This is Part 2 of the Mastering the Control Priest deck guide series. It is split into 3 main guides:
- Part 1: Beginner Guide
- Part 2: Advanced Strategies, Alternate Cards and Tech Choices
- Part 3: Matchups and Mulligans
This guide will cover the advanced strategies of Control Priest.
Tips and Tricks
- This deck is anything but a linear deck, you will do in 90 % of the cases a certain play, but in 10 % of the cases you will do a completely different play. The deck is very synergy based, the majority of cards are not very strong on their own, but are backbreaking for your opponent if you combine them correctly. I hope that does not sound too overwhelming, on the ladder you don’t have to be a master of the deck, being a very good pilot is good enough to get easy to Legend Rank. But there are a lot of fine nuisances you miss, when you play this deck and you will even lose games because you missed them. This deck rewards experience and play skill. Your reward is an increasing winrate over time. When you play the deck for the first 100 games, you may reach Legend with only a 55% winrate, next time with a 60 % and then maybe one day with even 70 %. So my point is that whenever I give you tips and/ guidelines to certain plays or execute certain strategies, please note there will be some exception. I can only give you a guideline of how to become a very good Priest player (60% winrate or even higher, depending on how much aggro decks you face, the more the better), becoming a Master with the deck is only possible with enough experience.
- I already mentioned it in the Beginner Guide, but because it is of great importance and actually has quite an impact on your win percentage I will mention it again. If you are on the draw and have the Coin try saving it. Not only has the Coin synergy with Wild Pyromancer, this deck plays some very expensive cards and combos. Coining a Lightbomb on Turn 5 or not being able to do so, can be a difference between a win or a loss (f.ex not being able to remove a Fel Reaver with Lightbomb) So when is it good to use the Coin? If you face a very tempo-focused deck AND have the possibility to make a big tempo play with the help of early coin usage. Examples of tempo- focused decks: Hunter, Secret Paladin, Tempo Mage etc. So what are tempo plays exactly with Priest Control? A tempo play gives you huge initiative very early, let us pretend Hunter skips his one drop and you have double Zombie Chow in your hand, the correct move now is to play both of them and use the Coin. You now have dominant board control, and on Turn 2 you have a good opportunity to use your hero power. But what do you do if you have Northshire Cleric and Zombie Chow in the exact same situation? At first sight coining them both out, looks like a good play. You have Zombie Chow and Northshire Cleric alone on the board and can heal a minion on the next turn to draw a card. But if you think more about that, you will realize the situation can backfire. If your opponent then plays a Knife Juggler and you don’t have Power Word: Shield, you have to trade the Zombie Chow with the Juggler and you now sacrificed your coin to have a 1/3 on the board that is not doing anything meaningful. So the correct play is to only play the Zombie Chow and save the coin for a better opportunity. On the other hand if your opponent played a Worgen Infiltrator or Leper Gnome, coining the Northshire Cleric is a good tempo play that will give you the initiative. So always be thoughtful when playing the Coin early and only use it if you face a tempo- focused deck, where you have a play available that can give you the initiative. For example coining out a Shrinkmeister against for example Paladin or Mage is anything but a tempo play. If the Mage has Mad Scientist or the Paladin Shielded Minibot you are in a world of trouble.
- When you are playing against a Control deck, never use the coin early (tempo is not important in these matchups). Especially against Handlock and Control Warrior the Coin can be the difference between winning or losing (Triggering Wild Pyromancer with the Coin and damaging all minions, and then use Circle of Healing to draw cards with Northshire Cleric, if you can’t make that play because you gave away the coin and lack a cheap spell to trigger the Pyromancer you are decreasing your chances to win these matchups by a huge amount.
- Be thoughtful with Circle of Healing. You can use it to simply heal one or two minions to full health with or without Northshire Cleric. You can use it to get a full- health Injured Blademaster, to deal 4 damage to an entire board or even kill a board full of Molten Giants if you play both Circles and Auchenai Soulpriest, or you can transform it into a Whirlwind with the help of Wild Pyromancer. My point is that there are multiple applications for the Circle and identifying the correct usage of it depending on the gamestate and the matchup is very important to increase your winrate. Some examples: Against Paladin I would never use the Circle of Healing to heal an Injured Blademaster. Circle is of utter importance in this matchup, because of both Wild Pyromancer and Auchenai Soulpriest, so even if you can draw a card with Northshire Cleric and Circle, I would recommence saving the Circle. In addition to that the Injured Blademaster can also be easily answered by Aldor Peacekeeper and Equality. On the other hand for Druid it is almost impossible to answer an early Injured Blademaster, in fact he will sometimes even win on its own. Therefore it is highly recommended to go for such a play. And against Control Warrior and Handlock I would only use the Circle of Healing if you can combo it with Northshire Cleric and draw a bunch of cards in the process. Gaining card advantage or keeping up with their card advantage (Handlock) is of utter importance in this matchups and both decks can answer a full health Injured Blademaster quite easily. More about that in the matchup section!
