Hey, guys! I’m Chriseroi, a relatively new Hearthstone player who started in June of 2015 and has been playing and enjoying it ever since as a high school student! Don’t write me off just yet, though; I love Hearthstone just as much as you guys and have been working my way up ever since I started. Thus, the full title isn’t actually “Hearthstone Journal,” but rather, “High School Journal.” While I heavily enjoy reading a lot of these guides on Hearthstone Players from various parts of the community, each of these guys seem to have some sort of luxury that I can’t afford, unfortunately, whether it be time, money, or both. I wanted to contribute to the community by giving you a peek inside my own little amusing journey, whether it’s climbing up the ladder, getting better at Arena, or even just me building up my collection. I really hope you enjoy reading these little journals every week as much as I enjoyed writing them!
This is new. What’s this?
Glad you asked! This is an interlude, focusing on match-ups against popular decks in the meta right now. Instead of talking about my Hearthstone journey each and every week, I decided to take a break to address something that I encountered too much in the ladder recently: an oversaturation of a certain few classes. In January’s meta at the moment, the most popular classes that I faced just so happened to be Paladin, Druid, and Warlock, at least for me. I’ve had varying degrees of success against all three classes, but here’s a surprise: while Secret Paladin is universally hated, I was able to beat it all the times I ran into him. Isn’t that crazy? Maybe I just got lucky, right?
Actually, I beg to differ.
I want to argue that it’s mostly me just knowing the matchup. At this point, the Secret Paladin decks have been refined almost to a fault; each matchup runs almost the same cards at this point, and by knowing which cards they play and the strategy each player uses to play the deck, you can effectively counter it with the right plays.
If you haven’t yet, check out ThorSmash’s previous article on Hearthstone Players, In-Depth Legend Secret Paladin Guide: Mulligans, Matchups, Tips for Playing. It’s an excellent guide to playing Secret Paladin, and by knowing how to play it, you’ll learn how to play against it too, ironically.
Enough talk. Let’s begin!
Explain the cards to me.
Sure! Well, the decklist listed to the right is probably the most popular and most effective build of Secret Paladin on the ladder right now. It’s almost a staple to see most of these cards in a standard midrange Paladin deck, so I’ll note any “tells” that you can use to check if it is a Secret Paladin.
We’ll talk about the cards on a turn-by-turn basis. Each turn will list the ideal play for that turn, and I’ll list ways to counter each turn as well.
This is where you’ll see one of three things: Zombie Chow, Secretkeeper, or even a secret if your opponent doesn’t have a better play. Make sure to keep in mind what’s being played this very crucial turn! While the secrets might immediately give it away that it’s a Secret Paladin deck, it could be possible that it’s a standard midrange Paladin who just unfortunately had Avenge stuck in their opening hand. On top of that, Secretkeeper is typically played in aggro Secret Paladin decks, while Zombie Chow is typically played in midrange decks. Plan your next few turns accordingly!
You’ll see here either a Shielded Minibot, Knife Juggler, or Haunted Creeper. This is pretty standard for any Paladin deck, so don’t be too worried here. However, if they do play a Knife Juggler, it’s very likely that they might have Muster for Battle in their hand, so get rid of it quickly through cards like Frostbolt and Backstab, or even Lightning Bolt. Avoiding an extra six damage next turn might just be worth the overload.
It’s in flux at this point, because of the very few optimal plays to make with three mana, but typically Muster for Battle is the ideal three-drop to play. If they’re going second, they might coin out a Piloted Shredder or just hero power, but you never know.
At this point, the opponent will have ideally established board control, so they’ll either buff up one of their minions to trade with any minions that you have (if you even have any by the time it’s turn 4 – part of the amazingness of Secret Paladin is its strong start to control the board) or just play even more minions that they didn’t get to use yet. You’ll want to get rid of their board as soon as possible, but save up your board clear until turn five, just in case they’ve got a Mysterious Challenger in their hand.
If they’re smart, they’ll play Loatheb right about now – this way, you can’t clear their board without using your own, and it’ll give them fuel for the secrets that Mysterious Challenger will inevitably summon the next turn. Establishing as much of a board as you can is important on turn five – a typical Secret Paladin won’t run Consecration or Equality since board control is one of their strengths, so if you can flood the board on Turn 5 with at least three or four minions, then you’ll take care of dodging some secrets next turn, and try to get rid of as much of your opponent’s board as possible to avoid the inevitable Avenge and Redemption that you’ll trigger next turn.
