Hunter is a class that has tanked in popularity as of late. However, that does not mean it is not viable. There are many ways to build Hunter, and one of the most popular these days is Camel Hunter, a hybrid list that uses early minions to build into the classic midrange style deck. If you want to bring that deck to ladder, you need to fight against the other popular decks in the game. One of those is Secret Paladin. This guide will break down that matchup to show you the best way to to use Hunter’s board presence and damage potential to come out on top.
There is only one version of classic Camel Hunter, but that does not mean there is no room for innovation. Despite the bells and whistles, this is a midrange list. That means you are able to tweak it in many different directions. You can just stick to the stock all-minion list, play one with a little more burst, or slide in a secret/burn package. There are many ways to go here, and they all work. Whatever you choose to do with the deck, just always play something you understand. To help you with this, a list to the core deck has been linked below.
When mulliganing against Paladin you need to get the best curve that you can. They are a deck built off playing the best thing each turn (as are you), and if you don’t match that you will fall behind. You are looking for all of your low drops and everything else should be sent back. Even with the coin, you only want to start keeping three and four drops if you have an early one or two play coming before them. Starting slow is the best way to lose.
Cards to KeepWebspinner Glaivzooka Flame Juggler Haunted Creeper Unleash the Hounds
Knife Juggler is a great keep if you have other solid opening minions.
Desert Camel should always be kept with the coin.
Animal Companion/card] is strong keep with the coin or an early curve.
[card]Houndmaster is a good keep with the coin and a solid beast opening.
How to Win
The number one rule against Secret Paladin is, get board control at all costs. Their six, seven, eight punch is very powerful, but it actually is very weak when their opponent can dictate the way the board goes. You want to do everything in your power to limit their potential by keeping the board as clear as you can. Mysterious Challenger (or even Dr. Boom) cannot stop a swarm of Hunter minions. It is only when those cards have a lot of allies does it become problematic.
Another big part of the game is using your damage. While you do not run as much burst as other Hunter decks, you still have access to Steady Shot, which always lets you get aggressive when you need to. That is very important when playing against Paladin because threatening their life total is the best way to ruin their gamplan. For instance, if you play a Savannah Highmane before their Mysterious Challenger turn they will be forced to deal with the lion instead of playing big threats. Those type of plays are what you are looking for.
Early Game Strategy
At every stage of the game you want to clear your opponent’s minions, and that begins on turn one. Removing should always come first, while pressure can come later. Killing your opponent’s minions should always be your first priority, since that enables you to really move into the middle turns of the game.
Flame Juggler and Glaivezooka are two of the most important cards in this matchup, because they both allow you to start off strong. Both you and your opponent are going to build off of the board turn after turn in the same way a deck like Zoo does. You need to start that train early, and these cards are your ticket to doing so.
Zooka is a very strong card because, not only does it help you use smaller minions to trade up, it also allows you to use your face to clear things like Knife Juggler or attack into a Noble Sacrifice. That protects your minions, gives you extra damage, and helps you stake an early claim in the game.
Flame Juggler is a very strong two drop because it can pop the divine shield off a Shielded Minibot or shoot down a 1/1. Each of those modes aren’t always relevant, but they can be very strong and help you build tempo. Not to mention, a 2/3 body trades favorable with just about early card Paladin has.
Be very careful about playing Desert Camel. While this card is incredibly strong on curve with Injured Kvaldir, it is going to give your opponent a minion as well. And that minion is most often going to be Secretkeeper. That can be a big problem if you aren’t ready for it. As a result, only try to play this card if you have a way to instantly remove your opponent’s one drop, or if it’s your only option.
Never forget about secrets. Paladin usually will open the game with at least one Noble Sacrifice or Avenge. Those cards can be scary, but only if you don’t know how to play around them. Always attack with your weakest minion or weapon to check for sacrifice, and only trigger Avenge if you have a way to immediately deal with the buff.
The middle rounds of the game are going to be spent slamming big minions into big minions. Secret has a lot of large options at their disposal, but so do you. Getting one minion to stick on an empty board, which you can then trade or attack with before playing another large minion, is the goal here. Don’t be afraid to trade to make that happen.
Look to set up Houndmaster whenever possible. The 4/3 is quite possibly the best card in your deck. It give you damage, a way to stop your opponent’s pressure, and a way to trade. If you have a beast, no matter how small, you want to try and protect it if you have the four drop on curve.
You also want to set up Cult Master. The four drop may seem very underwhelming at times, but in a game like this, where there are a ton of small minions running around, you can really draw a lot of cards. That will usually give you enough options to carry you through the later turns of the game. The one rule to remember with the Cult Master is that you typically want to trade away all of your opponent’s minions when playing her because a 4/2 is pretty easy to deal with if your opponent has a board.
Though it costs three, Unleash the Hounds is very strong during these turns. Paladin will have a lot of minions, and this card will make them pay for it. You typically want to play the hounds around turn four or five when you can get three or more of them. However, they also do a very nice job of dealing with Muster for Battle.
Late Game Strategy
If you make it into the final stages of the game you want to push as much as you can while also taking the time to take over your life total. Unlike most decks, Paladin has very little burst at its disposal, and almost all of it comes from buffs on minions (Blessing of Kings/Keeper of Uldaman). That means, if you are under pressure you just need to keep their board clear to take the pressure off.
The other part of the end-game is, don’t be afraid to push. Damage is going to be the way you win here, and if you are winning the life battle you should not be afraid to hit your opponent and make them react to you.
Dr. Boom is often much more powerful for you that it is for your opponent. This is because, as mentioned, you can do a lot more with nine points of stats then they can. Unless you are facing lethal, you always want to play the seven drop if you can. Not only does it force an immediate answer, but the Boom Bots also give you a lot of options for clearing your opponent’s board.
Finally, you need to be aware of Tirion Fordring. The legend is (still) Paladin’s best card, and, as you run no Ironbeak Owl, it will stop you in your tracks if you aren’t ready. The deathrattle is a problem, but you can negate it if you have a lot of minions on board. Just always make sure to have a way to deal six damage come turn eight.
Try to get as much value out of Hunter’s Mark as you can. This card is the very essence of tempo, and can be a gigantic swing if used in the right situation. Being able to kill a buffed Mysterious Challenger while also playing your own turn six Savannah Highmane can pretty much end the game on the spot. You almost always want to save one of these for the end of the game, but also don’t be afraid to use it if you opponent goes all-in on a buffed minion early.