Our Control Priest deck list guide goes through the ins-and-outs of this popular Priest build from Rastakhan’s Rumble expansion! This guide will teach you how to mulligan, pilot, and substitute cards for this archetype!
Introduction to Control Priest
Control Priest or Mind Blast Priest is an archetype nearly as old as the game itself. Anduin was always the Hero with tons of defensive capabilities, reactive cards and ways to control the game in general. However, for the most time, it just wasn’t cutting it – the class needed some extra quirk. For a long time, powerful Dragon synergies were that quirk. However, losing Drakonid Operative, Netherspite Historian, Book Wyrm, Dragonfire Potion and a few other powerful options mean that the deck needed something more than just Dragons to win.
However, a while before the rotation, another Priest deck has proven that Shadowreaper Anduin can deal lots of damage over multiple turns. While the deck I’m talking about (Highlander Priest) had free Hero Powers thanks to Raza the Chained, a very powerful offensive capabilities of Shadowreaper Anduin were still notable even without the other part of the combo. While neither of those themes was viable by itself – one because of the rotation and other because of the nerf, players have combined them together to create Control Priest. A Control deck with a burst finisher.
Rastakhan’s Rumble pushed the archetype even more into the direction of Dragon synergies. While the new cards aren’t good enough to completely replace the ones Priest has lost in 2018 rotation, they have certainly made the deck more powerful.
Control Priest Deck List
Check out alternative versions of this deck on our Control Priest archetype page!
Control Priest Mulligan Guide
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Northshire Cleric – In the worst case scenario, a 1 mana 1/3. In the best case scenario, it might draw you some extra cards or stop your opponent from developing a 1-drop (possibly even 2-drop) because he’ll be scared of you drawing.
- Firetree Witchdoctor – As long as you have a Dragon in your hand, it’s an amazing T2 play. 2/2 body is not amazing, but it’s better than skipping, and you can usually pick up something useful for the mid game.
- Tar Creeper – Solid defensive option, especially when combined with Priest’s Hero Power (if it doesn’t die immediately, you can e.g. trade into a 2/1 and heal it up).
- Duskbreaker – #1 priority vs Aggro, your only mid game board clear, but an amazing one.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Power Word: Shield – With an early game minion. It’s a dead card if you don’t stick a minion, so if you don’t have something like Cleric or Tar Creeper, you’d rather throw it away for now.
- Twilight Drake – If you have Witchdoctor and/or Duskbreaker in your hand already. You want an activator, and Twilight Drake is a solid T4 play anyway.
- Scaleworm – Against decks where you need to deal with a bigger threat early, e.g. Odd Rogue. If Hench-Clan Thug runs out of Control, you’re done for, so you really need to kill it.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Northshire Cleric – While you won’t always play it on T1, you should be able to get some nice draw value from it quite quickly. And you really want to cycle.
- Power Word: Shield – It’s easy to get PW:S value vs slow decks than vs fast decks, since you don’t always have to drop minions on the curve and minions have a higher chance of sticking in the early game. Oh, and you really want to cycle.
- Firetree Witchdoctor – With a Dragon in your hand, it’s a free body on the board, since it gives you back another card in its place. And having something early to punch a slow deck with is very nice.
- Twilight Drake – Drake is a good play on T4, you can usually start dealing some mid game damage already or at least force out a removal quite early.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Twilight Acolyte – Against decks running early big minions, such as Even Warlock.
- Duskbreaker – In certain matchups in which you might need early/mid game board clear, e.g. against Hunters (even slower builds).
- Shadowreaper Anduin – In the slowest matchups. Anduin on the curve is your best bet to win against Druids or Warriors, for example – you want to keep it in mulligan against them.
Control Priest General Strategy
Games versus fast decks are basically all about surviving. You don’t have to worry about anything else – if you survive and still have some resources left (which you should given that you run a slower deck than they do), you win the game. In the late game, you have multiple ways to clear board, heal up etc. so it doesn’t really matter what they do.
