Hearthstone Playing Around Secrets in Arena Guide

Hearthstone Playing Around Secrets in Arena Guide by bubbafry

After my last guide, someone suggested that I write a section on playing around secrets in arena, so here it is. This was a difficult guide to write because it is so situational, but hopefully these may be some useful guidelines.


The table below lists the secrets for each class and how often you might expect to see a particular secret. When playing around secrets, keep in mind which secrets are most common. Within each tier, the secrets are also ordered roughly by most common to least common.

Class Common Less Common Unusual Almost Nonexistent
Mage Mirror Entity, Duplicate, Vaporize Ice Barrier, Counterspell Ice Block, Spellbender
Paladin Avenge, Noble Sacrifice Redemption, Repentance Eye for an Eye
Hunter Explosive Trap, Freezing Trap Snipe Snake Trap, Misdirection


These are the secrets you should keep in mind when playing a mage opponent: Mirror Entity, Duplicate, Vaporize, maybe Counterspell, Ice Barrier. You don’t have to play around Ice Barrier necessarily, but if you can trigger Ice Barrier, then you don’t have to worry about the other ones. Mage secrets are the most difficult to play around, so the optimal way to play around then will vary greatly depending on the situation, so make sure to think it through rather than just following these steps blindly. Also, if playing around these secrets will ruin your turn so badly that it will cause you to lose the game, sometimes is better not to play around some or all of them.

  1. Test for Ice Barrier – If you think you will have left over mana as a Druid or a Rogue and you do not think you will need to use your face to kill any minions this turn, you may consider attacking face to see if you get lucky and trigger Ice Barrier. Most of the time it is not Ice Barrier though, so only do this if it will not mess up the rest of your turn.
  2. Test for Mirror Entity – You do this by playing your weakest minion from your hand. Typically, this means the minion with the lowest health because they are easier to kill. Often good ones to use are minions with good battlecries/abilities and weak bodies. Examples include Stormpike Commando (low health, you still get the benefit if the battlecry) or Cult Master (then you can sacrifice your minion into the Cult Master clone and draw a card). The reason you generally want to test for Mirror Entity first is that you need to save your minions to deal with the copied minion. If you attack with all your minions, then play a minion, you will not be able to deal with your enemy’s new copied minion. However, if there is a way to test for Duplicate or Vaporize safely before Mirror Entity, it is usually better to do so, you just need to make sure you have a plan if it does turn out to be Mirror Entity.
  3. Test for Vaporize/Ice Barrier – You can/should do this before testing for Mirror Entity in Step 2 if you have a weak minion on board that you are sure you will not need to handle a Mirror Entity clone. If not, assuming you’ve already tested for Mirror Entity, you test for Vaporize by sending your weakest minion to the face (which will also trigger Ice Barrier). Sometimes this will lead to suboptimal trades, but that’s OK. It’s better for that to happen than to have your Force Tank Max vaporized.
  4. Test for Duplicate – Again, if you can do this safely before testing for Mirror Entity in Step 2, you should, and you may do this before testing for Vaporize in step 3, depending on the situation. Make sure to kill the least valuable minion first. If Jaina has a 6/1 Boulderfist Ogre and a 3/1 Bloodfen Raptor on the board, you want to kill the raptor first. If it still hasn’t triggered…
  5. Test for Counterspell – At this point, the secret is most certainly a Counterspell. You may or may not want to trigger it. There’s no problem just leaving it there and triggering it down the road. However, if you do want to get rid of the Counterspell (like you want to play Flamestrike next turn), then just play your weakest spell. If you have a Spare Part, that’s good to use. The coin is also fine to use, even if you have no use for the extra mana, since countering your coin is usually a good result for you (although you really could do this at anytime so there is no hurry unless you really need to know what the secret is ASAP). If you leave the Counterspell there, just remember for the future that your coin is going to get countered so plan accordingly. Usually it’s good to play to coin first, rather than doing a bunch of other stuff then running out of mana when your coin gets countered. However, if it doesn’t get countered…
  6. Test for Spellbender – If you are casting a spell, make sure it is not a buffing spell, and ideally a cheap targeted spell first.
  7. Test for Ice Block – If you are sure it is Ice Block, you may need to clear out all or part of Jaina’s board rather than going for lethal, especially if she has lethal on you next turn. If you think it’s safe to leave her board, then you want to make sure to decrease Jaina’s life as low as possible before delivering the killing blow. Once you trigger Ice Block, Jaina becomes immune to further damage. Example: You are a Rogue. You have a 6/7 Ogre, a 3/2 raptor, and a dagger equipped. Jaina has 10 life. The correct sequence is attack with Ogre and the Raptor first, which leaves her with 1 life, then hit with dagger, triggering Ice Block. The worst sequence is hitting with dagger and Raptor first. When you hit Jaina with the Ogre, then she will be left with 6 life next turn rather than 1.

Special Situations vs. Mage Secrets

  1. You have 1 high value minion vs. Jaina’s empty board with an active Secret – Consider not attacking with it because it could get Vaporized. You could try and can get some weaker minions on board to sacrifice those instead, or wait until your minion is damaged to send it in. However, if you have a 4/6 Spiteful Smith on board, and your hand consists of Boulderfist Ogre and Force Tank Maxx, you may consider just biting the bullet and sending him in. Ideally Jaina will drop a small minion, you kill it with the Spiteful Smith, then send in the Spiteful Smith next turn to get Vaporized, but she removes your Smith somehow, then your Ogre may get Vaporized.


