As if Priest wasn’t powerful enough in the last expansion, it just got a whole lot better in Kobolds and Catacombs! Currently, there are many viable Priest decks that you may encounter on the ladder. As of now, the most prominent Priest decks are Spiteful Priest, Combo Priest, Control Priest, and this deck itself – Big Priest! While each deck has its own strengths and caveats, Big Priest is more beginner friendly in comparison because its game plan is somewhat linear, and the options available to you are often straightforward.
When compared to other “big decks” in the expansion such as “EZ Big EZ Druid” and Big Recruit Warrior, Big Priest has a couple of advantages over them! First, Warrior and Druid both don’t have access to the “resurrect” mechanic, therefore when their minion dies, it’s gone for good! Secondly, Priest potentially has the fastest way for bringing out a heavy hitter naturally with Barnes followed by an Eternal Servitude, as the other two classes normally don’t have Barnes in their deck, thus they often have to wait to either ramp or play Gather Your Party on turn 6. Lastly, this deck has no real “insta-lose” matchups because of its wide versatile range of reactive tools with cards such as Shadow Word: Horror and Dragonfire Potion. Since the deck utilizes the “resurrect” mechanic, it does not need as many minions as other big decks! These slots can be filled with more reactive tools to combat against aggro!
Though the deck is still somewhat volatile because of its inconsistency, where you may find yourself having dead reactive hands without certain key cards such as Barnes and Shadow Essence against control matchups, it is still by far one of the most fun decks to play on ladder! Multiple players have consistently managed to hit high legend ranks with this deck!
Update: Big Priest (March 2018 – Post Nerf)
Big Priest, while maybe not the best deck, is still a very solid ladder choice. If you have all the cards, you can still play it before the rotation – future of the deck is unknown with both Barnes and Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound rotating out.
Big Priest Card Choices
Silence – Since you can’t run minion version of Silence (like Kabal Songstealer), as it could potentially ruin your Barnes and Shadow Essence, this 0 mana spell is the best choice. You use it against buffs, minions with powerful Deathrattles (like Possessed Lackey or Taunts to get through them when you have big board).
Pint-Size Potion – A potential deadly board clear when combined with Shadow Word: Horror, allowing you to clear minions with 5 attack or less, especially useful against mid game boards, where Horror alone is not enough.
Shadow Visions – A must have in this deck due to its versatile nature. You’re able to search for your reactive spells against an aggressive deck, and against a more control deck, you’re able to get your key resurrect cards, Shadow Essence and Eternal Servitude. The amount of value you can gain is immeasurable when you discover one of your resurrect spells! Keep in mind that against against a control deck, it may be wise to save your Shadow Visions until turn 5, so that you increase your chances of discovering Shadow Essence.
Shadow Word: Pain – A staple in almost any Priest deck. There is almost a target in every deck for Pain to get value out of!
Barnes – Barnes on Turn 4 is insane against any deck archetype as it allows you to sometimes win the game outright! The best case scenario is pulling Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound into another minion, but even a Obsidian Statue is a strong pull on a contesting the board. Follow up with Eternal Servitude for a quick win.
Eternal Servitude – This deck wouldn’t be much of a Resurrect Priest if it couldn’t resurrect minions. After your minions have died, you can resurrect them for additional value and tempo! This card is insane in the late game, where you already have developed big minions. A 4 mana Ysera or Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound is pretty good if you ask me.
Greater Healing Potion – Since you normally won’t be playing minions until the mid-late game, you are bound to take some damage. Greater Healing Potion is a great defensive mechanism to ensure that you’re alive by the time you play some minions. It can also keep you alive against high burst / combo decks in the mid/late game.
Shadow Word: Horror – A great counter to Paladin’s Call to Arms, or any aggressive deck that likes to summon a bunch of small minions. Also works as a destructive board clear in combination with Pint-Size Potion on turn 5, where you call follow it up with Shadow Essence on turn 6.
