Playing Around Secrets
What’s up everybody! I normally like to stick to writing about deck guides but every once in awhile I come up with a little bit of knowledge that I believe is helpful for players in order to reach that next level. This is something that I also have trouble with every once in awhile so I’m hoping that after this article is done, we will all have a good idea of how to avoid one of the most annoying pieces of Hearthstone, Secrets.
Secrets are difficult because these are cards that basically allow your opponent to do things on your turn. The good thing is, they only trigger off of your actions so you can always choose not to trigger them. Take Wandering Monster for example, if you were to play something on Turn 1 and your Hunter opponent drops a secret, you now have the power to activate that secret or not. They could be bluffing with something like Cat Trick but when you weight the outcomes, sometimes it’s more beneficial to not attack and let them prevent that 1 or 2 damage in order to not activate a Wandering Monster that could pull something big and deadly.
One of the biggest reasons I wanted to make this article is because of the card Cat Trick. I see a lot of Hunter decks that run this card right now and I honestly think it’s a big mistake to do so. Most competent players will be able to see a Cat Trick coming a mile away and know how to avoid it and punish you for it. The beast you summon is only a 4/2 and that 2 health is so easy to kill with area damage that it almost always dies to some spell right after it triggers. For example, one of the biggest decks around right now is Cubelock. Two cards that are always maindeck in Cubelock are Hellfire and Defile which EASILY take out your Cat Trick minion before you can even attack with it. This causes you to lose an entire card with no benefit (except maybe Eaglehorn Bow, etc.) while your opponent still gets the full effect of their Hellfire or Defile. Another example is Spiteful Summoner Priest, a deck that only runs 4 spells that they rarely ever cast. Because your activation trigger requires a spell it’s really easy for your opponent to see that secret lasting turn after turn, and when it gets to turn 8 and 10 when they can cast Free From Amber or Mind Control, they just choose not to and let your secret sit there forever, never being triggered.
In this guide we’re going to go over ALL of the current secrets in the Standard meta except for the recently Hall of Fame’d Ice Block and go over the different methods of triggering secrets in order to figure out what your opponent has so you can play around it effectively.
First let’s start off with the newest addition to the secret family, Rogue.
Rogues are the most recent class to gain secrets and because of that, they have a very small pool of secrets to play around which makes it easy to figure out which one they have. Right now they only have 3 secrets with all different triggers, so there’s pretty much no excuse to be surprised by a Rogue secret. Since there’s only a few of them, we’re just going to take a look at them individually and go over which ones are being used in the current meta and how to avoid them.
Cheat Death: This secret is currently being used in the Kingsbane Mill deck using Coldlight Oracle. It’s super easy to play around this card because usually people will pair this with a minion that they want back in their hand. If you see them play a minion and a secret, you can always try to trigger the other two Rogue secrets to see if it’s Cheat Death and then play around it by not killing their minion or killing one that you don’t mind putting back into their hand.
Evasion: This secret was used for a little while in a few Kingsbane decks as well but I haven’t seen it used much since the beginning of the expansion. It sort of acts like an Ice Block against aggro type decks since you’ll get attacked and then prevent the rest of the damage for that turn. You can’t really play around this card except to attack with your biggest minion first and do as much damage as you can in one swing. If you see a secret go down, try to damage your opponent without attacking to see if this triggers first since Sudden Betrayal also triggers on attack.
Sudden Betrayal: I have not seen this card used much at all but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to see in Ranked play. It’s pretty easy to play around by just attacking with a small minion and letting it hit one of your other minions. I wouldn’t worry too much about this secret though, I don’t see many decks using it.
Paladin secrets are pretty difficult because not many decks actually run secrets in them but they do run Hydrologist which enables them to pull whatever secret they need at the time, as long as they can Discover it. With only 5 secrets in their arsenal right now in Standard, it’s easy for them to snatch up what they need. We’ll go over each one and talk about the situations that most Paladin decks use them.
Noble Sacrifice: This is one of the main default choices for Paladin since it basically negates a single attack from your opponent. This should always be the first secret you try to play around since it’s the only one that triggers on attack and there are only two that trigger if you attack your opponent directly. Attack with a small minion so it can trade with the 2/1 and just in case your opponent is using Eye for an Eye you won’t end up taking too much damage yourself. If they have a Taunt you may have to worry about Getaway Kodo and Redemption so if you attack with a small minion, you prevent your opponent’s minion from dying and you can try to trigger this secret by itself.
