This is a guest guide written by Spike. You can find more of his content at AmiiboDoctor.com!
Secret Mage has been a strong, much hated part of the Wild meta for a good few expansions now. The combination of strong Secrets from the past and a few newer tools, most notably Cloud Prince and Aluneth, allow a deck that can rely heavily on burn, but also survive the aggressive meat grinder that is the Wild meta via board control, and draw enough to pull it all off. Despite no longer being a Tier 1 deck, Secret Mage is still very strong and more than capable of posting a good winrate, with the opponent often getting burnt to 0 by Turn 6-7.
Secret Mage Deck List
Secret Mage has been mostly solidified as a list by this point. The build here is a slightly unusual list, opting to forego Netherwind Portal in favor of Forgotten Torches. You can be successful with either route, and card substitutions can be found towards the end of the article.
Find more versions of this deck type on our Soul Demon Hunter archetype page!
Mulligan Guide and Strategy
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Ancient Mysteries – One of the best cards in the deck. Aside from the fact that it tutors a Secret from your deck, you can play that Secret for free whenever needed and, at 2 mana, it’s a net mana cheaper than playing a Secret normally.
- Kabal Lackey – At one mana, this little guy allows you to play a Secret that turn for free. If you have a Secret in hand, he allows you to have a Secret in play Turn 1, which can be followed by a Medivh's Valet Turn 2, which is a very strong opener. Even if you don’t have a Secret in hand, holding him for later often allows you to have a very good, mana-cheating turn in the mid game. Plus, he has good 2/1 stats for an aggressive one-drop. All in all just a great card and a large part of why Secret Mage is so good.
- Explosive Runes – If you can cheat this out with Kabal Lackey, it’s absolutely amazing, but even if you play it Turn 3, it’s just solid. 6 damage to a minion is enough to kill most (if not all) early game minions, and any excess damage goes to the opponent’s face. With Secret Mage being a burn deck, this is just a natural fit in the deck and a wonderful early game card. It does tend to fall off in the late game, though, but even then goes a long way to prevent the opponent from sticking a large threat.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Counterspell – Keep against Mage, Shaman and Druid. If you can get this out Turn 1 going first with Kabal Lackey against Quest Mage, you’d be surprised how many of them forget to test with Coin before playing their Quest, especially in lower ranks – and if they do, it’s often a free game. Even against other flavors of Mage, preventing an early or mid game Spell, though not especially impactful, still often means an extra turn to set up. Against Shaman, this prevents them from cheating out a big minion early, or, occasionally, from buffing their Murlocs to giant sizes, but it’s less needed than against the other 2 classes. Against Druid, the card is crucial in the mid and late game to prevent bombs such as Survival of the Fittest or Ultimate Infestation, or to disrupt combos, though most players will try to trigger it prior to dropping Malygos or Kun the Forgotten King combos.
- Medivh's Valet – Keep if you already have Kabal Lackey and a Secret or Ancient Mysteries in hand. Aside from the burn damage, you can also use it to clear early threats such as Satyr Overseer, Hench-Clan Thug or Vicious Fledgling. It’s just a good, versatile card.
- Arcane Flakmage and Flame Ward – Keep against opponents that are likely to be Aggro, such as Paladin, Rogue, Demon Hunter, or Warrior. Clearing out an early board is often the difference between winning and losing, and the deck isn’t very suited for dealing with boards that have already snowballed out of control. This is especially crucial against decks such as Pirate Warrior or Odd Paladin.
- Ice Block – Keep against Druid/Warlock/Mage. All three classes have Combo decks or decks that have a huge payoff (Time Warp, Bloodreaver Gul'dan, etc), and this often allows you the one extra turn to sneak in burn damage for lethal before they turn around and kill you. It’s also good because it (normally, unless the opponent plays anti-Secret techs) should stay up the entire game, allowing you to activate Medivh’s Valet and Cloud Prince.
- Aluneth – Keep if you already have a decent hand. I tend not to keep it unless going second, because despite how good it is once you play it, it’s a dead card until Turn 6 (or 5, with Coin).
Of course, that isn’t a strict guide, just guidelines. Sometimes you may want to keep something like Kabal Crystal Runner, or Cloud Prince, or Fireball, but it’s a bit more of a risk, and really comes down to the intuition that develops from playing around enough with the deck.
Secret Mage General Playstyle and Strategy
The deck is simple enough to pilot. Get your early Secrets out with Kabal Lackey and Ancient Mysteries, along with the mid-game Kirin Tor Mage, use your mid-game burn cards such as Medivh's Valet and Forgotten Torch to burn face and to keep the opponent from developing, then pivot to pure face around Turn 5-6. Kabal Crystal Runner is a good threat that often comes down on Turn 5 or earlier, and then between Cloud Prince and Fireball being directed to the opposing Hero’s face you often manage to close the games out then and there. If needed, you drop Aluneth to pull yet more burn from your deck (Forgotten Torch shuffling an even better Torch into your deck is quite handy for this purpose), and direct it all to the opponent’s dome.
