After some generally positive feedback from my last article (link to last article), I’ve decided to write a complete guide to the deck I used to get to Legend twice. Midrange Secret Paladin is a relatively cheap deck that both new and experienced players can have success with. It took me about 110 wins to get to Legend from rank 16 this month, which is totally reasonable. With the nerf to Patron Warrior, this will only make the deck a better choice for the metagame. I will cover most of the popular matchups, how to mulligan, as well as some insight into how to play each matchup. This deck can beat any deck with the right draws and tight play. Mysterious Challenger is still a very powerful card regardless of if people know how to play against the secrets.
First off, it’s important to know that you are playing a midrange deck, which means your role of the aggressor versus the defender varies from matchup to matchup. You must identify which role you are playing quickly; it is a key skill you have to hone if you want any success with the deck. The Mulligan decisions are particularly important with this deck, as cards vary drastically in power level depending on the matchup. Here is my list:
Most of this list is standard, but there are some particular deck decisions I chose:
Repentance- I like running the one Repentance, which can be left off some lists. This card is quite good against decks like Dragon Priest or any deck that runs big Taunters. Running this also allows for max value from a Mysterious Challenger.
Secretkeeper- Not all midrange versions run Secretkeeper, but I like it. This allows for aggressive starts, which is what you want in some matchups. This card is also great in the mirror match against other Paladin decks, as their secrets pump your Secretkeeper and let you keep some otherwise awkward secrets in your opening hand during the mulligan phase.
Ironbeak Owl- This deck can struggle against big minions with Taunt, and this card can make or break a game. It also gets a lot of incidental value against every matchup. Just don’t waste it. It is usually correct to make a 1/1 with your hero power rather than play this card without a good target.
Divine Favor- While not good in all matchups, absolutely amazing in others. This card can get you back in games you have no business winning. Running 1 is the right number in the midrange version, and is easy to mulligan away in matchups it’s bad in.
Blessing of Kings/ Consecration- Both of these cards are seen in every list, but vary in numbers. I think that running 2 Blessing of Kings is very important. You need sheer power and toughness to kill troublesome minions or those with Taunt. While Consecration can be an all-star in certain matchups, it’s not great in multiples. I like running 1 and mulliganing for it when I need it.
Truesilver Champion- Some lists run 1, but I like 2 in this list. Truesilver Champion is good when you’re behind or ahead because it helps you press your board advantage or kill two pesky minions over the course of two turns. It’s also your best reach when your board is wiped out and they are at 4 or less life.
The rest of the list is pretty standard. You have decent mid to late game with your Piloted Shredders, Tirion Fordring, Dr. Boom, and Mysterious Challengers. A lot of your deck has great synergy like Knife Juggler with either Haunted Creeper or Muster for Battle. Loatheb is very important tempo play in certain matchups like Warrior decks or Mage decks. The deck has a lot of tools at its disposal for various situations and matchups.
Before getting into matchups, it is important to understand that this deck doesn’t mulligan like most decks. I’ve heard that it is always correct to mulligan secrets, but this is just incorrect. Depending on what cards are already in your hand, having some secrets in your opener is useful (e.g. I like keeping Redemption in my opener if I already have a Knife Juggler and Muster for Battle, or even a Shielded Minibot depending on the matchup). I’ve also heard that the deck needs Mysterious Challenger to win that you just can’t mulligan it away. This is also not true. Mysterious Challenger is a 6-drop and I win several games without casting the card. Here are cards I mulligan 100% of the time regardless of who goes first or the matchup:
These cards just cost too much mana to keep in your opener. There are some cases for some of the secrets but they are often mulliganed away, which I’ll get to later.
The two most common Hunter decks are Hunter Midrange and Face Hunter. I’ve found that Face Hunter is a bit more popular on ladder because of its cheap cost. This matchup is unfavorable but definitely winnable.
Noble Sacrifice- This is one of the few matchups I keep this in my opener no matter what. Face hunter runs 6 one-cost minions and this is a great defensive card against their aggressive starts.
