Oh, Priest, what happened to you? It is no secret that, by now in the Hearthstone community, Priest has rapidly fallen out of favor. While the healing class has never been a favorite (or close to a favorite) they still have spent a good deal of time in the sun (much more than Shaman). Currently, Priest just isn’t strong enough. It has too many reactive cards, not enough finishers and doesn’t operate well as a midrange or an aggro deck…except…except this is Weekly Legends. And, here on Weekly Legends we don’t listen to silly statements like this. We don’t listen to “doesn’t work” or “can’t make it”. We try where others have failed, and luckily, other people do as well. While Hearthstone has its “best decks”, there are plenty of different ways to climb the ladder all the way to the orange diamond, and today we will look at exactly how Anduin, so cast off from the decks of old, does it.
Chinese Priest is nothing new, but it is a very interesting take on an old idea. The idea? Stay alive and win the long game. Of course, there are always the options of winning early on by some crazy Velen’s Chosen start, but most of the time this is a control deck through and through. What is interesting about this version of Priest (and the reason I decided to showcase it this week) is it runs many unusual cards not normally found in any deck. For instance, there is always talk about double Deathlord and double chosen, but you also run two Holy Nova, a Holy Fire, Vol’jin and a Mind Control while also running just one Wild Pyromancer, Cabal Shadow Priest and Lightbomb. In that way, this deck has a wide range of tools against both aggro and control. I have never covered a Priest in this series before, and if you are looking for a chance (or a better understanding) of how to play it on ladder, this is the best way to go.
Shadow Word: Pain
We start out the card discussion with one of the (many) silver bullets in this list. Shadow Word: Death is an easy two-of in any Priest deck, but its smaller brother typically gets little to no love. Yes, this card is most often weak during the later turns of the game, but it gives you two modes that are very important. First off, it has the ability to set your early game. In this way, it is basically a Frostbolt or Darkbomb, taking care of a tricky minion. However, while it cannot hit larger targets, and though it cannot finish off minions, unlike most two mana removal, Shadow Word: Pain has the added ability of being able to kill things with more than three health.
A lot of problem minions (Flamewaker, Imp Gang Boss) run around the meta these days, and they all need to be dealt with immediately. While trading is the typical way you are going to remove minions, having one extra way of keeping ahead early on can be invaluable, especially for a control deck like this. Another big part of why this is a good card to run is because it kills the first half of Sludge Belcher. Belcher is by no means an impossible card to deal with, but being able to kill it for two mana cleans up the board very nicely. A lot of decks depend on using the five drop to stabilize the mid game, and if you can remove it without losing board, it can be a huge swing.
While the use of this card is simple, knowing how it operates in the early game is not. First off, Gilblin Stalker is in the deck for two distinct reasons. One, it can be a very strong tool against aggro. A 2/3 is not the most exciting card, but a 2/3 (see Zombie Chow) can effectively deal with many other early game minions. Even if it just trades with a Knife Juggler or Sorcerer’s Apprentice, that’s still very good and accentuates a very important note: Losing minions (or trading minions) is not a bad thing. It is easy to get attached to keeping minions around (especially one with stealth) but in those matchups this card serves much better as a removal spell than anything else. Because it cannot be killed by removal, it also is a great play to clear out Tempo Mage’s early minions.
The other mode of the stalker (and the reason it happens to be in the deck) is because it gives you a free way to attach Velen’s Chosen early on. With chosen, this card becomes a 4/7 that just dominates the early game. In fact, if your opponent does not have a silence, an early chosen can just steal the game. However, more often than not, due to people knowing about chosen, your early minions will not live long. Being able to play the stalker allows you to get a chosen target hassle free. The main thing to remember is, most of the time stalker is just a 2/3 for two, which really isn’t the worst thing. Don’t hold it waiting for a chosen, just use it to trade (or even apply damage) when needed.
Unlike most classic Priest builds, Chinese Priest has a lot of minions and typically wants to use those minions to take over the board. That is extremely important because, while it not only gives the deck a different feel, it also makes Vol’jin a much better card. Though combining the troll shaman with spells is generally the way you are going to go about using his power, trading away a small minion is almost always a better deal. Something that I will touch upon further later is that, this deck is all about using your resources in the best way. If you do not do this well, you will end up losing a lot of games because of it. Vol’jin allows you to make the most of your resources in this way.
