Control Priest – Lightbombing to the Top

The Light shall burn you! Learn the power of Lightbomb in Control Priest with Camzeee's Premium deck guide.

Introduction

Hey all,

Camzeee here with my latest in-depth deck guide. This time, it’s Control Priest featuring Lightbomb!

This deck is one of my favorites to play but also happens to be one of the most difficult in the game to master in my honest opinion.

I successfully piloted this deck up to Rank 3 (unfortunately didn’t have time to grind the last few ranks) but I’m confident that with a few minor adjustments, it is definitely capable of hitting and doing well in legendary ladder.

Deck Strategy

Control Priest is a deck that has undergone many changes but its strategy remains largely the same – generate card advantage and grind your opponent down. This deck is built on that premise so you should focus your efforts on attaining that goal.

In the early game, you should aim to develop a board and deal with early aggression. This deck excels in that regard because it runs multiple copies of zombie-chow, wild-pyromancer, and velens-chosen.

The mid-game is all about board control. You’ll want to trade smartly, keep your minions healed, and perhaps execute a board wipe or two with auchenai-soulpriest + circle-of-healing. Once again, the goal is to get control of the board and start generating card advantage.

The late-game is where Control Priest usually excels. This deck isn’t quite as strong in the late-game as some other Priest lists but it’s still stronger than most other meta decks with sylvanas-windrunner being the deck’s ace in the hole.

This variant of Control Priest is one that I built and refined. It is focused on countering aggro and therefore particularly strong against Hunter and Mech Mage, the two most common decks on ladder. It has respectable win-rates against a lot of other decks out there too with the exception of Rogue. It’s also a lot of fun and playing a solid Priest game is a satisfying feeling hard to find elsewhere in Hearthstone. I also have an all-golden set, so that’s a bonus!

Let’s jump into the card choices and see why I choose to run the cards I do.

Card Choices

  • x2 Circle of Healing – A Control Priest staple. This card can be used to board clear with Auchenai Soulpriest or heal your minions (hopefully combined with Northshire Cleric to draw cards). Situational, but extremely powerful.
  • x2 Power Word: Shield – A must-have in any Priest deck in my opinion. This spell combos brilliantly with Wild Pyromancer and allows you to trade favorably trades while cycling.
  • x1 Holy Smite – This card is an aggro tech and is very efficient. It combos really well with Wild Pyromancer and with the two copies of Velen’s Chosen in the deck, has the potential to deal more thanks to spell damage. Potentially replaceable if the meta is slower. However, it’s great right now and I actually replaced Mind Control with this and haven’t looked back.
  • x1 Light of the Naaru – I love a single copy of this card. It gives you additional heal against aggro, can be combo’ed excellently with Injured Blademaster, and can be used as a 1 mana 3 damage spell when used in conjunction with Auchenai. A real utility card.
  • x2 Northshire Cleric – The deck’s draw engine. This card is extremely powerful (to an extent) and is crucial in playing to the deck’s objective of winning the card advantage battle. Try to draw at least one card with it the turn you play it.
  • x2 Zombie Chow – Fantastic card to play for Priest. These are great against aggro and can often be good against control too if you can slap a Velen’s Chosen on it. Extra bonus points for being able to deal damage with the Deathrattle thanks to Auchenai Soulpriest.
  • x2 Wild Pyromancer – Priest’s board clear. This card can create big area of effect (AoE) clears and is superb against aggro match-ups. However, it suffers a bit against control but still has uses even as a 2 mana 3/2.
  • x1 Shadow Word: Death – You need at least one copy in every deck to deal with large threats. Great for removing huge minions or used in combination with Sylvanas Windrunner.
  • x2 Velen’s Chosen – This card is the new Blessing of Kings with the added benefit of being 1 mana cheaper. While the additional health is the best part [about it], you’ll even find the increased spell damage useful from time to time. This card has the potential to win you the game very early on due to snowballing a 1 drop. I used to run slower Thoughtsteal versions but this card wins me games that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Thus, I’m now aboard this train.
  • x2 Dark Cultist – Best 3 drop in the game. It’s a great minion to play on its own and its Deathrattle gives good value too.
  • x2 Injured Blademaster – It’s a neutral card but it might as well be a Priest card. Combos superbly with all the healing Priest is capable of and has a very respectable 4 attack for a 3 mana minion.
  • x2 Auchenai Soulpriest – Simply put, Priest needs this card. It allows for some spectacular board clears with Circle of Healing, makes your Zombie Chows aggressive, and is an all-around all-star. If you’re playing any form of Control Priest, you must have 2 of these in my opinion.
  • x1 Holy Nova – This card is a must-run in today’s aggro meta. Additional board clears are always welcome. Meanwhile, the small additional heal to the board has good value. I would consider two but I feel one is a good balance considering we already have more than ample board clear already.

