MUA: Tempo Mage vs Dragon Priest

While most of the decks on ladder are aggro or aggro-oriented, Dragon Priest continues to be a Midrange force. When playing on the ladder you want to know how to fight Anduin and his hoard of taunts. This is especially important when playing Tempo Mage since Dragon Priest can be one of the trickiest matchups […]


While most of the decks on ladder are aggro or aggro-oriented, Dragon Priest continues to be a Midrange force. When playing on the ladder you want to know how to fight Anduin and his hoard of taunts. This is especially important when playing Tempo Mage since Dragon Priest can be one of the trickiest matchups for Jaina. In this guide we will breakdown the matchup and explore the best way to fight Priest with Tempo Mage using a combination of early aggression and solid board control.

Sample Decklists 

Not every deck is going to look exactly alike. People have different preferences, tendencies and card choices when it comes to deck construction. This is even more true for Tempo Mage, as there are currently there are a dozen different cards and styles for the deck. You should always try to play the one that best fits your playstyle and the decks that you are facing on ladder. Aggro and early control can be used to fight against aggressive decks while slower versions are better for facing control. To help with this decision, some decks are linked below.

One, Two, Three

Mulligan Guide

Tempo Mage vs. Dragon Mage is a match where you need to be ready to respond to their threats. While not strictly an aggro deck, you are a deck that strives for board. However, Northshire Cleric, Wyrmrest Agent and Twilight Guardian all control the board better than your minions. That means you need to snowball really well and always look for removal. Your early drops are important, but don’t throw away Flamecannon or Frostbolt if you don’t have minions.

Cards to Keep

Mana Wyrm Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mad Scientist Frostbolt Unstable Portal Flamecannon

Situational Keeps

Arcane Missiles can only be kept with early minions, a coin and a Flamewaker.

Flamewaker is a strong keep with the coin or with cheap spells and a good curve.

Arcane Intellect is a great catch up card, but should only be kept if you have a very fast opening.

Water Elemental can be kept with the coin and a solid curve coming before it.

Piloted Shredder follows the same rules as Water Elemental.

Fireball should also be kept with the coin along with an early curve.

How to Win

Tempo Mage is a deck that has to win by taking control of the board. You are going to do that differently in every game, but it is the catalyst that will get you to where you want to be. The best way to go about doing this is by placing aggressive minions onto the board and then backing them up with cheap spells. However, you need to understand that Priest’s minions will crush yours in head-to-head combat. As a result, you need to make the most out of removal in this matchup, using it for board advantage at all times.

There are two ways to play this match, and each one is dependent on the way that Priest starts the game. If they open with solid minions and try to contest your first minions you need to just leverage all of your removal. In this game you are planning to go long, which means you need to start planning for the way your bigger minions are going to impact the board. Fireball is one of the most important cards here since it deals with almost all of their bigger threats. You want to take your time here and slowly build up the game one turn at a time. Priest runs a lot of ways to deal with swarms, but most of your midgame minions cannot be touched by their removal.

Now, things change if Priest has a slow start. If they don’t have early minion, or if you feel like the game is slipping into your favor, you want to push for damage. Dragon Priest is a deck that is predicated on having a solid curve. When that curve falls apart they really suffer. You want to take advantage of this by pushing through as much early damage as you can. This will force them to play reactive for the rest of the game, which can let you set up finishers with your large minions or give you some ample turns to draw those last points of damage you need to close things out.

Early Game Strategy

For the early game you need to be ready to fight through three of Priests biggest threats: Northshire Cleric, Twilight Whelp and Wyrmrest Agent. All three of those cards are not terribly strong, but they contest your early game, which cannot happen. Though it may not be the best way to open the game, you do need to clear all three of those on sight. However, you want to do that while also putting something down. For this reason, Sorcerer’s Apprentice/Frostbolt is probably one of the best openings you can have.

The best individual minion at your disposal is Mad Scientist. Mirror Entity can absolutely crush Dragon Priest is they ever fall behind, but even getting a free middle game minion while also adding your threats is very good.

Velen’s Chosen is the scariest card during these turns as well as the reason that clearing is so important. This card is infinitely worse for you than any taunt because of how well it takes control of the board. Four health takes everything out of removal range, and the extra spellpower and attack both spell trouble. That being said, it does get worse when used later in the game. Always try and clear out the early minions to prevent the buff from coming down.

Midgame Strategy

The middle game comes in two stages. The first stage is turn four, where two of your best threats (Water Elemental and Piloted Shredder) come down. Dragon Priest hates dealing with both of these cards, and will have to spend a lot of resources to remove them. That is very important because you can often use your four drops to clear multiple minions or force Priest to make plays they don’t want to. For this reason, you should always drop them down if they have a weak board or if you have an opening.

You need to be careful during turns five and six. This is where Priest runs a lot of its removal, and you will get blown out if your play too loose. The way you fight their AOE is by playing a board that adds pressure but doesn’t overextend too much. Something like a Piloted Shredder and Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a good example of this. That will kill them if they don’t have answers, but it is also something they don’t want to burn a Lightbomb or Holy Nova on. Look for that balance at all times.

Azure Drake is also a fantastic way to get a sticky hard-to-remove minion onto the board. While not inherently sticky in itself, four attack is very hard for Priest to deal with. In fact, it is so important that you should always looking for ways to get drake onto an empty board. In the same vein, any four attack card (even a Nexus-Champion Saraad) can be dropped onto an empty board during these turns.

One last note is to watch out for Cabal Shadow Priest. This six drop is the epitome of board control. However, it cannot touch most of your minions. Even so, it is such a huge swing that you should always get rid of your two or less attack minions come turn six.

Late Game Strategy

The end of this game will almost always come down to two different scenarios: control or damage. While you would always like to be pushing for lethal, that is not the way a lot of these games are going to go. A lot of the time you need to switch over to trying to level the game by running Priest low on cards or getting the final threat onto the board.

Your two big finishers are Dr. Boom and Archmage Antonidas. Theirs are Chillmaw and Ysera. If any of those four cards go uncontested the game is usually over. Antonidas is a card that will almost never live, so just try to get a Fireball or two out of on the turn he comes down. That will allow you extra damage or removal depending on what you need.

When it comes down to Dr. Boom you either want to play it when you’re ahead or when they run low on removal. Most Priests only have a finite way to deal with minions, and if you count their removal you should be able to set him up pretty well. Do note that this is also a great response after a Lightbomb.

Always Fireball Chillmaw on sight, but also understand that there is almost no good way for you to remove Ysera. When the dreamer comes down you typically want to just start racing and see how quickly you can get them to zero life.

Final Tip

Understand that you are typically going to have one “key turn” to kill Priest with direct damage. Most of your burn is going to be used on the board, which means you are only going to have one or two finishing options. You need to set these up ahead of time, and understand when and how to use them. Priest has a very strong late game hero power, and will quickly heal out of range if they feel they are too low.