Hearthstone: Why I Play Priest

Hearthstone is out now on both PC and iPad. With new players joining the battle each day, Shacknews is closely examining each of the game's nine classes and learning how to play with all of them from the perspective of Chatty. Next up is Anduin Wrynn, the Priest.
Priests are widely recognized for their healing magic and in the game of Hearthstone, this can become an incredible annoyance. Anduin won't overwhelm opponents with high-powered minions, but they'll often be buffed to the gills with his health-boosting spells to the point that opponents will often get worn out. The Priest is definitely built for marathons, especially with his 'Lesser Heal' Hero Power able to keep his minions on the field.

Why the Priest?

Some Chatty posters like drhazard like the Priest out of sentimental value, given that he's been a valuable part of Blizzard lore. But there's a very good reason that players opt for this class and that's because the Priest is built to be a complete nuisance. Even as hapless opponents try and chip away at some of higher-health minions, Anduin will simply keep doling out health spells and heals to keep them going. Trips will second the idea of Priest as a tough cookie to crumble. "As a Mage, I have a hard time playing against Priests unless I make it into the end game where I can drop some serious minions and start blasting my high damage spells," he points out. "It seems only in the endgame, when I have several 6+ damage minions, can I counter a Priest's healing." Junktown can likewise testify to Anduin's perseverance and always plays against him cautiously. "It's fun to queue into Priests when you're an aggro Paladin or such since you know you're going to win by turn 6," he explains. "It's awful to queue into Priests when you're playing a control deck. You know that even if you win, you're going to deck each other out. You need to hold back your best cards in the late game since Mind Control will screw you over and that slows it way down. Plus you need to answer his [Ragnaros the Firelord] and Cairne [Bloodhoof] and whatever bombs he Thoughtsteals from you. Thirty minutes later, you're wondering why you chose ramp Druid instead of tempo Rogue for that 5-win Rogue or Druid quest." And that's precisely what king_darius loves about the Priest. "I like having a Hero Power that can increase my minions' suriviability," he says. "I also enjoy the random thrills that come from surprising opponents with their own cards played against them." "Healing is a very powerful mechanic in Hearthstone," adds digital_d. "Having a hero ability that lets me heal myself or any minion for 2 HP can result in very efficient trades." And healing is also a good reason why Priest decks have grown on askedrelic. "Priest seems good, mix of offensive and defense cards. +2 to healing helps all of your cards stay alive longer and let's you draw things out. I'm liking it more and more."

Notable cards/combos

In addition to his healing abilities, the Priest boasts the ability to control the board in a variety of ways. Just about any minion can be eliminated in a snap and can often be done for a low cost. "Priests have the most Mana-efficient removal in the game, either 2 Mana for any minion with 3 or less attack, or 3 mana for any minion with 5 or more attack," digital_d says, referring to Anduin's Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Word: Death cards. In fact, there are certain ways to exploit some of the Priest's Shadow Word cards to wipe the field clean, with digital_d trying out some more creative methods. "I've also found a useful way around the 4 attack hole," he continues. "Use an Abusive Sergeant or Dark Iron Dwarf to buff the attack of the minion you want to destroy and then use Shadow Word: Death." Another of the Priest's major weapons is Mass Dispel, a 4 Mana card that Silences all enemy minions. It's the only card in the game of its kind and, as digital_d points out, it's one of the few sure-fire ways to deal with Stealth minions and bring them out of hiding. Anduin can also use many of his health-boosting spells to beef up his minions in a pinch. In fact, the Priest has some combos that could potentially create some true monsters. For example, ]pm[chen and Junktown both point out that a player could lay down Ysera and then use a pair of Divine Spirit spells and Inner Fire to boost its stats to an earth-shattering 48/48! But if any card is going to drive opponents mad, it's the one that Junktown alluded to earlier: Mind Control. It's a high 10-Mana, but the reward is rich, as it allows Anduin to take control of an enemy minion. This spell will quickly crush opponent hopes and remove any "ace in the hole" plays and can result in some rage quits. Poster dextius concurs. "I play Priest from time to time because of Mind Control and Thoughtsteal. The ability to beat someone with their own cards, or worse, their own creatures, is quite satisfying." While using an opponent's cards against them sounds enticing, singlespace advises players to be careful with these cards. Using them requires a degree of versatility. "Decks that choose to run with Thoughtsteal, Mindgames, or Mind Vision, which are cards that copy cards from your opponent in various ways, must be played rather carefully because you need to have a good idea what your opponent could have either in their hand or in their deck," singlespace adds. "Hence, you need to have a passing familiarity of all the classes to use these cards effectively. It's fun playing Thoughtsteal or Mindgames just when you know you'll have a high chance of grabbing a heavy drop like Ragnaros."

