Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to learn a very important lesson. While I did promise to play Murlocs (and boy was I ready to play Murlocs) I hit a snag during my early testing. While the new cards were performing well, and while I was making some really interesting tweaks, I wasn’t having fun. That was a huge problem for many reasons. Not only did the games feel more like work than play, but you are never going to play a deck optimally when you don’t like it. That is one of the most basic rules of deck building that everyone should follow: never play something you don’t like. I don’t know if it was because I was getting burnt out on aggro, or maybe because I just am not as interested in the interactions as I once was, but this time around I am not taking murlocs to legend. Rather, I am taking Mech Priest.
As soon as I realized Murlocs were not my calling, I immediately went back to the drawing board and began looking at different possible deck ideas. The new LOE wing was out, and so that was the first list of cards I looked at. After consulting a good friend of mine about certain decks one card kept coming up between us: Gorillabot A-3. Though conditional, it had a very unique and very strong ability that got my gears turning. It isn’t the most exciting card, but it is a solid body with potential card advantage. Not to mention, it’s a mech that needs mechs to trigger it.
That ability instantly got me thinking about other mechs and what decks could best fit them. Hunter and Mage were the two that instantly came to my mind, but this is The Brewmaster and I wanted to do something different. After some deliberation I gravitated towards Priest. Priest has some incredibly strong board control cards as well as some of the coolest mechs in the game. Upgraded Repair Bot has an insanely powerful ability, and Shadowboxer can completely take over the early game in the same way Knife Juggler can. All of that makes for a very intriguing package. While Mech Priest has been taken to legend a couple of times in the distant past, I wanted to make a very minion heavy list that deviated from those that have come before.
This deck is part midrange, part tempo. I am not sure which side it leans towards, but that will come with time. You have a lot of cool interactions and sticky minions (or ways to make your minions sticky) that allow you to take board and never give it back. That is the way that most tempo decks win. It is a good strategy that works. However, most of Priests cards (and the two mechs) are more geared towards a more midrange game with bigger minions. With that in mind, I wanted to create a heavy minion deck that curved up well, but also had enough end game to finish off the bigger decks. That, combined with Priest’s healing potential, could give me a wide range that would go toe-to-toe with any other list in the game.
Something you will notice is that there are a ton of tech cards in this deck. Tech cards are one of the most important parts of Heathstone, because they really give a deck character. Beyond mech choices (which have to be in this deck) I have tried to tune this as much as possible for what I expect early on. Shadow Word: Pain is an anti-aggro answer that can also kill a bunch of random cards like Sludge Belcher. Holy Nova also helps against aggro, while Velen’s Chosen helps you fight midrange and control. One thing I noticed about the list right away is that big minions can be a large problem. Almost all of your cards are good at fighting for the middle board, but can falter in the presence of larger finishers. As such, I have Vol’jin in the deck right now as well as two Shadow Word: Deaths.
Always be aware that making a deck from scratch is a long process. Not every choice in this deck is fleshed out. In fact, most of the cards in this deck are going to go through some tweaks at some point or another. For instance, while I obviously needs mechs, there are a lot of possible candidates in the game. Notably Spider Tank, Piloted Sky Golem and Annoy-o-Tron are all not in this list. However, they could be (and may be down the line). Tron really helps against aggro, while tank is a great three drop and sky golem is a fantastic tool against control. However, so far none of them have been good enough to make the cut. Every card you put into a deck has an opportunity cost. Know what your needs are and know how to fill them. Focusing on board is my first priority, which is why I have chosen to play the mechs that I am.
This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list, what I think about them, and how they’ve performed so far.
Hearthstone has really changed in the past few months, new cards or not. While I do love the new metagame, you have to be able to react to the early board in as many ways as you can. That can be done in many ways. This deck typically fights aggression with high-health minions, but Harvest Golem also does a fantastic job. The 2/3 body is not the most exciting, but it trades with just about every playable two drop in the game, killing things like Knife Juggler, Shielded Minibot and Mad Scientist. It gets even better when coined out on turn two. I found that I stayed in many games due to the fact that golem would trade twice or just gum up the board until my larger minions could come to town. Cards like these are what you want to pay attention to when building. Things that, while not flashy, give you a pivotal role.
