Decklist (Text Format)
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Hi everyone, my name is Daisyx and this a guide is about Flamewaker Tempo Mage. I have gotten legend 4-5 times, competed in some minor tournament, and am the author of the Coaching series on the Hearthstone subreddit. I am currently playing this deck ranging between Legend 100-250 on EU but peaked yesterday at Legend 15. Using this deck I went from rank 15 to Legend in around 100 wins despite having very little experience with the Mage class outside of arena beforehand. This deck is an adaptation of the deck posted by Proxy14 so I would like to give him credit as well.
This deck is called Tempo Mage and, as the title says, is all about tempo. While most decks have only a single win condition -- such as combo decks like midrange druid or Grim Patron warrior -- this mage deck has three distinct ones. While all win conditions are options against all different decks, in reality you find yourself aiming for a most probable win condition against specific matchups which I will go into later. Kripparian recently made a video on why identifying your win conditions is important.
Understanding your Win Conditions
This deck's first win condition is about rushing down your opponents face as quickly as possible while mostly ignoring his mid-game threats, this win-condition is usually what you are aiming for when playing against slow controlling decks, who will out-value you and run you out of cards in the long game.
The second win condition is about running the opponent out of cards by making efficient trades. Use your spells -- which synergize with the minions you have on the board and your legendaries -- while preventing your opponent from killing you before he runs out of cards.
The third win condition may sound slightly wonky and unreliable but it is only a single card: the one and only Unstable Portal. While Unstable Portal has a chance of producing horrible results, just as often it is capable of giving you game-dominating minions that you can play for two less mana when you combo the card with your Sorcerer's Apprentices. I have won games where I played a turn five Gahz’Rilla into turn six Fireball-ping it for a 24-damage finisher. I have also had turn fours with double Sorcerer's Apprentice and double Unstable Portal enabling turn five Spectral Knight-Mech-Bear-Cat. These Unstable Portal enabled tempo swings allow me to ignore my opponents minions and get a kill within two turns.
Good old Boom happens to excel in all of these roles.
As you can see, the first and the second win conditions are in opposition to each other. This makes identifying which strategy you would like to run in the early turns of the game very important. The third win condition, however, can be done in a combination with both the first and the second one.
This deck has a lot of RNG involved with the Boom Bots, the draws from portal, and Flamewaker/Arcane Missiles. If you have a habit of getting frustrated because of poor RNG or feel bad when you win in a disgusting fashion, this deck might not be for you. That said, it can still be incredibly fun, and powerful, when it works out.
Early game minions; Mana Wyrm , Mad Scientist & Sorcerer's Apprentice: These are the minions you will be looking to play in the early game. All these minions interact really well with your cheap spells or give you a secret for free.
Notable Cards and Synergies
Early game spells; Flamecannon, Frostbolt, Arcane Missiles: These can all be used very efficiently in combination with your early game minions in order to get and keep board control as soon as possible. They also work well in combination with Flamewalker.
This little gnome pulls a lot of weight in this deck.
Mid game minions; Flamewaker, Piloted Shredder, Sludge Belcher: These are the minions you are looking to play during turns four to six. Shredder and Belcher are both incredibly hard to remove and will really help stabilize the board. While Flamewaker is a three-mana cost card, you will most of the time end up playing him in a later turn to make sure you can instantly trigger him with a spell to ensure his efficiency. Since he trades pretty badly with an opponent’s possible shredder on turn four you always want at least one activation. The only exception to this rule is the Flamewaker-Coin-Arcane Missiles -- or Frostbolt / Flamecannon if you have an Apprentice on the board -- which gives you a 2/4 minion and most of an Avenging Wrath for four mana.
Late game minions: All the legendaries -- except Loatheb -- are here for the huge amount of value and board impact they provide. Loatheb is often played during a turn in which you go for face and ignore minions. We make this play in order to make sure that enemies can’t effectively remove your board with the cards they have on board in addition to their spells.
Late game spells; Fireball and Flamestrike: If you are going for the racing win condition, Fireballs are used as a finisher when you have lost control of the board or when you are about to. If you are going for the controlling win condition, they are used to efficiently remove high-health minions. Flamestrike is mostly used when you are playing control in order to drastically reduce your opponent's board presence.
