Hey guys Abhimannu here with another deck guide for a Tempo Mage deck that I used for my grind to legend this season on the EU server. Mage has always been my most used classes since the time I started playing hearthstone and it is definitely one of the classes that has spawned the most number of archetypes. Mech Mage, Echo Mage, Freeze Mage, Grinder Mage and even Fatigue Mage lists have come and gone with Kolento taking his homebrew fatigue deck to Top 1 Legend when Deathlord was a thing. Tempo Mage is not the newest Mage archetype and it gained immense popularity when everyone’s ‘beloved’ Flamewaker came out in Blackrock Mountain. The deck has managed to stand the test of time across the months and even the departure of various key cards in the Standard Rotation of 2016 did not do much to deter its power. It has been rising in popularity in the recent past and I picked up the deck for my grind to Legend because I was finding a lot of success against the hordes or Mid Range Shamans and Hunters in the current meta.
Before we discuss the play style and the matchups, let’s break down the deck itself in two parts – the core and the tech cards/optional inclusions.
Arcane Missiles: At least one copy of Arcane Missiles is a must in any Tempo Mage list. From taking a 50/50 on a turn 1 Flame Imp to using it with Flamewaker for some crazy pings on the board, the card does a lot and despite its random nature it serves its purpose well. Most players run 2 copies of the card, myself included but even in slower meta games 1 copy of the card is an absolute must.
Mana Wyrm: Two copies of Mana Wyrm is an auto include in any Tempo Mage deck. Sometimes if you have them on turn 1 and have a sizeable amount of cheap spells and minions to protect it you can deal 10+ damage with the card quite easily if left unchecked for 3 turns or more.
Arcane Blast: What might seem to be an underwhelming card before Whispers of the Old Gods, the card’s true potential was realized with the arrival of Cult Sorcerer. It is a perfect answer for things like Totem Golem and Frothing Berserker if you have a spell damage minion on the board.
Frostbolt: Cheap removal that doubles up as burn damage and it also has the ability to stall threats for a turn if needed. It works quite well with nearly all of your early game minions. Do not shy away from throwing one of these to your opponent’s face when you have a Mana Wyrm or a 2 drop on board and your opponent has a weapon equipped to deny removal.
Cult Sorcerer: One of the key cards in the deck and even though its card suggests it’s a C'Thun buffer, it’s a solid card on its own and helps out the Tempo Mage game plan quite well with the spell damage effect that goes perfectly with your cheap spells.
Sorcerer's Apprentice: One of the cards that makes the deck work as efficiently as possible. It can help your dictate the tempo and squeeze in the most value out of your available mana. Being able to cast things like Mirror Image, Arcane Blast or Arcane Missiles for free is a big tempo advantage and you are able to develop board and remove threats at the same time quite often.
Arcane Intellect: One of the draw engines in the deck, you want to run 2 copies of this card because you often empty your hand quite early and you need to get to your burn damage and mid game once your early game threats die.
Forgotten Torch: It’s a Fireball and Frostbolt packed into one card and it’s definitely one of the core cards in the deck because you want to have as much burn as possible to keep the pressure going versus any deck. Even though you pay 1 mana more for the Forgotten Torch compared to Frostbolt, you get a discounted Fireball (Roaring Torch) later in the game which is shuffled into the deck once you play this card.
Flamewaker: The card that makes the deck achieve maximum potential, it is definitely not going to win any popularity awards from the community but this busted card surely does some serious work. There are times where you push out 8+ damage just by playing your cheap spells. It basically works as a Spell Damage +2 minion but the damage is distributed randomly (with 100% accuracy of course when you face it and less than that when you play it yourself).
Fireball: Fireball is one of your primary sources of burn/removal in the mid game and the flexible nature of the card and the high amount of synergies makes this an auto-pick. You can raise the damage quite easily with your spell damage minions.
Azure Drake: It is one of the most solid Classic minions and the card helps you cycle through your deck quite easily allowing you to piece together your burst damage and end the game. It is the equivalent of Bloodmage Thalnos on a bigger body of sorts and it does some serious work for the deck.
These are the cards that you want to support the core of the deck. It’s advisable to go for an aggressive build like mine in the current meta but if you are facing lots of slower decks then feel free to go for lategame heavy builds.
