In Hearthstone, Miracles have traditionally been performed by Rogue. Magic: The Gathering’s Miracle Grow became the model for Hearthstone’s Miracle Rogue, with Questing Adventurer closely resembling the Quirion Dryad of the original. In Hearthstone, however, the miracles that were to be performed became more closely associated with the miraculous card draw from Gadgetzan Auctioneer that just cycled through the deck at lightning speed.
The Priestly variant performs a similar card-creation routine, but it does so without touching the deck. Miracle Priest, perhaps more aptly named Spell Priest as it is fairly far removed from the original miracle concept, is a deck born around Lyra the Sunshard from Journey to Un’Goro expansion. During the Journey to Un’Goro reveal season, Mike Donais hyped up Lyra as a seriously strong legendary, but players were extremely skeptical about her capabilities.
When the card was finally playable, she proved to be somewhere in between. Lyra can win games on her own. However, she rarely does so. Full-on Lyra decks did not find success in the long run, but Lyra found herself a place in almost every Priest archetype. Every Priest deck has to ask whether Lyra has something to offer and consider including her in the list.
Lyra thrives on spells, but she alone is not enough. More spell synergy cards are needed to build a dedicated Spell Priest deck, and Rastakhan’s Rumble promises to deliver some new synergy pieces to enable the deck.
We have heard all this before. Kobolds and Catacombs introduced Legendary weapons to the game, and Priest’s Legendary weapon, Dragon Soul, was our last best hope to build a Spell Priest. Spoilers: It is currently played in 0.1 percent of ladder decks and is widely considered the worst Legendary weapon of them all, even behind The Runespear.
We jumped on the hype train during Kobolds and Catacombs reveal season and wrote a theorycrafting guide for Spell Priest. You would think we don’t want to get fooled again, wouldn’t you? Wrong! We love being fooled, and we also know that Blizzard is nothing if not insistent – after all, they created more support for Silence Priest until it was at least somewhat playable just to prove all of the Purify memes wrong.
Therefore, it is time to look at the past and future of Spell Priest!
More New Rastakhan Archetypes
- Discard Warlock
- Pirate Rogue
- Evolve Token Shaman
- Rush Warrior
- Odd Mage
- Dragon Warrior
- Elemental Mage
- Rush Warrior
- Big Beast Druid
Spell Priest in Journey to Un’Goro
There were two approaches to Lyra in the early days: either build a spell-centric control deck that wins games with Lyra the Sunshard and Elise the Trailblazer or create an Inner Fire Combo Priest deck with a heavy reliance on spells to get more win conditions from Lyra.
As a matter of fact, XHope won CN vs EU in 2017 with a Control Spell Priest in his lineup:
The deck has a number of win conditions:
- Lyra the Sunshard and Radiant Elemental can create and cast a ton of Priest spells.
- Elise the Trailblazer shuffles an Un'Goro Pack into your deck, and you can create extra copies with Shadow Visions.
- Medivh, the Guardian gives you Atiesh and allows you to use your big spells for almost twice the effect.
- Arcane Giant becomes cheaper with each spell you cast and can provide big swing turns.
It is a greedy control deck, and the main question is whether you can survive long enough to actually start using your win conditions. If you face a combo deck, good luck with that. XHope’s choice to bring the deck was heavily questioned during the tournament, but it worked out for him in that fairly young meta. However, the archetype could not find widespread success and never became popular.
The other approach is to build a combo Priest deck with Lyra, such as this list from Kolento:
Is it really a Spell Priest? I’d be more inclined to simply call it a Combo Priest, as it still wins with Inner Fire and Divine Spirit. Combo Priest naturally runs a number of spells, so adding in Lyra the Sunshard as an alternative win condition makes sense – you can find more combo pieces or high-value spells from Lyra, and you have the spell support already in the deck.
Spell Priest in The Boomsday Project
By Boomsday Project, various combo decks with Shudderwock, King Togwaggle, Malygos, or Mecha'thun as a win condition had made playing a slow control deck, especially one that does not have access to Armor, almost impossible. Consequently, Spell Priest as a clearly separate archetype has not existed during this expansion.
There have been two approaches to using lots of spells in Priest in The Boomsday Project, and both of those may have some insights to share for the future of Spell Priest:
First, the traditional Combo Priest style, such as this deck from Windello:
This deck is not the most typical Combo Priest deck, because most of them rely on having a big minion stick on the board for a turn, whereas this one can pull off a one-turn-kill with Stormwind Knight. Still, both styles have been around for a long time, so there is nothing completely new about it.
Lyra the Sunshard serves as a secondary win condition thanks to the deck already being very spell-heavy. Some variants have also included Dragon Soul as an alternative win condition, getting closer to being Spell Priests instead of Combo Priests, but those have not achieved any notable success.
The other Priest deck that uses a ton of spells is the Topsy Turvy Priest or APM Priest, such as this Dog’s list:
While this deck does not include Lyra the Sunshard or Dragon Soul, it includes some very nice ideas for a Spell Priest, as it has the ability to cast a ton of spells in a single turn by getting new copies back to the hand from Test Subject. This could be important for Dragon Soul, although Dragon Soul obviously has no place in APM Priest as such, as APM Priest already has a clear win condition and no room for distractions.
