Our Highlander Kazakus Priest deck list guide will teach you how to pilot this popular deck! Our guide features mulligan, play, and card replacement strategies!
The Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion has breathed new life into the Highlander Priest archetype also known as Razakus Priest. After Journey to Un’Goro ushered a new era of Standard and rotated Reno Jackson out of the format, incentives to play a highlander style of decks were few and far between, but KFT brings a plethora of tools that are a perfect fit for the archetype and have blasted the deck to the top of the meta. It utilizes the powerful Kazakus and Raza the Chained to solidify its position as the best Priest deck out there and also the premium control deck of the format that can even go toe to toe with Jade Druid.
This version of the deck is based off of Findan’s #1 Legend Razakus Priest.
The Kazakus shell
So, why would we succumb to the incredibly restrictive deckbuilding conditions of Raza or Kazakus?
Well, the short answer is that they are incredibly powerful cards worthy of warping the entire structure of the deck around them. Kazakus is an all-star in every matchup, from aggro to combo, but Raza is incredibly powerful on his own right. The new expansion has introduced nine new Death Knight Heroes, each with a powerful battlecry effect and more importantly – very strong hero powers, some of which are sure to fill Ragnaros with envy. Shadowreaper Anduin‘s own hero power might be the most toned down of all (I, as many others, suspect that this is entirely due to Raza the Chained‘s existence) and it’s still very impressive. It’s also not hard to imagine having access to other class’ death knights and their hero powers, too, considering you are playing Priest, which is a class known for its tricks and copying cards from the opponent’s deck.
The major benefit of playing a Kazakus deck is the deckbuilding flexibility. The man himself is quite versatile, able to adapt and provide answer to every situation you could find yourself in, but that also shows in the deck as a whole. Singleton decks, in theory, suffer from the inconsistency of not having two copies of their most valuable cards. In practice however, that’s not entirely the case. The reason is that, like normally built decks, singleton lists run “packages” of cards that serve similar functions within the deck, be it either card draw, sustain, a midrange plan, flex spots or win conditions. Within these packages individual cards may change but the goal they strive to achieve will remain constant. Both types of decks are similar in that regard, but where normal ones use consistency and redundancy, singleton decks offer variety and adaptability (based of course on the available card pool), allowing you to switch up your strategy to best fit each individual game. This style deemphasizes a deck’s strength in archetype matchups such as control vs aggro, but at the same time reinforces the player’s ability to address each deck individually and exploit more granular differences. As the card pool in Standard grows (and it will continue to do so with the next expansion, yet unannounced) singleton-style decks tend to become more dominant as long as the heavy deckbuilding restriction is translated to the according power level payoff, such as Kazakus or Raza.
Speaking of power level, that’s another important thing to stress. While yes, cards in singleton decks still go in packages that serve the same role and yes, they are somewhat interchangeable, we still need to account for the fact that, in practice, every card in a singleton deck is legendary and that has to be represented with the appropriate power level… which is also to an extent why singleton decks are so expensive – they use lots of legendary and epic cards, because often those are the most singlehandedly powerful ones. While synergies and redundancy are not excluded from the equation by definition, true consistency and specific card combos are usually hard to come by, though this deck offers so much card draw that this downside is virtually negated.
Frozen Throne (KFT) Highlander Priest Mulligan Strategy & Guide
The mulligan section will be divided into two parts – against fast decks and against slow decks. Fast decks are generally the Aggro decks (e.g. Pirate Warrior) or high tempo Midrange decks (e.g. Midrange Hunter). Slow decks are slower Midrange and Control decks. It’s worth noting that for all intents and purposes, it’s never really wrong to keep Kazakus – after all, we have built the entire deck to accommodate him and he has real and strong applications in each matchup.
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Potion of Madness – This is as cheap as interaction and removal spells are ever going to be. It allows you to go 2 for 1 in card advantage and use their own minions to make beneficial trades, wrestling board control from the very beginning. It can also completely turn the early game around by grabbing a small deathrattle minion. The denied value for the opponent and the added value for you will set you up to lock the game.
- Spirit Lash – This unassuming spell is the key to beating aggressive decks. We all know what Maelstrom Portal can do against the pirate warriors of the world and where it summons a minion that can range from very bad to great, Lash will heal you for a set amount and stabilize you as you enter the midgame.
- Tar Creeper – An excellent body in the early game that stops most threats around its mana cost dead in their tracks.
- Kazakus – The namesake card of the deck is always a keeper. Even though it comes down on turn four, the 1-mana potions are incredibly strong in a pinch and the 5-mana potions offer board clear and sustain. If you are lucky enough to find him in the opening hand, do not toss him back.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Holy Smite – Another form of cheap interaction that serves a very similar purpose as Potion of Madness (in the aggro matchup) – removing early game threats as soon as possible. It’s not powerful enough to kill even some of the 1-drops, but it can stop small minions that threaten to grow out of control and act as supplementary removal to your other damage-based spells. Keep if you lack one of the better options above or have the ability to line it up against a specific creature from the opponent’s deck.
