Weekly Legends: OTK Priest

I am not a huge fan of Priest. It is my only non-golden class, and there is a big reason for why that is. It usually is too slow, too unfair and never sits anywhere in the middle. However, sometimes unfair can be a good thing. I personally love creative OTK decks (not you Patron) that takes […]

Introduction

I am not a huge fan of Priest. It is my only non-golden class, and there is a big reason for why that is. It usually is too slow, too unfair and never sits anywhere in the middle. However, sometimes unfair can be a good thing. I personally love creative OTK decks (not you Patron) that takes cards that aren’t normally used and spin them in a new way. While this week’s deck (Mind Blast Priest) has been done in many ways before, there are always things to learn about the new versions of old decks. This week’s decklist comes from Lyme, and it is really quite cool. Not only is it just a very interesting concept, but it is also a new adaptation of a very old idea. OTK decks are very tricky to build. They need to have enough control variants to be able to last long enough to pull off the combo, but also need to have enough power where you don’t suffer from playing your combo cards. The reason that Midrange Druid is so powerful is that its combo is not just a combo and can be played in numerous ways. However, this is not Midrange Druid. You have one goal, and you need to know how to reach it.

For those that do not know, Prophet Velen plus double Mind Blast is a twenty point combo that can kill people out of nowhere. If you add on something like a Holy Smite, the damage ceiling just climbs higher and higher. However, there is a big problem with Velen/Mind Blast. It costs eleven mana. Enter Emperor Thaurissan, one of the best combo cards that Hearthstone has ever seen. All you need to do is discount one of the three combo cards and the entire thing is just a mere ten mana. Discount further and you can really start to bring the pain for cheap. That is your number one goal with this deck. Use the Control Priest shell to carefully contstruct a nearly unstoppable three card combo. It is not the easiest task in the world, but Control Priest is primed quite well for this meta, and having the extra surprise of burst can take a game out of nowhere.

Key Cards

Holy Smite

I wanted to take a section for this inclusion because of how important Holy Smite is. The current meta is full of early cards that absolutely need to die. Zombie Chow commonly fills this role for Priest. While there is one in the deck, you often want your cards to be able to do multiple things. Versatility is very important when evaluating cards for any deck, and Holy Smite does that very well. Every card in this deck (or any Priest deck) is going to be able to do many thing. Knowing all of those modes is vitally important.

While Holy Smite is an essential early game removal spell, it is also a piece that you can use to help raise the damage of your combo. This card is two damage, but four with Prophet Velen. Not the most exciting card, but if you get an Emperor Thaurissan trigger is then becomes free. When that happens (or even if it costs one) this card is basically an Ice Lance without the caveat of needing to freeze something. Extremely powerful that can give you that extra bit of reach you need to end the game. However, also understand that this card is not a combo piece. It’s main mode is to remove early minions, and that is desperately needed in today’s meta. While you can save it for the end of the game, do not do that unless you need it for lethal.

Velen’s Chosen

If there is one card that seems out of place in this list it is Velen’s Chosen. This card is primarily only used for Control Priest decks, and even then it is nowhere near standard fare these days. However, this list utilizes the buff in a slightly different way. If you notice, this deck does not have very many removal spells. In fact, Lightbomb is the really only hard removal card it runs. You need removal in a Priest deck, and that can come in different ways. Here, that removal comes in the form of the chosen. It gives you a great way to clear out the early board, but can also be used a midgame buff to trade up with a larger minion. Both modes are fine, as you are clearing out minions, which in turn is going to make the game go longer and give you more time to dig for your combo. Always look for opportunities to get this onto a minion.

