We take a look at what could be one of the popular decks coming from Knights of the Frozen Throne, Kazakus N’Zoth Highlander Priest. This theorycraft guide will help you consider crafts, mulligans, and gameplay!
Frozen Throne Kazakus N’Zoth Highlander Priest Introduction
Knights of the Frozen Throne brings the Deathrattle keyword into the center of the spotlight for the second time in Hearthstone’s lifecycle for the second time after it was heavily featured in the Naxxramas adventure, which was originally rotated to Wild along with Goblins versus Gnomes. For the first time since Standard’s inception there has been a major focus on this mechanic. This is particularly interesting, because with the introduction of the new format came along N'Zoth, The Corruptor, a card with obvious and incredibly powerful synergy with deathrattle cards. It has been dominating Wild pretty much ever since it saw the light of day as the premier win condition of choice for control decks. It’s not that it didn’t see any play in Standard – it did, both throughout the Year of the Kraken and currently into the Year of the Mammoth, however it’s much more powerful in the other format. The reason is that playing a 10 mana card that summons minions without Charge can often be equivalent to passing the turn back to the opponent because it has no immediate effect, losing tremendous amounts of tempo in order to generate value. However, when paired with minions that have both Deathrattle and Taunt, N'Zoth, The Corruptor becomes a real unbreakable wall that the enemy can’t get through. Those minions, such as the infamous Sludge Belcher and Deathlord have taken the strategy to new heights by serving both as stall until the late game and then rising to serve again as protection for the high-value minions brought back by N’Zoth, such as Sylvanas Windrunner or even sometimes Sneed's Old Shredder.
Those are all Wild cards, of course. In Standard, the picture was not so pretty for a long time. Strong deathrattles are what defines N’Zoth and for a good while, Cairne Bloodhoof was the most valuable neutral target available, which is incredibly slow and lacks the most important quality of a good servant of N’Zoth – immediate board impact, most often through Taunt. Luckily, N'Zoth, The Corruptor decks are defined by the strong class cards available that shape each deck’s identity. King among those is the Paladin through the raw power of Tirion Fordring. Drawing and playing Tirion alone is often enough to win a game and even more so when is revived by N’Zoth – sometimes more than once, thanks to Redemption and most recently, Getaway Kodo. The truth is that N’Zoth has always been present in Standard if solely because of Tirion, even if not always the most optimal or even viable Paladin archetype. But it has struggled to be relevant in other classes outside of Wild… until the Knights of the Frozen Throne arrived.
Priest in particular gets one of the best Deathrattle cards in the entire game in the face of Obsidian Statue, which has all of the makings to become N’Zoth’s best friend – a board impacting Taunt, sustain in the form of Lifesteal and a Deathrattle that interacts with the opponent’s minions. With multiple ways to generate more copies of it, Statue can make for a truly backbreaking swing turn. But after all this talk about N’Zoth lets not forget that the primary focus of this deck is…
The Kazakus shell
Well, the short answer is that they are incredibly powerful cards worthy of warping the entire structure of the deck around them. Kazakus himself is an all-star in every matchup, from aggro to combo, but Raza is incredibly powerful himself. The new expansion has introduced nine new Death Knight Heroes, each with their own powerful effect and more importantly – incredibly 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.
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. While synergies and redundancy are not excluded from the equation by definition, true consistency and specific card combos are hard to come by. The general strategy is to try to pair every card to have positive synergy with multiple other cards, so that whichever combination is drawn at the time can still offer something more than the card’s face value. The higher the impact of each individual card, the stronger the combined effect. This 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. That being said, it’s not unheard of or even rare to find cards that provide a much needed effect at a lower raw power level, especially in the draw and tech departments.
Playing the Deck
This section of the guide is split into three categories – game plan and mulligans, a look at the card choices and why they were made, as well as tips and tricks to improve your play.
