[Deck Guide] Combo Priest by St1rge
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St1rge aka Lady Merlin is an artist who enjoys making music and games.
In Hearthstone she’s a multiple time Legend player and writes exhaustingly long guides for the community.
You can check out some of her Comprehensive series of guides here:
Murlocalypse – Tip the Scales in your Favor! (Comprehensive-ish Guide)
Intro to Top 200 Combo Priest
Hello folks! I’m St1rge and I’m back to talk about Combo Priest, which I piloted from Rank 3 to Legend 167 with a 62% winrate (62-38 with the current list and over 120 games overall including other versions). Unlike my most recent Murloc Paladin guide, there are many different ways you can build combo priest. I’m going to go over the Core Build, explain Tech Choices – why I ended up using my list and how that list may change as our meta evolves.
Overall, my best matchups were vs. Mage (81%), mirrors (69%), Druid and Shaman (67%), and Paladins (63%). Next, I threaded the needle vs. Warriors (63%, but I suspect this is lower in most cases). Finally, Hunters (42%), Warlocks (40%), Rogues (25%, small sample size) proved the most difficult. Look at the Matchups section below for how I got there because even though Combo Priest is a solid Tier 1 deck, there’s a lot of room for skill expression – my last 25 games I rode a 72% winrate which wasn’t all high rolling.
Pros of Combo Priest?
- Inexpensive to Craft: The main competitive lists only utilize 1 Legend and 2 Epics, with the rest being rares and commons. This puts this deck in reach of most players.
- Powerful, Early Aggression: The buff to Extra Arms and addition of Injured Tol’vir and Psychopomp in Saviors of Ul’dum are perfect complements to Priest’s early aggro package (Circle of Healing, Lightwarden, Northshire Cleric, Power Word: Shield, Injured Blademaster). Each of these cards work syneristically with each other – and as a plus, they curve into each other turns 1 through 4. Many games are won by turns 5 and 6 simply by ‘curving out’, building a strong and sturdy board that your opponent is unable to answer.
- Broken Plays: Neferset Ritualist/Psychopomp into Injured Tol’vir/Injured Blademaster, Divine Spirit + Inner Fire/Topsy Turvy, High Priest Amet -> 7 or 14 health Lightwarden, Northshire Cleric, Acolyte of Pain. If these combos don’t win you the game on the spot, they set you up favorably to do so.
- Enduring Midgame Strategy: Unlike most aggressive decks, Combo Priest has a plan B that is effective. Northshire Cleric/Circle of Healing/Wild Pyro/Acolyte of Pain allows you to easily draw 4 to 12 cards in the midgame, restocking your hand while clearing your opponent’s board of smaller minions.
Cons of Combo Priest:
- Potential to Brick: Because you run a sizable amount of minion buffs and combo pieces, there is a small (maybe 10-15% chance) to ‘brick’ in the early game. Against some opponents (the mirror, other aggro decks, decks with the tools to beat you like Hunters), this can lead to an auto-loss.
- Hard to come back from an empty board: This weakness can be exploited by Hunters (Deadly Shot, Unleash the Hounds), Warlocks (Flame Imp, Magic Carpet), and some Warriors. Generally, classes that have strong early/mid removal and can contest the board in the meantime while building up their hand/generate value. This can be mitigated in other matchups by ‘slow playing’ your hand to make sure a board wipe isn’t the end of the game for you.
- Nothing Else: Combo Priest feels solidly Tier 1 – it can still high roll vs. it’s normal counters, seems resilient to many decks, and has solid Plan A’s and B’s. As a testament to it’s power – Zephrys has been played several times into boards I’ve built and has been unable to offer a decent answer.
The Fundamentals of Combo Priest:
There are so many different ways that Combo Priest opens, depending if you have Norshire Cleric, Circle of Healing, Extra Arms, Psychopomp, and High Priest Amet, respectively.
You have to know your match ups and when it’s safe to play minions, such as whether you can play a 1-drop (or two 1-drops, with Coin) on turn 1 or if you can get away without Healing/Power Word: Shielding an Injured minion.
Between your initial hand and what class you’re facing – you plot out your plan A. This typically includes building a modest board and making trades while gathering your combo pieces. Because of your ability to Divine Spirit/Inner Fire at any time, even the smallest of your minions can cause your opponents to play awkwardly.
These combo pieces are best used in their optimal situation – but often have a secondary, suboptimal use (Inner Fire can be used to debuff a minion, Topsy Turvy can reduce their attack, Power Word: Shield can draw you a card using their own minion – in a pinch).
