Weekly Legends: Mech-ish Tempo Mage

Tempo/Flamewaker Mage has been making waves up and down the ladder. Let's master the deck together!

Introduction

I have to start this week’s article off by being brutally honest: I despise Tempo Mage. I hate it, I can’t stand playing it, and don’t much like playing against it either. I think it is very weak, and depends too heavily on curve, too much on timely burn, and too much on a lot of low-impact cards. My biggest complaint with the deck has been that the curve is much too high, and you need the exact cards in succession to keep pace. It seems that I was not the only one with this feeling, and this week’s decklist, an amazing twist on the standard Tempo Mage, fixes that problem in an amazing way.

How do you change the swingy draw-dependent way that Tempo Mage plays? Fix the curve of course. No, check that. You obliterate the curve. This week’s deck drew my attention because, not only is it a great example of how to use value cards to climb the ladder, it also creates a beautiful curve. By taking out the high end of Tempo Mage and putting in a traditional Mech package, you suddenly don’t need cards that costs more than four. While this is by no means an aggro deck, it plays very much like the Shockadin decks of old. You try to play and combo as many cards as you can, and then refill your hand with Arcane Intellect and Jeeves. Those two cards may not be as good as Divine Favor, but they help you dig for threats or lethal. Taking elements from Mech Mage and putting them into Tempo is a great combination that gives you some  extra tools that fix many of the problems with regular Tempo Mage.

Key Cards

Arcane Missiles

Arcane Missiles is a card that has been seeing a lot of play in Tempo at of late, and for good reason. It is a one mana spell that kills a lot of early minions, works well with Flamewaker as well as Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and even has synergy with Mage’s hero power. It is even more important here because this deck completely relies on synergy to succeed. The whole of this deck is created from little combos that come together in many interesting and unusual ways. However, they all have the goal of getting into a position where you can control the flow of the game, and truly play to your tempo. Missiles allows you to do just that.

While you may not always get the desired result, Arcane Missiles is a card that enables you to take back an early board. It can kill things like Knife Juggler or Mad Scientist, while also being able to clear out the back end of a Haunted Creeper or pick of Silver Hand Recruits. This card is obviously very strong when used for free with a Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Flamewaker, but even beyond that, it rules the first two or three turns. This deck operates very similarly to Zoo. Once you have board, you can use your removal and minions to keep clearing while putting on pressure. To do that, you need to get ahead early, and missiles allows that to happen time and time again.

Snowchugger

One inevitable question I have gotten asked about this deck is, why not just run regular tempo? Why fuss with the mechs? Besides the fact that Clockwork Gnome has some nifty interactions with Flamewaker, and besides the fact that Goblin Blastmage is a tank, the answer is Snowchugger. While not as popular as they once were, Rogues are still hiding in the shadows of the ladder. In addition, Warriors and Hunters are everywhere. As such, it is always nice to have something that can shut weapons down. I have won more than my share of games simply because chugga unanswered on turn two against any of the aforementioned classes. In fact, this card is so good that I will often play something before to bait out removal, such as Execute, Backstab or Eviscerate.

Even with this card in not locking down a Warrior, because it activates blastmage, it is never truly dead. Not only that, but the ability to Freeze larger minions can actually be quite relevant. I had a game or two where I simply won because this little mech locked my opponent out of lethal and gave me an extra turn to draw burn. That won’t always happen, and sometimes it will just trade, but the potential for this card is too high not to run it. It is essential in this deck, not just because it can win games, but because weapons can be a huge problem if they go unchecked.

Knife Juggler

This is another card many people ask about, and so I shall explain. Knife Juggler may not be as high-impact as things like Flamewaker or Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but it does exactly what this deck wants. It is a solid, aggressive 2 drop that trades well, and pings minions. This deck, as stated, is built around powering cards out of your hand. You have plenty of small, efficient minions in addition to Mirror Image. The amount of small minions allows your juggler to throw a ton of knives. These knives, like Arcane Missiles, help you keep control over the board, and can also put on some extra damage. Yes, most of the time the gnome will be removed, but that is also important. As so many cards in this list are key, forcing your opponent to remove the juggler will often open up a Flamewaker or Goblin Blastmage later on.

Flamewaker

The card that makes everything possible. While that may seem like hyperbole, it is very true. I do not think this deck could exist without Flamewaker. The card, while being very hard to kill, is a nightmare if it goes unchecked. The ability to cast your normal spells while throwing around missiles is very powerful, and that grows even more when those spells are things like Fireball and Frostbolt. This card serves a very similar purpose to Goblin Blastmage, and can be just as effective when used in the right way.

