Today I will be talking about the Tempo Mage deck that has shot up many players towards the rank of Legend during the May 2015 season. I personally have used this deck to climb to the Top 25 within Legend. This deck is a relatively new creation as the deck efficiently utilizes flamewaker to push board advantage during the early turns. This new card only just came out with the release of Blackrock Mountain but it brought adjustments to the Tempo Mage archetype which allowed the deck to adapt to the ever-changing meta.
In the last week, Huynher made a drastic change to the deck, by centering the deck around the win condition of archmage-antonidas. This change gave the Tempo Mage deck the ability to have a late game, which sufficiently boosted its chances in control matchups. The new revamped Tempo Mage deck is centered around the use of “spare parts” which can be obtained from cards such as clockwork-gnome and mechanical-yeti
To fully utilize this new win condition, several changes had to be made to alter the previous versions of this deck. The main change was to take out previous win conditions such as ragnaros-the-firelord and replace them with Archmage Antonidas. The deck still functions on taking the board and maintaining it through spells like flamecannon and frostbolt but now is more multi-dimensional than it was before.
The goal of a Tempo Mage deck is to obtain board control early and transition this advantage towards the midgame. With Flamewaker, the board should always be in your favor as the Tempo Mage player will always be able to proc its effect. Since the main objective of the deck is to maintain control of the board, spells like fireball and frostbolt should not be utilized for pushing face damage. Instead these spells should be used effectively to generate tempo and negate any threats on the board that the opposing player may have. However, there are still situations where it is appropriate to go for face damage and ignore the board. These situations arise when:
- Your opponent would have to make the attack anyways
- Your opponent has no real way to punish your board because of his lack of ability to trade up
- It is mid-game and you feel like you can threaten lethal in the immediate future
- You have Fireball plus more methods to burn your opponent to the point of lethal
- Your opponent has no board to threaten you with
- You have Flamewaker on the board and can consistently throw spells to wipe the board time and time again
The key to being successful with this deck lies in the ability for the player to realize when to transition from board control to going for face damage. Most games that you play with using this deck tend to have strikingly similar patterns.
- The beginning of the game will consist of you obtaining early board control through playing minions such as mana-wyrm and sorcerers-apprentice. These two cards will allow the player to slowly snowball the board from as early as turns 1 and 2.
- The middle of the game will occur after playing Flamewaker and continuously being able to ping minions on board with its effect. The free damage that you can get on the opposing board makes Flamewaker quite broken. This card allows the player to get additional value from spells that are inherently already quite powerful by themselves. Spells like unstable-portal and arcane-intellect already provide strong value by themselves. With the additional damage being dealt, playing these spells will generate an unheard of advantage for the Tempo Mage player.
- The late game completely focuses around being able to get value from Archmage Antonidas. By this phrase of the game, the Tempo Mage player should have been able to accumulate enough “spare parts” throughout the game. By using these cheap spells, a sufficient amount of Fireballs should be generated. Use these Fireballs to finish the game the kill the opposing player!
Unlike other decks that focus on early board control, this deck does not generally lose to decks that are slower than it. This deck is so powerful in this meta because it can simply outpace most decks in the early game. Some of the starts that are available to this deck are just so disgusting that few decks can keep up with it. Transitioning towards the middle and late game, this deck is still strong. The ability for Fireball to deal damage to both minions or face allows this deck to combat slower decks which have seemingly stabilized after the early aggression. Tempo Mage will just never run out of steam, which cements its strength.
Key Card Analyis
Backbone of the Deck
mana-wyrm– This card is simply the strongest 1-drop in the game. Some may argue that flame-imp or zombie-chow have stronger innate stats. However, Mana Wyrm has significantly more upset than the other two cards. Mana Wyrm has no innate downsides that alter the player’s hp. Also, it can grow like the old undertaker could. The biggest upside to Mana Wyrm is that it has 3 health points. Therefore, on turn 2, it can most likely trade or at least contest whatever play that the opposing player has made. In some games, the opposing player may not have an early answer for Mana Wyrm, leading it to grow ridiculously out of proportion. Even if the opposing player does have an answer, it would cost at least 1 mana or more, giving the upside still to the Tempo Mage player.
