HearthStone

Control Priest in the Barrens- Don’t let the meta perception fool you!

This will be in part a deck guide but also be a place to discuss Control Priest variants in the meta. I play on mobile, so unfortunately I do not have HSReplay stats for my run, but I took Control Priest to Legend from Diamond (with a 9 win streak up to D2 from D5 yesterday).

The decklist is Xilinhung's Control Priest below. It should be noted that this deck and variants are being taken to GM's this week, and I will go over inclusions and exclusions.

Xyrella!

Class: Priest

Format: Standard

Year of the Gryphon

2x (0) Desperate Prayer

2x (1) Draconic Studies

2x (1) Holy Smite

2x (1) Renew

2x (2) Condemn (Rank 1)

2x (2) Insight

2x (2) Shadow Word: Death

2x (2) Thrive in the Shadows

2x (3) Apotheosis

2x (3) Hysteria

1x (3) Mindrender Illucia

2x (3) Palm Reading

1x (4) Blademaster Samuro

1x (4) Xyrella

1x (7) Soul Mirror

1x (9) Malygos the Spellweaver

1x (9) Ysera the Dreamer

1x (10) C'Thun, the Shattered

1x (10) Yogg-Saron, Master of Fate

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General gameplan

You're going to be drawing cards, removing minions, healing (a lot!) for your late game bombs. Obviously C'Thun is the main inevitability factor, but new Ysera and surprisingly Draconic Studies put on a good amount of late-game pressure. This is as quintessentially classic Control as Hearthstone gets in recent years. Your goal against aggro and midrange is to exhaust all of their gas, and even if you end up losing a C'thun piece (many people will do so if you are forced to Illucia to get rid of key cards- more on that later) those decks have so much card draw and no removal that C'thun is not really a huge deal there. Against control, of course you will either need C'Thun or somehow hit face with your big dragons (perhaps harder than it seems).

Common matchups

How well does this deck deal with the dreaded Spell Mage and Libram/Secret Paladin? Surprisingly well, at a cost. Let's talk about it:

Spell Mage- I generally keep the cheap healing (Prayer and Renew) I get in the mulligan and there is a case for keeping Holy Smite but generally Spell Mage does not apply too much early pressure so you'll end up drawing a good amount before you really need to react. I personally think Draconic Studies is an excellent mulligan against Spell Mage- an early Brightwing or Amalgam, with Apotheosis if it survives, can be difficult for Mages to deal with if they've mulliganed away removal for DoL or Incanters, or at the very minimum use up some burn on what is functionally fodder to you. Desperate Prayer, Renew, and Samuro+Apotheosis are important midgame, but you always want to make sure you have a Death or Hysteria because you never know what minions they'll be able to summon. You sort of have to hope they don't get too many Nagrand Slams, but luckily Samuro+double Apotheosis (or Samuro+apotheosis+hysteria, Samuro+apotheosis+condemn) fully clears one and generally heals you back to full. You should have a bunch of removal for more Nagrand Slams since they don't play many particularly threatening minions unless they get, say, Jandice off of Font of Power, so really the bottleneck will be healing. Malygos is really useful for refueling your heals and removal, luckily. Ultimately this is a very high-roll or die kind of deck, but you can often outheal and outremove their threats outside the highest of high rolls, so I consider this to be a pretty favored matchup!

Secret Paladin- In all honesty most of the skill curve here is playing around and figuring out Secrets. You'll luckily hardly need to trigger Steed and don't really have minions that get hindered by Noble Sac, so you particularly need to watch out for Avenge (which doesn't get triggered for a full board clear, and only triggers after Samuro's frenzy!) and of course Oh My Yogg! Luckily Desperate Prayer is a very easy trigger for that but you also can use Draconic or Renew if you really need to. Of course the mulligan should have cards Holy Smite, Condemn, Hysteria so that you can deal with the onslaught of minions. A case could be made for Death to deal with Gossipers that get out of hand but I haven't seen that variant in a while… but may be a consideration if you are noticing that variant often in your pocket meta. There isn't too much more to say, it's an aggro deck that you just need to abuse your massive amounts of AoE and healing to run them out of gas. A solidly winning matchup.