Dragonfire Potion – A staple in any Priest deck, and Aggro’s worst nightmare. This card can single-handedly clear a board. A kind reminder is that it does not affect Dragons, so if you face cards like Drakonid Operative, Twilight Drake or Cobalt Scalebane, remember that it won’t work on them. On the upside, it also doesn’t damage your Ysera and the 7/6 Dragon you can roll from her.
Shadow Essence – This may seem inferior to Warrior’s Gather Your Party as the minion summoned is only a 5/5, but it works well the overall deck archetype. Normally, it isn’t the 5/5 that applies pressure and scares your opponent – it is when you resurrect it! Rolling Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound is obviously the best case scenario, as it pulls an actual minion from your deck (it can even pull the 10/10 version of Y’Shaarj).
Lesser Diamond Spellstone – If you weren’t convinced enough of the deck’s potential in the last expansion, then this new card should do the job! This card can be massive after your opponent cleared your first wave of minions, especially if it’s upgraded. Keep in mind that the resurrection only works with distinct minions.
Psychic Scream – The long-awaited “insta-clear” board wipe that works excellently no matter what the board state is! Your opponent can have 7 minions on board while you have none, and within the snap of your virtual fingers, it’s gone – poof. It was as if you had a hidden reset button all along.
Shadowreaper Anduin – A strong tempo play against high-attack minions. The damage from your hero power also allows you to additionally pressure your opponents.
The Lich King – The MVP from the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion. The amount of value that you can gain from this card alone is immeasurable. It’s a great pull from Barnes and a terrifying resurrect target.
Obsidian Statue – A nice defensive-orientated minion that allows you regain health, and with its insta-kill deathrattle effect, this card is an auto-include. If you managed to resurrect this, most aggro decks will just concede outright because of its stat-line and invaluable deathrattle.
Ysera – If a card’s text could be rewritten with just the word “value” on it, it would be Ysera. Because of its reoccurring effect, this minion has an invisible taunt, demanding your opponent to answer it in some fashion!
Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound – Have you ever had games where your opponent played Barnes on turn 4 and it pulled Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound, subsequently pulling a 10/10 copy, and you simply thought to yourself, “Well, that’s was a fun and interactive game.” as your mouse cursor hovers the bottom right corner? Well, it’s your turn to do the same! You’ve been through enough! It’s time for you to inflict the suppressed pain you’ve been enduring all this time onto others!
Big Priest Win Rates
Big Priest Mulligan Guide and Strategy
Similar to any other “big” deck in the meta, you don’t want to keep any minions in hand aside from Barnes, as it would reduce the deck’s overall effectiveness.
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Barnes – Barnes always has the highest priority – getting him on Turn 4 usually results in a quick victory. If you have it, keep it 100% of the time.
- Shadow Word: Pain – Stall tool, good way to answer the early game minions of an Aggro deck. Let’s say that a single 2/3 minion might not seem threatening, but if it survives and hits you for 4 turns straight, that’s 8 damage you could have prevented with a simple Pain.
- Shadow Word: Horror – Since you can’t always guarantee a Turn 4 Barnes, you often have to survive until the mid/late game. Shadow Word: Horror is your first AoE and a great keep vs Aggro decks. Playing it on Turn 4 will usually result in at least 2-3 minions dying, possibly even a whole board.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Pint-Size Potion – Keep with Shadow Word: Horror. Against many boards, it’s worth to wait an extra turn to get a full board clear. It’s very unlikely that an Aggro deck will drop something with more than 5 Attack.
- Eternal Servitude – Keep with Barnes, so you can revive whatever big minion you pull out. Even if you low-roll an Ysera, it’s still good to have a 4 mana 4/12 to fight for the board.
