It’s ThorSmash again. Who am I? None of your Business! (Sorry guys: I had to make that joke). In case you missed my first article, a little background on me: I have been playing hearthstone since November 2014 and have made Legend every season since April 2015. Also, I never play ranked with a particular class after I’ve reached the 500 win golden portrait. After hitting golden druid (I previously had hunter, warlock, and warrior), I started grinding Paladin and eventually settled on Secret Paladin after becoming disappointed with Midrange.
Why Play Secret Paladin?
Simply put, its the best deck in the ladder format, especially if you have solid hearthstone fundamentals but aren’t an expert in a particular deck archetype or deck. In addition to being arguably the best overall ladder deck, its pretty clearly the easiest deck to play compared to its power level. If you don’t like playing “cancer” or whatever pejorative you choose to label this deck as, then stop reading. This guide is for people who are interested in playing this deck. Although I focus on how to play the deck, this guide will also be quite helpful for anyone playing against the deck because understanding the intricacies of your opponent’s deck is crucial to ladder success (especially when the deck in question is one of, if not, the most popular deck on ladder).
Secret Paladin in a Nutshell
Here’s how I think of Secret Paladin: the deck is essentially a perfect arena deck with one amazing trick (obviously Mysterious Challenger
The Game Plan
Note: Shielded Minibot
Aggro (ex: Aggro Druid, Face Hunter, Aggro Shaman, Aggro Paladin)
Key Cards: Shielded Minibot
Muster for Battle
These decks are faster than you. You beat them by hard mulliganing so that you play on curve turns 1-4, deny their tempo in the early turns, and counterattacking to set up 2-3 turn lethals as soon as you neutralize their early threats. Turns 1-3 your instinct to clear their board at the expense of face damage is usually correct: you cant let Tunnel Trogg
Aggro Druid can swipe your face and Hunter has unleash the hounds, but Aggro Shaman can’t punish you for muster for battle and the dudes can take care of Troggs/Knife Jugglers/Leper Gnomes/Argent Horseriders) or help speed up your lethal clock.
Midrange (ex: Midrange Druid, Midrange Paladin, Dragon Priest)
Key Cards: Muster for Battle
These decks have slower starts and/or less consistent early to mid games but they typically out value you over time in the late game mostly because they have some kind of consistent card draw engine and/or more efficient board clears. However, by thinning your deck with Challenger and adding in
Against Midrange then, you typically fight ruthlessly for board turns 1-5 and then try to play the beatdown turn 6 onward while dropping more threats than they can handle. If you find yourself clearly ahead on board in the mid or late game , you play around board clears by making smart trades, not overcommitting with your cards by hero powering or playing off curve for value.
Muster for battle basically forces the midrange deck to waste a whole turn on a removal spell (such as Swipe
Piloted Shredder is hard to remove and threatens too much damage if they don’t remove the first half of the body. Loatheb protects your board from board wipes and clears the first half of Sludge Belcher
Tempo Decks (ex: Tempo Mage, Oil Rogue)
Key cards: Piloted Shredder
These decks play a few key minions and then use a barrage of spells/card combinations to protect them while pushing face with their minions in order to put you on the backfoot and then burn you out. These decks are incredibly powerful when they are able to keep minions on board and since you can’t play from behind they generally will win unless you can consistently force them to play off the board from the early through mid game.
Piloted Shredder and Loatheb are key because they are hard for these decks to remove and allow you to fight their midgame minions well or quickly push damage to their face. Flamewaker
Muster for battle will basically win you the game if they don’t have clean removal for the dudes, but will punish you heavily if they do (say Flamewaker
Control (ex: Control Warrior, Renolock)
Key cards: Piloted Shredder
These decks are noticeably slower than you but have more removal and board clears. You are playing the beatdown from turn 1 while also recognizing that your deck packs enough late game punch that you should take smart trades and avoid overplaying into Brawl
Piloted Shredder is critical for pushing face damage in the midgame/forcing your opponent to expend removal on since you need chip damage throughout the game to counterattack their taunts/removals/and life gain. Rag is key because he is the final bomb your opponent doesn’t always expect and often is key to victory if your control opponent had sufficient answers to your previous threats.