Secretkeeper- The best defense is a good offense. Playing Secret Keeper trades with any of their one-cost minions, and potentially trades with two of them if you or your opponent pump it with at least 1 secret. You also have some openers where you can actually race the Face Hunter deck.
Shielded Minibot- This card is a keep in almost all situations, but is especially good in this matchup. It’s your most resilient threat and lets you trade with two of their one-cost minions while not dying to the first attack of their equipment.
Knife Juggler- You can bet this guy is going to die the turn you play it (turn 2), but that is okay. Dropping a must kill threat on turn 2 is less damage going at your face, and against both hunter decks has potential to get some value. You are still playing any other two-cost minion before this one if possible.
Haunted Creeper- An overall safe play on turn two that can get value with a Knife Juggler the same turn you play it. Its deathrattle generates that spiders can trade with a lot of their minions too.
Consecration- This card is slow, but is pretty much a guarantee board wipe against face hunter. It’s a little less value against midrange but still kills a lot of their minions and can swing a game in your favor.
Competitive Spirit/Avenge/Repentance/Noble Sacrifice- These secrets are only keeps with a Secretkeeper already in your hand where you think you can race, otherwise they are pretty mediocre to bad. Having a Divine Favor in your opener also incentives you to keep secrets as they can empty them out of your hand quickly. Since you play the role of the defender against a lot of hunter decks, secrets aren’t likely to activate because of the nature of the matchup.
Muster for Battle- In general this card is okay, and I might keep it if I already have a Knife Juggler, but it’s an overall weaker card in the matchup. It’s absolutely horrible against Unleash the Hounds. The equipment can help pick off a pesky minion, but I’m not afraid to mulligan this card away aggressively when I need premium two-cost minions.
Truesilver Champion/ Blessing of Kings- These cards are decent against Midrange Hunter and I’ll potentially keep one of them if I already have a great opening curve (and a coin). They still cost 4 mana and I’ll usually mulligan them away.
The rest of the cards are bad in the matchup or want to be drawn later in the game.
Playing the Matchup-
- You should be trading with their minions early to survive to the midgame.
- Because of the inevitability of their hero power you need to kill them in a somewhat timely manner.
- It’s key to recognize when you must switch from playing defensively to playing aggressively. Making the switch too early or too late can be disastrous.
- Truesilver Champion is your only life gain. That 2 health could be the difference between winning and losing.
- PLAY AROUND UNLEASH THE HOUNDS! Only use Muster for Battle if you’re getting good value.
- Midrange hunter is more about attrition but Mysterious Challenger should let you pull ahead. You also have Blessing of Kings which is only weak to an Ironbeak Owl.
You can mostly expect the mirror match, but sometimes midrange paladin and the aggro version of Paladin Secrets come up. If you know the matchup you can easily outplay your opponent.
Secretkeeper- A great card in the matchup. It’s aggressive and gets pumped by your opponent’s secrets as well as your own. Paladin doesn’t have any direct removal beyond equipment which means a Secretkeeper can run away with the game.
Shielded Minibot- This card is your best defense against them trying to jam a turn 2 Knife Juggler, as well as an overall solid value card.
Knife Juggler- This card is very strong. Its ability is likely to be killing 1/1 minions in the matchup for great value.
Haunted Creeper- A fine two drop in the matchup that has potential value later with Blessing of Kings and Knife Juggler.
Consecration- This card is your best friend, and if it is in your opener you make your plays based around it. It pretty much kills everything they are doing from turns 1-3. Just make sure you get rid of their divine shields and pop their Haunted Creepers before casting it.
Muster for Battle- This card is strong, but can easily be blown out. I still keep it because of its synergy in my deck; the equipment is surprisingly potent in the matchup. Just be careful to run it out there if you suspect a Knife Juggler Combo or Consecration on the opposing side.
Avenge- I obviously keep this with a Secret Keeper, but sometimes it is a good curve filler if you know it will likely activate. 1 mana for 3 power and 2 toughness is good value.
Noble Sacrifice- I’ll keep this if I already have both Knife Juggler and Must for Battle in my opener. I can actually protect the Knife Juggler for a turn 3 Muster in this situation. I’ll also keep it if I have Secretkeeper (are you sensing a theme here?).
