To answer the ultimate question Hearthstone players have been asking themselves since format division – “will the Priest ever be viable?” – I took Resurrect Priest to the ladder. Right now it’s the most promising Priest deck, kind of a light in the darkness for the Anduin fans. But, how does it fare against other decks? Is it good enough to play it competitively?
I’ve played over 50 games in Legend with my own Resurrect Priest brew. Although I have some experience with Control Priest (it was one of my favorite decks between League of Explorers and Whispers of the Old Gods), I haven’t played the class in about 3 months already. I’ll be honest – my expectations weren’t very high. I’ve expected the poor performance and possibly even negative win rate, given my lack of practice with the class lately. And in the end I was kinda surprised. But, I’ll get back to results later.
Analyzing Other Deck Lists
The first question I’ve asked myself – what deck list should I play? I really had no clue. The archetype is very fresh, there is no established “best” or “most optimal” deck list yet. Most of the Priest players (and players in general) are making their own brews. And they are quite different. Sometimes it’s just 2-3 cards off, but other times it’s 5-6 cards and in Hearthstone that’s A LOT (you can make a completely different archetype by just changing 5-6 cards). I didn’t want to take one of those lists and just play it. I wanted to create my own that suits my play style and the decks I’m facing most. As a base for my deck building, I took 5 of popular lists and analyzed them. Here are those deck lists:
- Thijs’ Resurrect Priest
- Amaz’s Resurrect Priest
- Kolento’s Resurrect Priest
- Zetalot’s Resurrect Priest
- Eyecelance’s Resurrect Priest
P.S. Those decks might be slightly outdated now. I’ve started the deck building while they were the most “fresh” Resurrect Priest lists, but that was about a week ago.
A few main differences between those deck lists (and the few others I’ve seen too on the ladder/Reddit/etc.):
- Single target removal. Pretty much everyone plays Shadow Word: Pain, Shadow Word: Death and Entomb. But rarely 2 copies of each. It’s usually 5 in total – most of the times it’s either SW:P or Entomb getting cut. Some lists also run Holy Smite for the better early game board control.
- AoE removal. Once again, people usually run between 3 and 4 in total. When it comes to AoE, there is Holy Nova, Excavated Evil and Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing. I’d say that Excavated Evil is the most common one and every list I’ve seen runs it. Then it’s EITHER Holy Nova or Auchenai + Circle. Kolento plays one copy of Shadow Word: Horror, which is really interesting. Eyecelance opted for, besides Auchenais, one copy of Embrace the Shadows – most likely to make Circle / Flash Heal clears even more consistent.
- Card draw. Thijs runs Loot Hoarder and Shifting Shade. Kolento and Eyecelance have Thoughtsteal. Zetalot has Northshire Cleric. Amaz doesn’t have anything, but his list is heaviest. One could argue that Ysera is also a “card draw”, but it’s only relevant in the slow matchups.
- Flash Heal vs no Flash Heal. Lists with Auchenai usually run Flash Heal, those without most usually run Holy Smite in it’s place. It’s understandable – besides being used as a heal, it can double-up as a removal spell with Auchenai in the matchups where you don’t need healing that much.
- Minion choices. Early/mid game minions are mostly the same and the biggest difference is usually the late game minion choice. Sylvanas Windrunner is like a core – every list runs it. 4 out of 5 lists also run Ragnaros the Firelord. Then, 3 out of 5 also include Ysera. Kolento runs one copy of Bog Creeper as a late game defensive mechanic (and great Resurrect target) and Amaz runs heavy late game list with Baron Geddon and Y’Shaarj, Rage Unbound. Probably the most interesting choice is 2x Forbidden Shaping Eyecelance runs. While it’s less consistent in the late game, it can fill the any mana slot when you really need it.
- Barnes vs no Barnes. Only Eyecelance doesn’t run Barnes, but I have seen some other lists not running him too. So it’s definitely a consideration.
With all of the data gathered, I’ve started the deck building process. You can see the list I’ve ended up on the right.
