Deathrattle Priest: By the Fire and Light!

I have begun to see more and more priests climbing the ladder. Let's explore in detail a popular variant - the Deathrattle Priest!

Introduction

Hello friends, I’m Shudogin! The December season I have achieved legend ranking, playing a wide variety of decks. I highly recommend this Deathrattle Priest to people who wish to play a more advanced deck.

Recently, I have begun to see more and more priests climbing the ladder. Part of this can be attributed to Zetalot’s continuous success with Priest every season, and the fact that Priest has a chance to win versus almost any other class. While climbing to legend with my Face Hunter, I had matchups against decks like Control Warrior, where I struggled to maintain a 35% win rate. While playing this Priest deck, I found even in my worse matchups I had at least a 45% win rate. As with most control decks though, if you are attempting to climb to legend for the first time I would recommend playing one of the many aggressive decks that are flooding the ladder. These decks will give you an overview of many important concepts in Hearthstone, and allow more games to be played in less time. That being said, this deck is definitely competitively viable. Not only does this Deathrattle Priest have a variety of possible combos, it also puts you in a position to play mind games with your opponent. I had an incredible amount of fun playing this deck throughout the past weeks.

In short, if you are looking for a high skill cap deck that has positive win rates versus most other decks in Hearthstone, I would strongly suggest playing Deathrattle Priest.

Overview

Deathrattle priest originated shortly after the advent of the Naxxramus expansion. Popularized by professional play in tournaments, Priest saw a resurgence on the ladder, becoming one of the strongest classes in Hearthstone. In the past few weeks, Priest has again seen more play on the ladder.

One of the common complaints when building a Priest deck, is that there are simply too many good cards for Priest. Many cards in Priest are particularly decimating versus certain styles of play. It is possible to build a Priest deck that wins nearly every game versus aggressive decks, but will consistently lose versus control. Likewise, Priest can dominate control matchups, but will be handily rushed down by aggressive decks. In my deck, I am specifically aiming to do well against aggressive opponents, but also be able to make plays versus control decks.

With this deck, I attempt to gain early board control through use of the undertaker and many deathrattle friends. This allows me to snowball my advantage into Priest’s naturally strong late game.

Card Choices

Perhaps the most controversial part of any Priest deck is the card choices. As I mentioned before, there are many unique cards in the Priest arsenal. I will explain my rational behind each card choice here, and at the end of my card evaluation I will discuss the common Priest cards that did not make the cut.

  • circle-of-healing is a card that allows us to perform both aggressive and defensive combos. With obvious synergy with many cards in our deck, such as northshire-cleric, injured-blademaster, and auchenai-soulpriest, Circle of Healing is an amazing card in any Priest deck, whether control or deathrattle.
  • light-of-the-naaru is one of the new Goblin versus Gnomes cards that made the cut in my deck. One of the most controversial inclusions in this deck, Light of the Naaru provides great utility versus the aggression currently found on the ladder. Light of the Naaru essentially gives us healing on one of our large minions, along with another body, lightwarden. Combined with auchenai-soulpriest, Light of the Naaru functions as an improved frostbolt or darkbomb. When playing against control decks, Light of the Naaru is definitely less valuable, but in an aggressive environment, this card provides a valuable tech choice.
  • power-word-shield allows us to cycle our deck, and buff a minion cheaply. This card is particularly useful early in the game, allowing our minions to survive against aggression, and giving us more health to use our hero power on.
  • northshire-cleric is one of Priest’s signature cards. Northshire Cleric allows us to not only trade efficiently with many other one mana cost minions, but also gives us much-needed card draw in the late game.
  • undertaker is what allows us to utilize this deck to its full potential. The Undertaker allows us to have early game trading power, which is incredibly important when we play against decks that attempt to control the board early, such as Zoolock and Hunter. The beautiful part of this deck is that as the game goes on we have deathrattle minions holding nearly every mana slot. This means that even in the late game, we can still buff our Undertaker.
  • zombie-chow gives us incredible board control early in the game. Combined with our undertaker, we can trade with other early game minions very efficiently. The downside to Zombie Chow is that it heals our opponent for 5 health. If we hold board control, as the Chow allows us to, the additional 5 health is easily removed. Additionally, Zombie Chow provides a free mind-blast if combined with our auchenai-soulpriest. Therefore, even in the late game Zombie Chow stays relevant.
  • loot-hoarder is another important undertaker activator. Beyond powering up our Undertaker, the Loot Hoarder often makes 1 for 1 trades against other early game minions, and is self-replacing. The other option many aggressive classes run in this mana slot is the haunted-creeper, but because Loot Hoarder is self-replacing, it fits in our mid-range style deck more effectively.
  • shadow-word-death is traditionally one of Priest’s strongest cards. Even though Shadow Word Death is much-needed strong removal, I wrestled with its inclusion in this deck. Because so much removal was added to Priest’s arsenal in Goblins versus Gnomes, is it really necessary to include this card? With voljin, mind-control, and lightbomb, we have tons of removal already. In the end, there are a few match ups that Shadow Word Death (SW:D) makes itself irreplaceable in. Because most of our other removal is fairly expensive to play, SW:D gives us an affordable option to remove a threat immediately. Additionally, because it can target any creature with over 5 attack, SW:D can reach minions like tirion-fordring or doomguard that other methods of removal struggle with.
  • thoughtsteal is another card that was not an automatic inclusion in this deck. While traditionally Thoughtsteal helps Priests in match ups that involve control, the amount of other interesting cards added in Goblins versus Gnomes made it a hard sell. In the end, I decided to keep this card because of a few key features.