This is much simpler than Mage. Basically, when there is a secret up, there is a 99% chance that it is either Noble Sacrifice or Avenge, with Avenge I would say being slightly more likely of the two.

  1. Test for Noble Sacrifice – Make sure not to attack with a 2 health minion first, unless you have a good reason to do so. If you can attack with a Rogue dagger or Druid hero power without ruining your turn, then do that.
  2. Test for Avenge – Your goal in triggering Avenge is for the buff to end up on a minion that you can deal with in a single blow (either a spell or a minion). If you have a large removal spell like Fireball, Polymorph, Shadow Word: Death, you usually want the larger minion to get the buff, so try to kill the smaller minion or a 1/1 dude first. If you don’t have spell like that, then generally you want the buff to go on the little guy, so you probably want to kill the big minion first. Of course this varies greatly on the game situation. If you have a 5/1 Tiger and a 3/2 Raptor and he has a 3/3 Farseer and a 1/1 dude, then you probably want to kill the 1/1 first with your Raptor and then kill the now 6/5 Farseer with your Tiger. The damaged tiger in this case is basically is like a large removal spell. If you feel that triggering Avenge will put you in a very bad situation, you could consider ignoring the board and going face until a more favorable situation comes up, but generally I try to trigger it so that I have more control over the trades.
  3. Test for Redemption – if somehow you know that it’s not Avenge or Noble Sacrifice, then I would assume Redemption. Make sure not to kill any minion with a valuable deathrattle like a Shredder until last. Also save minions with Divine Shields like Scarlet Crusader to the end also, otherwise she will get her Divine Shield back when she is Redeemed. If they have a Sunwalker, try to figure out a way to kill one of Uther’s other minions before killing the Sunwalker (Sunwalker + Redemption is a powerful combo).

Special Situations vs. Paladin Secrets

  1. Uther has two secrets active – assume it is Noble Sacrifice + Avenge. Remember that when you attack, the summoned defender will die and that will trigger Avenge. If for some reason you want to avoid this, you need to use a spell or Mage hero power to kill a minion to trigger Avenge first. Example: Turn 6. You are a Mage with a fireball in hand and a 4/4 Dark Iron Dwarf on the board. Uther has a 5/4 Lost Tallstrider and a 1/1 dude with 2 secrets. If you attack with your Dark Iron Dwarf, Noble Sacrifice will trigger. The defender will die, triggering Avenge. Now if the 1/1 dude gets buffed to a 4/3, Uther now has a 5/4 and a 4/3. You can kill the Tallstrider with your fireball, but that leaves him ahead with a 4/3 vs. your 4/2. The optimal play here is to use your hero power to kill the 1/1 dude first. The Tallstrider gets buffed to 8/6. You kill the Tallstrider with your fireball, then attack with your 4/4 Dwarf. That leaves you with a 4/2 vs an empty board and all secrets clear.
  2. Using AoE – If you are using AoE such as Flamestrike, and one or more minions has greater than 4 health, decide whether you want Avenge to trigger or not. If you do not want Avenge to trigger (which I find is usually the case), then bring all minions down to 4 health FIRST using minions/spells/hero power, and then cast Flamestrike. If all minions die to Flamestrike, then Avenge will not trigger. If you do want Avenge to trigger, play Flamestrike first. Avenge will trigger and buff one of the remaining minions. If there is a specific minion that you would like to buff, bring all other minions down to 4 health leaving the one target minion above 4 health, then flamestrike.
  3. Uther has Sword of Justice or a buffing minion on board – Remember that the defender will get buffed by SoJ or a minion like Stormwind Champion, so plan accordingly.


You basically want to play around Freezing Trap and Explosive Trap, with the outside chance that you could get Sniped.

  1. Play around Freezing Trap – Try to attack with your least useful minion first, or a minion with a valuble battlecry (so you can get the battlecry again).
  2. Play around Explosive Trap/Misdirection – Use your minions with 2 or less health to kill of his minions first before attacking face. Try to trigger the trap by attacking with your minions before dropping new ones. The one exception is if you can protect your current minions from dying. If you have a bunch of 2 health minions and Rexxar plays a trap, I would drop Stormwind Champion first to buff my minions to 3 health, then attack. When attacking face, use your smallest minion first in case it happens to be Misdirection.
  3. Play around Snipe – either play a really cheap minion, or a minion big enough that it won’t die. Obviously playing Rend Blackhand or Stalagg is probably not a good idea.
  4. Play around Snake Trap – if somehow you haven’t triggered the secret by now, then it is Snake Trap, since Misdirection would have been triggered above.

Special Situations vs. Hunter Secrets

  1. You have a large board of 2 health minions vs. Rexxar’s empty board and a secret active. You may consider not attacking because Explosive Trap would clear your entire board. The problem with this is that if you don’t do anything, then Rexxar can keep hitting you with his hero power, so make sure you have plenty of health. Another thing you can do is start playing bigger minions alongside your little ones. If Rexxar just does nothing and tries to kill you with his hero power, then you keep building a board until you can kill him in one turn.


I hope you find this useful, let me know if there are any comments or questions. My previous Beginner’s guide on arena gameplay is here:

Beginner’s Guide to Arena: An In-depth Primer on Minion-Trading and Gameplay

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