Flamecannon– Flamecannon is a card that oftentimes swings the game. It can basically take out any minion that is 3 mana or below. At its 2 mana cost, it is incredibly cheap removal. There is riskiness in playing the card when there isnt just one minion on the board. However, it works quite similarly to deadly-shot but at one mana cheap. It is a situational card, but when used in the right situation, it provides a lot of tempo. The best time to play Flamecannon is when you and your opponent are jockeying for board position. When this card is dropped, it can completely surprise the opponent and change the direction of the game.
Frostbolt– Like its counterpart fireball, Frostbolt has incredible amounts of utility. It is similar to flamecannon but it can most likely only take out the opposing player’s turn 2 play. The utility of Frostbolt is that it can either be used for face damage or for board control. However, since ice-lance is not being played in this deck, the burst combo is not in play here. In comparison to cards such as darkbomb, which is played in many control-orientated Warlock decks, Frostbolt has more upside. It is almost a staple in most Mage decks seen on the ladder today.
Unstable-Portal– Reynad once called this card the most broken card in the game of Hearthstone. I certainly would not go so far as to say that, but I can certainly agree that this card can generate some ridiculous results. Sure Unstable Portal can create some pretty bad 1 or 2 drops. However, that is still justified by its initial 2 mana cost. It is when it creates a card that is 3 mana or higher card that is truly shines. Opponents cannot play around the minion generated by Unstable Portal because they simply cannot know what it is. Remember that king-krush and faceless-manipulator combo that we saw on Ek0p’s stream? That happened to me too as I was on the ladder. All these are possibilities which are set up by Unstable Portal.
Mad-Scientist– This card is simply ridiculous. The 2/2 body is fair for its cost, but that is not what makes this card broken. The fact the Mad Scientist can bring a free 3 mana spell into play is the crazy part about it. Mad Scientist has such synergy with Mages because of the plethora of secrets that the class utilizes. The opposing player will oftentimes have to make non-ideal plays to try to play around secrets. Mad Scientist is simply a nightmare because it contests the board early and generates tempo by putting into play a free secret. This card also poses mindgames for the opponent if it is the first card that you play. The opponent can not know if you are playing Tempo, Mech, Grinder, or Freeze Mage by this card. Therefore, they may be tempted to play differently than they would have.
Sorcerers-Apprentice– Someday I’ll be just like you! These are the words that I do not want to hear when a Mage is on their turn 2. This card creates ridiculous advantages. Most of the spells played in the Tempo Mage deck are inherently inexpensive anyways. Therefore, it would not be unlikely for a Tempo Mage to unleash 2 or 3 spells with Sorcerer’s Apprentice out. It can be oftentimes frustrating to watch this happen, because they get so ahead on board. What makes the situation worse is that when combined with a cheaper Arcane-Intellect, the Tempo Mage is able to refill their hand while maintaining board control. Sorcerer’s Apprentice has to be effectively dealt with when it is played or else it can completely snowball the game in favor of the Tempo Mage player.
Arcane-Intellect– This card is the traditional draw engine that you see in any other deck. It refills the Tempo Mage player’s hand and allows them to keep up in the later parts of the game. There is nothing much to say, it is not as strong as the draw engines of the other classes. However, since Mages only have this, it will have to do.
Mirror-Entity– Mirror Entity generates a different type of tempo of the board. The opposing player either has to play a weaker minion than they intended to in order to proc the secret, or be willing to give the Tempo Mage player a large minion. Regardless, there is no real optimal player for counter Mirror Entity. Specific classes such as Druid which only have large drops will tend to have trouble avoiding Mirror Entity. The coupled with the fact that mad-scientist can be used to play Mirror Entity for free is what makes this card a certain addition to the deck.