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Libram Pally– I haven't really seen a particularly unified variant of this deck yet, but for the most part the gameplan should remain the same across variants. Dealing with early game is functionally the same as dealing with Secret Pally. An interesting option you can get off of Renew or Palm Reading is the new Focused Will silence spell to silence buffed minions. You also have Dream off of the new Ysera to sap 8/8's or buffed minions to remove the Librams from play. Illucia is an incredibly important tool here when you have a convenient time to play her to get rid of Pen Flingers (and maybe a couple Librams?), just make sure you don't accidentally return them to your hand, and try to swap them a pretty useless hand (sometimes this isn't possible- losing your C'Thun win con or giving them a dragon isn't awful just not ideal). Once Pen Flinger is gone it's extremely easy to run Paladin out of gas, especially if you can silence or Dream the Librams away after Liadrin comes down. It's a harder matchup than Secret for sure but I think still favored when played well.

Control Warlock- yeah this is a rough matchup, I can't even be optimistic about this one. Mulligan for all the draw in the world and draw the living hell out of your deck to get C'Thun pieces before Tickatus comes down, and make sure you have an Insight for if you complete C'Thun so he doesn't get burnt. That being said, C'Thun may not even win you the game since they are likely going to be at or near full health at that point with minions on board, and when they play Jaraxxus it is more or less the end of the game. I don't have access to reliable high level stats but I imagine it is like Freeze Mage/Control Warrior levels of bad. Luckily this deck does very well against the rest of the field, so losing this one matchup is not the end of the world. It could also just be that I am bad at this matchup, so I'd love to hear any tips!

Celestial Druid– This is a fairly interesting matchup that I have like a couple games of experience with, but I can't imagine it is particularly awful. Being able to use Palm Reading after Celestial leads to pretty powerful swing turns (though of course, being Druid they obviously also have powerful swing turns). As someone who has also piloted the Spell C'Thun Celestial Druid, I imagine that variant is pretty rough for Priest since their goal is also to just draw the hell out of their deck and slam down C'Thun, but if it's a Beast/Clown build you should be quite competitive with your extremely strong removal tools.

Watchpost Rogue– Needless to say this is a pretty strong matchup too. Far Watch Post is quite annoying but the other watch post cards are trivial to deal with. Field Contact and Pen Flinger leads to very strong turns, so again you will need to use Illucia to get rid of Pen Flingers, Field Contacts, and burn. You have the healing to outpace their damage output, though.

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Weapons Rogue– I've only really played one game against this deck, and all I can really say is heal, heal, heal and taunt, taunt, taunt. There's really no other gameplan unless you wanted to include Ooze.

Aggro Shaman– sort of the same as Weapons Rogue, but now you also need to deal with minions. This is honestly one of the hardest aggro decks to deal with because of Doomhammer… You just really need to get good heals up, and that's about it. Nothing special, just hope they can't burn you down from like 20 and hope you can heal for the chunks of damage they'll deal.

Token Druid– Soul of the Forest is very annoying but here your early removal and Condemn, Hysteria, and Samuro are very very strong. If they super high roll turns 1 or 2 you can't really do anything about it but that's how Token Druid be, in most cases you can control the board quite well.

OTK decks (DH, are there others?)- yeah these are also quite rough. You basically just need to get Illucia in time and play her when you think/know they have combo pieces and burn them. This has been basically Priest's one main weakness since forever so it's not particularly surprising, just be grateful that OTK isn't particularly meta thanks to a certain Mage and Pally deck.

If there are other matchups you have encountered I'd love to discuss them though these are what I've seen.

