes:

-1 Arcane Explosion, -1 Firelands Portal

+1 Flamestrike, +1 Forbidden Flame

Arcane Explosion might be better than Flamestrike, I haven’t tested it yet but it seems that it handles Zoo and Shaman much better than Flamestrike does. However, the reason I haven’t taken Flamestrike out yet is because it has worked for me. Flamestrike has saved me in situations where I need to stabilize since this deck has no way of gaining life or armor and coming back from low HP.

Forbidden Flame has been an MVP for me as well. An older version of this deck was running a single Mirror Image and I wasn’t a fan of the card so I replaced it with Forbidden Flame. The reason I use this card is because it works really well with all the Spell Damage and of course with Flamewaker. Spell Damage allows you to cast this for 0 mana and still deal 1 (or more) damage while also activating Flamewaker. I put this in as a test and it has helped me out in tons of matches. Also it’s great for removing a minion later on in the game when you have a fireball but don’t want to waste it. The same could be said for Firelands Portal so if you like that card better by all means, play it, but this card works great if you’re a fan of abusing Flamewaker.

Everything else in the deck is pretty much set in stone. The Spell Damage cards like Azure Drake and Bloodmage Thalnos help activate Arcane Blast. Babbling Book and Cabalist’s Tome are good for refilling your hand with random spells that can throw your opponent off, especially secrets. Honestly the only thing you should consider taking out and replacing are the Arcane Explosion and the Firelands Portal. I see people using Mirror Image and a few other cards that fit their playstyle so if you feel like you need to put something in, those cards are the ones you should cut first.

Mage: Mirror Match

Mage mirror matches will almost always be Tempo Mage. Tempo Mage is currently the best Mage deck followed by Freeze Mage and very rarely, a Reno Mage deck. Apparently I went 1-3 against Mages, all Tempo.

The first part of a match is always trying to determine your opponent’s deck.

Tempo: Tempo will be easy to spot by the use of Mana Wyrm and Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The problem with fighting another Tempo deck is that it will all come down to whoever has the best cards in hand. Whoever can curve out early with a Mana Wyrm will usually end up getting more damage in so make sure you’re using your mulligan to try and get them out. If you see them dropping their 3/2 minions, set up for a Flamewaker with the understanding that it will probably die next turn. Go ahead and throw Fireballs early if you have the spare mana and nothing else to do, since you probably won’t need them to control any minions and you need to get your opponent down quickly.

Freeze: This deck is going to use a lot of direct damage spells like Forgotten Torch and Ice Lance that aren’t in Tempo. It also uses a lot of control cards like Doomsayer and Loot Hoarder so if you see those cards, know that you are up against a Freeze mage. Their finisher involves either dealing damage directly to finish you off, or casting Alexstrasza to put you to 15 and then finishing you the next turn. They will start off slow, so try to tempo out quickly and finish them before they can burn you to death.

Reno: These are rare but worth mentioning for one reason. If you see ANY odd cards in the deck, like a random Huge Toad or something, then you know it’s probably a Reno Jackson deck that had to fill itself out with random cards. The problem with this deck is that it will be completely random to fight. They will have a variety of 30 different cards and some of those cards can be random secrets to throw you off. All you have to remember once you figure out it’s a Reno Jackson deck is that at any moment he can put them back to 30 life. Time your finish properly, put them around 15 life and see if you can take them down before they can Reno.

Druid: Token Control

Right now the only real druid decks are Malygos Druid and Token Druid. The thing you have to worry about is that Malygos Druid is currently #1 in the format. Both decks have great ways to control the board while also dropping a huge field for themselves using things like Living Roots and Violet Teacher. There are subtle differences between the two decks but for the most part they share a lot of the same core cards. I was 2-2 against druids and even though I didn’t see a Malygos I’m sure one or two of them were that deck.

Malygos: As the #1 deck right now, this will probably be your toughest matchup. Control the early game tokens of Living Roots and Power of the Wild and make sure if you see Fandral Staghelm you remove him immediately. The deck does a good job of controlling early and dropping Arcane Golems late in the game as well as Yogg-Saron, hope’s end. Control their early tokens, and try to curve out and finish them off before they can get their Gadgetzan Auctioneer draw engine into their Malygos/Moonfire combo.

Token: Token druid is pretty much the same as Malygos druid except for a few small differences. One thing is that you’re going to run into Ancient of War and Moonglade Portal. Be prepared for them to heal and possibly even have Feral Rage which can really put a wall between you and their life.

Shaman: It’s Aggro

Whether you’re fighting against Aggro or Midrange Shaman, both versions are very aggressive. Midrange has better ways of stabilizing if you can clear their field but they are also much slower and will fall prey to your tempo. Just remember, both versions are aggressive and will start off with the same first few turns of Tunnel Trogg, Totem Golem and Tuskarr Totemic. Control their minions, set up for some heavy area removal with either Flamewaker or a well placed Flamestrike and you will be fine. I’m currently 6-1 against Shamans with Tempo Mage.