Babbling Book: You want to cast a spell? I want to cast a spell! One of the newest additions in One Night in Karazhan. You might get something particularly good or you might get something really bad but the card provides you usable spells more often than not. The best part about Mage spells is that you can use them flexibly and even if you get bad cards you can set them up for good value. There are times when I got Shatter and was happy about it because it helped me deal with things like Arcane Giant or Ancient of War by combining it with Frostbolt. What makes Babbling Book great is not just the effect but the body itself too. There are times when the body acts like an extra ping and you are able to deal with some early game threats without needing to spend 2 mana for a Fireblast.
Mirror Image: The flexibility of this card is too good. From protecting your minions to preventing face damage, there is a lot that this 1 mana spell can do and it is the perfect early game spell to keep your 1 and 2 drops alive while using their effects to deal with your opponent threats. In my build I chose to include just one copy of the card and that has been the norm in most Mage lists.
Bloodmage Thalnos: One of the most popular inclusions from the Neutral set of cards in recent Tempo Mage lists, Thalnos does a great job of helping you cycle through your burn and also get you the spell damage you need. It is a great card to include in any Tempo Mage list and we definitely want to run it in this fast paced meta.
Loot Hoarder: One of the cards I run in the deck for extra draw. Sure, the body is not the best but I have a very aggressive game plan and I run the card for getting to my burn to just use them for face damage and end games before any substantial late game is developed.
Arcane Explosion: One of the most undervalued cards in the meta right now. With so many Shamans and Hunters, the card simply wrecks their board presence sometimes. It works exceptionally well with your spell damage minions and since you have 5 of them in your deck you will always get a cheap 2 damage AoE out of the card.
Acolyte of Pain: Hotform’s Tempo Mage list popularized this card when he took a list that ran Thalnos and Acolyte to Rank 1 Legend on NA a couple of months back. You do not need to use it for maximum value and feel free to drop it on turn 3. It is also useful for soaking up a swing of Fiery War Axe or other weapons so you can develop better and more valuable minions later without risking to lose them to early game weapon charges.
Spellslinger: One of the most polarizing choices in some Mage lists. The body is quite good and you are able to deal with a lot of threats in the meta with it. One of the reasons why people include the card is because Mage does not have any 3 drop minions in the game worth playing in a Tempo list and Spellslinger does the job well in this case. But the RNG can win or lose you games in cases and it’s a risky card to play for sure but fun nonetheless.
Ice Block: If you choose to cut down your minions as much as possible outside the early game drops and just have cycle and burn to fill up your deck then this is a great card to include. Control, one of the most popular ladder grinders who gets legend every season included it in his list last season and it took him from Rank 3 to legend with a 60%+ win rate.
Water Elemental: One of the best 4 drops in the game and it’s as strong as Piloted Shredder. The stat line is very solid and it shuts down weapon classes quite well. The problem when using the card right now is that there are no mid game weapons. Death's Bite was one of the reasons I loved running the card because you could shut down a Warrior for multiple turns but now that the weapons come in super early most of the time it doesn’t help much. With Paladin not being too visible in the meta and most Shamans not running Doomhammer, it’s fine if you do not include the card.
Barnes: One of the cards people have been trying out with reasonable levels of success. Pulling an extra spell damage minion or an Apprentice might be useful . You could go ahead and test it out depending on how the rest of your deck is tuned and get some good value out of it. But I favor consistency a bit more so I did not include it in my list.
Polymorph: If you happen to be facing lots of threats you cannot deal with too easily like Arcane Giants or Ancient of War then you can consider running a copy of Polymorph. Even though Yogg Druid is very popular right now with plenty of big threats I have had no issues against the deck because of the high amount of cycle I have and even if they do drop threats that my spells are unable to deal with, I often am far ahead in terms of tempo and can afford to spam spells to the face to close out the game by ignoring their board completely.
Nexus-Champion Saraad: One of the slower options that you can run in the deck. I do not recommend running him in the current meta but I have run him in the past when the meta was artificially slow when Old Gods came out and it did its job quite well. I recommend running him when decks like Control Warrior and Paladin are significantly popular in your matchups. With Murloc Paladin getting more and more popular, you might just want to run it if you face too many of them.
