Our budget Tempo Mage deck list & guide for the Scholomance Academy expansion will teach you how to play this budget list. This guide includes Mulligans, Gameplay Strategy, Card Substitutions, and Combos/Synergies!
Introduction to Budget Tempo Mage
Tempo Mage used to be a very notable and powerful Hearthstone deck, until Mana Wyrm got nerfed a few years ago, all of its synergies have rotated out and the deck was left in the dark for a long time. Then came Rise of Shadows and Mana Cyclone, where the deck has made a comeback in a slightly different form. But that, too, got nerfed. And now, Tempo/Cyclone Mage is getting yet another comeback, partially thanks to the new Spell Damage package (Lab Partner, Primordial Studies, Cram Session), partially thanks to the strong, cheap spells and partially thanks to the new threats / pay-off cards. Sadly, many of those pay-off cards are expensive, and our budget rules allow for up to 2 Epics and no Legendaries at all. That’s why the version we’ve got here had to cut quite a lot of them.
The deck does most of what it needs to do, it has solid board control, it cycles a lot and generates a lot of cards… but the issue is that it’s quite hard to win the game without your actual win conditions. I had to sub them for cards like Fireball (which gives more reach) and Wyrm Weaver (which is actually a solid threat too, but your need to trigger Spell Burst for Mana Wyrms and then they need to stick). Still, it’s playable in the current state, and then it has a very clear upgrade path if you have some more Arcane Dust. Sadly, Mage doesn’t really have an alternative – Highlander or some kind of Combo deck is even more expensive to build and absolutely not fit to play on budget.
Budget Tempo Mage Mulligan Guide
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Lab Partner & Violet Spellwing – Your 1-drops, and you want to open with a 1-drop. Both are good – one has better stats and solid effect, but the other one “cycles” itself into a cheap spell.
- Primordial Studies – Cheap card, lets you discover a Spell Damage minion, preferably Astromancer Solarian (which you, sadly, can’t put into your deck).
- Sorcerer's Apprentice – While you usually don’t want to drop it on Turn 2, it’s one of the most important cards in your deck, you need it to do your “pop-off” turns, so ideally you want to keep it in your opening hand.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Cram Session – Keep with Lab Partner, drawing 2 for 2 is great. Otherwise, it will be better to keep for the mid/late game cycling.
- Firebrand – Keep against faster decks, where you might need the 4 damage trigger. Against Control you will often play a spell without them having minions on the board and it will go to waste, turning it into a 3 mana 3/4, which is pretty mediocre. But against Aggro, it’s a great board control tool.
Budget Tempo Mage Play Strategy
The gameplay of this deck is quite unique, especially for budget decks which are usually very straightforward. Your goal is to – of course – kill your opponent, but looking at the deck, it doesn’t seem like it has enough tools to do it. However, it’s more about what you don’t see than what you actually see. The deck relies on a few pop-off turns, which I’ve already mentioned. Most of the time you aren’t doing much, playing a minion here, drawing cards there, overall you’re gathering your resources to do a massive, powerful play, which involves Sorcerer's Apprentice and Mana Cyclone. The goal is to drop Apprentice (or two, but it’s often better to get out one at the time), play a bunch of cheap spells, then follow it up with Cyclone to refill your entire hand. In the process, you will also clear a bunch of minions, freeze stuff, deal some damage, create an okay board and so on. Out of the 5-6 Mage spells you aim to get from Cyclone, at least a couple should be useful – more burn damage, more card draw, maybe some cards that summon minions and so on.
For that reason, you need to be quite smart about using your resources. For example, you DON’T want to drop Sorcerer’s Apprentice without getting any value, just as a 2 mana 3/2. That’s not great, your deck is built around them. Mana Cyclone for 2-3 spells is okay if you’re desperate and you know that you can’t hold off for a bigger turn, or maybe when you’re actually ahead and you’re e.g. looking for lethal and to just make a tempo play. Same goes for spells – while you obviously want to kill early threats your opponent plays, you might e.g. consider pinging a 3/2 minion twice rather than wasting one of your spells. And you can also ignore minions that aren’t actual threats (like 1/2’s) for a couple of turns.
When it comes to actual threats, Wyrm Weaver is your girl. With the amount of 1 mana spells you’re running, triggering the effect is not difficult at all, and summoning 2x Mana Wyrm is pretty powerful in this build. If your opponent doesn’t have a way to deal with it, you can just straight up win the game. With the amount of spells you run, you can easily give both of them +5 attack next turn. Another way to play the card is on Turn 7 with Sorcerer’s Apprentice – e.g. Wyrm Weaver + Apprentice + Ray of Frosts / Brain Freeze to freeze up a big board and often just set up lethal if your opponent has no removal in hand. It creates a massive board, and you can do it twice, although I would save at least one Apprentice for Mana Cyclone turn.
Ideally, you want to deal some chip damage here and there with your small minions, maybe a Firebrand / Wyrm Weaver that stick to the board (even without Mana Wyrms it’s still a 3/6), and – of course – random pings. Then, if you manage to deal enough damage, you might be able to finish off the game with burn from Frostbolt / Fireball. The only upside of the budget version is that your opponent isn’t expecting you to deal burn damage from hand that’s not randomly generated – and 2x Fireball can really surprise them (especially if you couple them with some Spell Damage).
Future Card Replacements for Tempo Mage
I honestly don’t even know where to start – there are so many cards you want to cut in order to fit others. So I’ll just link a fully-fledged meta deck list (although keep in mind that the archetype is still new, so deck lists are constantly being optimized – you should be able to find latest builds in our Tempo Mage deck section.
Here’s an example deck list you might be aiming for:
Let’s start with simple things – Devolving Missiles complement your small spells package quite nicely, while Astromancer Solarian is a great addition both because it’s a solid Spell Damage minion, but also because the games sometimes rely on Solarian Prime high-rolls. There’s also Evocation, which server a few purposes – makes your Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s pop-off turns much better, can find a card that saves you from lethal (like a board clear / freeze / Ice Barrier) or lethal. But what you really, really need are pay-off cards:
- Mana Giants are amazing in the deck. Thanks to all the random spells you’re generating, you will be playing them for cheap and eventually even for free. And cheap / free 8/8’s are always welcome. You can also combine them with Conjurer's Calling for maximum tempo – 8-drops are pretty amazing in the current Standard meta, so there’s a lot of high rolls and not so many low-rolls (although those do exist).
- Ras Frostwhisper – Even at the very base level, 5 mana 3/6 that deals 1 AoE damage every turn is solid. Now if you throw in some Spell Damage, it becomes insane. For example, with just a single Lab Partner (and it’s very easy to play them together), it’s a Consecration that possibly repeats every turn.
- Jandice Barov – Jandice is not really a card that synergizes with this deck, it’s just a generally strong minion. It produces A TON of stats, and if you’re smart about your choices, it’s not that easy to guess which minion is which. But even if your opponent does, he won’t always have a way to kill it cleanly. Jandice is just solid, and while not necessary in the deck, she increases its overall power level.
- Chenvaala – Another solid synergy card, especially during your Apprentice turn. More of a mid/late game card, but if you can get out a single 5/5 out of it in the early game, it’s already amazing. In the mid/late game you should be able to summon two or maybe even three during a single turn, creating a quite powerful board.
As you can see, there are many cards you want to add to your build. The budget version is just a very basic shell you can try out, but don’t expect to win a lot with it. It’s more of a something to try out to see whether you like this kind of playstyle, and if you do, pull the trigger and just craft the full deck (or at least 2-3 of the cards I’ve mentioned above).