Combo Priest Mulligan Strategy & Guide
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Northshire Cleric – Against Aggro, Cleric is mostly valued for its 1/3 body. Not only that, but your opponent might skip a 1-drop completely, because you might draw a card off of it, making it a great tempo play.
- Loot Hoarder – 2/1 body isn’t impressive vs Aggro, but it’s better to have it than to skip Turn 2.
- Radiant Elemental – This is a high priority card. Not only it’s a solid 2/3 for 2, but it also lets you perform all your combos for cheaper. You can immediately combo it with Power Word: Shield, which is great against Aggro.
- Acolyte of Pain – Acolyte works surprisingly well vs Aggro, especially Paladin. Not only you might trade into some smaller minions, but you will draw a bunch of cards in return. It’s also likely that your opponent will ignore it if he has no good trade, leaving you an opportunity to buff it.
- Duskbreaker – Aggro decks will often get ahead in the early game, and a Turn 4 Duskbreaker can really get you back into the game. 3 damage AoE is often enough to clear everything, not to mention the 3/3 body you’re getting on top of that.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Power Word: Shield – Keep with Wild Pyro, Radiant Elemental or Northshire Cleric. DO NOT keep with no minions in your hand, or it will stay dead for a while (it’s hard to stick a minion vs Aggro).
- Twilight Drake – Keep with Duskbreaker. Since the deck does not run that many Dragons, it’s possible to not draw any activator by Turn 4. Alternatively, it’s a good 4-drop if you won’t need to drop Duskbreaker.
VS Slow Decks
Important: Do not keep your combo pieces unless you have a perfect hand (e.g. Radiant + PW:S + Divine Spirit + Inner Fire)! Early game minions, especially those that cycle through your deck, are more important.
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Northshire Cleric – Your main draw engine. Unlike vs Aggro, you don’t always want to drop it on Turn 1, but it’s very useful to have.
- Loot Hoarder – It’s not impressive, but it’s still a solid 2-drop. You put a body and cycle through your deck.
- Radiant Elemental – Great minion to keep, it’s the earliest way you can do some combos, and with so many spells in the deck, the discount really adds up.
- Acolyte of Pain – Card draw is very important in slow matchups, so keep it.
- Twilight Drake – Big body for 4 mana, activates Dragon synergies, and if it sticks, you can actually buff it really easily, as it usually has a lot of starting health (while it depends on the rest of your hand, 6-7 is pretty common).
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Power Word: Shield – Keep with an early game minion.
- Twilight Acolyte – Keep against Warlock. It’s very likely that you will face either Even or Cube Warlock, and you want an answer for that early Mountain Giant (or other big minion they might drop).
Combo Priest Play Strategy
Your game plan vs Aggro is nothing special – you’re a slower deck and Aggro tries to rush you down, so you want to defend yourself, survive and then turn the game around. You have a superior late game, and you can sometimes pull a combo out of nowhere, so you have an upperhand in the late game – you just need to survive that long.
Early game will be mostly about clearing the opponent’s board and trying to stick a minion on the board so you can play the combo pieces on him. One important thing to remember is that against Aggro decks, you DO NOT need to go all-in on the combo. Given how many of the aggressive builds run Silence, I’d say that it’s even better to NOT go all-in on the combo unless you can kill your opponent right away.
Just a simple example – turning your Northshire Cleric into a 6/6 with Divine Spirit + Inner Fire is often well worth it, because it’s a very high tempo play. Not only you can trade into anything, but you also draw cards while keeping the minion alive with Hero Power. Sometimes just a single piece can be worth it. For example, putting Power Word: Shield + Divine Spirit on your Radiant Elemental makes it a 2/10 minion – it’s not that easy to clear it without a Silence, so you get a nice body you can trade with + spell discounts. Sometimes even just using Inner Fire on your 1/3 minions is good enough, if it means that you can get a good trade.
In the mid game, Duskbreaker can do a lot of work in those matchups. If you have a way to activate it, 3 AoE damage is massive, it clears most of the minions Aggro deck usually has. Don’t be too greedy with your Duskbreakers – sometimes waiting too long means taking unnecessary damage or your opponent buffing minions out of range. Be especially careful before Turn 5, because that’s when Fungalmancer can be dropped. A good Fungalmancer can turn an easy clear into a quick game loss, because your opponent still has two big minions after you play your Duskbreaker.