However, you’re very vulnerable in the early game and possibly in the mid game unless you draw Duskbreaker. You need to do your best to constantly clear the board and try to not take too much damage if possible. Your early game is, frankly, really weak, but you still want to drop some minions. Northshire Cleric is the only 1-drop in your deck, but it can get some serious value. It can trade into most of the 1-drops without dying, which means that you will be able to heal it up and draw. And drawing is important – the more cards you draw, the higher the probability of you getting T4-T5 Duskbreaker is. The only card which counters Cleric on T1 is Flame Imp – that’s the matchup in which you might not want to drop Cleric when going first unless you have a Power Word: Shield to buff it.
While the Control Priest has tried out new Rastakhan cards such as Mass Hysteria or Dragonmaw Scorcher, in the end it turned out that the older options work better. For example, instead of Scorcher, the deck plays two copies of Primordial Drake. While less useful vs Paladins, it’s a better card in general, since 1 AoE is not very relevant against most of the decks, and it also doubles-up as a big Taunt. Mass Hysteria, on the other hand, while great in some Hunter matchups, is not the most consistent card ever.
As for the other Rastakhan’s Rumble additions, Firetree Witchdoctor is actually very important in Aggro matchups. Not only you can use it to drop a body early (which you can use to trade – killing even a single small minion like a 1/1 or 1/2 gives you a lot of health in the long run), but it adds an extra spell to your hand. Against Aggro, you should prioritize AoE removals, single target removals and healing cards. Try to not be too greedy – you want to pick cheaper cards. Yes, Psychic Scream is amazing, like I’ve already mentioned but you can’t be certain that you survive that long, not to mention that by Turn 7 you have a decent chance to draw it from your deck. I’d lean towards cheaper cards, such as Spirit Lash, Shadow Word: Pain or Binding Heal.
Once you get past the mid game, it’s very hard for your opponent to stick the board. Between Duskbreakers, Psychic Screams and Primordial Drakes, at this point your opponent will have to be pretty lucky to get a big board. But you still need to survive until that point, which is the main problem. Try to take as little damage as possible, but prioritize healing minions unless you’re really low. As long as you stick the board, you have a higher chance of surviving. It’s better to keep your minion alive and trade it into an additional minion than to heal yourself for 2 in the long run. If you survive until Turn 9-10, you have to great healing options. First one is Alexstrasza – as long as you’re below 15 health, she will heal you up. Against Aggro, you’re often at around 5-10 health at this point, meaning that it’s a solid option which should guarantee your survival. And then, you have an Omega Medic. While you should drop it on Turn 3 if you have no other option (waiting with it as a dead card in your hand for so long is silly), if you get it in the late game, healing for 10 can seal the game vs Aggro completely. Since you should maintain a board control at this point, and Aggro decks mostly rely on their weapons, Charge minions, Hero Power etc. to kill you, it gives you at least a few turns to work with – usually enough to just win the game.
Cabal Shadow Priest is also insane vs Aggro. You can usually snatch a solid minion (like a 2/3) for yourself. It provides a great swing – it both removes minions from your opponent and creates some solid board presence. Later in the game you can combo it with Twilight Acolyte, although that isn’t relevant very often against Aggro.
Shadowreaper Anduin is an interesting case. Sometimes you actually do not want to play him. Definitely do it if you’re at high health total, because damage Hero Power will make the board control even easier. But if you’re pretty low (but not dangerously low), keeping your regular Hero Power will often be a better option – healing for 2 per turn is important against some decks, such as Tempo Mage. That said, Anduin is still okay for “burst” healing – you can use him to gain 5 Armor (+possibly 2 health if it’s Turn 10). And of course, he’s good if you can hit a big minion you wouldn’t be able to clear otherwise, like that Baku the Mooneater Odd Paladin or Rogue have dropped.
In the late game, once you stabilize, you usually have the board control. In order to win, just keep trading and hit your opponent with whatever minions you have left. Sometimes it might take multiple turns to kill them, but that’s not a problem. If you’re at high health and you have some burst in your hand, you can also go all-in and hit face with everything, especially after you’ve already turned into Shadowreaper Anduin. Setting up a 2 turns lethal is good, because it doesn’t give your opponent time to maybe make some weird comeback plays, however unlikely those might be. Still, don’t take any unnecessary risks – if there is even a slight chance that your opponent will kill if if you leave the board alive, clear it.