While it may be tempting to run this card out, I will almost always hold it back until I can pull off some kind of mini-combo. Often this is waiting til turn four to play it with Arcane Missiles, but there are many ways to do this. This card is insane with Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and the ability is so strong I will often hold the coin until turn three or four when I have this in hand. One more important thing to remember about waker is how much damage it can do on an empty board. There have been numerous games where I have won by having this out and pointing burn at my opponent’s dome. The damage potential, mixed with the ability to board clear, allow this card to perfectly fill out the deck.

Goblin Blastmage

Yes, there are only six mechs in this list. No, I would not cut this card for the world. Anyone who has played enough post-GVG Hearthstone knows how strong this four drop is. Goblin Blastmage is an incredible card, acting as a threat, an on-curve minion, and a removal spell all in one. One of the reasons this deck is so powerful is because every card does something. That is to say, every single card adds to the tempo, which then gives you the ability to win. Even something as simple as Mirror Image is free with Sorcerer’s Apprentice, enables Mana Wyrm and triggers Knife Juggler twice. That type of efficiency is why blastmage is a must-have.

This card just oozes tempo, which makes it such an obvious inclusion to the list. There are many games where you will be behind on board and then the goblin will bring you back. If you are worried about having mechs to play with it, don’t, as you will almost often have an activator. My one rule with this is, unless it is absolutely necessary, don’t play this without a mech on board. Sometimes that means waiting until five or six to cast it, but it is in the deck for the missiles, and that’s what it should be used for. In addition, never be afraid to throw this out on an empty board and hit your opponent for four, as that can often be the different between winning and losing.

Jeeves

In the introduction I explained how this deck runs a lot like Shockadin, playing a ton of cards and then trying to refill your hand with card draw. While Mages are not privy to the wonders of Divine Favor, Jeeves is the next best thing. He may seem like an odd inclusion to the list, but you will run out of cards, and fast. Without having access to Jeeves to dig for lethal (as he most often does) the deck would lose a lot of its late game punch. Yes, as always he can help your opponent, but the extra cards, due to their synergy, are much more important to you. He is a card you never want to keep in your opener, but you do want to draw him during the later stages of the game. He is worth playing even if he draws one card just because he will almost often bait out removal. Also, as a mech, he pairs quite nicely with Goblin Blastmage during the later stages of the game.

Matchups

These are the five matchups I see the most on ladder.

Face Hunter

Yep. Just, yep. Face Hunter is the real Hunter. There were a couple of days where Midrange seemed to be making a comeback, but people got over that. It just seems that Leper Gnome and Wolfrider are too good at killing people to bother with things like Loatheb and Piloted Shredder. Face Hunter is still all over ladder, but for the first time in a while, that shouldn’t bother this deck. You have so much solid removal, and strong, early minions that you can actually meet them punch for punch. Not to mention, the burn you have access to allows you to finish games faster than they can.

I have yet to lose to Face Hunter with this deck, going 5-0 against it so far. While Unstable Portal helped me out in two of those games, I felt like I was in control of all of them. While clearing is always important, you want to do that with your spells and Knife Juggler. In this matchup you are almost always going to be the aggressor. Use your Snowchuggers and Frostbolts to keep them off their weapons, Mirror Image and Arcane Missiles to slow their early game, and Fireballs to finish them off. Not every game is going to be so clean cut, but you have a ton of ways to removal small minions, and that gives you a huge edge. Make them answer your threats through pressure, and, as always, be wary of Unleash the Hounds and Explosive Trap.

Zoo

This is possibly the most interesting matchup you will encounter. Zoo is a deck that does exactly what you want to do, but in a different way. This gives you the advantage half of the time, and can be an absolute nightmare the rest of the way. When they have things like Nerubian Egg and Imp Gang Boss your missiles can do a lot more harm than good. However, when they have a board full of small minions, Goblin Blastmage and crew can outright win you the game. Zoo has never been good at fighting uphill, and you can exploit that here by taking over the game early with cheap spells or Flamewaker and Blastmage.

While Frostbolt is often used to kill off an early minion, you need to save your Fireballs at all costs. While some games you will steamroll (or get steamrolled) a lot of this match comes down to using your resources well. While most of your removal (and hero power) can take down most of Zoo’s minions, Fireball is the only way you can really deal with Mal’ganis, Doomguard or Dr. Boom. Keep the board clear at all costs, always trade efficiently when you can, and always be prepared for their larger minions.

