The meta-game is the ever-fluid state of competitive Hearthstone, changing every hour. Following the Undertaker balance (nerf), the Hearthstone meta-game has been in flux and I don’t believe that will change anytime soon. We have plenty of different lists that counter and get countered by other lists. Despite this, one glaring thing has remained constant: Priest decks are virtually non-existent.
With that in mind, I decided it was time to create a guide that was good enough to get people to play the class. I believe Priest has a lot of potential but the perfect build for the class has not been found yet.
Therefore, I today start the Quest for the Perfect Priest deck. Hop aboard lads! We’re about to go on a long but satisfying trip!
Explaining the Problem
Let’s start with the problem: Situationality.
From the dawn of Hearthstone, Priest has always been very situationally good; hardly anyone played the class outside of a few masochists like Amaz, myself, and a few other crazies. Fortunately Naxxramas came and brought a non-situational Priest card, dark-cultist, that also happens to be the best 3-drop in the entire game. The card alone was able to resurrect the Priest class and back into the limelight. Since the release of Goblins vs. Gnomes however, Priest has drifted back into obscurity. But why? My belief is that Blizzard once again failed to see that Priest did not need more situational cards and therefore added several of them for the expansion.
While every other class got new toys, Priest got stuck with a terrible shrinkmeister. Note: Many “professionals” and community “experts” initially believed that the card was not only good but over-powered. Alas, the card is too situational and thus hardly sees any play.
Priest also got light-of-the-naaru. Despite being a solid card overall, it was not enough to keep Priest up with cards like like shieldmaiden, goblin-blastmage, and piloted-shredder being added to the meta-game. You may dispute that Piloted Shredder, the best neutral 4-drop in the game, is a neutral card but it is quite ineffective in the class due to its low base-health.
But all is not lost as there are several ways of adapting to the meta-game. This is where I come in… to construct a Priest build strong enough for you to compete at high ranks!
Explaining To Build Priest
With the building constraints (avoiding too many situational cards) covered and out of the way, let’s begin! Despite being situational, there are a number of cards from previous builds we should keep due to their power level and utility. These cards include wild-pyromancer, circle-of-healing, and injured-blademaster. Since Hearthstone is still relatively in its infancy, the cards mentioned are playable since they are better than any other alternatives.
Here is the core of our Priest deck: northshire-cleric, holy-smite, Light of the Naaru, voljin, Wild Pyromancer, Circle of Healing, Injured Blademaster, power-word-shield, Dark Cultist, shadow-word-death, sylvanas-windrunner, and auchenai-soulpriest. These cards are generally in most Priest decks due to their synergy. Because very few people actually play Priest competitively, the class remains very volatile and therefore fluctuates a lot.
Thoughtsteal is a nice way of obtaining card advantage and generally good in a mid-range/control meta-game. It also allows you to see what cards your opponent is playing. Due to the unstable state of the meta-game, this clues you in on what deck your opponent is playing (assuming you haven’t already figured out by turn 3).
With card advantage accounted for, let’s now take a look at some board sweep options. Because we are still playing control after all, we should complement the Auchenai Soupriest + Circle of Healing combo with an additional sweeper. holy-nova, lightbomb, shadow-madness, and even baron-geddon (usually good on heavier lists) are all decent options.
In addition to finding an additional sweeper, the 5-drop (usually occupied by sludge-belcher) still needs to be addressed. harrison-jones and/or azure-drake are possible alternatives as well to complement our curve-topping late-game of mind-control.
Deck-List Spotlight and Mulligans
Today, we’ll be featuring
Zetalot’s #1 Legend Priest. Scratch that. After countless matches, I finally reached Legendary Rank playing only Priest. Despite initially playing Zetalot’s list, I found myself updating it a few times during my climb to Legend.
My [updated] deck is a very unique collection of cards. By partially abandoning the deck’s core, I was able to add cards that are currently very good in this specific meta-game.
For example, I cut one Dark Cultist for a mind-control-tech.
I also decided to cut Holy Smite since it is only good against aggro decks. Moreover, Priest already has a very good match-up against most aggressive decks on ladder. Instead, I believe it is better to have more options against mid-range and control decks. Because the meta-game is still very chaotic, the deck should be has well-rounded and versatile as possible.
