When going into ladder, no matter what deck you are playing, there are some popular lists you need to be ready for. Dragon Priest is one of those lists. Due to a heavy amount of taunt, solid removal and high-health minions, Dragon Priest can command games against most of the decks on ladder. However, Control Warrior is not one of those decks. This guide will look at Control Warrior and explore how its range of removal and threats give it a great chance to stop Anduin.
GVG affected many decks differently, but it had one of the biggest impacts on Control Warrior. While this deck was once a thirty set card list, it has now evolved into many different variations. You can now choose to have a lower curve, more removal, more armor or cut down your curve and play more midrange minions. Furthermore, you can also pick and choose exactly what finishers you want instead of just running the same four or five (or six) as everyone else. To give you an idea of some choices, a few deck lists have been linked below.
When mulliganing against Priest you want your hard removal and weapons. Typically you want to control the early game with some of your smaller removal spells and save the big kills spells for later on. However, Priest runs a lot of dangerous early threats from Velen’s Chosen to Twilight Guardian. If you can’t answer those, you will most likely die. For that reason, find ways to kill big threats. That is not to say you don’t want your early cards (you absolutely do) but you need to have a way to deal with some of their bigger options as well.
Cards to KeepShield Slam Execute Fiery War Axe Armorsmith Cruel Taskmaster Slam Bash Acolyte of Pain Death’s Bite
Shield Block is a good keep, but only if you have early game removal to go along with it.
Brawl can be kept if you have a really strong curve coming before it.
Sylvanas Windrunner gives Priests fits. She is a strong keep if you have the coin and a good opening curve.
How to Win
This game is going to go long. Really long. While Dragon Priest is a much more midrange list than classic Control Priest, it is built to play in the exact same style. That means it is a deck that is used to drawing out games. They have a wide array of removal and a ton of different threats. Your job is to meet them punch for punch with your own removal and powerful threats. Dragon Priest may be able to go long, but while they can only gain life, you can armor. Understand that, and use that extra life to pull through.
Be ready for their finishers. One of the most important things about Control vs. Control is to know the way each deck plans to win. You are most likely going to win with your usual array of big minions, and they are going to win with a combination of Ysera, Chromaggus and their other large beasts. Not having an answer to those cards can outright lose you the game. Always try to use your small removal early on and save your premium spells (Execute, Shield Slam) for their biggest minions.
The final part to understanding this matchup is to know the middle game. While it is easy to focus on the big finishers, Priest has a lot of trouble dealing with mid-game minions. In that same vein, most of their damage and board control comes from the the middle turns. Dragon Priest has a very set “core list” and you should always count their threats.
Early Game Strategy
Fiery War Axe is, just like in every other matchup, very strong here. You want to come out of the gates proactive, since Dragon Priest will destroy you if you sit back and let them build up a board. You don’t have a ton of early turn plays, but always get down anything you can. Remember, even if they can kill your Acolyte of Pain right away it still eats damage and interrupts your momentum.
Priest’s best threat here is Wyrmrest Agent. Not only does that card survive your weapon attacks, but it protects some of their other minions you would like to get to. The way you fight it is through your other early minions like Armorsmith and Acolyte of Pain. Those cards are both very good at getting triggers off of the two drop as well as chipping away at its health.
While the first turns of the game are pretty straightforward, be aware of Velen’s Chosen. Always kill their minions if possible to make sure they don’t have a target for the buff. If you can’t completely play around it, such as simply not having enough early removal, then you want to try and make sure you have removal just in case.
You want to do your best to leverage Death’s Bite. Priest’s go-to four drop is Twilight Guardian, which is a very large problem for you to deal with. The taunt is very annoying and the sixth health can be a nightmare. You almost never want to use one of your premium spells during turns four and five. Bite is the way you get around that, since both sides can be used to kill their midgame minions.
A big card to play around here is Cabal Shadow Priest. You have very few targets it can hit, but playing into it can instantly give them the board. Almost all of your small minions will come down early. However, if you have them in hand past turn six always think about cabal before just playing them out onto the board.
Another card to watch out for is Vol’jin. The shadow priest is not in every Dragon Priest deck, but not playing around it can lead to trouble. Not only is the troll one of the best midrange minions in the game, but he is both a threat and removal spell wrapped into one. This game often comes down to you playing big threat after big threat until Priest is unable to answer one. As such, you want to try and bait out Vol’jin on one of your weaker threats rather than something like Ysera.
Always look for Brawl opportunities. Dragon Priest is not a deck that has a lot of minions out on the board at once. For this reason, you are mostly only going to be able hit three or four (sometimes just two) minions at once. You constantly need to predict your opponent’s plays. If they are holding back, then just Brawl what you can. If you think they are being a little more daring, don’t be afraid to ring the bell.
Late Game Strategy
As stated, know their threats and understand your own. All of their big finishers are going to be the classic dragons. They will most likely mix and match, but you want to always be thinking about Chillmaw, Ysera, Nefarian and Chromaggus. If you can deal with all of those, it should be smooth sailing through the end of the game.
While Hearthstone has gotten to the point where the Grommash Hellscream combo won’t often be enough to close things out, it is one of the best ways to end this game. Priest is a deck that mostly plays to your threats. While Dragon Priest is a little more reactive than the classic build, they still have very few ways to deal with ten to the dome. Also, never be afraid of using Gromm to clear. A lot of this game is about board, and that is a removal spell that they must absolutely clear the following turn.
If you don’t have the opportunity to combo, win through armor. Justicar Trueheart is one of the best weapons against Control Priest because of her ability to give you the win in fatigue (which is where this matchup will often go). If you feel like you can’t burst them down, then start to plan for the long game.
The final tip of the end game is to never fully extend into Lightbomb. You don’t have to play scared, but you do want to hold back on a minion or two if you have board control.
Save Big Game Hunter. Four attack is very good against Priest and there are times where it might be tempting to play it just to get a threat down. However, many Dragon Priest’s play seven+ attack minions like Dr. Boom or Nefarian, and it never hurts to have an extra removal spell at your disposal.