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Hello one and all! The Grand Tournament is coming, and I could not possibly be more excited. However, we still have a month (or less) before that occurs, but I do hope that you are sharpening your swords, catching up on your spell study and stringing your bows in anticipation. Before that happens (and rest assured I will be doing a complete breakdown my top cards from TGT) we have some legend decks to attend to. Priest, just like Shaman last week, is a class that gets very little love these days. Check that: It gets zero love. I know that I have covered it a couple of times here, and that is mainly because it is an underplayed class that still has a lot going for it. In my discussion of the shifting meta, I often cite the idea of evolution or advancement as one of the key elements of Hearthstone. That is, using cards in new and exciting ways. Well, this week’s Tempo Priest list by LonelyLink manages to excel at this, by taking a class that is traditionally structured around control or combo archetypes and making a tempo deck.
I’ll be the first to say it: this deck looks awful on paper. At first glance, it seems like the first half of a solid control deck that has very little ways to go long. However, it does work. Tempo decks, at their base, are built around both early board control and card draw. Priest does both very well. Northshire Cleric , for instance, is one of the best early game cards for both board control and draw power, while Zombie Chow and Dark Cultist both always make efficient trades. The basis of the deck is to do exactly what Tempo Mage does, just in a slightly different way. Instead of focusing on spells, you are going to win the game through minions. You want to sieze the board, and then use efficient spells and undercosted minions to never lose control of the game. This deck runs many one ofs, such as Shadow Word: Death and Light of the Naaru because it is your minions that will carry the day. The spells that are in the deck, much like Frostbolt and Fireball will usually just be there to clear the way for your minions, and allow you to anchor things down for your larger plays.
Circle of Healing
Every Priest since the beginning of time has run this card. Even so, it is very important to discuss when looking at this particular list. Why? Because, unlike classic Priest decks, you almost always want to try to go as big as you can with this card. That is to say, draw and draw and draw. Often, there are many people who will try to just get value of their circle through things like Injured Blademaster or bringing their minions back to full health. Here, you want to try to heal as many things with Northshire Cleric as you can, even if that means healing your opponent’s minions too. The way this deck is set up is that, once you draw a full grip, you can run away with the game. As such, circle/northshire is one of the best plays you can make (even on turn five or six). I have healed Knife Jugglers, Sylvanas Windrunner, Voidcallers, Sludge Belchers and even an opponent’s Injured Blademaster with this card just to get the draws. This is a deck of combos, from Northshire Cleric/Power Word: Shield all the way to Shadowboxer/Velen’s Chosen, and having cards like circle is what makes those combos work.
This is perhaps the most unusual card in the list. Shadowboxer is not a traditional Priest card, and actually has a very low power level. Even so, as LonelyLink stated in his initial write-up of this deck, you just need a two drop. Shadowboxer is the only two drop in this list, but the second turn is so important for a tempo deck, you need to have something to play. There are some people who may think that Gilblin Stalker is better due to its ability to always take a Velen’s Chosen, but I think Shadowboxer’s ability gives it the edge. It may not seem like it, but you are going to be using your hero power a lot here to keep your minions above most removal spells. That means you are also going to get many Shadowboxer activations which, just like Knife Juggler, can clear a board on their own. While this deck is built from a series of individual combo pieces, this is not a combo card. Yes, there are some games where you can get two on the board, or go crazy with a Circle of Healing, but this usually just acts as a two drop that can punch things like Knife Juggler, Mad Scientist and Shielded Minibot in the face.
I could, quite possibly, spend time going over every single card in this deck to explain how they fit together. This Priest deck does not run like any other Priest deck, and most cards are used in ways that people aren’t used to. Resurrect is one such card. The decks that have used Resurrect in the past have tried to garner huge amounts of value out of it through playing minions like Piloted Shredder, or opting out of low-curve cards to only bring back gigantic threats. In this deck, Resurrect does neither of these. Rather, you simply want to play this on curve or whenever you get the chance, regardless of what you bring back. Due to the tempo nature of the deck, you will almost always get something of value back, even that something is as simple as a Zombie Chow or Shadowboxer. All that matters is having something on board.