During my video I played Control Warrior, which was a fantastic example of how to properly conserve your resources. Vol’jin, while acting as a threat, is a removal spell plain and simple. That may seem like an oversimplification of this card, but you want to use any resource you can to get rid of midrange threatss you don’t want to use Shadow Word: Death on. When playing this build, you want to save your death’s until the very end of the game. Vol’jin allows you to that and while also adding something huge to the board. Yes, he will often get removed the turn after he comes down, but losing your minions doesn’t matter. All that matters is eventually having the last threat.
As discussed in the section above, you want to do everything you can to conserve your resources. The original list ran a Mind Control Tech to counter Zoo, but I find Holy Fire solves many more problems than the three drop. I have often discussed the importance of versatility in making cards constructed viable. And, just like all good versatile cards, Holy Fire is very strong because it fills in a much needed gap. You have a ton of early game between Zombie Chow and Deathlord, which will usually be enough to hold down the fort until you bring on the heavy hitters. However, sometimes you don’t draw that early game, and sometimes you need to catch up. Removal that takes away from the board and also heals you can sometimes save the game. Of course, just playing on turn six will not always be enough, but there were many game where having that extra boosted bought me enough time for the win.
When playing this deck, know that one of Priest’s biggest problems is 5/5’s. Why? Because they are not large enough to warrant hard removal, but they are big enough to control the board and threaten your life total. While most of the time this deck can trade them away, I did want one more solid answer. Holy Fire has come up huge in that regard time and time again. This card kills all sorts of semi-threats that you don’t want to spend valuable resources dealing with such as Ancient of Lore, Shieldmaiden, Loatheb and Emperor Thaurissan. That niche, combined with the healing, makes it an excellent silver bullet.
Sneed’s Old Shredder
This is an extremely large flex spot that can be taken up by several different cards. Basically, you just need a second finisher (in addition to Mind Control). The most common choice for this is Ysera, and she makes a wonderful finisher. I also really like Nefarian, but any card that gives you late game card advantage should do the trick. The only thing you need to be careful of is, this deck has no BGH targets. As such, because the games go so long, anything large you play (Ragnaros the Firelord, Nefarian, Dr. Boom) will inevitably die to the hunter. As a result, you want to stick with lower attack minions that still can take over.
Ok, the big question: why sneed’s over ysera? For me, it simply comes down to personal preference. While Ysera is a fantastic card (and also Priest’s best friend) I often found myself wishing I had a little more power. Something else I noticed is that, due to Velen’s Chosen and Sylvanas Windrunner, this deck baits a lot of silences. While it is not as popular, Sneed’s Old Shredder is a card that can be an absolute house in the control matchups if they do not have a silence, and it, unlike the dragon, can survive hard removal. I’m not saying it is the right choice, though it is my favorite, but I am saying you do need a finisher. Whatever that ends up being, the choice is yours.
Five decks I see most on ladder.
Despite the video, Hunter is by and far the number one reason to play this deck. While they will always have those games where they steamroll and you can’t stop them, you will never have more tools at your disposal. Zombie Chow, Northshire Cleric, Velen’s Chosen, Wild Pyromancer, Deathlord and all of your healing usually do a good job of keeping them in their place. Every Hunter deck has a plan, which is to go face. That may come at different times for different decks, but eventually they will use their burst to take over. Any deck that can interrupt them usually gives them fits, and this deck, with all of the aforementioned tools, interrupts them very well.
Protecting your life total is very important in this match and, while most matches will go very long, this is a game where you just want to run them out of cards. After that happens, you will usually be able to drown them in card advantage. The key turns are always going to be one-two-three. You typically want to just trade your minions and kill theirs at all costs. While healing will eventually carry you through, you actually want to play minions through the first half of the game. Then, once they only have a card or two left, you can allow your hero power to help you through the later turns.
Sometimes I think Zoo is gone. Then, I hit the next rank and it’s all I play. As such, while you may not be seeing it right away, you have to be prepared for Guldan and his army of small minions. While you do have a lot of on-board punch, you do not have access to Auchenai/Circle which typically is how Priest wins Zoo. As such, the best way to win this match is to simply beat them at their own game. Zoo is a deck that thrives off of board control, and if you keep their minions off the board, you will almost always win.
