Eternal Priest in Two Formats
ETERNAL PRIEST 2 – SUMMONING BOOGALOO!
Standard Deck Code: AAECAa0GCKIJqKsCoqwChbgCt7sCmcgCws4CkNMCC6UJ0wrXCqGsArW7Aui/Auq/AtHBAuXMAubMArTOAgA=
Wild Deck Code: AAEBAa0GDvYCogmlCdMKkg+iEMcXqKsChbgCt7sC6L8C6r8C5swCws4CCNcK+hG3F6GsAtHBAuXMArTOAvDPAgA=
This month, I decided to take a shot at unlocking a new achievement: Legend in Standard and Wild in the same month.
In choosing my weapons for the task, I started in Wild. I knew that Razakus Priest was the dominant deck in the format (imagine the standard list but add Excavated Evil, Lightbomb and Reno Jackson). I tried Secret Mage, which is a much stronger deck in Wild, and is a great foil for Priest in standard. Unfortunately, while the deck was good against Priest, it was not as good as I would have liked, once the deck got to higher ranks. Reno Jackson really changes the matchup, since you can no longer rely on burning them out if they are able to deal with your board.
I moved onto a great Razakus foil: Oil Rogue. Unfortunately, every time I queue’ed it up, I played against Aggro Druid or Aggro Rogue instead, and just lost.
As I was hovering around rank 3-5 in Wild, my standard climb was going a lot smoother. I just went with my old pal Eternal Priest, which has changed a whopping one card from the last time I wrote about the deck. Since Eternal Priest wrecks Razakus Priest in standard, I decided to give it a shot in Wild…and I was not disappointed.
In order to get in enough games to hit Legend in two formats, I played almost all my standard games on my phone, which is a shame, since I think I took something in the range of 5 losses between rank 5 and Legend. Eternal Priest is awesome in the standard format right now, and the only real difficult matchup is Kelseth Rogue.
In Wild, however, I did track my games, since I hadn’t written about that deck yet. As a result, I can tell you that I hit Legend on a ridiculous record of 24-5 (an 83% winrate). I finished up the month with the deck at a record of 43-20 (a 68% winrate), finishing at rank 49 Legend.
For today’s article, I will start out with a bit of an update on my previous Eternal Priest article. This portion will act as a supplement to my previous article. While the deck is virtually identical to the previous list, the format has changed due to the nerfs, so I will provide a bit of an update on how it affects matchups and playstyle.
Then, I will delve into Wild and provide an overview of how the Wild version of the deck differs from the standard list, and how some of its key matchups play out.
The last time I wrote about the deck, I talked a bit about the effects that I thought the nerfs would have on the deck’s matchups. I was right on several of them:
- Razakus Priest is the top dog, and Eternal Priest still smashes it
- Pirates has all but disappeared
- Aggro Druid is much rarer on ladder, and the version that survives is far weaker against us
- Jade Druid is still a top deck, and is even weaker to us than it was before
Of course, the big unanticipated development that came out of the nerfs was the advent of Kelseth Rogue, to fill the format’s aggro void.
Kelseth Rogue is a tough matchup. I was 5-5 in the matchup in tracked games (largely after hitting Legend or from games I played with the deck in September), but I think the matchup is in negative territory including all the games that I played on my phone. The two big swing cards in the matchup are Cobalt Scalebane and Vilespine Slayer.
The deck’s early game is pretty easy to survive, with Potion of Madness and Shadow Word: Horror wrecking the Pirate aggro aspect of the deck. The risky turns are 5-8. These are the turns when Rogue can put huge damage together in a rather short amount of time. If they have a minion on the board going into turn 5 and play Cobalt Scalebane, it sucks. Dragonfire Potion can’t clear Scalebane, and the pump effect will often put something like a Fire Fly into that awkward 4 power range that Priest hates. You need Shadow Word Death or Shadow Word: Horror + Pint Sized Potion to solve a Scalebane board. As such, be careful not to throw those cards away unnecessarily before Scalebane hits.
