Our Dragon Priest deck list guide for the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion features the top list for this archetype. This guide includes Mulligans, Gameplay Strategy, Card Substitutions, and Combos/Synergies!
Introduction to Dragon Priest
Dragon Priest saw its earliest iterations in the Blackrock Mountain meta and the deck solidified its presence with The Grant Tournament bringing in some midrange powerhouse minions for Priest. However, with the introduction of set rotations in the game, the deck had lost a lot of its power with Blackrock Mountain and The Grand Tournament cards being phased out of Standard. But it seems like Blizzard is not done with the archetype yet with many powerful Priest and Neutral dragons introduced to the game which have kept the archetype alive in Standard.
With the latest expansion, we got access to multiple Priest dragons as well as a Dragon-themed legendary weapon. The deck is a mix of Dragon Priest and Combo Priest and it also makes use of spell synergies with Lyra the Sunshard as an alternate win condition. It is a refreshing change from the usual Razakus lists we have been seeing mostly before the Pre-Kobolds expansion and the new synergies make this variant of Dragon Priest extremely fun to play around with.
Update: Dragon Priest (February 2018 – Post Nerf)
Some small updates to this more combo-oriented version of Dragon Priest. There’s another Dragon based Priest deck called “Spiteful Priest” that uses Spiteful Summoner, Grand Archivist, and Mind Control that is making the rounds which is more popular than this style.
Multiple players have hit high Legend ranks with slightly different versions of Dragon Priest already (we’ll cover the tech differences below), which makes it a good, albeit a bit difficult deck to ladder with.
Dragon Priest Mulligan Strategy & Guide
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Northshire Cleric – Against Aggro, Cleric is mostly valued for its 1/3 body. Not only that, but your opponent might skip a 1-drop completely, because you might draw a card off of it, making it a great tempo play.
- Potion of Madness – This card is one of the best early game clears versus fast decks. Every fast decks play some 1-2 attack minions in the early game, making it an amazing tempo move and often lets you win the board in the early game.
- Radiant Elemental – This is a highest priority card in your entire deck against both decks. Not only it’s a solid 2/3 for 2, but it also lets you perform all your combos for cheaper. You can immediately combo it with Potion of Madness or Power Word: Shield, which is great against Aggro.
- Duskbreaker – It’s a game-changer against faster decks. They often rely on flooding the board in the early game, and 3 AoE damage as early as Turn 4 can usually wipe everything.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Power Word: Shield – Keep with Radiant Elemental or Northshire Cleric. DO NOT keep with no minions in your hand, or it will stay dead for a while (it’s hard to stick a minion vs Aggro).
- Netherspite Historian – Keep with a Dragon (preferably Duskbreaker) – it can fetch you an extra Duskbreaker.
- Wild Pyromancer – Keep on Coin or with a cheap spell (especially Power Word: Shield) against the decks that want to go wide on the board early (e.g. Aggro Paladin).
- Kabal Talonpriest – Keep with Cleric or Radiant Elemental.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Northshire Cleric – Your main draw engine. Unlike vs Aggro, you don’t always want to drop it on Turn 1, but it’s very useful to have.
- Radiant Elemental – The best minion you can keep. With so many spells in your deck, the spell discount is amazing.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Power Word: Shield – Keep with Cleric or Radiant Elemental.
- Netherspite Historian – Great for getting a strong Dragon, but usually best kept if you already have a Dragon in your hand.
- Shadow Visions – A solid card that allows you to fish for combo pieces and close out the game against your opponent. Keep with Radiant Elemental.
- Kabal Talonpriest – Keep only if you keep other early game minions.
- Twilight Acolyte – Keep vs Warlock if you face a lot of Cube Warlocks. Otherwise a Turn 4 Mountain Giant might hurt.
- Twilight Drake – Keep with Netherspite Historian (so you can play it on Turn 2), or if the rest of your hand is good enough. Always keep against Priest (usually hard to remove).
Dragon Priest Win Rates
Dragon Priest Play Strategy
Against Aggro, your win condition changes from “combo” to “survive”. While you will sometimes snatch a win with a combo out of nowhere, most of the time you will win the games by constantly clearing their board and slowly establishing a board presence, while healing yourself out of burn range. Which obviously means that the best tool against aggro in your deck is Duskbreaker.
