Sheng’s Budget Tempo Mage Deck

Editor’s Note: With the new Standard Format in 2016 for Hearthstone, we highly recommend going for cards in the Classic set and Whispers of the Old Gods (Standard Format). Here are budget guides, also from Sheng, to get you started! Budget Standard Standard C’Thun Druid Budget Standard Midrange Hunter Budget Standard C’Thun Mage Budget Standard  Aggro Paladin Budget Standard C’Thun Priest Budget Standard C’Thun […]

Editor’s Note: With the new Standard Format in 2016 for Hearthstone, we highly recommend going for cards in the Classic set and Whispers of the Old Gods (Standard Format). Here are budget guides, also from Sheng, to get you started!


Greetings, I’m Sheng, a Legend rank constructed and 7.5 win-average arena player. I run where our coaches have helped many students achieve the same.

If you’re new to Hearthstone, or just have a limited collection of cards—I feel your pain. It is often difficult to find cheap but viable decks that are competitive on the Hearthstone ladder.

When I first started playing Hearthstone, I would often go online to lookup the most popular decks played at Legend rank, and find that my limited card collection would not build them. While it was sometimes possible to substitute less important cards, there would often not be cheap substitutions for a crucial Epic or Legendary that completed a deck.

Given this dilemma, I’ve set out to help those of you with a limited collection by providing ladder-viable decks for each class that cost 1000 dust or less.


  1. Reach Level 10 to unlock all of the Basic cards for this class.
  2. Complete the Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain expansions.
  3. Have 1000 dust available for crafting.

Design Principles

Before I started this series, I spent a considerable amount of time last season testing the most popular and viable decks played at Legend rank. From my climb to Legend, I devised an algorithm for constructing a budget deck.

  1. From my data, compile a list of the most essential Commons and Rares for a particular class.
  2. Calculate the total crafting cost of those cards. If the total exceeds 1000 dust, reduce the number of cards until we reach our budget.
  3. Fill in the rest of the deck with cards from the Basic and single-player expansion sets.

While this algorithm seems simple, it’s very easy to get Step 2 and 3 completely wrong, as it can be difficult to determine which cards to build around when you’ve exceeded your budget.

In general, my methodology for determining which cards to cut comes from my experience playing these classes in Legend rank, and my own opinion on which cards are best to build around.

In the end, the result is a deck that is considerably stronger than one built soley from Basic and single-player expansion cards, yet cheap enough such that a new player who has played Hearthstone for a month can craft for themselves.



  • Budget Tempo Mage’s goal is to control the board early on with extremely cost-efficient minions that synergize remarkably well with Mage’s cheap class spells.


  • Minions like mana-wyrm, sorcerers-apprentice and flamewaker all accelerate or benefit directly from the casting of spells.
  • In addition to these three core minions, we also have mad-scientist which brings out mirror-entity, making it very difficult to for opponents to gain a foothold in the game when played early on.
  • With this early game lead, Budget Tempo Mage seeks to end games early through the burst provided by fireball and argent-commander.

Minions – 15

2x mana-wyrm

  • An incredible little minion to play from our opening hand. Mana Wyrm synergizes extremely well with the cheap spells we have in our deck, and in conjunction with an early sorcerers-apprentice can snowball out of control.

2x mad-scientist

  • We only run two mirror-entity as secrets in our deck, so Mad Scientist is almost always guaranteed to give us another minion from our opponent’s hand.

2x sorcerers-apprentice

  • Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a key minion in our deck, as she lets us play our mirror-images for free and reduces the cost of all our other spells. This ability, in conjunction with a mana-wyrm or flamewaker on the board is incredibly synergistic.

2x flamewaker

  • Flamewaker is an incredibly efficient card. Not only is he mana-efficient for the cost, his passive ability gives us 2/3rds of an arcane-missiles each time we play a spell. This is also incredibly synergistic with the cheap removal spells we have in our deck.

2x piloted-shredder

  • Since the release of the Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion, Piloted Shredder has overthrown chillwind-yeti as the best neutral 4 mana minion.
  • He’s extremely sticky and annoying to deal with. When he dies, he will spawn off a random 2 mana minion onto your board. Positioning with the Piloted Shredder is extremely important, so make sure to place him in the middle of your board for dire-wolf-alpha or flametongue-totem.

2x azure-drake

  • Azure Drake combines both card draw and Spell Damage +1, both of which are extremely important in our deck.

