The Comprehensive Showdown in the Badlands Preview


Data Reaper Report - Priest

Holy Springwater

Restoring 8 health for 2 mana is a good deal. The condition on damaged characters limits us on triggering Overheal minions such as Heartthrob and Crimson Clergy, but that doesn’t affect us too much if we’re playing a defensive Priest deck. Control Priest mostly cares about healing damaged characters (Translation: themselves).

The excess healing stored in a 1-mana bottle is quite nice. It prevents inefficient overhealing. There will be instances when we have nothing better to do but to heal ourselves in the early game. Saving the excess heal in a cheap bottle can help us survive later in the game with it.

There is also Pip in the picture, but we don’t think she determines the usefulness of bottle cards. Springwater is a good card by itself.

Score: 3

Injured Hauler

This 3-drop offers an AOE effect for an Overheal Priest deck. You can chain heal Hauler and repeat the effect multiple times, which can be devastating for an aggressive deck. What’s also quite appealing is its high maximum health. A 3 mana 3/7 is very difficult to remove, making the card very intimidating in these faster matchups, where it simply cannot be left alone.

Another potential synergy is with Animate Dead, which resurrects Hauler at full life and ready to AOE boards at 1 mana. This is certainly a good card for Overheal Priest, which currently lacks strong AOE effects that can contest other aggressive decks. The main issue is that this is only an Overheal Priest card, an archetype that has never been close to being competitive. If the deck cannot compete, you won’t be seeing this card either.

Score: 2

Tram Heist

Tram Heist is Plagiarize in non-Secret form, which is why it is much more expensive since the Priest has control of its timing, allowing it to potentially steal an opponent’s most powerful turn.

Regardless of its justification, a cost of 4-mana is very expensive for a card that doesn’t allow us to do much else, giving it a very narrow application. Love Everlasting does help the card seem more playable, making us wonder whether the conservative cost of Tram Heist was a function of the legendary spell’s presence. For Tram Heist to be a correct card to run, the format needs to center around cards being so powerful that they’re worth paying 4 mana just to copy. That doesn’t leave much room for interpretation. Considering Priest’s tendency to have a sizeable hand bordering on hand space issues, we’re not looking for a flurry of cards, we’re looking for single cards to be game-changing.

For example, Highlander Priest would run Tram Heist if Highlander matchups became very common, making Tram Heist potentially generate a second Reno or another class-specific payoff.

At 3 mana, we think Tram Heist would be a strong card. At 4 mana, it is very fringe. If it ends up being played, something’s gone wrong.

Score: 2

Invasive Shadeleaf

Dealing 8 damage to a minion for 4 mana may not seem like the most efficient card in the world, but Shadeleaf’s excess damage ability completely changes things. It makes it so that no damage is wasted. You can target any minion facing you on turn 4, knowing that even if it’s not the biggest threat, you’re still producing a high quality 1-mana removal spell for your troubles. The Bottled Shadeleaf can help you outpace the opponent later.

You can think of this card as a much better version of Mage’s 5-mana Rolling Fireball. Both spells deal 8 damage to minions, but Shadeleaf’s cost is broken into two, giving you more control and versatility in different situations.

Score: 3

Swarm of Lightbugs

The final “bottle” spell, Swarm of Lightbugs is guaranteed to generate a bottled spell, since it summons 10 Lightbugs to the board. Any Lightbugs that cannot fit to the board, are stored in the Bottled Lightbugs.

Assuming we summon a full board of Lightbugs, this is quite a strong play for the board, which also threatens a lot of healing if the opponent is forced into trading. Lightbugs are weak to AOE, so they seem stronger in faster matchups, where they can help the Priest fight for board and stabilize, while being less likely to be dealt with cleanly.

The Bottled Lightbugs spell is more efficient than the original since it summons a minimum of 3 Lightbugs for 1 mana. That can make the card increasingly irritating to deal with, since Lightbugs come in two waves and can force out AOE resources from the opponent.

Control Priest normally cares less for proactive plays and is more focused on responding to the opponent, but Lightbugs is such a strong card that Priest may run it altogether, especially when it can act as a strong stabilizer.

