The Core: Quick guide to Tempo Mage
Each issue of “The Core” features one of the many high-tier decks in the current Standard meta, teaching the foundations of the deck (the aforementioned “core”) and the different ways to complete it to 30 cards.
In the first episode, we talked about the king of Standard, Malygos Druid, and asked you which deck would you like to see next: Midrange Shaman, Zoo, or Tempo Mage. You chose the latter.
Although unanimously referred to as Tempo Mage, the deck in question does not always behave as traditional tempo. Its variations have evolved and although its early game still relies on tempo swings from cheap spells and synergistic minions like mana wyrm and sorcerer's apprentice, the mid and end parts of the curve often rely on value and card advantage or solid midrange minions.
Unlike Malygos Druid whose core was 26/30 cards, Tempo Mage’s is much smaller, down to 19. This leaves a lot of creative freedoms, allowing the deck to be tuned to fit certain metagames or personal preferences. The core is relatively cheap, featuring only one legendary in bloodmage thalnos and two epics in arcane blast.
Filling up the core
In each of the three sections below, focusing on the early, mid and late parts of the curve, we’ll focus on the most popular choices in descending order.
The nature and playstyle of the Tempo Mage is defined primarily by its mid curve. It determines whether the deck plays more burn-heavy (with Forgotten Torches, minion heavy (with water elementals and faceless summoners) or more value heavy (with cabalist's tome and emperor thaurissan).
Early curve: Mana slots 0-3
- +1/+2 Mirror Image – One or two copies of Mirror Image are often included in Tempo Mages. Early on, they protect the swingy minions (Wyrm, Apprentice), while in the mid-game they are also a convenient activator for flamewaker
- +1/+2 cult sorcerer – This card used to be a staple in all Tempo Mage builds but some recent ones have chosen to omit it. In any case, it’s a strong addition and another source of spell power to enable those 4-damage arcane blasts
- +1/+2 babbling book – If you’ve watched the HCT World Championship, you will know why Pavel loves this card. Most often used in value-heavy Tempo Mages
- +1/+2 forgotten torch – A popular choice to add more fire to the deck. Great for battling control decks and not too shabby against aggro / fast midranges either, as 3 damage will kill everything in the early/early-mid game
- +1/+2 Loot Hoarder – Provides additional card draw. Most often included at the expense of Cult Sorcerer
- +1/+2 acolyte of pain – Two copies of Acolyte of Pain is extremely rare as the card is anything but tempo-oriented, but greedy lists sometimes go for this move. Not very common in general, especially in aggressive metagames
- +1 Arcane Explosion – A tech card to counter minion-based decks such as Zoo and Midrange Shaman. Will often hit for 2 damage with Thalnos/Sorcerer and even more with Flamewaker.
Mid curve: Mana slots 4-7
- Barnes – A new Karazhan legendary, Barnes is a popular choice in current Tempo Mages, as it can pull one of the many spell power minions or Flamewaker and create swings from there.
- +1/+2 water elemental – The bane of the weapon classes, Water Elemental is hugely popular not just for its effect but also durable body: 3/6 for 4 mana is hard to kill in the mid-game (only Mage and Warrior have easy ways to remove it) and the card is core to minion-centric builds
- +1/+2 Firelands Portal – Now that’s tempo. Killing a minion and summoning one yourself. Modern Tempo Mages will feature at least one, often two, as it deals with problematic mid-range minions such as Fire Elemental, azure drake, fandral staghelm, emperor thaurissan and more.
- +1 flamestrike – Double Flamestrike used to be a popular tech by Rdu in past metas, but that was more of a one-time thing. Depending on metagame and their place in the line-up, modern Tempo Mages will play one (to beat Zoo/Shaman/Conceal boards) or none (to avoid a dead card against controls)
- +1/+2 cabalist's tome – Speaking of tempo decks that don’t play tempo cards, here’s Cabalist’s Tome. The card is included when the Tempo Mage is suited for an anti-control meta, as slower decks won’t often punish an empty T6 but will have trouble dealing with the generated card advantage, not to mention the lack of information given is another strength of this card
- +1/+2 Faceless Summoner – This card will usually be played in minion-centric (naturally) builds, together with Water Elemental to make for the powerful 3-4-5-6-7 curve of Flamewaker – Elemental – Azure Drake – Faceless Summoner – Firelands Portal.
- Emperor Thaurissan – If you’re laying Cabalist’s Tome, you will be playing Thaurissan, simple as that.
- Archmage Antonidas – Not a common card, but a tech option in some cases.
Late curve: Mana slots 8+
- Ragnaros the Firelord – Present in almost every build and very close to being a core card. If you have it – play it.
- Yogg-Saron, Hope's end – Many players have cut Yogg from Tempo Mage after the nerf but the power of the old god ought to be considered. Include if you like memes and Trolden videos