Going back to the idea of modes, Velen’s Chosen also does good work as a stall tactic. There are many ways to control a game, and forcing your opponent to react to you is one of them. For instance, while Druid wants to pile up as many things as it can onto the board, if they have to spend a turn dealing with a threat through Swipe instead of playing a minion, their gameplan is delayed. Turns like that are very important when trying to dig for a combo because they are a form a tempo. Chosen is going to buff your cards, which then become instant threats that have to be dealt with in some way. Two attack and four health is very, very tricky to deal with. Either your opponent gets rid of your minion or slowly wears it down over a few turns. Either way doesn’t matter to you. By the time they kill it you should be much deeper into your deck.

Shadow Word: Death

Anytime I make my own inclusion into a list I like to discuss it. In this case, I swapped out Harrison Jones (a card I remove from a lot of lists) for the single Shadow Word: Death. While Harrison’s card draw is relevant, I just don’t fully understand playing him in this meta. There are a good number of Paladins, but I am not sure if that is worth playing a card that gets rid of weapons. That is especially true because most weapons are not going to cause you to lose the game, as Death’s Bite did in the days of Patron Warrior. Of course Doomhammer is a problem, but Aggro Shaman continues to dwindle on the edges of the meta. A big part of this deck is about staying alive, and Harrison Jones really doesn’t do that unless you are hitting an Ashbringer. What does help you stay alive is Shadow Word: Death. Hard removal is essential in today’s game with all of the large minions. While there really isn’t room for two of these cards, I did want  silver bullet. Most of the time Lightbomb and trading will carry you though, but being able to get rid of large minions with a cheap spell is much better. Save this card for the really large threats that you can’t clear in any other way. And remember not to use it to early, burning this on the wrong target can lose you the game.

Prophet Velen

No way I could go through this deck and not discuss the man himself, Prophet Velen. One of the reasons that Velen is so good is, unlike many “combo only” cards, he has many different uses. While he your primary finisher, he also is a way to heal up or bring your life total back to a point where you can take over the game through attrition rather than damage. Yes, the second mode is not his desired function, but you should understand that is exists and is available when the games get tight against aggro decks. Just know that if you do go that route, the healer is unlikely to live. One of the downsides to Prophet Velen is his body. Just like a certain doctor, the Priest legendary is a 7/7, making him susceptible to Big Game Hunter. As a result, he is going to get taken down by the 4/2 more often than not. As a result, always try to only play him when you have lethal or you absolutely need to heal.

Something else to remember is that the combo needs Emperor Thaurissan to do the full twenty (or more) damage. This means you want to wait it out as long as you can until you can carefully put it all together. Getting a tick down on any card is extremely important, and you should never use the discount until you can do so. Velen is your finisher, and the way you are going to win just about every game. Never blow a game by being impatient.

Alexstrasza

I have played OTK Priest decks many times in the past and I think this is by far the most important card to run. Some OTK lists don’t include the life-bringer, but I believe Alexstrasza to be absolutely essential. Something that happens with combo decks is that sometimes your opponent is, for whatever reason, outside of burst range. While that doesn’t happen with decks like Miracle Rogue or Patron Warrior, it does happen when you damage has a set cap. In this case, this deck’s damage usually caps out as twenty. Yes, that can go up to twenty eight if you have both Holy Smites discounted, but that rarely happens. Due to that damage ceiling, sometimes you need a little extra push to get you the win, and that is where Alexstrasza comes in. While the mid-to-high twenties can be a problem for you, fifteen is exactly where you want your opponent to be.

Just like Prophet Velen, Alexstrasza is important because of her versatility. She can help bring down your opponent into combo range, or she can keep you alive. As stated, you will most often be able to win a game if it goes long enough (and you’re not playing against a Warrior). That means staying alive, and Alexstrasza‘s ability to hit your own face does that wonderfully. Healing up to fifteen may not always save you, but combined with your own healing, it can a lot of the time. Each turn you are alive means more time you have to dig for combo pieces, set up removal or clear the board. Like Velen, Alex is going to die the turn she comes down, but that often won’t matter if she’s done her job one way or another. Your opponent has to clear her right away, which means they are not bringing any pressure and they are not healing up. A win for you either way.

