Welcome to the Hearthstone Stratagem, the place in which I go through all of the top Legend rank & competitively used decks.
In this post, I include the information that you need to understand how these decks work, in terms of what strategy each deck is based upon, the cards to dig for or bury when it comes time to mulligan and the matchup’s to learn.
Every deck is different, even if only a few cards are changed at one time, each deck has a strategy and a way to play it, through this post, I’m going to try to explain how the decks listed work and what you should know about them.
Navigation & Structure
For each of the decks listed, I attempt to gather as much detail as possible, through the guides and information found within the Hearthstone community, through my own experience playing the decks & against them and the understanding of the Hearthstone meta game. Each deck will list the following:
- Card Reasoning
- Potential Card Switches
- Matchup Knowledge
- Amaz Control Priest
- Zetalot’s Tempo Priest
Amaz’ Control Priest – August 2014, Patch: 6187
When looking at control Priest decks, it is important to recognise that there are many different variations of the top priest decks with small changes in certain cards that fit around specific meta-games. As this is the case, I am going to take the base of Priest control decks that was often seen used by one of the top Priest mains, Amaz. From there, I will put some stress onto side-boarding around the meta-game with the many variations and card choices that are often seen in other Priest decks.
This specific deck is the basis of Priest, as the class often concentrates on being able to sustain into the late stages of the game by having strong removal and combo’s to be able to control the board and survive until you can finish off the game, which in many Priest games can happen through fatigue – Since Priest games always last a few hours… By having it’s strong combo’s and ability to keep up board pressure by keeping your side of the field healthy and the opponent’s side as minimal as possible. If you would like more information than what is found here, check out Amaz’ Guide.
- 2x Circle of Healing
- 2x Holy Smite
- 2x Power Word: Shield
- 2x Northshire Cleric
- 1x Mind Blast
- 2x Wild Pyromancer
- 2x Shadow Word: Death
- 2x Thoughtsteal
- 2x Earthen Ring Farseer
- 2x Injured Blademaster
- 2x Auchenai Soulpriest
- 2x Holy Nova
- 2x Azure Drake
- 2x Holy Fire
- 1x Cabal Shadow Priest
- 1x Sylvanas Windrunner
- 1x Ragnaros the Firelord
2x Holy Smite can be used to pick off the opponents board, burst for lethal damage or as an activating spell for Wild Pyromancer.
2x Earthern Ring Farseeer can provide the ability to heal your minions such as an Injured Blademaster or keep Anduin healthy, then if combined with a Northshire Cleric, you may could be able to get card advantage over your opponent. As well as this, you also have the possibility to combine it with Auchenai Soulpriest‘s to be able to deal 3 damage to an a 3/3 that can trade blows with the opponent.
1x Cabal Shadow Priest is used in and out of different control Priest decks, some running two copies and some running one. The Cabal is an interesting card as it provides in some form, the same utility-type of 6 drop that The Black Knight is used for, as it’s a Yeti + an ability worth 2 mana.
The Cabal is mainly used depending on the meta and what you face against that can often give you a hard time, when considering using Cabal just remember that against many matchups it can sit in your hand as a 6 cost 4/5 until you have to play it or manage to steal that Slime from the opponents dead Sludge Belcher.
1x Sylvanas Windrunner is a very strong play for a Priest deck as it can manage to create situations in which you may lack board control though the threat of the deathrattle and 5 attacking minion can cause trouble for the opponent and become something they have to deal with. One of power plays that Priest decks can often have is the ability to kill of their own Sylvanas with Shadow Word: Death to steal an opponents minion; whether that be on the same turn Sylvanas is played or after attacking if she’s already in play, it can be an incredibly game-changing move when the opponents Ragnaros start’s throwing fire at their face instead of yours.
Potential Card Switches
There are quite a few different card switches that could be considered when creating a Priest Control deck. The cards in the above deck list & potential card switches may not even include all of the cards that people may use in their own Priest Control variations. Though, as there are so many variations of the Priest Control deck, you can make your own assessments and see what variation you prefer.
Silence is a card that just allows a control-based Priest have even more ability to remove the opponents threats. With Silence also having no mana cost, it makes it much easier to fit into your turns and deal with a threat that needs to be silenced and also be able to use the current turns mana to slam down minions or use other spells – As long as Loatheb isn’t around of course…
Crazed Alchemist can be explained simply – It’s a tech card. It has amazing potential as a game changing card that can literally ‘flips’ the game around in your favour, when that monstrous 4/12 Ysera suddenly has 12 attack. Though, with the usage on your own minions and being able to swap the attack & health, trade and then heal your minion can be useful to take out larger minions or keep one of your more valuable minions alive.
As an example, think of a full-healed Injured Blademaster that can be flipped to create a 7/4, take out a big minion worth the higher mana cost and manage to keep the rest of your board, if you have one alive and healthy and then have a 2/2 on field also!
