Home Strategy Hearthstone strategy: How to deal with secrets

If you were to ask what is the most significant difference between Hearthstone and other card games, one very common answer would probably be the lack of “instant speed” effects. Stuff that you wish to do gets done only during your turn and, more importantly, there’s nothing your opponent can do to undo that stuff. Except for secrets, of course.

However, since those have to be set during one’s own turn, you can at least anticipate them and play around them. How exactly to identify and mitigate secrets is a simple matter of experience. Each situation has to be learned the hard way. Alternatively, you could use the list below and skip straight to the profit stage.

Keep in mind though: Hearthstone is still in beta and cards are likely to change. This list will be updated in that case, but don’t use it above your own common sense. Always consider the board state when evaluating how (and whether!) you want to deal with a secret.


Slightly hypocritic: Paladin secrets

Noble Sacrifice
Commonly known as “Get down!” thanks to the audio of the token it creates. Triggers upon any of your minions attacking, no matter what it is attacking. The 2/1 is certainly going to die from the attack so you don’t have to worry about cleaning up, but it can give a significant punch back. Common card and used often, so it should be your first thought when the pally lays down a secret.

You’ll be redirected even if you couldn’t have attacked the token otherwise (such as if there’s a minion with Taunt). That makes it easier to trigger, but there’s also no way around it. Think of it as two points of damage to anything, except you choose which of your characters eats it. Attack as you normally would to prevent disadvantage if the secret isn’t a Noble Sacrifice, but do the first attack with something that can spare the two life if it is. If there’s no big Taunt around, it could also be the right choice attack the paladin directly with a weenie. Clever use of your hero will nullify this card on most classes.


Doesn’t see play as much because it is rather narrow, but can be really annoying under the right circumstances. Nothing’s worse than having to kill that ogre AGAIN because it didn’t deal enough damage the first time. Approach with caution: While the revived minion will die from anything, something has to go in and deliver that point of damage. Since pallies are all very big pansies, this secret will very often go up behind a large Taunt. Also remember that it will trigger Deathrattle effects, but not Battlecry.

To deal with it, you should obviously try to avoid killing your opponent’s Tirion Fordring while there’s a secret out. Kill the smallest minion on his side using whatever means are necessary and reasonable. If you can’t, just pass; If you weaken his biggest minion, he will gladly suicide it into one of yours and great sadness will be had. Don’t leave yourself in such a situation. There’s almost always something cheap to roast and waste Redemption.


Eye for an Eye
This secret is useless and will rarely even be played. Its only redeeming quality is that it could be an actually useful one. You can safely ignore this one if you have ruled out the others. Bump it off using a weenie or hero ability before attacking with Deathwing, though. Mages and Hunters are better against this than others; However, no class should have problems dealing with it.


If only this was on a class that didn’t have an endless supply of disposable 1/1 wees at literally all times. Still, not too hard to play around. If possible, go through the motions to check if it’s another secret, then drop something small even if it sets you back on playing your big stuff. If it doesn’t, then obviously feel free to play the weenie first of all to rule out this one.


Suggested order of actions (depends on board state!)
Attack the weenest of minions you can find. If you can’t, use noncombat means to kill it. Should Redemption not trigger, assume it’s a Noble Sacrifice and attack with something able to withstand 2 damage. Then play something that had low health to begin with to dodge Repentance. Eye for an Eye isn’t worth your time unless you have literally nothing better to do.


Nature’s call: Hunter secrets

Freezing Trap
Meh. Sets back your tempo, but often just turns into free card advantage, paid by the other guy! Also ridiculously easy to trigger with a small guy. As long as you don’t run any legendaries or mind-controlled minions (owner’s hand) into it, each game will reach a point where you don’t care about the higher mana cost and just want to replay your guy. Battlecry minions can often even turn this into an advantage for you.

Get a habit of attacking with the little guys first whenever possible and none of the hunter’s secrets should prove challenging, especially not this one.


Explosive Trap
This, on the other hand, is a trap that demands respect. Two damage to all your stuff can ruin a lot of trades and prevent yet more. Its trigger occurs before your minion deals damage, so it might kill off your stuff for nothing in return. It only triggers when you attack their hero, which may give some hints as to how to deal with it. Trade away everything that would die in the blast even if it’s a really horrible trade, then take a swing at the Hunter once the board has cleared up. You should also always expect the Explosive when playing against a Hunter. Don’t play low-health minions unless you have to and lure the trap out of him.