Matchups

The five decks I see the most on ladder.

Zoo

When going up against any aggressive deck you are going to operate like pure control. That means you need to use most of your resources to clear the board and stock up on life. You can do that quite well against almost every aggressive deck in the current meta, but it gets a bit harder against Zoo. Zoo has some of the stickiest minions in the game in addition to a ton of burst. Those two put together means that Zoo can pile of the damage turn after turn after turn powering through both AOE and spot removal. You combat that by simply stalling with everything you have. Always look for ways to clear the board, kill minions and pop their deathrattle. Even if you cannot make use of it right away, making sure their Haunted Creeper is not in its first form will make your AOE much, much stronger in the later turns of the game. The longer this game goes the better chance you have of winning. While against some decks you are going to need to push some damage through in order to set up the combo, Lifetap does most of the work for you against Warlock.

Secret Paladin

Playing against Secret Paladin is a lot like going up against Zoo, except you have to be a lot more careful. The reason is that, while they both make a living on sticky minions, Secret Paladin is a very swingy deck where one turn can suddenly lock you out of the game. The best way to control that is through seeing towards the future. While Paladin has the best curve in Hearthstone, it also has one of the most predictable. You know pretty much what they are going to play each turn, which means you can accurately plan for it. A big part of Hearthstone if knowing what your opponent is going to do. If you save your removal for high priority targets (or for secret triggers) then you should be fine. As powerful as Paladin is, it has little to no burst. If you clear their early game you should be able to live long enough to combo.

Use Lightbomb to your full advantage here. The card does a wonderful job of  of clearing out Secret’s board, and if probably one of the best tools against a turn six Mysterious Challenger in the game. When playing the card you always want to get the most value out of it. Sometimes that even means waiting a turn on their turn six Challenger to also kill a turn seven Dr. Boom. Also know that most Secret Paladin deck’s these days have little to zero ways to get rid of big minions. Ironbeak Owl is all but gone, and Equality is a thing of the past. That means your Velen’s Chosens and Deathlords are going to do a lot of work. The only real way Paladin can combat either of those cards is through Blessing Kings, which is not a problem if you keep their minions off of the board.

Tempo Mage

Tempo Mage is one of your easier matchups due to the way that they play. Tempo Mage is a deck that fights for the board as much as possible, but needs certain key minions to make that happen. If you can easily remove their early big game threats like Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer’s Apprentice or Flamewaker they will usually slow down. Once their early burst is taken away they usually hold onto cards for later game combos or they play midrange minions one turn after the next. Each of those strategies do not affect you because they both grind the game down to a halt. Once you get past the first turns of the game, the most important thing is to make sure they don’t have any minions at their disposal. You want to clear as much as you can. If you can you want to wait to use any mass AOE for Dr. Boom, which is their only really large threat besides Archmage Antonidas.

Always understand that Tempo Mage loves to end the game with large bursts of damage. That can come in the form of Archmage Antonidas, it can come from Fireballs and Frostbolts, or it can come from a well-timed Dr. Boom. This is important because you need to take card of your life total here. While it may not be fun, this is one of the matchups where you sometimes need to play Prophet Velen on his own just to heal. This usually works at getting rid of Mage’s burst because, not only does it heal you right away, but it also forces them to use burn on the Prophet since they don’t run Big Game Hunter. If you do get into that situation, your gameplan is going to change from a combo deck to a fatigue deck. From that point on you want to heal as much as possible and just spend everything you have to clear.