Honestly, your playstyle doesn’t shift all too much depending on if you face Aggro, Control, Midrange, or Combo. The basic gameplan of the deck is just to send burn to the opponent’s face, and the opposing archetype only changes how devoutly you stick to that. At any rate, there are a few differences, so…
Aggro is simply a race to kill them before they kill you. Arcane Flakmage and Flame Ward are helpful for clearing early boards against the likes of Mech Paladin, Discard Warlock, Odd Demon Hunter, or Pirate Warrior decks, while Forgotten Torch and Medivh’s Valet are often going to be forced to be used as single-target removal for high-priority targets. Explosive Runes is amazing for killing a minion and dealing a bit to the opponent’s face as well. If you manage to have minions on board, they will often be used for trades rather than to hit face, simply to keep you alive.
However, in this race, you need to direct burn to face as much as the board state allows. Cloud Prince, Fireball, Forgotten Torch, and Roaring Torch are all good tools. This is why I use Forgotten Torch over Netherwind Portal, by the way. Duplicate becomes an essential card to copy Cloud Princes or Kabal Crystal Runners, but overall – the deck is uniquely suited to juggle both the board and large amounts of burn. Play your cards right, and this is a race you should normally win.
Essentially, against Aggro, you’ll have to direct burn to face while still keeping their board in check. This is something that you’ll need to fine-tune your skill at by actually playing the deck, but isn’t super difficult and you should get the hang of rather quickly.
Versus Control, you’re pretty much playing a burn deck. You’ll want to kill them as fast as possible before their payoffs or win conditions come into play, and the deck will require a fairly streamlined gameplan to do so. The deck is capable of dishing out 48 pure burn damage, and depending on how heal-heavy the opponent is, you’ll usually use most of it, along with any minion damage you manage to sneak in. On the plus side, you don’t really need to worry about board clears or controlling the board.
Against Control, keeping disruptive Secrets such as Counterspell, Explosive Runes, or Ice Block up is crucial. In fact, you should probably get Ice Block up as soon as possible, because they both won’t kill you immediately if they get a bomb off (allowing you to sneak that last bit of burn damage in) and because it’ll activate Cloud Mage. In the early game, getting Secrets up with your four cheat cards (Kabal Lackey, Mad Scientist, Ancient Mysteries, and Kirin Tor Mage) is essential. This also allows some early Kabal Crystal Runners and Cloud Prince burn damage to get set up. You’ll want to pivot to a pure burn plan as soon as the game state allows it. Essentially, in a Control matchup, the faster you burn them down, the better. If they manage to survive, Aluneth should find you that last bit of reach you need.
Your game plan against Combo decks is the same as against Control. Burn them down as soon as possible, and, if you can, disrupt their Combo with Counterspell or Explosive Runes. Make sure to get Ice Block up ASAP. There really isn’t much difference between facing Combo and Control, other than that Combo decks won’t usually allow you to dig out your burn if they survive to the late game – they will just kill you once they find their combo.
Secret Mage Card Replacements
First off, there’re a few versions of the deck, but usually the difference between them is only three or four cards. The most popular version cuts Forgotten Torch for 2 copies of Netherwind Portal. The two lists play very similarly, bar that the Netherwind Portal version has less reach in exchange for potential better board presence.
Some lists also prefer to play an extra Arcane Flakmage over the second copy of Flame Ward, usually ones that run Netherwind Portal. You shouldn’t do this if you don’t play Netherwind Portal, honestly, because you want to have Secrets when you need them, and eight is around the number you need for consistency.
Likewise, some lists cut a Secret for Stargazer Luna. Don’t. You honestly don’t dump your hand that often with the deck, and it’s fast enough that a cycle card like Luna isn’t the best. It’s playable, sure, but not really worth the slot.
Budget-wise, this is a cheap list. At a tad over 3600 Dust, and half that being from Aluneth, it isn’t difficult to throw together, featuring only one Epic and one Legendary. However, if you want to build the deck even cheaper, you can cut them.
- Aluneth is replaceable with either Arcane Intellect or another copy of Arcane Flakmage. The former for card draw, the latter for consistency.
- There isn’t really a replacement for Ice Block. It’s just solid. You should use another Secret to replace it for consistency, but there aren’t many spectacular options. Ice Barrier works like a budget version, but Netherwind Portal is a solid card that lets you have board presence. It really comes down to personal preference.
At the end of the day, Secret Mage isn’t the powerhouse it was an expansion or two ago, but it’s still a solid Tier 2 deck. The deck is certainly more than capable of posting a high win rate, and even if you’ve never played it before it isn’t difficult to figure out. Once you do figure it out, you can expect your winrate to be at least 55%, if not higher depending on your luck and skill. Seriously, go on. Try the deck out, and burn it all.
Guide written by Spike. If you’re looking for more articles like this, there are a handful of Hearthstone articles up at AmiiboDoctor.com, with more scheduled to come soon!