Ow. Few minions can stand up to it and fewer will want to. The question isn’t as much whether something will die to it as it is what will. Due to Explosive Trap, this should be amongst the last things you check. Once you know relatively certain that you’re facing a Snipe, there are two strategies: Either throw a disposable guy in front of it or use one that will survive the shot and still force your opponent to trade something for it. What to do has to be evaluated based on current state. You should tend towards the second option if there are few small minions on the opposing side of the field and towards the first if you’re a paladin.


Oh RNGesus, thy name be hallowed. This has as much potential to screw you over as to do nothing. Clear up the field like you’re expecting an Explosive Trap, then attack with the minion that would trade the best if it was to hit one of his. If you attack yourself, well, crap happens. You should rarely have to lose more than one minion to a misguided attack. Another strategy is to spam weenies and hope that they battle it out between themselves. However, since that strategy leaves you vulnerable to Explosive Trap, it is not recommended.


Snake Trap
It’s good to know that higher rarity only corresponds to more specific usage. Being epic, this one’s usage is very specific indeed; It’s useless in 90% of decks. The snakes are too small to be relevant and their only use is that they count as Beasts. Fitting to WoW, coming to think of it. If the Hunter has a very large amount of minions, there’s even a chance that some of them won’t spawn due to maximal minion count. They can turn into three cards or one very large hyena though, so make sure you deal with Beast synergy before you attack anything. Also consider just attacking the Hunter directly and forcing him to play real cards.


Suggested order of actions (depends on board state!)
Trade out anything with 2 or less life. Use the smallest minion available for the first attack and save AoE spells until after the attack. Then smack them in the face with whatever’s left. If nothing triggered until then, it’s a Snipe, so throw something in front of it that won’t die or is expendable.


Miserable piles: Mage secrets

Mirror Entity
Heads or Tails? More than any of the others, this secret has a high chance of whiffing because you played Ironbeak Owl before dropping your Deathwing. Pro tip: You usually want that to happen. Don’t go for any greedy plays while the Mage has a secret out and you should be fine. Also note that this will not trigger Battlecry effects, making such minions ideal to trigger it due to their often bad stats.


Ice Barrier
It’s a 3 mana gain 8 life spell like Healing Touch, except that it leaves the mage open to direct damage spells and can’t target minons. ‘Cause Healing Touch is an automatic 2-of for Druids? Not worth your attention.


Universally feared. Its use is narrow, but almost every game holds an opportunity for it to trigger and it’s nigh impossible to avoid. How often do you have disposable targetting spells? Take high caution in playing against this and try to eliminate all other possibilities ahead of time.


Ice Block
Like Ice Barrier, except worse. It sucks to have this played against you in a narrow race, but that’s about it, too. A wise man once said, “Preventing yourself from losing is not the same as winning.” If you’ve got the mage down into lethal, just deliver the final blow in as little a piece as you can to minimise lost damage, then laugh as the mage passes the turn back to you with nothing to protect her that time.


Remember when I said to attack a mage with the tiny minions last? Well forget about that, use the little ones first. This secret can be very potent if you’re going against it unprepared, so don’t let it happen to you. That being said, once you know that this is something mages have, it loses a lot of its effect very very fast. There’s not much else to say about this aside from use the big stuff to trade for minions and let the weenies draw out Vaporise. So I won’t waste breath.


Its flavour text makes a valid point about it, but 90% of spells are going to be cast on minions, so Spellbender is simply better. Also unlike Spellbender, this will eat any old spell you play (including secrets!) so it isn’t any harder to avoid than other secrets. Play something worth losing like a Tracking, then blast your opponent with a Pyroblast regardless. Even if it loses you the game, it’s worth it for the message.


Suggested order of actions (depends on board state!)
Play a small minion to trigger Mirror Entity. Then attack the mage directly with the smallest minion on your side. If nothing triggered by that point, it’s either Spellbender or Counterspell, so hold your spells until you can (and have to!) deal with either. There’s the rare point of seeing an Ice Block, but it triggering means that the mage is on the very edge of losing. You shouldn’t have much trouble cleaning up the mess afterwards.

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