  • x1 Antique Healbot – Now we get to the tech cards. I like Antique Healbot because of its disproportionately large heal. It completely shuts down Hunter and gives you a body on the board as well. Priest needs another big burst of healing in this aggro meta and I personally prefer the body and lower mana cost of Healbot over the damage of Holy Fire.
  • x1 Loatheb – I’ve always been a big fan of Loatheb. The card wins games and often buys you time to build a board that your opponent can’t deal with. It also has the added advantage of being able to lock out Combo Druid for at least one turn and is a large body that is great for healing.
  • x2 sludge-belcher – 7 health worth of taunts makes this thing a beast. 5 health is magical too and he can be used to tempt out Black Knights and hard removal on occasion. Belcher is still the best standalone taunt in the game and this version of Priest really enjoys having a big taunt in many situations.
  • x1 Lightbomb – The signature card of the deck. I stand by my belief that this card is critically underrated. It destroys opposing boards, removes Dr. Boom entirely with just one card (grr… Boombots), and has some great utility here and there. Hopefully by the end of the piece I’ll have convinced you of the value of this card.
  • x2 Cabal Shadow Priest – An easy 2-of in the deck. It steals some great minions in today’s meta-game like Annoy-o-tron, Shielded Minibot, and Haunted Creeper. The swings you can get from it are often pretty large and they are superb value even if they only steal a 1/1.
  • x1 Sylvanas Windrunner – This card also might as well be a Priest card. She fits into the deck superbly because of her naturally slow control-based nature and her synergy with Shadow Word: Death.

Tips on How to Play Priest

Priest is one of the most difficult decks to pilot in Hearthstone because of the sheer number of choices you have to make in any given game. Because it has a number of cheap spells, minions with sequencing, and special card text, making the best move every turn is significantly harder than for a curve-based deck like Mech Mage.

There are however a few basic tenets that can help you decide what the best course of action is.

Here are some quick tips on how to play the deck:

Order matters. Cards in this deck often need to be played in a specific order. This helps you get value out of Dark Cultist’s Battlecry, protect your Pyromancer, draw extra cards with Circle of Healing, etc. It’s all about efficiency and being able to get the most out of each card. Typically, you’ll want to Power Word: Shield your own Pyromancer so you can get additional spells off without it dying. Velen’s Chosen is also a spell that can be used for this effect, so don’t forget it. Be careful when you make plays and account for all the little factors out there that could change how you interact with the board.

Pay attention to ongoing effects. Keep in mind the ongoing effects of Wild Pyromancer and Auchenai Soulpriest. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten about them, leading to some extremely costly mistakes.

Recently, I had my Auchenai Soulpriest silenced and didn’t notice. The next turn, I healed the entire Hand-lock board for 4 health with Circle of Healing. I lost, horribly. Don’t make the same mistake and be on top of your cards’ effects.

Use as few cards as possible. It’s so easy when playing Priest to launch into insane combos involving cheap spells and Pyromancer for some flashy board clears. However, this is often incorrect since it burns through a large number of your cards and can leave you empty for the next wave of threats. Plan ahead and make simple plays.

Here’s an example problem in a typical game:

The correct play here is to play the Dark Cultist.

You could in fact clear the entire board if you decided to play Pyro > Circle > Power Word: Shield > Coin. But that leaves you with just the 3/1 Pyromancer and you’ve just lost your entire hand in the process. If the Mage refills the board in subsequent turns, you’re now left with nothing to do. Your Auchenai Soulpriest is left sitting in hand without the Circle of Healing for clear.