These are some of the Priest's cards, many of which focus on healing

Deck strategies

Chatty's resident Priest expert is singlespace, who offers some great insight into some of Anduin's greatest weapons. "Even though Priest is one of the weakest classes, I enjoy playing it more than others because how versatile it can be," he explains. "Priests have cards that allows them to switch healing to damage, card to copy your opponents cards in hand or cards in deck, direct damage, mass healing and silence, the usual nukes, and the most efficient spot removal in the game." As singlespace points out, Priests should not hesitate in running with Shadow Madness, which allows Anduin to control an enemy minion with 3 or less attack for one turn. Used early in the game, it can quickly wipe the field and lead to early frustation for the opponent. He also advises Priest decks to carry a number of effective neutral minions that work with each other, since it takes some time for Anduin's powerful cards to get going. "Because Priest decks tend to be quite slow, a popular combo is the neutral Taunt combo with Ancient Watcher and Sunfury Protectors. For 4 mana, you can have a 4/5 wall and 2/3, or 2x 2/4 walls and a 2/3 for 4 mana on one turn and another 2 on the next. Ancient Watchers cannot attack, so this combo is often seen with either an Ironbeak Owl or a Spellbreaker which can silence the Ancient Watchers allowing them to attack. In general, high health-efficient cards are favoured by Priests because their ability to heal lends to keeping those creatures alive. "Injured Blademasters are also often found in Priest decks because they synergize well with many of their cards. Pretty much every Priest deck uses Northshire Clerics, which forces you to draw a card every time a minion is healed. Injured Blademasters are 4/7 creatures that damages themselves on drop for 4 points, allowing you to heal it immediately for a card via a Northshire Cleric. Since Circle of Healing is a 0 mana card, if you're the second player, it's possible to have a 4/7 on turn 2 as a Priest. Injured Blademasters also double well as walls instead of Ancient Watchers, so you'll often see decks using both Ancient Watchers and Injured Blademasters, along with Sunfury Protectors." But for as long as Anduin's healing skills have been discussed, it's time to discuss the other side of that coin. The Priest's Shadowform card can turn him into an aggressor by using any healing spells to cause damage. Of course, it's a big roll of a dice to lose that pivotal Hero Power, but posters like singlespace can easily make it work to their advantage. "Priests have several cards that switch healing with damage, which allows Priests to have the most Mana-efficient direct damage dealing cards, provided you have the appropriate cards available," he explains. "With Shadowform or Auchenai Soulpriest, the Priest's 2 healing for 2 Mana becomes 2 damage for 2 Mana, which is more efficient than the Mage's ability and more versatile than the Hunter's, because it can be directed to any target. Better still, since healing is a less powerful mechanic than damage, healing cards heal more damage per Mana than the equivalent damage cards. So when you switch from healing to damage, you can deal more direct damage per Mana than any other class. Circle of Healing becomes 4 damage board nuke for 0 Mana, which incidentally allows Priests to have 4 nukes in their deck that can change to general healing when necessary. Earthen Ring Farseer deals 3 damage on drop and is a 3/3 creature. Voodoo Doctor deals 2 damage on drop and is a 2/1 creature." So while Shadowform may be a gamble, the payoff can be tremendous.
For more class strategies, check out the other installments of the Hearthstone: Why I Play series.