There are a few core cards that I knew I would be running from the beginning. First of all – Resurrect and Onyx Bishop. After all, this is RESURRECT Priest. Injured Blademaster is also a must in those lists – he’s the reason why the mid game Resurrect can be so effective. Since you get him back without a Battlecry, you end up summoning a vanilla 4/7 minion (worth around 5 mana) for 2 mana (or for 5 mana alongside a 3/4 body). Wild Pyromancer is another staple – the card is really strong in Priest and allows for the early/mid game board clears to take place. Priest has a very hard time “pinging” minions for 1 damage – sometimes enemy ends up with a 5/1 minion that you have no way to kill. Pyromancer comes really handy then. I know that Eyecelance doesn’t run it and I understand why – to make Resurrect and Bishops even more consistent – but I prefer to run them anyway. Power Word: Shield is another staple card that I can’t see removing from ANY Priest lists. I actually think it’s one of the strongest cards in the whole game and I would pretty much play this in almost any deck. 10 cards figured out, 20 more to go.
Then we need to add other mid game minions. Priest of the Feast is a 100% include, I think the card is very strong. It has great stats and nice effect. And nice synergy with Resurrect – getting a 3/6 with positive effect back is also good. 18 more to go.
AoE removals. I’ve decided that I like Auchenai + Circle too much to not include it. So that’s my first 2 AoEs. I really like that those cards can be pretty flexible even if you don’t combo them with each other. Auchenai helps with pings later in the game too. Plus it’s not a bad resurrect target either. Circle combos nicely with Injured Blademaster, but it can just heal your board when necessary + in desperate scenarios it serves as a 3 points of healing for 0 mana with Priest of the Feast. When it comes to the other AoEs – I’ve decided to go for the 2x Excavated Evil. Even though I dislike the card and I think that it’s not a great AoE spell (basically a weaker version of Hellfire), I feel like it’s just better in the today’s meta than Holy Nova. 2 damage is often not enough. It doesn’t clear a lot of the Shaman’s stuff (Tunnel Trogg, Flametongue Totem, Mana Tide Totem, Feral Spirit), it doesn’t clear Alexstrasza’s Champion or Ravaging Ghoul, it doesn’t clear Grim Patron… And from my experience those are all pretty common. In case there are less 3 health minions in the meta, I’d go for the Holy Nova, because this deck is quite heavy on minions for a Priest deck and healing your own minions is usually better than damaging them. So 11 more to go.
Flash Heal vs no Flash Heal? I’ve decided to go with 2x Flash Heal. I feel like the additional survivability and combo with Auchenai is enough to justify running them. It also acts like a cheap spell for the sake of Pyromancer combos. 9 more to go.
Single target removals. I’ve decided to go with a full package of 2x Shadow Word: Pain, 2x Shadow Word: Death and 2x Entomb. I was thinking about cutting one Entomb, because let’s be honest – it’s too slow in tempo-heavy matchups. But then I’ve realized that 2x Entomb alone is almost enough to give you a win condition in slower matchups. Plus with Barnes being pretty popular, a lot of people are running high value Deathrattle minions and Entomb helps against them greatly. You know, stuff like Savannah Highmane, Sylvanas Windrunner or Cairne Bloodhoof – those are all good against no-Entomb Priest. I also don’t feel like I have enough space for Holy Smite at all. 4 more to go.
Big minions. The important question is – how many big minions does this deck need? It needs some late game and it needs some good, high cost Resurrect targets. But I don’t think it has to be late game heavy. Like I’ve said before, it’s more of a Tempo deck and I don’t feel like Tempo decks needs more than about 2-3 late game cards. Sylvanas Windrunner and Ragnaros the Firelord are my first choices – both are strong cards and are great cards to get back with Resurrect. I definitely don’t want to go Amaz route and play 5 big minions, I feel like it’s too gimmicky. So the important choice is whether to play or not play Ysera. Ysera is a high value card, but bad tempo card. It’s slow, it costs 9 mana and doesn’t have any immediate impact, it only has 4 Attack… I think that the main redeeming quality is that you have a chance to get Ysera Awakens spell, which is beyond broken. But I still think that she’s just too slow. I’ve decided to play one copy of Forbidden Shaping instead of Ysera. I like the consistency of Rag and the fact that it often serves as a high tempo removal (hitting opponent’s big minion is a HUGE boost to tempo considering that Rag still stays on the board and now enemy has to answer it). But Ysera just feels too slow and I prefer to have a flex minion to fill whatever slot I need to.