- Shadow Essence – Your second best way to get your big minion out, after Barnes. However, since Turn 6 is a long way into the game, keep it vs Aggro only if you have tools to stall/survive already – like the Pain or Horror listed above.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Barnes and Shadow Essence – Those are the cards you mulligan for against a slower deck. You don’t really need those defensive tools or board clears, as a slower deck won’t put much pressure on you anyway (healing with your Hero Power is usually good enough). So you want to hard mulligan for either of those two, as they both increase your chance to win if played on the curve (Barnes much more so, but Shadow Essence is still better than waiting until Turn 8-9 to play the actual minions from your hand).
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Eternal Servitude & Lesser Diamond Spellstone – If you already have either Barnes or Shadow Essence (or both!). Keeping Diamond Spellstone might seem weird, but it’s actually quite a solid keep vs slow decks. You can afford to have one dead card, and playing it on Turn 7 to revive 2-3 big minions is often game over.
Big Priest General Playstyle and Strategy
When you play against an Aggro deck, your main, and pretty much the only goal is to survive. Once you get the point when you drop Obsidian Statue and keep reviving it, you are guaranteed to win. The mid game also should be easy to survive, given how many AoE clears you have (not to mention that you can heal up with Greater Healing Potion in case you’re dying).
During the early turns, you want to be a little bit greedy with your removals. Aggro decks are going to drop a lot of stuff, so if you play them left and right, you will run out of ways to answer the board very quickly. For example, if it’s turn 3 and you face a 2/3 minion – do you Shadow Word: Pain it? Well, it all depends. If opponent doesn’t have a lot of pressure – you can just heal up and pass. If you have a Shadow Word: Horror in your hand, that’s another reason to not clear it, as it might die with the rest of the board next turn. At the same time, if your opponent drops a 2/3 on Turn 2, and you have no way to clear it other than Pain, just do it – it’s going to save you a lot of damage.
Overall, your goal is to survive until the mid game. In the mid game, between Pint-Size Potion + Shadow Word: Horror, Dragonfire Potion and Psychic Scream, you should have more than enough ways to clear the board.
Remember that Psychic Scream shuffles all the minions back into your opponent’s deck. Which makes it a great removal vs token-heavy decks like Dude Paladin. For example, if they go for Stand Against Darkness play, shuffling all those 1/1’s back is amazing for you. It makes the quality of their draws much lower and Call to Arms is very likely to pull out vanilla 1/1’s.
Shadow Visions is a quite important card in those matchup, but picking the right card is key. While Eternal Servitude will obviously be the best pick if you have Barnes in your hand already, that’s not always the case. If you have some mid game board clears already, but you have no way to gain health, pick Greater Healing Potion. You can also pick the second part of the Pint-Size + Horror combo if you already have one. And finally, if you have no other way to summon a big minion, picking a Shadow Essence might actually be your best bet.
Your best revive target in Aggro matchups is obviously Obsidian Statue. Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound might be even better, but only if you have no Ysera left in your deck. I’ve actually lost some games by going for Y’Shaarj instead of Obsidian Statue and pulling out the Ysera. The Lich King is also solid because of the Taunt, but the lack of Lifesteal makes it sub-optimal.
Against Control, your game plan is quite different. Even though your deck has tons of Control tools, you are rarely looking to win through the board control. Your best bet to win in slow matchups is putting pressure. The amount of big minions you can drop during a single game is staggering, it’s more than most of the slow decks can clear (maybe besides Big Spell Mage, but that’s an exception).
You don’t have to worry about getting rushed down and dying so much – cards like Shadow Word: Pain or Shadow Word: Horror are pretty bad. You’re mulliganing hard for your Barnes and Shadow Essence to start your revive train as soon as possible. The earlier you get your big minions out, the better, as your opponent will be more likely to have a way to answer them as the game goes by.
Even though Control decks can’t really rush you down in the early game, it’s very possible that they will do it in the mid game if you have a very slow start. For example, Mountain Giant is one of your worst enemies – if you won’t get Shadow Word: Death to answer it, it can kill you over a few turns, or at least deal enough damage that you will be forced to play defensively, which is never good.
