Mage’s Secrets and How We Deal with Them
Mage’s secrets are all 3 mana spells. The basic idea of dealing with secrets is pinpointing what secret is played by reading your opponent’s actions, or knowing what type of deck your opponent plays and then executing the right counter.
Revealing the Secrets:
There isn’t a work around really. Just wait you until you have a cheap spell to trigger the secret. Using a Coin or a Spare Part is the best outcome.
This secret is common in control/fatigue style Mages. Most of the time, it is set up after a valuable minion is played. For example, the Mage plays Sylvanas Windrunner and a secret in the same turn.
Always avoid giving your opponent two copies of a minion that would have trouble dealing with. Attack your opponent face when you can. Mage and Shaman can take advantage of this trap by using Polymorph or Hex respectively to duplicate a sheep or a frog.
Common secret found in aggro, and tempo decks, and sometimes even in control decks. Like Duplicate, it can be set up after a high cost minion is played. Or in aggro and tempo decks, it is played even whenever possible.
Being a very common secret, you should assume it is in play when you are thinking about killing a minion. Try to kill the lowest cost minion first when possible, which usually also means the weakest minion.
Currently only seen in Freeze Mage decks. This card is played whenever it can be afforded to. One of the worst picks in arena.
Not worth playing around it, just trigger it and deal with the extra health your opponent now has. The only situation where you wouldn’t trigger it, is when you have a way to end the game without attacking (ie. Ragnaros or spells)
Only seen in Freeze Mage or other Molten Giant variants. This card is played whenever it can be afforded to. You normally only can be sure it is this card, once you ruled out all other possibility.
The counterplay starts once you know the secret is Ice Block. You want to trigger the Ice Block as soon as possible. On the turn, when you can trigger this secret, you want to lower the opponent’s health to as low as possible before you trigger the secret. This would set up for the win next turn, ideally, with a direct damage spell or Charge in your hand.
Most commonly played secret. Hard to pinpoint exactly when this secret is played, but a good mage would be playing it on optimal turns when you want to curve out. For example, if you are playing Hunter, your opponent might play their Mirror Entity when you will have 6 mana so that it prevents you from playing Savanna Highmane.
Since this card is so commonly played, it would be best to play with this card always in your mind until you can rule it out. Like with Counterspell, I would purposely activate this spell by playing a cheap minion or a minion I can deal with. It will sometimes mess with your curve, but you got to accept it. Note that Hero Power’s don’t trigger this secret.
One of the rarest secrets to see, simply because most people would rather play Counterspell which can be activated easier. Spellbender will probably see more plays if single target spells become more important to deny than AOE spells.
Once you ruled it that it is Spellbender, you should try and avoid playing anything that could trigger it unfavorably. This could mean not playing any buff spell. It doesn’t have as much coverage as Counterspell so it is easier to avoid it and still be able to play other spells. Once again, Spare Parts are very effective against this card.
A rare secret to be played, slightly more common in Arena. Most opponents would play it when you have strong minions on the field and they don’t have any or only a few minions on the field.
Always be sure to attack with the weakest minion when possible. If not pressured, feel free to wait and summon a weak minion to feed to the Vaporize. Be sure to avoid the worst case scenario.
Checking the Secrets:
Let’s review the secrets and their triggers:
Counterspell: Playing a spell
Duplicate: Killing a Mage’s minion
Effigy: Killing a Mage’s minion
Ice Barrier: Attacking the Mage
Ice Block: Mage takes fatal damage
Mirror Entity: Playing a minion
Spellbender: Playing a spell that targets a minion
Vaporize: Attacking the Mage with a minion
Mage’s secrets cover the most variety of possible action that a player can do. Most of the time, your response is simply trying to activate the secret with a weak card. And some of the time, this would cost you some tempo. Such is the power of a 3 cost secret.
In Constructed, the type of deck gives an easy way to predict the secrets that can be played. The Freeze and other long term focused Mage deck will run Ice Block and Ice Barrier, and perhaps a copy of Vaporize. The Molten Giants and Fatigue variant might run Duplicate as well. The tempo Mage and aggro Mage deck will run Mirror Entity, Effigy and maybe a copy of Counterspell. In arena, the most common secrets are Mirror Entity and Effigy, with Counterspell appearing once a while.
To check through each possibility, we should first try to use the method that cost the least amount of mana, so that we still have options open. Do we attack face or trade with a monster? Well that depends whether you want to risk a Duplicate or Vaporize activation. If you can deal with the copies, trigger Duplicate. If you don’t mind losing your monster, trigger Vaporize. Sometimes, the right move is don’t attack.
If nothing is triggering on attacks, the next possible cards to check are Mirror Entity, CounterSpell or Spellbender. There isn’t really a work around with these cards. Simply you want to play a weak card that these secrets can trigger on and then move on with your turn.
Lastly, once all conditions are cleared, the only secret that remains is Ice Block. Remember your best move here is to trigger the Ice Block as quickly as possible and leave the opponent at as little health of possible.
A card that actually pressure you into triggering a secret, if especially if you don’t want the monster to grow out of control. Through you can let it grow until it is a 7/7 so you can kill it with Big Game Hunter. However that secret could be protection for this monster like Duplicate or Counterspell. If played without a secret it is a very weak card. The huge variance between having a secret and not is what makes this card not very popular.
This allows a strong tempo play on turn 3 by playing both a monster and a secret on the same turn. By itself it is nothng special.