Welcome to our ESSENTIAL E Z Big Priest deck list guide for the Frozen Throne expansion that will guide you through mulligans, play strategy, and card substitutions!
Introduction to Big Priest
The “EZ Big” concept comes from a deck played by Ostkaka and Fr0zen which centered around a Barnes & Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound Druid deck that also could pull minions from your hand with Giant Anaconda. Priest now has that option with Knights of the Frozen Throne because of Shadow Essence and Eternal Servitude. If you were to take this deck into the Wild you could even run Resurrect!
Update – Big Priest – November 2017
Big Priest is still a solid deck, but Highlander Priest is more consistent and more powerful currently.
Big Priest Mulligan Strategy & Guide
VS Fast Decks
Your opening hand needs to have cards that will keep you in the game long enough to get an Obsidian Statue on the board.
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Potion of Madness – Excellent removal spell against aggressive decks. You can often remove two minions with it, and sometimes steal a deathrattle trigger.
- Shadow Visions – Lets you search for a board clear or other removal spell.
- Shadow Word: Pain – Great early game removal spell. Helps clear those 3-attack minions that Shadow Word: Horror won’t hit.
- Barnes – You’re never happier than when Barnes ends up in your opening hand. Hitting Obsidian Statue or The Lich King with this means you’ve probably won if you have Eternal Servitude to follow it up with. Also, Shadow Essence can’t target Barnes if he’s not in your deck.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Shadow Word: Horror – Against most aggressive decks, you want to be playing this card on turn 4. The only reason it isn’t in the Higher Priority section is because some aggressive decks (like Pirate Warrior) end up with higher than 3-attack minions by turn 4. If you also have a Pint-Size Potion in your hand, this becomes the best card in your deck to draw, especially with The Coin. If you’re up against a deck that is likely to have 2 or less attack minions early (Token Shaman, Token Druid, Aggro Paladin), always keep this.
- Pint-Size Potion – This card makes Shadow Word: Horror a much better board clear, hitting minions as high as 5 attack. There are some minor applications with Potion of Madness as well, but not quite as strong. It can also help with trading on board in a pinch, and remember that a 0-attack minion does not trigger poisonous. Only keep this if you already have Shadow Word: Horror
- Dragonfire Potion – In just about every aggro matchup you’ll be wanting to play this card on turn 6. You can’t afford to have a dead hand until then, so only keep this if you have multiple early plays already.
VS Slow Decks
Your opening hand needs to have cards that will accelerate your big minions or remove opposing board presence.
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Barnes – Same as above, you always want to have Barnes in your opening hand. He’s your earliest Eternal Servitude activator (apart from opposing Dirty Rats), and if he’s not in your deck he can’t ruin your Shadow Essence. Something to consider, opposing Priests can use Potion of Madness to steal your 1/1 and trade it into your Barnes, in which case it won’t active Eternal Servitude, so if they’re likely to have copies available you might want to wait until you can kill it off yourself the turn you play him.
- Shadow Essence – Similar to Barnes, this card activates your Eternal Servitude and gives you earlier threats. Pulling out Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound or The Lich King against a slow deck can give you lasting board advantage. Not only do you really want to be playing this card on turn 6, but once you’ve drawn all your minions it becomes a dead card; the longer the game goes before you play it the more likely this is to happen.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Eternal Servitude – If you already have a card that activates it, Eternal Servitude is great to have for the turn after. Having The Lich King out on turn 5 (or turn 4, after Barnes with The Coin on turn 3) can put you way ahead if your opponent doesn’t have an immediate answer. You definitely want to draw this card early, but it’s a dead card until you’ve played a minion. Only keep if you’ve drawn a card to activate it.
- Shadow Word: Death or Dragonfire Potion or Devour Mind – These cards, or early board removal, are worth keeping if you already have an ideal hand. You will likely want to be playing these cards at one point or another during control matchups, but the best part about them is that they aren’t your big minions (you can’t summon The Lich King with Barnes if he’s in your hand). Against slow decks, you want to aggressively mulligan for Barnes and Shadow Essence, so unless you have both it’s really not worth keeping anything else.