Since Tempo Mage balances between playing aggro and control roles, reading the meta and adapting is very important. If the meta is predominantly aggro -- such as in the first few days of the season -- you may want to lower your curve. Conversely, if the meta is predominantly control you will want to remove some of the earlier game cards; that said, there are very few early game cards you can reliably cut without crippling your entire deck.
Arcane Missiles – This card mostly does work against aggro decks and can be very RNG dependant and therefore frustrating to play.
Flamecannon – This card mostly thrives against aggro decks. Zoo tends to be an exception, however, because of their many Deathrattles. Flamecannon also shines against decks that run Azure Drake and Druid due to its ability to kill Shades.
Counterspell – This card mostly thrives against control decks which are looking to use spells to remove your minions. It also does well against Midrange and Face Hunters -- where it counters Unleash the Hounds and Kill Command -- and in Mage mirrors.
While devastating in the mirror, Counterspell is only at its best when Hunters and Mages are popular.
Loatheb – This card thrives against control decks where you need to push for lethal over two turns. Midrange and Face Hunters also dislike Loatheb because it can prevent the Kill Command-Unleash lethal for just long enough for you to finish him.
Flamestrike – This card's main function is to stop aggro decks. If your meta is predominantly control based, you could consider cutting it.
Ragnaros – This card is mostly here to provide a win condition against Miracle Rogues, Freeze Mages, and Handlocks as well as provide a good draw during topdeck wars.
Legendary Replacements – I am not going to lie, this deck costs a hefty sum of dust to be able to craft. That said, if you are don’t possess some of the legendaries included in the deck, you can replace them with some other equivalent late game card: Polymorph, Pyroblast, Sneed's Old Shredder, Nefarian, Foe Reaper 4000, Kel’Thuzad, or Emperor Thaurissan are all options. Except for the last two, these are all downgrades to the deck and some are untested.
Since this deck has to remain flexible, it is bad to include specific cards to counter a single class such as Kezan Mystic, Harrison Jones, or Black Knight. Normally I would include BGH in this list as well; however, due to the prevalence of Dr Boom I will include it as a tech possibility below. First off a note on ladder play versus tournament play. In ladder play, you are looking to build your deck in such a way that it goes 50% against just about everything and is 55% against the most prevalent decks. In the conquest format, you are looking to cover all your angles with three different decks. You want your decks, therefore, to be as strong as possible against the decks that you are supposed to counter and bad matchups don’t matter since you should have a deck prepared that covers your weaknesses. These possible tech cards are all meant to slightly improve your deck against common deck archetypes -- not classes as I outlined earlier -- which makes them more suitable for ladder than for tournaments.
Big Game Hunter – This may come as a surprise but this deck doesn't run BGH as a counter to control decks. Our control matchup is usually pretty good so we don't need the help there. Some of the decks that do give us trouble though do have good BGH targets: Demonzoo and Midrange Hunter in order to counter their Dr Booms, Mal’Ganis, and buffed Highmanes.
Zombie Chow – Play Zombie Chow if the meta is predominantly aggro based. Be careful though since Chow severely weakens your matchup against control decks. Zombie Chow basically takes a Fireball out of your hand in those matchups.
Arcane Missiles (number two) – Run this if the meta is predominantly aggro and you don’t mind sometimes wanting to punch your monitor because your bolts all hit his face instead of the three X/1s.
Kirin Tor Mage – A solid choice if the meta if predominantly aggro and you often draw less than half of your deck. For added value play a fourth secret: Duplicate is a good option. Kirin Tor Mage is never something you want more than one of since it is much more valuable to use your Mad Scientists to play Secrets since they also give you a draw in the process.
Duplicate – Consider this if the meta is predominantly control. I am personally not a big fan of this card since it feels very rare that I would actually like another two copies of one of my own cards. This is mostly because you have two kinds of minions in your deck: early minions, which are not that high-impact if you get to play them again; and late-game minions, which have such high mana costs that the chances of you getting to play two of them are very small. As a result, getting a Mirror Entity from your Mad Scientist is almost always better. This is, however, a card that most people aren’t expecting around the mid ratings -- ranks two through eight -- so they might not play around it and it can give you some good value.
Emperor Thaurissan – Run if the meta is predominantly control. Thaurissan is often a very good drop to be able to play some of your bigger late-game threats together rather than on separate turns. His weakness, however, is that by turn six most of the time you have dropped the majority of your hand on the board and he will only affect three to four cards per turn.