Aggro: Aggro is going to come at you hard. Try not to rely on your minions to take care of theirs as they’ll be removed with Argent Squires and Lightning Bolts. Try to use more of your spells early like a Frostbolt to take out a Totem Golem and set up for your Flamestrike. This is why I have Flamestrike in the deck, it won me probably three of my Shaman matches just by obliterating their board and leaving them with nothing to come back with. Make sure you’re removing their Spell Damage especially the totem because Spirit Claws will wreak havoc on you.

Midrange: I only faced one Midrange shaman and I was able to handle all of his minions with a Flamestrike from a Babbling Book. The main thing against Midrange is to be careful of leaving their totems out. Thunder Bluff Valiant will sneak up on you and hurt if he is able to pump up his totems. The only thing is it will be hard to identify a Midrange shaman since the decklists are very similar but keep an eye out for Azure Drakes.

Warrior: But What Kind?

There are SO many warrior decks right now but about 90% of my warrior matchups were against Dragon Warrior. It’s the strongest of the Warrior decks so you’ll see it the most, with the mix of C’thun Warrior and Control Warrior as well.

Control: This is a hard matchup because there’s not much you can do. Get your tempo going, use Frostbolt to keep your opponent from using Fiery War Axe on your early minions and when you run out of tempo, start saving up for maybe Archmage Antonidas or hope you get lucky with Yogg-saron, hope’s end. Warrior control is one of the best control decks so you’re definitely going to have a hard time winning but just try to do your best and curve and maybe he won’t have all the answers he needs.

Dragon Warrior: Fiery War Axe is going to stop your tempo early but don’t let that bring you down. Go aggressive. Dragon Warrior doesn’t have the same armor gaining ability like control does so don’t think they will do that. My first few games against Dragon Warrior were more control and laid back but once I decided to try going aggressive I began winning all my matches. Using Frostbolt to stop your opponent from being able to use their weapons is pretty nice. Drop your 3/2s early, go face, and finish them off with spells. They won’t be gaining enough armor to stop you from doing so.

Hunter: Please Not Call of the Wild

Hunter decks are mostly built on Tempo just like this mage deck is. They will try to curve out as quickly as you can and will have decent answers to your early game. The goal will always be to try and outtempo them and set up for a Flamewaker that will clear their board and give you a path to victory. Both of the competitive Hunter decks are midrange/tempo style decks so do your best to curve out and just control their field with your spells. One major thing to watch out for is Houndmaster. By removing their beasts on Turn 3 and Turn 4, you can effectively stop them from casting Houndmaster for a few turns until they can drop something big and pump it. The Deathrattle effects in Hunter are pretty annoying, like Savannah Highmane so if you’re lucky enough to get Polymorph from a Babbling Book or Cabalist’s Tome that card will save your ass. This is also another reason why I like having Flamestrike in my build. Against Call of the Wild, easily one of the best cards in the game right now, it’s pretty much your only answer.

Warlock: Stop Discarding

While Handlock/Control Warlock still may be a viable decklist, I did not see any during my time playing Tempo Mage. Almost all my matchups against Warlock were the new Discard Zoolock deck. I ended up getting a 50% winrate against Zoolock just because of how unpredictable the deck can be.

Discard Zoolock: The key to fighting this deck is stopping the early aggro. If you’re facing a lot of Zoolock I would advise making the switch to Arcane Explosion as it helps take care of those first few turns where Zoolock does the most damage. Your VIP will be Flamewaker. If you can control the field and manage to get one of them out and keep it alive, you should be fine. For removal all they really have is Soulfire so playing your Flamewaker early with one or two spells should be okay. Also, keep your big damage spells like Fireball for the end-game because Warlocks usually have a bad tendency of Life Tapping too much. Let him draw cards, control the field, and slowly but surely his life will get low because of his hero power and you can finish him off with spells. Oh also, your main target should be Malchezaar’s Imp so you can prevent them from getting cards when they cast Doomguard.

Control: Control Warlock decks can vary. On one hand you have Reno which is highly unpredictable since it has 30 various cards that can all do various things. It’s hard to control your spells, however, so use your tempo to aggro early, let him control your minions, and then finish off with your spells as long as he doesn’t have any ridiculous healing.

Paladin: Ugh, Healing

There are two Paladin decks to worry about, N’Zoth and Anyfin Murloc. The good thing is, it’s quite easy to spot which one is which. Both are heavily control based and use Doomsayer but as soon as you see a Bluegill Warrior or Murloc Warleader you know you’re in for an Anyfin Can Happen match. Same if you see lots of Deathrattle such as Harvest Golem/Infested Tauren/Cairne Bloodhoof. Both decks run a lot of healing so don’t think you can just burn them down, they will Forbidden Healing and laugh at your face. I had a decent amount of trouble against Paladins, their control and healing will really make it difficult to finish them off with spells.

