Tear Them Apart: A Look at Tempo Mage Strategy

This potent deck can play aggro or defense – but which should you be, and when?


We’re nearing the end of another season, and with that many players will be considering switching decks. One of the most popular lists I coached last season was Tempo Mage, a fairly flexible archetype capable of presenting an aggressive or defensive gameplan depending on its opponent. To start, the basic strategy of Tempo Mage is based around the potent combination of Flamewaker and Sorcerer’s Apprentice paired with cheap spell cards such as Arcane Blast and Arcane Missiles. The deck relies on controlling the tempo of the game, either by playing cost-effective minions before our opponent or creating huge board swings with Flamewaker and removal spells.

Sorcerer’s Apprentice

More advanced Tempo Mage strategies can be divided along two lines: one option has you play these key minions on curve and push face damage, while the second is holding off on Flamewaker / Apprentice until turn 5 to 6 or even later (especially against Control Warrior). Both of these lines can be effective when applied at the right time, but how do we know which is correct in a given situation? In this article, I’ll show some sample situations and talk through how we can identify the right approach to the game at hand.


When I play Tempo Mage, I always decide in the first few turns what my angle of attack is going to be in that game. What does my hand allow me to do, that can end the game in a victory? The best questions to ask yourself are “Can I contest board control enough?” and “Which removal cards will I need to use?” Let’s look at our first example and apply those questions to the situation at hand.

Sample #1

Situation 1

In the first match we have a very nice hand with great tempo cards, so let’s go over the questions and see what our play will be.

  • Can I contest board control enough?

Yes, we can fight for early board control really well with the double Mana Wyrm and Frostbolt, though if our opponent has an incredible starting hand it might be better to hold off and swing the board state in combination with Flamewaker on turn 4 or 5.

  • Which removal cards will I need to use?

In this hand we don’t have much removal at all, so we need to either keep on pushing through damage to face or use our minions and limited spells to efficiently trade and keep board control. This hand can play aggressively or defensively depending on how the opponent starts, so the correct answer here depends on the matchup.

Sample #2

Situation 2

The second game we have another interesting hand, but this time we’re going first which will change some of our decisions.

  • Can I contest board control enough?

The way we end up playing our hand is likely going to be very aggressive because we have so little removal to use and no Coin for a free Flamewaker activation later. We need to get ahead fast or we won’t be able to make a comeback!

  • Which removal cards will I need to use?

We have some removal to start, being the Frostbolt and Fireball, though a lot of the time these cards won’t be used as removal unless absolutely necessary because of the amount of damage they can deal to the opponent’s face.

Depending on your opponent, you could consider completely ignoring the board. This might be best against classes like Rogue and Shaman, as with a hand like this we can’t wait it out and win through board control, and need to race to have a chance at victory.

Sample #3

Situation 3

In the third situation we have a less than optimal hand, but we’re going second so The Coin can make up for a lot.

  • Can I contest board control enough?

Depending on our opponent’s list, our hand might be too weak to contest the board in the early stages of the game since we only have one piece of removal and it isn’t very reliable. Still, a Mana Wyrm on turn one gives us a lot of time to get to the cards we need, such as Flamewaker and Azure Drake.

  • Which removal cards will I need to use?

We only have a single Arcane Missiles, though it works well with the other cards in our hand such as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Cult Sorcerer both reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of the card. Although we have very little removal, we still have plays for the first few turns and can be ok with relevant draws.


This is the specific decklist that I would most recommend for now. It’s the list made by ApxVoid, one of the best Tempo Mage players out there, and specifically created to combat the current meta decks. There are a few interesting tech cards in the list worth pointing out: Archmage Antonidas gives us insane late-game reach to beat the Reno decks that require 50 or more damage to take down, and Acidic Swamp Ooze improves our matchup against Pirate Warrior and Rogue, as well as Jade Shaman decks.

Even though Tempo Mage isn’t being played that much at the moment, I’m quite sure it’ll find its place in the metagame once things stabilize more and Pirate decks become less prevalent due to the abundance of Reno and Dragon lists. If you want a powerful and unusual list that can carry you to the highest ranks, master the ways of the Mage!

To end, I’d like to thank everyone for reading, and wish you all the best of luck on the ladder! Follow me on Twitter at @Hscoached, on YouTube at this link, and on Twitch.tv at tsukaimelol!