Performance-wise, APM Priest did not last. It was powerful in the beginning of the new expansion, but as other decks were fine-tuned, and as Giggling Inventor was nerfed, it was no longer able to survive long enough to pull off its game-winning combo and it withered away from the scene.
New Spell Priest cards in Rastakhan’s Rumble
Rastakhan’s Rumble provides more Spell Priest support than any previous expansion. Journey to Un’Goro provided Lyra the Sunshard and Radiant Elemental and Kobolds and Catacombs had Dragon Soul, but those tools were not enough to build a lasting archetype. Now, they have five more months in Standard format, and Rastakhan’s Rumble is here to see them off with one more bang.
Grave Horror is an Arcane Giant reborn: it has one less Attack, but it also has Taunt. A potentially free big Taunt minion after you have played enough spells sounds like a really attractive thing to run in a spell-heavy deck.
Mass Hysteria is a big board clear that costs only five mana. That is ideal for a slower deck to stem the tide of aggressive decks and buy enough time to get to its own win condition. Hunter’s Greater Emerald Spellstone giving you trouble? Mass Hysteria will have those wolves at each others’ throats in no time. Level Up! making some nasty Recruits? You can tear them up too. Mass Hysteria is a seriously good board clear spell that will help Priest’s survivability tremendously.
Sand Drudge is an improved version of Violet Teacher. Sure, it has two less Health, but it more than compensates for this by being one mana cheaper and summoning 1/1 minions with Taunt. This can be a great defensive tool, and it could also be a scary threat if Priest had any way to mass buff minions.
Seance may not be too impressive at first sight. After all, Convert was a terrible card. However, Zola the Gorgon is not a terrible card, and Seance is an improved Zola in spell form – highly attractive for a spell-based deck. In fact, you can recycle spells infinitely with Seance: Test Subject + any spells that target Test Subject and do not grant Attack + Seance + Topsy Turvy will recycle the Test Subject and all spells cast on it back to your hand. This can be used to create 5/5 Dragons with Dragon Soul or make Grave Horrors cheaper.
Princess Talanji can be useful with all the copy effects a Spell Priest may want to use to get multiple minions on the board at once. She can serve as a late-game win condition and a sudden board refill.
Banana Buffoon can give you some extra spells in the form of two Bananas. There used to be some Priest decks that used Mukla, Tyrant of the Vale for the same effect, so it is possible that Banana Buffoon can fill a similar role. The card overall does not seem very strong though, so you need to be able to get a lot of value from those Bananas in order for it to be worth it.
Spell Priest in Rastakhan’s Rumble
The main Spell Priest combo looks really interesting and there are many ways the deck can go. As with the current APM Priest, the crucial question for the deck is how will it survive long enough to do the things it wants to be doing. This type of reactive deck is unrewarding to theorycraft before the meta is known, because the exact answers it needs and the number of answers it needs depend heavily on what else is being played.
That said, here is a little something that may give you ideas on where to take the archetype:
The main combo is built around Seance, that is the key new piece that is coming.
- Test Subject + Binding Heal + Seance + Topsy Turvy is a four-mana combo that heals your Hero for five, casts three spells, and returns all four cards back to your hand. Three spells are enough to trigger Dragon Soul, or let you use the Hero Power of Shadowreaper Anduin three times, or summon three 1/1 Taunt minions from Sand Drudge.
- Test Subject + Power Word: Shield + Seance + Topsy Turvy is an alternative version, also for four mana, that draws you a card instead of healing your Hero.
The deck can include multiple win conditions:
- Dragon Soul provides infinite Dragons, at least until removed, so running it in a heavy weapon-hate meta might be frustrating.
- Lyra the Sunshard provides infinite spells, although you will quickly run into hand size issues if you try to cycle the combo with her.
- Shadowreaper Anduin provides three Hero Power uses, six damage, each turn, infinitely. The deck could also be built more towards Mind Blasts as a win condition with Anduin.
- Sand Drudge provides infinite small Taunt minions, which probably is more of a defensive use than an actual win condition.
- Vivid Nightmare could be added to multiply spells, this could give the deck an option to copy multiple Grave Horrors.
- Princess Talanji could be added to summon copies from hand. More ways to copy stuff would be needed.
- The deck could also be built for Divine Spirit and Vivid Nightmare, possibly also Stonetusk Boar for the APM Priest OTK. In that case, I would likely cut the other Spell Priest elements from the deck and focus on survivability, card draw, and pulling off the OTK.
There are plenty of questions surrounding Spell Priest. What is the right amount of card draw? What is the right amount of removal? Which specific draw and removal pieces should the deck include? Fundamentally, what is the best win condition and how many win conditions to run? Is going for a combo the best way or can something like Dragon Soul work well enough?
We have thought Spell Priest could make it before, only for it to be found wanting. This time, however, the infinite combo enabled by Seance looks like it might be a game changer. Will Spell Priest make it this time, or will it fall by the wayside once again? We will find out soon, in Rastakhan’s Rumble!