The New Standard: Breakfast Priest
Last week on Weekly Legends I broke down a Tempo Priest list that used early board presence to set up the classic Raza/Shadowreaper combo that makes Kazakus Priest so powerful. It was a great blend of two ideas that worked together quite well. Today, we're analyzing a similar build, but, instead of setting up the Kazakus combo, this one plays to Divine Spiritand Inner Fire. Those two spells are well known, and can give you finishing damage out of nowhere. However, while the pair is strong, it suffers from the fact that it can't do much without minions. This deck seeks to fix that problem by putting down high-health minions that your opponent doesn't want to kill. Then, once they ignore your board, you punish them with lethal.
Inner Fire/Divine Spirit
This is your big combo, and something that should be familiar to many of you. However, you're going to use it here much differently than you've used it in other lists. For those that don't know, the way these two cards work is that you use Divine Spiriton something with a good amount of health, hit it with Divine Spiritagain, and then play Inner Fireto completely blow your opponent out of the water. In the past, that was set up on big silence cards as a way to end games without needing to focus on damage. Here, you're setting up with tempo instead. The goal of this deck is to play like a straight-up tempo list. Then, once you have control of the board, you string together your finishing combo. Nobody is going to see these two cards coming, and you are going to find a lot of openings to go through.
Do not be fooled into thinking that Divine Spiritand Inner Fireare only combo cards. Yes, you want to save them for a finishing combo almost all of the time, but that does not mean they don't have other uses. There are going to be many games where it is just correct to make a gigantic minion and go face. That can be useful for many different things, ranging from tempo to damage to pressure. It also immediately forces your opponent's hand because if they don't have an answer, they die. This can be particularly useful against decks like Tempo Rogue because of how their removal works. For example, let's say you spirit/fire a Devilsaur Eggagainst a Tempo Rogue while you have the board. They are now in a terrible spot because even if they play their answer (Vilespine Slayer) you still have a 5/5. Look for those opportunities when fighting for the board, especially when going up against tempo decks.
I have preached this many times, but fear is an important part of tempo. Every player wants to be in control of priority, and one of the best ways to get ahead of your opponent is to make them break away from their plan to answer you. That is never going to be easy to do, but if you can power out big early bodies you can completely dominate the board at each stage of the game. You have many ways to make that happen, but Shadow Ascendantis the best one. Not only does she work on curve, but if your opponent doesn't deal with her, they die. That, like Cobalt Scalebane, makes her buff extremely valuable from a tempo standpoint. For example, if you have a Northshire Clericon turn one into a turn two ascendant, your opponent is an extremely tight situation. They might be able to take out your 2/4 (which they need to do) but by ignoring your 2/2, they are letting you get a ton of future value. Most of the time they are going to take out the ascendant, leaving your bigger threat out to dominate the board. Those type of situations are the core of this deck, and you should try to set them up as much as possible. Don't worry too much about keeping ascendant alive. She immediately gives you value regardless of what happens.
As noted, a big part of this deck is blindsiding your opponent. Almost nobody is going to see the finishing combo coming, which gives you a lot of time to set it up. Divine Spiritand Inner Fireare like Bloodlust, except your opponent isn't going to play around them. Kabal Talonpriestis fantastic for that plan because it both helps your combo while disguising your deck as a tempo build. There are many uses for the three drop, but, unless you're immediately going for a trade, you should try to hit the ability on a less-than-stellar threat. Doing that makes it so your surprise damage is going to have the least amount of heat on your board. A 1/6 or a 2/5 may seem scary when you can buff them, but on their own they don't present a lot of pressure. That is key towards disguising your real plans and making sure your opponent's removal goes elsewhere.
The other, more predictable part of Kabal Talonpriestis how well it works for tempo. Being able to put a 3/4 for three down onto the board is always good, but the extra three health is incredible. In fact, you should almost always hit this when you have the chance. That goes double when you're about to trade. Even keeping a 2/1 or 3/1 around is worth it in the grand scheme of things. Board presence is not the focus of this deck, but it is going to help you win a lot of games. The more you push and control the board, the more you can force your opponent back. This takes the heat of your small minions and makes your opponent commit their big removal to your largest bodies. Do not be afraid to use talonpriest to bait removal. Your opponent may not want to use a Siphon Soulon a 3/4, but they will pull the trigger against a 3/7.