By not using up all your cards this turn, you save up for bigger plays later down the line. If the board gets out of hand next turn, you can Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing to level it or start your Pyro train then. This hand is excellent but also very specific, so you’ve got to make each spell count.

Playing this deck, you’ll often get hands like this. Therefore, being able to not only sequence the plays correctly but deciding when to deploy them is crucial to success.

Don’t overplay. I’m guilty of this once in a while. Sometimes when you’re ahead, you’ll feel the need to get maximum value out of every card. Don’t do this. Playing Cabal Shadow Priest as a 6 mana 4/5 is often correct if you have the board initiative. It’s all in the interest of maintaining a good board presence, which is so crucial as Priest. I’m not saying that you should drop Northshire Cleric turn 1 all the time but it’s right more often than not, especially in this aggro meta we’re currently in.

Card Combinations

Combos are the bread and butter of Priest. Almost every single card in this deck is worth more when played together with another one. Here are the most important combos and how to use them right.

Northshire Cleric > Coin + Velen’s Chosen

This is the dream start in most games. If you can get either Northshire or Zombie Chow buffed up with Velen’s Chosen and keep them healthy, you’re in a very strong position for the rest of the game. You can also buff up Pyromancer for extra board clear shenanigans.

Northshire Cleric + Circle of Healing

You need cards as Priest. Thankfully, the class has one of the most efficient card drawing engines in the game. Combine these two cards together (along with a damaged board state) and you’ll heal up your board to draw a fair number of cards. It’s super powerful but you need to be wary in case you get pushed to fatigue, where the additional card draw works against you.

Remember to punish your opponents as well if they steal your Northshire or play their own! I have fond memories of playing Pyromancer > Coin > Circle of Healing x2 to draw my opponent 14 cards and kill him from 30 life.

Wild Pyromancer + Spells

This combo can be used in a number of different ways for board clear effects. I like to get at least two triggers off the Pyromancer the turn you play it if possible. Sometimes you’ll need to use it for a quick Whirlwind effect to clear a bunch of tokens from Muster for Battle or a Face Hunter board. But generally, you have more leeway and can wait for a more optimal time to get at least a Consecration off on your opponents’ board.

Injured Blademaster + Light of the Naaru/Circle of Healing

Blademaster is one of the best cards in Priest because of its synergy with healing. Playing Blademaster + Naaru on turn 4 is incredibly powerful against most classes and can win you back board control. Circle of Healing is also a nice way of healing it up if you’re playing against a Control Deck.

I’m wary of using Blademaster + Circle nowadays because of the ease in which some classes can deal with it – Sap, Freezing Trap, Fireball, etc. Losing the Blademaster after having used the combo will put your pretty far behind because you essentially two-for-one’d yourself.

It’s still a strong play against classes like Druid though, so don’t be afraid to do it if your hand dictates.

Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing

Priests’ famous two card Flamestrike. This board clear is super powerful and helps a ton against aggro decks. Keep it in your opening hand against aggro decks. It can also be combined effectively with the hero power on Turn 6 for additional reach.

Auchenai Soulpriest + Zombie Chow

Zombie Chow has extra utility in a Priest deck because of this synergy. It can be used for a surprise burst of damage and should be traded in whenever possible if Auchenai Soulpriest is present. Be wary of the spell power from Velen’s Chosen though because if the Soulpriest dies from Circle of Healing, Zombie Chow will heal instead of damage!

Auchenai Soulpriest + Light of the Naaru

I like this play a lot, and I often coin it out on turn 4. It changes Naaru into a deal 3 damage spell while also creating the Lightwarden. Versatile and strong against a lot of plays since 3 damage is usually enough to take out most early 2 or 3 drops.

Velen’s Chosen + Damaging Spells

The spell power from Velen’s Chosen makes a big difference. Not only does it increase the damage dealt by Holy Nova and Holy Smite, it also increases the damage from Circle of Healing, Light of the Naaru (if Auchenai is out), and even Lightbomb.