Score: 3

Thirsty Drifter

This 4/6 taunt gets discounted by any type of 1-cost card, be it a spell, a minion, or a location. This kind of card has always found its way to a competitive deck, sooner or later, because potential free stats are strong. Both aggressive and defensive Priest decks have the tendency to run a significant number of 1-cost cards. This set also introduces the bottled spells, which can discount Drifter.

If we had to guess, we’d say that Drifter is likely to be stronger in faster Priest decks since they prioritize taking board early and usually run more spammable 1-cost cards. The best 1-cost card to enable Drifter might be Serpent Wig, thanks to its “infinite” reloading mechanic and consistent tutoring capabilities. We wonder if Drifter is the kind of card that can bring Naga Priest back to compete for its last 4 months in Standard.

Score: 3

Benevolent Banker

We’ve gone through our methodology of evaluating a Quickdraw card. First, let’s look at the baseline form of Banker. It is essentially a 3 mana 2/4 that casts Thrive in the Shadows. Thrive has been a very competitive card for Priest, albeit not a top performer or a core card by any means. For 1 extra mana, we get a decent body attached to it, equivalent to a vanilla 2-drop. Banker is undoubtedly a much stronger card that helps us contest the board. If there’s any deck out there that’s interested in Thrive in the Shadows, Benevolent Banker offers a big upgrade.

The Quickdraw form is where things get crazy. Banker now discovers a spell from the opponent’s deck. This means the spell is pulled and the opponent loses access to it. It’s a full blown ‘yoink’.

A Quickdraw Banker becomes an amazing disruption card for Priest. Control Priest is known to heavily utilize Dirty Rat to pull an opponent’s minion from their hand, but Banker offers access to spell disruption. When you consider the possibility of playing Creation Protocol, either on turn 5 or turn 8, finding Banker and playing it immediately, the prospect becomes quite intimidating.

So, Priest gets a consistency boost for its own strategies, but the at the same time, a tool to complete its disruption arsenal. Whether it’s a spell or a minion, nobody can hide from a Control Priest.

Score: 4

Posse Possession

This is a peculiar card. What does Priest gain from summoning a 4 mana 4/4 copy of a random minion in the opponent’s hand? In theory, the minion could have a strong keyword or ability. It could be a TITAN. But it could also just be a mild, regular minion. Regardless of the outcome, Posse Possession doesn’t further the Priest’s own game plan, which is probably the biggest problem of the card, beyond its weak stats.

This spell seems disconnected from the rest of the Priest set. There is no way to leverage the effect. It’s just another one of those “I’ve got your card now” Priest memes. You might twirl your moustache and giggle after playing it, but we’re focusing on how to win more Hearthstone games.

Score: 1

Pip the Potent

Pip is the centerpiece legendary for the 1-cost theme that dominates the Priest set. The card is a candidate to be played in Priest decks that run a bunch of impactful 1-cost cards. Pip can also be used to copy Bottled spells you generate from Springwater, Shadeleaf, or Lightbugs.

One of the most ambitious Pip uses is as a setup card for a burst combo revolving around Flash Heal and Shadowtouched Kvaldir. The problem is that Kvaldir/Heal just don’t deal enough damage to constitute an OTK. Even a chain consisting of 4 copies of each card only deals 20.

We do question Pip’s strength in slower decks in general. Control Priest can already generate a lot of value and might not be able to set up Pip for success, as the archetype often runs into hand space issues. A 4 mana 3/5 that copies a couple of cards that don’t represent your win condition, doesn’t seem like a staple in a deck.

We mostly like this card in faster decks that run a lot of proactive 1-drops. Pip looks particularly juicy in Naga Priest, because of the potential of copying Serpent Wig.

Score: 2

Elise, Badlands Savior

Elise offers a massive, late game stat bomb for Highlander Priest. She is essentially an 8 mana 21/21. Note that you need to have at least 4 minions in the deck, or she doesn’t summon the full number of 4/4’s. Each 4/4 copies a different minion from the deck.

