Tempo Mage has been around since the start of Hearthstone. Mages being such an efficient class curve out early, making them very difficult to be stopped. Tempo mage fell out of favour for a while with Grim Patron dominance, but now that Patron is no longer common, and aggressive decks once again rule the meta, Tempo Mage has once again risen in the competitive ranks. In the North American Championship, two of the four finalists brought a Tempo Mage deck. The one below is actually the list made by Hotform, who came second in the tournament.
Reasons to play Tempo Mage
So why would you play Tempo Mage over any other deck? Well, first is that you have to enjoy casting spells and throwing fireballs. This deck is not only good against several of the aggressive decks, but also against most of the midrange and control decks. As far as overall viability goes, this deck is universal. Plus, you get to throw a lot of fireballs.
There are several other versions of Tempo Mage which are similar but with slight tweaks. Several of them put in a Rhonin and take out the Saraad, several take out one of the Arcane Missiles or Mirror Images in favour of another Flamecannon. These are mostly playstyle choices. One of the most argued points is Arcane Intellect versus Spellslinger. As many professionals have said, objectively Spellslinger is a better card for Tempo Mage, because you should be ahead on board and this both develops your board and gives you a spell to maintain your advantage. The reason that neither Hotform nor I run it is that you simply cannot control the result. On paper you are better to play it, but any time your opponent gets a board clear spell, it’s devastating and in my book simply not worth it. But many people still play Spellslinger, including the other North American Finalist, Jab, so it’s clearly viable.
The way to play this deck is fairly straight forward. This is, as its name would suggest, a Tempo based deck, which means that in most cases, you’ll play the best card for the cost as often as possible. Things to consider are when to hold cards. For example, if you have a Flamewaker and an Arcane Missiles, is it better to play the Flamewaker on turn three alone, or is it better to play it on turn four and shoot five missiles? It often depends on the board state and the matchup. Against aggressive decks, you often want to simply play as fast as you can and not hold back, because if you don’t you’ll die. Against control, holding cards for value can often be the right play. See the Matchups section below for specific cases, as there are many.
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This deck is actually fairly strong against Secret Paladin. Arcane Missiles and Flamewaker are both huge cards in this matchup. The reason behind this is if the Paladin loses board control, he loses the game. If you are able to shoot a bunch of missiles and take out divine shields, Muster for Battles, and tokens, the Paladin simple won’t be able to use the board to their advantage. In addition, the only way the Paladin can remove a Flamewaker from an empty board is with Truesilver Champion, which many of them only run one copy of. The goal of this matchup is to make your opponent’s board clear by their turn six, so if they do drop Mysterious Challenger, you can simply deal with it with a fireball. Bonus points if you have a Mirror Entity in play at that point as well.
Many people think that tempo decks are unflavoured in this matchup, but this isn’t the case. There are two ways to win this matchup. One: dominate the early game so aggressively that the warrior simply can’t retaliate and loses before he can make a big play back. The best card to have in this style of play is Mirror Image, because it stops all of the early weapon plays that Warriors use to control the board. If you can keep him frozen with a Water Elemental, you force very unfavourable trades for the Warrior. One thing to note is that if you choose this route, you have to be wary of a turn five brawl. The other way to win is playing for value, in which case holding Arcane Missiles and Mirror Images for a big Antonidas play is the way to go. This way is really susceptible to being blown out by your opponent playing Justicar and armouring out of range, but if he doesn’t, it’s a very strong play.
Play this like any other matchup, with one exception. You have to remember that any turn after six your opponent can take your Flamewaker with a Cabal Shadow Priest. Having a Flamwaker die is bad, having it stolen is potentially game losing. Just be careful.
Massively favoured. You have lots of random damage to deal with stealthed units such as Shade, Fireballs for big taunts. If the druid is aggro, you have Mirror Images and a few Freezes for Fel Reaver, and lots of pings for the many small and stealthed units.
This is a tough matchup. Here you simply have to curve out aggressively, you don’t have much choice. The hunter, especially face hunter, will curve out faster than you in almost every case, and you’ll have to either fight for the board just as aggressively, or make a big Flamewaker play to win. Oftentimes you’ll simply have to play as if they don’t have traps and hope that whichever one they have won’t trigger.
Go face. If it’s Zoo, you typically curve out better, if it’s Handlock, don’t play around Molten Giants too strongly. You shouldn’t ignore them, leaving him with one or two extra health to avoid them is fine, but don’t hold five damage back with them in mind, your win condition is overwhelming him before he can build a board, and oftentimes finishing him with spell damage directly to face.