Priest class has something I call “bad rotation syndrome”, where it always and I mean ALWAYS is in a bad spot right after Standard rotation. Priest’s Basic & Classic sets were okay-ish at the time, but have certainly not aged well. In the world where tempo matters much more than the good, old value, Anduin’s toolkit is very outdated. That’s why in order to fix those issues, Priest HAS to get some really powerful expansion cards to stay relevant. However, the problem is that right after the rotation happens, a lot of those key expansion cards that were keeping the class together rotate out and he’s once again left with no real good deck to play. The problem is often fixed in the second / third set, and happens again after the next rotation.
And Saviors of Uldum looks like a classic Priest fixer. The quality of cards this class got is pretty high and a lot of them look very promising. Which strategy Priest will take in the end is still up in the air, but he has a lot of options available. One of them is a completely new approach to the class – Quest Priest. However, since it’s the second (and possibly not final) set of Quests we’re getting, I’m going to call the deck Obelisk Priest so it won’t get confused with old Awaken the Makers Priest as the time goes by. In my opinion, the new Quest is strong enough to at least warrant some experimentation. And if anything, it will be a fun and unique way to play Priest.
First of all, I’ll have to say that I wasn’t sure where to take the deck. You see – the Quest would be by far easiest to complete in a Control shell. You could wait until drawing your Wild Pyromancer + Circle of Healing combos more reliably, you could run Divine Hymn and you could afford to wait longer before finishing it (since you’ll be aiming at the late game anyway). However, the issue right here is that after finishing it, a more Control-oriented Priest would have a harder time taking advantage of the reward. The deck is relatively light on minions, and lots of them are reactive, so you could run into situations in which you would have a great Hero Power, but might not be able to put it to use. Then, the reward itself would fit best into an aggressive “Zoo Priest” kind of deck that would take biggest advantage of every turn buffs. But the issue here is that that kind of deck would have a hard time finishing the deck, and since it would aim at closing out in the mid game, he wouldn’t be able to fully utilize the reward. The deck I ultimately came up with is something in between. It’s still more minion-based an aggressive, but it also has some ways to make finishing the Quest easier.
The deck aims to still be able to finish the Quest quite quickly without relying on a lucky Circle of Healing. Which is probably the best card in this entire deck, but you won’t always get it. It runs three different “injured” minions – Injured Tol'vir, Injured Blademaster and Damaged Stegotron. Those are the best way to guarantee that you can throw in some healing on minions, they all have solid Circle of Healing synergy and – also very importantly – make for amazing resurrect targets for Psychopomp. Psychopomp also has some Quest synergy while we’re at it – while the main body it revives will be at full health, once it dies and Reborns, it will be down to 1 health, making it an optimal heal target. I’ve seen a lot of talk about that card and many are afraid to include it in a deck that runs small minions. And I don’t think that they should. The worst case scenario in this deck would probably be reviving 2/3 (because Northshire Cleric, despite having lower stats, is pretty good if it sticks and it should with Reborn) – and that’s paying 4 mana for 3/1 + Harvest Golem. Okay, technically you can also revive a 3/1 with the second Psychopomp, but those scenarios will be very rare. Not a great value, but it’s not terrible. But when you look at the “average” scenario of reviving 2/6 Taunt or 3/5 with Reborn, it suddenly gets much better. Then you have high rolls of 4/7 (Blademaster/Shadequill), 5/5 or 6/12 make the card look so much better.
I’ve decided to include Ornery Tortoise too. It was a choice between Tortoise and Crystallizer, and the reason I decided to go with Tortoise is because of the Quest. While I think that Crystallizer is a better card in general, I want to run as little 1-drops in Quest deck as possible. While you don’t HAVE to play Quest on T1, it might be hard to fit it later if you curve out, it also means that Questing Explorer wouldn’t be active on T2. Dealing some face damage to yourself is important. I don’t think that Aggro decks will be able to rush you down despite of that (especially since it comes with a solid body that will actually make on-board trades better), and it means that you’re now also able to heal your Hero for some Quest progress. It comes handy especially when you’re planning to drop Sandhoof Waterbearer. A 5 mana 5/5 is not the best thing ever, but if your Hero is damaged (which Tortoise helps with), it progresses your Quest by 1/3, which is big. Even better, if one of your damaged minions sticks, it can heal it up resulting Quest progress AND better board.