Aggro Shaman

Still holding on by the skin of their teeth, Aggro Shaman is a very hard matchup. The reason for that is most of your cards that are so strong against other decks do almost nothing against non-stop burst damage to the face. Aggro Shaman is a deck that operates in two phases. The first phase is a creature-heavy build that just adds more and more minions to the board. Then, once those minions have done their, they start throwing every card they have at your face hoping you die before they do. Unfortunately, that strategy works quite well against a deck with limited healing like this one. Yes, you do have access to your hero power and one Flash Heal/Light of the Naaru, but that is often not enough to halt things like Doomhammer or Lava Burst. Because of that, the loss of Harrison Jones does hurt here at times, and if you are seeing a lot of Thrall, you could switch the archaeologist back into this deck. The way you are going to win this matchup is by taking off Shaman’s first phase by clearing their board so their burst is less effective. If you can start out strong you can basically remove Shaman’s ability to play minions, making them very one dimension.

Earth Shock is very rare in most Aggro Shaman builds, who favor board presence and the ability to clear with burn over the one drop spell. This is important to note because, much like Secret Paladin, it means they cannot do much about Velen’s Chosen or Deathlord. Those two cards are your best friends, though Wild Pyromancer can also do a nice job at clearing things out if the going gets tough. You never want to risk playing down Auchenai Soulpriest in this matchup unless you are Circle of Healing a board or need the damage to clear out a problematic minion. Losing your heal is one of the best ways to lose this game, and a 3/5 is not worth that. As with Mage, this is another matchup where a lot of times you are going to be using Prophet Velen for healing purposes. Sometimes staying alive until Alexstrasza is enough to win the game.

Midrange Druid

I am not sure when this happened, but Midrange Druid has become one of the (if not the) least interactive decks in the game. It is basically a different version of Patron Warrior that needs to just get a minion or two to stick for a turn before it can unleash its burst. Of course, it’s not as OP as Patron once was, but it is always key to understand just how a deck operates and the best way to beat it. This matchup is often a race to the combo. Druid is trying to set up Force of Nature/Savage Roar, while you are trying to Mind Blast them to death. Druid sets up their burst by putting things down, and you set up yours by clearing minions. It is natural push and pulls that does not (if the videos are any indication) work in your favor. Often they will eventually get one thing to stick, and when that happens the game is all-but over.

Unless you can kill Druid on the spot (or make a play that takes over the game) do not leave their minions in play. The combo will eventually come to you, but it can’t if you ignore the board and then die. Lightbomb does a decent job or removing some of thier boards, but there are many cards (Druid of the Claw) that it cannot reliably hit. For this reason, your best tool for clearing is Auchenai Soulpriest, especially as the game moves towards the middle turns. The circle combo works really well, especially when contesting for the board as much as you are here. Also always make sure to get use out of your taunts. While Deathlord‘s ability can be annoying from time to time, it is really solid against Druid since they have trouble dealing with that much health that early in the game.

Mulligan Guide

As with all combo decks, you never want to keep combo pieces. Mind Blast, Emperor Thaurissan and Prophet Velen are all things you want to draw into naturally, not hold in your hand for fourteen turns. This is a match where you are looking for all of the classic Control Priest. Always keep Zombie Chow, Northshire Cleric, Power Word: Shield, Wild Pyromancer, Holy Smite and Acolyte of Pain. Beyond those cards you are going to be tweaking your keeps based on your opponent.

Always keep Shadow Word: Death against Druid to deal with an early Innervate, but never against any other class. While Light of the Naaru and Flash Heal are commonly saved for use with Auchenai Soulpriest, you can keep them against aggressive decks like Aggro Shaman. Deathlord should always be kept against aggro decks (Paladin, Hunter, Zoo) but never against slow control. Auchenia can be kept alongside an early circle if you are playing against an aggressive swarm deck. Finally, always keep Velen’s Chosen if you have a strong minion-heavy curve coming alongside it, especially if you have the coin.

Conclusion

It is rare that I get to look at OTK decks, which is probably why I’ve covered two over the last two weeks. I have a certain love for creative combo decks, and getting the chance to play them is something I always look forward to. While I plan on switching back to my usual brand of off-the-wall decks next week, I thought this was a nice detour. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Until next time, may you always burst your opponent for 20 or more.