So, the last card was probably a hardest one to decide. In the end, I’ve noticed one thing – 3-drop slot is very empty. You pretty much never use Shadow Word: Death on turn 3 (against Druid sometimes, if he Innervates out something bigger and possibly against Rogue vs Edwin VanCleef but that’s it) so you’re only left with Injured Blademaster. With 1 Forbidden Shaping I could sometimes fill it, but 3-drop slot is not really the greatest one to play Shaping in. After watching some streamers playing this deck, I’ve realized that turn 3 is too often Hero Power + pass if they only run 2x Blademaster. So adding a 3rd card might ever so slightly make turn 3 more consistent. But then again – Priest has no good 3-drops. Dark Cultist would be a good card in this deck, honestly, but it’s gone from Standard. I’ve narrowed things down to three options – Thoughtsteal, Brann Bronzebeard and Earthen Ring Farseer. I liked every of those for certain reasons. Thoughtsteal gave me more value in total and was better in slow matchups. It’s also a spell for slight Pyromancer synergy. Then the Brann Bronzebeard is nice, because against fast decks you can just drop it as a 2/4 minion on t3 – it’s not good, but might get a trade or bait removal or something. And then in slower matchups it gets nice synergy with Barnes (if you run him) and Onyx Bishop – especially the second one. Resurrecting two targets instead of one is big. And Earthen Ring Farseer, because it’s probably my favorite neutral 3-drop. It’s an additional heal + you can just drop it on t3 as a 3/3 body + it has additional synergy with Auchenai Soulpriest later, either as a burst finisher or as a removal. Auchenai + Farseer + Hero Power is 5 damage, so it can kill most of the midrange minions. In the end I’ve decided to go with the Thoughtsteal. It’s a nice middle ground option, where it doesn’t feel like a waste of turn 3 and it’s also a great late game card when you need more value.
Few other considerations included:
- Should I play Northshire Cleric? Card draw might be a problem with this deck, but then again Cleric sucks with Resurrects.
- Barnes? On the one hand, I like it, because if it summons something big, you can then resurrect it next turn. But after cutting Ysera I didn’t feel like I have enough good targets to bring. And with four 4-drops already (+ Resurrect if you played t3 Blademaster and it died) I didn’t feel like I need another one.
- I’ve thought about playing Justicar Trueheart, as I like it in Priest a lot – but again, it’s not really a great Resurrect target (6 attack is nice, but 3 health…) + I think that the more tempo-heavy play style means that you won’t have enough time to get a lot of value from the Hero Power outside of the slow matchups.
- I’ve also briefly considered running Elise Starseeker, but 2x Entomb should be enough to win the fatigue war anyway. You can also Entomb opponent’s Elise or Golden Monkey if you think that you really need it, because the opponents that you could use Elise against usually run her themselves.
That was pretty much my thought process when creating the deck. I’ll be honest – I don’t think it’s the best possible deck list. To really determine that, I would need to play different deck lists and THEN analyze the stats, but I’m not hardcore enough to play hundreds of Priest games. I felt like the deck list was good enough and only the last few choices I wasn’t 100% sure about. Like, should I run Ysera instead of Forbidden Shaping? Or maybe vice versa – play 2nd Forbidden Shaping instead of Ragnaros? Maybe I could use a minion 3-drop after all? Stuff like that. But overall I’m pretty happy with how the deck turned out.
