March of the Lich King reveal season is currently underway, and Blizzard gave HSTD an opportunity to talk about some new cards by sending them early. I’ll be covering today’s Priest and Hunter reveals, offering you my opinions about their power level, as well as some theorycraftings including them. (Update: Hunter reveals already happened, you can check them out here, with another deck theorycraft!)
In general, Priest in Hearthstone is associated with slower, Control-oriented decks, and sometimes combos. That was simply how the class worked over the years, with the few attempts at Aggro/Tempo decks that mostly proven unsuccessful. Things have changed quite a lot with the release of Darkbishop Benedictus – a card that allowed the class to turn its defensive Hero Power into an aggro tool right from the get-go. Ever since then, Blizzard tried to push Priest in a few different directions, including other Tempo-oriented tools in a form of Naga synergies in Sunken City and buffs in Castle Nathria. If you want the class to go back to its roots, sadly I have some bad news for you.
In March of the Lich King, Priest is going all-in on Aggro/Tempo strategies. While you can use some of those cards in slower decks too, their main focus is clear – low-cost, aggressive Undead cards/synergies that will either spawn their own archetype or supplement already existing Shadow Priest decks.
I think that there might be enough good Undead and Undead synergies to fill the entire deck with them, but given that all of the new synergy spells are Shadow, I figured out that going for a small Shadow package will improve the deck further. And so – meet Shadow Undead Priest:
It rarely happens for a single class to receive such a big card package supporting a single archetype in one expansion. Those are usually spread between a few sets, but understandably, they had to go all-in now given that Undead minion type was only just added. And I think that the entire package looks surprisingly strong.
Let’s start with Shadow cards to get them out of the way. Of course, you play Darkbishop Benedictus, because why would you want to heal stuff when you can deal damage instead? Defias Leper and Twilight Deceptor make a cut, because they’re really good cards. I thought about the new Crystalsmith Cultist, but decided against it – 1 mana 2/3 is good, but a) the condition isn’t always met on T1 and b) we want more Undeads instead (but given that the deck is low on 1-drops, I could see it making a cut – it definitely warrants testing). And while not a Shadow synergy card, Voidtouched Attendant is just too good to pass – it wrecks slower decks if not answered quickly. As for the Shadow spells you include… You run none of the old ones, as new ones are simply better. Undying Allies, Animate Dead and Grave Digging are all incredibly powerful cards, offering you lots of tempo and cheap card draw to refill your hand. Then there’s Shadow Word: Undeath, but I’m still not sure if it’s a good inclusion. On the one hand, dealing 4 AoE + 4 face damage for 5 mana is a pretty good deal. Shadow Priest was runinng a single target 4 damage card for 4 mana… of course, it had Lifesteal, but it was rarely needed. Paying 1 more mana to turn it into AoE is very good. On the other hand, I think that it might make the deck curve a bit too high, and while the requirement is quite easy to meet while you still have board advantage, once you fall behind or enter the topdeck mode, it might turn into a 5 mana Consecration (and that’s no longer good).
“If friendly Undead died after your last turn” synergies are very easy to trigger. If you have Undead minions on the board and opponent cleared them – boom, now you can play synergy cards. If they didn’t clear them, but played a minion you can trade into – boom, you can play synergy cards. If they did neither – well, honestly? That’s also good for you because while some of your synergies might not be active, you get a round of free face beating. It’s a win-win-win scenario.
Out of the new cards, one I particularly like is Haunting Nightmare. While a mere 3 mana 3/3 is not great at the start, after it dies you get another 3/3 for free after you play the card it haunted. Realistically, the only low-roll here is Benedictus himself – because you don’t really want to play him unless you absolutely have to (although adding a 3/3 or two on top of the 5/6 body might make the play better). The card has great synergy with cards that give your Undead minions Reborn and cards that revive them. Haunting a few cards in your hand while having a solid board is also amazing insurance – this way if your opponent clears it, you will have a much easier time refilling.