The other big issue is Vilespine Slayer, which can often take out your first big minion, and give Rogue the opening to finish the game. Do not let Slayer survive if you can help it. Your opponent will often leave Slayer on the board, even if they have a Shadowstep in hand, in order to keep the damage available. If you drop a big monster they will Shadowstep the Slayer and kill your dude, so holding off a turn to clear the board is often the better plan, if you have the option.
Outside of the Kelseth Rogue matchup, I am not convinced that the deck has a bad matchup in the current metagame (although random stuff like Exodia Mage can be tough).
The deck crushes Jade Druid (10-4 in tracked matchups since the nerf, and I believe better than that in non-tracked matchups). The matchup was good before the nerfs, and becomes better now largely because Ultimate Infestation is more predictable. Playing around Ultimate Infestation before was a bit tough, because it could come out when Druid only had 8 mana available. This meant it was much easier to hit a Shadow Essence minion with it (as you often hit 6 mana about the same time they hit 8). Now that UI is delayed by a couple of turns, your Shadow Essence minion has usually done its business by the time UI hits, and you are into your full-sized monsters, none of whom will die to a UI alone.
Usually, the matchup is decided in about turns 6-10, where you transition from a Shadow Essence into full-sized fatties. Your goal is to overwhelm them within this phase of the game. Eternal Servitude and Y’Shaarj are key to this, since they let you dump multiple big threats on the board at a time, or, in the case of Servitude, dump a big threat on the board while removing opposing ones. Shadowreaper Anduin is also a huge threat to them, so hold it as long as you can to wipe out a late-game Jade turn. If you are anticipating a big Jade turn (ie. Post-UI when Jades are ramped to 5/5 and above), opting for Ysera is often very powerful, to enable you to wipe out your opponent’s big turn, while still keeping your own pressure. Ysera also provides lots of great fodder to reset Anduin’s hero power.
The other really important matchup is Razakus Priest, where my tracked record is 8-4, but I am pretty confident that my untracked record is much higher. The key here is to set up multiple-threat turns that cannot be cleared with a single card. Ysera is your best threat, since they have so few ways to remove it (4 power and immune to Dragonfire Potion), and it provides so much ongoing value.
In the early game, your picks off Shadow Visions are ideally Eternal Servitude and Shadow Essence (although Shadow Essence is far less important if you already have a copy in hand). Servitude is, by far, the best, for its ability to enable big swing turns in the mid to late game. Also, when playing your threats, try to keep them sequential, if possible. You are unlikely to beat Priest with your first threat, and Razakus Priest doesn’t do much in its early turns when its not answering opposing threats. Being able to build and maintain tempo is more important than jamming an early threat. As such, I will usually opt to hold the coin and play Barnes on 4, even if I have a Servitude, in order to keep up the pressure once it is established. This allows you to curve into Shadow Essence and Lich King/Free from Amber turns in a lot smoother manner. Also, if your Barnes hits a defensive minion like Obsidian Statue, you might want to consider holding Servitude until after your Shadow Essence, so that you can potentially get a Y’Shaarj, Lich King or Ysera to present a quicker clock.
The way Priest beats you is by getting their full combo together early and combo’ing you in one turn, so denying them draws is also a solid strategy. Potion of Madness and Silence can both be used on their Acolyte of Pain, Loot Hoarder and Bloodmage Thalnos to deny draws.
Aside from those two matchups, Eternal Priest is generally very strong in the other random matchups that you will see on ladder. The deck’s early game removal options can control most aggressive starts, and your midgame threats are unmatched. One general piece of advice: you rely heavily on board clear effects for defence, so make sure that you are exercising enough patience with them. If you can afford the life, you ideally want to be wiping the board the turn before your first fattie (this usually means a turn 5 board clear before a Shadow Essence). Often you can follow your Essence turn with a string of threat turns, so swinging the tempo just before the Essence is usually the most valuable, whereas doing it earlier gives your opponent more of a chance to reload and can potentially cause you to have to halt your development to answer your opponent’s board.
Also, note that Cairne has become a new tech card in the format. Be aware that you can Potion of Madness it after a Pint Sized Potion and before a Shadow Word: Horror in order to steal the deathrattle effect. This is often an unexpected and rather large swing.