One card I also like a lot in Quest Priest is Hench-Clan Shadequill. It’s an overstatted minion (4/7 for 4 are great stats) with… an upside. Because yes, in this deck healing the opponent is an upside before you finish your Quest! If you managed to deal 5 damage early, you will be able to progress your Quest by 1/3 when it dies. And if it doesn’t, or your opponent decides to Silence it, you also don’t mind, because it means that you have a 4/7 on board.
I was one the fence about both Questing Explorer and Wild Pyromancer. Explorer is amazing, but it works only until you finish the Quest. However, I’ve decided that you want to do anything to make you stronger before you manage to finish it, because after that your new Hero Power will make up for running a River Crocolisk (which will, by the way, usually come onto the board as a 5/6 anyway). When it comes to Pyromancer – it’s your only way to clear wider boards and has great synergy with Northshire Cleric + Circle of Healing, but my issue is that we don’t play that many cheap spells to activate it. However, I think that the six we have (one of which has “Twinspell” – Extra Arms) should be enough.
And, of course, there’s also Zilliax. Not only it’s amazing card in general, but it has extra synergy with the deck. Lifesteal heals you and progresses Quest. If you stick Damaged Stegotron, it can be Magnetizes into it (pretty rare, but can come handy sometimes). And – most importantly – it’s an AMAZING revive target from Psychopomp. Zilliax with Reborn is just crazy. Opponent needs to hit it 4 times for it to die. In the late game, after you finish the Quest, you can also give it +3+/+3 immediately to make it even more scary (Zilliax really takes advantage of buffs with basically each of its keywords).
After the Quest is done, the deck spikes in power. Giving +3/+3 to something every turn turns even small minions into threats. The Hero Power works even better on your “damaged minions”, because it both heals them and buffs them. So Injured Tol'vir + Hero Power will be a 4 mana 5/9 with Taunt, for example. Against Aggro, it will be hard to lose unless they’re really ahead, because otherwise you should take over the board easily with buffs and then heal up your face for 3 per turn to get out of burn range (or just stick a Taunt and keep healing + buffing it if they don’t have Silence). Against Control, it might be more difficult, but the goal will be to constantly put pressure with your board presence. Play something, buff it, if they can’t answer it buff it again on your turn and go face. Ideally don’t flood the board and spread buffs between 2 minions – this way you aren’t vulnerable to AoE, but you also don’t put all of your eggs into one basket so in case one of the minions gets removed/Silenced you still get another one. Basically, every minion you have will turn into threat and the goal is to run your opponent out of removal and then just kill them with your buffed stuff. I think that late game Warrior with Boom might still be problematic (despite you having insane HP), because they can pull obscene amounts of removals out of nowhere, but that’s just how it is no mater what deck you play…
So that would be my game plan. I think that with this deck, we should be able to finish the Quest consistently around Turn 6-7, obviously depending on the draws. Getting an early Wild Pyromancer + Circle of Healing combo can speed that up greatly (I can imagine some T3-T4 finishes at the earliest), but then playing against a slow deck that doesn’t let you stick anything and doesn’t damage your Hero can slow it down. I think that we’ll need to see how it works in practice. The list is obviously far from final, and I already have a lot of cards in mind that I’d like to test. Other cards I was thinking about include (in a random order): High Priest Amet, Neferset Ritualist, Acolyte of Pain (or some other form of card draw), Wretched Reclaimer, EVIL Conscripter, Siamat, Bone Wraith, Grandmummy, Potion Vendor, Holy Ripple, Divine Hymn… and so on and so on. There are A LOT of different considerations and I’m pretty sure that we’ll see dozens of different builds floating around early. The question is – which one (if any of them) will prevail?