Significant play decisions focus around when you go ‘all in’ with buffs on a minion to push damage, whether you develop board or use your hero power to heal/draw with Norshire Cleric, and if you run Acolyte/Pyro, when to go for the big refill (sometimes winning) turn.
As an important note, it is harder to come back from an empty board than most other classes, but often times Wild Pyro + Acolyte of Pain/Norshire Cleric is the way you do it. Sometimes a strong High Priest Amet or Psychopomp play can also lead towards parity and then the eventual win.
Understanding Your Core Cards, Packages, and Tech Choices:
Looking over all the other Combo Priest decks that got to Legend, the following cards are present in almost all of the decks:
Core Cards of Combo Priest (19 cards):
- 2x Circle of Healing – Combo piece with Injured minions + Norshire Cleric/Wild Pyro.
- 2x Norshire Cleric – One of the best 1 drops in the game. Sometimes it’s best to hold her until you can get 1-2 Heals with her, even if it means not having a turn 1 play (depends on matchup).
- 2x Inner Fire – Combo piece! Sometimes the suboptimal use of weakening an opponent’s minions or giving one of your minions +2-3 attack boost is just enough to get you the win.
- 2x Divine Spirit – Combo piece! Can be suboptimally used outside of the combo to make sure a minion lives.
- 2x Extra Arms – One of the strongest 2 mana cards in the game.
- 2x Injured Tol’vir – One of the best turn 2 plays in the game, especially alongside Circle of Healing. Insane with Psychopomp.
- 2x Neferset Ritualist – Synergizes with Injured Tol’vir/Injured Blademaster/Norshire Cleric. Playing him requires you to think of your board similar to Dire Wolf Alpha – you want minions with high health to be next to each other and typically want to play Psychopomp to the left of other minions.
- 2x Injured Blademaster – Oldie but a goodie. Synergizes with Norshire Cleric/Circle of Healing. Once healed, is an excellent Divine Spirit target. Insane with Psychopomp.
- 2x Psychopomp – One of the most powerful 4 drops in the game – tempo and value in one card. Combined with Injured Blademaster/Tol’vir, he can easily add 15 or 12 total stats to the board (respectively) on turn 4.
- 1x High Priest Amet – Perhaps the most powerful 4-drop in the game. A 7-health ‘must answer’ card that can be insane Turn 3+Coin / Psychopomp’d if killed.
Compared to some decks, 19 cards is fairly slim for a strong core package. All of these cards synergize with each other in some way, generating value, strong bodies, and a powerful finisher.
The following cards then are often added as a package:
Standard Draw Package:
- 2x Wild Pyromancer
- 2x Acolyte of Pain
Combined with each other and/or Norshire Cleric, these cards form a strong draw engine while still each being playable on their own. This is a very flexible package at 4 cards and it’s no wonder why it’s the most common one.
One of the highest spaces of skill expression this deck has is during the midgame when you have 2 or more of these cards (+Norshire Cleric) and can draw 4 to 12 cards in one turn. We need to recognize when to ‘go off’ and when we can either snowball the board state or combo to win. At an early level of play we are wary of overdrawing our deck and as our level of play sophisticates, we aim our draw and threats of our deck so we can present puzzle after puzzle for our opponent on the board until they run out of answers.
- 2x Serpent Egg
- 2x Wretched Reclaimer
- 2x Witchwood Grizzly
- 1x Ziliax
I experimented with this list initially and found Serpent Egg to be refreshingly sticky when going 2nd and partially solving Con #2. In particular Serpent Egg -> Wretched Reclaimer is about as strong as any turn 2 -> 3 play in the game. Witchwood Grizzly and Ziliax also synergize well with Reclaimer, but overall at +7 cards I found this package less consistent overall than others.
Questing Adventurer Package::
- 2x Embalming Ritual
- 2x Questing Adventurer
- 2x Auchenai Soulpriest
This is a bold package, one that I came across after already had success with my current list and will test this soon! I’m excited because I feel it’s a better strategy to snowball early game than try and win back the midgame board – and Questing Adventurer adds another pair of dice to high roll with. The cutting of Inner Fire seems like a good choice too as of all the combo pieces, Inner Fire seems like the weakest on the suboptimal play.
Other Tech (common and exotic choices):
- 1-2x Silence – powerful vs. Mech Hunter, Paladin, Priest. Wild Pyro Activator.
- 1-2x Topsy Turvy – 3rd/4th combo piece, powerful with Wild Pyro.
