Classic Control Priest has been one of the most iconic days in the early days of Hearthstone, the archetype flourished during the Secret Paladin meta since it did really well against decks like Secret Paladin, Aggro Shaman and Zoo. However, things began to fall apart once the Standard format kicked in and some of the best tools that Priest had access to went out. Some of the casualties in the phase were Zombie Chow, Shrinkmeister, Deathlord and Lightbomb among other cards and things just went from bad to worse. With so much furor about the class in forums, specially Reddit, the Blizzard devs tried everything they could to make the class come back into prominence but it took several expansions and adventures and now we finally in a meta where Priest seems to be doing a lot better.
Mean Streets of Gadgetzan tried to push out the Reno Priest archetype and a lot of people have fun playing singleton decks, but the absence of the consistency that Control Priest has leaves a lot to be desired. With players realizing the potential of the new cards, we can finally see some Control Priest lists breaking into the meta. With a ton of powerful cards being released in the latest expansion, today we have a new Control Priest deck that was used to hit Legend ranks mid-season and it does quite well against Pirate Warrior, Aggro Shaman and Renolock. Rogue is one of the default counters to Priest due to its very nature of the class and Priest and Miracle Rogue happens to be one of the few glaring counters to this deck. Without waiting any further let’s get to the decklist and break down the card choices.
Circle of Healing: One of the most iconic board clears that Priest has had access to since the beginning of hearthstone is the ‘Circle of Killing’ combo utilizing Auchenai Soulpriest and Circle of Healing for a 2 card 4 damage AoE board clear that is extremely powerful. You can also use this card to heal up multiple injured minions or even as a combo tool with Wild Pyromancer or Priest of the Feast depending on the situation.
Flash Heal: Another great flex card that can put in a lot of work for you. You can use it with Auchenai Soulpriest for killing minions or to heal yourself or a minion up. It can also serve as a burst healing tool with Priest of the Feast or a board clear combo with Wild Pyromancer. In odd cases it can even serve as a game ending finisher with Auchenai Soulpriest for some burst damage.
Tip: Lord Jaraxxus is one of the biggest threats to Priest and one of the way you can beat him is by saving your Auchenai Soulpriest and your Flash Heals to burst Jaraxxus down in the Renolock matchup. You can even throw in a Circle of Healing, Mistress of Mixtures and your hero power to OTK a Jaraxxus, provided you are able to put together all of the combo pieces.
Mistress of Mixtures: A fine replacement for Zombie Chow for Priest, it puts in a lot of work by taking out cheap minions and also heals yourself up. The drawback of healing your opponent is not something you should be worrying about because if you go into the long game, you are going to grind out your opponent anyway. You can also get creative with this card using Auchenai Soulpriest for relevant amounts of burst damage as well.
Northshire Cleric: A card that has gone in and out of the meta a lot and with so many 1 HP minions being prevalent, Northshire Cleric shines right now in any Priest deck. If you are facing aggressive decks it is very likely to churn out a considerable amount of value and the ability to take out multiple tokens in the early game is valuable for preventing any considerable amount of face damage.
Power Word: Shield: One of the few tools that Priest has access to for card draw in the class card set. It helps you keep your minions alive and also gets some trades out. It’s a very efficient card to use with Wild Pyromancer for clearing out minions and in combination with a chain of spells you can clear the board quite handily.
Shadow Word: Pain: A great removal tool for taking out low attack minions, there is not much to write home about as it’s one of the simplest and most straightforward removals in the game in the Basic set. However, knowing your targets is one of the biggest factors in using Priest removals efficiently. You need to know the meta and what minions your opponent is likely to play when using your Shadow Word cards.
Wild Pyromancer: Wild Pyromancer is in my books, the best designed card in the Classic set along with Doomsayer. The ability to combo with so many cheap spells in the deck to clear out enemy minions makes it one of the most appealing picks in any Priest deck. Priest has access to a lot of 0 and 1 mana spells in the group of class cards that they have and Wild Pyromancer has a lot of synergies with them.
Acolyte of Pain: Since Priest as a class does not have enough powerful card draw tools, we have to rely on good old Acolyte of Pain to do some work. With so many 1 HP minions floating around, Acolyte of Pain has the potential to draw you 2 cards at the very least against any aggressive deck and you can milk some extra value if you go all in on the card draw with things like Wild Pyromancer for forcing card draw from Acolyte.
Kabal Talonpriest: It seems like Blizzard wanted Priest wanted to get back pseudo replacements for the cards they lost to the 2016 Standard Rotation and Kabal Talonpriest is highly reminiscent of the long gone Dark Cultist. What was once a Deathrattle is now replaced with a Battlecry that has potential upsides over its Wild counterpart. Kabal Talonpriest is a great minion for keeping your minions alive and getting extra value out of their effects or simply getting some extra trades in. Even if you do not get the Battlecry off on a friendly minion, you will still get a standard statline for 3 mana that can take out multiple small minions quite handily.
Shadow Word: Death: Just like Shadow Word: Pain, but for bigger minions – this card is one of the most efficient ways to deal with big minions. One of the things you might notice about the deck is that Priest is weak against 4 HP minions and you will need to rely on AoE effects for them. It is a design choice that Blizzard left out to ensure there are counter-plays to the duo of Shadow Word spells for Priest. Just like Pain, you need to make sure you choose your targets in your opponent’s deck.
A lot of people like to bait out the Shadow words on less threatening minions to make sure other powerful minions survive and are able to dish out value against you. You need to know the meta and the decklists of popular decks to have an understanding of what opponents are likely to run and how you can counter them.
