Weekly Legends: Tempo Keleseth/Kazakus Priest!
Today we are getting wild. Not as in the format, but as in completely insane. We have covered a lot of lists on this series in the past eleven months, but there is no doubt in my mind that is going to be the most unique deck of the year. I mean, just look at that list. Today's build is a Kazakus Priest deck that, instead of playing control, goes for early tempo and strong minions. You still have your combo and big finishers, but you move up your curve in the same way that Zoo or Hunter does. That may sound odd (and it is) but it works quite well and makes for one of the most interesting archetypes I've ever seen. This is a list that rincewind147 took to legend, and, though it is odd, it does a great job against most of the meta. Before we go on, I should note, as this deck is so unique (and because it's full of one-of's) instead of breaking down individual cards, we're going to look at the different sections of the list to see how they all come together. Strap in boys and girls, it's gonna be a crazy ride.
I wanted to start off by discussing how exactly this deck plays. While it is easy to get overwhelmed by all the moving parts, there is a method and structure built into the madness. Think of this build, not like a Priest deck, but like Zoo. You begin by running out early minions that help you put on pressure and cement the board. From there, you then move up your curve, getting bigger and bigger as your tempo increases. However, while Zoo depends almost entirely on minions, you have a nice mix of minions and spells. Pushing your board is key here, and you should focus all of resources into doing just that. There are many things to get distracted by in this list. Do not get caught up in making interesting plays or taking strange routes when there is no reason to do so. You always need to keep your focus on the board. Most of the time playing a body is always going to be better than trying to set up a play a few turns later.
What makes this deck tick is that, as a curve-based build, there are going to be useful cards at every stage of the game. That is great because it allows you to go in on your tempo plan without sacrificing too much power. Yes, your opponent might stop a push and be able to respond to your early plays, but, unlike more traditional decks like Rogue, you can switch gears at any time. That is a huge bonus, and something that is going to come up a lot throughout this guide. This deck is pure tempo at heart, but it is not only a tempo deck. You have control pieces, you have combo pieces, and you can also get hyper-aggressive if needed. Everything stems from your early tempo, but do not be afraid to adapt. You should not shackle yourself to the tempo plan. Yes, you have a bunch of minions. Yes, your goal is to push the board. However, you also have an incredible game-ending combo should things go wrong.
Ok, I lied. We are discussing some single cards after all. Kazakusis important to look at in this build because there is an enormous amount of versatility here. You're running a ton of different cards that do many different things and allow you to shape your curve in a range of ways. That means you have a lot of options, but it also means a lot of your games are going to shift around. Sometimes you're the aggressor, sometimes you're a midrange build, and sometimes you need to sit back and play slow. Kazakus helps greatly with all of those different avenues, and you should always sculpt his potion to match the style of game that you're in. If you're losing the board you should try to get AOE, but if you're ahead you want to push just look for damage and cards. Always adapt, not to what you're facing right now, but what is going to be useful in a few turns.
There are two modes of Kazakus. If you're facing a slow deck (namely Priest), or if you have a solid hold of the board, you typically want to go for the ten mana potion. There are a lot of big swings you can get from that, but you should try to prioritize armor in the Priest matchup, and then go for both draw or AOE when you're up against everything else. However, when matching against midrange decks, five mana is typically the way you go because you're going to need ways to fight for the board and get immediate value. Regardless of what mana you choose, try your best to prioritize draw. You are not a consistent deck, and the more you can smooth out your curve, the better you will be.
The Big Threats
Once again, we find ourselves discussing the ever-important idea of versatility. You are a tempo deck. Most games you will start off controlling the board, and then use that early or mid-game push to set up your finishing damage. However, you can also dominate the board with big threats in the same way a midrange list can. For example, let's say you're going up against a Rogue who doesn't have the coin. Running out a turn four Twilight Drakecan just dominate the middle turns on its own until your opponent manages to find combo for a Vilespine Slayer. Even when they do get to the plant, you should be way further up your curve. That is the basis of this deck, and what you should try to do at all times. Your threats get big at the middle of the game. Know that, and understand that you can take control through sheer will.