Combo Decks (Anyfin Paladin, Freeze Mage, Velen Priest)
Key cards: Loatheb
These decks draw lots of cards, clear or stall your board repeatedly, gain life as necessary, and then burn you down very fast once they assemble their combo and have enough mana. Loathaeb allows you to protect your board for one critical turn where you translate your board/tempo lead into lethal or enough damage to threaten lethal quickly. In addition to your challengers, the three big boys all essentially fill the same role of giving you enough power to finish the game quickly/rebuild your board after they clear it.
Freeze mage and OTK Velen priest feel like harder mathchups than Anyfin Can Happen paladin mostly because the first two have more/better board clears.
I go over general mulligans in this section, and then talk about specific keeps in certain matchups below. The most important point is that you ideally you would like a strong curve of 1-2-3 going first or 2-2-3 on the coin. Also, with seven secrets in this deck, even with Secret Keeper, I never keep secrets (since you want all to come from Challenger) unless I am going first and I have Avenge + 2 Drop + Muster for Battle. You don’t keep Secrets even with Secret Keeper because you will inevitably be likely to draw at least one or two before turn six and because Secretkeeper often draws removal anyway.
Always Keep: Secretkeeper
Muster for Battle
Vs Midrange Druid
Unique Mulligan: Knife Juggler
Strategy: You are slightly favored against Midrange Druid. You generally win because you are more consistent at curving out in the crucial 1-5 turns, Midrange Druid really struggles when behind on board since Swipe/Force of Nature only provide puesdo AOE and are expensive for what they accomplish. Also, once Druid falls behind on tempo his curve often forces him to play one minion per turn, which makes it hard for him to flip the board. You can either deal with Belchers/Druid of the Claw/Azure Drakes through Buffs/Weapons/trading. More often than you might imagine, if you had a strong early game, you can often ignore Piloted Shredder and Keeper of the Grove and force him to make the trades since you’ll be ahead in the lethal race while Their Combo on turn 9 is too far away for him to race.
If you unfortunately happen to draw repentance, you should consider saving it until the druid is heading into turn 7 since it helps a ton against Ancient of Lore, Boom, or less often Ancient of War.
Vs Aggro Druid
Strategy: Obviously you mulligan for midrange druid since its far more popular, but you adjust once you see the trademark Aggro Druid cards (such as Leper Gnome, Druid of the Saber, Knife Juggler)Aggro Druid is considerably less popular on ladder, but you are slightly unfavored. You still play around swipe/combo and try to race them before they can drop Doctor Boom. Unfortunately you usually cant deal with Fel Reaver (unless you happen to have a keeper of uldaman handy) and will likely lose if they innervate him out. Knife Juggler and Darnaisus Aspirant must be removed. Coin Knife Juggler on turn 1 is a strong play since Aggo Druid doesn’t run wrath and juggler is crucial for killing an enemy Aspirant.
Vs Secret Paladin
Unique Mulligan: Muster for Battle
Strategy: The mirror matchup is almost always decided by who gets a board lead on the the first few turns. Going second, I really like to coin minibot turn one (into another two drop) since it dominates secretkeeper or juggler or can eat a noble sacrifice. Especially in the early game, clear your opponent’s dudes to avoid Blessing of Kings or Keeper of Uldaman value. However if you end up with a big secretkeeper or avenged minion in the midgame, its often better to push face damage than to trade with every dude. Be careful to play around Redemption
Vs Anyfin Can Happen Paladin
Strategy: On ladder you always will mulligan for Secret Paladin, but once you see a murloc or wild pyrmoancer or doomsayer, you can be sure its Anyfin Can Happen.
If you don’t win early on the game starts going to turn 8+, you need to play aggressively against Anyfin Paladin since you typically lose if they can play Anyfin Can Happen. Playing aggressive means you very rarely trade with your 4+ mana creatures or your buffed Blessing of Kings.
Due to them running Equalities, Doomsayers, Pyromancers, Consecration, they will sometimes be able to clear your board. For this reason, you really want to protect the front half of your haunted creeper and piloted shredder so that you maintain some board pressure once they play a board wipe. This means, similar to how you play around Brawl, you will trade your small minions/weapons into their creatures to kill their creatures so that their minions can’t pop the Shredder or Creeper and then fully wipe your board. However, once when you play Loatheb typically avoid trading and use this opportunity push face damage.