But, getting a big minion down on the board does not necessarily mean that you win on the spot. Sometimes a single Obsidian Statue doesn’t even put that much pressure – for example if you face Priest or Warrior, they can gain 2 life per turn, and since you’re dealing only 4, it would take a LONG time to kill them. It’s important to put enough pressure on the board, but to not overextend. Two minions is usually a sweet spot – they put enough pressure, they don’t die to a single target removal, and you don’t really mind getting them AoE’d with something like Twisting Nether.
When it comes to your revive targets, the best one to revive on the empty board is Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound. It gives you enough pressure with just a single card. That said, if you already have something on the board, reviving Y’Shaarj would most likely mean overextending. If you already have something, or you’re going for a more value-oriented game, The Lich King and Ysera are your best revive targets. Because of their effects, they give you extra cards every turn, forcing your opponent to deal with them as quickly as possible.
Lesser Diamond Spellstone is a key card in slow matchups. First of all, try to get it to at least the second upgrade before using it. Second thing is that play it only on the empty board – use it as a refill after a removal, and not as a way to put more pressure, because you can get seriously punished with AoE. Spellstone is also an amazing pick from Shadow Visions – it’s really hard to lose the games in which you cast 3 or 4 Spellstones.
Besides being another AoE removal against big minions, Shadowreaper Anduin is actually your alternative win condition in slow matchups. You can’t always win with minions – they might get constantly removed, you might not draw your revives etc. Anduin gives you a way to put pressure on the opponent even if your board is empty. Generally, if you go for the Anduin route, the best way is to play 2-3 Hero Powers per turn while doing other things. For example, if your opponent develops a few minions, you can play Hero Power (on their face) + Dragonfire Potion + Hero Power. This way you clear AND deal 4 damage. You can sometimes use it 3 times if you combine it with cheaper spells like Silence, Shadow Visions etc. Of course, the best case scenario is putting pressure with both Hero Power and minions. This way your opponent has to worry about two things – clearing the board AND gaining more life. You can also gain extra burst thanks to the Ysera and The Lich King – Ysera Awakens or Death Coil both deal 5 extra damage while costing only 2 mana. It’s very common to burst your opponent down for 9 or 11 damage thanks to those cards.
Just like against Aggro, you need to remember that Psychic Scream shuffles all the minions back, so use it wisely. For example, it might be a good play against a board full of small minions, as it will stall your opponent’s draws. But shuffling back a win condition like N'Zoth, The Corruptor might not be optimal. Sometimes you actually want to clear a certain minion before shuffling the rest – e.g. if you Death the N’Zoth first and then shuffle the board, you don’t risk your opponent dropping the N’Zoth again a few turns later.
Big Priest Card Replacements
Big Priest is an expensive deck and, sadly, most of the expensive cards simply can’t be replaced. However, if you really want to test it out and you don’t mind having a lower win rate, some of the cards CAN be replaced.
Shadow Visions is great, but not absolutely necessary. It makes the deck more consistent, but doesn’t add that much power.
Dragonfire Potion – Your main AoE board clear, I’d say that at least one copy is necessary.
Psychic Scream – One copy is generally enough, so it’s fine if you don’t have second. If you don’t have any, you will have a hard time dealing with some of the boards (like Bloodreaver Gul'dan vs Warlock).
Shadowreaper Anduin – Good card, but not necessary. If you don’t have it, it won’t really affect your win rate that much.
As for your big minions, they’re all either Epic or Legendary and they’re picked carefully to provide a mix of survival and value. You COULD try to replace the ones you don’t have with other, high value minions. Ysera is the easiest one to replace, as it’s usually the worst one to get out of a bunch. If you face a lot of Aggro, even Sleepy Dragon might be a solid replacement. Other than that, you can also run Free From Amber – another way to get a good, big minion to revive. Violet Wurm might look tempting for the Barnes or Shadow Essence synergy, but then again, it really messes up with your Spellstone, so you should not play both in the same deck.
Oh, and Barnes is absolutely necessary. You can’t run the deck without it, it doesn’t make sense.