MUA: Secret Paladin vs Aggro/Face Hunter

This is the matchup analysis of Secret Paladin versus Aggro/Face Hunter. There are two most popular Secret Paladin lists right now. One is more Aggro-oriented and the second one is Midrange. Here are the lists: Aggro Secret Paladin Midrange Secret Paladin Check out this post for constantly updated list that works best in the meta. Cards […]

Introduction

This is the matchup analysis of Secret Paladin versus Aggro/Face Hunter.

Sample Decklist

There are two most popular Secret Paladin lists right now. One is more Aggro-oriented and the second one is Midrange. Here are the lists:

Check out this post for constantly updated list that works best in the meta.

Mulligan

Cards To Keep

Noble Sacrifice Secretkeeper Haunted Creeper Knife Juggler Shielded Minibot

Muster for Battle OR Coghammer

Situational Keep

Redemption – With early drops you want to resurrect – Haunted Creeper, Shielded Minibot

Explanation

Mulligan is simple – you want to have all your early game. And I mean it. Matches against Face Hunter rarely go to the late game. Either you get rushed or you rush Hunter down. You want to develop the board, they want to hit you in the face. In this matchup I even keep the Noble Sacrifice in my opening hand – most of the time it trades 1 for 1 with Hunter’s 1-drop, which is fine, but sometimes it might even kill a 2-drop or unsuspecting Huffer. The worst thing enemy can play into it is Haunted Creeper, but even then it’s not terrible. Minibot and Haunted Creeper are perfect things to open with, because they can get 2 for 1 easily. Juggler is good if you have some follow-up. Juggler also has a quasi-Taunt – enemy won’t just leave it, he’s going to kill it no matter what. When it comes to the common dilemma of Muster for Battle vs Coghammer – in this matchup the Coghammer is better. Even though three 1/1’s are awesome against Face Hunter, they are vulnerable to Unleash the Hounds and Explosive Trap. Taunt + Divine Shield means that you force enemy to have a Silence or lose a lot of damage.

When it comes to situational keeps, you don’t really want any of your mid game in this matchup. You mulligan heavily for the early game, and you should draw something by turn 4-5. The only card you might keep is Redemption. Once again thanks to how big tempo boost it gives you if you combine it with proper early drops. But here resurrecting anything that’s not a 1/1 is fine. The one problem with Redemption is that Hunter might simply not trade into your minions, but if you drop something like Knife Juggler you pretty much force him to make a trade.

Matchup Overview

Face Hunter is one of the harder matchups for Secret Paladin. Secret’s Paladin’s real strength shows on turn 6 with Mysterious Challenger. However, against Face Hunter, on turn 6 you’re often dead or almost dying. You have almost no ways to stop the Charge minions and weapons and you run no healing. You’re also rarely in a spot to outrace the Hunter. It puts you in a very bad spot in the beginning. But it doesn’t mean that the matchup is unwinnable. What you can do is to curve out perfectly and start outdamaging Hunter around turns 4-5, while removing his threats. Early game you need to focus on removing their first, small drops. In the mid game you need to use your small minions to trade and bigger minions to push for damage. It really depends on the Hunter draws – if he gets perfect cards like Explosive Trap and Unleash the Hounds to stop your advance and punish you for having board presence, you’re in a very rough spot. Your bigger drops won’t likely have an impact on this matchup, but the Mysterious Challenger on turn 6 might actually make a difference. Not only it stops one attack thanks to the Noble Sacrifice, but it puts you in a position to threaten lethal next turn.

One thing to note is that in this matchup the “new” version of Secret Paladin that some people play on the ladder is better. It runs Zombie Chows, Aldor Peacekeepers (having a minion 2-drop is generally better than a weapon in this matchup) and even Sludge Belcher. It’s more consistent against Aggro decks.

