F2P Focus: Miracle Priest

Hey, guys. It’s RaFive, with some Miracle Priest love for the F2Pers today! A F2P combo Priest utilizing the power of Gadgetzan.

Introduction

Hey, guys. It’s RaFive, with some Miracle Priest love for the F2Pers today!

Legendary Hearthstoner Reynad recently put together a deck using the draw power of Gadgetzan Auctioneer combined with the cheap and effective spells available to Priest. While the core of Reynad’s version is quite cheap, it runs some really expensive cards that I (and most F2Pers) don’t have (Vol’jin, Gazlowe), and a couple weak, questionable picks (Mind Vision, anyone?). I’ve taken it upon myself to craft a viable F2P version of this style that incorporates the fun Auctioneer shenanigans while remaining inexpensive to try. Onward!

Overview

The basic idea — as I’m sure most readers are familiar with by now — is to get Gadgetzan Auctioneer out, draw a ton of cards including health buffs like Power Word: Shield / Velen’s Chosen as well as the two combo pieces of Divine Spirit and Inner Fire, and then finish with a minion buffed to insane levels of burst, probably Shade of Naxxramas. This means you’re looking at lots of spells, lots of tech, and some stealth minions.

The two combo pieces of Inner Fire and Divine Spirit are no-brainers, and with Auctioneer’s draw power (plus lots of other nice minion buffs) we only need to run one of each, since they’re quite weak when not being actively used in a combo. Silence, Power Word: Shield, and Holy Smite are also no-brainers for this style of play, especially in the current shenanigan-heavy board-flood-y metagame.

Reynad’s original version runs Mind Vision as a cheap trigger for Gazlowe and Gadgetzan Auctioneer. This is fine for cheaply cycling into minions with Gazlowe, especially in light of the excellent board control that Vol’jin and Sylvanas Windrunner provide, but going F2P means we need more consistent board presence to make up for the legendaries we’re losing, so one Mind Vision goes out for a Light of the Naaru while another gets upgraded to a Mechanical Yeti for heftier midrange board presence that still gives up a cantrip to cycle off Auctioneer when necessary. Gazlowe, likewise, is there to keep your board sturdier in the midgame, so I’ve put in another Mech Yeti where he used to be.

The rest of the spells are fairly no-brainer. Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Word: Death make excellent removal at all stages of the game, Holy Nova helps you keep your board intact against swarms of opposing minions, and Velen’s Chosen makes your minions insanely difficult to kill, swinging tempo wildly in your favor against aggressive decks. Staple picks like Circle of Healing, Mind Control, and Thoughtsteal are too slow to combo with Auctioneer or otherwise weaken the focus of the deck.

With regard to minions, there are two more significant swaps I’ve made from Reynad’s original list to keep this deck F2P. Vol’jin is there to slow your opponent down or secure an advantageous board state, so Loatheb makes a solid alternative pick at that cost. Last but not least, for those who don’t have Sylvanas Windrunner, Argent Commander is the classic F2P substitute (although if you have Sylvanas, she’s the single card that will most strengthen this deck).

The rest of the minions are fairly straightforward. Northshire Cleric is your early-game card draw and also a substantial check against early aggression when combined with cards like Power Word: Shield, Light of the Naaru, Holy Smite, and Velen’s Chosen. Wild Pyromancer combines with all your cheap spells as early board clear. Shade of Naxxramas gives you the option of either a solidly rampy midrange minion, or else a slowly building deathbomb that will explode into your opponent’s face once you draw into your combo. Auctioneer gives you draw later in the game, and Mind Control Tech inexpensively steals games against the board-flood style that’s currently popular.

How to Play

The traditional Miracle style is to mulligan really hard for Gadgetzan Auctioneer and then hang on for dear life waiting to play him and draw a ton of cards. I’ve found this is actually counterproductive in Miracle Priest. Between Northshire Cleric and Power Word: Shield, you’ll typically have enough early draw power that Auctioneer will pop in while you’re busy doing other stuff to secure your board and clear your opponent’s minions.