General Game Plan
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. Asking the question “Who’s the beatdown?” is the first and key step when heading into a game and luckily, you don’t have to think about it too often because you will almost always be the control deck. Your main win condition is N’Zoth bringing back as many Obsidian Statues as possible (there are enough ways to make more than one) and your plan is to outvalue the opponent and run them out of resources.
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 exhausting the enemy out of threats and answers, slowly and steadily. 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 backbreaking N’Zoth turn. That said, you can often adapt to the game at hand and win in an alternative fashion.
Frozen Throne Kazakus N’Zoth Highlander Priest Mulligan Strategy & Guide
If you are unsure what deck you are facing, it will be hard to make good mulligan decisions. Always try to keep cheaper minions and spells whenever possible but focus on higher value over smaller effects . Shadow Visions is always keepable in the initial mulligan because it can tutor the answers you need as soon as you know what you are facing. Along with Visions, another MVP is Stonehill Defender – he is always good to keep no matter what you are facing because he provides a taunt body against aggro, can pull Obsidian Statue or another beefy deathrattle against midrange and provides value and virtual draw against control for the resource battle.
Kazakus is always useful and the primary reason you play a singleton deck – always keep him unless you are desperately searching for another specific card. Another strong option is Elise the Trailblazer, which provides a good body and a value-centric effect. In a generally slower meta she is alright to keep unless you are certain you will be facing aggro this game. If you find yourself against a weapon class, it’s a fairly safe bet that they will play one, so usually you can get away with keeping tech cards, although it’s not recommended. In fact, you can apply this to most tech cards, regardless of which specific ones you are currently using – they can usually always be kept when you know they are going to be relevant, but those are answers and generally you want to be asking questions.
Going into a match blindly, you can follow generic mulligan rules such as looking for a curve and tossing away expensive cards (anything over four mana).
Against aggressive decks you want to hard mulligan for early interaction, taunts and heals. Potion of Madness is an all-star, often trading 1 for 2 in the early game and the new Spirit Lash can compliment that with cheap AoE. Ramp up into your taunts and healing in the mid-game and use your healing to get out of range.
Additional useful cards are Kazakus, who’s 5 mana AoE+Resurrect/Summon/Armor potion will outright win most games against pure aggro and can stabilize you against midrange decks. Raza the Chained can provide a good body and unlock free healing for the rest of the game, which will allow you to play on curve and still gain health, often times that will be enough to get you to your lategame where you can outcontrol and outvalue most other 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.
- 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):
- 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.
- Stonehill Defender – A 4-health taunt body is going to take some time for the opponent to get through and it ensure you have another taunt minion ready to go. There is a high likelihood to find another cheap and strong taunt such as aTar Creeper , but you are almost guaranteed to be offered a Tortollan Shellraiser .
If you find yourself against a midrange deck you will want to prioritize playing on the board and creating tempo swings and value turns. Shadow Visions is an all-star here – you can use it to tutor any relevant card in the matchup once you know what your opponent’s game plan and win conditions are. Shadow Word: Death is the premium removal spell that you want to have and Dragonfire Potion can clear most midrange boards. Play strong bodies like Kabal Songstealer to deny deathrattle or other value as well as card advantage generators like Elise the Trailblazer and Stonehill Defender.
Higher Priority (keep every time):
- Shadow Visions – This is your “bread and butter” card in slower, non-aggro matchups. Midrange can be a wide facet of decks, from faster decks that try to curve out to slower lists that play a board-centric value game. Visions allows you to adapt to the opponent’s game plan once you know what it is and fetch the proper answer accordingly.
- Stonehill Defender – In the same vein as Visions, Defender allows you to pick a game plan that’s adaptable to most situations. As Tortollan Shellraiser and Obsidian Statue are the only Priest class taunts, you are almost guaranteed to see them as options.
