The New Standard: Karazhan Edition (Ressurect Priest)

Come on, you knew this was coming. I mean, you had to know this was coming. With all of the endless amount of talk about Priest and silence and coming out of the community over the past weeks, I couldn’t resist the chance to suit up with Anduin. While I may not be going the […]

Introduction

Come on, you knew this was coming. I mean, you had to know this was coming. With all of the endless amount of talk about Priest and silence and Purify coming out of the community over the past weeks, I couldn’t resist the chance to suit up with Anduin. While I may not be going the full meme route with silence, I do have a secret for you: I don’t think Priest is that bad. Is it one of the worst classes? Of course. But in a game like Hearthstone, there is always something each class can bring to the table. Priest has some very strong cards and some very powerful interactions. Its one glaring weakness (which is the ultimate weakness in today’s game) has always been the early game. Though silencing your own minions is not the answer, resurrecting things could be. This week we explore why that might be and look to see if it can save Priest from the ashes.

The Deck

The idea of this deck is to bring things back from the dead. You are a tempo deck built around a deathrattle shell, where you want to slowly advance your board with heavy-statted minions and keep playing larger and larger threats. Play a hard to kill threat, then bring that threat back the next turn. In this way it really stretches your opponent’s removal, forces them to burn through their hand and gives you an edge moving into the middle to late game. This gives you the edge of being able to punish your opponent’s for playing removal, which is very strong since most decks depend on it to win games.

One of Priest’s biggest problems is the early game and I will be the first to admit I haven’t solved it yet. While the addition of Holy Smite helps against a lot of the early game, it is just so weak against things like Alexstrasza’s Champion, Tunnel Trogg or Mana Wyrm. I added in double Shadow Word: Pain to deal with this problem, but sometimes you don’t draw those cards and you pretty much die. I think Injured Kvaldir or Arcane Anomaly are both worth testing, but that really dilutes your Resurrect pool, which you don’t want.

The biggest part of this deck is being able to stay alive (which has plagued Priest for some time now). This is very tricky, especially in a land of non-stop burst. Though the addition of Priest of the Feast helps, I still want more ways to stay alive. The obvious addition may be one Flash Heal (which also has Auchenai synergy) over a Holy Smite. Darkshire Alchemist and Justicar Trueheart both work as well, but they come so much later on I am not sure if they would fix the issue of taking nine damage from a Totem Golem. Even so, more healing is probably something this deck needs.

Key Cards

This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list, what I think about them, and how they’ve performed so far.

Holy Smite

As noted, Priest needs ways to deal with the early game. Holy Smite is far from the solution, but it does do a good job against a lot of popular openers. Yes, there will be some games where this just sits in your hand useless for turn after turn, but there are also many times where it will snipe a Sorcerer’s Apprentice, King’s Elekk, Cult Sorcerer or Flame Imp. In those situations it saves you a lot of damage and helps you keep off significant early pressure. In my experience with this deck, you are almost always going to be able to win if the games goes long. It is getting the game to go long that is so hard. This card is one of Priest’s only real options that doesn’t require you to play a minion that messes with your res.

The inherent weakness of Holy Smite is that it just doesn’t deal with three health minions. Mana Wyrm, Tunnel Trogg and Alexstrasza’s Champion all laugh this off, which can really hurt you in the long run. However, if you pair this with Wild Pyromancer (discussed below) it can be a way to offset that missing one damage. In that same vein, this card has value because it is a cheap spell. That means it gives you another card to play alongside Pyromancer, and it also fits later into your curve. Having access to a cheap damage spell is very important and can enable some very strong trades during the middle-to-late game. That versatility makes this card worth it in my opinion.

Wild Pyromancer

My least favorite card in the deck, Wild Pyromancer is a necessary evil. Though it does not work that well with Resurrect or Onyx Bishop, you need to have some type of early presence. In addition, you also need to get as much AOE (or psued0-AOE) and anti-aggro cards as you can. This card does all of those things very well, giving you a way to fight against decks like Zoo or Shaman that love to flood the board. It also greatly helps against the new versions of Hunter than run a lot of small minions. Being able to just do two damage to everything is very powerful, and you almost always want to clear with Pyro if you have the chance. It can be tempting to keep this card to try and go as big as humanly possible, but there is no reason to take unnecessary damage. The only exception to that is when you have a good amount of health and want to catch a few more small minions in the fire.

Note: Using Resurrect to bring back Wild Pyromancer will trigger one damage to all minions. This can be a good way to clear if you need to early on.

Injured Blademaster

The minion that makes the deck work, Injured Blademaster is a must-have inclusion that allows you do two things. The first is that it gives you a couple ways to put down a 4/7 body early on in the game. Board presence is very important in Priest, and there is nothing quite as strong as a three mana 4/7. Circle of Healing allows that to happen, as does both Resurrect and Onyx Bishop. Anytime you can get Injured Blademaster into its 4/7 state you should. There are very few decks (namely only Warrior) that can easily take it out. Even so, most decks that can remove it the turn it comes down (such as Dragon Warrior with an Execute) don’t have too much removal at their disposal. This will help you steadily advance your board turn by turn.