Kel’Thuzad – While he doesn’t have the finishing power of a Dr Boom or a Ragnaros, KT makes your board much more durable. Kel’Thuzad thrives against control and ensures that opponents have to spend more time to remove your board thus giving you more time to finish them off.
Polymorph – Mostly strong against Warlocks and other classes which have either big minions with Deathrattles or minions that they can buff outside of Fireball-ping range
While some of these are options against predominantly aggro metagames, please make sure never to run more than six legendaries -- Polymorph counts as a legendary here -- because it exponentially increases the chances of not having any good early drops. Not having an early board essentially ruins the game since this deck 100% relies on getting early board control.
Polymorph can be a budget consideration but it counts as a late game card because you never want to use it as removal in the midgame.
Matchups and Mulligans
- Arcane Missiles - Keep against Warlock (unless you know its Handlock), Mage (unless you know its Freeze), Hunter, and Shaman. Mulligan away against everything else;
- Mana Wyrm - 100% keep;
- Frostbolt: Keep against Warlock (unless confirmed Handlock), Mage (unless confirmed Freeze), Hunter, and Shaman. Mulligan away for everything else.
- Sorcerer's Apprentice - 100% keep;
- Flamecannon - Keep against Druids (because of Shades) and mulligan against everything else;
- Unstable Portal - Keep against everything, but only if you already have a one or two drop;
- Mad Scientist - 100% Keep;
- Counterspell / Mirror Entity - Always mulligan;
- Flamewaker - Keep against everything if you already have a one or two drop or you have the coin;
- Piloted Shredder - Always Mulligan;
- All other cards should always be gotten rid of.
Always search for the cheap interactive cards.
First off a note about these winrates:
They were collected when I went from rank five to Legend -- which took about sixty wins -- so for the less common decks the sample size upon which they are based is relatively small. Since I needed to get more wins than losses in order to climb all winrates might be slightly higher than they usually would be but I have tried to correct for that.
Lightbomb Priest 45-65%: Savjz DecklistThis matchup is currently rare and there is some variance between different lists making it hard to pinpoint a single win percentage. Tempo Mage does poorly against Auchenai-Circle and against Cabal so if the Priest has those cards the matchup becomes a lot harder. Your goal against Priests is to out race them. Since Priest doesn’t get going until somewhat later in the game you should go for a comfortable board advantage before attempting to go for his face. A Priest that has taken your board won’t give it back ever and you can’t reliably wait to draw lethal through spells because of his heals. Most importantly you want to play around Holy Nova, Lightbomb, and Shadow Madness. This is especially true when you have Belchers.
Freeze Mage 40%: Firebat DecklistThis is quite a hard matchup since they are able to control your board very effectively. Key cards in this matchup are Counterspell and Loatheb, make sure you always save those two for when the enemy has a chance to have lethal. The issue with this deck is that Sylvanas and Mirror Entity, and therefore Mad Scientist, are actually really risky to use against this deck since it allows them to give you a Doomsayer and instantly destroy your board. Consequently, you only want to play Mirror Entity on turns two or three when his turns are often Mad Scientist or Acolyte and you only want to play Sylvanas when you either have a very small board or when his next turn is probably going to be Alextrasza. Always make sure that you kill Acolytes to reduce his card draw since he can ping his own Acolytes. Make sure to kill his Emperor if he plays it unless you can 100% kill him/pop his Ice Block. Your win condition here is to burn him down unexpectedly using your spells.
Tempo Mage 50%This matchup is by definition 50-50 unless he runs tech cards against your deck such as Kazan Mystic. This matchup is all about board control and draws: if you get the best early game hand, and you establish board control, this game is already over. Always make sure to clear his board since his minions work really well with his spells so leaving them alive can easily wreck you. Make sure to play around the turn seven Flamestrike should you get board control.
Mech Mage 55%: Kolento DecklistSame story as for the mirror, however, the matchup is slightly in your favor since Mech Mages really rely on their mech synergies. If your going even on board and preventing their minions from synergizing you have an advantage. Always make sure to kill Mechwarpers here even if it means having to go for a coin flip on the Flamecannon. This matchup is won by out-valueing him and running him out of cards: be careful to remove Antonidas as soon as possible.