Due to the abundance of Druid in this week’s meta-game, I chose not to run sludge-belcher. As a result, various decks proactively play the-black-knight as a suitable response. In order to avoid any splash damage, it is best not to run any Taunt targets currently so you’re able to out-value your opponent.
Now let’s talk the individual card choices themselves. I will not only talk about why a particular card made it onto my list but also how it should be played and its corresponding mulligan decisions for specific match-ups.
circle-of-healing: Despite being one of the most versatile cards in the Priest arsenal, Circle of Healing has the weakness of being a situational card. It is generally used in conjunction with one of the following four cards: Injured Blademaster, Auchenai Soulpriest, Northshire Cleric, or Wild Pyromancer (to kill several 1-health minions). With regards to mulligans, Cirle of Healing should generally only be kept if you also have Injured Blademaster in hand to combo it with. A turn 3 (or 2 with The Coin) 4/7 is very scary and only easily dealt with by a small number of cards. For example, it’s dangerous to combo these cards against Shaman players because of Hex, opening yourself up for a 2-for-1. With that said, I do like keeping Circle of Healing against Shamans (and Mage as most are Mech-based) if I already have Auchenai Soulpriest in hand.
light-of-the-naaru: GvG gave us another [efficient] way (complementing Circle of Healing) of healing Injured Blademaster early. Light of the Naaru is a versatile, though slightly situational, 1-mana spell in the Priest arsenal. Here are some of the more common scenarios in which Light of the Naaru really shines:
- Dealing 3 damage with Auchenai Soulpriest AND getting a lightwarden on board (you’ll always get the Lightwarden except against a Warrior with 3 armor over full health and against full health Divine Shield minions).
- Healing your Injured Blademaster AND getting a Lightwarden.
- Activating Wild Pyromancer.
Overall, this card has many uses and very nice synergy with multiple Priest cards. With regards to mulligans, this card should only be kept in 2 situations: 1) Facing a Mage or Hunter since both classes tend to be aggro-oriented. 2) Whenever you have a Injured Blademaster on your starting Hand.
power-word-shield: Power Word: Shield is a multi-use card that is non-situational and cycles itself. It can activate Wild Pyromancer or simply buff a minion to allow for better trades. There isn’t much to say about this card besides the fact that you should always keep this in your starting hand regardless of the situation.
northshire-cleric: Northshire Cleric is the definition of a Priest all-star card. Because Priest’s Hero Power is best used when targeting minions, it’ll generate better value in more complex board states over the course of the game. With a Northshire Cleric in play, the results are even more insane as you’ll also draw a card each time you heal an minion.
Playing Northshire Cleric on turn 1 can be a bad idea depending on what your opponent is playing. Usually, you’ll want to have a minion on board to heal before playing this minion. Losing the Cleric without being able to use its power once is a cardinal sin since you’re giving away card advantage. A good way to protect this minion is to play power-word-shield alongside it when it initially hits the board. However, you generally won’t want to waste the-coin just to do that. On the other hand, you should freely play this turn 1 against Hunters since most run tons of 1/2-drops with 2 or less attack. Even better, all of the current Hunter 1-drops are all 1-health minions. Against Hunters, staying alive and disrupting your opponent’s plays is far more important than card advantage.
Its also fine to play this turn 1 or 2 if you are able to Blademaster + Circle of Healing the following turn. This calculated risk grants you both card advantage and board presence.
With regards to mulligans, you’ll always want to have this in your starting hand.
zombie-chow: Well, I really thought about running two of these. I really, really did but this guy is ultimately a weak top-deck late in the game. Since Priest already has a very strong anti-aggro arsenal, I decided having only one Zombie Chow was fine. It’s a very strong early-game minion to control the board while also possessing great potential when combined with auchenai-soulpriest. This card should always be kept in your starting hand as it’s the best turn 1 play for any kind of control deck.
wild-pyromancer: This might as well be a Priest class card. Wild Pyromancer is just nuts when combined with Priest’s arsenal of 1-or-less mana spells. More importantly, the fact that the Priest’s Hero Power can heal it back up to full health is huge! Additionally, it is a big combo enabler that makes your lightwarden huge or draws you a lot of cards with northshire-cleric. Usually these combos rely on casting a spell and then following it up with Circle of Healing.