Ethereal Conjurer: You can cut a Drake in favor of Conjurer to find outs in specific situations. I do like this card and it’s a worthy consideration in Tempo Mage decks. I prefer Azure Drake because my deck is heavily focused on using maximum burn damage on your opponent and closing out the game as soon as possible. But if you focus on making value based Tempo Mage decks then you should include the card for sure.
Cabalist's Tome: You can think of the card as Ethereal Conjurer but you lose out on the body in exchange for all 3 of your Discover options. Is that good enough to run it? In a slower meta, of course. If you have been facing lots of control or mid range decks that do not run high amounts of burst you should run the card. It is also a great card to run if you have Archmage Antonidas in your deck.
Emperor Thaurissan: One of the cards you can include if you run Archmage Antonidas to get some immediate value out of the class legendary and generate enough burn to end the game. If you do not run Antonidas, I do not recommend running Emperor either.
Flamestrike: Since you do not run any proper comeback mechanisms outside of your Flamewaker RNG in the early game and your burn that works flexibly, Flamestrike can be a good tech card to add in Mid Range Shaman infested meta right now. You can easily deny their Thunder Bluff Valiant from getting too much value and also wipe out a full board of minions quite easily. It is also good versus Violet Teacher based Token decks that are popular right now. But its inclusion relies solely on how your matchups and winrates are versus these decks depending on how you build your Tempo Mage list.
Firelands Portal: One of the new additions to the deck and I’ve been loving the versatility of the card. Sometimes a lucky taunt or Charge minion can help you close out games and help you in disadvantageous situations. Since we want to burn down our opponent to 0HP as soon as possible Firelands allows us to do just that and also develops board presence which is really great.
Archmage Antonidas: If you are running a list with Cabalist’s Tome then Emperor Thaurissan and Archmage Antonidas go hand in hand. You can get quite a bit of value out of Archmage with a discount and it is a great finisher even though it’s on the slower side of the mana spectrum.
Ragnaros the Firelord: One of my favorites in any Tempo Mage list and I have it included in my current build as well. I run it over Yogg Saron Hope’s End and it has been giving me consistent value through the games. Sometimes a lucky 8 damage snipe for lethal is a lot better than playing Yogg and hoping for good RNG to save you considering you are able to deal very high amounts of damage early enough.
Medivh, the Guardian: One of the new Karazhan cards that many have tried out. You might want it in a value heavy deck but the meta is just too fast to accommodate it. Thijs had some great success with the card but with the resurgence of Aggro Shamans with their new Spirit Claws build and Dragon Warrior being a major threat with their explosive early game, it’s better to stick to the faster builds.
Yogg-Saron, Hope's End: One of the sleeper choices for Tempo Mage decks in most builds but I chose to cut it from my deck because the average games I have do not reach turn 10 and end very quickly with me being the aggressor in almost every matchup. But is sure is a fun card and feel free to cut something that is not Ragnaros from my list to accommodate it.
Card Inclusions for Wild
Note: Feel free to skip this section if you solely play Standard. I also do not recommend investing dust on the more expensive choices listed below, but if you have some free dust and want to try out the fun cards like Unstable Portal, feel free to try out this deck on the Wild ladder.
Once I got legend in Standard I decided to play some Wild seriously for the first time. I went back to my old collection and pulled out some of the following cards to suit the Wild meta. The inclusions are for people who already have the Wild cards and want to play with them. If you are someone who missed out on the fun that GvG and Naxxramas brought to us and want to try out some of the old decks then you can choose to create the commons and rares listed below, however, I would not recommend making the legendaries unless you have a lot of dust to spend. I played the deck after hitting Legend on Standard till Rank 8 and I might consider making the push for Legend in Wild too because the deck has been faring surprisingly well enough even versus Secret Paladin. I did not track my Wild stats because I do not want it to interfere with my Standard stats on Track-o-Bot.
Mad Scientist: You definitely want to get one of the strongest 2 drops in the game, Mad Scientist. It allows you to get a 3 mana secret out of your deck by losing just a little bit of stats. It also makes your draws a bit more consistent as well by thinning your deck by putting secrets into play upon its death. The secrets you want to play are Mirror Entity and probably one Counterspell if you want 2 different secrets. Duplicate is also one of the considerations you can make.