Going off of that, do not be afraid to rely on the top of your curve. Your end-game combo (discussed in more detail below) is going to be important, but you can also play as a late-game control deck if needed. Being able to use Alexstraszaas a finisher comes up quite a bit (healing and damage both work) and things like The Curatorcan give you the extra time you need to take things a little slower. It is easy to get caught up on tempo, but you can take things slow when needed. There are a lot of late game cards in this list that you might not recognize as late game cards right away. Kazakus, Drakonid Operativeand Bonemareall can put the finishing touches on the game and give you enough gas to outlast most decks. If you start to fall behind, do not try to brute force your way back. Rather, switch your plan.
The more I play this deck, the more I value Dragonfire Potion. The AOE spell may just be a one-of, but it is (besides your combo Kazakuspieces) the most important one-of in the list. The reason I say that is because, you do not have many removal options in this list. You are mostly going to lean on your minions, but being able to set up a big blow-out turn always helps. You're only going to get to pull this trick once, so milk it for as much as you can. Wait until the last possible second when trying to catch things in the blast, and do what you can to use your minions to contest the board first. There are going to be some situations where you simply have no option but to pull the trigger, but a body is typically going to be worth more because it is going to pull your opponent further onto the board. Baiting your opponent is easy here because they will often assume you don't have it as soon as you don't use it. It is also worth noting that these same rules can be applied to Kazakus' AOE options as well. It is not easy to get big blowouts, so take them when you can.
The Shadowreaper Combo
Yep, you're still packing the one-two punch of Shadowreaper Anduinand Raza the Chained. The two cards are the most powerful combo in the current game, and if you're playing a one-of deck, you're absolutely running them. However, what is different about this deck when compared to the more classic builds is that you are not relying on that combo to win you games. Yes, there are going to be some longer matches where you need to go off, but most of the time this is simply going to back up an early push or help you cap off games when you're out of options. I am not going to sit here and say the combo isn't a great fail safe, but you aren't taking your opponent from thirty to zero in this one. Rather, you usually want to use this as finishing chip damage. In fact, there are going to be games where you can get lethal with only Shadowreaper if you have a couple low-cost cards in your hand.
Normally, if you've already played Raza the Chained, you want to throw out Shadowreaper Anduinas soon as possible. I often see Priest players who wait on putting down Shadowreaper because they want to get value out of the ability. Honestly, that rarely matters. Most of the time, you just want to get your combo going. Yes, you may not be able to hit The Lich Kingor some other gigantic threat, but most games you should be able to chip it down with your free hero power anyway. If you can get value you should, but don't let that hold you back. Once you've transitioned into Shadowreaper with a free power you are going to be close to unstoppable. While you don't have the reliable card draw of classic Priest, your opponent should be at low life from your early push.
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The four decks I see the most while playing ladder.
A lot of the meta is fighting for the board, and that is exactly what you're doing in this one. This game is going to go one of two ways. You are either going to get out ahead of your opponent and use your over-statted minions to beat them back before they can get a hold of the game, or you are going to go slow and rely on your combo. This all depends on how quickly you can out of the gates. Rogue is a powerful deck, and they will run you off the board if you let them. If you cannot keep up, try your best to switch over to control. However, note that slowing them down is not going to be easy. While in most games you can take some pressure off by dropping down a big body, Vilespine Slayersimply isn't going to let that happen. Know that, and try your best to make plays that both contest the board and don't leave you open to the 3/4. For instance, always prioritize efficient spells over big minions.
Another important part of winning this game is running your opponent out of cards. You want to try to back Rogue into a corner where they are only playing to you. This not only makes it so they need to play much more defensively than they would like, but it also takes your opponent's mind off of damage. Though it may not seem like it, a lot of Tempo Rogue is built around their ability to burst with Leeroy Jenkins/Cold Blood. The more you can save your health, the worst that burst gets. Eventually, this game will get to a point where your opponent needs to start using Cold Bloods as removal. Once that occurs, you can simply pace this one by removing all of your opponent's threats. Just be careful not to leave yourself exposed. Don't get too greedy and don't push for damage until you know your opponent is out of options.
As strong as Priest is, this is a matchup where I feel you have an advantage. The reason is, while this deck does not quite have the big combo potential that most traditional Kazakus Priest builds have (there's no Prophet Velenhere), you are going to spend a lot of time fighting on the board. That is extremely important because it means your opponent is going to have to burn cards a lot of cards. While it may not look like it, there are a lot of strong minions peppered throughout this list. Stick whatever threat you can and always prioritize stats over everything else. It may not be the best play to run out a Drakonid Operativewith no dragon in hand, but a 5/6 on the board is much better than it rotting in your hand. Be aggressive in this one and dare your opponent to have answers at each stage of the game.