Notice that Elise doesn’t only carry a highlander restriction, it also carries a subtle minion restriction, if you choose to build around her more aggressively. You could treat her as an 8 mana 21/21 and say that’s enough to win the faster matchups. If Elise ends up summoning a 4/4 Armor Vendor, Dirty Rat, or Benevolent Banker, it doesn’t matter that much.

But under this thinking, Elise is very weak in slower matchups. On turn 8, classes have access to a lot of removal that can cleanly deal with her. Even against faster decks, she may not have an immediate impact that can protect you.

The other approach is to curate your minion pool to only include minions with very powerful static abilities or deathrattles. For example, Aman’Thul and Yogg-Saron are amazing to reliably spawn from Elise.

Such an approach turns Elise into a game ending play in a higher percentage of matchups, while producing much more threats against slower decks. However, having both a Highlander restriction and a heavy minion restriction might be tough to accommodate.

The point is that Elise seems a bit tame for a Highlander payoff, unless you further build around her. Even in that case, she’s ironically weak to other Highlander decks thanks to Reno.

Score: 3

Final Thoughts

Showdown in the Badlands Set Rank: 7th

Overall Power Ranking:  11th

Our harsh ranking of Priest doesn’t come from a terrible Badlands set. We think Priest’s set is alright, for doing Priest things. We like the bottle cards more than most players. The issue is that doing Priest things may not line up very well into the upcoming format.

Control Priest was one Mage nerf away from potentially becoming a dominant strategy in Standard at the end of TITANS. Over the last 4 months, it saw a horde of win conditions getting nerfed, causing decks to be less effective at finishing off opponents. The reduction in lethality from balance changes nearly always contributes to a rise in Control Priest’s standing.

But now, the Badlands set is arriving. When it comes to late game lethality, the Badlands set looks quite scary. New win conditions are going to be established, some of them very effective against decks that try to grind out an opponent through removal and life gain.

Yes, Priest does have a neat disruption package available to it, but disruption very rarely beats out lethality. At best, disruption achieves parity. So, either Control Priest achieves parity and survives, or it collapses. We’ll be shocked if Control Priest comes out on the first week of Badlands and puts out a strong showing.

Highlander Priest doesn’t solve this problem. Elise puts the archetype in a conundrum. The reason is that it forces the Priest to choose between sacrificing disruption and a well-rounded build for a stronger Elise serving as a win condition, or maintaining better defenses against an opponent’s game plan, but settling for an Elise that’s mostly a pile of stats. We think Elise can be a powerful card, but Priest doesn’t seem threatening enough in the late game. There are no kill threat cards, that you can see in Hunter or Druid.

Finally, some words about faster Priest decks. Undead Priest got nothing. Overheal Priest is very far away from being competitive. It got some nice cards, but nothing that makes us confident that it will seriously compete. A Naga Priest return is a nice thought, but in the absence of Radiant Elemental and Boon of the Ascended, we’re not sure the finishing potential is there.

We expect Priest to start slow, then devise a response to the emerging format. What it will want most of all is nerfs. Lots and lots of nerfs.

1 Comment

  1. The problem with the DK rune system is less that it’s “too restrictive” and more that there is not enough incentive to run decks that aren’t mono-rune. This is less of a problem with Frost-Unholy since there is some support for deathrattle decks there, but there is no reason at all to run a Blood-Frost deck, and the only Unholy-Blood archetype that currently exists (Handbuff) isn’t interested in running Maw and Paw or A Fistful of Corpses. It’s true these two cards don’t really make sense in their current iteration but a better solution would be to design them to also work in a potential Blood-Unholy archetype rather than just knocking off an Unholy rune and calling it a day.

    The way the rune system should ideally work is that the more general, building-block type cards should have one or no rune. The more runes a card has, the more powerful and specialized it should be. However, two-rune cards should still be designed to work in multiple archetypes. With that in mind, Reska, the Pit Boss is a good example of a well-designed two rune card since it synergizes both with the corpse-heavy Rainbow DK and the UUF Deathrattle DK. If neither of those archetypes pan out and they “buff” Reska by removing a Frost rune I’ll be pretty disappointed, since that’ll create even less incentive for players to try out interesting rune combinations.

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