    • Thoughtsteal gives us pseudo-draw. While it may rarely provide useless cards, it essentially allows us to have 32 cards in our deck. While this is less important to a Deathrattle Priest, as opposed to a typical Control Priest, it is worth mentioning.
    • Thoughtsteal is great in a mirror match, or in control matchups. When playing versus other priests, almost any card in their deck will work in ours. Against control matchups, we are likely to draw cards that synergize well with our deck.

    Finally, in the case of a long-lasting game, Thoughtsteal provides valuable information about cards our opponent has not yet drawn. Beyond simply giving us two cards, we know for a fact that our opponent has not drawn these cards. This information allows us to modify our play style to this new information.

    Even though Thoughtsteal makes us lose tempo in the short-term, I believe it provides enough utility and draw to be worth keeping.

  • dark-cultist provides our deck with another Undertaker activator, as well as giving us a great 3 drop, simply by the stats. Many mid-range mech decks include the spider-tank, which is essentially a weaker Cultist.
  • injured-blademaster works well with many of the healing cards in our deck. If used in combination with circle-of-healing, Blademaster provides us a 3-7 early in the game, which is devastating for many opponents. Blademaster also provides another target for light-of-the-naaru.
  • auchenai-soulpriest is another card that encourages our deathrattle play style. Beyond the huge AoE board clear Soulpriest into circle-of-healing provides, the Soulpriest can be combined with many of our other cards for devastating effects. Combined with voljin, the Priest hero power becomes enough to remove any minion from the board. Even without Vol’jin, the 2 damage per turn allows us to stop our opponent’s aggression in its tracks. If combined with light-of-the-naaru, we have a stronger frostbolt in our arsenal. Perhaps the most common combo, is using the Soulpriest to convert our zombie-chow into a mind-blast. In conclusion, the Soulpriest provides many unique, and counter-intuitive, plays that not only increase the skill cap of Deathrattle priest, but also make this deck incredibly powerful.
  • loatheb is one of the best anti-clear mechanisms in the game. By essentially stalling the board state for a turn, Loatheb allows us to build our board uninterrupted. Another important use of Loatheb, is that we force our opponent to play minions instead of spells. By forcing minions to be played, we can use Loatheb to make our opponent to overextend into our AoE removal. The manipulation Loatheb allows us is game changing.
  • sludge-belcher is another piece of anti-aggro tech. This card battles holy-nova for this spot in the mana curve. Because Sludge Belcher very often provides trades in our favor, as well as providing us positive tempo, I included it in this deck.
  • voljin was one of Blizzard’s greatest gifts to Priests in Goblins versus Gnomes. One of my problems with many removal spells in Hearthstone, is that they inflict negative tempo on the person playing the removal. Vol’jin does not do that. Besides being incredibly cheap at 5 mana, Vol’jin provides us with a 6 attack creature on top of removal. While Vol’jin is vulnerable to silence, he is a still a great answer to many late game threats.
  • lightbomb is another card that had to fight for a spot in this deck. Essentially a powered up holy-nova, Lightbomb gives us another incredible answer to both aggressive and control decks overextending. When played correctly, Lightbomb will almost always clear our opponent’s board. Additionally, because many of the minions used in our deck have more health than attack, our minions usually survive the Lightbomb. I am curious about the lack of attention this card has received, I have found it to be one of the strongest one card board clears in the game. Ultimately, this is another high skill cap card that makes this Priest deck incredibly powerful.
  • cabal-shadow-priest allows us to wreck aggressive decks as the game goes on. The only thing more satisfying than denying our opponent their minions, is using their own minions against them. When playing against aggressive decks, we can often steal key threats from them, such as mad-scientist, webspinner, acolyte-of-pain, etc. These tempo swings combined with a 4-5 body on the board allow us to further snowball the game in our favor.
  • dr-boom is possibly the single strongest card released in Goblins versus Gnomes. There are few decks that cannot utilize the power that this robust 7/7 offers. Because Dr. Boom offers removal with his Boom Bots, and then a 7/7 body afterward, he can be played on almost any board state. Additionally, even if our opponent removes Dr. Boom, the Boom Bots still give us some value.
  • mind-control is arguably the strongest tempo-swing in the game. While not offering as much value against an aggressive opponent, Mind Control gives us a chance to outplay many other control decks. Even though most tech choices in this deck focus on the aggressive opponent, Mind Control is strong enough to give us the upper hand in longer lasting games.

