The Year of the Phoenix is rapidly approaching, bringing huge changes. Among those is a near-total rework of the Basic & Classic sets for Priest! 6 cards are being Hall of Famed, 7 are being changed and the Hall of Famed cards are being replaced with 6 new ones. Game Designer Dean Ayala talked about something like this happening about 6 months ago, revealing that the team was discussing plans to remove Divine Spirit, which is one of the cards being sent to the Hall of Fame.
The goal of the changes, that are going live tomorrow, is a more control-oriented core set for the class, removing the problematic combo of Power Word: Shield (that is being changed), Divine Spirit and Inner Fire. That is a combo that has been restricting the class’s playstyle for years, since most of the time it’s a really easy win condition to include and execute, thanks to the high health of the minions that the class uses.
But, let’s see what the changes are!
Hall of Fame
Let’s start with looking at the minions which rotate out to hall of fame.
- Northshire Cleric – An iconic 1-drop and the main draw engine for the class. With the removal of Acolyte of Pain from Standard, it seems that the team wants to make card draw more important and rare, so the removal of Northshire Cleric makes sense. It’s also been a staple card in every Priest deck since the beginning (except Big/Ressurect Priest), restricting card design for the class. Priest players are going to have to find new ways to dig into their deck. This change also affects the playability of Circle of Healing, that has been used in conjuction with Northshire Cleric and Wild Pyromancer to draw a large amount of cards in one turn.
- Divine Spirit – One of the more restricting cards of the class, design-wise. Doubling the health of minions is not a problem on its own, but when combined with Power Word: Shield and Divine Spirit and changing Power Word: Shield lets the class focus on controlling the board with the latter, while still keeping the possibility of using Inner Fire to generate a big threat from a small minion.
- Shadowform – As Dean Ayala revealed, this is not being removed because it posed any issues right now, but rather because it is a direction of the class that will not receive any support from new cards going forward, so it served no purpose being in the game anymore.
- Auchenai Soulpriest – This card is being removed for the same reason as Shadowform; the playstyle will not receive any support. The card was used frequently with Circle of Healing as a combo to clear the board, but the class is receiving some help in that area.
- Holy Fire – A single-target damage spell, mainly used as removal with a big swing in health, when used on the enemy hero. Seeing as it was mainly used in combo-like Priest decks that pushed a lot of damage through spells, it’s being removed to turn the class away from that direction.
- Prophet Velen – Another iconic Priest card, this time a Legendary one. This has been a staple combo piece for the class, helping utilize cards like Mind Blast (RIP) and Holy Smite to hit the enemy in the face for a ton of damage in one turn. It makes designing cost-reduction cards for the class really dangerous, as evidenced by the class’s domination during the Radiant Elemental days.
The removal of those cards have mainly two purposes; make card draw a lot more important and turn the class away from the One-Turn-Kill combos of the past, where Divine Spirit and Prophet Velen were mainly used. The removals of Shadowform and Auchenai Soulpriest are mainly done to free up some space in the set for more useful cards, as those playstyles are not going to receive help and keeping them in the game would serve no purpose.
Evergreen Set Changes
But there are also 7 cards of the core set that are being changed, or rather buffed (with an exception of Power Word: Shield, which will be better in some cases, but most likely worse on average). Those are:
- Power Word: Shield – This essential spell is being reduced to 0-mana, but it no longer draws a card. In the same vein as the Northshire Cleric and Acolyte of Pain removals, this aims to make card draw more difficult for everyone and thus more impactful. It also hurts the class’s combo playstyles, that heavily relied on this card’s cycling.
- Holy Smite – Although the damage is being increased by 1 (from 2 to 3), it now only targets minions, making it strictly a control tool, rather than a potential cheap Fireball or Pyroblast.
- Thoughtsteal – With card draw becoming rarer, card generation is that much more useful and used to be one of the class’s identities early in the game’s history. This can help Priest control decks with card generation and being able to cast it turn 2 is huge, since the archtype rarely does anything in turns 1-3.
- Shadow Word: Death – Another big change is this one. Reducing the cost of this from 3 mana to 2 means you can deal with big threats straight on in the early game, or be more flexible after the mid-game.
- Shadow Madness – Another change aimed at helping control archtypes survive the early game more consistently. This change helps you deal with aggressive board a turn earlier, which is huge against aggro decks. This also works well with the next changed card.
- Holy Nova – Or, as it’s going to be known now, better Consecration. It no longer damages the enemy hero, but casting it a turn early is that much more important, when you are trying to survive aggression. Also, if you are at 10 mana, you can cast 2 of those and use Hero Power (Lesser Heal), restoring 2 extra health, which could matter a lot when you’re trying to stay alive.
- Temple Enforcer – Mainly an Arena card, but it fits the new identity that the team is trying to push for the class. Even though its attack is being reduced by 1, the cost reduction is more important, since the body is average for the mana cost, anyway.
As evidenced by the removals, the goal of the changes is to make control the main archtype for Priest. Buffing minions and keeping them healed up is a core class principle, going forward, so the changes aim to help the Priest player survive the early game and outvalue his opponent, through his ability to keep minions alive by healing them.
But that leaves the best part of the changes; the replacement cards for the 6 cards that are being sent to the Hall of Fame:
- Scarlet Subjugator – A new, aggressively statted 1-drop, that helps you make value trades and delay enemy aggression. It can also be used to manipulate a minion’s attack for the purposes of using Shadow Word: Pain instead of Shadow Word: Death.
- Psychic Conjurer – Another 1-drop, this time with the effect of half a Thoughtsteal. It’s great for card generation and helps put a body on the board early, so you can deal with something on your opponent’s board.
- Kul Tiran Chaplain – A really good 2-drop, statted defensively, that also provides a +2 Health buff to a friendly minion. This is true to the new identity for Priest, of constantly buffing minions’ health and keeping healing them up. It’s also playable on its own, on curve, if you need the body.
- Power Infusion – This is the premier buffing card for Priest. Giving a minion +2/+6 for 4 mana is huge and makes any early game minion a threat, since Inner Fire is still available, you just can’t OTK with it anymore.
- Shadow Word: Ruin – A killer AoE control card for Priest, in the Classic set. Even though it also destroys any of your minions that have an attack of 5 or more, the class depends more on high health than attack, so you don’t really care for that. Its relatively low mana cost for its effect makes it extremely flexible during late game, leaving you with 6 mana open to develop a new threat.
- Natalie Seline – A new classic Legendary minion for Priest, replacing the iconic Prophet Velen. Despite the high mana cost, the effect is a really good one, especially for control matchups. While copying a minion’s health is not that appealing (since it can be damaged or a low health threat to begin with), destroying a valuable, high-cost enemy minion and developing an 8-attack threat is a huge swing on the board and stays true to the new identity for the class.
Those are all the changes coming tomorrow to the Priest class’s core and classic set. The change of direction is pretty clear, with the class losing a lot of cards that have been used in combo decks for years, with the 2 main ones being Divine Spirit and Prophet Velen. The buffs and the new cards aim to help push the class to its more controlling roots of the past, with a clear game plan of AoE the enemy minions, buff the health of your own and keep them alive to outvalue your opponent.
The changes go live tomorrow, March 26, along with the rest of the Hall of Fame changes.