Once I had the deck list settled, I wanted to try it out on the ladder. I’ve played exactly 56 games in Legend between 21st and 24th of August (2nd wing was already out, 3rd wing wasn’t). I might play more and update the stats soon, because it didn’t went all that bad. But I still have a lot of other stuff to test, so I feel like this sample size should be good enough. I’ll start with the stats and then proceed to analyzing them:
Total win rate: 34-22 (61%)
- Vs Druid: 4-4 (50%)
- Vs Hunter: 5-2 (71%)
- Vs Mage: 4-3 (57%)
- Vs Paladin: 2-4 (33%)
- Vs Priest: 1-2 (33%)
- Vs Rogue: 2-1 (67%)
- Vs Shaman: 5-1 (83%)
- Vs Warlock: 5-3 (63%)
- Vs Warrior: 6-2 (75%)
I think that sample size is okay and I’ve gained enough experience to analyze which matchups were good and which were bad. I’ll go through every class and talk about it for a bit.
It was a pretty hard matchup. I was mostly facing Token Druids with or without Arcane Giants, a single Beast Druid (remember that the games were played before the 3rd wing) and a single Ramp Druid. Or maybe Astral, not sure, he didn’t play Astral, but his curve was really high. I’ve beat both Beast Druid and Ramp Druid, but can’t really talk much about those, because that was just a single game. The deck felt strong against Ramp Druid and okay-ish against Beast Druid. Now, Token Druid was a hard matchup. The problem was keeping up with them. First of all – this deck can’t really put an early game pressure unless you get something like Blademaster and then double Resurrect him. The games were mostly pretty slow and it was the problem. Nearly every game Druid ramped up pretty quickly, drew tons of cards and then started flooding the board over and over again. The problem is that they always had a lot of ways to refill everything. Living Roots, Violet Teacher, Fandral, Arcane Giants… So I’ve cleared the board once, twice, and they still had fuel because of how much they could draw. It felt like I’m the aggressor in those matchups and they outvalue me. Or rather, not strictly outvalue, but outdraw. Most of the games ended up when I had no cards left in the hand and relied on topdecks and they still had stuff to play. Then the result is obvious. I won one game when enemy didn’t have Ramp and I got a nice curve (Pyro into Blademaster into Priest of the Feast into Bishop that got back the Blademaster). And won another game thanks to getting Sylvanas 4 times. I had 50/50 to hit Sylvanas or Priest of the Feast with Resurrect and I hit Sylvanas. Then enemy killed Sylvanas again and I’ve followed by Onyx Bishop. Enemy killed it again (I already got a nice tempo lead at that point) and I played another Resurrect and got Sylvanas. He conceded. But rest of the games I lost, mostly in a slow grindy games. Oh, and one time against enemy who had perfect hand of Wild Growth into Fandral (I had no answer) into Violet Teacher + Living Roots + Innervate + Power of the Wild. Yeah.
Hunter was surprisingly okay matchup. The hardest part was always surviving the early game. I lost my games when I had no early game minions, drew just spells and I couldn’t keep up with them. But the thing is, Hunters right now have hard time dealing with high health minions. Some run Deadly Shot but it seems rare. I have got Deadly Shot only once over all those games as far as I remember. So cards like Priest of the Feast or Injured Blademaster (at full health) are amazing. Freezing Trap is still a BIG problem, since you don’t have a lot of small minions to check it with. That was the only Secret that really caused the problems for me. Just kill everything Hunter plays and you should be fine. 2x Entomb works really well against Highmane. If you already have something on the board and he drops Highmane, you can get quite nice tempo. Overall, you should outtempo Hunter with a few nice resurrects. Another thing is that Hunter has no defensive mechanics (Misha, sure, maybe Houndmaster, but that’s it). Call of the Wild is broken, but if you’re ahead, he will HAVE to use Huffer to clear the minions – he can’t really pressure you with it. Sylvanas Windrunner also works wonders. Dropping Sylvanas might prevent him from playing Call of the Wild altogether, because then you’ll have guaranteed Deathrattle value. Also, be careful when playing Auchenai Soulpriest. It’s still quite safe when your health total is 15+, but below that I would drop Auchenai only if I really had to – to remove something (which would prevent damage), to pressure enemy or when that’s really my only minion. Priest’s Hero Power can negate Hunter’s Hero Power, so you prefer doing that over having your own damage Hero Power – his deck is likely more aggressive than yours, so you won’t be able to utilize the damage Hero Power unless you’re in the lead.