Aggro Mage 60%Aggro Mages are essentially the budget version of this deck. Aggro Mage will have the same early game core as this deck but they switched around some of their late game for cards like Knife Juggler, Mirror Image, and Arcane Intellect. As a result, you can often go more or less even in the early game and then stabilize in the late game. The only way that you can lose to this deck if they get a Juggler-Flamewaker-Mirror Image on the board, which is a huge number of juggles and makes their small creatures unkillable. Be careful to clear Jugglers and Flamewakers as a priority.
This is more like it.
(Demon) Zoo 40-60%: Savjz DecklistSince there are currently so many different versions of Zoo, it is hard to give a specific win percentage. The Zoo builds that use a lot of early game minions are usually beatable because your legendaries outpace them. On the flip side, the decks that also include Mal’Ganis, Dr. Boom, and Sea Giants have a tendency to kill you before you can get control of the board. Full Demonlocks that also run Jaraxxus and legendaries are different but often tend to die before they can establish board control. In all of these matchups Flamestrike is incredibly important so make sure to not automatically use it on turn seven. Try to lull them into a false sense of security and then strike on turn eight or nine. Your Health can often take this extra damage and once their board is cleared they will never do more than five damage at once with a charging Doomguard.
Handlock 40%: Lifecoach DecklistHandlocks are a lot harder than Zoo because there is no way you will ever be able to out-value them and they can be particularly resilient to being bursted down. It also doesn't help that Ancient Watcher is a direct counter to your Mirror Entity since you have no way to activate them. Since your strategy needs to be about taking risks and building a board it is hard to play around Moltens, Hellfire, or Shadowflame. If the Handlock doesn’t have those cards you can usually win by turn five or six; however, if they do find the board clear you will most likely get run out of cards.
Oil Rogue 60%: Firebat DecklistRelatively rare so my sample size is quite small but most of the time you should be able to apply enough pressure and prevent them from clearing your board. While Rogues seem like a late game control deck, you can easily win this by just keeping their board clear to prevent Oil combos. Even if he draws a lot of cards through Sprint you can easily out-value him. The key card in this matchup is Ragnaros since it is relatively safe against Sap and requires two Eviscerate to remove. Loatheb is also key as it prevents the Rogue from removing your board for a turn which may be all you need to push for lethal.
Midrange/Ramp Druid 80%: Kolento DecklistThis is your bread and butter. Tempo Mage is incredibly strong against these decks since Flamecannon destroys Shades and all his minions are great Mirror Entity value. My only advice to give is to play around his turn four Keeper by not playing Apprentices or Mirror Entity turn three. Outside of having horrible draws you should never lose this matchup. Make sure that you start pushing for damage during the mid game to get ahead for when the Ancient of Wars start coming down.
Mech Shaman 60%: Archon DecklistThis matchup relies completely on tempo. Shaman has three main win conditions: Mechwarper, Whirling Zap-o-matic, and Fel Reaver. Do your best to save a Frostbolt for the first two and time a Mirror Entity for turn four to counter Fel Reaver. If you draw your early game cards you should be able to win this matchup without many problems. Unless the Shaman draws a lot of burst you should usually win the late game.
While Midrange Shaman does rank on the Power Ranks as a legitimate deck, I only faced it once or twice and I ended up winning easily. Just make sure that you have board control, play around Lightning Storm, clear his totems and you should be easily able to out-value this deck.
Face Hunter 55%: Orange DecklistThis matchup is better than it might appear on paper, mostly because of how absurdly strong Flamewaker is against this deck. You have early answers to all of his minions and both Counterspell and Loatheb prevent him from finishing you off with spells once you have established board control. If you don’t have good draws, however, a Face Hunter can easily punish you and win the matchup.
Midrange Hunter 30%: Protophye DecklistThis is your worst matchup and you will lose this the vast majority of the time: though funnily enough it was my last win for Legend. Midrange Hunter is actually very similar to Tempo Mage in that Mad Scientist is the centerpiece. Since Tempo Mage relies very heavily on obtaining tempo and Mad Scientist can absolutely ruin your day with Freezing Trap. Midrange Hunter is slightly faster than Tempo Mage and will often get board control. By the time you manage to reclaim control, usually around turn eight or nine, he will have done enough damage to your face for him to be able to finish you off. Try to prevent him from Freezing your Flamewaker/Sorcerer's Apprentice since those two cards often can provide a lot of value without attacking. Instead, let him freeze a Mana Wyrm or even an Azure Drake. If you are unsure about what type of Hunter it is -- say he plays turn one Coin-Mad Scientist into turn two Creeper -- always play it safe until you can be sure of the trap.