Something to note is that if you do go long against Priest (either because you can't get a good push or your opponent has all the answers) this game is going to be all about the combo. Whoever can get Shadowreaper Anduin/Raza the Chainedwith a full grip of cards first is going to win. For that reason, if you don't get the push you want, you need to draw at every opportunity. In addition, if you don't have any parts of the combo and your opponent has one, you need to be as aggressive as possible to limit your opponent's combo potential. Assume they always have a perfect curve and then adapt accordingly.
Note: You need to be careful with your life total. Most of these matches are going to turn into a race, and whoever has that extra five or six health can typically outlast the other. Ten armor from Kazakusis great, but just doing your best to stay up at thirty can be enough.
Another board-centric build, Zoo is going to play out much like Tempo Rogue (and Hunter as covered below). You really need to rely on your early minions in this one. Zoo is a build that will quickly climb above you if it is not contested. I would say this is the only matchup where you are almost always going to take the role of control. Even if you have a tempo push, you're mostly going to use it to control your opponent's board. However, note that you have one big advantage in your larger threats. Zoo is inherently a fish deck, which means they want to tempo the game by trading as much as possible. That works well for them, but it often means they need to run into large minions to protect their board. Know this, and do your best to put down big, scary bodies when you feel things slipping away. That can often give you the time you need to climb back into a match.
This is a game where your Shadowreaper Anduincombo comes in handy. Once Zoo realizes they cannot win the game during the middle turns, they are going to completely change their plan and bank on Bloodreaver Gul'danor big one-two punches like Bonemareto save the day. Those moves allow them to take over a late board. To combat that, you need to go right over their head. Zoo is a strong deck, but they are quite careless with their health. Lifetap and your minions are going to bring them down to the mid-teens (or even lower) during the course of the game. Go hard at their face from there and work towards getting in as much damage as possible. Even just Shadowreaper Anduinwithout Raza can finish them off if you hoard enough small spells.
We finish things up with Midrange Hunter, a deck that is busily fighting with Jade Druid to claim the bottom spot of the top four. Hunter is going to be a tough matchup where, if you don't have board going into turn four, you might as well kiss this game goodbye. That's not an exaggeration. You are a strong deck, but, as you are running a Kazakusbuilt, you simply don't have the consistency to draw into your strong removal plays. Not only that, but you also lack strong healing. That means once Hunter become the aggressor you will never catch up. Depend on your minions to carry this game and trade as much as possible. This game is going to be a lot like Zoo, except you need to be even more careful because you can die even once you get all of your stronger pieces together. Pace the game and play tempo only as a way to make sure your opponent can't put together any combos. In addition, plan for both Savannah Highmaneand Houndmaster. It is also important to have a solid body out by turn three (it is absolutely worth using the coin). Bearsharkis a very popular beast right now and it is almost untouchable once it gets going.
This deck is pretty out there, but the mulligan is actually quite grounded. You are critically dependent on your one and three drops, and that's all you want. Holy Smite, Northshire Cleric, Potion of Madness, Bloodsail Corsair, Mistress of Mixtures, Fire Fly, and Prince Kelesethare your must-keeps here. Beyond that, you should always keep Acolyte of Pain, Giant Wasp, Southsea Captain, Tar Creeper, Vicious Fledgling, Curious Glimmerroot, and Kabal Talonpriestwith the coin or a good curve.
Circle of Healingshould always be kept with Auchenai Soulpriestwhen you're up against a tempo or aggressive deck. In addition, you want the soulpriest on curve. The same is true about Twilight Drakeand Kazakus. However, Kazakus is also great with just one opening minion and the coin, and you should always keep Twilight Drake against Priest.
Awesome. Just plain awesome. We always cover cool decks around here, but it is rare that we cover a deck that completely bends a class like this one. Priest has been many things over its long life, but tempo is not one of them. This deck truly does something different, and that alone is worth looking at it. Add on the fact that it made the climb all the way to orange diamond and you have a real winner. I hope you guys are as excited about this one as I am, and I hope you give it a try. Until next time, may you always Kazakus on four and Raza on five.