The increase in spell power to Lightbomb is often overlooked, but can kick in to kill a 4/5 Chillwind Yeti for example. Most often though, it’ll inadvertently kick in on your own minions, leading to some misplays. Take a look at this:

This is one of the most beautiful Lightbombs I’ve ever played. However, I misplayed here by forgetting to attack with the 1/2 Slime before using the Bomb. It died because of the increased spell power given from the Velen’s Chosen on the Northshire. Just be wary of that.

Sylvanas Windrunner + Shadow Word: Death

This combo is your Mind Control. I decided to forgo the actual card from the deck after running into all the aggro plaguing ladder. It only really helps against Paladin. Even then, it’s usually not needed (more on this in the alternatives section). However, Mind Control lives on in this combination of cards and can be used to steal a single large threat. Sometimes it’s better to split up the two, especially against aggro. But against control, using them in tandem is usually the most powerful play available to you.

Check out this piece I wrote on how to play Sylvanas Windrunner independently.

Match-ups and Mulligans

Priest is a very reactive class by nature. Therefore, it’s important to know what other decks you may face in order to decide how you mulligan and how to approach the match.

Let’s dive right in!

Hunter

  • Midrange, Face, Beast
  • Favorable – Very Favorable
  • Mulligan for: Wild Pyromancer, 1-cost spells, Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing (only if you have both), Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow, Antique Healbot (if Face variant)

Hunter is a really good match-up for Priest. You can heal up to negate the hero power damage of Hunter in the late-game, and you have a ton of board clears to remove their minions efficiently. Mulligan hard for your early-game 1-drops and any spells you can get with Pyromancer. This match-up is usually decided within the first 3 turns. If you can get a handle on them and clear off their board, you’ll win in the late-game.

If not, you’re in for an early loss. Healbot is the star of this match-up. I’ve taken to keeping it against Hunter, and it can really sink them, especially if they try setting up for lethal. Light of the Naaru also does splendid work in providing a heal while also developing your board.

Card advantage matters much less against Hunter so don’t be too afraid to plop minions down early (sometimes not for maximum value) if it means staying alive.

Mage

  • Mech, Freeze, Fatigue
  • Favorable – Slightly Unfavorable
  • Mulligan for: Wild Pyromancer, 1-cost spells, Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing (only if you have both), Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow

Expect Mech Mage, especially in this meta. Luckily, our deck is teched to beat it. We have a ton of board clears and can deal with their early aggression fairly well. Clear the board whenever possible unless it’s at a huge card loss (see sample problem above) and fight for board presence.

Mech Mage’s weakness is their lack of card draw. If you can keep up with them the first 4-5 turns, they run out of steam and will be looking for burn spells to end the game. Save your Shadow Word: Death for Archmage Antonidas. It’s tempting to use it on a Goblin Blastmage or Dr. Boom but while those cards are threatening, they won’t immediately lose you the game like an unanswered Antonidas will.

Lightbomb does great work in this match-up and you’ll love Holy Nova too once you’ve softened up the board.

Other variants of Mage aren’t as common, but both Freeze and Fatigue Mage match-ups are focused on drawing out the game. Push the initiative with Velen’s Chosen early on and try to pressure their life total. It’s not a favorable match-up, but you can win if you play proactively and they don’t draw perfect answers.

Rogue

  • Oil, Miracle, Tempo
  • Very Unfavorable
  • Mulligan for: Dark CultistInjured Blademaster + Circle of Healing, Northshire Cleric, Power Word: Shield, Zombie Chow

While Priest sports great match-ups against Hunter and Mage, Rogue is our own personal nightmare. Rogue is incredibly good against Priest because of its ability to clear efficiently while building their own board. To have any chance of winning, the key is to get something to stick. It might rely on your opponent not having Sap for instance. If you can get minions to stick, you have a reasonable chance of getting great value out of them, hopefully snowballing yourself to a dominating board.

Clear the board as often as you can. Lightbomb is unfortunately a little too slow most of the time, and Violet Teacher not being removed by it is a large problem too. So we’ll be relying on Auchenai and Circle or Pyro combos for the clear.

Try your best to get a Velen’s Chosen down and keep it alive. Doing so is a big win and can lead to victory. Just don’t expect to win this match-up very often.

