A look at how Control Warrior fares against public number enemy number one: Secret Paladin. This quick guide will give you tips on how to navigate the matchup by showing you possible decklists, which cards to mulligan for, and the best way to play each stage of the game. Secret Paladin is not the easiest matchup for Control Warrior, but it is more than winnable if you understand how both decks work.
It is always good to look at decklists before going out and looking at individual matchups. This is especially true in a game with an ever-shifting meta like Hearthstone. Once upon a time, Control Warrior was a pretty set decklist. You ran a few stock early game cards, and then won with your big threats like Baron Geddon and Ragnaros the Firelord. However, those days are long gone. New cards have given Control Warrior many more options. Below are some popular decklists and card choices you should check out to discover which style of the deck best suits you.
Cards to KeepSlam
Revenge/WhirlwindCruel Taskmaster Fiery War Axe Armorsmith Bash Acolyte of Pain Death’s Bite
Shield Slam if you also have no other removal in your opener.
Shield Block if you also have a good opening to go with it. This buys you some time and allows you to cycle.
Piloted Shredder/Sen’jin Shieldmasta with the coin if you are running them.
Brawl with the coin if you also have an good curve before it.
Sludge Belcher with the coin and a very good early curve.
How to Win
Stay alive. It is really as simple as that. However, staying alive is no easy task. As a Warrior, you are filled with early removal and a ton of ways to gain armor. However, Secret Paladin has many, many resilient minions that make your removal worse. Not only that, but triggering the wrong secret at the wrong time can be absolutely devastating. The way to combat this is though clearing the board, which should be your main priority for a majority of the match. You aren’t here to burst them down (though you should if you can) you are here to simply outlast.
Paladin, secret or otherwise, has no real form of burst damage. They usually kill their opponent’s through things like Blessing of Kings and Avenge, which allow their small minions to curve into bigger threats. This also helps them trade up in preparation for the later stages of the game. However, if they have no minions they have no real way to stack up damage. Knowing this, you can always try and tune your armor and health total to a point where they simply cannot win. While armor is a good way to stay alive, it also become an insurmountable obstacle at a certain point. For this reason, if you ever have a window to drop Justicar Trueheart you should do so immediately.
Though Secret Paladin can be intimidating, it is important to understand that they only have three real late-game threats at their disposal:Mysterious Challenger, Dr. Boom and Tirion Fordring. If you save your hard removal for those cards you should be able to answer each one with ease (especially if you are teching in a single copy of Ironbeak Owl). Where Secret Paladin’s top-end curve wins them a majority of games, you can almost always plan for that. They also understand this, which means they are going to try and kill you with swarms of small minions. Answering those swarms is the way to win the game.
Save your Death’s Bite, Revenge and Brawl for when you absolutely need them. It may be tempting to try and use Brawl on a board full of 1/1’s, but it probably isn’t worth it. Try and sit back and let their board develop for one more turn. In that same vein, also understand what you need premium removal for as well. While you may want to Execute a Knife Juggler, see if there are other routes you can take to remove it before burning a card that also kills Mysterious Challenger. A large part of winning this matchup is conserving your removal to hit only the prime targets.
Early Game Strategy
Starting off this game is just like playing against any other deck. You want to make sure you have an answer for their openings. You cannot afford to let them have an unanswered Knife Juggler or Muster for Battle, as it will allow them to curve too easily. This can be easily prevented with a Fiery War Axe, Armorsmith or Death’s Bite.
You also want to always run out Armorsmith and Acolyte of Pain regardless of the way the board looks. Paladin is not a deck that can efficiently remove either of those minions early, which means you should get a couple of strong triggers out of them. Even if you can’t, forcing them to spend a turn killing off your minions will give you extra health and allow you a chance to set up a Death’s Bite or Brawl.
Most of Paladin’s early secrets are going to be either Noble Sacrifice, Avenge or Redemption. While you cannot always plan for those triggers in the way that you want, understand all three. You should never be afraid of attacking into Noble Sacrifice, but you do want to be careful about triggering a Redemption or Avenge. Only kill their minions if they only have one you don’t mind coming back, or if you have a way to take care of an Avenge buff.
The last piece of advice for the early game: Always save at least one key removal spell through the first five turns. That can be an Execute, Shield Slam or Big Game Hunter. Whatever you choose, just know that you need to have something ready for turn six. You want your weapons to handle the early game, which will allow you to conserve your resources and seamlessly blend into the next stage of play.
This is the part of the game where you want to start shifting to your late game plan. While you aren’t relying on big minions just yet, you do want to be able to start playing a little more proactively when you can. Fit in your midgame threats when available, but still try and make sure the board doesn’t get too crazy.
Turn six is perhaps the most important turn in the matchup. You almost always want to have board advantage before Mysterious Challenger comes to town, or you want the Paladin to have an empty board. So much so that sometimes you just need to use your Death’s Bite to clear two 1/1’s.
Do everything in your power to make sure the Avenge buff from Mysterious Challenger actually hits the challenger (which allows your removal to work as planned). There is nothing worse that letting the six drop come down with something like a Shielded Minibot or Piloted Shredder still around.
However, there are two exceptions to the “turn six” rule of an empty board. First, if they have board presence and you have a Brawl in hand you usually want to wait a turn for them to drop challenger. This will give you the most value. It gets even better if you have a weapon, since it will enable you to trigger their secrets, remove their board and make Competitive Spirit almost useless.
The other rule of turn six is, you don’t need removal if you have a turn five Sludge Belcher on an empty board. Belcher does a very nice job of shutting down challenger, especially because Secret Paladin runs little to no silence. Letting the 3/5 soak up a big hit will buy you needed time to find something else to play.
Late Game Strategy
The last stages of the game should be spent setting up the finishing blow. That comes in two forms: burst with Grommash Hellscream or simply gaining too much life.
If you made it this far into the game you are either barely hanging onto life or you are quite far ahead. Either way, you want to start pushing through your gigantic threats.
Secret Paladin is built in a way where they do not topdeck very well. Most of their cards are built for turns one through nine, and once that’s over they start pulling out 2/2’s, 3/2’s or a bunch of junk secrets. The longer the game goes, the better chance you have to win. If you haven’t seen one of their big threats, then still try and save at least one removal spell when the time comes. If that last threat is Tirion Fordring, then you want to keep Sylvanas Windrunner should she find her way into your hand.
Alexstrasza and Justicar Trueheart are the two cards you want most during this part of the game. Each of them not only put a good amount of attack of the board, but they are both your finishers. If you spent most of the game gaining armor and burning removal, Justicar is a 6/3 that also gains six health. Even after, it is very, very hard for a deck built like Secret Paladin to keep up with four armor a turn.
On the other hand, Alex is wonderful for getting you back out of swarm range. While she can be used to drop your opponent to fifteen, you most commonly are going to use her as a heal. Secret Paladin does not run Equality these days, and almost has no answer for an 8/8. As a result, you should use her to advance your board and stay alive rather than as a way to put on pressure. You will get there eventually.
Conserve your Brawl (or Brawls) for only must-kill situations. If you can clear the board in other ways it is often best to do so. Just as with using premium removal, it is always best to ask yourself “what else can I do?” before burning a Brawl. Of course, sometimes you will be forced to in the face of overwhelming amounts of damage. However, always try to eek out one more turn and don’t pull the cord until the last possible second.