Mages I’ve faced were all Tempo. Haven’t faced a single non-Tempo mage. I mean, some were the “faster” and some were “slower”, but they were all similar. Generally, this decks works quite nicely against Tempo Mage, at least that’s how I feel. I was pretty unlucky in my games, because I wasn’t consistently drawing the board clears (and with 4 of them it’s unlucky – even 6 if you count Pyromancers + spells combos). I especially like the Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing combo in this matchup, so I’d always keep it if I got it in mulligan. It can clear most of the stuff in the mid game – only Water Elemental is out of the range. It kills Azure Drake and Flamewaker, unlike 3 damage of Excavated Evil. Overall, this matchup is about clearing what enemy plays. Tempo Mages run a lot of burn, but they can’t burn you when you’re at high health. In the long game, you’re going to heal yourself out of range easily, so it’s all about not letting Mage rush you down. Try to remove everything he plays. The high health minions you have also work nicely – Mage prefers to remove small stuff with Arcane Blast and Frostbolt, while Fireball is his only big removal. Mid game resurrects are crucial – you can’t remove their minions with spells forever, you need minions of your own. Injured Blademaster is best, because it trades nicely into Azure Drake and Flamewaker and doesn’t get one-shotted by Ethereal Conjurer (you can heal him back out of the ping range after the trade). Be careful about Flamestrike, most of the lists run one copy. Don’t play right into it, there is no need. Keep 2-3 minions on the board at a time and try to get them above 4 health with PW:S and heals. Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End is always a wild card and you have to prepare that sometimes it will just win the game for Tempo Mage and you can’t really do anything about it. I had one annoying loss when I’ve already stabilized after a very rough early game, healed back to full and started outvaluing Mage when he played the perfect Yogg which cleared my board, summoned him a bunch of stuff and drew a few cards. Sadly, it happens.
I’ve faced both Control (N’Zoth) Paladin and Murloc (Anyfin) Paladin. Mostly the second one. Matchup against Control is good, honestly. Most of them are very low on Deathrattles nowadays with only Cairne Bloodhoof, Sylvanas Windrunner and Tirion Fordring. Which means that your Entombs are going to do amazing job. Keep one for Tirion, because it’s the highest priority target. And then use another one on either Sylvanas or Cairne, both are equally good to Entomb. It will make the N’Zoth almost useless. Then it’s just a grindy game up to fatigue. If you’re doing well and Paladin drops Acolyte of Pain, you might force him to draw 2-3 in order to put him ahead in fatigue. Justicar Trueheart is a big deal in this matchup, but they rarely run it now. On the other hand, Anyfin Paladin matchup is very hard. Priest struggles against high burst/OTK decks. Your only choice is to Entomb the Murloc Warleaders to make the combo worse. But it’s very tricky, because not only you need to draw 2 Entombs before they draw 2 Warleaders, if they play a turn 3 Warleader you usually can’t just leave it around for a few turns and have to kill it anyway. Also, they run Tirion Fordring, which is another important Entomb target. You Entomb Warleader – you have to deal with a 5/3 weapon. I still think it’s better to Entomb Warleaders, because weapon at least can’t burst you in a single turn. Very hard matchup. Oh, and one thing – Thoughtsteal is amazing in both matchups. Especially getting Forbidden Healing. Think about the potential – it’s 12 damage burst with Auchenai Soulpriest and 20 if you already have Auchenai on the board. Crazy. I got it once against Anyfin Paladin, and Auchenai was a draw that would win me the game for a few turns straight – sadly I never got it.
From the stats, it seems like Priest is my biggest nemesis. But the truth is that I’ve faced 3 other Resurrect Priests and the matchups were mostly decided on how lucky you got with your Resurrects. One game I’ve lost because enemy got Barnes dream. Ysera from Barnes and when I’ve killed it he played Onyx Bishop and got it back. I had no way to clear it and just lost. Another game I lost was a long, grindy one where each one of us has gone through all the Resurrects and in the end I got one too many Wild Pyromancer. Lost it by one fatigue tick. And the last game I won easily after playing t3 Blademaster and then resurrecting it on turn 4 and 5. Enemy had no way to deal with them, so it was over. 3 games is a very small sample size, but I’d say that the matchup is.. well, 50/50 since it’s a mirror. Probably tech choices is what might swing it one way or another, but not by much anyway.
