The last cards of the expansion are revealed, and it’s time to cower in fear. Not since the days of Mysterious Challenger has Secret Paladin looked so terrifying. With brutally efficient early plays and flexible mid-game options, it’s looking like Aggro will get its teeth into those early experimental decks in truly old-school fashion. But why exactly does secret Paladin look so scary? And what can anyone do to stop it?
Turn two terror
Three new cards looks particularly powerful. First, we have what often precludes a dominant aggro deck; a hyper efficient weapon. Mysterious Blade is a 2 mana 2/2 that gains +1 attack if you play it with a secret up. In other words, a conditional pre-nerf Fiery War Axe, with an exceedingly easy condition to meet. With such a potent weapon, Secret Paladins will gain easy control of the early board.
Don’t draw your super-powered weapon? No problem. Secret Paladin has numerous high-powered early plays. With the new Desperate Measures card, buffing up Secretkeeper will be a breeze. Drop her on turn one and you can immediately follow up with a +2/+2 buff with only a single card, and get 2 secrets for two mana. This is Undertaker levels of snowballing power.
Even if these two don’t turn up in your opening hand, there’s yet another above-curve turn two play for you. Sunreaver Spy, the new 2 mana 2/3 that gains +1/+1 if you play it with a secret. This is a super-efficient Tunnel Trogg style opener that puts out a ludicrous amount of sticky board presence.
It’s not just the secret synergy that’s improved for Secret Paladin, it’s the secrets themselves. Never Surrender is going to be the bane of spell-based control strategies, giving the Paladin’s already-resilient early board even more staying power. Now that Flamestrike or Hellfire may end up doing nothing at all.
To make matters worse, more Secret support in the form of cards like Desperate Measures and Commander Rhyssa makes Secrets less predictable and more powerful respectively. Ryhssa in particular looks great for doubling up on the likes of Never Surrender, Noble Sacrifice and the Redemption. What’s more, the ineffective secret Hidden Wisdom is rotating, increasing the power level of Desperate Measure’s RNG secrets.
Even more gas
Paladin can even use the Secret Package as the foundation for virtually any kind of deck. Dragons, Buffs, Mechs or simply high-tempo neutral minions could all reinforce Secrets, leaving players clueless as to how to deal with the rest of their decks. Tools like Masked Contender and Subject 9 can efficiently fish secrets of of their deck, leaving their high-value cards remaining to crush you.
And with Secrets back in decks, the likes of Prince Liam becomes even more potent, leaving players helpless under a wave of random legendaries. Paladins could equally dominate in the later stages of the game with such a solid early foundation.
Can anyone adapt?
The coming wave of aggro, both in the form of Secret Paladin and in Murloc Shaman, may be unwelcome for some. But this may be the wild-fire necessary to clear the meta of unhealthy underbrush. Aggro has been overly weak for a long time, leading to a combo-focused meta that many find tiresome. By realigning the meta’s aggro-combo-control balance, Secret Paladin could lead to a less polarized experience.
Finally, there isn’t a complete lack of hope. Robust Control decks can devote more effort to anti-aggro without having to worry about out-valuing the likes of Deathstalker Rexxar. And learning how Paladin secrets work and how to counter them (namely, carefully sequencing attacks into their minions, avoiding over-relying on damage-based spell AOE, and having the patience to avoid triggering secrets) can give players a crucial edge. And if worst comes to worst, anyone can always craft a couple of Paladin cards themselves.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com.
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