Weekly Legends: Secret Tempo Mage
Deck Code: AAECAf0EBIGyAt7NAqbOAsLOAg1xwwG7ApUDqwTmBJYF7AWjtgLXtgKHvQLBwQKYxAIA
Nerfs are out, and some of the most popular decks around have been completely gutted (as was the point). Druid needs to figure out a brand new identity, and even Warrior is going to struggle to rebound over the next few weeks. While that is going on, we are going back to Jaina to take a look at a new legend Secret Tempo deck created by RDeeHS. This list, unlike some others we've covered, is nothing too fancy or over the top, but it does a great job of blending two different archetypes together. You have all of the punch and flurry finish of tempo combined with a strong secret package that helps you gain extra advantage during the middle and later stage of the game. It may sound a bit off when you first look at the list as a whole, but it all works together quite well. That is especially true with all of the recent shifts in popularity.
We begin our discussion with Sorcerer's Apprenticebecause the two drop has a much different use here than it did in past lists. In previous tempo decks, you would try to hold onto multiple cheap spells and then use the 3/2's discount to unleash a flurry of pain. Not only are most of those cheap spells now gone, but you also no longer have cards like Flamewakerto abuse. Rather, you just want to use this card to get value and put something down onto the board in the same turn. For example, playing apprentice with Frostbolton turn three (or turn two with the coin) to kill a threat and get a body down is a great way to open the game. Some people tend to shy away from those simple moves (especially if they don't have a Mana Wyrmin play), but those are the moves that are going to push you forward and give you a way to keep advancing your board state.
While Sorcerer's Apprenticeis great early, she can be weak later on. If you have her moving into the later stages of your curve you want to try see where she can get you value in terms of damage. Of course, board is always going to be your first priority, but simply pushing for a 3/2 is going to be much less relevant on turn eight than it is on turn two or three. Every point of damage is going to be extremely important at the end of the game, and that goes double against builds that have strong top decks. For that reason, the 3/2's ability to give you an extra ping or play something like Fireballalongside Firelands Portalcan be the difference between winning and losing. Unless you absolutely need a body, or you want to eat removal, do not just run apprentice out to run her out. Always think of ways you could take advantage of the discount first.
There are several different secrets you could run for a deck like this, but none of them are close to as strong as Counterspell. The three mana spell goes up and down in popularity depending on the meta. However, it is always going to be powerful when decks are playing high-value spells. And, oh my are decks playing some high-value spells. As with so many Mage cards, what makes this spell interesting is its versatility. You can either play it as a way to shut down a powerful or finisher spell (Spikeridged Steed, Ultimate Infestation, Pyroblast, Vanish, etc.) or you can use it to protect your minions from removal. This is one of the best cards to use with Kirin Tor Mage, and it also amazing at shutting down board clears like Dragonfire Potionor Brawl. Counterspell is a great tool to have in this deck because it is the purest definition of tempo. You are investing into a card that will protect your board while also removing an opponent's spell. Even if your opponent can play around it with something cheap, they are still wasting a card and mana.
Note: As always, watch out for the coin when using the secret. You should always try to hold it back until your opponent has used their free mana.
I thought it would be best to lump both of these cards together, because they each serve as one of tech(ish) card that helps round out the deck as a whole. Though Ghastly Conjurerhas typically seen play in slower Quest Mage lists, it has a few strong uses here. First off, the free Mirror Imagegoes a long way towards protect your early board. Running the 2/6 out when you already have a Sorcerer's Apprenticeis going to give you immediate value, but even having a way to put down two taunts is great. Not only does that help you protect yourself against faster decks, but it also gives you a way to make sure your minions can stay safe. The 2/6 body is relevant as well. As mentioned, every point of damage is important, and having something that is hard to kill can be useful for some extra pressure.
The other slot here is Bonemare, which does an incredible job of punishing your opponent for letting any of your minions live. The 5/5 is as strong as ever, and almost nobody is going to see it coming from a Mage. That helps you stick it quite a bit and gives you ways to push damage out of nowhere. Always assume your opponent won't see this coming and don't be afraid to play to it. Beyond that, the undead horse is also important because it makes your cheap, top-decked minions much better. There are going to be some games where you topdeck a nearly-useless Mana Wyrmor Sorcerer's Apprentice. However, if you have Bonemare in hand that wyrm instantly becomes a 5/7, and the apprentice a 7/6. For that reason, unless you have an available target, you should not shy away from holding the seven drop in your hand until you draw a small body to play it with.