Flamewaker– The bread and butter of the deck. Even with its vanilla stats of 2/4 for 3 mana, it is not too bad of a play by itself. What makes Flamewaker ridiculous is that it consistently generates damage from its effect from spells. The Tempo Mage player would be likely playing spells regardless, and this just further creates unintended value. Most of the time, if the Tempo Mage player draws Flamewaker against Aggro or Mid-Range decks, in conjunction with cheap spells, then the board should be easily won that game. Flamewaker is simply the core of the deck.
Fireball– Similar to frostbolt, Fireball sees its utility from being able to go to face or towards control of the board. You can be liberal with the use of these fireballs because the assumption is that more will be generated in the future from archmage-antonidas. Playing Fireball at the right time can greatly affect the direction of the game. If discounting its use for face damage, Fireball is one of the best damage removal spells in the game.
Archmage-Antonidas– This card is the finisher late game if the Tempo Mage player has not already won the game by the mid-game. The creation of fireball allows you to be able to contest slower paced decks. This deck specifically has a significant number of ways to generate Fireballs. It is oftentimes wrong to play Archmage Antoidas immediately on turn 7, as the opposing player will focus a good amount of resources toward its removal.
Clockwork-Gnome– Clockwork Gnome is a great card to play on turn 1. It immediately contests the board when you are unable to draw mana-wyrm. The additional “spare part” created from its Deathrattle synergizes quite well with both Flamewaker and Archmage-Antonidas. Against aggressive decks, Clockwork Gnome provides the necessary resistance in the early game to prevent outright snowballing from the other side.
Mechanical-Yeti– Similar to Clockwork-Gnome, the Mechanical Yeti is a great card to have because of its Deathrattle. The body is nothing to be forgetful about either. 4/5 for 4 mana used to be one of the strongest plays on turn 4. In fact, it still does quite well even today. Mechanical Yeti will most likely contest whatever is on the board and require several minions to trade into it for it to be killed. Some classes may not want to waste hard removal on the card as they are expected bigger bombs, so it will likely get in a lot of damage on the opponent.
Azure-Drake– The 4/4 body provided is good for contesting the board. The important aspect is that Azure Drake provides the necessary card cycling that the Mage class desperate needs. There are also a variety of cards within the deck such as flamecannon and frostbolt which would benefit from the increased spell power provided by Azure Drake.
Harrison-Jones– Harrison Jones is a unique tech choice for the specific meta right now. There is a lot of Warriors of both types and also a resurgence of Rogue. This card fits the needs of the Mages for card draw while also acting to destroy the weapon that the opponent has. This card is quite swingy and playing it at the right time is devastating. The 5/4 body for 5 mana is not too efficient but is not the worst,
Emperor-Thaurissan– This card helps with the generation of Fireball through Archmage-Antonidas. By lowering the cost of your hand, “spare parts” can be made to 0 mana cost. Therefore, each “spare part” in your hand can be played for additional free Fireballs. Also, Emperor Thaurissan seems to be a magnet for removal as opponents will oftentimes prioritize killing it so that its insane effect cannot go off more than once in a game.
Dr-Boom– Dr. Balanced is of course a great addition to the deck. The card is simply broken right now and will fit in almost every day. The one problem is that it would be the only Big-Game-Hunter target in the deck. However, its effect and body are too overpowered at this moment to not play. On the turn it hits, Dr. Boom will usually have a huge impact on the game.
- When there is a meta filled with Aggro decks, I would recommend keeping the current deck list.
- Drop Harrison Jones if the Grim Patron meta ever does die out.
- If this deck or the Hunter class sees a rise in play, possibly tech Kezan-Mystic.
- In a meta with more control orientated decks, think about adding back Ragnaros-the-Firelord.
The deck is rather expensive to craft as there are two legendaries. Dr. Boom is integral and quite necessary in most decks so you should already have it. However, the other cards are mostly specific to the Tempo Mage deck.
