Hearthstone: Shuffling The Deck – Reviewing Priest’s Rotation
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The metagame is still shifting following the release of Kobolds & Catacombs, but it’s never too early to look to the future, right? Yes, there’s a shiny new set of cards in town, but there’s also a new Standard rotation coming up very soon, and Kobolds & Catacombs will shape the future of Hearthstone in ways that aren’t quite apparent right now.
With Whispers of the Old Gods, One Night In Karazhan, and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan set to leave Standard in about three months time, it’s time to look ahead to the next set of planned changes to Hearthstone, and see how each class is going to fare when at least 311 cards are removed from the Standard format.
First up: Priest.
At the start of 2017, it was hard to imagine Priest being the No.1 class in Hearthstone, yet here we are. With two Tier 1 decks (and perhaps more to come?) in the current meta, Priest has arguably never been in a stronger position, and Highlander Priest in particular looks set to reign for some time to come.
However, Priest relies on strong expansions more than most classes (remember the state of the class after The Grand Tournament and Blackrock Mountain rotated out of Standard? Yeah.), and it is going to take a big hit with the next rotation. In particular, the loss of both Raza the Chained and Kazakus significantly reduce Highlander Priest’s strength on the ladder, and if they aren’t replaced in the next expansion, the archetype is likely to disappear entirely.
Highlander Priest is currently regarded as one of the best decks in the game, but as stated above, it’s going to lose a lot of important cards in the next rotation. Not only is the deck going to lose one of its vital combo pieces (Raza the Chained), it’s also going to lose removal tools like Dragonfire Potion and Potion of Madness, along with powerful value cards like Priest of the Feast and Kazakus.
If Highlander Priest is going to continue to exist in the new metagame, it will have to change considerably. Blizzard will also have to print new “no duplicates” cards to keep the archetype alive. It would be great to see Highlander live on, as it’s a deck that is rewarding to constantly tweak and rebuild, but it’s impossible to predict what Blizzard has in store; they may want to try new mechanics, rather than supporting old ones that have already proven to be powerful.
Both Combo Dragon Priest and Spiteful Dragon Priest will take big hits in the next Standard rotation too. Drakonid Operative and Dragonfire Potion were both printed in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan set as a way to make Priest great again, and they’ve certainly helped turn the class around.
Having said that, neither card is a major part of the two Dragon Priest decks currently in the metagame. Drakonid Operative features in both lists, but mainly because it provides great value; it could easily be substituted for another Dragon, or another solid value play.
Dragonfire Potion is currently not being played in either list, as it is rather counter-productive to both gameplans. Combo Dragon Priest is looking to burst opponents down with Divine Spirit and Inner Fire combos, while Spiteful Dragon Priest is only running Freed From Amber and Mind Control as spells to trigger Spiteful Summoner more consistently (hence the name).
Really, in both decks, the Dragon synergy is there to provide early to mid-game tempo, or to trigger Duskbreaker’s powerful anti-aggro ability. This Dragon shell could be replaced in an upcoming expansion with a new tribe, and we might see a new version of Combo Priest or Spiteful Priest pop-up.
It’s also worth pointing out that Big Priest will lose several big cards (pun very much intended) in the next rotation. Barnes, a core element of the RNG-loaded deck, will be gone from the format, preventing players from cheating big minions out on turn four. It’s a pretty fatal blow for Big Priest, especially as Y’Shaarj, Rage Unbound will also be gone from Standard. The loss of these two core cards will almost definitely sound the death knell for Big Priest.
And finally, spare a thought for one of the most maligned cards in Hearthstone history – Purify. Having caused a ton of controversy when it was first unveiled in One Night in Karazhan (basically, players were hoping that the expansion was going to fix Priest, and Blizzard didn’t really address the class’ numerous problems), Purify will be disappearing from the metagame, only to be seen occasionally in Wild and Tavern Brawl. It probably won’t be missed, but it sure won’t be forgotten.
Potential Hall of Fame losses?
Last year, to free up design space or to shake up the format a touch, Blizzard introduced the Hall of Fame concept to Hearthstone. Basically, when a Standard rotation occurs, Blizzard can also opt to move some Classic cards into the Hall of Fame set. Should Priest players prepare to lose a few more cards than they bargained for?
Well, probably not. It’s hard to pinpoint a Priest card that could be regarded as problematic, over-played or limiting for the designers. Silence seems to be a big contender, as Blizzard has tried to make silence effects cost more within the game. For example, Ironbeak Owl infamously got nerfed to cost three mana, rather than two.
Right now, Spellbreaker is really the only silence option for non-Priest decks, and it costs four mana. Silence is a zero mana spell, giving it an added benefit of comboing well with minions like Lyra the Sunshard or Shadowreaper Anduin’s transformed hero power. If any Priest card is likely to be Hall of Famed, it’s Silence.
However, the last Hall of Fame set had some surprise inclusions, so don’t count anything out.
Post Kobolds and Catacombs, Priest is in a great position. It has numerous strong decks and it is currently well represented at the Hearthstone World Championship, with all sixteen finalists including some version of Priest in their decklists.
Priest has been hit hard by Standard rotations before though, and it could happen again this time around. Highlander Priest in its current form will be gone, and if Blizzard wants Priest to continue to be competitive, it will have to print several strong cards for the class in the next unnamed expansion. In particular, Priest will be crying out for some early game plays, and it will also need a big board clear tool. The class suffered heavily when Lightbomb rotated out of Standard, and it took Blizzard a while to solve the problem with Dragonfire Potion.
Right now, we do have an interesting new Priest build with the Spiteful/Big Spell archetype, but it remains to be seen how viable decks of that kind will be going forward. There is a surprise element to the deck, but it could simply prove to be too RNG heavy in future. Plus, with Drakonid Operative leaving Standard, cards like Duskbreaker and Twilight Acolyte naturally get weaker. Without a solid Dragon to fill the void, Spiteful Priest could also fade into obscurity.
Priest depends on expansions more than most other classes in the game, and as is always going to be the case with a Standard rotation, the next expansion is going to be key for the class’ viability. Print weak cards which do little to build new archetypes, and Priest will likely struggle to find a foothold in the metagame once again. However, print several strong cards for the class, and we could see a metagame dominated by Priests for a time, similar to how Druid exploded after Knights of the Frozen Throne launched.
It’s going to be an interesting few months for Anduin and Tyrande.
This is the first in a series of articles reviewing the different decks in Hearthstone. We’ll have more coverage soon, but in the meantime, check out our thoughts on the Metal Gear Survive beta.