Tempo Mage is far removed from its heyday. There was a time when it was nearly always above average in most tier lists, but it's struggled a bit during the Year of the Kraken. That said, it's had a bit of a resurgence as of late which comes as sad news for fans of the archetype who find themselves wondering how relevant the deck will be following the introduction of the Year of the Mammoth. What exactly does Tempo Mage lose and where will it stand as a result?
With the release of Journey to Un'Goro and the simultaneous rotation of Blackrock Mountain, The Grand Tournament, and League of Explorers there's going to be a lot of change to digest all at once. While we aren't yet prepared to discuss how Un'Goro will shape things since card reveals don't begin until this tomorrow, we can very well examine what holes are going to be left in the average decklist as a result of the new Standard.
To begin our examination, we found a Tempo Mage deck from Apxvoid that was ranked high in Legend during March 2017. This is as up to date as it gets since there aren't a ton of players turning to the archetype to make their grind.
Arcane Blast - Removal has always been at a premium in Tempo Mage. It's part of the reason that Forgotten Torch has been a big help, but we'll get into that later. The versatility of Arcane Blast is that it can be used to clear any two health minion as soon as the first turn of the game. But later on, it also doubles as a stronger removal tool when combined with a Spell Power minion. The simple fact that it's a spell is also important, synergizing with Flamewaker, Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Archmage Antonidas.
Flamewaker - The Tempo Mage card is finally rotating out of Standard. And while we're all celebrating this fact when it comes to Tavern Brawls, the same can't be said for this archetype. While the deck was strong throughout most of 2016, it's really struggled this year. And while it still has its staunch supporters and is fully capable of winning in the right hands, the loss of Flamewaker is one that really hurts. It was one of the cheaper minions in the deck and is excellent at keeping control of the board while giving you a chance to do face damage.
Forgotten Torch - As we mentioned before, Forgotten Torch is good in that it offers early game removal without the cost of your damage potential. While it's important that the deck maintains board control and positive momentum, using up too many resources is often fatal, so having a card that gives you the option to do so without setting you back is valuable.
Azure Drake - Spell power's favorite drake is retiring to the Hall of Fame come the Year of the Mammoth. Arguably as big of a deal as Flamewaker, there's a lot lost from this solid body that also buffs your spells and gives you another form of card draw.
Ragnaros the Firelord - The loss of Ragnaros isn't too big of a deal. It's mostly just a solid late game minion that helps you against slower decks.
Other Tempo Mage Cards Leaving
Ethereal Conjurer - Conjurer hasn't seen too much play as of late, but it did for a good while after it released.
Now that we've got the bad news out of the way, let's focus on the bright side of things - there are still a bunch of great cards and many of them are Basic or Classic.
Outside of Classic
There are actually surprisingly few cards that Tempo Mage uses across Old Gods, Karazhan, and Gadgetzan.
Firelands Portal - Value! Five damage can either help you control the board or push your opponent closer to defeat. Importantly, it also summons you a random 5-Cost minion which provides you with some board presence as well. This will be one of the more powerful non-Basic/Classic class cards going into the Year of the Mammoth.
Barnes - You'll no longer be able to summon Ragnaros, Azure Drake, or Flamewaker which is unfortunate, but there's probably enough left around to still justify its inclusion.
With Azure Drake and Ragnaros leaving, this is now the true core of the Tempo Mage deck.
These cards should forever remain untouched.
Just like last year, there are going to be a lot of empty spots to fill so we break down the spells and minions that Mage will likely be interested in.
Cult Sorcerer - There were a solid few months where Cult Sorcerer was run even though the deck as a whole wasn't even interested in C'Thun. This may have had something to do with it releasing alongside the first ever Standard rotation and we're willing to bet that the same could happen here should Journey to Un'Goro not offer enough support for the archetype.
Cabalist's Tome - Slower Tempo Mage decks have occasionally run a single copy of Cabalist's Tome for some extra oomph and Antonidas synergy.
Faceless Summoner - We're less likely to see this one simply because it's entirely focused on board presence. Tempo Mage generally doesn't run minions that only do one thing, even if it does so somewhat well.
Babbling Book - Will easily see play once the rotation hits. Already in many Tempo Mage decks including this one, but the single copy was ultimately substituted with Ragnaros.
Medivh, the Guardian - Likely too slow depending on the meta, but can be a good way to bolster the deck.
Crazed Alchemist - Alchemist's relevance largely depends on the number of Doomsayers being run. We saw a whole bunch of them about this time last year, likely because so many decks wanted to get to the late game and play Yogg-Saron, Hope's End. That may no longer be the case, but if the meta slows down and that occurs, this will likely be a good tech card.
Harrison Jones - Tempo Mage is losing some card draw, that much is certain. Should an abundance of weapons come with the Year of the Mammoth, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Harrison sees some play.
Overall, Tempo Mage isn't in the best of spots. It's losing many of its iconic cards and the Year of the Kraken hasn't exactly been one that has supported the archetype. With so many key minions and spells migrating to Wild, the deck's power level has a whole is certainly coming down.
At the very least, we expect Tempo Mage to become a much slower deck without the strength that was Flamewaker.
Hopefully, Journey to Un'Goro provides it some additional tools. Sadly, the Mage legendary Pyros isn't exactly something this deck is looking for.