I would not recommend playing this deck if you do not have Archmage-Antonidas. The card helps so much with the control matchups and is the primary win condition.
This section will serve to discuss the Tempo Mage match-ups against the other popular decks in the metagame right now.
The most typical matchup with the Shaman class can be found to be against Mech Shaman. This is a semi-difficult match than traditional Shamans. The Mech Shaman can flood the board with early minions using the effect of mechwarper. An early cogmaster can spell trouble for your Mana Wyrm. Whoever wins the early battle for board control will most likely win the game. It is really hard to stage a comeback in this specific matchup.
Typically cards like powermace and flametongue-totem provide huge momentum swings for the Mech Shaman player. On turn 5, you have to be wary of the fel-reaver drop. This deck unfortunately does not have strong ways to efficiently counteract Fel Reaver. For the most part, the game would have already been decided prior to these turns.
The key to victory in this matchup is to simply aggressive mulligan for the early game. After obtaining board control, snowball and use Flamewaker to maintain your grip. Prioritize the removal of their Mechs as you do with all other Mech decks. There is a tremendous amount of synergy with cards like Tinkertown-Technician and powermace Something to remember is that most Mech Shamans do not run Lightning Storm, so it is most likely safe to flood the board with your minions.
Grim Patron Warrior
This is actually quite the favorable matchup for Tempo Mage. Unless the Warrior immediately has Fiery-War-Axe or removal for your early game, it should be easy to snowball the board. Most Grim Patron Warriors will not have much to do in the early game. Therefore, you can easily obtain control without much fight from them.
Most of the strong turns that the Grim Patron Warrior has usually occurs after turn 5. It is unlikely that they will do much before then. Even if they play armorsmith or frothing-berserker, your copious amounts of removal should easily deal with whatever hits the board. The Grim Patron Warrior is usually so focused on the Grim Patron and Warsong Commander combo, that it will allow you to probably achieve your win condition by then.
If your opponent somehow does indeed obtain board control through the use of Grim Patrons, prioritize face damage. There is almost no way that a Tempo Mage can regain board control because Flamewaker’s ability only serves to create more Grim Patrons for them. The situation is unlikely but it is still important to know what to do if it comes up.
Tempo Mage is enormously favored against Fast Druid. Although Druids can indeed tech in Kezan Mystic to counter the secrets that you run, they still have very inefficient plays early.
The key to winning against Druid is to obtain early board control and being able to snowball this to the endgame. The Tempo Mage may be one of the decks in the metagame where a Druid would not play Wild Growth during Turn 2. The Druid player needs to effectively deal with the Mana Wyrm or Sorcerer’s Apprentice that comes out early or risk losing total control of the board early.
Even if you do not show aggression early, your Mirror Entities will be a nightmare for the Druid player. There are very few ways to deal with the secret without giving the Tempo Mage player a significant minion. I also play a lot of Druid and I find this matchup to be one of the worst matchups on the Druid side.
The massive number of taunts that the Druid player has with ancient-of-war and druid-of-the-claw simply do not do much when the Tempo Mage player can finish you off with our Fireballs that we have accumulated throughout the game. Besides this, the Druid player will oftentimes have trouble dealing with your bulky minions such as Emperor Thaurissan and and Mechanical Yeti.
At no point in time should the Tempo Mage player feel threatened by the combo. The combo can be earliest played on turn 7 with Innervates and by that time, the Tempo Mage player should be on their way to winning anyways. If that does indeed happen though, you can always set up Mirror Images to potentially shield yourself from some damage.
There has been a recent resurgence with regards to Oil Rogue on the ladder. I would say that the matchup is slightly favored towards the Oil Rogue. The main strength utilized by the Oil Rogue player is the relatively inexpensive removal that they have. Cards like backstab, SI:7 Agent and eviscerate all do good amounts of work on the Tempo Mage player while also establishing a board for themselves.