Flamecannon: Had this card been in Standard, it would be outright broken due to the lack of early game deathrattle minions that made this card look ‘average’ back in the pre-WOTOG era. The card does wonders, especially because a lot of people are playing Standard decks on the Wild ladder in the low to mid ranks.
Unstable Portal: One of the craziest cards in the game that I fell in love with when I opened one for the first time. The level of unfairness in the card is just insane and I loved how I could just cheese wins on the back of a turn 4 Dr. Boom or a Turn 5 Tirion Fordring. It’s one of the cards that made Tempo Mage fun and I for sure miss the card! The kind of RNG the card has is unhealthy for the game but fun nonetheless.
Piloted Shredder: The best 4 drop in the game arguably and it’s a must have for any Tempo Mage deck. Good old Shredder is just as good and he shows no signs of aging. Just be careful, legends say that Doomsayers are still piloting those Shredders!
Loatheb: Loatheb is a sleeper pick if you are facing a lot of spell heavy decks and it helps you avoid things like Brawl or Shaman’s burst spells.
Dr. Boom: It’s known as the best neutral legendary in the game of all time. The infamous Dr. Boom was lying in my collection in all its glory for a long time and it felt good to give the card a spin after months. It’s high impact is just too hard to deal with and it made me realize how big a threat he is in Wild now that Big Game Hunter is not being used as much.
Flame Leviathan: No. Just NO!
Building Your Tempo Mage Deck and Matchup Analysis
There are multiple tech choices you need to make based on your matchups. One of the biggest weaknesses of Tempo Mage that other Tier 1 decks easily exploit is the inability to get back in the game if all early game threats are dealt with forcing you to go to topdeck mode quite early in the game. I included a ton of draw in the deck to make sure we never run out of steam and the deck has yet to display a game where I’ve been short on answers. While my variant seeks to cycle through the deck as fast as possible, depending on which server you play in you can choose to tune your deck accordingly because the meta game has slight differences across regions. Let’s take a look at my stats to understand what I mean by tuning your deck based on matchups.
As you can see I have been facing a lot of Shaman and Hunter. There are two considerations I made when I came to my conclusive list. One, Hunter is explosive turn 6 onwards and if I do not close out my games fast enough I will lose the game because I will exhaust most of my resources on minions leaving the Hunter at a high health pool and it’s no good trying to play the long game versus the class. The same goes for Shaman as well because I have been facing Mid Range a lot more than aggro and letting them get good enough board presence and allowing them to get Thunder Bluff Valiant is just unacceptable and I cannot afford that at all so I need to be the aggressor at all times. There are games where I just win by turn 5 or 6 simply because I get ahead on tempo with my early game versus these two popular decks and simply use my draw cards to get to my burn. Even if I do not play any minions do remove anything for a few turns in the mid game as long as I am able to get to my game ending burn I am fine with it.
Similarly, if you are facing a lot of aggro decks instead of Mid Range then you can choose to include cards like Arcane Explosion even include a second copy of Mirror Image depending on what you are facing. Versus control you want to have cards like Antonidas which can be used for generating late game value.
If we look at the matchups (I have hidden the matchups where I played 2 or less games because it would not be enough to make a judgment call if it’s favorable or not). As you can see, I’ve had favorable matchups across the board when it comes to the most popular decks. Zoo is always a concern and Dragon Warrior is a 50/50 depending on who gets the better start but I did not face too many of either deck. The Tempo Mage mirror data is very interesting; I credit the high win rate to the fact that this variant of the deck is a lot faster than some of the more popular lists because of the added card draw. Tempo Mage is known to be bad versus Zoolock and if you happen to be facing a lot of them, then I recommend running double Babbling Book and Water Elementals to contest the board early in the game. The Druid matchup hasn’t been the best for me because of how early some people manage to drop their Arcane Giant and of course the infamous Innervate turns that are bent on leaving me without answers.