Shadow Word: Pain is self-explanatory – Pick it up based on the meta game and when you feel it’s needed. If late game decks die out and aggro becomes much more prevalent than consider removing a Shadow Word: Death to replace it with Pain.
Dark Cultist is the card that Priests were incredibly happy about when Naxxramas was announced due to a strong 3 drop with a powerful deathrattle. The DC can easily fit into a Priest deck, replacing Earthern Ring Farseer‘s if you think that the more powerful tempo is more useful than the additional healing. DC’s also have great synergy with other minions that Priest will often run such as Injured Blademaster or Wild Pyromancer, then you have potential of running your DC into its death when you have only 1 minion that can be useful to have buffed to trade even further with the opponent.
Shadow Madness can be considered for its ability to turn annoying and frustrating situations in which your opponent has minions blocking your path that you can turn crazy, steal and then trade them into the opponents minions; killing both and being able to use the rest of your board into the opponent’s face or the remnants of their board.
Prophet Velen is quite a niche pick for Priest, though can be used as often seen within Priest decks designed by the player Zetalot. Velen can work in Control Priest due to the ability to keep Anduin & his board healthy throughout longer games in which sustain can be prevalent part of winning. Velen also offers burst potential with cards such as Holy Smite & Mind Blasr as for low mana cost you can finish off your opponents in style once they’re low enough for a lethal burst. One of the main cons of running Velen is the risk of him being removed instantly, as opponents will not want him giving you the advantage from your spells & hero power.
Ysera is a super late game card that can be incredibly hard to deal with as it’s 12 health requires a heavy hitting minion or removal spell to remove it from the board, which provides you with additional cards to work with throughout the long-lasting games that Priests often end up in by surviving with heals and board control.
Mind Control can be amazing if your opponent slams down their Ragnaros in hopes & despair to win the game and you manage to snatch it, if you’re still alive. When considering Mind Control, you need to think about the current meta and what you play against mostly, if you find that aggressive decks and the early game is too hard to deal with, then Mind Control will most likely be a dead card, even more so if you draw it as you won’t easily find the big targets worth spending 10 mana to steal. Though if late game decks, such as Druid ramp decks and other control decks become more popular within the meta game, Mind Control can be considered useful, though there is still the question – Is it really worth 10 mana?
Some other considerations that explain themselves simply that you may want to think about when theory-crafting your own Control Priest deck can be found below:
Harrison Jones, Loatheb, Cairne Bloodhoof, Sludge Belcher & The Black Knight.
Mulligans & Matchups
Standard Mulligan: Dig for your early drops including Northshire Cleric, Injured Blademaster & Wild Pyromancer to be able to remove opponents early game or use as a 3/2 for board presence. If you have a Blademaster, keeping a Circle of Healing can be useful & even better if combined with a Cleric for card draw.
If you don’t know the matchup, such as when against Warlock and it could range from the aggression of small minions in Zoo or massive turn 4 minions in Handlock then you should keep your small drops and ability to draw, including Power Word: Shield & Thoughtsteal. Keep in mind that Priest isn’t always about keeping the board completely clear, you want to be able to survive throughout the game and maintain value from your minions.
Vs. Aggro: Look for the ability to remove your opponents board and keep up board pressure. Keeping your Pyromancer can be useful if you manage to draw into your spells to remove the opponents board. If you are quite sure that your opponent is playing Aggro, then when in hand, it can be acceptable to keep your Auchenai Soulpriest & Circle of Healing combo to be able to ensure your AoE is available when needed. Aside from your board clear, stick with your early minions to pressure the board and keep them alive & healthy using your hero power to make the most favourable trades possible.
Vs. Generic Control: Dig for your standard to keep up early board pressure, if you find a Thoughsteal in your starting hand, it can be kept to provide some foresight on the opponents and potential get some sneaky steals on their big creatures or high impacting spells.
When playing against the standard of control, you want to be able to get board pressure and keep it up as much as possible without over-extending into AoE removals and being baited into things like Hex & Polymorph when you want to slam down your late game creatures. When playing against control, keep in mind that most control decks will run strong late game creatures such as Ragnaros the Firelord, even more so against Control Warrior that often runs a high amount of legendaries making their late game very strong. When against these decks you have to make sure you don’t waste your removal including Shadow Word: Death‘s that are going to be needed to delete their late game creatures they slam down on the board.
One of the reasons Priest can do incredibly well against control is the ability to keep up board pressure, remove the opponents board and be able to sustain throughout the mid to late phase. Though, in addition to this, Thoughtsteal can work incredibly to figure out what cards the opponent has in their back pocket and potentially steal their removal and/or strong creatures. If you find yourself against different control decks, as a Control Priest you need to be prepared to sideboard your tech cards and have the counter cards to deal with other decks; as an example here are a few cards that can often be side-boarded in the control meta game.