- 2x Light Warden – early game high roll monster, powerful with Extra Arms and High Priest Amet. When you lack a 2-drop, sometimes the correct decision is to hit your enemy’s face and then heal them to buff this.
- 1x Divine Hymn – when 2x Circle of Healing/2x Neferset Ritualist isn’t enough. I can imagine this card potentially going in if Aggro decks become prominent – after 2x Holy Ripple.
- 2x Grandmummy (SemiTequila List)
- 1-2x Holy Ripple – anti-aggro card, powerful with Wild Pyro and Northshire Cleric.
- 2x Loot Hoarder – standard 2 drop that cycles. Tech vs. Warrior. VS Data Reaper rec based on Meati
- 1x Madame Lazul – aggressive 2 drop that gives you some options and info. Tech vs. Warrior. VS Data Reaper rec based on Meati
- 1x Mass Dispel – Potential to blowout games with option to cycle (expensively) if needed. Don’t most players pray for this card from Zephrys 50% of games? Well, we can main deck it!
- 1x Shadow Madness – optional combo activator/value play.
- 1x Stormwind Knight – optional combo activator.
- 1x Witchwood Piper – fetches Norshire Cleric and Wild Pyromancer for draw combos.
- 1x Convincing Infiltrator – defense, plays well with Wretched Reclaimer/Psychopomp.
- 1x Damaged Stegotron – defense, plays well with some of our cards.
- 1x Ziliax – defense/tempo, occasional blowout with buffs.
Acidic Swamp Ooze, Ironbeak Owl, Mind Control Tech, Spellbreaker
*Since these cards dilute our Psychopomp res pool – I imagine other tech cards are better.
How did I come to my list?
My list is pretty standard, but includes Light Wardens which some pro players have moved away from recently. I find that having more 1-drops makes this deck much more consistent and am even trying to think of finding a fifth 1-drop to include – this is because of the insane power of Extra Arms – which can often win you the entire early game, especailly with Circle of Healing/Neferset Ritual. Also because of Psychopomp and High Priest Amet, Lightwarden can still be threatening in the mid/late game.
I sometimes miss a second Silence card but overall wanted a little more value. Ziliax ended up being a concession to not having many tempo plays in the midgame but I feel he is easily the 29th/30th card and is likely to be replaced.
Having the standard draw package allows for some insane midgame comebacks. I find myself more often using Topsy Turvy with Wild Pyromancer than for the combo.
General Mulligan Advice:
Combo Priest is a proactive deck – for us that means we generally mulligan for the same cards every matchup, occasionally keeping a matchup specific card. However, because the nature of our cards are so synergistic, some cards can be kept if other ones already show up in our hand. Cards in parenthesis can be kept if the card before it is in hand.
Always – Injured Tol’vir (Circle of Healing), Extra Arms (Lightwarden, Northshire Cleric), High Priest Amet Circle of Healing + Injured Blademaster With Injured Tol’vir/Blademaster/High Priest Amet – Psychopomp
On Play: – Always: Lightwarden, Northshire Cleric (Power Word: Shield)
On Coin: – Often: Wild Pyromancer (Acolyte of Pain) vs. matchups where you need the clear or card advantage.
Vs. Mages (Highly favored, 81% WR)
Our winrate is so high vs. Mages because there is little they can do to interfere with our early turns (outside of Doomsayer, which we can sometimes counter with Topsy Turvy/Silence/Buffs). Solidly curving into turns 1-4 often leads to an easy win. The threat of us going off on our combo off of almost any minion makes life difficult for a Mage. Make sure not to overcommit resources if you can’t handle Doomsayer or Flame Ward (often, I’ll hide Power Word: Shield/Extra Arms in hands to bait out an early Flame Ward – especially helpful with Neferset Ritualist/Circle of Healing after).
If the game goes on long enough, be wary of multiple freezes/board clear (Reborn minions help with getting there). But overall, this is our best matchup.
Vs. Quest Druid (Highly favored, 67% WR)
Listed this directly after Mages because so much of the advice stays true. As much as possible, put pressure on early – force them to respond to your board with all their mana if possible to slow down quest acquisition. Post-Quest, you have to play around twin 5/5 rushes (conveniently Injured Tol’vir has 6 health and Druids lose their hero power), and 7/2 damage Starfalls. If you can stick some solid health minions, Wardruid Loti (potentially combind with Floop) is their only out. For this reason, High Priest Amet (+Divine Spirit) is an all star.