Getaway Kodo: This is another commonly used secret since a lot of the time they will try to get Hydrologist back into their hand to play again and get another free secret. It’s also handy if your opponent has a Taunt minion they want back in their hand as well. To play around this, you can do two things. One, see if they use their hero power. Usually when a Paladin plays this they don’t want to put a 1/1 out because if you have removal, you can kill their 1/1 and basically waste their secret. Two, by using removal on one of their other minions you can force a bad minion back into their hand, so if they just play Hydrologist by itself, let it live for a turn and see if they play anything else small, maybe even their hero power, and then try to kill that minion and see if this triggers.
Redemption: This secret is used sometimes, if your opponent gets a bad discover, and playing around this is just like playing around Getaway Kodo. Watch for Paladin hero powers, wait to see if they play a 1/1 or another small minion and then just kill that minion to see if this triggers. If they play something by itself like a Righteous Defender just remove the Divine Shield and let it live for a turn and see if your opponent plays something else that you can kill like their hero power or another minion.
Repentance: This is the only Paladin secret that triggers off of playing a minion so playing around it basically just involves playing a small minion and seeing if it triggers or not. This does trigger on minions that have 1 health so that is your best bet since it will basically do nothing. Not a lot of decks run this but once again, Hydrologist is the main source of Paladin secrets so always test the waters with a small minion if you see a secret come down, or try to trigger the other secrets and see if it’s that one first before you play an important minion.
Eye for an Eye: Almost no Paladin runs this card because it’s pretty much useless unless you’re playing Secret Mage and you’re at 1 health with Ice Block up. It’s very easy to play around, just deal as little damage as you can to your opponent and see if the damage reflects. You almost never have to worry about this though.
Mage secrets are currently the hardest to play around because they have the best coverage of triggers over 10 secrets. To make it easier to play around, I’m going to divide them up by their triggers so you can learn to play around them by forcing a trigger and then knowing which secrets you don’t have to worry about.
Play a Minion
Explosive Runes: This secret is one of two that are commonly used in Mage decks but this one is almost always used right now in the meta, unless you’re playing strictly Big Spell Mage which doesn’t really use any secrets anyways. If you see secrets come down in a Mage deck, you can be sure this is around and it’s a little hard to play around. First, it’s hard to avoid damage unless you can play something huge. Doomsayer is one of my favorites to avoid damage with. Second, you can also trigger Mirror Entity which is bad if you play something huge and it ends up being that instead of Explosive Runes and then you end up giving your opponent a big minion. The best way to play around this is to play something medium sized, low attack high health, like Acolyte of Pain so you’ll only take about 3 damage and you can also try to play around Mirror Entity at the same time. Like I said, Mage is difficult to play around so this is your best option, even though you’ll still usually end up taking damage.
Mirror Entity: This one is less used as Explosive Runes but is always a possibility because of things like Primordial Glyph. Some decks even run them maindeck so it’s always important to try and play around it. If you have the health to spare, a small minion is always your best play because giving them something small is always best but you have to worry about the damage you could take from Explosive Runes.
Potion of Polymorph/Frost Clone: These two are rarely ever used but once again, things like Primordial Glyph and Babbling Book mean that any deck could have these secrets at any time. The main thing is to not focus on these secrets but to try and play around Explosive Runes and Mirror Entity. If you’re prepared for those triggers, these won’t bother you that much. Once again, playing something small is your best bet but always make sure if your health is low, that you’re ready for Explosive Runes.
Play a Spell
Counterspell: This secret is the only one of this trigger that is actually used right now in this meta. If you see a Mage play secrets, you can be sure this is in their deck. It’s very easy to play around, just play a spell that you don’t need and see if it triggers. This also works for all the other “Play a Spell” triggers so it’s always the best way to play around it. The downside is that it will always take something with it so there’s no TRUE way to play around the secret but as long as you feed it something you don’t need you’ll be fine. Another good way to play around it is wait until you have multiple spells in one turn so you can trigger it and then cast your other spells behind it, just in case they have another Counterspell in their hand.
Mana Bind/Spellbender: These two are rarely used but in situations where they get one from Primordial Glyph and stuff, they are actually usable and dangerous in the right situation. Luckily, it’s easy to play around them the same way you play around Counterspell, just give them something small and useless and see if it triggers. For Spellbender you actually have to target a minion so that one doesn’t always trigger on spells and it’s important not to play anything that buffs, like if you’re a Paladin a Mage might pick it up because they want to counter Spikeridged Steed so if you can’t trigger the secret with the other ways, hold those big powerful buff spells in your hand and wait until you can target a minion with a spell some other way.