If the game gets even later, Primordial Drake is another amazing anti-Aggro card. Between the AoE damage and a big body, it might sometimes seal the entire game on the spot. If it sticks a turn, you can also give it Divine Spirit (and possibly Inner Fire) to make it massive.
Mass Dispel can prove useful against some boards. For example, against Odd Paladin, you can use it to get rid of the Level Up! buff, it can also work nicely against some Odd Rogue boards, especially against Cold Blood, Tar Creeper, Fungalmancer and of course Edwin VanCleef if they run it. However, since it’s a rather low tempo card, so try to not fall behind when using it. Sometimes you might prefer, for example, trading off your minions and developing a new board instead of silencing something for 4 mana.
While it’s pretty difficult to stick a minion in the early / mid game (the only one that can realistically stick is Twilight Drake), after you start dropping bigger bombs, Aggro might run out of ways to clear them, and you can use that to combo them down. Just to give you an example – if you’re at a reasonable health total and you aren’t afraid on dying, dropping Ysera on curve might be a great idea. There is a very low chance that your opponent is actually going to clear it (because most of the time he can’t), so just a single Divine Spirit + Inner fire can kill him assuming he took some damage before. Try to use any opportunity you get and turn the game around with the combo. Sometimes it’s better to play a high health minion that your opponent will likely leave than making a seemingly better play, playing a few smaller minions (if you think that the bigger one will survive + you are safe).
To sum things up, in Aggro matchups, you need to be really flexible with your combos. Try to not go all-in on a single minion (unless you can pretty much kill your opponent) because of Silence, don’t be afraid to buff your smaller minions, even if you’re using a single piece, just try to not fall behind on the board, unless you’re setting up a Wild Pyromancer clear. Lyra is also very helpful if you can stick her, you should be able to run your opponent out of cards quite easily while keeping yourself alive.
Games against Control are actually pretty straightforward, as you have only one real win condition – your combo. Straightforward, however, does not mean easy. While you have to play the combo at some point, which minions you play, how you bait the removals, whether you go for a half-combo that won’t kill your opponent etc. are all difficult, but important choices.
First way to win a game is, just like against Aggro, buffing up a small minion. Not to a huge numbers – you won’t get a 32/32 to OTK your opponent. But a 10/10 around Turn 3 is possible – Radiant Elemental + Power Word: Shield + Divine Spirit + Inner Fire. Or maybe 2x Divine Spirit + Inner Fire on your Northshire Cleric to get a 12/12? Yes, a play like that can be sometimes shut down by something like Spellbreaker, or let’s say Polymorph vs Mage, but if it’s so early in the game, you often want to go for that line of play anyway. The chances are that they don’t have any answer and you just win the game. And if they do – the game usually isn’t lost yet. I always compare this kind of play to the Miracle’s Rogue all-in Edwin VanCleef. Yes, sometimes it fails, but getting that 10/10 or 12/12 on Turn 3-4 can result in a very quick win most of the time.
The second way is waiting for the full OTK combo. This one is rarely done on one of your small minions. The most common target for this are obviously your high health Dragons – Twilight Drake, Primordial Drake and Ysera. Starting at 8-12 health, 2x Divine Spirit + Inner Fire is usually enough to OTK your opponent. Alternatively, you can play 2x PW:S + Divine Spirit + Inner Fire, which should also be enough to kill your opponent most of the time. This method is much more effective, since you’re basically killing your opponent right away. But at the same time, it’s also harder to set up and pull off. Not only you need to stick a high health minion to the board, but then you need to have all the necessary combo pieces + possibly Silence to get through a Taunt if there’s one on the board. If you get your combo pieces early, you find them through the Shadow Visions and such, you should TRY to get the full combo in, because it’s the best way to guarantee a victory.
Which way you should go for really depends on your hand and such. If you already have a full combo in your hand and you just need to set a minion up, I’d try to wait for the OTK. But if you don’t have a full combo, or you don’t have a high health minion or something to set up on the board, and you’re presented with an opportunity to make a 10/10 early, you generally should go for it – there is a significant chance that your opponent has no way to answer it, and he has only 2 or 3 turns to find the answer (and by the time he does, you might have another minion on the board already to buff again).
