Hey, guys. It’s RaFive, with another new take on an old archetype.
In our last installment, we looked at Miracle Druid and had a ton of fun drawing a slew of cards and bursting to end with Savage Roar. In a similar spirit of burst coupled with just a tiny hint of trolling, today I bring you a bursty Priest deck with great anti-aggro potential. I call it the Slugger, since it socks your opponent in the face using small minions grown into tremendous threats. If you enjoy huge early minions, sudden swings for massive damage, and all kinds of sneaky, switchy shenanigans, this is the deck for you!
Priest is unique in Hearthstone as the only class that has no minion or spell that directly buffs attack. Rogues have Cold Blood; Warlocks have Power Overwhelming; even Mages have Mana Wyrm. For high-end burst (i.e., OTK-type) damage, Priest must instead buff a minion’s health to the desired level and then rely on either Inner Fire or Crazed Alchemist to convert that buff into damage.
There are basically two ways to build OTK Priest lists: you can either go all-in and build a deck from the ground up to draw into a huge game-finishing combo off the back of Lightwell or Oasis Snapjaw, or you can exploit the natural flexibility of the standard Priest archetypes by slotting in enough cards to permit occasional bursts without crippling Priest’s usual strengths. I’ve chosen the latter approach, starting with a standard Deathrattle Priest list and shuffling a few pieces around to make burst damage a potential win condition. Priest has excellent early-game draw in the form of Northshire Cleric and Power Word: Shield, making it easy to pick up combo pieces early while you buff your minions up in preparation for a sudden pivot that wrecks your opponent’s life total.
The deck pivots around the strategic use of Inner Fire and Crazed Alchemist to manipulate minion life totals to your advantage. (Since Inner Fire costs less and leaves a minion’s health intact, I’ll mention it here as the more preferable combo piece in most situations, but Crazed Alchemist also works for almost exactly the same purposes and can be substituted in most situations.) Remember that you can affect both your minions and those of your opponent with these cards. There are far too many potential combinations to list exhaustively, but here are a few that you should always consider:
Divine Spirit + Inner Fire: This is your “dream” combo, and will usually at least double your minion’s attack. You typically want to slap this combo onto Deathlord or Stormwind Knight for maximum surprise value and damage. If you have two copies of Divine Spirit in hand with the aforementioned minions, you can do 20-32 damage in a single turn, which will typically be enough to cinch the game in your favor.
Power Word: Shield + Inner Fire: This is a cheap buff that you can play early on almost any minion. It’s particularly strong when coupled with Northshire Cleric on turn 2, especially against decks lacking cheap, early hard removal (Druid, Handlock).
Inner Fire + Shadow Word: Death: Is the opponent’s fully-healed Injured Blademaster about to ruin your day? Make it go away by buffing it into Shadow Word range. Sludge Belcher standing in the way of that last little bit of face damage? Hit it with Crazed Alchemist and Shadow Word: Death to both kill it and leave a body on the board to deal with the slime it leaves behind.
Inner Fire + Cabal Shadow Priest: It’s your turn 6. You wipe the opponent’s board with Holy Nova. It’s your opponent’s turn 6. He charges face with an Argent Commander. It’s your turn 7. You turn it into a 2/2 with Divine Shield and steal it. Yum. Creative use of Inner Fire and Crazed Alchemist will give you plenty of targets to steal.
How to Play
The deck mostly plays like a standard Deathrattle Priest. Mulligan hard for the early game. Don’t worry about collecting combo pieces; they’re dead draws without solid minions, and you’ll organically get plenty of opportunities for shenanigans in most matches regardless.
Minion health and a stable board are critical for success with this deck. You always want to have a high-health minion on board if possible, due to the potential gain in burst damage and board presence from Divine Spirit + Inner Fire. At the same time, though, getting too greedy will absolutely wreck you with this deck. An early 5/5 Northshire Cleric as a strong tempo play is oftentimes a much better use of Inner Fire than is waiting to combo it off of Stormwind Knight later on.
Remember that this deck is teched specifically to counter aggression. You have maximum board clear with double Holy Nova and double Auchenai Soulpriest; you have strong, cheap early-game minions; strong early card draw; and cheap buff/debuff mechanics (Power Word: Shield, Inner Fire, Crazed Alchemist, Circle of Healing) that let you take the board early and hang on.
For this reason, it’s generally better to divide your buffs up amongst your minions, in case of hard removal or silences. Don’t be afraid to use Inner Fire and Crazed Alchemist freely as debuffs against opponent minions if it lets you kill them off immediately, and don’t be afraid to use Divine Spirit to keep a particularly valuable minion (like Auchenai Soulpriest on the offensive) alive.
Priest is historically renowned for its flexibility, and that’s no exception here. There are basically three ways you can change this deck up: you can go all-in on the OTK mechanic; you can make it a standard Priest deck that employs Inner Fire as tech; and you can keep the deck basically the same but tweak it toward your own playstyle.
For mere tweaks to the deck, you’ll note I’ve put in a Temple Enforcer for a commonly available high-end minion that gives a health buff, but if you have her, Sylvanas Windrunner is an obvious pick in that slot. On the flip side, for those with smaller card collections or less dust, you can swap out Stampeding Kodo to replace either or both copies of Cabal Shadow Priest. The three-drops are also quite flexible; I’ve selected Deathlord for maximum combo potential and Dark Cultist for its combo-assisting health buff, but you could run Injured Blademaster instead of either. As a replacement for Deathlord, Blademaster less consistently gives you an early combo (since you need Circle of Healing in hand to max Blademaster’s health) but also lacks Deathlord’s downsides, where as a replacement for Dark Cultist it’s the opposite, an additional potential combo card that lacks the Cultist’s consistency and upsides. Finally, Shadow Madness has significant potential in this deck and can be used to replace a copy of Holy Nova.
If you want to go ham and forget about viability in favor of blowout OTK moments, your goal is to maximize the health totals of your minions and also maximize the combo pieces, so -2 Dark Cultist, -2 Auchenai Soulpriest, +1 Stormwind Knight, +1 Shadow Word: Death, +2 Oasis Snapjaw. If you want to take it even further you could swap out some of your minions for Lightwell and Shieldbearer, maybe even Nerub’ar Weblord or Stoneskin Gargoyle, plus probably Abusive Sergeant and Dire Wolf Alpha so you don’t destroy your 0-health minions when you swap them with Crazed Alchemist, but that’s headed into serious derdle territory and I’d personally recommend staying with something a little more streamlined to maximize your chances of actually seeing the combo lead you to victory.
Last but not least, if you’re just looking to add a small amount of extra fun to an otherwise serious deck, that’s fine, because the core synergy is with Inner Fire and minion health; you don’t actually need Divine Spirit in there at all. Put in Sylvanas Windrunner instead of Temple Enforcer. Take out Divine Spirit, Stormwind Knight, and one copy of Holy Nova; add in Mind Control, Holy Fire, Thoughtsteal, and one extra copy of Shadow Word: Death. It’s also probably a good idea to swap Deathlord out for Injured Blademaster, but it’s not strictly necessary.
There are few things more satisfying than seeing a cheap minion go from 2 attack to 32 in a single, game-ending turn. The Slugger capitalizes on the flexibility and adaptability inherent in Priest to let you pull of those sick combos without making things so draw-dependent that you only win through luck. You even have three different flavors of derdle available dependent on how hard you want to tweak the underlying archetype. That makes for a great opportunity to tweak and customize your decks, so get out there and make an OTK Priest that works for you.
Give this list a try and let me know how you like it. I hope to see you all in-game, building a better meta!