Of course, when using Resurrect, you do want to be aware of what exactly has died so far. This allows you to set up crazy plays in games where you haven’t had a lot of early minions. For instance, when you have the coin against aggro decks, you can wait to coin out Auchenai Soulpriest/Circle of Healing on turn three. Then, after they kill the soulpriest on turn four, you can use Resurrect to bring it back and hero power. That is a very powerful turn. In addition, coining out an Injured Blademaster for them to kill, only to bring it back to full health can also be backbreaking. As with Circle of Healing, I will often use Resurrect to bring back a Northshire Cleric so I can heal and get the draw engine going. These type of small combos can be very effective, and will help the game play out in the way you want it to.
Vol’jin is a card that I love. After the initial hype of GVG, the use of this card plummeted, but it is still extremely powerful. Where it can be very good in a control or midrange build, the ability to remove a minion while adding a giant creature to the board is fantastic in tempo. As I already stated, this deck runs very few spells, and only one Shadow Word: Death. The reason for this is because of both Sylvanas Windrunner (who we will get to below) and the troll shaman. Vol’jin is a second shadow word for all intents and purposes, and the perfect kind of minion for this deck. He is both a threat and a removal spell who also makes it impossible to lose once you are ahead.
It is best to typically think of Vol’jin as Sylvanas Windrunner. Not quite as powerful, but still a strong mid-game finisher that is weak to silence but also has a ton of upside. While in a lot of Priest decks you want to try to save Vol’jin for a big, high priority target, this is not that type of deck. You almost always want to use Vol’jin as more of a Fireball more than anything else; even taking out your opponent’s Sludge Belcher or the like if it will give you momentum. Once you lose board, it is very hard to come back. This is not a deck that has catch up cards or direct damage, and you depend on having that board control to win games. Vol’jin is the complete package here, and while there are a few sparse matchups where you will inevitably save his ability for something like a Molten Giant or Ancient of War, he is just a removal spell on a 6/x body.
Sylvanas Windrunner is a card that many know and, on the surface, is quite self-explanatory. However, just like with most other cards in this deck, you are going to use her a little differently than you are used to. Sylvanas is a card that screams value. She shuts down your opponent’s board, trades extremely well and almost always steals a minion on her way out. Because of this, she has become a Priest staple, typically comboing with Shadow Word: Death to act as a second Mind Control. However, just with the troll legend, here you want to play her as a form of board control.
Sylvanas is not a card that people like to deal with. She just shuts down your opponent’s tempo, and usually will clear a board so as to not give you any minions. For this reason, people try to eek out every ounce of value you can with her. However, in a tempo deck, you actually want to play her when nothing is on your opponent’s board. Yes, most of the time when this happens she will be immediately cleared with a spell, which means you will not get any benefit from her deathrattle. Yet, this also means your opponent most likely spent their turn using a spell instead of dropping a minion, which is great for you. That type of thinking, seeing each play for how it helps you develop the board, will help you most effectively pilot this deck.
Handlock is a deck that has been rising greatly in popularity in the last week. Normally, this does not bode well for Anduin and his gang of minions, but in our case, it’s not so bad. While this is by no means an easy matchup, it also not terribly difficult either. I would say this is a 60/40 in our favor for a couple of reasons. While there is little to no removal in our deck, Handlock is not a deck that wins based on solid board control. Rather, they try to play giant minions and then hope to make efficient trades. This bodes very well for us, because, aside from the occasional Dark Bomb or Hellfire, they have a lot of problems dealing with our first push. Not only that, but things like Resurrect, Injured Blademaster and Velen’s Chosen do wonders for getting board on the first turns. Even if they do manage to have an Ironbeak Owl for the chosen, that just means there is more likelihood your Sylvanas Windrunner or Vol’jin will go unmolested.