Druid

  • Ramp, Mid-range, Combo
  • Even – Slightly Unfavorable
  • Mulligan for: Dark CultistInjured Blademaster + Circle of Healing, Northshire Cleric, Power Word: Shield, Zombie Chow, Velen’s Chosen

Druid is a match-up which I ought to have a good record against, but simply don’t. Maybe I got unlucky a bunch of times, but the more likely truth is I didn’t play proactively enough. Many times, you’ll get caught up playing passively as Priest. Unfortunately, this style doesn’t work too well against Druid due to their mid-range minions having more value than yours. Slapping a Velen’s Chosen on an early-game minion gives Druid all sorts of trouble though. If you can keep your board alive and force your opponent to use tempo-inefficient removal, you’re in a strong position.

Play more proactively against Druid while keeping yourself safe from the Force of Nature + Savage Roar combo and you’ll do alright. Lightbomb can get good value here as well in dealing with hidden Shade of Naxxramass and clearing Dr. Boom.

Warrior

  • Control, Math
  • Favorable
  • Mulligan for: Dark CultistInjured Blademaster + Circle of Healing, Northshire Cleric, Power Word: Shield, Zombie Chow

This deck isn’t as strong against Warrior as some other lists. Losing Mind Control in this match-up stings a bit, but we can compensate with a stronger and more proactive early game. Try to tempt out removal, and remember that card advantage is the most important resource.

Warrior is very dependent on their weapons and Acolyte of Pains to gain card advantage. Deny them this and they’ll run out of options well before you do. Make sure to draw at least one card off Northshire Cleric the turn you play it, and save your Shadow Word: Death for as long as you can. Cabal Shadow Priest is one of your strongest cards in this match-up. Stealing an Acolyte or an Armorsmith can do wonders for you.

The longer the game goes on, the less likely you are to win since Warrior has some amazing late-game legendaries that will bury you in value. Try to force him into some sub-optimal plays.

Paladin

  • Control, Midrange
  • Favorable
  • Mulligan for: Wild Pyromancer, 1-cost spells, Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing (only if you have both), Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow, Dark Cultist

Paladins nowadays tend to be more midrange-y, which unfortunately, makes them slightly tougher to beat since they can sometimes out-tempo you. However, we’re definitely favored because of the ease in which we can rid the board of 1 health minions via Wild Pyromancer. This card is crucial in this match-up, and it should be top priority for mulligans.

Paladin’s weakness is that it has limited card draw. Draw cards off Northshire Cleric and start out-valuing them. Cabal Shadow Priest again takes center stage once turn 6 comes along. Its Battlecry is very powerful and stealing a Shielded Minibot is huge value. Lightbomb is amazing against Paladin because they all run Dr. Boom and it’s also extremely good at killing off buffed Recruits from Quartermaster.

I never seem to draw it when I need it, but I keep thinking to myself how amazing it’d be if I had it. Overall, this is a favorable match-up if you clear carefully and generate card advantage.

Warlock

  • Zoo, Hand-lock
  • Favorable – Very Unfavorable
  • Mulligan for: Wild Pyromancer, 1-cost spells, Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing (only if you have both), Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow, Dark Cultist

It’s always safer to mulligan for Zoo because Handlock at least gives you a few turns to draw into answers. Zoo is a favored match-up because of your consistent and powerful board clears. Auchenai and Circle is the best clear against Zoo, so if you can, save that combo and destroy the whole board on turn 4. Zoo is often left with nothing. Moreover, you can even use Cabal Shadow Priest to turn his threats against him.

Hand-lock on the other hand is an abysmal match-up. Without Mind Control, you don’t stand a chance at out-valuing the Warlock, especially with Lord Jaraxxus looming. The one upside is that Lightbomb can get stupidly good value for you. The best way to win against Hand-lock is to build a board during the first 3 turns, clear out his threats, and play a Loatheb on turn 5 or 6, while lowering his life total to dangerous levels. From there, his only defense will be to Taunt, and you can sometimes eek past that with Auchenai Soulpriest and a Zombie Chow or two. If Jaraxxus comes down and you have nothing on the board, you might as well concede.