Most of the Rogues are Miracle, this week Barnes + Malygos was probably the most popular version. Luckily for me, I didn’t face a lot of them, because it doesn’t seem to be a good matchup. I went 1-1 against this kind of deck. The game I won I was pretty lucky, because I curved out perfectly and started the mid game resurrect shenanigans. He didn’t have t6 Auctioneer and ran out of cards trying to deal with all my minions. The game I lost, however, the guy got an early Auctioneer (exactly what the deck wants) and then killed me on turn 9 with Malygos + 2x Sinister Strike + Eviscerate after getting everything discounted by Emperor Thaurissan. The last deck I faced was Reno N’Zoth Rogue and I might have gotten a little lucky, because N’Zoth was in the last 10 cards in his deck. If he played it, the game would probably went other way. But on the other hand, he got a perfect Entomb from the Swashburglar when he had no way to deal with my Ragnaros the Firelord. So I call it even. Can’t really say if the matchup is good or bad after just one game.
Shamans I’ve faced were Aggro or Midrange. But not classic Midrange, they were mostly a heavy Totem synergy ones, playtesting the new Wicked Witchdoctor, sometimes even with Evolve added in. Aggro was harder, mostly because every damage I took early had HUGE consequences later in the matchup + they have much more damage I can’t stop. With no weapon destruction, I can’t do anything against Doomhammer, I could just take hits in the face. But if you manage to deal with their early game, they shouldn’t be able to refill the board so easily in the mid game. So once you start getting the board control, you should have enough power to kill them in 3-4 turns. Try to take this matchup as fast as you can and prioritize healing your Hero over healing minions. Just spread trades across all the minions you have, they should be safe even if they’re all at low health. Normally it might be a bad tactic, but Aggro Shamans rarely run AoEs and won’t likely waste burn on your minions. The Midrange version is easier in my opinion. In this case, it’s ALL about board control. The version with heavy totem synergy sucks hard once you keep their board clear. If you leave even 2-3 Totems up they might get a lot of value out of Thunder Bluff Valiant or Primal Fusion or even Totemic Might (yeah, some builds play it). But if you constantly clear them, it’s much better. Those are board flood decks so try to keep your Excavated Evil and Auchenai + Circle combo until you get enough value. Also, don’t worry about your life total that much and heal minions. Those decks don’t run that much burst, the ones I was facing didn’t even seem to run Doomhammer at all. BUT you need to be careful about Bloodlust. This one is pretty common in those decks. That’s another reason why you absolutely need to keep the board clear. Let’s say they have 5 minions with 7 attack total on the board. You might seem safe, but then Bloodlust is 15 damage extra for a 22 total.
Every Warlock I faced, besides one, was Zoo. That one was RenoLock and I lost the game, because Priest still sucks against RenoLock. The game was pretty long but when he played Jaraxxus and cleared by board with Twisting Nether next turn I just lost. But the Zoo matchup is much more common and it feels pretty good. With the number of board clears you have, Zoo will have hard time developing the board. High health minions mean that Zoo will have to throw A LOT of resources into them if he wants them dead. And he can’t realistically leave let’s say Priest of the Feast on the board or you heal back to full all the time. And once you get some minions to stick on the board in the mid game, your Hero Power is amazing. You clear that Imp Gang Boss with your Injured Blademaster and just heal him back up to full. Auchenai + Circle is absolutely nuts in this matchup, even if he gets something leftover you still have 3/1 minion on the board he needs to clear so it’s often a full board clear. Excavated Evil is also good, although it doesn’t immediately clear some of the minions. Overall the board clears are amazing in this matchup, but don’t waste them on just 2 minions or something. It all depends on how much damage enemy has on the board. Remember that you can heal for 2 every turn, so enemy needs at least 6+ damage to realistically threaten you. Zoo can’t really afford to play hard around AoE, so you force them to flood the board and them AoE it down. I’d say that you want to keep the Wild Pyromancer for the board clear combos and not just drop him on turn 2 as a 3/2. Plus it’s not a good resurrect target and you rely on the mid game resurrects to take the board control. Since board control is key here, keeping Pyro and 2-3 spells for the right situation can completely swing the game. Pyro is better at clearing the Argent Squire and Possessed Villager, because you need to AoE them twice. Plus it’s better against low health Imp Gang Boss, because once it dies you can then immediately kill the 1/1 it spawns too (not really effective against full health Imp Gang Boss, but not that terrible either – you will never spawn more than a single 1/1 anyway). Try to keep at least one Shadow Word: Death or Entomb for Doomguard / Sea Giant. Those might take you by surprise and swing the game in Zoo’s favor. You can’t clear them with AoE and they threaten a lot of damage. Also, even though most of the lists run Doomguards now, if you don’t see them you should consider the possibility that enemy plays the Leeroy Jenkins version. It’s common that this version will burst you from 10-16 damage from the hand (e.g. Leeroy + Power Overwhelming + Abusive Sergeant + Soulfire) so be careful.