Strategy: Since when you face a warlock its about equally likely to be zoo or Renolock (or even less often Malylock), there’s no unique mulligan decisions other than to look for a solid early curve of minions and Muster for Battle.
Once you discover its Zoo, you fight to keep as many of your minions on board as possible while killing all of theirs in order to play around buffs and because zoo almost never runs AOE spells. Imp Gang Boss
Strategy: Once you see Zombie Chow
Vs Control Priest
Unique Mulligan: Keep Blessing of Kings
Strategy: Based on my stats, I think the Control Priest is slightly favored, but its a close matchup. Preserving deathrattle creatures and divine shields is particularly important because the Priest has so many board clears (Lightbomb
The Priest has so little burst, so many situational cards, and trouble handling your hero power that I never concede even when I fall way behind on board and card advantage since I might topdeck a threat they can’t deal with while they hold a hand full of situational spells.
Vs Tempo Mage
Unique Mulligan: Keep Truesilver Champion
Strategy: You would really prefer to have the coin just so that they don’t have the coin to combo with flamewaker + 1 mana spell on turn 3. As a result, muster for battle loses a lot of value in this matchup especially when going first. Thus, I will often look to 2 drop + Secret or Coghammer going first or use the coin to skip turn 3 entirely going second. Once you see a secret, SecretKeeper or Knife juggler are your best minions to feed mirror entity since you can kill them instantly. If you discover its not mirror entity, trying using a situationally less valuable secret when you have spare mana to trigger counterspell.
Mana Wyrm and Flamewaker are obviously super high priority targets to kill so planning the first few turns based on your draw and your opponet’s play is critical. One (easy) example: you are going first and passed, then played haunted creeper, and now are playing muster for battle. He played mana wyrm into mad scientist. In this situation you should attack with the light’s justice and creeper into the one three mana wyrm to put it to 1 health so that you can use your sword or a 1-1 on the next turn to finish the wyrm off before the coin + spell leads to it punching you in the face for too much damage.
Vs Freeze Mage
Once your opponent plays a Loot Hoarder
Against Freeze Mage, you need to curve out and push face damage quickly. If you opponent drops acolyte early, you should either (ideally) one-shot it to deny draw OR ignore it. It’s not worth passing up three damage/trading in your tokens to make him overdraw one or two cards since you will lose the late game against freeze mage and he multiple paths to kill you. This is the one matchup where I actually am somewhat happy to draw Repentance early on. If I find it on my hand, have a light’s justice from muster for battle, and can fit it into my curve, I’ll play it heading into the mage’s turn 5 (so that I can answer frost-nova + doomsayer with my weapon). even if he skips that move and plays Emperor T on turn 6, the secret will help you deal with the Mr. T.
Tips About Using Certain Cards
Muster for Battle
The Recruits are great targets for buffs/help prevent the avenge from triggering on your challenger (and coming into BGH range), but they are also weak to AOE (Swipe, Hellfire, Wild Pyro, Consec, Holy Nova, etc.) so you should’nt feel bad expending some or even all of them to disable important creatures from the other side so long as you have other minions to apply pressure with.
Keeper of Uldaman
More importantly perhaps, its often right to go face with your shredder rather than trade (say into your opponent’s shredder) because your deck is fundamentally aggressive and four damage to face matters. Also, if you force your opponent to trade shredders, your two drop will get to attack before his (unless he gets bluegill warrior of course). Finally, leaving the shredder punching face rather than trading away his first body serves as AOE insurance.
My stats are incomplete since I played about 30% of my games on my phone. However, I took this version of Secret Paladin to legend on NA from rank 10 with a overall record of 53-26 (67.1% winrate). I was fortunate to hit a major winstreak from like Rank 9 to Rank 5 to shorten the climb. If your goal is to make legend, I highly recommend Secret Paladin because its a tier one powerhouse, a straightforward deck to play, the games are relatively short. I also genuinely believe you have a mental advantage on ladder since a certain percent of your opponents will mentally start tilting/get angry when they see they are facing Secret Paladin and this will make more prone them to misplay.
If you are playing with this deck, what challenges are you possibly encountering? What types of content in my future guides would be helpful? For example, did you find the “Tips About Using Certain Cards” helpful or interesting?
Until next time, “STOP ASKNIG QUESTIONS!” (just kidding, questions are totally welcome in the comments)