- Save your Shadow Word: Death. If you have a good board presence that allows you to remove a high power minion, I would recommend doing so and saving your Shadow Word: Death. It may be very tempting to use it now and get a lot of tempo doing so, but you may later find yourself in a situation where you need the Shadow Word: Death and don’t have the board anymore to clear a bigger minion. This is especially true against Handlock, Control Warrior and Midrange Druid. And to some extent against Paladin. The Shadow Word: Death on the Loatheb may have seemed liked a good play, but when you then face a Tirion Fordring you might regret it.
Combos and Interactions
Auchenai Soulpriest & Circle of Healing & Light of the Naaru & Zombie Chow
Auchenai Soulpriest turns your Hero Power into something very overpowered. It is now a Steady Shot that can target minions. In addition to that you also upgrade Circle of Healing and Light of the Naaru if you have the Auchenai on the board. Try to maximize the potential value out of Auchenai Soulpriest, while not being afraid of simply droping her on Turn 4 as a tempo play. The longer you wait the more powerful the Circle combo becomes. On Turn 4 it is very powerful, you might clear the whole board while you have a 3/1 left on an empty board. But on Turn 5 you can have a 3/3 that does not die to small pings if you also then can play Power Word: Shield. And on Turn 6 you can also use your hero power to kill bigger minions or to simply pop a Nerubian Egg, before you play the Circle. In addition to that if you can afford to wait, you might not only kill more minions from your opponent, you might also get a bigger tempo lead, if you then also can play other minions on the same turn you cleared the board. So be patient, while not being to greedy. Live on the edge of a knife and you will be rewarded!
When people also talk about Priest, they think that Priest does not have any burst and I have to say that this is not true. If the Priest player drew a lot of cards and is planning ahead, he will have a good amount of damage from hand available. If you play Circle of Healing and have Auchenai Soulpriest with double Zombie Chow on the board, you deal ten damage to your opponent. In a lot of matchup that is not of any great importance, but against other Control decks that might be of utter importance. Because of that the Handlock matchup is mainly decided by the Priest players draw. If the Priest player has a very good draw (aka drawing a lot of cards with Northshire Cleric) and plays very well, there is almost nothing the Handlock player can do to not lose.
Wild Pyromancer & his love affair with fire and Northshire Cleric (strange couple if you ask me, but who am I to stand between true love)
That little fella likes to play with fire and spells are needed to make him burn the board. Against decks that flood the board with multiple smaller minions Wild Pyromancer is exceptionally powerful, but he is also very useful against decks that play minions with more health like Tempo Mage. Something like Wild Pyromancer+ Circle of Healing+ Power Word: Shield+ The Coin+ Velen’s Chosen deals 4 damage to the entire board, while you still have a 5/4 Wild Pyromancer. Because of Wild Pyromancer Circle of Healing on its own is a good keep in your opening hand against decks that flood the board with smaller minions like Zoolock, Hunter and Paladin. With Wild Pyromancer in your opening hand, multiple cheap spells that you would otherwise not keep on their own become good cards. Something like Wild Pyromancer, Light of the Naaru and Power Word: Shield is a very good keep against Paladin. Without the Pyromancer you would never keep Light of the Naaru or Power Word: Shield but with the Pyromancer you have a very good starting hand. If you also have the Coin, you will have a lot of fun! Wild Pyromancer is also very useful against Control decks, so that you can damage all minions and draw a bunch of cards with Northshire Cleric and Circle of Healing then.
Northshire Cleric & Injured Blademaster & Light of the Naaru & Circle of Healing & Holy Champion
Both Holy Champion and Lightwarden can get a huge amount of attack and can be therefore very threatening for your opponent. Always make sure to play Light of the Naaru / Holy Champion before any further healing action so that you get the attack bonus, unless you want to play around Big Game Hunter. If you use Light of the Naaru on an Injured Blademaster, you almost get the effect of a Circle of Healing. If you then heal the Blademaster to full health with Lesser Heal, you get a 4/7 and a 3/2 (that can grow further if unanswered) for only 6 mana. If you also happen to have a Northshire Cleric on the board, any healing action will be rewarded with not only more attack power but also with a free card draw.
Alternate & Tech Cards
In this section, I’m going through the cards you might include in your deck. Depending on the play style, meta or your general preferences, you might want to alter your deck list a bit. I will give you a brief description of every tech card, why it might work in the Echo Giant Mage and how you should use it.
In the Beginner Guide I marked some cards as staples (cards you should not replace). All the other cards can be replaced with an abundance of other cards, I will now write about the cards I consider as very good alternatives:
Since the release of Naxxramas the game became a lot harder for Control decks, because of the very good Deathrattle minions that entered the cardpool and made it harder for Control decks to clean the board from an opponent. Priest has with Shadow Madness an excellent tool to deal with Deathrattle minions. You can steal them and make them suicide to benefit from their Deathrattle effect (Haunted Creeper) or deny your opponent value (Mad Scientist). In addition to that Shadow Madness is also very good against non- Deathrattle minions, for example stealing a Knife Juggler to kill a Huffer is a high-impact play. Shadow Madness also gives you a lot of value against other Control decks if you run Shrinkmeister, you now can steal cards like Sylvanas Windrunner or Sludge Belcher to not only kill them, but to also benefit from their Deathrattle. All in all a very good card against aggressive deck, while also being useful against Control decks. The only small problem Shadow Madness has is that is kind of clunky sometimes, and to fully benefit from it in every matchup you have to adapt your decklist by playing two Shrinkmeister, a card I’m not a huge fan of.