This deck would not work without Devilsaur Egg. As mentioned, the goal here is to trick your opponent. You either need to lure them into a false sense of security, or make them think you are only a tempo build. However, that is not always going to work to your favor. Sometimes your opponent will kill all of your minions out of instinct, or sometimes you simply aren't going to have the board. Egg is a great way to get around such problems because it enables you to drop down a minion that is typically going to be ignored. As long as your pressing, you can play this down and just let it sit. That is one of the best ways to set up your combo. From there, you can either kill your opponent later on, or make a big body with a strong deathrattle if you need the extra push.
Another important note about Devilsaur Eggis that it makes a fantastic AOE nullifier. There is not too much mass removal in the current meta, and you should be able to use your health buffs to rise above a lot of spells. However, that doesn't mean you can't be prepared for classes like Priest, Mage, and Paladin. The best way to use this it to prioritize it over other minions when you find yourself extending too far. It is easy to press and get carried away on the board. If you think your opponent is setting up a clear, play the egg as soon as possible. Just be careful to only run the three drop out when you're in control or when the board is weak. This card is crucial to your plan, and you never want to give your opponent an easy way to kill the shell and then finish off the 5/5.
Defender of Argus
We round out our card discussion with Defender of Argus. Despite the state of the meta, damage matters. There are a lot of decks that can bring the pain, and there is a lot of burst running around. Decks like Aggro Druid, Tempo Rogue, Midrange Hunter, and Zoo all have ways to kill you out of hand, and they will play to them. Though early tempo and strong pushes can nullify the amount of damage you take, it is not always going to be easy to stay ahead of your opponent when you're trying to set up a combo. Understand this, and always do your best to get two targets when possible. Count your opponent's damage potential at all stages of the game. That will help you know when you can push with other cards and when you need to sit back and be much more defensive.
Of course, you can also use Defender of Argusto buff up plays like Devilsaur Eggand Meat Wagon. This card, like so many in this list, is about pushing tempo. Zoo has long taught us that buffing up two minions is an incredible way to take over a board. Not only does that help you make strong trades, but it also gives you ways to put up what I call "problematic damage." That is to say, it helps you bring pressure with cards that still get value when they die. Hitting your opponent repeatedly with a 2/5 Meat Wagon gives them absolute fits because they have two choices: keep getting hit in the face, or burn a card to essentially turn the 2/5 into a Devilsaur Egg. You don't always need that type of value with defender, but you should try to get it when you can.
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The four decks I see the most while playing the ladder.
Still number one (for the time being), Tempo Rogue is a deck that you need to attack with everything you have. One of the downsides of playing tempo-based decks is that many of the matches are going to feel like mirrors. This is no exception. Your goal against Valeera is to jump out ahead as quickly as possible and then use that early pressure to beat your opponent down. Most games you are going to pace each turn, but here is certainly helps to be the aggressor. Rogue is one of those classes that loves to get out ahead and then use constantly removal/trades to win the game. If you can catch them on the back foot earl, you should be able to keep them off the board. Without a strong presence, they will almost always crumble. Just prepare for Vilespine Slayerand stay out ahead of Bonemare.
This is the game where you need to use your Inner Fires and Divine Spirits to create hard-to-deal-with-threats. Rogue has a lot of tempo, but most of that is going to be based off of trades. If you can run out big threats with large bodies, it is going to cripple their power. For example, buffing a Northshire Clericwith a Kabal Talonpriestsuddenly presents two problematic threats that Rogue is not equipped to handle. They might be able to kill one, but that leaves the other to value trade. Those type of situations are what you're always looking for here, and you should pay special attention to both Meat Wagonand Devilsaur Egg. Rogue only has hard removal in their deck. If you buff either of those cards (or give them taunt) they are guaranteed value.
Threatening to take over the number one spot again, Kazakus Priest is a strong deck that continues to hold its own. However, this is a matchup that, as long as you keep quiet about your finishing combo, you should be able to win. This is the one game where you want to do your best to to hide what you're up to. Priest is a list that cannot afford to play around too many things. That means, if they think you're a pure tempo deck, they are going to allocate all of their resources to taking you off of that plan. That works well for you, because it almost always leaves them open to your combo. Do not use any combo pieces early on. Tipping your hand can lead Priest to make plays they normally wouldn't (like using Dragonfire Potionon a board of small threats) just to stay ahead of you. Rather, you want to put them into a situation where they are focused on their own combo, and then use that sense of security to blow them out of the water. A good tempo push can win this, but most of the time you want your combo.