Instead, it’s much better to mulligan hard for Clerics, PW:S, Holy Smite, and Velen’s Chosen (along with Wild Pyromancer and Silence if you’re facing a playstyle that floods the board). There’s a twofold advantage here. Firstly, these are actually strong cards that are quite effective in most matchups. While testing this deck, I found myself ahead enough with a strong Velen’s Chosen start so often that I only needed the combo to close the game out maybe one time in three. More importantly, however, most of the lower-end cards Miracle Priest runs look quite similar to a control Priest’s early turns, which will throw your opponent off and cause game-winning misplays.

The main challenge in playing this deck is finding the right balance. It’s quite easy to overextend and quickly lose a minion into which you’ve sunk a couple buff cards and two mana for a heal. On the other hand, it’s also quite easy to lose by greedily holding cheap spells for Auctioneer and then being unable to respond when an enemy Loatheb or Dr. Boom hits your board. This deck is powerful but fairly slow even with draw power, so you need to stay poised for a response.

As far as establishing that general posture, I’ve found this deck does best when you proactively establish an early, commanding presence via Velen’s Chosen and then play an aggressive reactionary style that keeps your opponent’s board shut down.

One last little aside. The sickest combo you can run with this deck is not, in fact, the satisfying-but-rare Shade of Naxxramas + Divine Spirit + Inner Fire finisher. Instead, it’s Light of the Naaru into Velen’s Chosen. A 3/6 that gains 2 attack every time a heal comes out is a truly scary beast, and one that will win you a lot of games after hilarious floundering attempted responses from your opponent. The Priest hero power gives this tactic so much survivability that it’s typically game over unless your opponent has strong removal handy.

Matchups are… weird in this deck. It’s strong against Hunter, Zoo, and aggressive Mage because it runs four board clears and Velen’s Chosen. Druid has a hard time bursting you down if you play for board denial, which should generally let you draw into your combo. Muster Paladin is pretty even but should be favored your way because of Wild Pyromancer until about turn 8 with the Muster for Battle / Quartermaster combo. Priest has lots of cards to steal yours, and better high-end with Mind Control and the like, plus life gain to stay out of combo range, so that’s one of the tricky matchups for this deck, alongside Control Warrior for similar reasons of high end and life gain. Handlock is draw-dependent and hard to win without the combo. I haven’t encountered enough Rogue or Shaman to substantively comment on matchups for this list.

Substitutions

The decklist is pretty tight as-is and doesn’t have a whole lot of room to shift around on pure F2P considerations. There’s good board clear in the deck already, so Mind Control Tech could get swapped out for something like a Big Game Hunter or another Light of the Naaru. If you take out BGH for LoN, you could also take out one Silence for a Circle of Healing and replace the Mechanical Yetis with Auchenai Soulpriest for a slightly more adaptable board presence at the expense of cantrips for Gadgetzan Auctioneer.

The biggest favor you can do yourself, however, is to have a legendary or two on hand to give yourself that scary mid-to-late-game board. Sylvanas Windrunner, Vol’jin, and Dr. Boom all make fantastic curve-toppers in this deck, as does Gazlowe (but if you have him, you should probably have crafted more broadly useful legendaries first). If you want to improve your list a little bit more on the cheap, Faceless Manipulator goes great in this deck, as well, probably replacing Argent Commander (and giving you an opportunity to duplicate a combo’d minion for maximum BM).

Conclusion

I guarantee you haven’t played anything like this deck. That’s a pretty rare experience in F2P, where cost constraints tend to mean you’re hovering constantly around Zoo, Hunter, and maybe mech Mage if you’re interested in viable decklists. Thankfully, Reynad has come up with a great new style of play here, and I’ve appropriately modified it and pared it down to be F2P-viable. I’m definitely looking forward to a lot of confused Hunters on ladder in the next few days — go ahead and get a taste of that better metagame!