This turn will either be a dream or a nightmare for one of the sides in this match, depending if your opponent manages to draw and drop Mysterious Challenger by then. Let’s establish our worst-case scenario: opponent has not only drawn none of their secrets into their hand, but they’ll also have dropped Mysterious Challenger and thus have put one copy each of Avenge, [card]Competitive Spirit, Noble Sacrifice, and Redemption onto the field. Now, typically, the only secrets Secret Paladins run two of is Avenge and Noble Sacrifice, so you’re going to have to watch out for those even after turn six. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
Honestly, the goal is to beat your opponent before he summons Mysterious Challenger, but it is still possible to survive the barrage of secrets, and it’s all about activating the secrets in order. First, you have to deal with the 6/6 body that Mysterious Challenger poses to you, and while you don’t want to use a hard removal here (Tirion Fordring would be the prime target to remove or silence), you should if you don’t have any other high-damage or buff spells such as Fireball, Soulfire, Blessing of Kings, etc.
Now, ideally, you’d want to first attack with your weakest minion with two or less health, or if all of them are equally strong, your strongest minion that has more than four health, because we want to activate the Noble Sacrifice first, taking that two damage and getting it out of the way. This, in turn, activates Avenge, which will then buff one of his minions (a primary reason why we need to get rid of Mysterious Challenger first – it’s hard enough dealing with a 6/6 minion, let alone a 9/8 minion!). If it buffs a 1/1 token or maybe a 2/2 Shielded Minibot, that’s okay, but if it ends up buffing anything larger, it might be safe to use another removal on the buffed minion, so let’s hope you have Keeper of Uldaman or Shadow Word: Death in your hand, for example.
By the way, Redemption will have already activated when you took out either his Mysterious Challenger or his Noble Sacrifice, but as long as it’s not Mysterious Challenger, don’t worry about taking that one out if it’s not an optimal play – a 2/1 is relatively harmless as long as your opponent doesn’t buff it, although you never know what might happen.
If you can survive this turn, you’ll have a very good chance of taking care of the next two turns, which generally involve two very big threats.
Dr. Boom is the biggest tempo play anyone could make in the game, let alone a Secret Paladin, but if he does play it, use your Big Game Hunter or a high-damage spell to get rid of the 7/7 body as soon as possible. While the 1/1 tokens aren’t as much of a threat right now, if your opponent plays Tirion Fordring next turn, you’re screwed if you didn’t get rid of Dr. Boom by then. I’m going to assume that you have some resemblance of a board at this point, because let’s be honest: if you don’t, then you’ve probably already lost the game, right?
It’s the final stretch! After this turn, all of your opponent’s big threats will have been played provided he summons Tirion Fordring, his final line of defense. The best and most ideal play to make here would be to silence or use a hard removal spell on him, such as playing Ironbeak Owl or Polymorph, but if you can’t, then ping his Divine Shield with a weak minion, take out his 6/6 body, and play an Acidic Swamp Ooze or Harrison Jones if you have either in your hand.
If you can’t do that, then freeze the weapon using any spells that you might have, and if you still can’t do that, ignore the weapon and pressure your opponent by removing his board and going for face in the most efficient way possible without making any anti-tempo plays.
It’ll be a race for time if you’re going down this third route, but if you kept up a decently-populated board and retained a good mana curve throughout the game, it shouldn’t be too long until you defeat your opponent, since the typical Secret Paladin doesn’t run any other taunts besides Sludge Belcher, and they don’t tend to run any more big minions either. Note that their only source of card draw is Divine Favor, which is incredibly helpful for them if you’re playing a control deck. You’re going to have to keep racing him until you defeat him, but if you got this far, then you have a very good chance of taking your opponent out, and aside from the occasional snag or two, you’ll beat him easily.
What cards are considered to be necessary against Secret Paladin?
While I don’t think that there are any “omg this card is op against secret pallys guaranteed” out there, there are a couple that you should definitely consider running in the current meta. But if none of these cards fit in your current deck, don’t worry! These are just suggestions.
Ironbeak Owl is a fantastic silence card, thanks to its incredibly low cost, so if you don’t have one of these guys and you’re playing a control deck, run it. It can take care of huge late-game threats such as Sylvannas Windrunner and Tirion Fordring, and it’s almost a necessity in slow metas.
Acidic Swamp Ooze, or alternatively, Harrison Jones, is something I would consider running in a meta with so many weapons. We’ve got Truesilver Champion, Ashbringer, Doomhammer, deaths-bite, Gorehowl – run at least one copy if you can fit it, because this card will save lives, guaranteed. And perhaps some of your sanity, as well.