Another great bonus of Harvest Golem is how hard it can be to remove. A lot of cards in this deck depend on you having a mech on the board, and the second half of this card (the 2/1) is also a mech. That means your opponent can kill the first golem with you still being able to trigger a lot of your cards. That seems like a small bonus, but it is super important in many different situations. Even getting something like a Tinkertown Technician from a 3/3 to a 4/4 can give you the extra ability to kill a minion and live, which will then give you more presence on your next turn etc.
That stickiness also makes this card a perfect target for Velen’s Chosen. Almost everyone you play against will try and remove as many of your minions as they can to stop chosen. Most people know about the card, and almost all of them are going to be ready for it in some capacity. However, that doesn’t matter if they can’t kill everything you have. This is just an extra early game tool that is very hard for them to remove, is a mech and becomes a 4/5 out of nowhere with the buff.
The only “new” addition to this deck, Gorillabot A-3 is quite the powerhouse (as seen in the video). Even in early testing I knew this card was an instant keeper. Midrange lists like these need some form of card advantage to be constructed playable. While we are running Northshire Cleric, that is an early game card that really lacks the punch of everything else in the deck. On the other hand, the gorilla has a pretty strong body that also nets you a card. A 3/4 for four is pretty underwhelming (one turn behind the curve), but the fact that it doesn’t cost you a card makes it much, much better. In addition, three attack still kills most early game cards and even trades with the first half of the ever-looming Piloted Shredder on four. This is a very good mech, and one of the key pieces that really smooths out the curve to make the whole deck work.
An important thing to remember is that discover favors class cards four times higher than neutral cards. There are only two Priest mechs, and they are both in this deck because they are both very strong. While you almost never want to grab Shadowboxer off of this, it curves right into Upgraded Repair Bot. Even without getting the five drop, discover is a very powerful ability. Choosing the right mech can be vitally important, and you should always try to adapt to the board state the matchup you are in. For instance, a low cost mech, even on turn five, can be good to get more things on the board against aggro, while against control you should always take the late game finisher. While you have very little control over the mechs you get to discover, you should also always be thinking about certain mechs you could get and how they could help you in the current situation.
I will say upfront I am not sure about this card. I know there has to be some form of AOE in this list, but at this point in time I honestly have no idea what that is. There are three options. Holy Nova, Lightbomb and Excavated Evil. While nova is in the current list, Lightbomb has a lot of merit. A lot of your minions have (or can get) more health than attack, which makes the bomb much more one-sided than it usually is. AOE that only goes one way is typically very strong. This deck can also have problems with the larger minions in the game. While you have some good tech against them, having one extra fail safe is never a bad idea. This card also can clear boards of large minions, which the list is very bad at dealing with.
While I probably wouldn’t run it, Excavated Evil is also worth thinking about. There is a big jump between five mana and six mana, and there is a big jump between two damage and three. The extra point could make this worth considering, even as just a one of. You typically don’t always need the extra damage, but just like with Lightbomb, your high-health minions would rarely make the fact that it damages everything an end-all. However, this card is capped off at three, while Lightbomb hurts your own minions but can kill just about any big card in the game.
The reason I went with two Holy Novas instead of some other crazy split is because of their healing. AOE is always nice, but having AOE that also keeps your minions health high is much better. That is especially true in a board-centric deck like this. Currently I value the healing over damage, but that may change with time. I just am a little worried that this deck has no taunts, making it a little more susceptible to aggro than I would like. Maybe that means I can’t cut the novas, or maybe that means I want to start looking at doing a 1/1 split with Lightbomb.
This is a card that may not make it to the final (final) decklist, but for now it is performing really, really well. Just spitballing here, I personally think this card could eventually become Piloted Sky Golem down the line due to this deck’s weakness to heavy control decks. That being said, this card has been very strong in my early testing. A 5/5 for five is a very solid deal. Add on the “mech” creature type and the extra 1/1 on another mech and you can really start putting up points. As stated, I wanted to really focus on the board control aspect of the deck. I think that is where this list wants to be, and where I think it will really shine. This card is a perfect example of attempting to build in that direction. +1/1 may not seem like a big deal when read on paper, but the applications in the game are huge. I had many turns where I would buff something, which allowed it to then kill an opponent’s minion and live when it would normally die. That is a gigantic swing because, not only did my minion survive a turn (one of the fundamental keys to Hearthstone), but I also now have a 5/5 that is also a mech. That type of curving is what decks like this try to do, because steady board presence is how you win. Mechs are amazing at that type of curving, and no class allows you do it better than Priest does.
