Our Dragon Control Priest deck list guide for the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion features one of the top lists for this archetype. This Dragon Control Priest guide includes Mulligan Strategy, Gameplay Tips, Card Substitutions, and Combos/Synergies!
Introduction to Dragon Control Priest
Control Priest is an archetype as old as Hearthstone itself. Between multiple high value cards, powerful removals and reactive Hero Power, Priest is a perfect class to play a slow, value-oriented, Control list. Over the last years, similar decks were going in and out of the meta, but they weren’t very popular during Year of the Mammoth. Everything has changed recently, when players have discovered that Priest has a very powerful mix of tools at its disposal. Over the last few weeks, the deck got more and more popular, to the point that it’s the second most popular Priest deck in Legend right now.
The recent nerf patch, which basically killed Highlander Priest, was a great incentive to start playing Control Priest.
Dragon Control Priest Mulligan Guide and Strategy
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Northshire Cleric – It’s the only 1-drop in the deck, so you keep it even if only to drop something on the first turn. Since Aggro decks often open with 1-drops, you should be able to contest them or at least deal some damage and draw a card.
- Potion of Madness – Keep against Aggro, you will usually be able to clear a 1-drop or a 2-drop with it, possibly even two of them if they line up correctly.
- Netherspite Historian – Similarly, the only 2-drop in the deck + it can grab you an extra Duskbreaker, which is great.
- Duskbreaker – Auto-keep against every Aggro deck. It often clears a whole board and puts a small body on the board just for 4 mana.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Power Word: Shield – Keep with an early game minion, preferably Cleric. It will be a dead card if you have nothing to play it on.
- Curious Glimmerroot – If you have a Turn 1 or Turn 2 play already. It’s a solid 3-drop, but if you pass Turns 1 and 2, it will not be too good.
- Shadow Word: Horror – Against decks flooding the board with 1-2 attack minions, like Dude Paladin.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Northshire Cleric – Yes, you still keep Cleric, even against slower decks. If they drop something in the early game, you should be able to draw a card (or force a small removal). If not, you will draw one when healing up one of your mid game minions. Either way, Cleric is great.
- Netherspite Historian – Just like against Aggro, it’s really your only Turn 2 play. But in this case, you’re looking for Drakonid Operative instead.
- Curious Glimmerroot – Good 3-drop, you can put some pressure or trade into their early game play, while pulling out an extra card.
- Twilight Drake – Solid Turn 4 play in most of the matchups, having a 4/7 or something on Turn 4 will put just enough pressure. It’s also used as a Dragon activator for other synergies.
- Drakonid Operative – It might seem weird, keeping 5-drop and everything, but Operative is just nuts. Great body, Dragon tag, free card of your choice, this card wins a lot of games vs slow decks when dropped on the curve.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Power Word: Shield – With an early game minion. Cycle and buff is good, but again, it’s pretty useless if you have nothing to play it on.
- Twilight Acolyte – Against decks that might drop a big minion early, e.g. Warlock – Mountain Giant.
Dragon Control Priest General Playstyle and Strategy
When playing a slower deck vs a faster deck, your main goal is always to survive. You want to clear their board as well as you can, keep your life total on a reasonable level and then turn the game around with your bigger minions.
This deck is heavily reactive. It means that you have almost no chance to proactively take board control by trading into opponent’s minions. Sure, it might work for the first 2 or 3 turns if they get a slow start, but you will soon have to use your other tools. Your best tools against Aggro decks are Duskbreaker and Shadow Word: Horror (possibly with Pint-Size Potion if you need to clear something above 2 health). However, you need to remember that Aggro decks will most likely have multiple ways to refill the board, and they will try to play around your AoEs as well as they can. This means that you need to be smart and plan ahead.
Try to play your minions on the curve even if you have the AoE clear in your hand. This way you might make them think that you don’t have one and bait them into playing more cards. Similarly, you can use your small drops to damage the minions in order to put them in range of 3 AoE from Duskbreaker. The more AoEs you have in your hand, the more liberally you can use them. If you have only a single one, you need to squeeze as much value out of it as possible. So don’t use Duskbreaker to clear two small minions that aren’t really threatening if they might play more next turn and you will be left with nothing. Try to trade with your minions first and only if that is not possible and they build a stronger board, drop your AoE.
Your Hero Power is very important. Even though playing it is a tempo loss, it means that your opponent can’t pressure you with let’s say 3 or 4 damage, because then you will just heal up for 2 per turn and not lose too much. He needs to put more onto the board, which usually results in a better AoE from you. One thing to think about is when you want to use the Hero Power on minions and when on your Hero. The general rule is that it’s better to use it on minions if that will help you with the board control. Keeping your minions alive means that you can make more trades, which means that you gain a lot more health in the long run. Heal yourself only when your board is already good enough and you don’t mind your minions dying, or when you’re approaching the burn range of your opponent. The more burn they have – the earlier you need to start healing yourself. For example, against aggressive Paladins, being at 15 health should be safe (assuming no board from your opponent) – you can easily heal minions when you’re that high. But the same health total against Secret Tempo Mage is often not enough, as they will easily burn you down over two turns. If you’re at 15 against Mage, heal yourself as much as you can.