Silence is pretty important in the slower matchups. You basically have two ways to use it. First – as a way to answer buffs, Deathrattles etc. – to strip your opponent out of the value. It can be useful against, for example, Even Warlock’s Twilight Drake, or Cube Warlock’s Possessed Lackey. It’s also a good way to get through the Taunts, especially if you managed to put some pressure on your opponent, or you’re doing your combo this turn. Normally, a single Taunt, even small one, can stop a 30+ Attack minion, but if you Mass Dispel on the same turn, you can easily get through. Twilight Acolyte is also pretty important, at least against the decks running bigger minions. This deck has no ways to remove big stuff other than trading, so Twilight Acolyte comes handy. While it does not kill the minion, it makes it much less threatening and easier to trade into. For example, if you have a Twilight Drake and Primordial Drake on the board, while your opponent drops The Lich King. Normally, because it has 8 Attack, trading into it would kill both of your minions (assuming Twilight has less than 9 health), but after you reduce its attack to 2, it will only scratch your minions a bit. On top of that, you’re getting a massive 8/4 minion for 3 mana. As you can see, it’s very easy to have a massive swing against slower decks. The card works best against Even Warlock, which can drop bombs as soon as Turn 3, and can often overwhelm you with a huge board by the mid game.
Alternative win condition is simply winning the game through value or tempo, but those things rarely happen. The most common way to do it is to steal something big with Twilight Acolyte and Cabal Shadow Priest combo while your opponent has no answer. For example, if you steal The Lich King against Druid, and they can’t answer it now, then you play another minion, or maybe throw some buffs, it might be enough to seal the game. Sometimes an unanswered Ysera can also lead to a win, although if Ysera stays alive, you usually have a way to buff her and combo down your opponent, so she’s rarely played as the “value” tool. Sometimes you might also get a good minion curve vs an opponent who misses his early game completely. In that case, your minion pressure + some small buffs, such as Unidentified Elixir, can be enough to win the game. However, those will probably be less than 10% of your wins, most of the time the combo is your main win condition, but there’s nothing wrong with looking for the opportunities elsewhere.
Combo Priest Card Substitutions
Inner Fire Combo Priest is generally a rather cheap deck, although it runs some Epics that are difficult to replace. Overall, a non-Dragon version is much less expensive and can cost you as little as 3.5k Dust, but it also seems to be worse in terms of win rate.
- Ysera – The only Legendary card in this deck. It’s not necessary at all. You just run her as a Dragon activator and some late game minion, potentially a way to combo down the opponent. But something as simple as Bone Drake or Nightscale Matriarch can sub her quite well.
- Shadow Visions – Two copies of Shadow Visions are absolutely necessary to play this deck. Or rather, you COULD play without them, but the deck’s consistency will be way, way lower. They’re basically a flexible way to find extra combo piece, or the missing combo piece, without Shadow Visions you’re always stuck with maximum of two Divine Spirits and two Inner Fires, which often isn’t enough. For example, thanks to the Shadow Visions, if you discover an extra Divine Spirit, you can use one early and still be able to perform the OTK combo later if your initial plan fails.
- Twilight Acolyte – If you run a Dragon build, Twilight Acolyte is pretty crucial. You can try a non-Dragon build, or just replace it with Shadow Word: Death, although it’s not as good. Remember that if you sub the Acolyte, you also want to remove the Cabal Shadow Priest.
- Cabal Shadow Priest – A solid card if you’re running Twilight Acolyte, since the combo is really powerful from Turn 9 onwards. You can use some generic subs, though, such as Silence, Wyrmguard, or possibly more Dragons to have easier time activating Dragon synergies (e.g. Bone Drake or Nightscale Matriarch).
- Primordial Drake – Difficult to replace. Thanks to the AoE & Taunt it’s a nice anti-Aggro tool, and thanks to the high health it’s a solid minion to start combo on in the late game. If you don’t have them, you can still try other Dragons, such as the Bone Drake or Nightscale Matriarch I was already recommending.