You always keep it against fast decks, just like you always pick it from Netherspite Historian. One of them already increases your chance to win by quite a bit – having two is almost like an auto-win against fast decks (maybe besides Secret Mage, which can still burn you with empty board). If you’re holding onto only one, you might want to be a little greedy – don’t clear a board with 2 minions unless you have two. Just play other things and make your opponent think that you don’t have Duskbreaker. This can lower his guard and make him play more minions, and that’s when it strikes.
Other way to AoE down the opponent’s board is Wild Pyromancer. You can combo it with some small spells, usually for anything between 1 and 3-4 damage. Power Word: Shield is by far the best spell, because not only it deals AoE damage, but it also cycles (possibly giving you another one to play) and heals up Pyro, so he can live longer. Ideally, you want to keep your Wild Pyro alive when performing the combos (without Power Word: Shield, you can heal him up after the first spell), but that’s not absolutely necessary. If you clear the opponent’s board, he did his job anyway, so don’t be scared to play Pyro + 2 cheap spells even if it will die.
If you don’t get your AoEs, or you already use them, you need to play proactively. You have a lot of buffs to keep your minions alive, but the biggest challenge is actually sticking something on the board. Most importantly, you really don’t want to go all-in with buffing a single minion. Try to spread over the board – against Aggro it’s generally better to have multiple minions over one big threat for a few reasons – your opponent won’t be able to swarm you with small bodies you can’t keep up with, fast decks generally don’t run AoE to punish you anyway, but they might run some single target removal (like Vilespine Slayer in Rogue) and Silence (Spellbreaker is a very common tech).
And that’s basically your strategy. Clear the board, then try to play some minions, trade, play more minions while buffing the ones you have on the board etc. One important decision is whether you want to heal up your minions or your Hero. It depends on a few things. First of all – the deck you’re playing against. It’s important to know how much burn they have, how much damage from hand they can deal. If you play against Secret Mage, they can deal A LOT of damage without board. On the other hand, if you play against Murloc Paladin, you shouldn’t really worry about burn damage from hand outside of weapons and possibly Leeroy Jenkins, in other words, board control is more important. Another thing you need to look at is your health total, obviously. 20 health is comfortable against Aggro Paladin, so you can heal your board. But against Pirate Warrior, you might want to clear your Hero, because they can still kill you with weapons and Charge minions over the next few turns. And finally – it depends on your hand. In this deck, healing minions also makes your combo stronger. If you have a combo in your hand already, but you’re a few damage off, you might heal up your minion instead to set up a kill next turn, for example.
Games against Control are less straightforward than those against Aggro. You can’t win by just surviving – your deck is not a Control deck. It packs almost no late game value and any slow deck will outvalue you in the long run. But it doesn’t mean that you don’t stand a chance against those decks, no. It’s actually quite the opposite. There are two main win conditions in slow matchups – tempo and combo.
Let’s start with the tempo. Your deck still has quite a solid early/mid game, which means that you can win a lot of the games by simply playing minions on the curve and hitting your opponent in the face. If he can’t remove them, cards like Twilight Drake or Drakonid Operative can pack a lot of punch. You can also utilize your buffs and Hero Power to keep them alive for longer. Your combo pieces might come handy too even if you aren’t going for a full combo. For example, playing Kabal Talonpriest + Inner Fire on Netherspite Historian can turn it into a formidable 6/6 threat. Normally you’d want to keep those to OTK your opponent, but if you’re pushing him with the tempo, then this play is great. For just 4 mana, you put a 3/4 on the board and give your minions +5/+3 (which also means that you smack him for 5 extra damage immediately).
The other win condition is OTK Combo. The goal is to basically buff your minion’s health A LOT, then play Inner Fire and kill opponent before he can react. In order to do that, you need to stick a minion to the board (preferably a high health one), have a few health buffs (most importantly Divine Spirit) and Inner Fire in your hand and make sure that nothing is standing in your way. The combo is very powerful, but not always easy to perform. Your opponent will try to clear your board all the time, and you need a lot of combo pieces in your hand before you can successfully OTK. Going for a big, but not big enough minion is generally risky, because you have no burn cards – even if you get your opponent down to let’s say 3 health, you probably won’t be able to kill him (unless you steal something from his deck). And your huge minion is most likely going to die. Of course, if this is your last resort and you have no other plays to make, you should still go for it, it’s just not entirely optimal.
