We’re using this decklist as a basis. Keep in mind there are decklists with slight variations, each one tweaked to the player’s own taste and the meta they’re facing.
Cards To KeepAbusive Sergeant Voidwalker Flame Imp Haunted Creeper Knife Juggler Imp Gang Boss
Dire Wolf Alpha – With Voidwalker or Haunted Creeper
Nerubian Egg – With an activator: Power Overwhelming, Abusive Sergeant, Dire Wolf Alpha, Void Terror
Voidcaller – With a Doomguard or Mal’ganis
The things you want most against the Secret Paladin are minions that are going to stick into the board. Voidwalker is crazy good on turn 1, because it stops enemy Shielded Minibot. Flame Imp is a little worse, but not terrible. Abusive Sergeant, while not really being a 1-drop, should still be used on turn 1 unless you have other 1-drop or the Nerubian Egg in your hand. 2-drops are important. Haunted Creeper is probably the best one – not only it can go 1 for 1 against opponent’s Minibot in a long run, but it’s a nice thing to have when he uses the Muster for Battle. Knife Juggler is very strong in this matchup – the pings are important, because they can get rid of Divine Shields or straight up kill their 1 health stuff. And finally, Imp Gang Boss, one of the best cards against Paladin. If they won’t find a way to counter it (Blessing of Kings or Truesilver Champion), it’s going to get crazy value. Your Imp Gang Boss should easily spawn 2 or 3 additional 1/1’s against Paladin. It also has a nice synergy with Knife Juggler if it sticks to the board.
The more tricky part are the situational keeps. Dire Wolf Alpha is not a good thing to drop on turn 2 for a simple reason, his effect doesn’t get any value unless you have some board presence. That’s why it’s a good keep if you’re starting with Voidwalker. The only bad thing about Voidwalker is that it has only 1 attack. If you buff it to 2, it can contest pretty much anything enemy plays on turn 2. The second synergy is the one with Haunted Creeper. Not only buffing it to 2 attack means that you can straight up kill something like opponent’s Secretkeeper or Knife Juggler, but if it dies, instead of 2 power you get 4 power on the board. It can also serve as an activator for Nerubian Egg, but it’s not as good as the other ones. +1 damage means it won’t likely kill the thing it attacks into.
Nerubian Egg is a yes and no card. It’s a big no if you have no way to activate it. Spending your turn 2 on dropping a minion that can’t even attack is very slow. On the other hand, if you have a good way to activate it, you might swing back the tempo if you kill their minion AND spawn a 4/4. Power Overwhelming is a most safe activator, it should be able to kill everything they play in the early game. It’s a little overkill even, because they won’t likely have anything that is more than 2 health. The good thing is that you can kill the 1/1 or 1/2 minion and still crack the Egg, which you couldn’t do otherwise. Abusive Sergeant is the most flexible way – it adds 2 attack, leaves a 2/1 on the board and can also be used on other stuff if you find other way to proc the Egg. The best way to proc it might be the Void Terror. While you sacrifice tempo on turn 2, you might get a very big turn 3. Having a 3/5 and 4/4 on turn 3 means that enemy is going to have a hard time killing them.
And finally, a Voidcaller. The card is very powerful in this matchup. Secret Paladins rarely run any sort of Silence, so it’s very likely to get the value. 3/4 body is rather small, but it gets a nice trade into opponent’s Piloted Shredder[/card. If you can get a better trade, you don’t have to rush things down too – wait until a good opportunity to pop it. Voidcaller can give you a big tempo swing you really need in this matchup. The dream is obviously getting one of your two biggest Demons – [/card. If you can get a better trade, you don’t have to rush things down too – wait until a good opportunity to pop it. Voidcaller can give you a big tempo swing you really need in this matchup. The dream is obviously getting one of your two biggest Demons – card]Doomguard or Mal’ganis, so that’s why you should keep them in your starting hand alongside Voidcaller. Keep one of them, though, not both! The 7 health on those minions means that enemy most likely won’t have a way to answer them. The only clear answer Secret Paladin might run is the Equality, but not every build runs it, and even if they do, that’s only one copy.
