Our Tempo Mage deck list guide for the The Witchwood expansion features one of the top lists for this archetype. This Secret Tempo Mage guide includes Mulligan Strategy, Gameplay Tips, Card Substitutions, and Combos/Synergies!
Introduction to Tempo Mage
Tempo Mage is one of the old Hearthstone archetypes, which was present through the game’s history in many different forms. Funnily enough, the current version looks similar to the ones that were played back in the day, even before Blackrock Mountain. That adventure has added Flamewaker to the game, which in turn made a Tempo Mage lists based around it + a bunch of cheap spells a thing. Later, after Flamewaker has already rotated out, Blizzard has been pushing Secret synergies for the Mage, which revived it again during Year of the Mammoth. However, since most of those Secret synergies have rotated out, the Raven version of Tempo Mage is going back to its roots – aggressive deck built around lots and lots of burn cards.
Check out a Budget Version of Elemental Tempo Mage, also check out our Wild Secret Mage Deck Guide!
Tempo Mage Mulligan Strategy & Guide
The deck’s mulligan is pretty similar in every matchup, so I’m not going to divide it into two sections like I usually do.
High Priority (Keep every time)
- Mana Wyrm – One of the best 1-drops (if not THE best 1-drop) in the game right now, 1/3 alone is good enough against Aggro decks, and the card can really snowball out of control very quickly.
- Fire Fly – Not as good as Mana Wyrm, obviously, but having a 1-drop is quite important anyway. The 1/2 body is good at dealing with token-heavy decks with are common in the current meta.
- Arcanologist – Best 2-drop in this deck – 2/3 for 2 are solid stats and it fetches you a Secret on top of that.
- Sorcerer's Apprentice – While it’s worse than Arcanologist by itself, the deck runs lots of cheap spells, which have great combo with Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Low Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Arcane Missiles – Keep with Mana Wyrm, or against Paladin decks in general.
- Frostbolt – Keep with Mana Wyrm or Sorcerer's Apprentice against faster decks.
- Important: DO NOT keep you cheap spells without any minions – a hand full of cheap spells is going to be useless.
- Kirin Tor Mage – Keep with a Secret (preferably Explosive Runes when opponent has Coin and Counterspell if he doesn’t) or Arcanologist.
- Aluneth – Keep in slower matchups, like Cube Warlock or Control Warrior.
Tempo Mage Win Rates
Tempo Mage Play Strategy
When it comes to the Aggro matchups, curve is most important. You really want to hard-mulligan for your 1-drops and 2-drops – the reason is that you can’t fall behind in those matchups. Tempo Mage is not a very board-based deck. Without AoE spells, it might have hard time coming back into the game after another deck, such as Odd Paladin, takes over the board.
Luckily for you, most of the aggressive decks right now are token-based – they flood the board with small, 1-2 health minions, and for that reason, cards like Arcane Missiles or Cinderstorm can actually get you lots of value. Clearing a few minions is great, especially if you’re the one with board control already.
Given that your deck is very low on minions, at one point it will be impossible to keep the board control. You will need to switch your game plan to burn damage. If you had a good start, it means that you should have dealt at least some damage already. Then, if you still have minions on the board, try to protect them with the spells. If you don’t – go face with your spells as much as possible, clear only the highest priority minions (or use cards like Missiles/Cindestorm to clear). At this point, it’s the matter of whether you can kill your opponent before he kills you – it heavily depends on how much health he has, what cards you draw etc.
With Ice Block gone, you no longer have a way to stall the game for an extra turn – remember about that. However, Primordial Glyph can still give you a way to buy an extra turn, or even clear the board. Ice Barrier might prevent lethal and buy you a turn, same goes for Frost Nova. Getting a Blizzard or Flamestrike can just clear the board and buy you even more time. Picking AoE from Glyph is usually the right choice in the fast matchups.
Games vs Control are very different from games against Aggro. This time around, you don’t have to worry about board control. I mean, you still kind of do in the early game – e.g. if Frostbolt on their 2-drop might protect your Mana Wyrm or Apprentice, that’s great. But the general game plan is actually quite the opposite – you want to deal as much face damage as possible with your early game minions and then finish the game with burn spells.