With that, let’s shift focus to the Wild format…
Wild can be a very fun format, but is in a bit of a weird place right now. It was pretty predictable that Reno Priest (now known as Razakus Priest) or one of the other highlander decks in the format would eventually become too good. As the format grows, this problem will only become worse, because the downside of playing a highlander deck (ie. Reduced access to tools) is minimized as the card pool expands. The printing of Shadowreaver Anduin seems to have accelerated that process, due to its interaction with Raza. When Kazakus decks no longer run Brann, because the combo just isn’t that important, you know there is something wrong.
There are very few decks that effectively counter Razakus Priest, and even fewer that do so while still having a chance against aggro decks. Eternal Priest is the best option I could find at doing both at the same time…and, it excels in both tasks.
The deck plays fairly similarly to the standard build, but adds some cool new weapons to its quiver.
The biggest difference in the list is the presence of Resurrect. This card necessitates some different choices in the rest of the build. First of all, as good as Potion of Madness can be against aggro, it gets the axe here, as adding random pirates to your pool of dead minions is pretty lame. While Spirit Lash is fairly lame in the deck in standard, there are many more 1 toughness dudes in Wild (Living Roots, more Southsea Deckhands, and the entire Silver Hand Paladin deck).
In addition to adjusting the removal suite, the threat suite is also amended slightly, due to the presence of Resurrect. Hitting Barnes off Shadow Essence is especially lame with Resurrect around, so we have increased our density of big threats. Sneed’s Old Shredder is a great addition for providing a very resilient threat, which is great against control decks. Our good friend Ragnaros also joins the party, as another anti-control threat which provides instant value, while also improving our Freeze Mage matchup. The tradeoff for these threats is one less Obsidian Statue (as the deck is currently tech’ed for a control environment, as opposed to an aggro one) and Shadowreaper Anduin (who is too slow against Wild aggro decks and unnecessary against control lists).
So, why are we making all of these sacrifices in the name of Resurrect? Well, I talked above about the importance of multi-threat turns, and no card in Hearthstone is better at enabling those than Resurrect. One of my games yesterday, I won against an Evolve Shaman because I played 3 Ragnaros in one turn (two Resurrect and one Eternal Servitude) to wreck his Dopplegangster/Evolve board. If your first threat comes off Shadow Essence, and is not Barnes, then you know Resurrect is giving you huge value for 2 mana. In other scenarios, while Resurrect will occasionally hit Barnes, by accident, you do have some options to control your Resurrect-pool by holding off and playing additional fatties. Even in the worst case scenario, Totem Golem tells me that a 3/4 for 2 is still pretty respectable.
Priest (17-5) Of my Priest matchups, 15 were against Razakus Priest (12-3), three of those were mirror matches (2-1), and the other four were against Inner Fire Priest (3-1).
The Razakus Priest matchup is the biggest reason to play the deck. It is undoubtedly the best deck in Wild, at the moment. While the deck has a lot more tools than it does in standard, none of these actually help in the Eternal Priest matchup. Reno is generally a delay tactic, at best. Meanwhile, Excavated Evil is a nice board clear effect against aggro, but a huge liability for the Razakus deck against Eternal Priest. Against Razakus, I will usually keep Excavated Evil, and will try to aggressively play it on turn 5 (or turn 4 with the coin). It often hits a couple of their small minions, but the real value is in potentially turning off Kazakus, Reno and, most importantly, Raza. If they have not drawn their own Excavated Evil, then you are putting a duplicate in their deck. You can pile on here by using multiple copies (sometimes enabled by Shadow Visions). Now, sometimes your opponent will draw the Excavated Evils and re-enable their highlander cards, but even then, you don’t feel too bad, since Excavated Evil is so bad against us. Sure, their highlander cards are back online, but by playing the Evil, you essentially denied them a draw, putting them a little farther from drawing their combo.
I always mulligan on the assumption that I am playing the Razakus matchup, unless I am playing against an immediate rematch, since it is so common. You generally want to mulligan for your threat cards: Resurrect, Eternal Servitude, Shadow Visions, Barnes and Shadow Essence (although I won’t keep doubles of Essence). I will also keep Excavated Evil in most hands. I am rarely worried about the Priest’s aggression, and so I prefer to get the tools in place that will allow me to overwhelm the midgame.