Early Strategy

  • Most of the games are decided in the early game. You absolutely need your early drops and a good curve. Having a Secretkeeper or a Secret on turn 1 is very good, especially if you start first. If you go second, the early tempo from the Coin lets you get out a 2-drop on turn 1. But if you start first and skip turn 1, it’s not that good. Secretkeeper is good, because it trades with their 1-drops. It also threatens 2 for 1 trade in case you get to play a Secret on turn 2.
  • The only Secret you REALLY want against Hunter is Noble Sacrifice. There are almost no 3 or more health minions in Hunter’s deck – the only ones are actually Misha and Leokk from Animal Companion. It means that Noble Sac should clear most of what Hunter might play or tank a weapon hit. Redemption might be great, but it really, really depends on how aggressive Hunter’s start is. If he gets an upperhand, he won’t likely trade – he’s probably going to punch your face all the time and leave trading for you. Since Secrets can’t proc on your turn, sometimes it’s going to be hard to get it off. Same goes for the Avenge – it’s very situational in this matchup. Not only enemy has to kill your minion, you need to have more than 1 on the board. The 3 additional attack also often doesn’t matter if you’re trading into small drops anyway, so it’s often just like +2 health on a random minion. Not to mention that enemy can just Silence it away if it procs on something good (like Minibot). It’s decent in combination with Noble Sacrifice, because then enemy can’t ignore it. Rest of the Secrets are really bad against Hunter. Competitive Spirit is nice in the mid game, but to get a lot of value you need to overextend into Unleash, which is risky. Repentance is completely useless – it’s going to deal 1 damage at best, often getting literally 0 value (if enemy plays a 1 attack minion anyway).
  • Shielded Minibot is hands down best one here, it gets good trades against anything Hunter can drop. Most of the time it gets 2 for 1, but 1 for 1 is almost guaranteed. Haunted Creeper is also cool, but it doesn’t trade too well against 2 health minions – you need some extra help. Knife Juggler works very well with Creeper, if you trade it into a 2 health minion (considering it’s only minion on opponent’s board) with Juggler on the board you have 75% chance to kill it with knives. It’s such a big tempo swing, because you’re left with 3/2 and 2x 1/1, which can trade very well against anything opponent might play. Juggler by itself isn’t the best 2-drop, because it dies to the 2/1’s like Leper Gnome or Worgen Infiltrator and Mad Scientist without getting more value.
  • There are cases where instead of dropping a Knife Juggler you want to Hero Power on turn 2. If enemy played a 2/1 1-drop, 1/1 trades just as well as the 3/2 and Knife Juggler can get value later in the match.
  • Both your 3-drop weapons should swing the tempo heavily in your favor. But let me explain one thing first – preserve your life total. While the board control is your number one priority, sometimes taking 2-3 face damage to protect a 1/1 is often not worth. Use your Health carefully – don’t get too many weapon hits. Using your minions not only protects your life total, but also plays around the Unleash the Hounds and Explosive Trap. Okay, so since we have that settled, which weapon is better? If you don’t have any minions on the board, it’s definitely Muster for Battle. The weapon is a little weaker, but good enough in this matchup. 3x 1/1 are very good against Hunter. If this is your only board presence, Unleash the Hounds won’t even be that scary. You take only 3 damage and can just trade your minions in. If you, however, have ANYTHING on the board, Coghammer gets much, much better. Even a 1/1 with Divine Shield and Taunt stops opponent’s advance, unless it gets Silenced. The weapon can also kill 2 health minions, which might come handy. Even if you don’t kill anything with it – that’s 6 damage to the enemy’s face.
  • Opponent’s minions are very annoying. It’s pretty much impossible to stop them for getting value. They can have Stealth, meaning one guaranteed hit before you can trade into them. They can have different Deathrattles – dealing 2 damage, spawning 2x 1/1 or getting a giving Hunter a random Secret. And a lot of minions have Charge, meaning if you don’t have Taunts (and you don’t really have them), you can’t stop the damage. This matchup isn’t very interactive, you just have to remove opponent’s minions in most effective way and hope that he won’t rush you down too fast.
  • Playing around Secrets is a big part of this matchup. And it’s very, very hard, because Aggro Hunters run all sort of Secrets now. Explosive Trap is still the most popular one, but they also add Snake Trap and Bear Trap almost as often. From time to time you might see the Freezing Trap, but it’s much less common in aggressive build. Playing around the traps is hard, because they have ones that proc when you attack their Hero and ones that proc when you attack their minions. Mad Scientist gives a completely random trap, so you just have to guess most of the time. For example, if all your minions are low health and would die to Explosive, you can as well just attack enemy minions. If it’s Snake Trap you’ll know and you’ll kill some of those. It’s best to proc the Snake Trap with Consecration in the hand or Knife Juggler on the board. It makes dealing with all the small minions much easier. There are some ways to identify what trap it might be if Hunter plays it from the hand. For example, if he plays a trap and drops a Knife Juggler, there is a big chance that the trap is Snake Trap (3 Snakes spawning means 3 random damage from Juggler). If you have a lot of 1 or 2 health minions on the board, there is a chance the trap is explosive. ESPECIALLY if Hunter hits your higher health minion with a weapon or his minion to put it into the range.