Mana Wyrm is, again, the best card you can have in the early game. Lots of decks might not have a way to deal with a 1 mana 3 health minion, and it can snowball out of control very quickly. If you follow it with 3 cheap spells, it’s a 1 mana 4/3 already, with a potential to grow further. If your opponent won’t find an answer, it can carry the game by itself. However, other minions are also good – especially Kirin Tor Mage, which not only has a solid body for the mana cost, but gives you a lot of tempo by playing a Secret for free. The best case scenario is going second, opening with a Mana Wyrm into Coin + Kirin Tor + Counterspell. Not only you have two strong minions on the board (on Turn 2!), but your opponent can’t remove them with spells OR proc the Counterspell with Coin.
The general rule when it comes to play Secrets is that your opponent is on Coin, you prefer to play the Explosive Runes – he will check for Counterspell with the Coin most of the time anyway. Counterspell is better when your opponent starts with no Coin (or has used it already) and you have a solid board, preferably right before a board clear. Let’s say that you face Cube Warlock and you’re going into his Turn 4. He has no Coin. It’s a perfect time to set up a Counterspell, since he will now no longer be able to Hellfire the board away.
Unlike versus Aggro, when you play against a slower deck, Arcane Missiles and Cinderstorm aren’t used for the board control – they are very efficient burn cards when played on the empty board. Arcane Missiles deals 3 damage for 1 mana, while Cinderstorm deals 5 for 3. They get even better if you have either Mana Wyrm or Sorcerer’s Apprentice on the board. Because you want to use them as burn, ideally you want to play them before other burn cards – later in the game your opponent might have a board and they might not even hit him.
MVP of the slower matchups is definitely Aluneth. Thanks to this card, instead of drawing 1 per turn, you draw 4 per turn, meaning that you will never really run out of cards. After you use Aluneth, you no longer have to be efficient. Hero Power? What is that? You play as many cards as you can as quickly as you can. Try to not burn any cards, but don’t worry if you do – burning one or two is pretty common when you draw so many. After Aluneth, try to close out the game as quickly as possible – use your extra resources to burn your opponent. Remember that you have limited time – not only your opponent is most likely building a board of his own already (and you have no Ice Block to stall for an extra turn), but you will get to fatigue really quickly. Even if you play Aluneth on Turn 6, very early into the game, it will take only about 5 turns to hit fatigue, so you don’t have much time.
Pyroblast is used as a finisher – if you get to Turn 10, 10 damage will often be enough to kill your opponent. It’s not an optimal card, but it’s useful in slow matchups just because so much burn you previously had has rotated out (Medivh's Valet, Firelands Portal).
Tempo Mage Card Substitutions
For the most part, Tempo Mage is a rather inexpensive deck. The deck still works quite well when played on the budget, but there are some cards that you might not have.
- Bloodmage Thalnos – At this point most of the players have this card already (since it’s one of the Classic staples), but it’s not necessary in this list. It adds some extra burn damage and cycle, but for the most part, you can replace it with just about anything.
- Aluneth – I’d say that this is one of the most important cards in this deck. Without it, you will lose lots and lots of matches, especially slower ones. You run out of cards very quickly, and you will often end up a turn or two short of killing your opponent. Aluneth gives you that extra steam you need to finish the game.
- Primordial Glyph – Pretty good, flexible spell. It can give you whatever you need in the given situation – e.g. board clear vs Aggro or more burn vs Control. Still, not necessary for the deck to function.
- Pyroblast – Good finisher in slow matchups, but pretty bad against Aggro anyway – not necessary.
And here are the cards you can replace them with:
- Vex Crow – I’m still not sure about this card – it’s hard to say whether the Vex Crow version of the deck is better or worse. But it’s still a viable substitute OR you can just run it in your deck instead of a Lifedrinker. When playing Vex Crow, however, you probably want to add some more cheap spells to the deck.
- 2nd Fire Fly – It will be helpful against Aggro decks, a higher chance to get 1-drop means a lower chance to fall behind in the early game.
- Black Cat – Yes, in this deck, without the Odd synergy. It’s not optimal, but it gives you Spell Damage + it’s a 3-drop, and this deck suffers from the lack of 3-drops. Playing a Secret (without Kirin Tor) or Arcane Intellect is often a very weak Turn 3 play, and this way you could at least put a minion on the board.
- Mirror Image & Breath of Sindragosa – Solid cheap spells, can be used to protect your early minions, especially Mana Wyrm. If you run the Vex Crow build, those can also be combo’d with it to get random 2 mana minions.
- Arcane Explosion – Mostly a tech card vs Paladins. It’s not a great card, but if you face a board full of 1/1’s, you’re going to be glad that you have it. The downside is that it’s a bad card vs slower decks.