Redemption- I’ll keep if I’m protecting a strong turn 2 play like Shielded Minibot or Knife Juggler or have a Secret Keeper.
Competitive Spirit/Repentance- These cards are weak but can be keepable if you have something like Secret Keeper and Divine Favor.
Divine Favor- I will only keep this card if I have an insanely low curve like a secret and Secretkeeper. It’s terrible against the aggro version of secrets and usually not worth keeping otherwise.
Truesilver Champion/ Blessing of Kings/ Piloted Shredder- I’ll potentially keep if I already have a great opening curve (and a coin), otherwise I’m maligning them away to find my premium low cost cards.
The rest of the cards are mulligans because they are poor in the matchup or want to be drawn later in the game.
Playing the Matchup
- Play around the Knife Juggler combo and Concertation early. Sometimes this means it’s correct to simply hero power and pass even if it feels unnatural.
- Remove opposing Knife Jugglers off the board as soon as possible.
- In the mirror sometimes it’s a case of the first to play Mysterious Challenger wins. Even if you are behind your Challenger can swing the game.
- Try to deduce which secrets they are playing based on when they played them and when you’d expect them to activate.
- Save your Ironbeak Owl for their Tirion.
- You should approach Midrange Paladin like you would approach Midrange Hunter. It’s a game of attrition.
- Although unlikely in the secret matchup, you should always keep Equality in mind when facing a Paladin.
With the nerf of Patron Warrior, I’m not going to talk about that matchup much as I suspect it won’t be nearly as popular. It’s probably still a bad matchup but if it stays around just be aggressive. You will mostly be fighting Control Warrior decks with some other miscellaneous archetypes in the mix.
Secretkeeper- You need to be as aggressive as possible because their late game is unbeatable. Secret Keeper does a good job of applying pressure early.
Shielded Minibot- A resilient threat that applies pressure. What more can you ask for?
Knife Juggler- Another two drop you have to keep if it’s in your opener. Be careful to kill their Armorsmiths and Acolyte of Pains before you trigger Knife Juggler if you can help it.
Haunted Creeper- An overall safe play on turn two that is resilient to your opponent’s equipment and removal. Not the best clock, but still fine.
Divine Favor- You can almost always get great value with Divine Favor which lets you throw your resources around a little more aggressively.
Ironbeak Owl- They have some very annoying Taunters like Sludge Belcher that this card is great at stopping.
Competitive Spirit/Repentance/Noble Sacrifice/ Redemption- The secrets are a lot weaker in this matchup. I mulligan most of them away unless I’m assembling a Secretkeeper combo. If I can’t outgrow a Fiery War Axe attack on turn two, it’s usually not worth trying to keep secrets.
Avenge- This is the only secret I like because your minions will be dying no matter what and it is good value.
Muster for Battle- Muster is okay if you have a good plan to kill their low drop minions. Armorsmith and Acolyte of Pain are good against 1/1s so I’ll only keep if my curve looks solid
Piloted Shredder/ Blessing of Kings- These are important spells to play on curve to keep applying pressure and a good clock. I like them a lot and will keep one 4 drop in my opener if I already have the rest of my curve filled out.
The rest of the cards are bad in the matchup or want to be drawn later in the game.
Playing the Matchup-
- Against slower Warrior variants like Control Warrior play aggressively and keep the pressure on.
- I don’t usually play around Brawl as you still get good value from your secrets and deathrattle triggers. However, if you think you can afford to play around it you should.
- The key to victory is knowing how to navigate around Armorsmiths and Acolytes. This usually means ignoring them unless you have a lot of 1/1 tokens of the field or a Knife Juggler that might accidentally trigger hitting them.
- Always make the best tempo plays that threaten his life total.
- A well timed Loatheb can win the game outright in the Control matchup.
- Use Truesilver to clear off their minions. You don’t care about your life total in this matchup as Warriors lack burst.
- If you can’t kill them, remove all Grim Patrons off the board against Patron Warrior. 1/1 Hand Recruits are free fodder for them to trigger.