Despite being very strong, you should usually not keep it in your starting hand against Warrior players. Remember that they often benefit just as much (if not more) from your combos. Acolyte of Pain and Armorsmith are the primary culprits. However against any other match-up, it is a fine keep.
shadow-word-death: This is a less situational removal spell (which is why we’re running two) than big-game-hunter. Some argue that using only one is enough. However, keep in mind that the number of 5+ attack minions used in this game is very high. Thus, it will be rare for Shadow Word: Death not to have a target. You can even play it on your own sylvanas-windrunner as a 9-mana pseudo-mind-control!
With that said, you should never keep Shadow Word: Death in your starting hand for obvious reasons.
thoughtsteal: Despite already having talked a little about this card, I wanted to reinforce the notion that this card is HUGE against the control mirror match-up. It provides you with card advantage without burning you into Fatigue range quicker. Against Aggro however, this is usually irrelevant. Sometimes it’s fine to remove these in an aggro-heavy meta-game. Because that’s currently not the case, I opted for running both copies of the card.
This card can be a decent keep against Control Warrior in the event your hand is otherwise bad. However, feel free to mulligan these away against Warrior if you have other early cards to play. Do not keep this card against any other class however, as it is better played later in the game.
dark-cultist: This is arguably the best 3-drop in the entire game. However, I dropped these guys early on to test some other cards. Ultimately, I noticed the value you get from these guys is so immense that it’s not really optimal to completely drop these out of your deck. However, if you have not achieved Legendary Rank yet, taking one of these guys out for a Mind Control Tech is sometimes a must. Given the fact that you will inevitably be facing a lot of Aggro decks, Mind Control Tech can (and will) win you games.
Dark Cultist is always a keep, regardless of match-up.
mind-control-tech: A Tech card!
But really, lol. This guy is incredibly strong when the meta-game is being flooded by aggro decks. On Legendary Rank’s ladder, it’s usually a bad idea to run this guy since everyone is already playing around it anyway. This guy is a fine keep against Mages, but generally not really great in the starting hand against other opponents.
injured-blademaster: This is Priest’s most famous way of gaining tempo early in the game and is therefore another card that might as well have “Priest” printed on it. Following the release of GvG, Injured Blademaster now has two nice early-game activators: Circle of Healing and Light of the Naaru. Even more, it remains damaged following a Light of the Naaru heal play. This means you’ll be able to heal it once more for Lightwarden to benefit!
Simply put, this guy is a Priest all-star card, comboing with not Priest cards but also its Hero Power. You’ll usually want to play this guy when you have an immediate way of healing it, even if just for a bit (i.e. Hero Power, Light of the Naaru, Circle of Healing, or even Power Word: Shield).
This card is always a keep whenever you have either Light of the Naaru or Circle of Healing in your starting hand. And unless you are playing against aggro, this guy is an always-keep in general. Without any activators against aggro however, he’s somewhat of a liability and should therefore be tossed back.
auchenai-soulpriest: Auchenai Soulpriest provides an alternative (and more aggressive) way of using your Hero Power, Circle of Healing, and Light of the Naaru. This is yet another one of those all-star Priest cards. The exact usage of this card has already been mentioned multiple times so there isn’t really anything new to discuss. The card makes big use of Light of the Naaru, damaging or outright killing an enemy minion while granting a free Lightwarden in the process. Keep mind you can also use this card on your opponent’s face for the final few points of damage as well. Once again remember that playing this on a Divine Shield minion or a full-health enemy Hero with more than 3 armor will not give you a Lightwarden.
This card should only be kept in your starting hand against aggro (provided you also have Circle of Healing). You can also keep this if you have a well-curved hand, given the fact it’s a decent 4-drop. In the other cases, feel free to mulligan this away.
holy-nova: This is a weak, but necessary sweeper. The main reason why it made the cut is due to the fact that it also heals our minions, which is sometimes useful. It’s an “ok” card, but not good enough for us to run two. Holy Nova also has nice synergy with Injured Blademaster, Northshire Cleric, Wild Pyromancer, and Light of the Naaru. Most of time it’ll simply be used to complete the damage you need in order to kill enemy minions while healing your own, making trades better.
This card should never be kept on your starting hand.
loatheb: Often suggested as the best neutral Legendary in the game pre-GvG, it felt better to have Loatheb in the deck than Sludge Belcher. Loatheb trades well with 5-health minions, has a very strong ability, and doesn’t have Taunt (no vulnerability to The Black Knight). Ultimately, including Loatheb in this deck is more of a meta-game call than anything.