- Kabal Songstealer – Value and swing turns is the name of the game in midrange matchups and few cards in the deck do that better than playing a strong body and denying value from the enemy, all in one minion. It is slow, but you will almost definitely need it in order to keep up in the midgame.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met):
- Kazakus – You should never be disappointed when you see Kazakus in the opening hand, but sometimes he can be clunky to use. A midrange deck will punish the low tempo of the 3/3 body for 4, so only keep him around if your starting hand doesn’t offer something better for the matchup.
- Barnes – The Karazhan stage manager can provide a lot of value when he lucks out, but that’s not always going to be the case. His stats are below the curve for the price and the 1/1 can vary from game swinging to irrelevant. Don’t keep him if you already plan to keep cheaper deathrattles and have fewer desirable targets left in the deck.
- Curuous Glimmerroot – Midrange decks tend to run the most cost-efficient threats and answers and playing on the board should be a priority. While nothing spectacular, the body is not too far below the curve for its mana and provides very valuable card advantage. It’s one of the cheaper minions in the deck and not a bad place to start, but try to keep it if you can use it to follow up previously built board presence so that its suboptimal stats don’t prove a disadvantage.
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 such as Obsidian Statue or even N’Zoth – you have a lot less card draw than most other controlling decks but also a more powerful N’Zoth turn, so you can make sure you have it when necessary by keeping it in the opening hand.
One of the biggest value plays in the game is Elise the Trailblazer followed up by Shadow Visions for the Un'Goro Pack. Your deck is light on spells and by the time you can make that play you have almost 100% guarantee to hit the Pack with Visions, so always go for it in control matchups. Look to bait out the silencing removal cards such as Hex and Polymorph before you play your Obsidian Statue, it’s crucial to have it die.
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.
- Shadowreaper Anduin – Control 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.
- Kazakus – It is almost never wrong to keep Kazakus in the opening hand, especially against Control. Making a 10-mana potion with a devastating swing effect can often be an easy key to victory, even as early as turn 4. He will also help if you start falling behind, since Kazakus has an easy and somewhat reliable way to generate heavy card draw for a class that desperately needs it.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met):
- Cabal Shadow Priest – Slow decks don’t play too many small minions but when they do, it’s usually because they provide a lot of value in different forms. Stealing one of them can set you up with a sometimes massive advantage.
- The Lich King – Sometimes it’s acceptable to keep an 8 cost card and in the control mirrors and that might just be the case. A strong body that provides pressure and demands an immediate answer is more valuable than most other things here, but only keep him if you have some sort of interaction for the opposing big minions, such as…
- 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.
Frozen Throne Kazakus N’Zoth Highlander Priest Play Strategy
As a general rule of thumb, you have to approach games like a control deck that’s trying to outvalue the opponent, exhaust them of threats and run them out of removal. Most of the deck is dedicated to that game plan and getting there. From the early turns through the midgame you can expect to be slightly behind or on par with the enemy, but going into the later turns your tools ramp up in power exponentially.
The deck is defined by strong synergies between most of the cards, so look to combine individually strong effects together. The primary win condition of the deck is N'Zoth, The Corruptor and you will spend most of the game summoning strong Deathrattle minions for it to bring back, the best of which is the new Obsidian Statue. A very important card for the deck is the also new Eternal Servitude – make sure to wait until you have enough strong deathrattle or passive effects in the “graveyard” before you play it. It’s fairly reliable if you want it to bring back specific things, especially if there is more than one desirable outcome, such as the aforementioned Obsidian Statue, The Lich King or other valuable cards.
In the graphic below I have illustrated how likely it is to present you with a pool that contains one good outcome out of four minions that have died, which scales exponentially with the number of good outcomes in approximately the same ratio. Servitude generates “pools” of three different minions and on the graphic below we can see that in a subset of four minions, our most desired outcome does not participate in only one pool, so we have a 75% chance to hit it with Eternal Servitude:
It also helps to keep in mind that a big portion of the minions in the deck are “not bad” targets for Servitude, especially when you are paying 4 mana for a more expensive thing, but still some are more desirable than others. In this example, these are the odds for Eternal Servitude to grab an Obsidian Statue, which only increase from this point on as more of the same minion die, since each one that does is counted as a different, unique minion. A good strategy when you have the time is to use Shadow Visions to grab more Servitudes. This is mostly for the Control mirrors and in those matches you would probably want to use it for an Un'Goro Pack instead, but it’s good to have options – sometimes one may not be available and the other might be.