Most of the Warriors I’ve faced were Dragon Warriors with a C’Thun Warrior and OTK Warrior here and there. I’ll start with the less common matchups. Control/C’Thun Warrior should be similar and should be pretty even matchups. Entomb gives you an edge in the fatigue games. Against Control Warrior you probably want to Entomb Elise Starseeker or Golden Monkey – so you could also turn all the useless cards you end up with in the late game into Legendaries. This is a very slow matchup and you don’t need to rush anything down. Don’t overcommit into Brawl – keep 1-2 minions on the board at a time. Don’t play Wild Pyromancer so you won’t mess up with your Resurrect targets pool – playing Injured Blademaster is good, because it’s a nice resurrect target. But if you can afford to, you might even try to wait until you drop Sylvanas and/or Ragnaros and not play a lot of minions before that. Once they are killed, you will be able to get them back a few more times and every time you get them back, your chance to get them next time increases. Against C’Thun Warrior, stealing a C’Thun means that he can’t possibly resurrect it with Doomcaller. You should absolutely keep either Entomb or Sylvanas Windrunner + Shadow Word: Death against C’Thun. C’Thun matchup might be faster if he plays the heavy cycle Kolento version, then you don’t need to really hold back, because you can’t afford to lose too much tempo. Still, the deck’s main win condition is shuffling back 2 C’Thuns after the first one dies and you can prevent that (or rather, you NEED to prevent that if you want to win).
OTK Warrior is hard, almost impossible to win against. You really need to pressure him – that’s the only way. Don’t play for value, play for the tempo. Try to push him with minions. They usually don’t run Brawls, so flooding the board with high health minions is the only way. You can’t take the long matchup, because once he gathers his combo pieces, you’re just dead. He can burst you down from full health easily and getting all the necessary cards won’t even be that hard, because of the heavy cycle the deck uses. The more pressure you put, the more they will need to focus on removing instead of cycling and that’s your only hope. Overall this matchup is so heavily in Warrior’s favor that you might even immediately concede it if you don’t get a perfect opening. Playing the long game makes zero sense.
And lastly – probably most common matchup on the ladder – Dragon Warrior. And I actually feel like this Priest is slightly favorite against the deck. Dragon Warrior heavily relies on the minion damage to do anything. And you can mostly stop that minion damage with your removals and such. Shadow Word: Pain works wonders – it gives you a very easy way to deal with their 2-4 drops (besides Faerie Dragon, because you can’t target that). Sure they have weapons and possibly some Grommash Hellscream burst, but first they need to get you down low for it to work. Their only removal that is good against your deck is Execute and with 2 copies they can’t kill everything. The thing is – Dragon Warrior has A LOT of removal, but they all deal between 1 and 3 damage. So they don’t work that well against high health minions. And your minions are mostly high health ones. They have really hard time dealing with a 4/7 (besides the Execute I’ve mentioned) and that’s the point. Once you get the board control, they also have no comeback mechanics besides Deathwing. Deathwing is strong, but then they have to rely on the topdecks to do anything. You absolutely want to keep one removal for Deathwing, because if they drop it and you have no removal, that’s the game. You can’t afford to take 12 damage per turn. Try to preserve your life total and swing the game with mid game resurrects. Generally try to keep yourself above 15 health – not only you will be safe against any burst damage then, but they also won’t get +3/+3 on Drakonid Crusher. It doesn’t matter if you have Death or something, but it’s a big deal if you have to trade it with minions.