There is also another way to perform a combo, without sticking a minion. It is even harder to pull of and requires more combo pieces, plus a good opponent will play around it, but it can sometimes work. The goal is to steal low attack minion with Potion of Madness, buff it and kill your opponent with it. What if your opponent doesn’t play a small minion? You can still do that thanks to the Twilight Acolyte. In fact, him playing a big minion might be even easier for you, because big minions usually have more health. That said, you often need A LOT of combo pieces in your hand – Acolyte, Potion, 3-4 buffs, Inner Fire, possibly even Silence if your opponent plays Taunt alongside that minion.
But of course, you can also mix up those play styles. You can go for the tempo first and then after you get your opponent to lower health, combo him down easier. Or you can try to go for the OTK combo, but if you won’t be able to, because your opponent is keeping the board control all the time, you can try to tempo out with a few minions and some of your buffs. That’s one of the biggest difficulties when playing this deck – assessing the situation and understanding when, for example, you won’t be able to perform the OTK plan and going for something else instead. That’s not really something you can learn from a guide – you will have to play the deck a lot yourself.
Dragon Priest Combos
Dragon Priest is a very combo-oriented deck. In this section, I’ll cover most of the combos you might perform and talk about the situations in which they’re useful.
- Divine Spirit + Inner Fire – The most basic combo, your main win condition in a lot of matchups. You buff the minion’s health out of control and then turn that health into attack. Alternatively, some builds also use Crazed Alchemist as a “third” Inner Fire. It is the same for the OTK purpose, because you don’t care about low health if you’re killing your opponent anyway.
- Twilight Acolyte + Potion of Madness (+possibly OTK combo) – Twilight Acolyte and Potion of Madness is an amazing combo. You can use it to steal something important (like a Deathrattle), clear a big minion (as long as opponent has something you can bump it into) or perform your OTK combo.
- Wild Pyromancer + Spells – You use it as a secondary AoE (Duskbreaker is the main one), great against Aggro decks.
- Wild Pyromancer + Northshire Cleric + Spell + Circle of Healing – Ultimate draw engine. You can just use Cleric + Circle on a board with some damage minions, but this combo means that you will draw a card for every minion with 2 or more health (and no Divine Shield) on the board. You often draw 5+ cards right away, and possibly even more if your Cleric ends up surviving.
- Inner Fire on enemy minion – Yes, this is actually a thing. Remember that Inner Fire can be used to debuff as well as buff. If you face a minion with high Attack and low health (e.g. 8/2) that you can’t deal with, you can just Inner Fire it to reduce its attack (in this case, to 2/2). It acts like a worse Humility, but sometimes it’s what you need to do.
Dragon Priest Card Substitutions
First of all, let’s briefly talk about tech choices. Here are some of the cards you might want to run in your deck:
- Novice Engineer – Some builds run it. Since you play a combo deck, you ultimately want to cycle as much as possible and thin your deck. This card is great against slower decks, but not so much against the faster ones. You aren’t really looking for the combo pieces anyway, and 2 mana 1/1 is usually too slow, so it often sits dead in your hand until the mid game.
- Tar Creeper – Not only it’s a good anti-Aggro option, but the 5 health makes it a great buff target too. If you play it on Turn 3, it often sticks to the board, so you can start buffing it. Just don’t overdo it in case of Silence!
- Lyra the Sunshard – Most of the builds have cut that card already, but it makes some sense to run it as an alternative win condition. If you can’t gather your whole combo, or you just need more value, you can drop Lyra, possibly with Radiant Elemental or two and start cycling. With some luck, it can get you much closer to winning the game or even finish the game on the spot (e.g. if you get extra Divine Spirit that you need for your OTK).
Now, as for the budget choices. The deck is rather inexpensive – you can play it with no Legendaries at all. That said, there are some adventure cards and Epics you might not have:
- Netherspite Historian – While the card is not absolutely necessary, it’s really good. Having another minion to drop on Turn 2 is big, and the fact that it can give you either more value/tempo (Drakonid Operative) or a board clear (Duskbreaker) makes it amazing. You can play 2x Novice Engineer, Tar Creeper or Curious Glimmerroot instead.
- Shadow Visions – I’d say that if you truly want to play this deck, this card is irreplaceable. The ability to fish for the last combo piece you need is super important. But, just like above, in the worst case scenario you can just play more cycle instead.
- Twilight Acolyte – It’s the only way in your deck to deal with a big minion, not to mention the ability to combo your opponent down from the hand vs a big minion. You can use any of the subs listed above, or try teching in a Shadow Word: Death if you face a lot of decks with big minion (like Cube Warlock).