When going into the ladder, you have to be ready for Secret Paladin. Uther and his minions are everywhere, and not preparing for them is a good way to lose. While Secret Paladin is very powerful, Freeze Mage is one of the best decks against it. Paladin is a class that has very little burst and largely depends on minions to push damage through. This guide will explore why that is very good for Freeze Mage, and how it can use stall, healing, direct damage and efficient spells to take down the ladder’s most popular deck.
[toc]Sample Decklists [/toc]
While the core of Freeze Mage has been the same for some time, there are actually quite a few flex spots. Some decks run healing, some run more AOE and others run more burn. Whatever those choices, Freeze Mage also differs in finishers. [card]Pyroblast[/card] is an old but powerful finisher. While some decks turn to [card]Malygos[/card] and others rely on a ton of direct damage. As long as you play the usual freeze and stall spells you can freely tweak the other cards to your liking. To help you with this, some different deck lists have been linked below.
When going up against Secret Paladin, you need to get a handle on the game early on. If you stumble or blank in the early turns, things can go south very, very quickly. As such, you want to look for your early removal, minions and card draw. While card draw is your primary concern, your minions and removal should take the front seat here. The only situational cards you can keep (depending on what is in your deck) are you freeze spells, which will be essential for the middle to late turns of the game. However, you only want to keep those if you have something to do early on.
Cards to Keep
[card]Acolyte of Pain[/card]
[card]Frost Nova[/card] can be kept with card draw and alongside [card]Doomsayer[/card].
[card]Cone of Cold[/card], if you run it, follows the same rules as[card]Frost Nova[/card].
[card]Blizzard[/card] is also a good keep but only if you have the coin and a really strong opening.
Note: While it may be tempting to keep [card]Fireball[/card] for certain situations, you are better off looking for freeze or early minions.
[toc]How to Win[/toc]
As with any Freeze Mage matchup, the goal is to get to your combo. That is always going to be done through stalling and setting up your burn. However, the way you go about those goals differs from match to match. Against Secret Paladin you just want to lock down the board as much as possible, never giving them a chance to really build steam. They are a deck that loves building turn after turn, but that strategy will fall apart if their minions are constantly frozen.
A big part of this matchup is making the most out of your AOE. While they are a minion-centric deck, Secret Paladin runs a lot of sticky minions. Things like [card]Piloted Shredder[/card], [card]Redemption[/card] and [card]Haunted Creeper[/card] keep them pushing through your AOE, while [card]Avenge[/card] can buff their minions out of AOE range. Understand this and try to set up full clears a few turns in advance. Paladin can do very little without minions, and you want to do everything you can to keep their board clear.
The final key here is to keep track of their potential burst. Paladin is not a deck that can do much in the way of surprise damage, but it does exist. [card]Knife Juggler[/card] can do burst damage when paired with other minions, [card]Blessing of Kings[/card] is four extra damage out of nowhere, and both [card]Coghammer[/card] and [card]Truesilver Champion[/card] are popular Paladin cards these days. Understand that all of these exist and play around them when you are low on life.
[toc]Early Game Strategy[/toc]
The early turns of this match are going to be spent keeping them in check or furthering your end game. The way you choose what to do is by reading your hand. If you have a lot of early game action then you just want to spend these turns trading and contesting their plays. However, if you find yourself with too much late game or a lot of freeze then it is best to dig for more answers rather than trying to remove everything that comes down.
[card]Doomsayer[/card] is a very important card in this matchup, and it can be especially phenomenal during your early turns. This is a great turn two or three play that you can just run out to kill a [card]Knife Juggler[/card] or [card]Shielded Minibot [/card]. That works as a great tempo play because it is hard for Paladin to stack up damage that early in the game.
The two other key cards for these turns are [card]Mad Scientist[/card] and [card]Frostbolt[/card] (though [card]Loot Hoarder[/card] can be included as well). All of these cards make for great removal spells that also help further your end game. Just know that a minion is usually better than a bolt, except when you need to kill a [card]Secretkeeper[/card] or [card]Knife Juggler[/card]. Bolt both of those on site.
[card]Acolyte of Pain[/card] is very strong against Paladin due to how small all of their early minions are. If you are trying to choose between this or another turn three play, the pain route is almost always the correct choice.
The midgame is very interesting because this is where you are going to make or break the game. Here is where Secret Paladin starts making the most of their buffs. It is also where they scale into their heavy hitters. Get as much out of your freeze as you can. This will make it so they cannot fully attack and have to play more minions into your AOE.
You also need to spend these turns watching out for [card]Avenge[/card]. While the other secrets can be annoying, Avenge is the worst because it buffs up health, which pushes minions out of damage range very quickly. In addition, it also can create threats early on that you do not have the means (or the mana) to deal with. To combat this, you want to always assume their secret is Avenge, and then plan accordingly.
Another key part of this matchup is understanding how to take care of [card]Mysterious Challenger[/card]. When the six drop comes down you don’t want to fight it through damage unless you have a minion to trigger [card]Noble Sacrifice[/card]. Rather, you typically want to leave the secrets up and freeze, freeze and freeze again. The only exception to that rule is if you want to [card]Flamestrike[/card]. If that’s the case, then deal with their [card]Avenge[/card]/[card]Redemption[/card] combo first.
Your best tool during these turns is [card]Frost Nova[/card]/[card]Doomsayer[/card]. This card combination is one of the mainstays of Freeze Mage, and Paladin has almost zero ways to deal with it. Know that, and only use it on the boards that are getting too out of control or when you are slipping too low on life.
[toc]Late Game Strategy[/toc]
If you play your cards right, you should be able to make it to the late game. A lot of times this is going to be a very tight match where you are trying to find lethal without giving your opponent the chance to kill you. To make that work you need to find the right balance between face damage and removal, freeze and minions. Always know when you need to be careful and when you need to push.
The two big end-game threats Paladin plays is [card]Dr. Boom[/card] and [card]Tirion Fordring[/card]. Each of these are problems because of their respective deathrattles. You typically want to avoid killing Tirion, since Ashbringer suddenly gives your opponent access to fifteen points of damage.Catch him in freeze as much as you can.
On the other hand, while you can easily deal with a 7/7, Dr. Boom is a problem because of the Boom Bots. Remember that secrets do not trigger on your turn. That means if you take lethal from the bots while clearing you will die even with an [card]Ice Block[/card] up. To prevent this, try to get something on board before using AOE on the 1/1’s if you are at low life.
The late game is all about preserving your [card]Ice Block[/card]. The reason that if you can [card]Alexstrasza[/card] or [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card] with the secret up you are almost always going to win.
There comes a time in each game where you need to give up on protecting [card]Ice Block[/card] and go for the two turn kill. However, understand that time will never come if you let your opponent pop the block too early in the game. That can even mean just [card]Frostbolt[/card]ing your opponent’s face to keep them off of a weapon hit.
Finally, watch out for [card]Loatheb[/card]. A lot of Secret Paladins run him, and he will lead to an insta-loss if you aren’t careful. Just like with [card]Avenge[/card], just assume your opponent has him and then set up your plays accordingly.
Always be keep [card]Ironbeak Owl[/card] in your mind. While very few Secret Paladins run the two-mana beast, it does show up from time to time. This is important to note because it is their only real answer to [card]Frost Nova[/card]/[card]Doomsayer[/card]. As such, if you are going all-in on a [card]Doomsayer[/card] and it gets owled, that can lead to a loss. However, if you have a backup plan, you should be fine.