Card Exclusions

When constructing a deck in Hearthstone, one usually picks certain “core” cards that define the win conditions, play style, and tempo of the deck. Once the core cards have been added, a few tech cards are added to the deck to help it deal with certain match ups. Priest is unique in the fact that when I build a priest deck, I select only a few “core” cards, and find that I have many tech oriented cards. To that end, I will give a few honorable mentions to cards that are seeing a lot of play in other Priest decks, but I have decided to not include.

  • holy-nova is one of the AoE cards that many people first associate with Priest. I have chosen to drop this card due to its tempo loss. Simply put, dealing 2 damage to each enemy minion for 5 mana is a rip off. By turn 5, any control deck is going to be playing threats that have much more health than 2. Furthermore, because we have a significant amount of early threats there are very few control decks that will be able to have a board presence against us on turn 5. Any future threats a control deck will be playing will likely laugh at being hit for 2 damage. I find thatLightbomb is better in this case, being that for one mana more, it will one shot most control deck’s end game threats.Against aggressive decks that are vulnerable to 2 damage, such as Zoolock, Hunter’s early minions, and Shaman, Holy Nova falls short in several aspects. Because these decks know that they are weak to AoE, they often include anti-AoE minions such as nerubian-egg or haunted-creeper. Because we include a large amount of minions that can efficiently trade with these aggressive decks early in the game, it is unlikely that they will be able to build up a large enough board to warrant us using 5 mana to deal 2 damage.

    Now there is obviously the healing attached to Holy Nova, which does make it a bit more attractive. Because we already use 2 circle-of-healing, light-of-the-naaru and our hero power, most of the time I found that I would rather use the 5 mana that Holy Nova costs to develop my board through other means.

  • holy-smite synergizes well with voljin, but in most other cases ends up being a huge tempo hit for us to play. In the early game, we usually have no trouble playing on curve, and the two damage dealt by this card can as easily be dealt by a minion. Holy Smite works well in a more control oriented priest deck, where the priest often times does not have minions to play early, and needs to have a way to take out key threats.
  • shrinkmeister has seen a lot of play since Goblins versus Gnomes. It is one of the most interesting GvG cards, and allows for some hilarious interactions. There is never a time that it is not funny to steal a grommash-hellscream from our opponent. That being said, the very minimum mana cost for the Shrinkmeister cabal-shadow-priest interaction is 8 mana. That is way past our mana curve in this deck, as a more mid-ranged priest deck. If we draw the Shrinkmeister early in the game, we are usually forced to play him. When not combined with a Cabal Shadow Priest, Shrinkmeister offers little to our deck. I found this combo to be too inconsistent to be played.
  • shadow-word-pain has seen an influx of play with more priests utilizing shrinkmeister. Because we do not use the Shrinkmeister, it follows that Shadow Word Pain is also dropped in favor of more early aggression.
  • shadow-madness is another common priest card. I tend to focus on cards that allow me to keep the tempo advantage in most of my decks. Shadow Madness absolutely presents a huge tempo swing, especially if we can use it to “collect” one of our opponent’s minion’s deathrattles, and additionally damage another minion on their side of the board. The reason that Shadow Madness does not work in this deck is not because of the tempo associated with it. The reason that I cut Shadow Madness was simply that by maintaining the pressure that our early undertaker gives, I found it rare for my opponent to have 2 minions out for me to use Shadow Madness on. In the case that the enemy begins to spew out minions, I would rather have auchenai-soulpriest to deal with them, as opposed to Shadow Madness.

Playing this Deck

Playing this deck involves using our incredibly sticky early game minions to develop a board advantage, and then pressing that advantage to consistently put damage on our opponent’s face. This can be supplemented by our various combos and removal.

Generally speaking, this deck has an incredibly high skill cap. In order to keep a tempo advantage, it is critical that we are aware of the plays the enemy can make, and the plays that we have. One of the challenges that is most prevalent in this deck is the urge to overextend. It is often very tempting to throw out all the minions we have in our hand to give ourselves a lead. There are certain classes that can punish this behavior strongly. I will address this more in my Class Specific section.

General Mulligans

When playing this deck, we want to get our early deathrattle minions out to start our snowball. This means that we always value having:

  • undertaker
  • zombie-chow
  • northshire-cleric
  • loot-hoarder
  • circle-of-healing

If we have Circle of Healing, it is also acceptable to keep Injured Blademaster.

