Secret Paladins have been terrorizing the ladder for a couple of weeks now, and while the deck is still very new, the urge to find ways to counter it is just too big for me not to write this article.
Before I begin, I would like to let you know that I played over 100 games with both versions of Secret Paladin trying to figure out which were the best ways to deal with such a deck.
In the end I figured out it is not as hard as it looks, and the simple fact of knowing how the deck operates and its tricks is already enough to have a decent win rate against.
Secret Paladin is a deck that plays around [card]mysterious-challenger[/card] powerful Battlecry and tries to take full advantage of it. By running cards that are not good enough by themselves, the deck becomes slightly inconsistent because it makes it so you will have a couple of bad draws here and there.
There are 2 main Secret Paladin builds: Aggro and Midrange. Make no mistake: Both versions are tempo-oriented versions, and the main different is that one list will run 2 copies of [card]argent-squire[/card] and 2 copies of [card]divine-favor[/card] while the other will run a second [card]truesilver-champion[/card], [card]loatheb[/card], [card]tirion-fordring[/card] and the almighty [card]dr-boom[/card] – The aggro version also rearranges the secrets to adapt to its more bursty version.
Overall, I believe the aggro version might eventually die since the Midrange version seems to be a lot stronger, because the aggro version relies heavily on playing certain matchups, and the Divine Favor draw is a must in some games otherwise the deck simply loses, while the Midrange has more snowballing potential and doesn’t depend on what the opponent is playing.
Knowing how to tell the difference between both versions, however, is a must sometimes, because you will then choose if you should – or should not – play around [card]divine-favor[/card]. In case you haven’t already, take another read in the last paragraph before this one.
[toc]The Deck’s Strengths[/toc]
Knowing how a deck operates is the best way of dealing with it. Every time you completely understand how a deck works, you become better at playing against it. That is why in all the “How to Beat X” Series we talk about both the Deck’s strengths and weaknesses. In this article is not different, as knowing how Secret Paladin’s strong points operates are still needed:
- Tempo – As basic as this may sound, this deck is capable of generating a lot of tempo. With a bunch of low-costed cards, this deck can snowball pretty easily, and its big turn-6 play, [card]mysterious-challenger[/card] is the true definition of Tempo: The card itself plays 4 to 5 other cards together with it. It it very hard to deal with this deck whenever its draws are good.
- Hard to Play Around – For anyone new to playing against this deck, it should be a nightmare to play against it, because you usually don’t know what secrets are in play, and how they’ll work. It is very hard to tell which secret has been played because of the high number of secrets the deck plays.
- Sticky Minions – This deck also runs a big number of sticky minions. Both Deathrattle and Divine Shield makes it a little hard for the opponents to deal with.
[toc]The Deck’s Weaknesses[/toc]
Now that we are aware of the Deck’s strong points, knowing how it operates, it is time to know the deck’s weak points, to then (in the next section) understand how to properly play against it and counter it.
- Tempo – Being a tempo deck also means it may sometimes run out of steam before killing the opponent. Being a tempo deck doesn’t necessarily means the deck will always win over tempo, and there are multiple ways of disrupting this tempo.
- Too reliant on the Secrets being Popped – Early in the game (Meaning, before the Challenger is played) the deck relies heavily on having its secrets popped – Mostly [card]avenge[/card] and [card]redemption[/card]. Meaning sometimes pressuring the deck means it won’t be able to respond and that their early secrets will go to waste.
- Vulnerability to Sweepers – Despite having a lot of Sticky Divine Shield minions, the deck is usually weak against cards like [card]brawl[/card] that can bypass the Divine Shield. Other cards like [card]hellfire[/card] and [card]lightbomb[/card] are also extremely efficient against it, despite the divine shields, given the shields have been popped before playing. This happens because outside of [card]haunted-creeper[/card] and [card]piloted-shredder[/card] the deck lacks defensive Deathrattles.
- Is an All-in Deck – Survive past Mysterious Challenger and you probably already won. This is the reason most Secret Paladin players are moving towards the Midrange version – This weakness doesn’t apply to Midrange Secret decks, that still have other win conditions in the form of [card]dr-boom[/card] and [card]tirion-fordring[/card].
[toc]How to Fight it![/toc]
Now that we know the Deck’s weakness and Strengths, it is time to tell which decks are better against it.
We know we need good early game board position as well as decent sweepers, therefore Dragon priest seems like the perfect response to such a deck. Being an inconsistent deck, means that Secret Paladin is also an explosive deck, so you can still lose a couple of games here and there to bad luck when playing decks that are good counters to Secret Paladin.
Patron Warrior, an almighty deck, is also extremely efficient against Secret Paladin, given the Deck’s ease when dealing with board full of minions.
Double [card]brawl[/card] Warrior Control is another nice option to deal with Secret Paladins.
As for Aggro decks, anything Face-y without Secrets should do the trick.
All for all, there are still things you have to take note when playing against Secret Paladin that might increase your winrate, despite of deck you are playing:
- Count the deck’s Secrets. Secret Pally tends to run pairs of [card]avenge[/card] and [card]noble-sacrifice[/card] while only having one of each of the other secrets. So taking note of which secrets have and have not been played can give you the upper hand when playing around them.
- If they have a secret up and you have whatever removal you do, only use your removal after popping their secrets! That will make it so your removal gets more value. for example: They play Mysterious Challenger with all secrets and you have a removal for the challenger. Its best to pop the secrets, have the Challenger get buffed by Avenge and then kill it, than merely killing it, giving them a Redemption Proc and other good buffs. Be smart!
- If you are counting their secrets and you know they have [card]competitive-spirit[/card] up, leave a small 1/1 to get buffed. It is better them get a +1/+1 out of it on a single minion now that more +1/+1s later.
- Kill everything when they have no secrets up!
- If you can play around [card]divine-favor[/card] do it! But don’t cripple your plays because of it.
- On an aggro mirror, never trade, always go face, trading = popping their secrets = you lose.
- When counting their Secrets, remember a few Secret Paladins – but not all – play [card]repentance[/card]. It should be possible to tell if an opponent is playing Repentance by counting their number of secrets when they play [card]mysterious-challenger[/card].
And this is it! Now you know everything about Secret Paladin as well as how to play against it! I hope this article was informative and that you have become a better player after reading it :3
How much have you guys enjoyed this article? is it nice to come up with these series every time a new deck surges? 😀
Next “How to Beat X” Article will probably be about Dragon Priest!
Love you guys, see yall in the next article,