When taking any list to the ladder you need to be ready for the most popular decks. From control to midrange to aggro, you need to be able to fight everything no matter what deck you are playing. Dragon Priest is a very common archetype that has just risen in popularity since the new tools have come out. As a result, you have to be ready to fight Anduin no matter what deck you are playing. In this guide we will look at how Aggro Shaman, with its great openings and consistent finishers, and see how it beats Dragon Priest.
Aggro Shaman is a deck that can go in two different directions. You can go with a very aggressive curve built around cheap minions, burn and charge, or you can go with a little slower version that has a lot more end-game power. Both versions are strong in their own right, but you want to make sure to play the one that best fits your play style. A good rule of Hearthstone is to never try to play a deck that you don’t understand. While each version is aggressive, you need to tweak your deck to know just how that aggression comes. If you want more burn, run burn. However, if you want more minions, you need to run minions. Just pick a side and go with it. To give you a good starting place, a guide to one of the more aggressive versions of this deck has been linked below.
You want to do anything you can to get your early minions out here. Dragon Priest is a deck that thrives off of taunts and AOE. To beat those you absolutely must curve out to answer things like Wyrmrest Agent and Twilight Guardian when the time comes. This is not a game where you can mess around trying to keep slower hands that will pay of later. In this matchup there is no later. While you do want to keep an early game removal spell to help deal with things like Northshire Cleric, you need minions in this game. All of the mulligans will not be as straightforward as keeping a 1-2-3 curve, but you always need to have the greater goal in mind.
Cards to KeepTunnel Trogg Abusive Sergeant Sir Finley Mrrgglton Lightning Bolt Leper Gnome Ancestral Knowledge Totem Golem
Lava Shock can be kept if you have no turn two play or if you have a large amount of overload.
Knife Juggler is not a good keep on its own, but is very good if it slots into your curve. Can also be kept alone with the coin since it challenges a lone Northshire Cleric.
Crackle is a good keep alongside early minions.
Feral Spirit should always be kept with the coin or a one-two punch coming before it.
Argent Horserider follows the same rules as Feral Spirit.
Lava Burst is very strong if you have cards before it because of its clearing potential.
Doomhammer, while very slow, can be kept with the coin alongside a super fast opening.
How to Win
Dragon Priest is a deck with a lot of taunts but very limited heals. That is a very important note because it tells you exactly how you should come at this matchup. Get in the hits early and then win in the end with direct damage. While taunts can be problematic from time time, Shaman’s biggest weakness is healing. Almost all of your damage is burn based, meaning it completely ignores the board. The only way Anduin can stave off lethal is with his hero power.
The most important part of winning this matchup is understanding how Dragon Priest operates. They are a deck that is much more focused on value than surprises, meaning you most often know what they are going to do each turn. If you can predict each play (Northshire Cleric on one, Wyrmrest Agent on two, Dark Cultist on three, Twilight Guardian on four etc.) then you will be able to sculpt the game in the way that you want. This will help you predict taunts and play around possible heals.
Early Game Strategy
While in most matchups you are just going to be thinking about how to get the damage train rolling, against Dragon Priest you actually have to keep clearing in mind. The reason is almost all of their early cards have a high amount of health and really challenge your curve. Northshire Cleric and Twilight Whelp are both great against both Abusive Sergeant and Leper Gnome, while Wyrmrest Agent just shuts down your two drops. Their three drops are even worse.
While minions are your number one priority, you need to have some strong burn to back up your start. Lightning Bolt and Rockbiter Weapon are both great here since they deal with all of their one drops. Crackle is also a very strong keep since it (mostly) deals with anything they can manage to conjure up.
Lava Burst, while powerful, is a fine way to clear the board. The five damage is very much appreciated toward the later parts of the game, but it is one of your only ways to clear out an early threat or taunt and keep control of the board. You may hesitate before using this to clear a path for your minions, but you shouldn’t hesitate to do so.
Your best opening card is Totem Golem. If you have the coin do not hesitate to drop this down on turn one, and if you have it one two just play it on curve. It is such a powerful opening that you shouldn’t care about what other early minion they have sitting across the board.
Turns four through six are almost guaranteed to slow the game down. This is where Priest starts getting access to more removal and powerful minions, meaning you need to push through without playing right into their hands. The way you do that is through anticipation. While you cannot know for sure what your opponent is going to play, you only want to give them plays where they will get minimal value (i.e making them clear a board of two minions to save life).
The number one card you need to watch out for is Twilight Guardian. The four mana dragon is an absolute monster that will shut down all of your hopes and dreams if you don’t have board when it comes down. Whether it is burn or damage on board or a combination of both, have six damage (or an Earth Shock) when turn four rolls around.
An interesting note about this matchup is most of the time you actually want to bait out Cabal Shadowpriest. The reason is that the six drop does nothing to interfere with your game plan. You want to burn them down, and them using all of their mana to neither taunt nor heal is more than fine by you. You should play right into turn six if you have the opportunity, they usually will take the bait.
The middle turns are where Priest gets AOE. You are going to approach that in two ways. Most of the time you aren’t going to care about it. You simply will keep hitting them in the face and adding minions down. If they clear you either refill or hit them with burn. However, that being said, there will be some games where you need your minions to carry the workload for you because you are light on burn. If that happens you do want to play around both Holy Nova and Lightbomb by either holding back minions or making sure you are playing things that don’t die to the clears.
Late Game Strategy
This is the stage of burn. Ignoring games where Priest is at a ton of life during these stages (because you have mostly lost anyway) you are almost always going to be fighting to put on the finishing hit before they stabilize. These are the turns where you want to turn everything to the face and hope they don’t have an answer. Some games you may be tempted to try and clear the board just in case they have a certain card, but you should resist that urge. Focusing on board will most likely lead to a loss anyway.
One of the best things about Priest is that they have very little damage potential. That means, unlike decks like Secret Paladin, you aren’t usually going to be killed in one turn if you ignore the board. In fact, you can usually live two or three turns past your normally would against other decks. That enables you to stock up on burn and set up the finishing blow with a little more cushion that most decks would normally allow.
Going off the top paragraph, try and end the game in one huge burst rather than gradual damage. A very important note that often goes under looked. The reason this is so key is because Priest is going to be often choosing between healing or advancing their gameplan each turn. You want to lull them into a false sense of security and then crush them. If you slowly chip away they will often feel threatened and play much more conservatively than they normally would.
Don’t be afraid to use Doomhammer/Rockbiter Weapon to blast through a taunt. Yes, this combo is the most damage your deck can do, but it also does a great job of clearing a path for your minions. It may be your first inclination to save this at all costs, but using it to keep your minions alive (or to set up charge minions) is more than worth it.