Vs. Quest Shaman (Highly Favored, 67% Wr, small sample size)
Generally Quest Shaman doesn’t run efficient board clears (occasional Hagatha’s) or Hex (can still be discovered), making this matchup fairly easy. We control board and then aim to do our combo before they start generating too much value from their quest.
Vs. the Mirror (69% WR, but in theory this should be even)
I originally started with an Activate the Obelisk decklist and switched after playing against too many pure Combo Priests. The reason is this: Tempo is everything in this matchup. So long as you keep a minion or two at 4-5+ health, there’s no way they can clear your board fully. Because of the need to take time to build up a minion in the early game – as long as I can keep 1 minion down I fight to keep their board clear at all costs. For instance, I’ve even Inner Fired Light Warden for +1 damage on turn 3 so I could clear their board while keeping my Injured Tol’vir up. If you control the board early game, you almost always win.
Extra Arms is especially good in this matchup, while Mass Dispel can be a life saver if saved for their Pyro/Acolyte/Northshire Cleric refill turn.
Paladins (Favored, 63% WR)
Wild Pyro is a must keep in this matchup, as it does well vs. Quest Paladin and Murloc Paladin.
Vs. Quest Paladin
Similar to Mages and Druids, early Quest Paladin minions cannot compete easily with our minions and outside of Truesilver Champion/Consecrate they run very little removal. Mass Dispel and Wild Pyro are both houses and as most Quest Paladins don’t run Equality/Shrink Ray, we can generally buff a minion to high HP early on and have it run unanswered. I took out my 2nd Silence since I was already doing well vs. this deck, but if you run into a lot of Quest Paladins I would add it back in.
Vs. Murloc Paladin
Keep the early board clear – don’t overcommit health buffs until you’ve seen both Toxfins (or can hide behind a Taunt) and save Wild Pyro for Tip the Scales. Sometimes they Tip the Scales on turn 4 (coin) or 5 and you don’t have an answer that’s okay – their high roll is better than ours, but ours is more consistent.
Warriors (Favored???, 63% WR)
I pulled a 63% winrate vs. Warriors but I won the occasional brawl or they lacked an answer when needed. There was a competitiveHS thread that changed my mindset from ‘I hope they don’t have [this card]’ and playing overly defensive to playing into situations with the idea being ‘they better have this card or they lose.’
In general, there are few situations when you can get your full combo off (Divine Spirit + Divine Spirit + Inner Fire) – so instead, baiting removal and reading their hand to know when you can get a 9/9 or 14/14 minion and go all the way is an important skill to learn.
The most universal Warrior advice though is to play around Reckless Mummy and make their turns overall awkward. This often looks like (turn 3 on play, opponent still holds coin) healing your Injured Tol’vir with hero power over developing the board with Injured Blademaster (without Circle of Healing), Acolyte of Pain, or Lightwarden.
Our own value cards of High Priest Amet and Psychopomp helps us take the board back.
Against Tempo Warrior who run enrage cards – remember Circle of Healing/your hero power can sometimes be effective by healing their minions. This typically only works if they run out of activators in hand but is something to note.
As a side note, Light Warden can often be played turn 1 on either play or coin and can answer any of Warrior’s 1 drops – remember we can heal Warrior’s face after hitting it to turn Light Warden into a 3/2.
Vs. Hunters (Unfavored, 42% WR)
My least favorite matchup. The main times I won were after I baited out Deadly Shot and had High Priest Amet/living Injured Blademasters get there. Pressure Plate and Rat Trap are especially hard for us to play around and sometimes the answer is just to have your board sit around/clearing minions when convenient until we can build up and reach critical mass.
Vs. Warlocks (Unfavored, 40% WR)
Very hard matchup as they can develop a board just as good or better than ours, trade, and then stay up on value via their hero power/Magic Carpet + Lackeys. T1 Flaming Imp makes our lives difficult as it answers almost everything we can play early on (unless we have Injured Tol’vir + Circle of Healing).
Vs. Rogues (Unfavored, 25% WR, small sample size)
Too small sample size with too many builds – Aggro Rogue and Highlander Rogue are likely greater threats than Quest Rogue. In general though – if I can bait out one or both Saps I go for a big minion to control the board the best I can. Wild Pyro is an all star here vs. Aggro Rogue, especially with Topsy Turvy/0 mana spells.
Combo Priest is a very powerful deck capable of high rolling with plenty of room for skill expression in play and with tech cards. It’s likely this decklist will be further refined in the coming weeks, making it stronger. There is the potential for it to fall in winrate as well, as most decks in the meta are only gunning vs. Warrior and Mage right now and there are plenty of cards that could be used to tech against us.