Upgraded Repair Bot
I round out the cards with the mech-daddy of all five drops (see what I did there?). Upgrade Repair Bot has an unbelievable ability that becomes just insane when stapled onto a 5/5 for five. Though you do have some solid removal spells at your disposal, almost all of your games are going to be paced through trading on the board with your midrange minions. Almost all of those minions are going to be sticky mechs that usually live at least a turn or two. Being able to suddenly drop four extra health onto one of them can be absolutely devastating for your opponent if they aren’t expecting it (which most of the time they aren’t). For instance, a lot of decks depend on killing the first half of a Piloted Shredder to set up AOE or some other kind of wide removal. If you can give your shredder four extra health so it lives when you trade it in, not only does your opponent’s AOE falter, but you also have a 5/5. Good luck clearing that, bro.
While there may be certain cards you want to get this buff on, it really doesn’t matter what you give health to as long as you are using it on something. Even turning a Shadowboxer or Harvest Golem into a 2/7 can be pretty relevant during the early stages. Though I did horribly misplay the entire game, I had a 2/11 golem in the Control Warrior match which allowed me to kill the Vol’jin‘d Ysera and live. May not sound like the biggest deal, but anytime you can keep a deathrattle minion in its first form you’re doing pretty well.
How to Win
Board control. One thing I have learned in my early games is that Mech Priest has a ton of ways to control the board. In that light you do kind of play like a tempo deck, but you have many more beefy minions that traditional tempo. All of your four and five drops pack a real punch. In that way, you are going to simply wear your opponent down. This is not an aggro deck and you don’t have any quick burst or giant finishers. This is four or five damage a turn while slowly removing everything your opponent puts down. This deck could want even more ways to control the board, but either way you have to know the way you are going to end the game; minion combat and slow attrition.
Going back to the tempo idea, play to your curve. It is too early for me to do a full mulligan break down, but you want to keep all of your one, two and three cost minions. Minions are the heart of this deck, and without them you will falter. Think of the breakdown much like Tempo Mage. Your early minion are Mana Wyrm and Sorcerer’s Apprentice, while your removal spells are Frostbolt and Fireball. However, instead of keeping that trend, you then switch into Midrange Druid. Might not be the best example, but that should help explain the way you want to pilot your cards and control the board.
The final (and perhaps most important rule) is, get a lot of use out your hero power. There are many reasons I chose Priest for this list, and the hero power was definitely one of them. Healing yourself against aggro decks is always nice, but the ability is super strong here because of how much work it can do to keep your minions alive. Always look for ways and opportunities to heal up your minions when you can, steadily keeping them alive to build into your later threats. While you don’t always want to heal something instead of adding a minion to the board, there are a lot of times where that actually is the correct choice. This is a mechanic I will explore later in the month, but I wanted to mention it now just to get it in your mind.
Note: While there is no current section for matchup analysis, there will be one added in future articles when I get more of a feel for the deck.
I still am not sure if this deck wants a finisher. Sneed’s Old Shredder is a strong curve, but the eight mana cost can kind of set off the curve. That being said, it is one of the best answers to control in the game, and can completely lock down a board when you are ahead. The thing about this style of deck is, any finisher you are going to play has to be a mech. The other two “big mech” options are Foe Reaper 4000 and Dr. Boom (who does create two mechs). I don’t like Dr. Boom because, while he is obviously incredibly strong, he would be the only BGH target in the list. In addition, For Reaper just seems too slow. However, if I do want to up the curve a little bit, both of those are worth considering and may find their way into the list in the future.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s season 2. I am super stoked about the coming weeks, and while LOE won’t personally affect our deck all that much, the gorilla breathes new life into these old, rusted mechs. Always remember to play what you love and to love what you play. Too often I see people struggling with a “powerful” deck because they don’t understand it, or because they don’t enjoy playing it. While my aggro days seem to be far behind me for the time being, I have my oil canister at the ready. I hope you are all having a great December and, until next time, may you always control the board.