Control Warrior 65%: Hulu DecklistThis matchup really depends on Fiery War Axe. If the Warrior manages to get it early and kill your first two plays you will be in trouble if they have any type of follow up. Make sure to start pushing for lethal early and this matchup can often be won by turn six or seven since he usually takes up until turn eight or nine to clear your board. Make sure to always clear Armorsmiths since they have the nasty habit of often giving him more armor than the face damage you would get by ignoring them. Counterspell is a really good card here since it both threatens him not to play big minions in the mid to late game while at the same time preventing the Brawls.
Grim Patron Warrior 55%: Kolento DecklistJust like its older brother this is a good matchup, though slightly less so since you can just randomly lose because he gets a good combo off and runs his Patrons into your Wyrms/Flamewakers/Scientists to create many copies. Again this match mostly resolves around him not having Fiery War Axe as his turn two play. In the mid to late game, try to play around his Patron combo by not keeping minions with less than three Attack lying around after turn seven; instead, trade them when appropriate. Unlike in the Control Warrior matchup, this matchup has very little use for Counterspell and Mirror Entity since Patron Warrior has a boatload of cheap spells and minions.
Midrange Paladin 50-60%: Trump DecklistSince it is a relatively rare deck with some variance among the lists it is hard to get an accurate winrate; however, usually Tempo Mage does quite well against Midrange Paladin because we can out-value Paladin for the most part. Be careful when going for a rush strategy since Midrange Paladins often have Lay on Hands or Guardian of Kings which might mess up your plans. Be sure to play around Equality-Consecration because while they may not all run it you don't want to get blown out.
Dragon Paladin 70-80%This deck is often way to slow to be able to ever contest your board unless they get all their early game cards. The fact that these lists often cut healing in order to make room for dragon synergy also makes them fairly easy to burn out. I think this win rate will go down slightly in the future as the decklists stabilize but for now this deck really shouldn’t be a threat.
-Always think about what possible removal they could have and how to play around it within reason. If you play too careful with this deck you might get beaten in the late game. If you are not sure what classes have which removal, you can always check the latest Power Ranks for the common decklists of each class.
-Always try to identify what type of deck your opponent is playing as soon as possible and think about your best win condition.
-Be careful when playing two Mad Scientist at once so that you don’t accidentally have a secret in your hand. Mad Scientists basically give you a free draw and three mana off the spell so this extreme value is often too good to waste with a silly mistake.
-If you start pushing for lethal, keep in mind what possible answers your opponent might have in combination with the stuff he already has on the board.
-Preferably don’t play Flamewaker on turn three if the opponent has a way of contesting the board: a turn four Shredder, Truesilver, Death's Bite can really ruin your day. Instead play other options on turn three and play Flamewaker when you can combine it with a spell to instantly trigger his ability.
-Try to calculate the chances of getting the right juggles before playing a desperate Flamewaker-spell combo. You should always make sure that his effect hits as many minions as possible.
-Coining just for the spell effect from Flamewaker or Mana Wyrm is often useful even if you can't use the extra mana or can only use it for a hero power. For example, if you are facing a Zoo that plays turn one Flame Imp and you can respond with Mana Wyrm-Coin-nothing it is often worth it to prevent him from getting the favorable trade. This costs you one mana from the coin but saves two mana next turn when you don't have to ping the imp.
-A spell countered by your opponent gives your Mana Wyrm an Attack but doesn’t trigger your Flamewaker.
-Minion positioning isn’t important in this deck but always put the shredder in the middle in case of Dire Wolf Alpha.
-Turn three Sorcerer’s Apprentice-Unstable Portal is incredible value and totally worth it even if you are going even on the board.
-Always play Belcher over Azure Drake unless you either need the card or you can use the Spell Power very well.
-If you have the option between either turn one Coin-Sorcerer's or Coin-Scientist always go for the Scientist unless your opponent played a 1/3 on turn one.
-Playing Sylvanas Windrunner into a situation where your opponent can sacrifice all his minions into it and not give you anything is worth it against decks that you are trying to out-value but not against decks that you are trying to out-tempo.
-Even if it means leaving one mana open it is better to play the Unstable Portalled minion -- assuming it isn’t completely awful -- than the card that is perfectly on curve since the minion creates more tempo.
Good luck and have fun tempoing people out on ladder!