Notable Cards

  • Desperate Prayer – Such an underrated card. Obviously combos with Xyrella but just having the free 5 healing that can also be easily discovered against the immense pressure of midrange and aggro means you'll basically never find yourself below like 12 health. It allows you to trigger Oh My Yogg and Counterspell easily and lets you not burn a card with Malygos.

  • Draconic Studies – Because of the core set changes and rotation of Descent, this so consistently gets you an Aspect or other stat pile. You can also try to find Brightwing or Amalgam for early game or taunt if you're in a pinch.

  • Condemn – I am not sure at all why people thought this card would be bad on reveal. It's an amazing card at every stage of the game especially against Paladin and Token Druid. Maybe if the meta really slows down post-nerfs it'll get cut but it's a very cheap spell that fits into a bunch of potential lines, so I think its inclusion can't be understated.

  • Illucia – I include this in the section not necessarily because it's a particularly surprising inclusion but because some decks do cut her and I think she is very strong in most matchups for hand disruption, especially if she is drawn off of Insight so she costs 1. It is, I think, key to dealing with Pen Flinger. If it gets nerfed next week then we may see, but for now she really needs to be included. Using her may be hard if your have high impact cards, but with so many spell draw and discovery effects, and relatively niche spells, it's very easy to trade over a pretty useless hand for your opponent.

  • Blademaster Samuro – I think this is easily one of if not the strongest card in this deck. Combined with Apotheosis he clears a mid-sized board and heals for something like 12-15, and in later turns he can heal for A LOT. Even against a single threat he can remove it (something like Apotheosis+Nightmare) and heal for twice his attack stat. He is a board clear combined with Reno. He isn't deck defining by any means but such a powerful card in this deck.

  • Xyrella – another contender for a one of the strongest cards. Given the hype over this card you shouldn't be surprised. Straightforward, powerful card.

  • Ysera – I honestly most of the time don't even really bother needing to clear my hand for the last 3 cards, Dream and Nightmare are good enough in most cases. 10 mana for a 4/12 and a sap is a good board swing, enough said. A very strong value generator that you can also just keep generating off of Draconic Studies. I personally underrated her on reveal, she is really good.

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These are all the cards I felt like needed things to say or were particularly strong, every card is strong in the deck and I am willing to talk about them, I just didn't want to go over EVERY card!

Notable Exclusions

This section will basically just cover tech cards or other exclusions I've seen from other variants. Note that any minion tech cards you choose to include will pollute your Insight draws!

  • Ogremancer – I think this deck deals well enough with Spell Mage and Rogue. Ogremancer can be sort of a clunky card against minion-based decks (Paladin). I think he can have a place in the deck, I just don't really think he's necessary.

  • Watch Posts- maybe! Less clunky than Ogremancer, I just think again this deck doesn't really struggle with aggro. And again they pollute the Insight draw pool.

  • Ooze – A valid tech card if you're facing a lot of Rogues and Shamans on top of Paladin. Could cut something like a Death for an Ooze.

  • Holy Nova – it's sort of a worse Condemn but adds AoE redundancy on top of a minor heal. A valid inclusion over some top end cards if you are facing hyper aggro or token, but the AoE already in the deck I find is sufficient.

  • Headmaster KTZ- this isn't particularly popular I just noticed Warma included it in his GM's deck. I think it's a spicy inclusion and maybe worth considering especially to swing and close out a board with an AoE but similar to Ogremancer I feel like it could be a little clunky. Suppose we'll see.

Summary

Control Priest is, in my opinion, a very strong anti-meta deck currently. I see that a good amount of complaint revolves around a lack of a class-based finisher, Warlock's mere existence, and inability to interact with burn/OTK. I think most of these are blatantly misguided but I see where they are coming from. Without powerhouse cards like C'Thun, Ysera, and Illucia, they would struggle with a lot of decks. The thing is, those cards do exist and are very strong! Definitely do not pass up on Control Priest, it's a very viable deck on ladder. Just don't expect to beat Warlock. 😉

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