The mirror matchup is pretty interesting and swingy. Ysera is the best threat, because it is so tough to kill. Obsidian Statute is the best comeback mechanic, as it slows aggression, takes out a big threat and gains life at the same time. The deck has lots of answers for its own threats, so multi-threat turns are important, as are your minions that survive Lightbomb (ie. Ysera, Sneed’s Old Shredder and Obsidian Statue). Entomb is also a very valuable card, by taking one of their threats and increasing your threat density. Patience is key in this matchup. Usually, the matchup goes to the guy who can snowball in the mid-game, as opposed to the guy who drops the first threat.
As for the Inner Fire Priest matchup, all I have to say is that Deathlord is a spectacularly bad card against Eternal Priest! Shadow Word: Horror is spectacular in this matchup, so it is a good card to take with Shadow Visions. Your opponent can have the highest-health dudes he wants, it makes no difference to Shadow Word: Horror, or Shadow Word: Pain, for that matter. You can get combo’ed on occassion, but often your opponent drops an early Deathlord before realizing what you are playing, and the game ends real quick.
Druid (5-4): Aggro Druid is a relatively common matchup, and I feel like it is slightly in your favour, if you play correctly. It really is a matchup where your play is far more important than theirs. They just play their threats, but you need to match your answers up appropriately, or you will get overwhelmed. Shadow Word: Horror is your most important early game card. Unless your opponent double-buffs before you hit 4, it should clear out most of their early pressure. Silence works well here, too, as it can bring a buff’ed Enchanted Raven back into Horror range, to ensure a full board clear.
Probably my biggest piece of advice is to hold a removal spell for Jeeves. Without an answer, that card will destroy you single-handedly. Aside from that, your key is being defensive in the early game. You usually win due to running them out of gas, as opposed to overwhelming them with threats. Your threats are almost always too slow to beat them. So, mulligan away any threat card, unless you have Barnes. You want to keep Horror, Pain, Spirit Lash and Excavated Evil. Dragonfire and Lightbomb are usually mulligans, unless the rest of your hand is great, as you will die before you hit 6 mana, unless you have those early control cards. You do, however, need to hold a board clear up for Living Mana. This means that any early Shadow Visions usually ends up wanting to hit an AoE effect.
Warlock (5-4): All my matchups were against Demon variants, but they ran the gamut between more and less controlling versions. You prefer the more controlling versions, although all the matchups are pretty even. You need to be careful because you need to line up your answers with their threats. The way you lose this matchup is by being unable to answer all of their 4-6 power dudes, particularly Doomguard. If this matchup becomes more prominent, I would recommend substituting an additional Pint-Sized Potion into the deck, likely in place of a Spirit Lash. This provides an additional method to allow you to line up your answers to their threats, by bringing Doomguards and Kelseth’ed Dreadlords into Horror range. These are normally tough threats to answer since they survive through Dragonfire Potion and Lightbomb.
Also, you need to make sure to keep an AoE effect in reserve for Bloodreaver Gul’Dan. This often requires a Shadow Word: Death to remove Mal’Ganis, in addition to Dragonfire or Pint-Sized/Horror. This is part of why that additional Pint-Sized is really important, if this is a common matchup for you.
I will often keep a single copy of Shadow Word: Death in my opener here, because of how hard Doomguard, in particular, is to deal with otherwise. Aside from that, you mostly want to prioritize early board control cards, unless you happen to have Barnes available. I will usually also keep a single Shadow Essence, in order to ensure that I don’t have to wait until turn 8 to start my threat-train. Unlike the Priest matchup, I will send Shadow Visions away here, because you don’t usually get the time to play it in the early game.