Games vs Control are played way differently than those vs Aggro, but are also pretty straightforward. You have a clear game plan you want to perform in most of the matchups.
Most importantly, you want to find your Shadowreaper Anduin. Try to get some Northshire Cleric value – ideally you want to draw more than card from it, but it’s not always possible. Most of the slow decks don’t put too much pressure in the early/mid game, so you should be safe most of the time. However, if you face something like Even Warlock, Twilight Acolyte is really useful to deal with the early Giants. Without it, they will absolutely crush you – without Shadow Word: Death, you can’t answer them before T7 and Psychic Scream or T8 and Anduin. You can still try some stall tactics – e.g. playing Northshire Cleric and hoping that they trade into it (unlikely) trying to kill it over two turns, hoping that they won’t heal it (e.g. Scaleworm one turn, Duskbreaker on the second).
Shadowreaper Anduin is almost necessary to win most of the slow matchups. Ideally, you want to play him on the curve, but it won’t always happen. Try to get him as quickly as possible, but in some matchups you might save him for the extra Battlecry value. Like against the Even Warlock I’ve mentioned – if the deck runs multiple 5+ Attack targets, then waiting until you can clear at least one with Battlecry is often a good idea.
After you turn into Anduin, your game plan turns from stall & draw to burn. You have two ways to approach the burn strategy. First is slowly dealing chip damage to your opponent until you can finish him with even more Hero Powers or your burn cards. Unless you really have to kill something, your Hero Powers should target face. You should usually deal 2-4 damage to your opponent every turn, and that really stacks up in the longer game, especially if you face opponent with limited healing or Warlock with lots of self-damage.
The other strategy is an all-in burn one. You usually want to open with Alexstrasza and then kill your opponent next turn (or over 2-3 turns if he heals). Instead of just doing chip damage, you go all in on burn after Alex. Normally, you can deal 16 damage from your hand with 3x Hero Power and 2x Mind Blast. However, you might also be able to discover extra Mind Blast(s) from Shadow Visions. Then, depending on the situation, you can deal 19 burst damage or spread it over 2 turns for 25 damage in total (possibly 27 more if you have another cheap card to play for the last Hero Power).
As you can see, your strategy relies on dealing lots of damage to your opponent, but usually over a few turns. You don’t have any infinite combo, or way to truly OTK him. That’s why the deck is usually countered by the obscene amounts of Armor. Slow Druid and Odd Warrior matchups are bad, because they just run out of range and you can’t do much most of the time. In order to win those matchups, you really need Anduin on the curve as well as some chip minion damage to deal with the Armor. If you can keep their Armor in check with your minions, then Alex and burst them, that’s your way to win.
As for the new Rastakhan’s Rumble additions, there are two cards that are very useful in slow matchups. The first one is Crowd Roaster – it’s a big body and removal packed into one. You can clear something and add a menacing board presence, which your opponent has to answer now. It often gets 2 for 1, and most importantly, it’s a great tempo move against decks like Odd Warrior, where you need every bit of tempo you can gain. However, the most useful new card is by far the Firetree Witchdoctor. Dropping it on Turn 2 means that you can do some chip damage if your opponent doesn’t remove it right away. But most importantly, you can pick up some cool spell to help you fight in a given matchup. When it comes to Control, there is no “correct” pick, because it heavily depends on what deck you face. You can never really go wrong with picking a card draw, value card or a burn spell. Getting extra Power Word: Shields or Shadow Visions is always good, you also won’t mind having an additional Mind Blast. Removals are generally also good picks, but you need to pick one that’s right for the matchup. For example, pick Shadow Word: Death against decks that run quite a lot of big minions, and Shadow Word: Pain against smaller ones. Your picks will also change depending on whether you drop it on Turn 2 (you should go for safer picks) or in the late game (you can fit the pick to the current situation, or you can go more greedy with something like Mind Control).