Big Game Hunter is a card I like to use to snipe out a Dr. Boom or even a Ragnaros the Firelord every now and then, and this card is something I shouldn’t even need to mention by now because so many decks should be running a copy now. Sniping any 7-attack minion is a huge tempo swing in your favor, so if you’re not running this card (and I don’t care who you are, you all should be running this in at least one deck of yours), it’s probably because you don’t have him. I’m sorry for your loss.
I followed your guide to the letter and I still can’t beat Secret Paladin!
Unfortunately, this isn’t the “end-all be-all” guide to fighting off Secret Paladin. Like any other game, there will be unlucky draws, crazy RNG, and times where your opponent is actually just better than you, or vice versa. But this guide isn’t meant to pilot your deck to victory against Secret Paladin, and neither is any other guide. This is here to provide tips for you not just to make the right plays during a match, but for you to put yourself in the right mindset during one as well. The most important piece of advice I can give you right now is: focus and stay calm! Unless you do just that during each second of the match, I can’t guarantee you’ll make the best plays and avoid panicking when it’s your turn, and that’s a huge part of why so many people get mad when they lose against a Secret Paladin. Remember: it doesn’t matter what deck your opponent is playing, but it does matter how you react to their plays. As long as you’re confident and collected when you make your plays, I can assure you that whatever outcome happens is totally fine, because you tried your best, and at the end of the day, that’s all that really counts. So go ahead and have some fun!
Bonus: Community Ideas
Within half a day of publishing this article, you guys have responded with some really great ideas and concerns about confronting Secret Paladin down below in the comments section, and I want to take the time to address and promote some of these comments here!
Deli Soetiawan mentions a great strategy for a Rogue counter in the early game: use Fan of Knives to clear Muster for Battle, Sap for Mysterious Challenger, but we’re stuck as to thinking up an answer for Tirion Fordring. While cards such as The Black Knight would be amazing answers for taunt minions such as him, the best tactic to use that would most likely be available in many a collection is a Silence. If that’s not available, then tech in an Acidic Swamp Ooze to get rid of the weapon once you kill off Tirion Fordring. I know, it’s not the most optimal solution, but Rogue cards are generally limited in removal as it’s mainly a tempo-oriented class.
masterofthese made an interesting note in that the trick in countering Secret Paladin not only include faster decks, Patron Warrior, and Control Priest, but also decks that were made when The Grand Tournament was released, interestingly enough. He cites Dragon Priest and Aggro Druid as examples of effective counters against Secret Paladin, stating that you need to “think back to when it was created, because that’s the true key to beating it.” I think that this is a really interesting idea! However, his argument doesn’t hold much water now, unfortunately; as Secret Paladin has become refined through so many revisions in the past couple of months, it has been refocused into more of a midrange version that is much more effective in a post-LOE meta. While Patron Warrior and Control Priest do have good matchups against Secret Paladin, I can’t say the same for Dragon Priest and Aggro Druid. Dragon Priest is a deck archetype almost entirely reliant on board control, and unfortunately, Secret Paladin does the same thing, just better. Aggro Druid is almost nonexistent nowadays, again due to the slower meta we experienced after the League of Explorers, so while the surprise factor might work, the deck itself just doesn’t contest to most decks nowadays, let alone Secret Paladin.
An anonymous reader adds that “any smart paladin player will probably add a three drop to the slot. Be ready for Aldor Peacekeeper, Mind Control Tech, or Argent Horserider in the three-mana slot. Aldor Peacekeeper is a personal choice because it helps deal with Druids and Hunters and has enough health to survive a Consecration on turn four. ?” This was excellent insight into the next possible evolution of Secret Paladin, although I do have some questions about a few of his choices. While I agree that Aldor Peacekeeper might be added sometime in the future, I doubt that Mind Control Tech or Argent Horserider would be added to a new revision of the Secret Paladin archetype if only because Mind Control Tech is too situational for such a refined deck, and Argent Horserider is too fast for a deck where we need to sustain board, and while it does let us remove a minion on the board, I think the tempo swing provided by Muster for Battle is much greater than removing a minion, in most cases.
Thank you so much everyone for commenting! Keep ’em coming, please! I read each and every comment, so don’t think your words are falling on deaf ears! The more discussion, the better.
As the first time I’ve written a real “guide,” let me know if you liked it! If this helped you at all in the least, or if you even enjoyed reading a little bit here and there, tell me and I’ll consider writing another one in the future! And as always, if you guys want to ask questions, give constructive criticism, or even yell at me for the stuff I said here, feel free to comment below! If you want to add me, my Battletag is Chriseroi#1902, and I hope to see you all in a game of Hearthstone sometime soon!