Remember that Loatheb has a strong body in addition to his relevant ability. Thus, playing this guy just for the 5/5 body is sometimes good enough. Holding on to him is a bad idea most of the time. Play him freely as he can instantly turn around a game.
Due to the mana cost, he should never be kept in your starting hand.
voljin: After GvG came out, Priest got a very strong tool to deal with Handlock. Because of Vol’Jin alone, the match-up is now not as horrible as it once was. With this specific deck list, the Hand-lock match-up is actually somewhat even. All I can add is that Vol’Jin is indeed an all-star card, and probably the strongest Legendary released in GvG. This card is just too strong not to be played.
There are plenty of different ways of killing minions with Vol’Jin in this deck. This reinforces why we don’t really need the Holy Smites. Suiciding Zombie Chow or Dark Cultist (for value), pinging the minion with Auchenai Soulpriest on the board, or playing Vol’Jin into Holy Nova on turn 10 are all decent options to finish off the 2-health enemy minion. Your Blademaster also generally has a lot of health, meaning it should be able to kill the minion and survive more often than not.
Do not hold onto Vol’Jin if you have a good use for it early on. Remember this deck has multiple ways of dealing with late-game minions but only a limited number of ways to fend off mid-range minions. Therefore, using it on a Sludge Belcher simply to gain tempo is usually strong enough.
Once again, this card should never be kept in your starting hand.
holy-fire: Well, it’s 5 damage and heals for 5. It’s a good way of generating tempo but sometimes a bad way of generating value. This card is decent enough to warrant its 1 spot in the deck.
Following the trend of high-cost cards, this should never be kept on your starting hand.
cabal-shadow-priest: My favorite card in the entire game. Whenever you are able to generate value from this, it’s just devastating. Not only are you putting a 4/5 Chillwind Yeti on the board, you’re also removing an enemy minion and putting it on your side of the board. This card is just too strong and too good not to be played.
A good tip I can give regarding this card is to play it whenever you can for value. Remember you are playing a deck that runs two of these so don’t be greedy! Of course there will be matches like Mech Mage where you would much rather steal a 2/3 than a 2/1. But outside of that specific scenario, you would much rather cast this and immediately gain a huge tempo boost than wait for a better steal target.
This is a really good card, but as the case with all high-cost cards, should never be kept in your starting hand.
sylvanas-windrunner: The best classic neutral Legendary in the game is strong enough to justify being picked just for its power level. We do get a small combo with Shadow Word Death however.
When playing this card, keep in mind that generating any value from it is already good enough. The reason I am saying that is because most players rather hold onto Sylvanas in order to have a good steal target. This sometimes causes them to lose a lot of tempo and eventually the game. Remember tempo is a very strong tool and Sylvanas makes it difficult for the opponent to have a good play, buying you time to establish board control. The most common situation presented to me this season was facing a Druid opponent at 6 mana with only a Piloted Shredder on the board. Casting Sylvanas meant they were forced to waste an entire turn removing it (as opposed to playing Ancient of Lore). The alternative was to simply ignore it and attack face, allowing you to dictate trades and thus generate massive value. Either way, you got a huge tempo boost (even if it was just to steal a random 2-drop minion).
Once again, this card should never be kept on your starting hand.
sneeds-old-shredder: Well, this card is a good way of having two bombs in one slot. By minimizing your late-game slots, you are able to have a wider array of utility cards. Take note that this card also has an attack lower than 7, allowing this deck to completely blank Big Game Hunter.
I love this card but in case you don’t have it, there are plenty of different cards that you can add to your deck instead: dr-boom, Ysera, Cairne Bloodhoof, troggzor-the-earthinator, and so on….
Once again, this card should never be kept on your starting hand.
mind-control: Since there are just enough control decks in the meta-game, we can justify running this card. Similar to Thoughtsteal, this card can be replaced in an aggro-heavy meta-game. Due to the plethora of mid-range decks, this card has immense value and should not be seen as a liability.
There aren’t many suggestions I can give regarding the card. It’s used to steal a big minion, often generating huge tempo and winning the game in the process. We all know that by now.
This card should ALSO never be kept on your starting hand.