- Shadow Word: Pain – While this is an unconditional answer to most any minion run by aggro, it is after all a 1 for 1 at best. If you have other interaction or cheap minions to play on the board it’s OK to keep but if it’s your only answer, toss it away for something more efficient.
- Shadow Word: Horror – Most aggro decks will be trying to go wide on the board with small minions in the early game and this card can blow them out when the time comes to transition to the midgame. The reason it’s not a 100% safe keep is that sometimes even fast decks can quickly outgrow its range, especially buff-based decks like Token Druid. Keep if there aren’t better cards for the matchup already present in your opening hand.
VS Slow Decks
If you are facing another control deck you would want to be mulliganing for your all of your value cards. The Discover effects offer strong card advantage and Kazakus can generate a 10 mana potion for a tremendous swing turn. Don’t be afraid to keep expensive and slow cards in your hand and you can hold onto cards you know you are going to need in order to win, such as Lyra, Velen and Anduin, but if possible try to find earlier plays.
One of the biggest value plays in the game is Elise the Trailblazer followed up by Shadow Visions for the immediate Un'Goro Pack. Your deck is not very light on spells but the time you can make that play you have a very high chance to hit the Pack with Visions, so always go for it in control matchups.
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Shadow Visions – Value is the name of the game in Control mirrors and you will look for every way to generate more of it. Use Visions to grab an extra Un'Goro Pack for the ultimate resource advantage.
- Elise the Trailblazer – A 5/5 body is a solid threat come the midgame and she is the second piece of the important Visions+Pack combo. In a slow game, don’t hesitate to keep this 5-mana card.
- Kazakus – It is almost never wrong to keep Kazakus in the opening hand, especially against Control. Most of the potion combinations you can go for will provide you with an enormous advantage in the form of a huge tempo play or just raw value.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Shadow Word: Death – Against control you know for a fact you will be needing that hard removal and you might as well keep it. It’s an investment in the mulligan stage that guarantees you will have it whenever you need it most, but it’s not a clear cut decision. Keep it if you know the key threats from the opponent’s deck and the different ways you can answer them, as well as if you think you can cash in on the tempo from the incredible cost efficiency of Death.
- Shadowreaper Anduin – Control and midrange decks are known for playing big durdly minions and building powerful boards. Not only does the new Death Knight allow you to clear a board full of those, his hero power will provide an unending stream of cheap and efficient damage that can be used both as removal and as a Hunter hero power to start closing out the game. Try not to keep expensive cards if there are better options but don’t feel bad if you chose to keep this one around.
- Curious Glimmerroot – You are going for value and this little guy brings it… if you know your opponent’s deck. More importantly, it can help you identify what their deck is as early as turn 3, while the body is not too terribly bad below the curve. Don’t keep if there are better options in your hand or you have a decent curve that you want to chain and try to prioritize drawing from your deck instead of the opponent’s.
Frozen Throne (KFT) Highlander Priest Win Rates
Frozen Throne (KFT) Highlander Priest General Game Plan and Play Strategy
When playing Kazakus Priest, it’s very important to understand what your deck is, what it does and what your role in the particular match is going to be. Luckily, you don’t have to think about it too often because you will almost always be the control deck. Your main win conditions are Lyra the Sunshard value generation and killing people with Shadowreaper Anduin‘s chaingun hero power, both of which are supported by an extraordinary number of cheap spells. Prophet Velen adds extra “oomph” to the latter, making your hero powers hit for 4 damage between every card you play.
Notice that there is a difference between win condition and game plan. Typically, throughout most games you play, you will follow along the deck’s game plan of playing the control game, exhausting the opponent’s resources and generating value . Win conditions can change depending on the matchup, but after all the deck is built in a way that the easiest and primary way to close out the game is through a Velen/Voidform powerturn of burst damage. That said, you can often adapt to the game at hand and win in an alternative fashion. The deck runs essentially every source of card draw that’s even remotely viable in order to do it’s thing more consistently, which is what makes it so effective. Even though it’s a singleton-style deck, no card seems out of reach with the tons of draw and generation the deck is capable of. As such, it can execute successfully a variety of different approaches depending on the matchup.
Against aggressive decks that try to bring your life total to zero as quickly as possible, there is a plethora of removal and healing in the deck that will allow you to outlast any form of finite damage coming your way. The goal here is to stall and heal up until the enemy runs out of resources, at which point you can easily lock the game with big threats and powerful turns. Key cards are mostly Priest of the Feast, Greater Healing Potion and Doomsayer, which if dealt with is virtually a 2-mana heal for 7 hp.