Thoughtsteal: One of the cards that I am slightly skeptical about when it comes to Control Priest. While Thoughtsteal is definitely fun to play and it can get you some really nifty cards that can help you turn the tides against your opponent, I would rather have a minion or a different card in most cases. Shifting Shade is one of the cards that comes to mind because it does the job of half a Thoughtsteal and also helps you develop a 4/3 on board for 1 extra mana. One of the reasons to stick to Thoughtsteal is that your 4 mana slot is already overloaded and you are better off filling in Thoughtsteal to do something on turn 3.
Auchenai Soulpriest: One of the most powerful cards that Priest has access to in the Classic set, it allows you to pull off some incredible board clears with Circle of Healing. You can also combine healing effect spells or even your hero power to clear minions or to deal damage to your opponent. You have to be careful when using the card against aggressive decks because a lot of times your opponent can just leave Auchenai alive after you clear their board and they can spam weapons and spells to your face while also blocking all your healing unless you kill your Auchenai yourself.
Priest of the Feast: One of the most powerful 4 drops in the entire game, it has an incredible stat line that can take out a bunch of small minions while also allowing you to heal up very rapidly. It is an okay strategy to save up some of your cheap spells when you know you are getting low to quickly gain back a ton of health by combining them with Priest of the Feast. He offers great synergy with removal spells as well by healing you up and it essentially frees up mana that you might have used to heal yourself using your hero power for playing other cards.
Cairne Bloodhoof: One of the stickiest minion in the game that went out of favor for a long time but he’s finally here to stay it seems, with a ton of slow Deathrattle decks choosing to run him in N’zoth decks. Since Silence cards were heavily nerfed last year and the lack of good Silence cards in recent set releases, Cairne has been doing fine in Standard and he fits right into the deck with his sticky body and the ability to trade multiple times before dying.
Dragonfire Potion: Lightbomb was one of the most power AoE spells ever released but the absence of the card hurt Priest quite a bit in the Standard meta. Priest desperately needed an AoE spell that is as good as Lightbomb and MSOG delivered with Dragonfire Potion. While it may seem to be good in Dragon Priest, it is quite powerful in non-Dragon decks as well.
Sylvanas Windrunner: One of the most potent Deathrattle minions in the game that never fails to deliver. From making it awkward for your opponent to make trades to forcing out removal, she can do a lot. And if your opponent chooses to let her live and go all-in on the board, you can follow-up with a board clear and creatively steal desirable minions from your opponent. You can also take out key threats by using Sylvanas with Shadow Word: Death to work as a pseudo Mind Control. It can also be used against enemy Deathratle minions to enable you to gain control of them and then resurrect them with N’zoth while denying value for your opponent’s N’zoth.
N'Zoth, the Corruptor: One of the strongest Old Gods with an incredible Battlecry. You have a bunch of high value Deathrattle minions and with cards like Thoughtsteal, you can potentially get more of them – allowing you to use N’zoth as your endgame win condition. It is very hard to clear your board when the battlecry triggers and with minions like Sylvanas and Cairne joining the party for a second time, it’s going to be really difficult to get a clean board wipe without spending multiple resources across turns. However, if your board does get cleaned out across a turn or two and you have no follow-up then it’s going to be an uphill battle for you. You will need to deal with all enemy threats and then outlast them in the fatigue game to win.
How to Play
If you have played Control Priest before then you know how to approach board clears. Auchenai Soulpriest is one of the key board clear tools against aggressive decks along with Wild Pyromancer. They are great for clearing out boards in the early to mid game. A good Auchenai-Circle combo can help you completely destroy aggressive decks. However, one of the drawbacks of Priest as a class is that a lot of the cards the class has access to are situational and are difficult to utilize. A lot of the cards are dependent on other cards in the deck. For example you need Circle of Healing to clear the board with Auchenai Soulpriest and not having any one of them can lead to difficult turns, the same can be said for cards like Wild Pyromancer as well. You need to mulligan very carefully and plan out your turns based on what your opponent might play.
Control Priest is a highly reactive deck and there are not too many tempo plays that you can make unless you get a very aggressive curve and can dominate on board. You want your early game removals and cheap minions to contest the board and stabilize. Priest of the Feast can help you comeback in terms of gaining back HP and cards like Auchenai Soulpriest or Dragonfire Potion can help you gain back board presence. One of the issues that you might end up facing is when you hit a wall against Dragon decks. You will be unable to clear a lot of their minions using Dragonfire Potion and it’ll have to be taken care of using your minion removals or other AoE effects.
The deck is fine tuned to beat aggressive decks and as long as you are not doing too poorly when it comes to drawing cards in time, you will be winning against popular decks like Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior quite handily. N’zoth is a great win condition against slow decks and Deathrattles are definitely not easy to deal with. You can consider adding Entomb in the deck if you feel you are facing a lot of slower decks and tech cards can go in and out depending on what your matchups are like during your climb.
- Northshire Cleric
- Mistress of Mixtures
- Kabal Talonpriest
- Auchenai Soulpriest (Keep Circle of Healing too if you draw both)
- Acolyte of Pain
- Wild Pyromancer (with cheap spells, against aggro)
- Shadow Word: Pain
It is one of the best Control Priest lists I have come across and I’ve been having a ton of fun with the deck with its old fashioned Classic Control Priest vibes. If you are a fan of Priest and love playing Control decks then you should definitely give this a shot. Let me know how you fare with this deck. The deckbuilder of this deck hit top 500 Legend with it and had a great winrate against some of the top decks in the meta. I am currently 33-12 with the deck and it has been doing quite well with no noticeable lopsided matchups. Although, facing heavy control decks might land you into some trouble because a lot of tech cards for dealing with Control decks like Entomb have been cut out for a more anti-meta approach.