Another way to heal up is Greater Healing Potion – the card is great against Aggro, but ONLY once you’ve already stabilized the board. Healing for 12 will most likely just stall for one turn if your opponent has a solid board, sometimes that’s all you need, but most often that’s not enough. Another thing to think about when using it is to not show it until you really need to. For example, if you’re at 15 health and opponent doesn’t threaten to kill you, you can still keep the Greater Healing Potion in your hand. The reason is that your opponent might try to rush you down and make suboptimal plays (like dropping Spellbreaker just for its body). Knowing that he won’t be able to rush you down, he can play more conservatively, play around AoEs and go for a longer game. Contrary to what you might think, you won’t ALWAYS win a long game against Aggro, because at one point you might run out of AoEs and they might get another refill. So it’s best to not show that you are at high health until you can.
Another mind games that are actually quite important is picking a card from Netherspite Historian. If Duskbreaker is offered, of course it’s an easy pick and you don’t have to think. But picking it immediately will tell your opponent that you got a good card, most likely – exactly – Duskbreaker. If you take your time and think about it for like 10 or 15 seconds, now your opponent will not be so sure. After all, if there was a Duskbreaker, you’d pick it instantly, right? It also works the other way around – if you DON’T get a Duskbreaker offered, try to make your choice as quickly as possible. This might make your opponent think that you have one, and he will play around it, even though you’ve picked something completely different.
Cabal Shadow Priest is an amazing mid/late game card. Not only you can remove some small minion, but you also put a quite solid board presence. Ultimately, you prefer to have board to do trading, and you need your minions to kill the opponent. On Turn 7, you can steal something bigger with Cabal thanks to the Pint-Size Potion. You can steal anything up to 5 Attack – some of the best targets against Aggro are things like Sunkeeper Tarim, Crystal Lion, Kabal Crystal Runner or Doomguard. Hitting one of those can swing the game around.
And finally, one of the best moments to turn the game around is Primordial Drake. Not only you clear the board (at least part of it), but you also put a 4/8 Taunt your opponent needs to get through. By the time he develops big enough board to clear it, you can often play 2 or 3 more minions behind it and start to dominate the board.
You usually win the game when you clear the board, then run the opponent out of ways to refill it, then play your own minions and push some damage each turn while trading. Don’t sweat it – you don’t really need to rush your opponent down. Once you get the board control, keep trading and play against any out your opponent might have. As much as it might be good to set up two turns lethal, if you ignore a few 1/1’s against Paladin in a process, he can drop something like Sunkeeper Tarim or even just Lightfused Stegodon and swing the board around. Don’t give your opponents any outs.
In the games vs Control, you no longer just need to survive. Since you play against other decks with high value, you won’t always win the late game, you won’t always have more cards than they do in the end etc. A part of those games even go to fatigue, so using your every single resource as well as you can is important.
Generally, there are two ways to approach this kind of matchups, and which one is best mostly depends on how good your start was, what reactive cards your opponent has got etc.
The first strategy is winning through the tempo. As much as you can’t really put a lot of pressure in the early game, once the mid game starts, you can really start to smack your opponent. Something like Twilight Drake on Turn 4 into Drakonid Operative on Turn 5 can really put a lot of pressure if not answered. When using this strategy, try to put as much power on the board as possible, while playing around AoEs as well as you can. For example, if you play against Control Warlock and you didn’t manage to rush them down until Turn 7, don’t put more bodies onto the board – they will just Twisting Nether everything.
Majority of your AoEs are mirrored, so when you’re ahead, you often can’t use them without hurting your own board. But that’s where cards like Twilight Acolyte or Cabal Shadow Priest come handy. Those are great to swing the board without hurting your minions. Let’s say that your opponent drops a Drakonid Operative himself. Normally you would need to trade 2 minions, and they would either die or get heavily damaged. With Twilight Acolyte, not only you’re putting a 5/4 on the board, but you can either clear that Operative much easier, or even ignore it and go face (depending on the scenario). Cabal Shadow Priest is even better, especially with the Pint-Size Potion. Starting from Turn 7, always have that combo in your mind. Try to steal the best minion from your opponent. Once again, stealing that Operative is a massive swing – with just two cards and 7 mana, you remove a 5/6 and put your own 4/5 and 5/6 onto the board.