The premier aggro/burn deck of the format is once again Pirate Warrior, which proves to be very problematic for this deck. Priest’s tools have never quite been able to line up well against their threats and it shows. Priest of the Feast and the Greater Healing Potion are a nod to the inevitable need to heal up against this deck and even that is usually not enough. If you are facing too many warriors, I would recommend considering tech options such as Ooze or Crawler – with this deck’s off-the-charts cycling you are going to see them a lot more often.
Another very prominent aggro deck is Token Druid. Fortunately, the matchup against them is quite favorable, especially with inclusions such as Mass Dispel, which can reduce a buffed up board back to a pile of 1-attack minions. Priest has some of the most mana-efficient unconditional answers to big threats such as Bittertide Hydra or a fast growing Vicious Fledgling in the form of Shadow Word: Death, as well as multiple board clears to answer the deck’s flooding power, all of which stack very well against Living Mana.
Against slow decks you have more options, but they fall in two general categories – outdamaging or outvaluing the opponent. Using the deck’s ridiculous cycling capabilities (for a Priest), you can get your Anduin + Velen game state reliably and relatively quickly. As a bonus, most of your low cost spells can be preserved throughout the game as they don’t hold too much value in control matchups, making for a very effective burst turn. Alternatively, you can generate tons of value with the Elise + Un’Goro Pack combo, Lyra + Radiant Elemental turn or simply by dominating the attrition battle with sheer card advantage. The problem with that approach is that the ladder is devoid of other real control decks because Jade Druid is smothering them out of the metagame… and you can’t play the attrition game against that deck. Against them, always try to set up as much burst as possible, most of the time they will not have healed back up to ridiculous health totals. In fact, the biggest reason this control deck is able to exist in this ultimately infested meta is that it preys on Druid decks – bursting down the jades and staving off waves of aggro.
With Shadowreaper Anduin on the board, the highest amount of damage you can do in one turn from hand is – Hero power (2), Velen, Hero power (+4), Holy Smite (+4), Hero Power (+4), Silence, Hero power (+4), another 1-cost card, Hero power (+4), final 1-cost card, Hero power (+4) for a total of 26 damage. Now, obviously this is very unlikely to happen in a real game, however holding both Prophet Velenand Holy Smite for a 14 damage burst is more than reasonable – it’s what you’ve been trying to pull of the entire time. Then, there is the scenario where you already have Velen on the board going into your power turn – any combination of cheap spells and minions is going to deal massive amounts of damage.
Frozen Throne (KFT) Highlander Priest Card Substitutions
Priest decks have always been on the more expensive side of things because the class is naturally steered toward a control playstyle, which usually revolves around the most expensive and powerful cards, which can be often found in Epic and Legendary slots. This problem is only exacerbated in a Highlander deck which treats all of it’s cards as Legendary… and they often times are. This particular variation is built around a burst combo, so the following cards that make it up are irreplaceable:
- Shadowreaper Anduin – This is the most important part of the combo and the way to deal damage with it.
- Raza the Chained – Without discounting the hero power to 0 you’re not really doing anything, so that’s really important as well.
- Prophet Velen – If you want to be doing high amounts of damage in one turn, this is the Draenei for the job.
- Kazakus – While it’s entirely possible that this deck might still be played as a highlander build solely due to Raza’s interaction with Anduin, it would be silly not to take advantage of the other card that has the same requirement.
Moving on, there are some cards that can be replaced – how much “oomph” you lose in the process will vary on a case by case basis:
- Lyra the Sunshard – Although she is a great value generator for the deck and her effect can’t be mimicked successfully, there are other cards that can serve a somewhat similar purpose. Anything from Kabal Courier for the added value to cards like Eternal Servitude for a Velen on the cheap can be reasonable substitutions.
- Curious Glimmerroot – Another value card that doesn’t serve a particularly key role in the deck. Once again Kabal Courier is a great option that costs four times as less and can be played in two more classes. If you don’t have Glimmerroot I would recommend not crafting it and straight up using Courier instead.
- Elise the Trailblazer – Already high on legendaries, this is one of the less important ones. She does add great value with the Un'Goro Pack and Shadow Visionsing into it is technically a game plan against control, but the reality is that the only control deck out there that you should be worried about is Jade Druid and a couple of packs simply don’t cut it. You need to be bursting them down instead of playing the value game against the infinite value deck. Good replacement options here depend on what you need more, but adding tech against popular decks that you have a poor matchup with, such as Pirate Warrior, is not the worst idea. Consider Golakka Crawler and/or Gluttonous Ooze.
- Dragonfire Potion – While nothing can directly replace the sheer power of Dragonfire, you can get away with using Holy Nova. It’s not nearly as effective against midrange boards and can’t be used in conjunction with either Thalnos or Spirit Lash to clear a Gul’Dan board flood, but it stacks up excellently against Aggro Druid’s Living Mana and Token Shaman’s totems.