Luckily, Hand-lock has faded from the meta because of all the Big Game Hunters. Take advantage of this and use Priest to hunt the Hunters and Mages running amok.

Shaman

  • Midrange, Mech
  • Favorable – Very Favorable
  • Mulligan for: Wild Pyromancer, 1-cost spells, Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing (only if you have both), Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow, Dark Cultist

Shaman is pretty rare on ladder nowadays, and that’s a shame because it’s one of Priest’s strongest match-ups. Your amazing board clears make it tough for Shaman to get a foothold, and you have far superior card draw as well to take advantage of that lead. Mulligan for board clearing potential, plant some threats down, and try to wrestle board control from them.

Usually, Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing does the heavy lifting in the match-up, and Cabal Shadow Priest also can grab some sweet minions like Arcane Nullifier or Flametongue Totem. Play proactively, build a board, and bury them beneath card advantage.

Priest

  • Control
  • Even – Very Slightly Unfavorable
  • Mulligan for: Dark CultistInjured Blademaster + Circle of Healing, Northshire Cleric, Power Word: Shield, Zombie Chow

You’re looking for a control mulligan here. We want big threats that stick before our opponent’s. The winner in a Priest mirror match is usually the one that can get more minions to stick early. This allows the player to use his hero power to keep them alive. Blademaster + Circle is the best combination to get in a Priest mirror since Priest has a tough time dealing with 4 attack minions. A 4/7 on turn 3 is a nightmare and can often snowball to a fairly large lead.

Late-game, our deck will struggle against other Priest decks with Thoughtsteal and late-game threats like Sneed’s Old Shredder or Dr. Boom. Try to have a stronger, more proactive early game than they do and win before those big threats come down and they out-value you.

Alternatives/Tech Choices

Priest has a ton of options available to it and can be teched a number of different ways. However, my list is focused more on board presence as a result runs Zombie Chows and Velen’s Chosen.

You can go one step further and add Shadowboxer to the ring if you want to have a minion to play on turn 2 for a more efficient curve. Piloted Shredder is also an option if you want to truly compete with the other aggro classes. However, I feel you end up losing a few important spells for these cards so I tend not to include them.

Alternatively, you could veer away from being such an anti-aggro deck by including slower value cards like Thoughtsteal, Shadow Madness, and Mind Control.

Late-game threats you could add include: Dr. Boom, Ragnaros The Firelord, Sneed’s Old Shredder, Ysera, or even Foe Reaper 4000.

Priest has a lot of situational cards by nature. Here are a few more that can be really strong in the right meta:

Harrison Jones – Great against weapon classes and improves the Rogue match-up a tiny bit.

Mind Control Tech – If you’re really struggling to contain the aggression, putting one of these in could help. I don’t advocate for that though since we’ll generally take the board back through hard board clears or a more aggressive curve.

The Black Knight – A little more out there, but it helps against Druid. It has its place in the right Taunt-heavy meta.

Vol’jin – Many may be surprised that I left him out, but I feel he’s only really good against Druid and maybe Warrior. He’s far too slow against aggro decks, and he usually trades evenly with the card he steals health from. That doesn’t quite warrant a place in my deck over the big heal from Healbot or the spell-locking power of Loatheb.

Holy Fire – I like this card and have considered running it over Healbot. I personally prefer the larger heal and proactive approach of having a minion on board from the bot, but this can be really good and the additional burst damage is often very helpful.

Ultimately, I feel Priest decks are a lot about how comfortable you are with them, and the only way you can do this is by going out there and playing!

Conclusion

Thanks for reading my Control Priest guide! Please rate and comment, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Any questions you may have will also be answered down below.

I hope the light shall bring you victory!

About Camzeee

I am a three-time legend-ranked player with Level 60 heroes for every class. My favorite card in Hearthstone is Lord Jaraxxus (gold of course!) and I’m also an arena infinite player with over 800 arenas completed.

If you’re interested in Arena, here’s my Arena Mastery link and my own personal 12-Win Arena Log where I record every card/deck I’ve made it to 12 wins with (70+). 

I offer Ranked Ladder and Arena coaching through HearthstoneCoaching.com (founded by Sheng). Visit the site if you’re interested in having me coach you!