I’ve taken the liberty of creating a match-up odds table below, reflecting how I see the current meta-game to be. However, remember that the table is only for reference and you should definitely pay attention to what is currently being played on ladder. This dictates whether Priest will be a good option going forward.
Basically, Priest gets demolished by Oil Rogue regardless of the list we play. It is very difficult for Priest players to get rid of mid-range minions (primarily done through its own creatures). This allows Oil Rogue to maintain board presence and generate too much tempo. The best way of combating Oil Rogue is to remove their minions via spells. However, the Priest spell arsenal for dealing with Rogue minions is weak.
The match-ups against aggro decks are generally easy or even. The biggest problem is getting out-tempo’ed by mid-range minions. For this reason, Fast Druid is slightly favored against us. If we don’t have an inconsistent Blademaster combo early, it’s hard for us to keep up with Druid’s Wild Growth snowball.
When given time to set-up, the match-ups become good, meaning we’ll generally be favored against most control decks.
There are two general ways of playing Priest. Which way is the correct option is governed by your opponent’s type of deck:
- Against Control Decks – Go for value and card advantage. You should be able to overwhelm your opponent since most of your cards 2-for-1 theirs, eventually winning you the game. Don’t rush and make poor plays just to try and gain tempo. If you’re playing with control (pun intended), you should be able to wear them down over time.
- Against Aggro and Mid-range Decks – Go for speed/tempo. Even if you’re initially behind on cards, obtaining board control usually leads to winning the game. Remember your Hero Power allows for massive value plays when you’re already ahead on tempo. This generally snowballs the game out of control, making it very difficult for your opponent to recover.
General Game-play Tips
Despite already being written on my old out-dated Priest deck-guide, those game-play tips still apply today.
- northshire-cleric, power-word-shield (or even light-of-the-naaru), and wild-pyromancer combined with circle-of-healing is an extremely powerful combo after you’ve managed to get all your minions [and your opponent’s] damaged. If you have these cards in your hand, try to save them until you can combo and draw a bunch of cards. Keep in mind your opponent can always disrupt your combo if you try to speed it up by playing one or more of the cards a turn early.
- If you are in need of cards, it’s fine to cast circle-of-healing after damaging some of your and your opponent’s minions for a couple of draws with your northshire-cleric.
- zombie-chow is always the best turn 1 drop.
- zombie-chow should be used for trades rather than face rush. Thus, always use it as a trading tool.
- It’s fine to suicide a zombie-chow if you have auchenai-soulpriest on the board as getting a free mind-blast is always good. This doesn’t apply if you desperately need the board presence however.
- Do not use dark-cultist as a 3-mana 3-health buff. Following up a Dark Cultist on turn 3 with the auchenai-soulpriest + circle-of-healing combo to wipe out the board is a terrible waste of a good 3/4 body.
- Do not hurry as games will end when they have to. This includes not wasting your spells unless you feel they are necessary. Remember: you are not a rush deck.
- Never ever overdraw. Burning cards is a fast way to lose the game.
- Whenever you can make your opponent burn some cards, go for it! This primarily involves opposing northshire-cleric or acolyte-of-pain. Overdrawing is always painful!
- Do not rush into playing thoughtsteal. If you have another play that should improve your board position, do it instead. thoughtsteal is a tempo-killing card and should be used when you’re already ahead or even.
Overall, it’s really hard to play Priest, requiring a lot of training and dedication. With that said, it’s also very satisfying seeing yourself make the right plays after mastering the class. The amount of thinking required for mastering Priest game-play is just lovely. Thus, I hope you guys have the same joy playing Priest as I do.
This is me after finishing all of this:
It took me over 300 Priest games this season as well as almost a whole week of writing to bring you guys this massive article. I hope I was able to pass all of my knowledge regarding the class to you.
Priest is one of the hardest classes to master in Hearthstone. However, do so is a very rewarding achievement. During my Priest grind this season, I finally obtained my Golden Priest portrait 😀 while reaching Top 20 NA Legend Rank.
Another thing to remember about Priests is that there are still very few people playing the class. This means the right Priest build may not have been seen yet. Therefore, lots of changes to the deck-list might be on the horizon in the future!
Do you have any questions? Any suggestions for our next big guide? Feel free to post them on the comments section as I will be reading every single one of them!
Love you guys and see you again on the next article!
Oh, and good night!