While Deathlord can be very good at eating small minions, you want to be very careful when you run it out. Eight health is not a lot against Zoo, and you never want to give them a free minion at the cost of a Power Overwhelming. For the games where you don’t start strong, or where they have great answers for your early game, try and get the most value out of your board clears. Two Holy Novas and one Lightbomb can be absolutely amazing when played at the right time. Just as with every other match, save your Shadow Word: Deaths, only using them for Doomguard and Dr. Boom.
Paladin has seen a huge resurgence in popularity over the last week. I’m not sure why this is, but this is generally good news. Unless Paladin gets rolling really early, they cannot keep up with what we’re doing. Most of their small minions get cleared by Holy Nova and Wild Pyromancer (which is an always keep), and, as with every control deck, you will eventual wear them down in the later game. The number one rule of this deck (as shown in the video) is to Mind Control (or Sylvanas) Tirion Fordring. Paladin almost always runs one silence, and they almost always use it before turn ten. As such, when you can get a hold of Tirion, he will take over the game. Besides that, watch out for Quartermaster, but don’t be afraid to go into the lower life totals. Paladin has almost no burst.
Control Warrior is all about conservation of resources (as seen in the video). Volj’in, Lightbomb and Holy Fire are all extremely important cards here because they give you ways to remove big minions without spending Shadow Word: Death (which should be exclusively saved for the end of the game Grommash). Never, and I mean never, use your deaths on Shieldmaidens or things like Emperor Thaurissan. While those may get you through the turn, they will almost always come back to haunt you in the end.
Due to your healing, the only way they will be able to kill you is with Grommash Hellscream. However, if you can constantly bait out their other cards and whittle down their resources while staying above 12 life, you will almost always win. Sylvanas Windrunner is their only good answer to Sneed’s Old Shredder, so try to avoid playing the mech until after Sylvanas has been played. One last note is, while Mind Control is extremely important here, whatever you steal is most likely going to get BGH’d, and that’s ok. However, if you do have the chance to steal something good with less health at the end of the game, you should do so.
Druid is a deck that largely depends on killing you with the combo. This matchup, while not the easiest, is another exercise in card conservation. However, unlike Control Warrior there are times where you need to kill some suboptimal minions to avoid dying to Savage Roar. You typically want to keep their board clear, much like Zoo, to make sure they can’t build toward lethal. While you do want to make the most use of Vol’Jin and Holy Fire, don’t be afraid of using your deaths on things like Ancient of Lore, especially if you need tempo.
Druid is a deck that has always had trouble dealing with lots of minions. As such, never be afraid of dropping things onto the board. In fact, due to your tempo plays such as Vol’jin and hard removal, you generally win this match by gaining early momentum and never giving it back. This matchup is more of a board matchup that anything else, and if you can bait their keepers early, you should dominate the late turns. The one other important note is, Lightbomb hits Druid harder than any other deck. If you do fall behind or ever lose the board, don’t be afraid to drop the mass removal.
One of the nicest things about this deck is the easy mulligan guide. Some decks have complex, convoluted mulligans that change with each deck and each scenario. However, as this deck is very streamlined in its purpose, you want to always look for the same starts. While there are some silver bullets (covered below) you generally want to try and open every game with Zombie Chow, Northshire Cleric, Dark Cultist and Gilblin Stalker. In addition, Shadow Word: Pain should be kept in every non-Druid match, and Power Word: Shield is an auto-keep if you have any other early minion to go with it. Besides that, Wild Pyromancer is a card you should keep against Hunter, Mage, Paladin and Warlock.
When it comes to the coin, Dark Cultist is an auto-keep and Deathlord is kept against anything that is not Warrior or Priest. Velen’s Chosen should never be kept on its own, but if you have an early minion to pair it with, it is a great keep (especially with Northshire Cleric off the coin). The final rules here are, never keep anything Piloted Shredder or higher, and always mulligan aggressively for your early plays. While there are some matches where it will be nice to have a Sludge Belcher on turn five, Zombie Chow and the like are much better ways to open the game.
Once again, that’s it for this week. I hope you enjoy this week’s foray into Priest, as I hope you are enjoying the series. As always, I appreciate any feedback and comments you have. Summer is just beginning and there are many more legend decks to explore. Until next time, may you always be the last one standing.