A big part of this deck is properly setting up Firelands Portal. As a Mage, you are constantly going to threaten your opponent with damage. So much so that many people will be extremely wary of you, even when they are in the high teens. For that reason, being able to clear the board with Firelands is one of the best ways to close out a match. Not only do you get rid of a threat, but you are almost always going to get a solid body out of the spell. That then puts your opponent into a tough position. Either they contest your minion, keeping you in control of priority, or they ignore it and you hit them in the face. If they can easily get rid of your threat with their minions, this card won't have the same impact. As a result, play it to as much as possible.
The other way you can use Firelands Portalis to throw it at your opponent's face. As the spell is always going to serve as board presence, it is always going to put your opponent on the back foot. Even if your opponent has nothing down, being able to hit for five (damage is always relevant with this deck) and get a body that represents more damage is very strong. In fact, building a board for the first six turns of the game, then hitting your already-damaged opponent down to even lower life and adding to your board is one of the best ways to end a game. While they may have an answer to your threats, by the time they are done clearing you should have more than enough burn options to completely lock them out. This deck is not always about pacing like other tempo decks. Sometimes it is just about distracting your opponent until you can finish them off.
We finish the cards list with what has always been the most important part of Tempo Mage: The Burn. Frostbolt, Fireballand Firelands Portalare all great at ending a game, and you need to know how and when to play to them. Your spells are great at protecting minions and controlling the board, but a lot of the time they are going to be much better when used as a pure finisher. For example, if your opponent is at seventeen life and you have no board but two Fireballs in hand, you just want to try to find chip damage and largely forget about minions. You will always have one damage a turn, and that stacks up quite quickly. Controlling the board typically only matters early on, or at the end of a game where you and your opponent are desperately fighting for board during a top deck war. That's when your burn should go after minions. Any other time, you want to use your spells as lethal.
Another important aspect of the burn in this deck is knowing when you need to play to your top decks. A lot of the time, people tend to only look at their hand and the board in front of them. That works well for a lot of situations, but it is always important to also run through hypothetical scenarios as well. You have a lot of ways to do damage, and if you spend your burn on the board before drawing into something like Fireball, there is a chance you gave away lethal. Recognize your win conditions and do whatever you can to play to them. For instance, if your opponent has the board or complete control of the pace, try your best to go face and hit them as hard as possible. This will make every single spell you get off the top an instant threat. Even one missed attack can be the difference between winning and losing.
The four decks I've seen during the days after the nerfs.
What a world. Priest is one of the strongest parts of the meta, and for the early days Kazakus Priest is one of the most popular (if not the most popular) decks around. This is a game where you need to heavily lean on your early minions to get in damage. Priest is going to dominate the late game once they shift into Shadowreaper Anduin, and you need to kill them (or get them to low life levels) before that point. The way you do that is by pressing them early with any body you can muster and then stockpiling all your damage at once. If Priest knows they are going to die they may put a lot of stock into their hero power or work towards drawing healing spells. However, if they don't see the burst coming you should be fine. Also do not be afraid to maximize damage here. Sometimes it is fine to just Firelands Portalyour opponent's face.
Kirin Tor Mageis your best friend in this game. Even without a secret, a 4/3 body is going to give Anduin nightmares. That is the card you want to get down over anything else. In addition, Priest does not do well at playing around Counterspell. Their only cheap spell is Power Word: Shield, and most of the time they are going to burn that early on (or not draw it at all). Putting down Counterspell during turns four, five, or six will protect your board in a ton of different ways and really put your opponent on the back foot. Even if they do manage to recover from that point, they will often slip down into burn range.
You thought it was gone, but you were wrong. Right behind Priest is Pirate Warrior. Though the deck took a hit with the nerf to Fiery War Axe, they still have a ton of ways to put on pressure. To win this matchup you need to fight fire with fire. That is to say, treat this game like a race. You have to tempo your opponent out of the gates, but once you're ahead you need to stack up as much damage as possible. Focus all of your early resources into tempo plays and kill everything to prevent your opponent from getting value out of things like Southsea Captainor Bloodsail Cultist. It may not seem important to take down a innocent N'Zoth's First Mate, but if you get locked off the board the next turn the game is largely going to be over. You cannot let Pirate get ahead of you.