Mid Game Strategy

  • If you’re still at 20 health or more in the mid game, it’s very good for you. In the mid game you actually start dealing damage to the Hunter. Your general game plan is to use smaller minions to trade (Hunter’s minions have really low health, so it shouldn’t be a problem) and bigger to hit the face. Piloted Shredder is awesome, because enemy won’t likely kill it and it threatens 4 damage per turn. Blessing of Kings is also cool – it’s 4 instant damage and then 4 more damage per turn. It’s more risky than Shredder, though, because it can get silenced off. Forcing Hunter to play Ironbeak Owl is not terrible, because it’s a slow play and in case you get a Taunt he can’t Silence it any more (unless he gets the second one, that is).
  • Face Hunter has no mid game. He just starts weaving Hero Power into his turns. E.g. 2-drop + Hero Power, 3-drop + Hero Power etc. His minions get really, really easy to kill, but most of them get value no matter what.
  • Play around the Unleash the Hounds. Don’t be too greedy with the board size – a few big minions is much better than a lot of small ones. Unleash alone is already scary if it’s for 4-5 Hounds, but the worst thing starts on turn 5. Hunter can combo Knife Juggler with Unleash. That’s crazy if you have more than 3 minions on the board.
  • Truesilver Champion is your only way to heal in your deck. It probably should go twice into opponent’s face when you start getting lower. 4 health isn’t a lot, but can buy you a whole turn. 8 damage into Hunter’s face is also worth it, as you already know you have to start pushing damage.
  • Consecration actually isn’t awesome in this matchup. You don’t let Hunter develop the board anyway – you kill the minions right away. It might get some value in the mid game if he drops 2 minions on the same turn or as a way to clear the Unleash.
  • Highest tempo plays are the best ones most of time. You want to put as much power on the board every turn in the mid game. Even if it doesn’t seem like, you’re on the very short clock. Hunter threatens a lot of damage from his hand, especially when he gets some mana to do the combos. For example, you might feel safe at 20 health, but Hunter can get rid of that in 2-3 turns with chargers, weapons, Kill Command, Quick Shot etc.

Late Game Strategy

  • There is pretty much no late game against Face Hunter. If you get into turns 7-8, you can consider yourself lucky and you probably won the game. Most of the time, Mysterious Challenger is the only late game drop that makes any impact. If you pushed for enough damage earlier, it sets up a lethal turn. It also blocks some damage thanks to the Noble Sacrifice. In worst case scenario it’s only 1 damage (if he plays Unleash the Hounds), but sometimes it block the weapon hit or a proper Charge minion. The Avenge and Competitive Spirit combo also means that with pretty much any board presence you just push for 20 damage next turn.
  • Dr. Boom is too slow most of time. If you drop it on turn 7 without having any Taunt etc. you just probably die. Hunter would need to have terrible game to not kill you by then.
  • Tirion Fordring might sound crazy against Hunter, and it is, if you manage to live until turn 8. But that’s not happening and if it does, you’re so low that he finishes you with the spell burn and Hero Power.
  • If you actually manage to get into the late game, instead of dropping your high cost legendaries you should go for the highest tempo plays. Like Blessing of Kings or Truesilver Champion and pushing for face damage to kill the Hunter as fast as you can.

Tips

  • Divine Favor is absolutely useless in this matchup. You’d need to get incredibly fast starting hand in order to make a use of it. And even then, it’s a big tempo loss. 3 mana is a lot against Face Hunter. If you get Divine Favor, it’s a dead card most of the time.
  • It’s not the matchup where you can play defensively. You do that for the first few turns, but in the mid game you need to start pushing the face damage. This means that even if your whole board gets cleared by Explosive Trap, just be it, proc it and develop something new. If you just sit there for few turns and don’t attack the Hunter, you won’t win the game. You can miraculously heal back to 30 or find a big wall of Taunts to stop the Hunter. Every turn you waste for not doing damage gets you closer to your death.
  • Besides the early turns, weapons go into Hunter’s face. You can’t afford to take extra damage. That’s exactly what Hunter wants you to do. Unless you really have to sacrifice an important minion, trade them instead. For example – if you have to trade off Knife Juggler to kill the 2/1, sure, use your Hero. But if you can just use the 1/1, don’t do that.

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