Ice Barrier/Vaporize: I would say Ice Barrier is used in about half of the Secret decks right now. Some people like it and some don’t, but it’s definitely something to watch out for. You can’t really play around it but by attacking your opponent and seeing if it triggers, you can find out if a secret is Ice Barrier instead of one of the other triggers. Whenever I see a secret go down I always try to attack my opponent first to see if it’s Ice Barrier or Vaporize and then mark that off my list of secrets to play around. Vaporize is used much less but once again, be ready for any secret because of Mage’s ability to create spells for itself. The best method to play around both of these is to attack with a small minion and let it die if it’s Vaporize.
Lastly, we have the Hunter secrets. Hunter secrets are kind of hard to play around because a lot of them trigger off of the same effect which means you never really know what you’ll be up against. Hunter has 9 secrets so let’s divide them up by the triggers again.
This is the trickiest part about playing around Hunter secrets so I’m just going to go in order of how to avoid the most dangerous secrets.
Freezing Trap: This secret will trigger on ANY attack, whether it’s to a minion or a player, and is used in pretty much any Hunter deck that runs secrets so it’s always the first to try and avoid. Attacking with a small minion is always your best bet if you think it’s this secret.
Snake Trap/Venomstrike Trap: These two are the only secrets that trigger on attacking a minion and they aren’t really used in the current meta. I’ve seen them played in the past but recently, I haven’t seen these being used at all. If you’re playing around secrets, use a small minion to attack one of your opponent’s minions and that will see if Freezing Trap triggers as well as both of these. That single action can trigger 3 different secrets and help you figure out what is remaining if it didn’t trigger anything.
Wandering Monster/Explosive Trap/Misdirection: Attacking a player is where you’re going to trigger most of the Hunter secrets and is also where you’re going to face the most problems in the early game scenario. Misdirection is almost never used so I wouldn’t worry about it but Wandering Monster and Explosive Trap are VERY commonly used and you’ll see both of these in almost every Hunter deck using secrets. They key thing is to not trigger these secrets during the early game and just let them sit for awhile until you can play around them. Play minions, attack your opponent’s minions and play spells to see if you can trigger the other secrets first, and if a secret is still remaining then you know what to expect, more than likely a Wandering Monster. I usually wait until Turn 3-4 when I have something decently sized to attack, so I know it can trade or eat the 3-mana minion that Wandering Monster will summon and also eat the 2 damage that Explosive Trap will deal.
Cast a Spell
Cat Trick: This is the only secret that triggers off of casting a spell so it’s VERY easy to play around. Whenever I see a Hunter secret go down, especially if it’s on Turn 2 or early in the game when you don’t have any minions out, I always just hold my spells back unless I have a way to punish a Cat Trick early like with Defile. Hold your spells and attack your opponent to see if any of the other secrets trigger and once you’ve tested all the others, you’ll know what this is and know how to play around it perfectly. I think this is one of the easiest secrets to play around so always make sure you’re watching your spells when you play against a Hunter.
Play a Minion
Snipe/Hidden Cache: These two are almost never seen in the meta anymore so I rarely worry about them. There’s no way of Hunter to make spells like Mage does either so unless they are maindecking a Snipe which SOMETIMES happens, you don’t really need to worry. Just to make sure their secret isn’t one of these, just play a minion and see if it triggers, a small minion is best to eat up Snipe but even a big minion works too since it’ll just take 4 damage.
Well there you go! Those are all of the secrets that are currently in the Standard format and the best ways to play around them. I hope that after reading this article, you’re more familiar with what to expect when you’re out there grinding ranks and can better play around some of the annoying secrets that usually catch people off guard.
As always you can keep up with me on Twitter at @whoisfuskee and you can also catch me streaming on Twitch every day around 11 AM EST at twitch.tv/whoisfuskee. I’ve been playing a few other games here and there while I wait for the new Hearthstone expansion to mix up the meta but if I see people coming by that way to see me play Hearthstone I would be more than happy to switch games and play whatever you’d like to see, Ranked or Arena or whatever. I’m currently trying to work my way to Affiliate status with Twitch so all Follows are greatly appreciated! Come by sometime and let’s talk Hearthstone!