Be aware of what your opponent is able to do. Once they play a card, they can't play it again. However, they do have some incredibly strong tools against what you're trying to do. The most important to watch out for is Silence. The zero mana spell can blow you out if you aren't careful, especially when you're trying to create a gigantic threat or fight back against your opponent's AOE. You typically want to bait it out with Devilsaur Eggbefore trying to go in with your combo. However, even something as simple as a Radiant Elementalor Shadow Ascendantcan do the trick. The final note here is, once again, do not give your opponent a strong Shadowreaper Anduin. If you're getting close to turn eight you want to craft a board of low-attack, high-health minions. Then, once your opponent shifts to the DK, you can go big and take them down.
Like Priest, Warlock continues to hold its own at all stages of the ladder. Zoo is an incredibly powerful deck that is going to largely feel like a mirror match. You and your opponent both want tempo, which you then want to turn into fast damage. This is a game where your combo will win the day. Zoo loves to take damage, and getting them into lethal range is going to be much easier than you think. For that reason, this is a game where you want to hyper focus on the board for the first eight turns of the game. Then, once you have a firm grasp of things, set up your combo and kill your opponent before they get a chance to shift to Bloodreaver Gul'dan(which you are not equipped to beat). Any time you get an opening you can push, but you never want to let Zoo have priority. It is too easy to lose the board that way.
Health is the way you win this game. Not your own health (though that is going to be important too), but your minion's health. Zoo needs to get efficient trades to win games, and you want to limit that as much as you can. Creating a board of high-health minions is going to keep you in control of the trades, which is a situation that is going to destroy Zoo. On that note, this is a game where using Divine Spiritsimply to create a sticky threat can be a fantastic play. Defender of Argusing a body and then instantly doubling its health can lock your opponent right out of a game. Look for those plays and know when and how you need to close things out. If you're pushing them to combo range, that's the route you need to go. However, if your opponent is on the back foot, don't be afraid to chip away at their threats and give them no strong outs. Either works, as long as you know the situation.
Druid has made a roaring comeback over the past two weeks, and Jade is the most popular iteration around. This game is going to be a very tricky balance where you need to push through with your early minions and combo cards without getting completely locked out. Though Spellbreakeris in some decks, most Druids have no way to deal with a high-health minion. Understand that, and do your best to pump something up early on. The most hefty threats you can build against Malfurion, the better off you're going to be in this one. Even something as simple as a pair of 3/4's can do a lot of damage while Druid tries to build up jade golems. Know that you have to be the aggressor in this game. The more turns Druid has, the most they can work to set up Ultimate Infestation. Treat this one as if there is a clock, and work hard to pressure whenever you get an opening. This is another matchup where you can use the combo quite liberally. If Edwin VanCleefhas taught us anything, it is that Druid does not do well with big early threats. Buffing your Northshire Clericto a 6/6 on turn four may not seem like a great play, but it will do wonders in terms of pressure. That gets even crazier when you start putting things up to 14 plus health. This is the one match where you don't care if your opponent knows what you're up to.
Your mulligan with this deck is going to be the basic curve-based mulligan seen with so many tempo builds. Northshire Cleric, Radiant Elemental, Golakka Crawler, Shadow Ascendantand Shadow Visionsare your must-keeps, and you should always keep Power Word: Shieldwith any opening minion. Beyond that, you want to keep both Kabal Talonpriestand Devilsaur Eggwith the coin or a strong curve. Defender of Argus, Meat Wagon, and Barnesshould always be kept if you can curve into them, with or without the coin.
As I stated last week, I love seeing interesting blends. Priest is a class with a lot of options right now, and we've seen most of them. The idea to play the tempo game in order to set up a strong Inner Fire combo is a fantastic idea that just gives you so much leeway. You get the early board presence that makes tempo decks so strong, combined with a truly unfair finisher nobody is ever going to play around. Push early, hit your opponent late. I hope you're liking these odd Priest builds as much as I am. Until next time, may you always Inner Fire for twenty.