The second reason this card is strong is because it gives you a way to play an aggressive minion on curve. Priest is inherently a reactive class. Most of their cards are to deal with threats, which is why they almost never have the board. However, the fact that you don’t care if Injured Blademaster dies (in fact there are many games where you welcome it) means you don’t have to wait for a combo. You just get to run out a 4/3 on turn three. That is going to eat removal or a minion, both of which are more than fine for your overall plan. You need to start early on with this deck, and the fact that you don’t need to hold this card back in your hand for fear of it dying allows you to do that.

Barnes

Barnes is too good not to run. Period. The four drop may only have two “dream” scenarios (Cairne Bloodhoof and Sylvanas Windrunner) in this deck, but there are a lot of solid plays you can do that can swing the game. Priest of the Feast (as noted in the video) can be very good when gotten later on, and even getting something like Wild Pyromancer gives you some opportunities to play with. That sheer amount of versatility makes this card worth it on its own. However, you also have the insta-win turns where you run a Cairne Bloodhoof and just end the game on the spot. Even if this card only gives you the dream ten percent of the time, that can help you on streaks and give you wins that you normally wouldn’t have. It also curves well into Onyx Bishop, which can bring back any 1/1’s with full health.

Not only does Barnes have a lot of synergy with your deathrattle cards, but he is also two bodies that can really muck up a board. This in itself is important because having a 3/4 and a 1/1 is actually very relevant against a lot of decks. Those bodies will help you control the board and give you many ways to trade. In that way, it is much more relevant to Priest than Chillwind Yeti. Besides the early game, Priest’s biggest problem revolves around not being able to get board presence. This card is not a ton of board presence, but it is enough to slow a lot of decks down. Every turn you but with this deck is important, so you want to run as many stall cards as you can.

Onyx Bishop

This card is good. Very, very good. In fact, this is the card that single-handedly makes the deck. Being able to play four Resurrects would probably have been good enough on its own, but the fact that this also comes with a 3/4 body is amazing. The most important part of Onyx Bishop is getting it down when you are ahead on board. While it is fine when you are tied or a little behind, this card can really seal a game in the right situation. As a result, you want to work hard to get a cleared board (or be ahead on board) when you have this in hand. That means there are some times where you are going to clear on turn five or six and hold off on the Bishop for a turn or two. You always just don’t run this out, you usually want to work in a favorable position.

Another important part of Onyx Bishop is, like Barnes, it is instant board presence. However, unlike Barnes, you get some very crushing bodies instead of a small 1/1. This card is often going to be in the mid-teens worth of stats across two bodies, which almost instantly puts you ahead on the board. This is just another way to gain presence that also works to building up your end-game condition. The biggest rule here is to always count the cards that have died throughout the game. While you cannot actually call what you are going to re-summon, you want to have a gameplan for each option.

Matchups

Some of the most common matchups I’ve seen so far.

Dragon Warrior

Tempo Dragon Warrior is perhaps the most popular deck in the game. It has one of the best curves out there, a ton of damage and a reliable end-game of big minion after big minion. The way this match plays out if going to be largely dependent on the way your opponent starts out. If they just have the nuts curve where they play threat after threat your only real out is going to be Auchenai/Circle. However, if they begin slower and you can leverage some early removal or board presence you should be alright in the long run. Your goal is to control the early game with your minions. This will enable you to save your heavy removal for their end game threats. Even if you can heal, you will not be able to survive an unanswered Ragnaros the Firelord or Grommash Hellscream.

A big part of this match is that Dragon Warrior only runs two hard removal spells in their double Execute. This means you should always push with your minions and play any threats you can. For this reason, Onyx Bishop is very strong here, as is a full-health Injured Blademaster. Your best minions in this game are Sylvanas Windrunner and Cairne Bloodhoof. Each of these cards creates a lot of problems for Warrior and completely take away their tempo by giving you ways to control the board. That goes double if they are backed up with removal or come down early on Barnes. Similar to Bishop, if you have them in your hand you want to work to remove early pressure so you will have a window to get them down on turn six.

Aggro Shaman

Probably your toughest matchup, Aggro Shaman just matches up really well against our deck. Not only do they have a ton of early game cards that are extremely hard to keep up with, but once you stabilize it is almost impossible to beat a Doomhammer. You need a perfect curve or a very strong start to win this one because you need to stack up damage as quickly as possible. Shaman has so many live cards and strong minions that it is going to be very difficult to keep up with them. Put on as much pressure as you possibly can and force them to use some of their burn on your board. This will help limit damage once you get them into top deck mode.

Your biggest problem is how well Shaman can spam minions onto a board. This allows them to fill up time after time and out-swarm any big minions you might play. You have to make the best out of your AOE and use it anytime you have a solid clear on the board. Even Wild Pyromancer into Power Word: Shield or Holy Smite to clear a few small minions can be a really good play because it shuts down any Abusive Sergeant or Flametongue Totem potential. The fix here, as noted in the intro, is good healing. You can outlast Shaman if you have some early removal and then back it up with a strong finish, but it’s not going to be easy. Always try your best to sneak in your hero power and take the time to heal yourself whenever possible.