Zoo Warlock is one of the decks I’ve been beating Secret Paladins most consistently with. My current stats against the deck are 17-5. The matchup is in your favor if you know how to play it out and how to use your deck’s strong sides. The first and probably most important thing is to curve out nicely in the early game. You don’t need to start with a 1-drop, but you absolutely can’t skip a 2-drop. Board control is your number one priority for the whole game and to achieve that, you can’t fall behind in the early game. With Zoo Warlock it should be quite easy, because the deck runs over 10 one and two mana minions. Secret Paladin is a high tempo deck, but Zoo can be even faster. Nerubian Egg shenanigans, Voidcaller or Imp-losion are great tempo swings. You want to keep their board clear when they’re going into turn 6. Mysterious Challenger is an incredibly strong card, but the effect diminishes if you’re the one having board control, not Paladin. This way not only you can proc the Secrets easily, but you should find a way to kill the Challenger too (thanks to all the buffs). Your late game is very similar in terms of power, but you have the advantage of drawing 2 cards per turn. Life Tap is great if you’re ahead – you can take the 2 damage without worrying that enemy is going to rush you. So once you take the early/mid game board lead, things should stay this way for the whole game.
- Having a smooth curve is important. If you’re starting with the Coin, use it to make your curve better. For example, if you have 1-drop and 2x 3-drop, play one of your 3-drops on turn 2 to fill up the hole.
- The general rule is that you want to play a minion with the biggest board impact every turn. The one that is going to get the best trades, and if not, stick to the board.
- 1-drops are important, but not necessary. Voidwalker is the best one, Flame Imp second best and Abusive Sergeant worst one. You still want to drop the Sergeant. It trades 1 for 1 with opponent’s Knife Juggler, takes out the Shielded Minibot‘s Divine Shield and kills the first body of Haunted Creeper.
- Haunted Creeper is absolutely the best 2-drop. It’s very sticky and has nice synergies with your other stuff. It also allows you to play Void Terror next turn without any serious disadvantage (e.g. you don’t really want to eat your Knife Juggler, but Haunted Creeper is fine).
- Knife Juggler is not the best thing to drop without any follow-up. It loses to the Shielded Minibot, it’s pretty weak against Secretkeeper (in case enemy drew Secrets), it’s very weak against the Noble Sacrifice, it loses to Coghammer and sometimes even the Muster for Battle if enemy has even 1 damage on the board. Knife Juggler is great if you can combo it or hide behind the early Taunt (Voidwalker). If you already have a Haunted Creeper on the board, dropping Juggler and running Creeper into something means 2 guaranteed juggles. There is a significant change that those are going to kill something. Even getting rid of 1/1’s is solid.
- Imp Gang Boss is awesome against their early stuff. Paladin might have some ways to counter it, though. Blessing of Kings or Truesilver Champion follow-up on turn 4 hurts you a lot. It’s also kinda weak against the Piloted Shredder, but you might have other ways to deal with it.
Mid Game Strategy
- Mid Game is most important in this matchup. You absolutely want to take the board control, don’t even leave a single enemy minion up. I actually think that sacrificing 4-5 face damage to kill a 1/1 is a solid play here. If you have the board, you should win the game easily.
- Try to take out Divine Shields to play around Blessing of Kings. Kings on a minion with Divine Shield means a lot of free value. Enemy might kill your biggest drop for free and still have a threat you have to take out. It means that sometimes instead of killing a small minion you want to pop a Divine Shield. Destroying Divine Shields also works around the Avenge Secret.
- You want the mid game tempo swings. Paladin has a lot of tools to keep up with the tempo, but yours are better. Imp-losion is awesome, but sadly the RNG can win or lose you the game here. Piloted Shredder is going to be a very common Imp-losion target on turn 4. Rolling 3 or 4 is great, but rolling 2 might just lose you the game. Not only you don’t get rid of his minion, he’s left with a 4/1 that’s going to get a good trade into stuff like Imp Gang Boss AND you only develop two 1/1’s for 4 mana. It’s still 2/3 chance in your favor, so you should take it.
- Another way to swing the tempo is Voidcaller. I rarely find Secret Paladins that run Silence, so Voidcaller is likely going to proc. You want to have a big Demon in your hand – Doomguard or Mal’ganis when you pop it, but anything is good. If you don’t have a way to pop it, Void Terror might come handy. You might end up with a two big threats on turn 5, which is awesome.