Grim Patron Warrior

A deck that I first covered during the very beginning of Blackrock Mountain, Grim Patron Warrior went from a fringe deck to the real deal very, very quickly. Unfortunately, that is a problem for us as it is by far the hardest matchup. Grim Patron Warrior is a deck that loves taking damage, and damage is all our deck does. This matchup is by no means unwinnable, but you need to be very careful and play around things like Acolyte of Pain, Grim Patron[card], [card]Frothing Berserker and Armorsmith. The way to do that is to be extremely aggressive. You want to pressure their life total, and hit them hard and fast before they get a proper chance to stabilize. Even just keeping something like a Sorcerer’s Apprentice alive to kill of Acolytes or Berserkers can make all the difference.

As stated before, weapons are really strong against our deck. Death’s Bite can be brutal, and Fiery War Axe even more so. You want to play around both as best you can. In fact, I will often hold Mana Wyrm until turn two to play with a Mirror Image as a way to protect it. Snowchugger is an absolute allstar here, and getting one unchecked on turn two can win you the game. The number one rule is to try and never use your ping spells when they have any of the above minions out, and try to kill them quickly. If they get the combo out on turn eight or nine it is very hard to comeback.

Tempo Mage (Sort of Mirror)

Holy RNG Batman! I will be the first to say that skill is extremely important in this game. Most of the time, games that come down to RNG cloud our judgement and do not allow us to see what we did wrong to get into that position. However, this matchup has Flamecannon, Arcane Missiles, Knife Juggler and Unstable Portal coming from both sides. As such, there is a lot of RNG flying around. So, how do you twist that to your advantage? Always play to the odds.

What that means is, try and set up the board in ways that will give you the best chance to succeed. Kill off small minions before playing Flamecannon, or use Arcane Missiles before playing minions for Knife Juggler. If you really need to clear the board, try and wait a turn to use Flamewaker with your spells. Waiting for openings such as this can make the difference in the game. One more thing to remember is you have Goblin Blastmage, and that gives you a huge advantage during the early stages. However, much like Zoo, you want to keep your Fireballs for the end of the game to kill off their big minions. If you ever get board control it is very hard to lose, but the same goes for them as well.

Dragon/Midrange Paladin

I have looped these two together because the play style against them is exactly the same. You can never be sure which version of Paladin you are going to get, but they play very similarly as well. They try to take over the early game, and then spend the middle turns playing one large minion after another. This is very good news for us. Tempo decks thrive when their opponent is only playing one minion a turn, which allows solid removal such as Flamecannon and Fireball to shine. If you can wrestle the early board, you can let them fall into this trap and just take the game from them by killing their minions and hitting face.

Paladin attacks the board from two angles, their strong middle game and very efficient early game. The early stages are typically where this game is won. If you can use your Flamewakers, Knife Jugglers, Frostbolts and Arcane Missiles to keep the board clear, then you will most likely win. Always remove Shielded Minibot and Zombie Chow, as they can create nightmares if not answered in the right way. Just as in Rogue, Hunter and Warrior, Snowchugger can also help you cement turn three and four by shutting down a Light’s Justice or Truesilver Champion. Blastmage is also very strong. Just know when to make sure they have no minions on board and when to start pushing for lethal. Turn eight is their big turn (Tirion Fordring and Lay on Hands) so you want to make sure they are on their heels by that time.

Mulligan Guide

One of my favorite things about this deck is the mulliganing. Often mulligans are based around your opponent’s class, and while that is true here to some extent, your mulligans are much more dependent on whether of not you have the coin. Because of the way this deck works, the coin is extremely important in deciding how you play. For instance, I will never keep Flamewaker in my hand without the coin, but always keep it with the coin. If I have an early mech, Blastmage is an easy keep with the coin, but never without it, even with a mech. The coin also allows you to keep entire hands. If you have Sorcerer’s Apprentice and some cheap spells without the coin, you usually want to get rid of the spells and look for more solid minions. However, if you have the coin, I will usually keep the hand, as that one extra mana can allow you to play everything you need.

Mana Wyrm, Clockwork Gnome, Snowchugger and Sorcerer’s Apprentice are “always keeps”. You want to start almost every single match off with these cards. Knife Juggler can be kept with Mirror Image, but Mirror Image is usually only kept against Warrior, Rogue or with Mana Wyrm in hand. Arcane Missiles should only be kept against Paladin, Mage, Hunter and Zoo, while Frostbolt is a great keep against aggro as well as Warrior and Priest. If you play to the coin, and look for early interactions, you should be fine at sculpting a favorable board. Never keep Arcane Intellect[card],[card]Jeeves or [/card]Fireball, and [card]Flamecannon is typically for Druid, Zoo, Hunter and Priest…Of course, that all could change if you have the coin.

Thanks again for tuning in to Weekly Legends. Hope you guys love this list as much as I do. As always, I always respond to comments, and love getting feedback. Let me know what you think, hope you have a great week and, until next time, may your Unstable Portals always give you what you need.