Big Priest Win Rates
Big Priest Play Strategy
Against aggressive decks your plan is to survive until you can summon an Obsidian Statue with full stats. For most aggressive decks, removing this from the board is too hard and too costly. If you manage to get a lot of value off of Shadow Word: Horror you’re probably in the clear. One of the upsides of running so few minions in the deck is how much room there is for board wipes and single-target removal.
It’s worth mentioning that Token Shaman easily removes your Obsidian Statue, as they’re running Hex a lot of the time. However, their board is so susceptible to Shadow Word: Horror that this ends up being a very winnable matchup for you, so don’t put yourself in a position where you’re relying on Obsidian Statue to stick if you have other options.
Against slow decks your overall strategy doesn’t change very much, there’s just less pressure on you in the early turns. Where Obsidian Statue is your best minion in the aggro matchups, The Lich King and Ysera become much more valuable in the slower ones. Summoning one of these minions several turns in a row gives you a lot of value, and because each iteration requires immediate answers, your opponent can be forced to use removal inefficiently.
Starting on turn 8, your opponent is looking for any excuse to play Shadowreaper Anduin, who will destroy all your 5+ attack minions, so if you’re holding The Lich King or Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound it’s a good idea to play something else if you have the option.
Big Priest Card Substitutions
As far as Big Minions go, Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound, Ysera, Obsidian Statue, and The Lich King are definitely the best and brightest, but there are versions that run Prophet Velen and Malygos. Medivh, the Guardian is a decent replacement if you’re missing one of the better options, as you’re running a few high-cost spells, you just don’t get very much value from him if you cheat him out with Barnes or Shadow Essence. The only minion that on it’s own is irreplaceable is Obsidian Statue, as without it your aggro matchups are probably lost causes.
Don’t feel like you can’t run this deck without Shadowreaper Anduin, he’s optimal but not necessary. His board-clear effect is probably the best part about the card in this deck, but the new hero power does give you an alternate win condition and a way to consistently pressure opposing Ice Blocks.
A matchup you’re likely to have a hard time with is Quest Mage. Your pressure starts pretty late compared to other decks, and by that time your opponent’s freeze cards and combos are enabled. You may be tempted to add an Eater of Secrets to your deck, and while this would probably make the difference in this matchup, it pollutes your minion pool, significantly impairing your ability to win your other matchups.
Other deck options include:
- Forbidden Shaping – This card is a decent way to ensure you have earlier minion plays without ruining your Barnes/Shadow Essence RNG. In general you’re looking to play this card on turn 8 and upward, where Free From Amber is generally better, but the choice to play it earlier makes it an appealing option. I probably wouldn’t craft this card for the deck, but if you have one already you can try it out.
- Holy Smite – If you’re having trouble with aggro, this gives you another early minion removal tool. The difference between 2 and 3 damage is pretty significant right now, as a lot of early minions have 3 health. It’s also good for cycling Hero Powers when you are trying to finish your opponent with Shadowreaper Anduin.
- Arfus – If you’re missing one of the big minions, or just want to add another target to your deck, Arfus can be pretty good. Stat-wise he’s not that great to resurrect, but pulling him off of Shadow Essence is a big improvement over the base card. The best reason to include him is that he’s a minion you can play early that Barnes won’t punish you with.
- Silence or Mass Dispel – With taunts and buffs everywhere right now, silence can be pretty good. It also helps with opposing end of turn effects and deathrattles. While both of these cards have a lot of use, many of the cards you’re already running are sufficient answers. The best reason to include these cards in your deck is Midrange Paladin. Spikeridged Steed is much more easily dealt with by silence effects than hard removal, and a lot of lists have started running Skelemancer.
- Mind Control – If you’re running into the mirror match a lot, this card can really swing the match for you. Removing The Lich King and playing one with the same card is really strong.
About the Author
Martian has been playing Hearthstone regularly since early 2014, and consistently makes it to Legend in both Standard and Wild.