It’s no secret that the strongest class in Hearthstone right now is Priest. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the preferred archetype is what is referred to as “Big Priest.”
Big Priest is an archetype that combines a handful of huge minions with spells and Barnes to bring them out early, as well as a ton of removal spells to stall out games. Big Priest is the strongest control deck on the market right now, and blows old Control Warrior out of the water.
Big Priest Decklist
This decklist is designed to have as much removal as possible without losing the core of the deck. This particular deck is based on the idea that having five big minions is enough to win without overloading your deck. Once you’ve decided on this, the big minions that you choose to include are up to you. These particular five have been chosen for optimal value without giving up defensive potential. If you were to remove one, I would remove Ysera, since she is the one with the least amount of aggressive/defensive potential the turn she comes into play. But again, it’s up to you.
The rest of the deck is solid, and I would’t recommend changing very much. The only cards I’m slightly uncertain of are Psychic Scream and Holy Fire. They seem okay, but are definitely underperforming in certain scenarios, especially when you consider the rest of the deck’s performance. If you’re finding the same, try swapping them out.
Big Priest Deck Playstyle
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, a lot of what you’re doing with a Big Priest deck is cheating out big minions as fast as possible. This is done by using Barnes and Shadow Essence, and after they have died, you can bring them back into play using Eternal Servitude and Diamond Spellstone.
With these combinations, it’s very possible to play four or even five nine drops before turn nine. The deck may have a control shell, and sometimes you won’t play a single nine drop before turn nine, but sometimes you just go off and are playing a full health Ysera on turn four. Because of this, the deck behaves much more like a midrange deck than typical control decks. Big Priest still has the same things going for it as other control decks, but it’s able to tap into these strengths much earlier in the game, and the deck’s true power lies in the fact that you’re able to play cards four or five turns before you should be able to. Big Priest is great against control decks, lets you challenge aggressive decks, and gives you amazing options for shutting down midrange decks.
The rest of the deck is built around stalling until you can get your pieces together. Luckily, Priest is the perfect class for minion stall spells. Six Shadow Words, Dragonfire Potion, Shadowreaper Anduin, and Psychic Scream are all incredibly powerful removal spells. The deck only gets stronger when you move to Wild and add in things like Entomb and Lightbomb.
If your opponent is still standing after you’ve played your five big threats, revived them another eight times, and used all your removal spells, you can just finish them off with Shadowreaper Anduin’s hero power. He’s one of the strongest finishers, and even without Raza, he’s able to pump quite a bit of damage, especially if you’re out of big threats and are using small spells to keep the game going—that’s where Anduin shines.
Big Priest Matchups
Recently, Big Priest fell from tier one to tier two. This is almost entirely due to the deck’s poor matchup against Aggro Paladin, which is also a tier one deck in Kobolds and Catacombs. Big Priest is very fast, at least as far as control decks are concerned. It can’t sustain when you’re being barraged with two or three new small minions every turn. The matchup isn’t entirely one sided though, because Shadow Word: Horror is a perfect answer to many of the minions Aggro Paladin plays. If you’re able to use Holy Smite and Shadow Word: Pain to stall, then curve into Shadow Word: Horror, the matchup should be incredibly in your favor. But that’s a very specific set of cards, and if you don’t have them at the right time, Big Priest struggles against Aggro Paladin.
The other matchup that keeps this deck from being tier one is against Tempo Mage. Tempo Mage pummels early with strong minions, but the real issue for Big Priest is that Tempo Mage decks curve into spells afterwards. Your best bets for winning against a Tempo Mage deck are relying on Greater Healing Potions and making judicious use of your Hero Power. Even then, you’re still extremely susceptible to a big Archmage Antonidas play, which might create more Fireballs than you’re able to deal with. The path to victory against Tempo Rogue is about lucky draws, curving out ahead of your opponent, and winning the game before they’re able to get too many spells off. It’s not a great strategy, but it’s all you have.
The good matchups more than make up for these bad matchups though, and that’s because Big Priest has good matchups against pretty much every other class and archetype in the current meta. Aggressive decks that rely on flooding get slowed down too much by the removal spells. Midrange decks can’t stand up against the removal and the flood of big minions. Control decks never even get activated, and will be shut out of the game by the sheer number of big threats you can produce. Diamond Spellstone is the real MVP when it comes to control matchups. Being able to return three big threats—or even two, if you happen to hit Barnes—is insane value for a single card. Since you have the time to take it slow and make sure Diamond Spellstone always brings back three minions, control matchups are a piece of cake for Big Priest.