Against aggressive decks, your strategy consists of hard mulliganning for your cheap removal and taunts in order to play on the board and not fall too far behind. Every Taunt is a premium card here. The general game plan is to outlast the aggressor and preserve your life total as much as possible before you gain control through the midgame and lock things up with some of your huge minions.
Avoid playing slow cards with no immediate impact such as Cairne Bloodhoof because it will enable the enemy to send free hits to your face. In these matchups, avoid slow value plays that lack tempo and don’t interact with the board.
When facing slower and more greedy decks, the name of the game is Value. This deck doesn’t offer too much card draw and most of your card advantage will come from generating extra cards through things like Stonehill Defender, Arfus or The Lich King.
More often than not you will have enough time to execute any game plan you want, so order your plays accordingly and orchestrate a desirable game state. Bait out hard removal for your Obsidian Statues and start playing an attrition game of recursion and threat density until the opponent runs out of good answers. Play the long con with Shadowreaper Anduin and Discover effects for added value.
Frozen Throne Kazakus N’Zoth Highlander Priest Card Substitutions
As mentioned earlier, decks use packages of cards with similar effects to accomplish their goals and execute a consistent game plan. Most cards can be replaced with others that function in a similar way, however some are more important than others:
- Kazakus – The namesake of the deck and the reason you are playing a singleton deck. He does it all and does it well. If you don’t want to play him, it’s better to pilot a more consistent deck.
- Raza the Chained – If you’re playing Kazakus, you just can’t skip Raza. The long-term value he provides is unreal and on top of everything, comes attached to one of the best stats-per-mana-cost in the game. Even more valuable in the context of Shadowreaper Anduin.
- Shadow Visions – Easily one of the best cards in the deck, Visions allows you to cheat the singleton requirement of Kazakus and doubles up as extra copies of valuable cards, depending on what you need.
- Shadow Word: Death – It would be crazy to play a control priest deck without this best-in-class removal that can kill any midrange or lategame minion for very few mana.
- Dragonfire Potion – Speaking of removal in control decks, we have to mention the best board wipe available to priests in Standard.
- Stonehill Defender – Coming in last as a bit of an odd choice, the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion has bumped this tortollan into priest’s radar big time. With only two class taunts, both of which offer premium stats and an incredibly high chance to be found by the Defender, it’s not hard to see why.
Other cards, however, as not as crucial or as irreplaceable. Among those are the “tech” cards.
- Awaken the Makers is excellent against a slow deck that aims to burn you out such as Freeze Mage or Control Mage, however it does virtually nothing against Quest Mage’s infinite damage combo that ignores your life total. Replace with Eater of Secrets to bust their Ice Block and kill them through midgame pressure.
- Gluttonous Ooze is mostly tech against Pirate Warrior and other aggressive weapon-based decks. If the aggro you are facing is more token-based, switch it with Holy Nova for extra sustain and small AoE. It’s excellent against Shamans who look to generate a wide board through hero power tokens and Druid’s Living Mana.
- Harrison Jones serves as a draw engine against slower weapon-based decks like Paladin, but if you don’t find yourself in need of that effect you can play various tech like additional silence in the form of Spellbreaker or maybe taunt answers like The Black Knight.
Stay tuned as the metagame develops and we learn more about Anduin’s place in it. The decklist is only going to get more refined from here, so check regularly for all the latest updates. Follow @HSTopDecks and keep up with all the action through the site’s coverage of Pro and Streamer decklists.