- Don’t drop Defender of Argus on one minion or on stuff that’s going to die anyway unless that’s your only play. Taunts are incredibly important and increasing the health of your minions is also great. Defender of Argus is great to combo with your Deathrattle stuff – this way you force enemy to kill them for you. Another good Taunt target is the Imp Gang Boss because of the high health amount.
- Bane of Doom is another high variance card. While the average outcome is good, getting out a Blood Imp or some other 1-drop/2-drop is weak. Since there are more big Demons than small Demons, in the long run this card is worth using. For example, destroying their 2-drop AND getting your own Dread Infernal, Fearsome Doomguard or even Lord Jaraxxus is very strong.
- If you run the list with Sea Giant, it should get a lot of value in this matchup. The thing is that both you and Secret Paladin are decks that flood the board. Meaning that if you find the right opportunity (e.g. after Muster for Battle from the enemy and Imp-losion from your side + couple of other minions on the board), you might drop him for almost free. That’s a huge tempo swing and exactly what you want on turn 5-6, going into opponent’s Mysterious Challenger turn. Not to mention that if you Taunt it up, it’s usually game over.
Late Game Strategy
- Turns 6-8 might be the strongest Paladin turns. The thing is, if he curves out perfectly with his late game drops, you can’t do much. But it rarely happens that he draws all 3 of them by turn 8.
- Turn 6 is the Mysterious Challenger turn. It’s best if you have the board control going into this turn. A small minion or two on Paladin’s side won’t likely make a big difference, but if he has a complete board control and drops Challenger, you’re in a very bad spot. Paladin should get the 5 Secrets unless he has already used some of them earlier or is holding them in hand. So, what you need to learn is how to proc them. First, you want to use a 3+ health minion or a 1/1 (depending on your board state) to proc the Noble Sacrifice. After the 2/1 stops your attack, it dies and gets resurrected with Redemption. It’s fine, because it’s not really scary. The same attack should also proc the Avenge – random opponent minions gets the buff. You really want to kill the buffed minion, especially if it’s the Mysterious Challenger himself. Cards like Abusive Sergeant and Power Overwhelming really help with removing it. Then, when you drop any minion, Repentance procs. The best target to proc it is probably Nerubian Egg (you actually prefer it to be at 1 health, because then opponent’s Knife Juggler can proc it easily) or the 1 health minions, but minions like Haunted Creeper or another small drop are also fine. And then, at the start of your opponent’s turn, Competitive Spirit procs. It means that the more minions he has on the board, the bigger value it gets. Your aim is to leave him without any minions or only with some small stuff that won’t be threatening anyway. This is probably the hardest turn in the matchup.
- If you managed to deal with his Mysterious Challenger, you’re on the last straight. His only two last big threats are Dr. Boom and Tirion Fordring. Dr. Boom is pretty straightforward – you just need tu buff up to kill the 7/7 body and then either ignore the bombs or proc them with your stuff. It’s generally better to proc the bombs yourself, because you can pick the 1 damage on the targets you want + enemy can’t buff them in any way, but don’t sacrifice let’s say 10 face damage just to proc them. Boom Bots are often even more scary than the main body – with lucky hits, they can kill 2-3 of your minions. The more small stuff (1/1 tokens) or Deathrattles you have, the better it is against Boom. For example Nerubian Egg is awesome, because in case it takes the bomb, you got a free activation.
- Tirion Fordring is either a very easy or very hard turn, depending on whether you have Ironbeak Owl. If you draw it in the mid game, unless you really have to (e.g. Silence a Shielded Minibot buffed with Kings), try to keep it for the Tirion. It makes dealing with it so easy. Normally not only you have to worry about the Divine Shield AND taking down the 6 health (in case you don’t have a 1/1 to proc it it can be nightmare), but enemy doesn’t get the Ashbringer. It’s the most important thing here. Depending on your health total, Ashbringer might threaten to kill you over 3 turns (15 damage is A LOT) or get three great trades on the board once Paladin stats building. In case you didn’t have Silence, the best ways to deal with Ashbringer are Taunts. You have two ways to do that – the best is making a big Taunt – e.g. Taunting up a Doomguard and making it 6/8. This way Paladin can’t clear it with the weapon. Or making couple of small Taunts – putting Voidwalker on the board, Taunting up 1/1’s with Argus or even better, Taunting up the Nerubian Egg. The worst play is Taunting up some mid size minions that will have 3-5 health after Taunt. This way you aren’t any better against his weapon and you just give him a good trades on the silver plate.