Understanding Win Conditions and How to Play
In my variant of the list, I have two major win conditions. One is to rush down opponents with my early drops and cheap removal to preserve board state and sometimes games can end for you on turn 5 or 6 quite easily. In most games versus Hunter I tend to see myself put them at 8-10 HP by turn 5 (often using burn spells to go face and ignoring the board most of the time unless I can afford it) and then it’s just a matter of cycling through cards and finishing them off in one or two turns. The same is true versus Mid Range Shaman, getting the crucial Cult Sorcerer into Arcane Blast is just game winning and you get to race to victory quite easily with your early game board presence.
The other means of winning is by recurring damage each turn and making efficient trades and using spells on minions instead of rushing your opponent down. Since you cannot be fast enough versus Warriors and Priests always, it’s essential you know how much burn damage you have and try to develop your board each turn as they keep using removal after removal. I try to set up Ragnaros lethal quite often in slower matchups because it is a card they do not expect quite often and they mostly expect you to play Yogg Saron once you hit 10 mana. Tinker around with decklists until you find the one that you are most comfortable with.
I would rate the difficulty level of playing the deck to be Medium. It’s not super easy and neither is it too difficult. There are some basic but important things you need to understand like ordering card draw, ordering your Forgotten Torch plays or ordering your 2 drops and you should be fine. The deck snowballs quite easily and if you get the tempo advantage once it’s very hard to lose the game. One thing I would like to add is do not ever trade down unless it’s absolutely necessary. What I mean by this is, if an enemy board has minions that are weaker, you are better off going face than trading. But you also have to keep cards like Kill Command, Spirit Claws and Flametongue Totem in mind and see if they hurt you a lot if you do not trade and play accordingly. Do note that you cannot drag on games for long since you do not have mid game or lategame minions that are dominant on board (except Ragnaros) and you want to end games as soon as possible. We do not run any minions after the 3 mana slot that do not cycle themselves except Ragnaros and it’s all about burn damage and tempo. Keeping a track of how much burn you have in your deck is essential and you want to always manage your burn resources to make sure you have enough to close out the game. When you are not sure you will be able to drag the game on for long just go face and you should already have a high enough health difference to survive a few turns to get time for drawing burn spells.
- Mana Wyrm – Always keep
- Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Always keep
- Cult Sorcerer – Always keep
- Arcane Blast – Keep in relevant matchups (you don’t need it in matchups like Yogg Druid or Control Warrior too early)
- Mirror Image – Keep with Mana Wyrm or Sorcerer’s Apprentice
- Frostbolt – Keep if you have early game minions only. If you have no other 1 and 2 drops in your mulligan, I recommend dropping it to look for your 1 drops.
- Arcane Missiles – Keep in relevant matchups like Zoolock and Hunter.
- Flamewaker – Keep only when you have turn 1 and 2 plays.
Knowing your matchups is essential. Something like a Frostbolt might be irrelevant versus the Paladin early game if they are playing Control or OTK. But Arcane Blast is a good keep if you have Mana Wyrm, Coin and Cult Sorcerer to kill their Doomsayers and avoid them from making you lose tempo. Knowing these little intricate things for each matchup is essential to do well with the deck. You should keep Flamewaker only if you have something to do on turn 1 and 2. You should keep Babbling Book if you have a 2 drop to follow up with else you should drop it to hard mulligan for your Mana Wyrm.
In Wild, the mulligans are the same except you want Mad Scientist among your priority minions and you can keep Unstable Portal if you have a turn 1 play.
Here are some sample Tempo Mage decklists you can check out for getting an idea of what the various types of builds can be.
Aggro Tempo Mage
Class Cards (25)
Yogg Tempo Mage
Class Cards (24)
Neutral Cards (6)
Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End
Asmodai's Tempo Mage (Rank 1 Legend)
Class Cards (25)
Neutral Cards (5)
Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End
Value Tempo Mage
Class Cards (25)
Neutral Cards (5)
Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End
Ladder Experience and Closing Thoughts
I used the deck for my climb to legend on the EU ladder this season and it worked quite well for me because I faced plenty of Hunters and Mid Range Shamans which have been easy matchups for this deck. You should have no trouble performing well because the hardest part of playing the deck is understanding your early game mulligan and plays because once you are into turn 3 or 4 you should have a fair idea of how you want to approach the game and finish off your game accordingly. If you need any help with the deck just leave a comment below and I will be happy to assist you with anything you need. It has been a powerhouse of a deck and I am happy with the way the deck is performing right now.