Another important thing to remember about this deck is that, unlike traditional Priest, you can push for damage. Yes, there is no real burst (aside from Light of the Naaru/Auchenai Soulpriest) but you can quickly build a very strong board and then crush them from fourteen or so life. Handlock heavily depends on taunt and good trades to win games. As most of your minions can rise above their trades, they need their taunts to stop your push. You don’t have that may ways to get through that, but if you are conservative with both Vol’jin and Shadow Word: Death you should be fine. Put them on their back foot early and never stop pushing.
While this is the hardest matchup for this deck, I am happy to see Druid back on the ladder. It is a fun deck, and I truly hope that TGT gives it some very powerful cards. Now, that being said, this is a nightmare. I have only ever beat one Druid and that was because of a very timely Vol’jin bringing down his turn five Ancient of War. Every deck is going to have its weaknesses, and Malfurion is ours. That is not to say this matchup is impossible, but you really need to get a head of steam to be able to compete. When Druid doesn’t have access to Innervate or Wild Growth (which is almost never) you can really take over a game with Auchenai Soulpriest, Velen’s Chosen, Northshire Cleric and Dark Cultist. Injured Blademaster is also almost a win, but that is few and far between. Normally, they will ramp early and their minions will crumble your plans. A turn five Sludge Belcher is no problem for us, but one on turn two or three can be really tough to fight through.
The best way to deal with Druid is the way every other deck does, flood the board. They only have two Keeper of the Grove, which means you can bait out early on a Velen’s Chosen to set up Vol’jin and Sylvanas Windrunner. Removal is key here, and this is the only match where you should keep Shadow Word: Death if you see it. Of course, for this reason Vol’jin is also incredibly strong. Loatheb is also an incredible silver bullet. He can anchor down turn five, keeping your [card]Auchenai Soulpriest and Dark Cultist around. Second, he can protect you from the combo and give you a chance to heal above fourteen. If you can keep board early and trap them into “one creature a turn” backed up by solid removal plays, you can pull this one out. It is just not easy to do.
This matchup is a mix of both good and bad news. The bad? You really have almost zero ways (silence or removal) to deal with Savannah Highmane. The good? You almost never have to. Midrange Hunter is a deck that uses board presence on its lifeblood, and when that presence is gone, it will very quickly bleed out. A turn four Piloted Shredder hiding behind a Freezing Trap or Misha almost always means game over. However, a Piloted Shredder that gets crushed by an Injured Blademaster or Velen’s Chosen doesn’t do anything to us. This is a game that will almost always be won by turn six, which makes the lion much worse than it normally is. Savannah Highmane is an extremely powerful card, but if you have a board before it comes down, that should hardly matter.
The trick with Midrange Hunter (besides making strong trades) is to just be aware of what they’ve played and what they will play. Board presence is never more important than in midrange vs. tempo. Do you want to let that Webspinner live? What about Houndmaster? Don’t kill the Haunted Creeper? What about Kill Command? Know their traps, and count everything they play. Your three drops can actually measure up against Animal Companion, but turn or five will usually go to them. Of course, once you fall behind, the game can become problematic very quickly, but you can usually steal the early turns. In addition, because you win with minions, your board can get pretty full. Never run head first into the hounds unless you have high health, and you have a Holy Nova backup. One last note is, due to the small amount of healing and lack of taunt, always, always keep your life total high.
Someone has to put this deck out of its misery. Seriously. I know I say that a lot, but Tempo Mage is just not cut out for this meta anymore. Unlike so many decks that are trying to evolve, this is still stuck in the mire of once was. As you can probably imagine, this is a deck that greatly fall into our favor. Where Tempo Mage tries to go for a bunch of early combos built around cheap removal and efficient spells, we counter that with cheap, large minions. Velen’s Chosen can actually win the game on its own, as can a fully healed Injured Blademaster. This is because, even if they do use a Fireball to clear in response, they just wasted their turn using removal, allowing you to grab board back. Those are the plays that make tempo what it is, and you should always try to force them to use removal instead of adding to the board. Flamestrike is their typical “catch up” card, but your minions are usually too big and a mix of Holy Nova and Auchenai/Circle can just crush them.
