Murloc Paladin is a very powerful ladder deck that matches up extremely well to most of the popular decks in the current meta. It has enough healing to outlast aggro, enough late game punch to overwhelm midrange, and has the right finishers to take down control. If you want to take the slippery fish to the ladder, then you have to know how to properly navigate all three of those different matchups. In this guide we will break down the matchup against Secret Paladin, and look at how Murlocs can come out on top against ladder public enemy number one.
Murloc Paladin, much like Freeze Mage or Oil Rogue, is a combo deck that has a set core and a lot of fringe cards. While you have to run the Murlocs and the usual heal/AOE cards like Equality and Antique Healbot, there are a lot of fringe tweaks you can make based on your particular playstyle. For instance, you can go heavy on the removal, running cards like Humility and two Keeper of Uldaman, or you can rely more on healing and taunts. Whatever you choose, just play the type of deck that you best understand. To help you get an idea of the shell, two lists have been put below.
When facing against a Paladin they are almost always going to be Secret. As such, you just want to look for all of your early cards, from Acolyte of Pain to Wild Pyromancer to Bluegill Warrior. Almost all of your opening cards are great against Paladin, which is really important since you need to start crippling Secret Paladin early on. The rule here is to start low. However, if you have a very strong opener, or if you have the coin, you can keep some of your later healing and taunts as well. This game is all about staying alive, and that begins on turn two.
Cards to KeepEquality Wild Pyromancer Doomsayer Bluegill Warrior Aldor Peacekeeper Acolyte of Pain Murloc Warleader Consecration
Solemn Vigil can be kept if you have a minion-heavy opening.
Both Antique Healbot and Sludge Belcher can be kept if you have a strong opening and the coin.
Old Murk-Eye is a good keep with the coin and a good turn two play.
Truesilver Champion should always be kept with the coin.
Keeper of Uldaman is a strong keep with a good opening and the coin.
How to Win
As with all Murloc Paladin games, the rule here is to stall as long as possible. However, while that is easy against some decks, it gets a lot harder when facing Secret Paladin. That is because almost all of your removal is damage based, and they have a lot of sticky minions. They are going to die to your combo when the time comes, but you need to do everything you can to get to that combo. Your removal is premium here, and you should only use it when you can get as much value as possible.
When facing down Secret Paladin you have to recognize all of their different threats, and then have a plan for each one. What makes Paly so strong is that it has one of the best curves in the game. However, that curve also locks them into certain plays. Usually you can predict what they are going to play each turn, which means you can then build a plan to combat that plan.
Early Game Strategy
The start of this game is vitally important to your success overall. While you do have some catch-up options, you never want to let Secret get too far ahead on board because, unlike other midrange decks, they have so many sticky minions and secrets that you cannot always rely on your board clears to pull you back into the game. As a result, you always want to get something onto the board. Minions are the way you are going to pull this out.
Doomsayer can be a great way to open this game because during the early turns it is always a hard removal spell. Some classes can do seven damage early on, but Paladin is not one of them. Remember that, and know you don’t have to play this on turn two, three works as well to catch an extra minion in the clear. Just try not to put it down before your opponent’s turn three, because they might have Blessing of Kings or Truesilver Champion.
Beyond minions, the other thing you want to focus on early is card draw. You have two main modes for this, which are Acolyte of Pain and Solemn Vigil. Acolyte is a great play against Paladin because almost all of their early minions are smaller than three attack, guaranteeing you are going to draw cards if you get it down at the right time. On the other hand, try to set up Solemn Vigil when you can. While it may feel bad to trade away your board, drawing two cards makes it more than worth it.
The middle turns are when your danger levels should be at an all-time high. Secret Paladin is a deck that makes its money during turns five and six, where they start shifting from their small early game minions to their much bigger threats. This is where you need your board clears and heavy removal, because if you fall behind there is a very small chance you can come back.
Equality. This card is easily the most important in the game, and can be a win condition on its own when used correctly. While it is almost always better to use it with Wild Pyromancer (so you can play other cards in the same turn), be aware of times when you want to combine it with Consecration. It all depends on how you want to use the cards, what else you want to play, and how you plan to utilize Consecration or Wild Pyromancer during later turns.
The other two important cards for the midgame are Aldor Peacekeeper and Keeper of Uldaman. These cards serve as your big minions removal, allowing you to trade into or nullify something like Dr. Boom or a pumped Mysterious Challenger. Know how important each of these cards is. Secret Paladin only runs three huge threats, and you need to have answers for each to take the pressure off.
The other two cards you want to think of are Sludge Belcher and Antique Healbot. These are the control cards that will help you reach the end of the game. Drop them down whenever you become under threat of dying to burst or a large minion. In addition, it is always a good idea to use them when you either have an opening or you can do something else on your turn. Wild Pyromancer/Equality plus one of the five drops can just steal the game.
Late Game Strategy
The end of this game is going to be spent pushing for your combo. The full combo with all five murlocs does twenty two damage. Though that is not enough against some decks, it is most often lethal against a deck that doesn’t take care of its life like Secret Paladin. Your only objective here is to stay alive for as long as you can.
Your most important non-combo card for the end game is Lay on Hands. The eight mana spell not only draws you more answers to whatever Paladin’s board, but the extra healing is vital. Just like with Antique Healbot, eight health basically negates the attack from a giant minion. That can get you an extra turn, which can often be the difference between getting to the combo and just falling short.
Note that the first Anyfin Can Happen doesn’t have to win you the game. In fact, the first ten mana usually won’t put you over the top. It is the second that usually seals the win. Don’t be afraid to use the first one to clear the board in the same way that Force of Nature does. You have three murlocs with change, and all of them can crash into Paladin’s minion, especially when they are buffed.
Watch out and prepare for Tirion Fordring. The legendary is a big problem for two reasons: its 6/6 body and its deathrattle. The shield often makes it resilient to AOE, and once he dies, Tirion turns into fifteen damage. The best way to deal with the light bringer is through one of your keepers, which takes away the initial damage. Though the deathrattle is scary it comes over three turns. Getting rid of the 6/6 body is priority number one.
Always plan for secrets. In particular, look out for Redemption and Avenge. These two cards are problematic because they can make any minion sticky. Keep them in mind when trying to clear a board, because not planning for them is a good way to lose.