N’Zoth: The problem when you’re fighting against an N’zoth, the corruptor deck is that they want their minions to die. Trading and using spells to kill them only evens the field until they can cast their N’zoth, the corruptor and bring everything back way too big for you to board wipe. The only advice I can give is to go aggressive, tempo out, try to outdamage their healing and if possible, get a polymorph either Sheep or Boar from a Babbling Book or Cabalist’s Tome and use those on some of their important Deathrattle minions to prevent them from coming back like Cairne Bloodhoof or Tirion Fordring. These will effectively make those cards useless AND prevent N’Zoth from bringing them back to life. Either way, the healing aspect of Paladin is going to be your biggest annoyance.

Murloc: My advice for Murloc is about the same as against N’Zoth Paladin. The healing is always going to be difficult to overcome since Paladin has so much of it and their control cards are really good as well. Truesilver Champion will take care of your minions as well as Doomsayer and it will be hard to aggro but you don’t have much choice as Tempo Mage. But just like N’Zoth, if you can get any Polymorph cards from Babbling Book or other sources, you can use those to negate their Murlocs and make it so their Anyfin Can Happen won’t combo properly. By using Polymorph on just one Murloc Warleader you can effectively take their damage from 30+ to about ~15 damage when they cast Anyfin Can Happen.

Rogue: Stop Deathrattle

Right now Rogue isn’t that popular in Standard. In all of my matches I only played against one and it was a weird Deathrattle theme that didn’t quite pull of anything crazy. Miracle is always something to watch out for and is another reason why I like to run Flamestrike, so I can handle their Gadgetzan Auctioneer when they Conceal them.

Miracle: I’m not going to talk much about Rogue since they aren’t that prominent right now in the meta and so far they’ve been easy to beat with Tempo Mage. They will be able to control your minions pretty easily but there isn’t an easy way for Rogue to gain health with Antique Healbot gone. Use your minions to control the board, let them die, and then set up to finish with Fireballs and such.

Priest: Control Resurrect

Priests, just like Paladin, are going to be annoying to fight because of their healing capability. Priest of the Feast will easily become your most hated card in no time. Currently there is only ONE viable Priest deck, Resurrect Priest, but it’s a control deck with some decently powerful creatures to Resurrect and cause annoyance with.

Resurrect: This deck uses a lot of control and healing to survive while also having some decently annoying creatures to deal with that never die. Injured Blademaster and Priest of the Feast will be revived a couple times in your match and will be difficult to control. Make sure you’re targeting Priest of the Feast every time you see it so you can prevent them from gaining all their life back. Another trick is to mess up their Resurrect/Onyx Bishop effects by killing something like Auchenai Soulpriest early. This will make it so their Resurrect effects have a chance of bringing the Soulpriest back which is easier to handle than an Injured Blademaster and also prevents them from healing. I only fought one priest, a Resurrect priest, and they ended up resurrecting their Auchenai Soulpriest three times and not getting any of their other good minions back.


Due to sickness and classwork I didn’t have enough time to fully get a good amount of data. I did however go from Rank 8 to Rank 6 and played a good amount of matches against the top tier decks so I did get a good feel of the current meta. The problem I faced with this deck was my urge to be aggressive. A lot of the time you want to tempo out and curve nicely, but playing a Flamewaker or even something like a Sorcerers Apprentice too early can screw up your tempo by allowing your opponent to remove those cards. I would find myself seeing an opportunity to do something like Flamewaker, The Coin, Arcane Missiles on Turn 3 but only to kill a single minion and then have Flamewaker killed next turn.

The deck is built around tempo and curving out, but it’s also very much a control deck. Around Turn 7 and Turn 8 you start to have less creatures and rely more on your spells to finish opponents off and being able to do that effectively is difficult. You’ll see an opponent at 15 life and wonder if it’s better to shoot off a Fireball at their face or keep it for a minion.

To sum it all up, this deck is very intuitive. Unlike Aggro Shaman or Zoolock or Midrange Hunter, it’s not about playing your cards right as you draw them, as much as the name “Tempo” makes it seem like it should. Cards like Cult Sorcerer make you want to play them early but at the same time it’s better to hold on to them and wait until you can drop it as well as cast Arcane Blast. This deck requires a lot of knowledge about other decks and is very reliant on your ability to adapt to situations and know when it’s okay to deal damage directly to your opponent’s face.

If you are fairly new to the competitive scene, don’t run this deck. Play something more aggro that will help you learn about other classes and what cards to look out for. Once you have an idea of the meta and know what to expect, try a deck like this out, it’s quite fun and the random cards you get from Babbling Book and Cabalists Tome can make for some interesting games. And of course there’s always Yogg-saron, hope’s end.

I had fun with Archmage Antonidas but I’m afraid this is the end of Tempo Mage for me. I think I’ll be going back to Barnes/Y’Shaarj Hunter Combo to try and hit Legend before the end of this month.

As always, thanks for your time, thanks for reading my ramblings, and I hope this analysis will help you steer your Tempo Mage deck a little better! I’m back on Twitch with a new channel to match my Hearthstone persona, and you can always follow me on Twitter @HS_Fireflyer to check my schedule and keep up with my Hearthstone antics. Before you go, leave me some love in the comments below or tell me how bad of a Tempo Mage player I am, I enjoy hearing from my readers no matter if it’s good or bad. I’ll see you soon!