Tempo Mage

Another tough-but-winnable matchup, Tempo Mage is a game where you simply have to wear your opponent down. There are two ways to do this. The first is by simple removing every threat they have and healing up as much as possible, and the second is by going over their head with big minions. Mage has a lot of damage at their disposal, but all of that damage is also their removal and way they mitigate the board. As a result, if they have to use their Fireballs, Frostbolts and Forgotten Torches on your minions, you should be able to run them low on cards and outlast them over the course of a long game. While you want to begin with early removal to stop things like Mana Wyrm from growing too much, you also want to play as many minions you can to set up your Resurrect effects. Even one strong rez turn can really put them on the ropes and wear down their hand.

In the same vein, your healing is going to be essential in this game. However, unlike Shaman (which can just outlast your hero power with Doomhammer) Mage only has so many cards they can run before they get tapped out. Set up Priest of the Feast as best as you can. Even just getting back six life can go a long way. The four drop also has the bonus of having six health, which means it is often going to eat a big spell like Fireball or a couple of small ones like Frostbolt. As with Shaman, you just want to get as much out of your hero power as possible. Always calculate your opponent’s damage potential and track the spells they have played. Beyond that, you just want to pressure them by playing (or Resurrecting) as many big minions as you can.

Zoo

As is customary with Priest, Zoo is one of your stronger matchups. That does not mean it is going to be a breeze, but it is a game you should win most of the time. Your goal here is to just play the role of heavy control and remove every minion your opponent has. Zoo cannot function well without minions, but with them they can kill you even through your healing. Most modern Zoo lists run a lot of burst and you have to be very careful about your health. Soulfire, Doomguard, Leeroy Jenkins and Power Overwhelming can all kill you out of nowhere. Use your hero power often and look for any opportunity you have to clear. However, if you have to choose between healing and removing a minion, you should get rid of the board since that will save you more life in the long run.

The most important note here is that Resurrect and Onyx Bishop are actually not a great gameplan against Zoo. Of course, if you have the chance to make a three mana 4/7 you should, but you want to mulligan hard for removal more than anything. Small swarms can overtake your deck because your threats can only hit one thing a turn. Any good aggro player will simply ignore your board and push hard for face whenever they can. Going the role of a strict control deck and going in hard on Wild Pyromancer and spot removal is the way you want to win this one. Just always understand your removal is limited and you need to use your clears wisely. There is no reason to Shadow Word: Pain a Dark Peddler with Imp Gang Boss the turn after.

Yogg Druid

Though it is dwindling as more and more new cards come out (Beast is on the horizon people), Yogg Druid is still a real contender that you will encounter on your climb. Though Druid is traditionally strong against control, your deck operates much more like a midrange deck. Druid struggles against big minions and you can just pump them out over and over again. One Injured Blademaster is almost always going to be game against Druid, but being able to bring one back multiple times is just going to cause them fits. In this game you want to play to your curve and just drop threats whenever you have them. Cards like Onyx Bishop and Priest of the Feast[/card] have too much health for Malfurion and will usually cause your opponent into tight corners. Just remember that Yogg Druid is a token deck and they will have a turn or two (especially if the game goes long) where they fill up the board and instantly threaten lethal. You need to always save AOE for when that happens and use your minions and spot removal for everything else.

Mulligan Guide

As this deck can struggle with openings, your plan is to always look for your low cost removal and early game cards. Shadow Word: Pain is a must keep in this fast meta, as is Wild Pyromancer and Barnes. Injured Blademaster is also always an must-keep since there is no fear of playing it out early. Beyond that, you want Holy Smite against any deck with early two-cost minions (Mage, Hunter, Zoo) and you want Circle of Healing anytime you have Auchenai Soulpriest or Injured Blademaster in hand. Priest of the Feast and Auchenai can be both kept with a good opening (especially if you have the coin) and Shadow Madness should be kept with the coin against any deck where it can give you serious value.

The card that is going to most impact your mulligan is Wild Pyromancer. This is because when facing an aggro deck you want to keep as many low-cost spells (even Ressurect at times) alongside it. This will make sure it gives you value and give you a way to clear. Resurrect should also be kept only if you have beefy minions to go with it. Shadow Word: Death is a good keep against Druid and you also want it against Shaman just in case of an early Flamewreathed Faceless or Thing from Below. Finally, Excavated Evil can be kept if you have a good curve and the coin against any deck that likes to swarm the board.

Conclusion

Priest may be in a rough spot, but I think this deck has some real potential. In fact, I think with a few more tweaks this could do some real climbing on the ladder. So much so that I will almost definitely re-visit this deck in the coming weeks. There is a lot of power in having four Resurrects, and there are many different avenues you can take to victory. A little more consistency and this should be primed to go. Until next week, may you always bring back the largest minions.