However, that’s the best case scenario. If you have a fast start and your opponent doesn’t have enough answers, it can work. But it doesn’t always work. If it doesn’t, you need to prepare for a longer game. If you go for the value route, you need to use your every resource to its fullest potential. Try to pick the highest value card from Netherspite Historian (and Drakonid Operative), don’t overextend into the AoE etc. If you go for this kind of play style, you need to have fatigue in mind. Even though you won’t always hit it, it’s important to not draw too much.
No matter which play style you go for, Shadowreaper Anduin plays a big role. If you’re going for the tempo one, even if your opponent finally clears your board, he will often end up with low health total, since you’ve tried to rush him down with minions. Thanks to the Anduin, you can usually deal 4 or even 6 damage per turn – if your opponent is low, you know where all of that damage will go. On the other hand, if you play the value game, this card is also important, but for a different reason. Try to maximize your Hero Power value, but to kill minions instead of attacking face. It’s especially useful if you have a minion or two on the board already – when your opponent drops something, you clear it with a mix of spells and Hero Power, while minions go face. You can switch to hitting face when you have no minions to clear, or when your opponent gets pretty low. Of course, going all in on the face damage is not always great – remember that your opponent will often have ways to heal up, so you need to account for that.
This specific list doesn’t run Elise the Trailblazer, as she’s pretty useless in the fast matchups. But if you do run her, she plays a vital role in the slow matchups, when you’re going for the value play. Try to save your Shadow Visions for after Elise. Since Un’Goro pack is a spell, you need to get an extra copy through Shadow Visions. Having two, or possibly even three packs gives you so much extra value that it’s hard to lose the value war if you play everything correctly.
Dragon Control Priest Card Replacements
Dragon Control Priest is not a very expensive deck, but it’s not very cheap either. While it doesn’t run a lot of Legendaries, a big part of the dust cost comes from Epic cards – and some of them are pretty hard to replace. Here is a full list of more expensive cards, and below I’ll post some of the potential replacements for them.
- Shadowreaper Anduin – The only Legend in this list. I’d say that the card is quite useful, although it’s not absolutely necessary to play the deck.
- Shadow Visions – Very good card. Since a big part of your deck is combo-based, having ability to fetch extra copies of the combo pieces you need is powerful. For example, if you have Shadow Word: Horror, but no Pint-Size, Shadow Visions can get you that. That said, it should be possible to play without it.
- Curious Glimmerroot – Solid, value-oriented 3-drop. It’s mostly useful in the slow matchups, but it can get replaced.
- Twilight Acolyte – Your other 3-drop, and the best way to deal with big minions. While you can play the deck without it, you will absolutely need to run some removal card instead.
- Cabal Shadow Priest – To be honest, I think that this one Epic is absolutely necessary. Its synergy with Twilight Acolyte and Pint-Size Potion is a big reason why you run this deck in the first place, and why it’s so good against slow Warlocks (you can steal Voidlords).
- Primordial Drake – Solid Dragon, nice extra late game AoE, but not really necessary to run this deck.
- Netherspite Historian – The only 2-drop in your deck – if you don’t have it, you probably should not play it. It can fetch extra Duskbreaker or Primordial Drake against Aggro, or a high value card like Drakonid Operative or Ysera in slow matchups. Very important card.
And here is a list of cards you can consider replacing some of the cards you’re missing with:
- Silence – Pretty simple. As much as I like Kabal Songstealer, sometimes you need your Silence to come a little earlier or be a little more flexible. For example, if a Rogue drops a big Edwin VanCleef early, or when you want to Silence something and clear the board during the same turn, having a 0 mana spell is quite useful.
- Potion of Madness – Current list runs only single copy, you can add a second one.
- Shadow Word: Pain – Single target early game removal. Sometimes it’s redundant since the deck runs two Horrors, but it can still be useful.
- Shadow Word: Death – Best replacement for Twilight Acolyte – without Acolytes or Deaths, you will just die to early Mountain Giants and such.
- Tar Creeper – Solid anti-Aggro card, probably best replacement for the Glimmerroot. Will perform better vs Aggro, but worse vs slow decks.
- Twilight Drake – This deck runs only a single copy, you can run another one.
- Priest of the Feast – Solid 4-drop and more healing. Good budget option if you already have Karazhan. Even as a non-budget option, you can try adding one if you face a lot of Aggro – or add two and replace your Greater Healing Potion completely. It’s less consistent as a healing tool, but comes with a great 3/6 body you can use to contest the board (and quasi-taunt, as your opponent will very likely want to kill or Silence it).
- Elise the Trailblazer – Not really a “budget” replacement, but you can run it if you play against many slow decks for the reasons I’ve stated in the guide.
- Alexstrasza or Ysera – Again, not budget replacements, but if you want to run a big Dragon, those will be your best choices. Generally, Alex is better in fast matchups, as you can use her to heal up when you get low. Ysera is better in slow matchups, as she provides a lot of value and is pretty hard to kill. Just remember that if you run her in the mirror, your opponent might be able to steal her quite easily.