1x loatheb

  • Loatheb combines a mana-efficient 5/5 body along with a completely broken battlecry that almost always shuts down your opponent’s ability to play spells the next turn.
  • Loatheb can be played on curve, or as a defensive measure to prevent a board-clear spell from being played the following turn. Generally we prefer the latter, as he can secure us wins this way.

2x argent-commander

  • Argent Commander provides our deck a bit of extra burst to reach lethal or to trade with something on our opponent’s board and survive.

Spells – 15

2x mirror-image

  • Mirror Image is remarkably useful when played for free with sorcerers-apprentice. A fairly common play is to play mana-wyrm on the first turn, and follow that up with sorcerers-apprentice and mirror-image on turn 2.
  • This serves to protect both your mana-wyrm and your sorcerers-apprentice and also buffs your mana-wyrm at the same time.

2x flamecannon

  • With the influx of 3 mana minions with 4 health, flamecannon is a useful spell that can help us clear annoying spider-tanks. Just be sure to clear the board first to isolate the target you want to deal 4 damage to.

2x frostbolt

  • 2 mana for 3 damage and freeze is great, and synergizes really well with sorcerers-apprentice. A common play is to play sorcerers-apprentice and Frostbolt together on turn 3 to establish a board and elimate a threat at the same time.
  • You can also use Frostbolt to freeze a minion or character and deal 5 damage to it over two turns with your hero power.

2x unstable-portal

  • While random, the Unstable Portal synergizes extremely well with our mana-wyrm, sorcerers-apprentice, and flamewaker. Sometimes it’ll even give you a Epic or Legendary minion that can become a win-condition.

2x arcane-intellect

  • 3 mana to draw 2 cards is fair, but this isn’t a card we want in our opening hand. We want to play Arcane Intellect later on the in the game when we run out of cards to gain tempo.

2x mirror-entity

  • We almost never want to play Mirror Entity out of our hand, but instead want to bring him out from mad-scientists Deathrattle. This card can significantly reduce your opponent’s tempo as he’ll try to find ways to trigger the trap with a smaller minion, making the turn awkward for them.

2x fireball

  • It’ll take out anything with 6 health for 4 mana. One of the best spells in the game.

1x flamestrike

  • A board reset that’s very effective against decks like Zoo and Patron Warrior. We only run one copy because having two in our hand early on hurts us.

Mulligan Guide

In general, you want to mulligan to setup your first three or four turns. Please note that there is a distinction between going first and going second in Hearthstone, and this should factor into your mulligan choices.

When going first, your advantage is the ability to play first. In addition, you gain mana crystals before your opponent. To take advantage of this, you want to be aggressive in your mulligan to put minions on the board.

When going second, your advantage is mainly the-coin, which gives you tempo over your opponent for a single turn, and also an extra card. Depending on the nature of your deck, whether it’s Aggro, Midrange, or Control, you’ll be looking for different things.

  • When playing an aggro deck, you’ll be looking for the same cards going second as you would going first. The objective is to quickly populate the board and bring down your opponent’s life total.
  • When playing a midrange deck, you’ll also be looking to get onto the board early, with the caveat that you can keep a single copy of a situational minion or spell that you think may be useful to counter an opponent. This spell might be something like a kezan-mystic to counter classes with Secrets or removal like frostbolt.
  • When playing a control deck, you’re looking to save the coin until much later in the game, generally when you can bring out a large late-game threat earlier than usual.

While I won’t make an exhaustive list, these are some of the cards you should consider keeping in your opening hand when playing this deck.


  • 1 Mana: mana-wyrm
  • 2 Mana: mad-scientist, sorcerers-apprentice


  • 1 Mana: mirror-image
  • 2 Mana: frostbolt, flamecannon, unstable-portal


  • mana-wyrm, sorcerers-apprentice, or flamewaker + any Spell.
  • mad-scientist‘s Deathrattle into mirror-entity.
  • azure-drake + frostbolt, flamecannon, fireball, or flamestrike.

Gameplay Video


Here are a few simple substitutions that will make this budget deck even stronger.

  • 1x counterspell for argent-commander.
  • 1x sylvanas-windrunner for argent-commander.
  • 1x dr-boom for flamestrike.


I hope you enjoyed my guide to Budget Tempo Mage. For more advanced Mage decks that aren’t constrained by a limited dust budget, check out the Mage meta decks on our sidebar. As always, I’d be happy to answer questions from you in the comments section.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out the New Players section, other Beginner and Budget Decks, and our most popular section – Monthly Top Meta Decks.

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