Although sometimes, the Tempo Mage player may have such a good start that the Oil Rogue may simply not be able to respond. However, even if the Tempo Mage player obtains total board control, it can be wiped out with one simple blade-flurry. Your Flamewaker will probably be taken out as it is played too. Overall this matchup is just quite difficult, and the Tempo Mage player has to rely on the Oil Rogue player to have some dead cards in their hand.
On the ladder, there are currently three different types of Hunter decks that can be seen. I would say that Tempo Mage is actually favored against Midrange and Hybrid but is at a severe disadvantage versus Face Hunter. Face Hunter simply ignores board control and goes for the face. The other two variants at least place some emphasis on obtaining board control, and Tempo Mage can do that much more efficiently than they can.
Mana Wyrm however is a strong card that can be used to deal with the early drops of the Hunter player. It sucessfully contests both mad-scientist and knife-juggler. The one foreseeable problem that cannot be really dealt with regardless of what type of Hunter is unleash-the-hounds. Regardless of how well you have maintained the board, the Hunter can always utilize this mechanic to equalize the playing field.
This is a favored matchup for the Tempo Mage. Oftentimes Demon Zoo tries to obtain board control early. However, your removal cards such as Frostbolt and Flamecannon can easily deal with their minions while they will have trouble dealing with yours. Flamewaker just wreaks havoc on their board, and they may not be able to remove it for a number of turns.
Once board control has been won by the Tempo Mage, it will be quite difficult for the Demon Zoo player to come back. It would take a huge combination of cards from them to regain control. If board control is lost by the Tempo Mage player, there is still comeback ability.
The concept of early board control does not matter too much in this matchup. If the Warlock player passes on their turn 1 and 2 plays, it will most likely mean that they are playing the Handlock variation of the deck instead of any Zoo variation.
This matchup is much more difficult than the previously mentioned one. My advice would be to save all the burn damage such as Fireball and Frostbolt in your hand. The thing is, the Handlock player can most likely only produce one threat per turn, and the earliest turn they can get one out is turn 3 with coin. Although the mountain-giant or twilight-drake that does come out is usually a pest, they can be easily dealt with. Just do not let the Handlock player’s threats come unchecked. Flamecannon and general damage should be enough to deal with the threats individually. Try not to get them below 15 health points because that gives them cheap molten-giant which is dangerous for you. The one good thing is that your burn spells can get through their taunts. This matchup is around 60/40 in favor of the Tempo Mage player but has to be approached at from a completely different manner than most other matchups.
The general mulligan strategy for Tempo Mage is to have both sufficient early drops and removal to contest the board. With Mad Scientist, it is oftentimes easy to out-tempo your opponent by just sticking to your mana curve.
If you are playing first and do not have the coin, aggressively mulligan for Mana Wyrm. This card is ridiculous in the early fight for the board. It contests everything up until the 2 mana point. Be sure to get as many cheap spells as possible to both buff the Mana Wyrm and to remove any early threats that the opposing player may have.
If you are going second and have the coin, aggressively mulligan for Flamewaker, as the coin provides an extra 2 damage burst. Having coin allows the Tempo Mage player to either go for the early Mana Wyrm, or 2 drops.
Specific mulligan strategy for each class is discussed below.
- Keep Mana Wyrm against Warlock and Hunter
- Always keep Mad Scientist, because it provides great tempo plays
- Keep Mechnical Yeti against Warrior because they’ll always have trouble dealing with it
- Keep Flakewaker against Paladin, Hunter and Warlocks
- Never keep Archmage Antonidas or Dr. Boom as you should always aim to draw into them later in the game
Thanks everyone for reading this guide. Hopefully this has educated everyone enough on the general idea for Tempo Mage. If you enjoyed the article, feel free to give a nice thumbs up! Please leave comments below and definitely subscribe to Premium if you have the chance. The sheer amount of articles that are on this site is amazing.