You are going to be facing against Dragon Priest a high percentage of the time when facing a Priest. This matchup is very stressful and definitely unfavorable. You’ll have to learn the matchup the best you can because you’ll be facing it a lot on ladder. That being said, the matchup is winnable with my list as long as you don’t fall into some common traps.
Secretkeeper- A decent card if you can pump it out of Holy Smite range but otherwise lackluster. You still have to keep it in case you draw any future secrets.
Shielded Minibot- This card is fine. You are really hoping to land a Blessing of Kings on it on turn 4 or hoping they get unlucky and don’t have a dragon card in their opener. This allows you to trade with their turn one Twilight Whelp.
Haunted Creeper- An okay two-cost minion that will likely leave a minion around for your turn 4 Blessing of Kings.
Knife Juggler- This card will likely die, but having 3 power is key. It can take out their Northshire Cleric openers before they can generate any value.
Avenge- I actually like this card in the matchup. It helps your minions catch up with there’s in value when you are trading. You need big minions to take theirs out in one hit to minimize the amount of value they get from their hero power.
Blessing of Kings/Truesilver Champion- I feel this is the matchup where one of these two cards is necessary in your opener if you want a shot at winning. They are going to be playing some pretty big minions with Taunt and you NEED an efficient way to deal with them.
Ironbeak Owl- Such an important card in this matchup. Their minions outclass yours at face value but this card lets you ignore the Taunt and go face. There is nothing worse than sitting in front of a wall of Taunt and a hero power that can heal them.
Divine Favor- Usually pretty good with a low curve. Dragon Priest has decent card draw with their Northshire Cleric synergy so you might get some free cards.
Muster for Battle- This card surprisingly doesn’t do much, but is descent with both Competitive Spirit and Knife Juggler. If I already have one of those cards I may be inclined to keep Muster, especially on the draw with the coin (turn one Competitive Spirit, into turn two Muster can be good).
Almost Never Keep:
Noble Sacrifice- I really dislike Noble Sacrifice because their minions have more than 2 health and they have a good hero power, but I’ll keep it with a Secretkeeper draw.
Redemption- I’ll only really keep with a Secretkeeper draw.
Repentance- This card is actually pretty solid in this matchup when timed correctly but not what you want to see in your opener. Secret Keeper is the only exception.
Competitive Sprit- Very bad, and still not great with Secret Keeper but I’ll keep it if I have to. All 4 of these secrets are MUCH better keeps if I found my Divine Favor in the opener.
The rest of the cards are bad or I don’t want them early in the game.
Playing the Matchup-
- Minimize the effect of their hero power. Don’t let them get value by healing minions or by drawing cards from Northshire Cleric.
- Dragon Priest can often be quite formulaic so you can easily predict what they will do next turn. For example if it is turn 4 you can expect a Twilight Guardian, you should prepare by having a suitable target for Blessing of Kings on the board to kill it. If it’s turn 4, you should try and minimize the effects of a turn 5 Holy Nova by not playing cards like Muster for Battle.
- Never play Mysterious Challenger if your board is empty or they will trigger the majority of your secrets and simply Shadow Word: Death the 9/8 Challenger. On the start of your turn you’ll just be left with a measly 3/2 Noble Sacrifice token and it’s hard to make a solid comeback from this position.
- Keep in mind your outs. I’ve won several games by slamming Dr. Boom into Tirion the following turn and they couldn’t beat it. Their bombs start at 8 mana so your late game starts a little sooner than theirs does which allows you to pull ahead.
- Play conservatively with your Ironbeak owl and use your Blessing of Kings at the right time. The key is to play tight and hope your opponent stumbles.
I will finish the rest of the matchups in Part 2 next week as well as some final thoughts on the deck and grinding to Legend. Due to some skepticism of the claims I made in my last article (link to last article), I’ve decided to post some screenshots of my account hitting legend last month and this month. I’ll also include a screenshot of my purchases on my blizzard account. Until next week, get card slinging and summon some Mysterious Challengers for value!