The Patron nerf is live, and Secret Paladin is going to be the most popular deck moving forward by far. No matter what class you play or what style you prefer, you are going to need to know how to beat that deck. This guide is a look at how Tempo Mage can actively meet Secret Paladin punch for punch by applying early pressure, comboing cheap spells and seizing control of the board.
It is always important to look at different decklists as a way to fully understand a deck. This is even more important in a deck with as many variations as Tempo Mage. Some lists go big, some are more midrange and some are built in a more aggressive slant. Remember, even though a deck may be good for a certain meta, you always want to make sure you are playing the cards that best-suits your playstyle. This will keep you engaged in the game and allow you to pilot the list in the most optimal way. To help you with this, some of the more popular versions of Tempo Mage are listed below.
Note: Though the cards below may vary from list to list, these are the general mulligan rules for whatever your are running when facing Secret Paladin.
Cards to KeepArcane Blast Mana Wyrm Arcane Missiles Mad Scientist Sorcerer’s Apprentice Unstable Portal Flamewaker
Mirror Image is a good keep alongside Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Flamewaker, but it isn’t strong enough to keep with any other early minion.
Frostbolt can be kept if you have no other removal options in your hand to answer a turn two Knife Juggler or early Secretkeeper.
Flamecannon can be kept if you are light on removal and have a strong minion opening to pair it with.
This is a matchup where getting the board is essential. Mulligan aggressively for your early minions and cheap spells. Everything else should be thrown back since it will often come into play way too late. You need to be proactive. If you try and take your time with four drops you will fall behind. When that happens, it becomes very hard to come back.
How to Win
As a Tempo Mage, all you care about is board control. That is the way you win games, and it becomes even more important when going against a deck that also relies on board presence like Secret Paladin. You need to do whatever it takes to hold onto the board for the first three turns, killing off Knife Jugglers, Secretkeepers and Shielded Minibots as they come.
This does not mean you want to burn your removal willy-nilly. Rather, you want to strategically sculpt your hand in a way where you can kill their cards as they come down. Arcane Missiles should always be saved for Muster for Battle, while Frostbolt is a great way to kill off the first half of a Piloted Shredder. Look for priority targets and make use of your hero power, which does a great job of killing Silver Hand Recruits.
When playing against Secret Paladin always be wary of Noble Sacrifice. Both Redemption and Avenge can be taken care of by most of your removal, but Noble Sacrifice kills your two drops and makes Mana Wyrm susceptible to Muster for Battle. For this reason, be very careful when planning to attack, and try and run in your Mad Scientist if you can afford to.
One of the most important rules to winning this matchup is: save the coin if you can. Going second in this matchup is a clear advantage, since it allows you a string of very powerful plays and takes Paladin off of their turn one minibot. While the coin can be very strong on turn one, it devastates Paladin’s board with a well-timed Flamewaker into Mirror Image or Arcane Missiles. Even powering out a turn three Water Elemental can give them absolute fits. For this reason, unless you have a crazy Mana Wyrm or Sorcerer’s Apprentice opening that absolutely requires the coin, you typically want to have it on turn three or four.
The last element to winning this match is pressure. Though you have a high curve and will sometimes end the game with threats like Dr. Boom and Archmage Antonidas, you are an aggro deck at heart. Tempo Mage’s gameplan is very similar to Secret Paladins. However, instead of ending the game with giant minions, you have access to extremely efficient burn. Understand your opponent’s life total, and always be aware of how much damage you can do. Sometimes you need your burn to keep a hold of the board, but if the board is slipping away never be afraid to push damage and save your spells for the face.
Early Game Strategy
Spells and minions. Minions and spells. One of Tempo Mage’s bonuses is its ability to start out super fast. However, a drawback of that is that you need to draw the correct balance of minions to spells to make that work.
Mana Wyrm, Arcane and Flamewaker are the three cards you are looking for most in the early turns. These all help you answer Paladin’s first minions, and stops their curve in its tracks. One of the most important parts of this matchup is to make sure Paladin does not have an army when Mysterious Challenger comes to town. It makes Dr. six much easier to handle and will prevent blowouts. To prevent that, you need to start cutting off their minions early.
Mad Scientist is also a very nice opening play, even if Mirror Entity can hit some pretty bad targets. Just getting something into play for free can be a huge tempo swing.
As stated, you want to be careful when attacking into secrets. Redemption is almost never a problem since your hero power can handle it, but do try and kill something that isn’t a Shielded Minibot if you can. If you think you are going to play into an Avenge, save a Frostbolt for the buff. Never run something headfirst into Noble Sacrifice unless you have a very good reason to do so.
During this stage you want to use the coin for either a very powerful opening turn, or to save it for Flamewaker. One other option when going second is, if you have a lot of spells of removal at your disposal, you can coin out a turn two Mad Scientist since this allows you to shut down a turn two Shielded Minibot when combined with your hero power.
Turns four through six is where the game starts to get really interesting. Here you are going to be in one of two different modes. You are either attempting to try and maintain board advantage, or you are pushing for lethal. Any burn spell (Frostbolt, Fireball) that you do not use during the early turns become damage during the later ones.
While you are want to be thinking of ways to clear the board when the game starts, when it comes time for the midgame start to think about setting up the win instead. Turns four, five and six are by far the most important ones for Secret Paladin. While Dr. Boom, a bunch of secrets, or Tirion Fordring generally end the game, the game is lost many turns before that. Piloted Shredder and Sludge Belcher both can really put the hurt of you if you’re not careful. However, if you have control of the board those cards become much less of a problem.
If you do not have lethal, then you should try to shift into your larger threats. This means you want to play more defensively than usual. Instead of finding ways to sneak damage through, simply use your spells to clear the board to get ready for challenger or Dr. Boom. Of course, you want to save your spells when you can, but if you are a far way off, life totals are not important as the board. Always remember that if the game goes long you have a trump card in Archmage Antonidas.
Late Game Strategy
When this stage of the game comes around you and Secret Paladin are going to be doing the exact same thing: switching into your big threats. Both decks run Dr. Boom, but while they have Tirion Fordring, you are going to go over the top with Archmage Antonidas or Rhonin (if you run him).
Antonidas allows you to play a much more conservative playstyle, and also enables you to burn your two Fireballs on minions if needed. Paladin has no real way of removing the archmage outside of minion combat, so if you can get him down onto an empty board, you should’t hesitate to do so.
As with the middle part of the game, burn is usually how you are going to find lethal. Frostbolt and Fireball adds up very quickly. Never be afraid to get aggressive, and also never be afraid so simply hit your opponent in the face and hope to draw something good. Sometimes that is the only way you can win, and sometimes it works.
One last important note about the late game is Flamestrike. Most Tempo Mages run this card these days. If you do, this is your only real catch-up card outside of a huge Flamewaker. Challenger is normally dealt with once it comes down. After that, Paladin will go back to relying on swarms to win. This card will almost always be a blow out and can end the game on the spot if your use it when you have a dangerous board.
Never underestimate Flamewaker. Not only is it a really strong card, but if you have the coin and two spells such as Mirror Image and Arcane Missiles you can actually give up board for a turn or two and then try and ping down their board. This is not the recommended play, but setting up that type of turn is one way you can play the game if you get flooded with spells.