The hardest part of playing Pirate Warrior is knowing how to use your burn. I even went through this during my last game in the video. You need to push them to lethal faster than they can push you, but you also want to make sure you aren't exposed. Always calculate your possible damage (including any possible top decks) against your opponent's damage potential. You should always assume Pirate has Leeroy Jenkinsor Mortal Strikein hand. That may not always be true, but it is the best way to see how safe your possible decisions are. Also note that Frostboltis one of the best ways to get ahead in a race. Using it on your opponent's face can shut down weapon damage instantly.
With Druid and Paladin both taking a nosedive, Hunter has come back into the meta. I am not sure if this is going to last, but if you want to ladder right now you need to be ready for Rexxar and his army of beasts. This game is going to play out like Pirate Warrior, where you need to use your resources to put something down onto an empty board. However, it is a bit different in that it is ok to leave yourself wide open at times. Unlike Garrosh, Hunter does not have many ways to pour on damage from hand. Rather, they rely on quick tempo to get that done. Do not be afraid to go after them hard and make them trade into you. All it takes is one strong damage turn to make Hunter re-think their decisions or game plan.
You have to control the board if you want to win. Hunter makes a living off of being able to pressure their opponent with damage. You do that as well, but you have the added bonus of burn (as noted above). In addition, you also have your secrets. Both spells are going to get great mileage in this one. Your opponent has no idea what secrets you run, which enables you to put them into some awkward positions. They want to save cheap minions for Mirror Entity, but their strong curve means they will almost always give you something good. In addition,Counterspellis one of the best end game cards here, especially when you're in the middle of a race. Most of Hunter's finishing damage comes in the form of spells. If you can shut down a key Kill Commandyou should be able to get the win.
Instead of discussing one set deck, I'd thought I'd use this slot to lump all of the slow Mage decks together. Quest Mage is prevalent, Grinder Mage has a good showing, and I've also faced a good share of Freeze and Freeze style decks. Any time you see Jaina you should assume she is attempting to push to a long game. That is bad news for some decks, but not for you. Almost every slow Mage looks to use ample freeze effects to lock out the board until they can put some long combo together. While that plan is great against classes that want to pace the board, it is much weaker against big swaths of burn. Save all of your damage in this one, and do not be afraid to just throw Fireballs and Frostbolts at your opponent's face. All of it adds up to damage, and the only minion you need to be ready for is Doomsayer. Just save seven damage and throw out everything else. The more pressure you can put Mage under, the more it will take them off of their end-game plan. You want as many minions as you can get down early, and then use your spells to pop Ice Blockas soon as possible.
Note: Be careful when playing Mirror Entity. If your opponent plays a Doomsayerinto it you're going to have a bad time.
Tempo decks are all about one thing, which is board presence. That means your mulligan needs to be for anything that has a low cost. As the new meta is still taking shape, you should focus more on your own plays rather than what your opponent might have. Mana Wyrm, Babbling Book, Sorcerer's Apprentice, Frostbolt, Arcanologist, and Primordial Glyphare your must keeps. From there, you can keep Arcane Intellectagainst slower decks (such as Priest) and Kirin Tor Mageif you have a secret in hand. In the same vein, you should only ever keep Counterspellor Mirror Entityif you have a mage to go with them.
Finally, Medivh's Valetcan be a solid keep with a Kirin Tor Mage/secret play, and it also works against aggro decks when you have no other early bodies in hand. Fireballand Ghastly Conjurerboth work with the coin and a strong curve, while Kabal Crystal Runner (which costs four with a discount) is a good keep if you have a Kirin Tor Mage/secret play on turn three.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Tempo is always going to be fun. The pace of playing down a minion, killing your opponent's, going face, and then doing it again while you play more threats next turn, just feels good. This deck excels at that type of game, but it also gives you some real heavy hitters to mess around with as well. While it is not the newest or more original deck on Earth, things like this are a great choice for a newly shaping meta (which we are currently in). I hope it brings you success. Until next time, may you always counter your opponent's spells.