This guide is intended for new and intermediate players in attempt to get them to understand a point that is complicated in both gameplay and deck building. This guide is also written hoping you know what board advantage is and why it is important. As a lot of board advantage and tempo concepts overlap.
So you're finally getting the hang of the game. Went through the campaigns, played some of the weekly decks, and now you're ready to build your own decks. You make a deck and it seems like you just can't keep up with your opponent. They're always either putting a ton of stuff on the field before you have a chance to set up, or just destroying everything and it feels like you can never get anything going. Now why is that? Welcome to the world of tempo.
Tempo, in the world of IW and most card games, means the pace of the game more or less. You've probably had that feeling during a game that you need to push more, or pull back, or need to get some kills in or you'll be overwhelmed. That's tempo. If you're familiar with american football stall would be the equivalent of a team running the ball a lot in order to slow down the pace of the game. While a rush deck is the equivalent of a spread out no huddle offense that tries to score as fast as possible. Midrange would be the more typical mix of the two.
Why is tempo important?
Tempo is important because it lets you decide how fast or slow you would like the game to develop. You need to be able to determine on the fly what type of tempo you need to play for what deck your opponent is using, what deck you yourself are using, and also to be able to adjust as to what is happening in the game at any one time. The battle for tempo is one of the most important things that happens in any one game. If you can get your opponent caught in your tempo then there's a very high chance you're going to win.
How to set tempo
I'll be defining some very simple ways to set tempo in a game. There are more advanced and tricky ways that you will learn the more you play.
You will generally try to set a fast tempo if you are playing an aggro or aggro-control type deck. Midrange will probably aim for a faster tempo once they can get their setup going.
The best way to set a fast tempo is to shoot for a fast early game. Haste and Charge cards are generally best with this. Another important aspect of a fast tempo is keeping board advantage. If it's taking you 2-3 turns to set up your attacks early then on then you probably aren't in a fast tempo. It can also be achieved by having a strong early game setup in your command zone. A fast tempo will generally try to gain the advantage, and just never let it go. The downside to a fast tempo is that if it falls apart it is incredibly hard to come back from. Especially if you are against a deck that is playing for a strong late game, such as most decks with a slow tempo.
A slow tempo game is generally set for decks aiming for a strong late game. So straight control decks, or stall decks. Midrange decks will potentially try to set a slower tempo for the early part of the game so that they can try to get their turn 5-9 stuff set up properly.
A slow tempo can be achieved through many ways. One of the best ways is to straight up stop your opponent's early game threat. If someone trying to set a slow tempo can break their opponent's fast tempo then the fast tempo is going to be scrambling to try to get it back, and that's where mistakes are made. Another way to get a slow tempo is area of effect cards in the midgame, Mass Death for instance. Taking out a lot of your opponent's characters at once will hurt not only their in game morale, but their real morale as well. They'll begin to feel disheartened and get desperate.
I've explained the 2 most basic types of tempo. Though one of the most important things as I mentioned is being able to adjust your tempo as needed. Sometimes pullbacks, and things of that nature, are needed in order to try and maintain tempo. You need to be willing to sit back a few turns to be able to set up that big move, and not just charge ahead all the time. Slow tempo has an interesting issue where the other player just won't play into it sometimes, and while it is an advantage in the sense that the opponent is playing to your tempo. You also need to be able to create a faster tempo at some point to apply pressure to the opponent and get them to feel threatened.
I'm not gonna give you a list as to what tempos do best against other tempos and all that. Because the truth is that it's not always the case. A fast tempo might wipe a slow tempo one game, and then get completely caught up the next. This is why being able to adapt to the tempo is SO important. You need to be able to see what kind of pace the other player is going for, and use that as a way to determine what you yourself should be going for.
So the next time you're building a deck. Be sure to keep what tempo you want to go for in mind. Because it really is one of those things that a lot of people don't think about that makes a big difference.