– Harrison Jones is amazing when you find yourself against a ton of Warrior, removing their weapons and gaining additional draw, even if it’s only 1 card can be a huge step up and provide a lead that makes Harrison completely worth using.
– The Black Knight can be incredibly useful against many control decks, though even more so against Druid as they often have a high amount of taunts and when you manage to instantly remove that 5/10 Ancient of War that can otherwise be hard to deal with.
– Faceless Manipulator can also be used when playing against a heavy control based meta due to your opponents often running large creatures that you can copy for nearly half the mana cost.
Vs. Handlock: Look for your board pressure minions to try to manage their early board. Keeping Wild Pyromancer, Power Word: Shield & Cleric to possibly be able to draw a ton of cards can be useful to keep up with their high amount of draw from Life Tap. Thoughsteal can be strong against Handlock as they have some great spells and strong creatures that if you manage to steal can give you a huge advantage.
Remember – Giants will hurt. Shadow Word: Death will be incredibly useful to remove their huge minions, though be aware that Handlock can often have even more minions that are worth your SW:D including Ragnaros. Though to make the matchup easier, The Black Knight can be really useful to remove the high amount of taunts. With this in mind, keeping an SW:D is completely a choice that can work out really well, though if you find your opponent is not playing any early giants or even worse; it’s actually a Zoo deck! Then digging for a minion in replacement for the SW:D may have been the better option.
Zetalot’s Tempo Priest – September 2014, Patch: Naxx Launch
This is a Priest deck that became possible and quite popular through the strong deathrattle abilities that came with the Naxxramas expansion. This deck as the name suggests, is a Tempo style of Priest that drops down powerful early minions that with a powerful start then takes board control and attempts to keep it throughout the game until the opponent is dead. Though it sounds very simple, it isn’t all about aggression, knowing how and when to trade efficiently is important and getting the most favourable (for you, of course) deathrattle proc’s to help your own board.
As an example, trading your Dark Cultist into an opponent to buff another minion on board (Much easier when only 1 -2 minions to have atleast 50% chance of buffing the correct one) and with the additional health, then trade and keep the buffed minion alive.
- 2x Circle of Healing
- 2x Northshire Cleric
- 2x Power Word: Shield
- 2x Dark Cultist
- 1x Shadow Word: Death
- 2x Thoughtsteal
- 2x Auchenai Soulpriest
- 1x Holy Nova
- 2x Cabal Shadow Priest
- 2x Undertaker
- 2x Zombie Chow
- 2x Loot Hoarder
- 2x Injured Blademaster
- 1x Baron Rivendare
- 1x Defender of Argus
- 2x Sludge Belcher
- 1x Cairne Bloodhoof
- 1x Sylvanas Windrunner
The Bread & Butter of this Tempo style deck comes from its ability to gain a huge start early through a few different cards. These cards can just be discussed very simply and as a bunch since they all work together – There is no I in team but there is definitely an I in Undertaker, right?
The whole idea of Undertaker into a turn 2 Loot Hoarder and then a turn 3 Dark Cultist is mouth-watering when YOU have that hand and it’s absolutely disgusting when you’re not playing the deck and someone else just happens to have that hand… Though it won’t and does not always happen, when it does – It’s incredibly powerful. Keeping your Zombie Chow’s is also fine, though as seen a little bit below in the Mulligans section, you really want your Undertaker(s) in your starting hand.
Shadow Word: Death may seem a little strange to some, though considering you may expect to finish games before SWD is really needed, though when you don’t overwhelm the opponent quick enough – Having one is just too good; With great power, sorry I mean – ‘With great Undertakers, comes great responsibility.’ Not having a Death would just be irresponsible, you’re not irresponsible are you?
Cabal Shadow Priest is just a great card – A yeti + 2 mana ability, similar to The Black Knight, just not invincible. As a Tempo deck should do, managing to maintain value is important. One of the great things about the Cabal is that in many situations, stealing away the opponents minions, such as a Harvest Golem for example, gives you a huge boost in board pressure and allows you to keep trading favourably.
Baron Rivendare gives you the ability to combo with the huge amount of deathrattle abilities that you can proc and create havoc for the enemy to deal with. Some useful things to keep in mind;
– Sylvanas can steal two minions once the Baron is on board, if you plan accordingly you can manage to make some strong plays.
– Double draws from Loot Hoarders if you didn’t manage to draw them earlier, or for some reason, they might still be alive.
– Sludge Belcher is sticky enough. Make it more annoying and have another Slime.
– Zombie Chow & Auchenai Combo allows you to deal damage – Double the damage with the Baron. Double the fun.