Talking about refilling. Your opponent destroyed your board? Well, that’s a bummer. You will definitely have a hard time coming back right now, since you built it over multiple turns and now it’s all gone… Just kidding, play High Cultist Basaleph and get everything back. Well, not always EVERYTHING, but you should get a big part of your board back + a 3/5 minion on top of that.
As you can see, the entire package looks really powerful. What’s great is that the cards really synergize with each other – you don’t have any big combo finisher, but you do have a few smaller combos and synergies. Pretty much no matter what your draws are, you will find yourself with a few strong lines of play.
However, if you are a fan of slightly slower matches, you might try out this deck instead. I tried to build a slower, more Control-oriented version of Undead Priest. It still retains some of the synergies, while also using Prince Renathal and many top-heavy cards.
- 0Desperate Prayer2
- 1Gift of the Naaru2
- 1Shard of the Naaru2
- 1The Light! It Burns!2
- 2Condemn (Rank 1)2
- 2Mind Eater2
- 2Thrive in the Shadows2
- 3Amulet of Undying2
- 3Cathedral of Atonement2
- 5High Cultist Basaleph1
- 5Shadow Word: Undeath2
- 5Spirit Guide2
- 6Undying Disciple2
- 7Blackwater Behemoth1
- 8Xyrella, the Devout1
In this case, Undead package offers a few things. First – tempo. Resurrecting Undead minions is good. While Bonecaller is random, even in the worst-case scenario of reviving a Mind Eater or Nerubian Vizier is not the worst thing ever. But like I’ve said – that’s a low-roll. You can also high roll and get your Abominable Lieutenant or Undying Disciple. But what’s even better is High Cultist Basaleph – this one you can time yourself. You play your big Undead minion and your opponent clears it – just drop Basaleph, bring it back for 5 mana and get a free 3/5 on top of that. Just reviving your one bigger Undead is good enough here, and it obviously gets better if you manage to hit a few of them. It won’t always work out your way, but if your Undead package works right,
Another thing Undead package offers is actually a win condition. Of course, against all kinds of Aggro and Midrange decks, you don’t actually need a “win condition”, all you need to do is survive. However, you might not have enough pressure to consistently beat Control and Combo decks. That’s why the deck runs 2x Plaguespreader – an amazing disruption card. Your opponent’s Sire Denathrius? Gone. Jace Darkweaver? Gone. Raid Boss Onyxia? Gone. Kazakusan (assuming anyone would even run it)? Gone. Any other new high-cost, minion win condition? Gone. That’s right – the card is so good at removing your opponent’s big plays. Of course, just like most of the other disruption cards in Hearthstone, it’s kind of random. But what negates this randomness a bit is quantity. You run two natural Plaguespreaders, you can potentially resurrect them with three different cards, and on Turn 8 you can repeat all of their Deatharttles with Xyrella, the Devout (which should probably nuke all the minions in their hand). Of course, it’s still not a guarantee, but I think it’s close enough. Without their minion-based win conditions, you should be able to grind them out. Sure – they might then use the same tactic against you and turn minions in your hand into Plaguespreaders… but you honestly don’t mind that much. On average, your deck will be better at utilizing Undead minions than your opponent’s deck, and you don’t really have any card that you can’t afford to lose. Plus, just in case you really don’t want them back, you can always silence them.
I thought about including Sister Svalna, I really did, but I honestly think that the card is just way too slow. 6 mana 6/6 that does nothing on the turn its played is already borderline unplayable, but the fact that you have to pay THREE MANA for every discovered card means that you will rarely be able to squeeze that into your turn. And it’s not like slow Priest decks struggle with value – in fact, I usually find myself having too many cards in slower matchups and I want to get rid of them instead of generating even more value. I think that if the meta slows down and you will constantly keep running into slow decks, you’d much rather just remake the deck a bit and run Questline (Seek Guidance) instead.