- Like I’ve said, in case enemy drops those 3 turn by turn, it’s too much pressure and you won’t likely be able to do anything. But if he doesn’t, your late game is generally stronger. The reason is that you draw two cards per turn, while they draw one. Their Divine Favor is mostly useless later in the game, because you rarely sit at more than 1-2 cards in your hand. When it comes to your late game threats – Dr. Boom is probably the best one. The fact that it creates three bodies is important. Not only Paladin hasn’t got a great time dealing with the 7/7, but the Boom Bots are great at taking off Divine Shields, proccing the Noble Sacrifice and killing their small stuff. The card you’re most likely going to seal the game with is Mal’ganis. Unless you got it earlier from the Voidcaller (for tempo play, which is fine), it gets incredible value in the late game. You might play it whenever you might, meaning you can wait for the right opportunity. Not only it puts a big body to the board, denies Paladin the ability to rush you down, but it also buffs your Demons. It’s the best to use Mal’ganis after turn where you’ve developed a lot of Demons. Imp-losion or Imp Gang Boss are best, because they spawn seemingly small stuff that opponent might just ignore. Then, turning those 1/1’s to 3/3’s with Mal’ganis is big. A board with less than 10 damage on it can suddenly threaten over 20 damage.
- Most of opponent’s topdecks are going to be 1-4 mana stuff, so not a big deal. Your topdecks are similar, but you get two of them per turn. The maths is simple – in the long run you win. You have to sacrifice some health every turn, though, so kill everything enemy plays.
- On the Mysterious Challenger turn, start moving before rope hits the board. Secrets proc really slowly, all of them take probably somewhere between 20-30 seconds, so you have to start moving as soon as you can.
- You should play around Consecration a little, but do not be to concerned about it. If you clear Paladin’s board at the same time as you develop, you should never be behind. Even if he Consecrates your board on turns 4-5, you still take the initiative and start developing the board first.
- Health is a very important resource in this matchup. Even 4 damage you take from their minion means that you can draw two cards less in the long run. Try to preserve it, because Health is going to win you late game. You can draw two cards per turn if you have enough HP. If you’re very low, both of you just draw one per turn, but Paladin gets an additional 1/1 every time, so he’s ahead.
- If you start losing in the mid game, playing Doomguard from your hand and discarding two things is solid. If you lose board control before going into turn 6, you have no way to win the game. If you get back on the board and tempo, you can refill your hand with Hero Power eventually. It’s not a great play, but sometimes you have to do it.
- Sometimes racing the Paladin is a viable strategy. If you get really ahead on the board and you have a lot of damage in your hand (Power Overwhelming, Doomguard, Abusive Sergeant) you might just go face. Don’t do that if you can’t kill him really soon, though, because on turn 6 he should regain the tempo and racing him is going to be much harder.
- If you need a big demon out and you have no way to sacrifice your Voidcaller, you might consider killing him yourself. For example, if you’re at 4 health, you have Mal’ganis in your hand and enemy has Truesilver Champion equipped, you have a few ways to kill your own Voidcaller to force the Mal’ganis out. The easiest one is Void Terror, the guaranteed one is Power Overwhelming (at the end of turn Voidcaller dies and Deathrattle procs), but you might even go for the Imp-losion roll or kill him with Bane of Doom ie he’s low enough.
- You can use Bane of Doom on your own minions. It means that if enemy doesn’t have any good targets and you have nothing else to do, you might throw it on one of your stuff. The Nerubian Egg is best, but a 1/1 is also fine. You’re pretty much guaranteed to get something better, strengthening your board.
- For the deck overview and basic strategy, check out this guide.
- For in-depth strategies, alternate and tech cards, visit this guide.
- For other guides and matchup analysis of Midrange/Zoo Warlock, visit its meta deck section.
- For other popular meta decks, visit the meta decks page – it’s updated on a weekly basis.