Potential Card Switches
Haunted Creeper can be used if you prefer the ability to token up the board and possibly give synergy to your Argus and also give Dark Cultist more tokens to buff up to make small trades. This can work though with the decklist as it stands, it’s powerful enough and if anything, the creeper just slows the deck down.
Loatheb can be used in replacement of Sylvanas as another mid to late game creature. Though Sylvanas gives the powerful deathrattle, Loatheb gives you the ability to swarm the board and then prevent the opponent from shutting you down – Only for 1 turn, BUT that single turn could also be what buys you lethal.
Shadow Madness is a consideration in replacement of a Cabal Shadow Priest if you find that at turn 6, you can’t find the best targets for the ability. Personally, I love this card just because it allows you to take control of a 3 attack minion and make incredibly strong plays. It’s a consideration that I’d say is completely up to you!
I won’t say too much else, though the deck has seen some action from other Naxx cards. I’m looking at you, Feugen.
Mulligans & Matchups
As I said a little bit when talking about the Bread & Butter concept for this deck, the basics are incredibly simple and does not change too much for match-up considerations. So here’s the basic mulligan you will be looking for:
Dig for your Undertaker, Zombie Chow & Loot Hoarder – Keeping a Dark Cultist is completely fine, though the already mentioned trio of cards are better if you can get hold of them.
This deck does rely on having a strong start, it’s all about getting tempo and maintaining it throughout the whole game until you win. Yes, you can go face – Trading effectively can often leave you with many options to go face, though take care in how you approach the board. When you have a high amount of damage, it does not mean that face is the answer, if they easily rid of your early game and drop something to stick to the board and keep you from stealing back the tempo and board pressure you can soon find yourself losing.
Below, I’ve discussed some match-up considerations that you should think about actively as it can often be foresight and the mental understanding of what is actually possible for the opponent then playing around the possibilities.
Vs. Druid: Innervates & Swipes, even more so when combined with spell power can be a little bit of a problem. Swipe is obvious, for its AoE clearing, even if your minions are mixed health it can cause issues. When considering Innervate you need to have in mind that a Druid can very easily get something big very early, which in turn can shut down your board.
Vs. Hunter: Secrets are incredibly annoying, as is the Hunter spam in general – Though make sure you plan around them and think wisely about all outs that could come from the different secret possibilities. The next thing, even though Buzzard was stuck at a 5 cost, be aware of Unleash the Hounds, it could prove a problem if you swarm the board.
Vs. Mage: Freeze spells in general, even more so (Depending on when you’re reading, of course) if Freeze Mage is popular in the meta. Frost Nova, Blizzard and the ever-so-scary Doomsayer which can be a huge issue. Of course Flamestrike does exist, though it’s usually too late for that, though if it gets to turn 7 (Or 6 if you know they have Coin) then keep it in mind! When you have 4 or more minions on the board, take into consideration how Cone of Cold[card] could be used the most effectively, and just in case you are running cards that can’t be targeted by spells, make sure you stick them in the middle!
Vs. Paladin: Equality. Consecrate. [card]Wild Pyromancer. Stampeding Kodo – If you’re up against control atleast. Against an aggro deck, be careful of Divine Favor if they seem to be rushing to empty their hand though holding onto a single card, treasuring it evermore…
Vs. Priest: Holy Nova can be an issue at turn 5, though the main thing is the mass 4 damage AoE from a Auchenai & Circle combo. Aside from that, keep in mind that Shadow Word: Death could be made useful by your opponent if you continue buffing up any of your minions.
Vs. Rogue: They can have many different ways to remove your board. Main things to be aware of include: Blade Flurry, Sap & their ability to combo out strong cards early on. So be aware of SI7’s & Backstab’s since they can prove to be an issue if used early on to prevent you from building a strong board.
Vs. Shaman: Well, they just have an annoying abundance of removal. Hex to remove your larger and more buffed minions, Earth Shock to ruin your day and Lightning Storm when you get hasty. The best way to play around this is clever trading and being able to keep your minions healed up as much as you can.
Vs. Warlock: Hellfire is the name of the game against Warlock, though if you’re up against Zoo, I’d say you won’t find it coming from them (Unless somebody is running a different, custom version). Against the Zoo your Hero Power can come in very handy to make the best trades possible to stop them from rushing you down.
Vs. Warrior: We all love the yolo Brawl’s, though that’s not the only way Warrior can take control. Keep a close eye for Armoursmith‘s since if you don’t rid of them carefully, the additional armour gained can be a huge advantage for your opponent. Slam’s, Acolyte’s & others give Warrior’s great draw tools so try to match them when possible with Northshire Cleric‘s just make sure you DON’T GO FULL NORTHSHIRE!
Thanks for reading this quite large article, if you have any feedback, suggestions or questions then feel free to get in touch in the comments. This post will be updated over time as new decks arise and reach the top spots in competitive and Legendary play.