Psychic Scream is an incredibly important card vs slow decks, as it stalls the game and lets you survive for possibly even a few more turns. Ideally you want to use it vs a board with a few minions, especially if there are some small minions / tokens there too. Putting bad cards in your opponent’s deck is great. You sometimes even want to play your own Northshire Cleric or at least not trade any of your minions before playing it – the more small / useless stuff you shuffle into their deck, the better it is. This strategy is especially important if you play against a deck with one important card they really want to draw, so usually a combo deck (Mecha'thun, Malygos), but also let’s say Big Spell Mage (they can win only if they find Frost Lich Jaina – so you want to shuffle as much stuff back into their deck so they won’t find it). Most of the time, it might take 2-3 turns after the Scream to rebuild a decent board, and by that time you might already put some minions they have to deal with, so it’s generally one of the best cards after you’ve turned into Anduin.
Shadow Visions lets you discover extra copies of your cards. Depending on the matchup and scenario, each of the spells can actually be good discover targets. Generally, Mind Blast or Psychic Scream are best in the late game vs slow decks, but Power Word: Shield can be good if you need it immediately, Divine Hymn is good if you need healing or can combo it with Pyro and Cleric, and if you have only 3 different spells left in your deck, including Shadow Visions, you can sometimes deal extra damage by discovering Shadow Visions over and over again. This is especially useful if you’re running out of resources – this way you can deal 6 damage per turn without actually using any card.
The Twilight Acolyte + Cabal Shadow Priest is your best way to answer a single big minion. It works amazingly well vs The Lich King, which is a common T8 play from slower decks. Not only you deal with it, but you also get a great board and LK card yourself. Against Odd Mage, it’s also a great way to steal their Ragnaros the Firelord – you don’t really care that it will have only 2 health, since it will still deal 8 damage with its effect. You can also snatch something like your opponent’s Hadronox if they don’t immediately kill it. Stealing any bigger minion is great, because it’s a nice tempo swing. Now they either have to spend time and resources dealing with your board (during which time you might burn them with Hero Power if you’ve turned into DK already) or take lots of damage, and both options are good for you.
Control Priest Card Replacements
Control Priest is an average-high Dust cost deck. Most of the builds are in the 7-9k Dust range, and most of the cards simply can’t be cut. Still, I’ll go through the list and try to offer some replacements if possible.
- Shadowreaper Anduin – Absolutely irreplaceable, your main source of late game damage. Control matchups would be unwinnable without it.
- Alexstrasza – While it’s not AS important as Anduin, it’s still great. You can use it to set up your burst turn vs slow decks and to heal vs fast decks. It’s also a big Dragon for the synergies (it stays in your hand for a while, activating both Twilight Acolyte & Duskbreaker). You could run a second Holy Fire in her place, but it won’t be as good. You can also try another Dragon activator like Bone Drake, Sleepy Dragon, 2nd Crowd Roaster or Ysera if you have her.
- Shadow Visions – While not a key card, it adds a lot of consistency to the deck. There is no single specific replacement. You can try Acolyte of Pain instead.
- Twilight Acolyte – It’s your main way to answer big minions, so Shadow Word: Death will probably be the best option, although it’s worse, since it doesn’t create a board presence. Also keep in mind that if you don’t run Twilight Acolyte, you probably also want to get rid of Cabal Shadow Priest. You CAN run Acolyte without Cabal, but Cabal without Acolyte is pretty weak.
- Cabal Shadow Priest – Cabal Shadow Priest is good, but not necessary. Try any of the replacements above, most likely something like Holy Fire.
- Psychic Scream – You NEED Psychic Scream, the card is absolutely irreplaceable. It’s a lifesaver in most of the matchups and your only true, big AoE that can answer any board. Removing it is like asking to get crushed in the late game. If you’re missing only one, you could try replacing it with Mass Hysteria, but the card is much less consistent than Scream.
- Primordial Drake – The thing about Primordial Drake is that it combines multiple things into one. AoE damage, Taunt, big minion that’s pretty difficult to remove, Dragon activator. There is no other card that does the same thing. You probably need to settle down for another Dragon activator, though, because without Dragons your Dragon synergies wouldn’t be consistent enough. Look at the Alexstrasza’s replacements.