Vol’jin has a very high power level and would be a staple in almost every Control deck if he was a neutral. Vol’jin makes it much easier to kill high-health minions like Ysera or Mountain Giant you otherwise might struggle to deal with. In addition to that Vol’jin also allows you to kill something like Loatheb with a Zombie Chow. So you should never feel bad about running him. The reason why I don’t play him is that I don’t like him that much in Priest. You need to already have a board presence aka having a small minion on the board or a spell to make use of his Battle Cry, like Holy Nova. Unlike other classes Priest lacks tempo efficient removal like Warrior (Vol’jin would be insane in every weapon class), so when you don’t have a board or a 1-of spell of your deck, Vol’jin is not doing that much. So I prefer cheaper cards to be even better against aggressive decks. Overall the inclusion of Vol’jin just comes down to personal preference.
At first sight upgrading Lesser Heal to a four health restoration does not sound like a big deal, especially when you realize that it comes with a big sacrifice (three health for a six mana minion is very bad), but when you look closer at it, you will realize that the upgraded hero power is definetely worth a sacrifice. Healing yourself for four is huge, when you want to get out of burst range from your opponent. In addition to that you now can heal an Injured Blademaster to full health, while Auchenai Soulpriest becomes crazy powerful. As a nice bonus you now can even fatigue every Hunter opponent, which is without Justicar not possible, because without the upgraded hero power the Hunter has more damage in the deck than the Priest has lifegain.
Acolyte of Pain
I like decks with lots of draw effects, like Freeze Mage or Patron Warrior. Not only gets your deck more consistent, because you are more likely to draw into specific combinations, you also get more options to choose from. Acolyte of Pain is another potential draw engine in Priest, that has quite some synergy with the class. Not only can you heal it back to full health, you can also buff it with Velen’s Chosen to get good kills while also drawing some cards or simply abuse it with Wild Pyromancer. As a nice bonus, Acolyte of Pain is amazing against the Paladin Class and will greatly improve your winrate against them if you draw the Acolyte. You will the majority of time draw at least two cards, which is a huge deal against Paladin because it increases your chances to draw into one of your devastating combos against Paladin. Mysterious Challenger is nothing more than a nuisance if you have drawn a lot of cards with Priest. And the drawback of Acolyte of Pain? Well it has an underwhelming body, but that is not really a great drawback, because Acolyte draws cards and increases your chances to draw into your board clears, so you don’t really care that much about the tempo loss of playing a 1/3 for three mana on Turn 3. At first sight, he may also seem like a bad card against Control Warrior or even the mirror. But that is not true, you can’t win the fatigue battle against Control Warrior, you have to kind of “overrun” him before it comes to fatigue (more about that in the matchup section). Fatigue is also in the mirror not an issue, one player overwhelms the other one before fatigue becomes a game deciding factor.
Mind Control and/ or more high- value cards
In a more control heavy metagame (highly questionable to ever happen on the ladder, but can happen in a tournament metagame), adding more high- impact cards against Control will improve your winrate against them. Mind Control is at its best against other Priest and Warrior Control versions, while being only okayish against Handlock (f.ex. stealing a Mountain Giant for 10 mana is not that great). Mind Control against other Control decks reads a lot of the time: Kill their Ysera, get an Ysera for free. And that is a huge swing. Maxing outThoughtsteal s or adding big legendaries like Confessor Paletress or Sneed’s Old Shredder over Mind Control can also be a good addition, because against faster Midrange decks like Combo Druid Mind Control is rather underwhelming.
Bonus: Mind Blast Priest
If you ever wondered if there is a Priest deck that is favored against Handlock, well there it is: Mind Blast Priest. The plan of the deck is to delay the game with removal, while drawing into Mind Blast, Prophet Velen and getting a discount from Emperor Thaurissan on one of the three combo pieces, so that you then can deal 20 damage for 10 mana from your hand, out of nowhere.
I once played only this deck to Legend, so I can tell you it is a good deck. You replace all the value cards in standard Control Priest to add a combo finish and more card draw. So instead of playing something fancy like Ysera in the late game, your late game is just killing your opponent if he is not above 20 health. At first sight drawing a Mind Blast in the early turns seems very bad. But you have to look at Mind Blast like it is a very expensive legendary. Drawing Ysera against Secret Paladin or Hunter is also the majority of time just a super dead card, while Mind Blast at least gives you an additional spell to trigger a Wild Pyromancer or the ability to win a damage race versus Hunter.
So if you play this deck over standard Priest comes down to personal preference (do you like a combo/ control- hybrid more or less than Control Priest) and the metagame.
In general Mind Blast Priest is better against Midrange Paladin and Handlock, while being worse against Control Warrior (the matchup is even horrible) and other Priest decks.