Secret Mage is one of the most strategically complex decks to play against in the Wild Hearthstone meta. With 15 different secrets with vastly different effects, playing around every possible secret is nearly impossible. There are, however, options to improve your chances of guessing the secrets your opponent might play when both players consider what the appropriate steps to play around these are.
The skill comes in when both players start predicting how their opponent may try and use their secrets and what the most efficient way is to punish the other player’s decision. Today I hope to teach some of you about one of my favorite decks to climb to the Wild ladder when trying to counter specific decks.
What is Secret Mage?
The “Secret Mage” archetype exists for as long as Hearthstone exists. The archetype’s first builds exist because of the card Kirin Tor Mage from the classic card set. Kirin Tor Mage reduces the cost of your next secret to zero. At the time, the secrets available were the simpler ones. Secrets such as Counterspell, Mirror Entity, and Ice Block & Ice Barrier were the most prominent.
Historically the Secret Mage archetype combines the most powerful cards from the Mage basic cards such as Fireball, with aggressive minions and secrets that serve as protection. Throughout the years, the Secret Mage archetype became more streamlined. Tools such as Kabal Crystal Runner defined the archetype and make it into the powerful, aggressive deck it is today.
The Secret Mage archetype, however, has many clear weaknesses. For example, decks that swarm the board often causes trouble for the deck. The reason for this is the lack of wave clear options for the Secret Mage deck. Its early game tools, such as Medivh’s Valet, are conditional on having a secret active and are generally better used as direct damage tools.
Nowadays, Secret Mage is regaining some popularity since the Scholomance Academy expansion. The new legendary card Lorekeeper Polkelt increases the consistency of finding Secret Mage’s best tool Aluneth, drastically improving its chances. Most of the Wild Hearthstone tier lists consider Secret Mage to be somewhere around tier-2 to tier-3, but with the recent nerf to Druid, the deck becomes a real contender.
The core of Secret Mage & build options.
The core of Secret Mage is quite unique. The number of minions you want to include in Secret Mage is quite limited. Because of this, a lot of space is up to your personal preference. There are four more spaces left for you to decide between the cards you can’t do without and the secrets you want to include.
If you have the dust, common inclusions include Lorekeeper Polkelt, Stargazer Luna, and Ice Block. However, since Secret Mage is primarily a budget deck, you can perform quite consistently without these tools at the non-legend ranks. Some of my favorite budget tools include a second copy of Kabal Lackey, Frostbolt, and Firelands Portal.
What secrets should you play in Secret Mage?
The majority of Secret Mage builds in the Scholomance Academy include eight secrets. Try to stick close to this number not to oversaturate your deck while retaining the consistency your Secret synergy cards require.
Explosive Runes & Counterspell
Explosive Runes from the Kobolds and Catacombs and Counterspell from the Classic set are the most common secrets in Secret Mage. Nearly every build of Secret Mage includes two of each of these. However, you can make some exceptions to this if you target specific decks at the higher ranks. For example, Potion of Polymorph is a fantastic replacement for Explosive Runes against Cubelock. Cubelock bases its gameplan on the card Voidcaller, a four mana minion that summons a sizable demon from your hand.
Mirror Entity, Vaporize, and Mana Bind.
The other type of Secret Card is reliant on your opponent’s mistake. These cards perform best when your opponent least expects it. I’ve played around with including cards like this in previous builds of Secret Mage; however, my opponents often learned quickly to play around these tools. In addition to that, these secrets run into the issue where your opponent sometimes plays around these secrets by accident.
A common scenario is when your opponent tests your secrets for Explosive Runes and gives you a weak minion through Mirror Entity. Or for a spell, when they use something like The Coin to test Counterspell—leaving you with a very expensive, wasted secret.
Vaporize, on the other hand, is something the majority of players at the higher ranks have simply learned to avoid. Ordering your minions to start attacking with the weakest minion first against Mage is common among the better Hearthstone players. Because of this, the effectiveness of this card leaves much to be desired.
The case for Netherwind Portal
As your opponent often accidentally plays around Mana Bind by playing around Counterspell, they often run into Netherwind Portal the same way. With the natural desire to test which secret the Secret Mage plays, Netherwind Portal is often a fantastic way to punish your opponents. Overall this is currently my favorite secret to play in the early turns of the game. On numerous occasions, Netherwind Portal won the game in the first turns of the game.
What secrets you should avoid in Secret Mage
With 15 available secrets for Secret Mage in the Wild format, some don’t make the cut. Secrets such as Splitting Image, Effigy, and Frozen Clone are best to avoid. The average outcome of these cards is just not good enough for the deck we play. A slower Mage deck may include some of these tools after a few more expansions, but for now, there simply isn’t the required support for these tools.
Does Ice Block deserve a spot in Secret Mage?
One of the most debated cards for Secret Mage is whether Ice Block deserves a spot in the deck. One side argues that the card often does nothing, where the other argues the card saves them frequently from losing the game. So let’s think about “what” Ice Block offers and what its downsides are.
Downside: The card simply doesn’t do much when you win the game. It has no offensive benefits and adds nothing to your “blowout” victories and unwinnable games. Finding Ice Block of cards like Mad Scientists comes at the cost of a more directly impactful secret. Sometimes this causes you to fall behind in situations you otherwise wouldn’t.
The upside: You extend the game for at least one turn. The extra turn allows you to draw additional resources if you have Aluneth equipped. This extra turn sometimes leads to a situation where you can turn the game around. Besides this, Ice Block is a “permanent” secret. The permanent secret allows you to have your Medivh’s Valet and Cloud Prince enabled until your opponent destroys the secret. Not having to worry about whether the actives are available opens up a lot of options.
In addition to this, Ice Block allows you to take more risks. Knowing your opponent can’t kill you “right now” allows you to set up two or even three-turn lethal scenarios. These might be more difficult to spot for players newer to the deck, but they are vital in realizing your winrate with the Secret Mage archetype. Overall I believe Ice Block adds enough value for a single copy to include. The additional playmaking options are valuable to me, and I assume to many of you when learning the deck.
Budget Secret Mage decklist examples
Hsreplay Voracious Reader, no Aluneth:
(Not so-budget) Secret Mage:
So, how do you play this deck?
How to play Secret Mage is simple. Focus on building the strongest early game we can, and set up to kill your opponents in the midgame. Our secret enablers are the highest priority in the game since we want to avoid overcrowding our hand with secrets we have to pay for in most matchups.
If we look at Secret Mage on Hsreplay, we can see a very clear pattern arise. Minions, alongside Aluneth, are the best tools we are looking for in our mulligan stage. Aluneth shines in control matchups, which is important to keep in mind. Holding Aluneth against aggressive decks often results in you losing the game. The reason for this is simple. Secret Mage against another aggressive Hearthstone deck simply does not go even until turn six. The earlier turns decide who wins this matchup, so focus on finding tools like Arcane Flakmage instead to try and control the game.
Do you want to have your deck featured or work with AceGameGuides on creating strategic content? Email Arend@AceGameGuides.com, and we’ll talk! For more of AceGameGuides, be sure to join the new discord!
For more Wild Hearthstone madness, learn more about the new Giant Miracle Shaman archetype with Laboresangre!