Class Specific Matchups

Playing this deck to its full potential relies on playing around our opponent. This is how I dealt with certain match ups.

Zoolock

This matchup is incredibly reliant on us having our early game minions. Always mulligan for zombie-chow and undertaker. If we have these minions, dark-cultist or injured-blademaster + circle-of-healing strongly tilt this match in our favor.

Playing against Zoolock is fairly straight forward. We want to control the board the entire game. If we get a weak opening hand, auchenai-soulpriest and Circle of Healing can return board control to us. In general, Soulpriest is extremely strong in this matchup, since Zoolock relies on many minions that have 2 or less health, making them easy targets to be “healed”. Additionally, cabal-shadow-priest has many great minions to steal in this match.

Zoolock rarely runs large minions, beyond 2 doomguard and 1 sea-giant. These minions can be disposed of by using shadow-word-death and voljin as we see fit.

If we get a favorable opening hand, this is one of Deathrattle Priest’s strongest matchups.

Hunter

Hunter is another great matchup for Deathrattle Priest. Most of hunter’s turn one and turn two minions have a very difficult time dealing with northshire-cleric, this makes it the card we are primarily mulliganing for.

Most Hunter decks have a strong opening, and then a strong finishing combo with savannah-highmane. We can snowball our advantage in the time between these two phases. injured-blademaster and circle-of-healing particularly shine in this matchup, allowing us to shut the hunter down.

This should be one of Deathrattle Priest’s best matchups.

Mage

We deal with Mech Mage similarly to how we deal with Zoolock, by controlling the board. Because Mech Mage can spew out hordes of minions early in the game due to mechwarper, it is important that we mulligan for auchenai-soulpriest and circle-of-healing combo. If we manage to draw this combo, the rest of the match tends to fall into place.

When playing against Mech Mage, it is important to shut down their early aggression. Fortunately, that is one area that Deathrattle Priest excels in. Make sure to focus on removing their mechwarper, and the rest of the match becomes fairly straight forward.

Handlock

Handlock is one of Deathrattle Priest’s hardest matchups. While it is true that Handlock has the advantage in this match, lightbomb and auchenai-soulpriest zombie-chow give us a chance at winning. Once I learned how to deal with Handlock, the matchup became much easier for me.

To win this match, it is important that we use our removal tools to their full potential. We should mulligan aggressively for our undertaker and activators, the more we can develop our board before turn 4 the better. In this match, using our zombie-chow in conjunction with our Soulpriest gives us huge burst damage that will catch the Handlock by surprise. Finally, this is one match where we have to play around AoE. Keep in mind that if we hit the Warlock below 10 health, he can molten-giant shadowflame combo us. It is wise to not overextend in this matchup.

Dealing with Handlock’s large minions:

  • voljin shines at removing Handlock’s large threats.
  • lightbomb should be saved for when the Handlock has more than 2 giants, dr-boom, or ragnaros-the-firelord on the board. If he has less than 2 of these threats, we should try to use other removal methods on them.
  • mind-control can be used to remove a taunted minion as we attempt to achieve lethal damage.

Control Warrior

Because Deathrattle Priest contains so many mid-range threats, Control Warrior is a manageable matchup. Once again, in this matchup we mulligan aggressively for our undertaker and its activators. injured-blademaster can also be a powerful card against Control Warrior, if the Warrior does not have enough armor to shield-slam the Blademaster. The longer this match lasts, the more the Warrior is favored.

Playing against a Warrior, our primary goal is to win in the mid-game. It is important to keep the Warrior’s armor at a minimum, reducing the effectiveness of shield-slam. It is also important to remove the Warrior’s acolyte-of-pain before he gains a card advantage. cabal-shadow-priest is an excellent answer to both acolyte-of-pain and armorsmith.

Priest

The Priest mirror match provides many challenging mechanics. There are several unique card interactions to be aware of.

Be careful when using northshire-cleric, whether you heal a minion or your opponent heals a minion, a card is still drawn. Particularly in the case where 2 Northshire Clerics are in play, a well-played circle-of-healing can result in overdrawing.

thoughtsteal is particularly valuable in this matchup, as the cards drawn are almost always useful.

shadow-madness provides an interesting mechanic to play around, it is important to not give our opponent free deathrattles. Additionally, try to not leave cards like loot-hoarder laying around on the board for a cabal-shadow-priest to steal.

Conclusion

My first love in Hearthstone decks is definitely Handlock, but Priest holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been playing various incarnations of Priest since beta, due to the relatively cheap cost of Priest decks to craft, and have enjoyed every minute of it. I have found this particular deck to be a successful option as I play games in legend, and it is an absolute blast to play. This deck will push your ingenuity to the limit with the vast amount of possible combos and mind games. I greatly appreciate any questions, feedback, or suggestions, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected], or comment below! If you enjoyed my guide, consider giving it a upvote on the bottom of the page!