I find that Resurrect is an all-star here, as getting back any of your early game for two mana can really mess with Tempo Mage’s day. That goes double if you manage to bring back a cleric, blademaster or cultist. Never be afraid to clear the board in this match, and always trade. Tempo Mage wants to be doing face damage while controlling the board, as life is their most important resource. However, we have the luxury of being able to play a grindier game. This means you can trade well and kill things before amassing an all out assault. If you keep your life high and don’t let them get started, you should be fine. Mad Scientist will almost always get Mirror Entity, and you can give them a ton of small minions to beat that. I often save small minion in the midgame for such an occasion. If you are worried it is Counterspell, simply burn a small impact spell like Power Word:Shield or burn a Circle of Healing.
This is another matchup that falls into our favor. However, it is not as easy as Tempo Mage or Hunter. Where Patron Warrior takes a lot of time to get going, you need to be ready when they do. They are a deck that usually relies on their weapons to clear early so they can save Executes later on. However, your minions can rise high above the axes, which often forces them to use Execute on inopportune targets. Once this happens, your middle game is clear, and where they are playing things like Gnomish Inventor and Cruel Taskmastering an Armorsmith, you are slamming down Loatheb and Sylvanas Windrunner. If you get an early push, Patron is not a deck that is well equipped to come back. The best way to make this happen is to simply play on curve and buff everything you can. Death’s Bite is a very dangerous card (especially since there is no weapon removal) and you constantly want to be aware of it picking off your middle-game cards.
As with all Patron decks, once turn eight rolls around you need make sure of two things. One, you can’t have any small minions with less than three attack. That goes for all of your early game, and you should clear it away before the key turns. Two, have AOE ready. Your only real option is Auchenai Soulpriest/Circle of Healing, which should be saved at all costs. Patron has two waves in them. The first will usually be a clear and a test to see if you have the proper resources to win. The second will kill you. You need to be able to answer the first wave of Patrons, and then win before they get off the second. Some games you will manage to win before they pull the trigger, but often you need to save circle at all costs. A lot of this matchup comes down to what you force their removal on, but if you can do that well while keeping their board clear, you should cruise to victory.
If you are familiar with Tempo Mage, this deck mulligans in the exact same way. Start fast and finish strong. Northshire Cleric, Shadowboxer and Zombie Chow are your must keeps, while Power Word: Shield, Dark Cultist and Injured Blademaster are kept almost all of the time. While “play on curve” is never not more true than when playing this deck, the coin makes your mulligans very interesting. This deck runs seven three drops, and the coin makes all of them suddenly turn two plays. A turn three Injured Blademaster is good when you have a curve coming before it, but a turn two blademaster is always a must keep. For this reason, Dark Cultist is an always keep with a coin, and Velen’s Chosen should be kept when you have a one drop to go before it.
When you don’t have the coin, play to your early turns. One drop, two drop and three drop is the formula you need. Your three drops (and Power Word: Shield) should only be kept if there are things to play before them, as you don’t want to risk getting something like Dr. Boom or Vol’jin to go with the two Dark Cultists you kept. It’s just too slow. Circle of Healing, just with Power Word: Shield, is a card that you only want to keep with minions to pair it with. Northshire Cleric of Injured Blademaster both make the zero-cost spell a must keep, and it can also be kept with Auchenai Soulpriest; but only if you have the coin and you are playing aggro.
Another week, another list. I love Priest these days (especially because it is one of my last non-gold heroes) and I think it is a great choice in this meta. This deck is a ton of fun, and I hope you have a blast playing it. While the sun beats down on me and my computer, I dream of things to come. TGT spoilers are already pouring out, and I honestly think it is going to be the best set yet. I will probably mention that more as we move forward, but until that happens, may you grab the boar and never give it back.