I don’t think that Resurrect Priest is strong. That said, I can’t also say that the deck sucks. It’s not terrible and it’s definitely possible to hit Legend and even higher Legend ranks with it. I’d say that in the current state it’s a Tier 3 deck. It might be the best time for Priest in Standard so far, so if you’re a Priest fan, you should DEFINITELY try the deck out and see how it goes for you. But if you don’t like Priest that much, you’d be better off playing a stronger deck.
I have two main issues with Priest’s state right now. First one is lack of good early drops. Priest has pretty much no early game. Northshire Cleric is just a 1/3 and 1/3’s that don’t grow aren’t really good in the current meta. They’re easily cleared by almost anything. Museum Curator? Sure, it’s good, but it’s only a 1/2 body so it can’t really fight back. Wild Pyromancer is just a vanilla 3/2 if you don’t combo him with spells. And that’s it. Priest losing Zombie Chow and Deathlord (and even Dark Cultist) was a huge hit to the early game consistency. Losing Velen’s Chosen also means that you can’t make the small bodies of Cleric or Curator useful. Blizzard keeps printing new 4-drops for the Priest. Like really. They get a new 4-drop EVERY DAMN EXPANSION. Holy Champion in TGT, Shifting Shade in LoE, Hooded Acolyte in WoG and now Priest of the Feast in Kara. Sure, they’re all good, but Priest doesn’t need more 4-drops. It needs some solid early game.
And the second issue I have is the board clears. Let’s be honest – Excavated Evil is not the best board clear. Sure, it’s good against small minions, but when opponents start dropping something bigger you’re screwed. Priest losing Lightbomb might have been the biggest hit. If you have early game that sucks, you sure as hell should have some comeback mechanics. Right? Nope. Control decks NEED to have access to board wipes. Brawl, Equality + Consecration, Twisting Nether, Frost Nova + Doomsayer… Even Shaman has better board clear with Elemental Destruction. Priest needs something like that. The class keeps getting new ways to deal with small minions (e.g. Shadow Word: Horror or Embrace the Shadow) but it’s not what it needs.
Without those, Control Priest won’t be competitively viable. It will stay a tier 3 deck at best. There is still faith in Dragon Priest, because the deck – just like other Dragon decks – is much more tempo based and proactive. It has good early game (Twilight Whelp and Wyrmrest Agent) unlike the Control Priest and it doesn’t need the board wipes that much, since it wants to keep the board control all the time and not play from behind. Dragon Priest will surely be tested after the last wing gets released, so about week from now we should know whether it’s going to work or not. Priest players need to keep their fingers crossed.
Final verdict: Resurrect Priest? If you’re dedicated Priest player and you have a lot of experience with the class – the deck is okay for you. You should have positive win rate and slowly climb. Maybe even get a nice win streak here and there. If not, I don’t recommend it. Even though I have quite a bit of Control Priest experience, nearly every game was a struggle. I was fed up with the class a bit too often, sometimes even after the matches I won. That’s the biggest reason why I didn’t play Priest lately – there are many games where I just feel helpless. I feel like I can’t do anything and enemy just plays a stronger deck. And no matter how hard I try, I will never perform as good with Priest deck as someone does with Warrior or Druid or something. This deck needs to fight from turn 1 until the game ends. You get almost no “free wins” just like most of the other decks. Getting the nut hand is very, very rare and is not as easy as just getting a good 1-2-3-4 curve. Priest in the current state is still very frustrating to play. But at least it’s a step in the right direction and the deck got promoted from Tier 4 to Tier 3.
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Good luck on the ladder and until next time!