Mage (5-2): This matchup is typically Freeze or Exodia Mage (5-1), but can also be an occasional Secret Mage (0-1). My record in the Freeze/Exodia matchup is pretty good, although I feel like my record is a bit inflated. I think the matchup is closer to a 60/40. Still, the matchup is pretty good. You are definitely the aggressor. The key in the matchup is putting on pressure, and forcing them to put together their full one-turn combo very quickly. The reason why the matchup is good is because they cannot clear your board. They can freeze it and delay you, but the pressure should never disappear, since Doomsayer should never activate and your guys are well out of Flamestrike range. You have two Horrors, 2 Pains, a Silence (plus Shadow Visions), vs their 2 Doomsayers, and you use your Horrors, Pains and Silences for pretty much nothing else.
You want to mulligan for aggressive cards. You should hit a Horror, Pain or Silence, by the time Doomsayer becomes a threat, so don’t bother keeping them (although you might want to avoid playing your Shadow Visions until your draw at least one Doomsayer answer). Shadow Essence and Barnes are the most important cards to keep. Aside from that, you can mulligan everything else. If you have Barnes or Essence, then you can consider keeping other stuff like an Eternal Servitude, or a Shadow Visions.
As for the Secret Mage matchup, it can go downhill quickly. I only played it once from this side, but I have played the matchup a lot from the other side. Silence and the Coin are super important to proc Counterspell before your board clear. Dragonfire is the best board clear card, but if you tap out for it on turn 6 and get it Countered, you almost certainly lose. Once you get past that, you almost never want to play a minion card, unless it is Barnes, because of Mirror Entity. Push through their Counterspells, and once you resolve a Shadow Essence, you can summon minions through Eternal Servitude and Resurrection. They only have 2 Counterspells, so if you render their Mirror Entities useless, you are in a good spot…unless they wreck you with Loatheb. It is a tough matchup to play properly, and probably not in our favour, but it is winnable.
Paladin (4-1): The key against Silver Hand Recruit Paladin is lots of board clearing. This is the big reason why Spirit Lash is in the deck. If this deck is not all that common, then you probably want to cut a Lash for a Pint Sized Potion (which is better in the Warlock matchup). But, if it is a common matchup, Spirit Lash is awesome. Always play this right after they play Muster for Battle. If they can’t keep Silver Hands on the board, then you win. If you don’t respect their burst potential, with Quartermaster, Stegadon and Tarim, then you can lose out of nowhere. Also, make sure to keep a Shadow Word: Pain to answer their Steward of Darkshire, if you can.
Also keep in mind that Shadow Word Horror is often a big surprise answer that they don’t account for. One of your opponent’s best plays will be a 6 mana Steward into Muster turn to set up a big buff the following turn. Horror + Pain, or Horror + Pint-Sized, is the best response to that sort of a board state. In general, I would say to hold Horror until you need it to clear a board with problematic divine shield minions, if you have the option.
For mulliganing, this is another matchup where you play the defensive role, so keep Spirit Lash, Horror and Pain. Excavated Evil and Shadow Visions are contextual keeps, as is a single Shadow Essence. As always, Barnes changes the whole equation.
Other Matchups: Wild still has a lot of archetypes that will pop up from time to time. Pirate Warrior seems largely dead, but is generally a fine matchup (2-1). Just play defensive and set up a big taunt minion to close it out.
Giants Hunter is another interesting archetype (2-1). Lightbomb is the key here, as it is the only card you have that can answer a big giant turn. Fortunately, I have found opponents usually try to play one giant at a time to avoid the Lightbomb blowout, which is great, since you can answer that much easier with Shadow Word: Death, Entomb, or with your own fatties. They often don’t realize that you will win the long game until it is too late. Still, if you see Hunter, mulligan hard for Lightbomb, because if they drop a bunch of giants on turn 5, you could just lose without it.
Rogue (2-2). I was 2-1 against Tempo Kelseth Rogue, and 0-1 against Miracle Rogue. I would expect Miracle or Oil Rogue to be horrible matchups, but those decks are largely absent from ladder, as they get killed by the aggro decks, and are very tough to play properly. In the Kelseth matchup, you play it much like the standard version, except they don’t have Cobalt Scalebane, which is nice. Generally, I think you gain more from the transition to Wild than they do. Vilespine is still a big issue, but it is a little easier to play against because Resurrect often allows you to double up on threats early than you can in standard.
Lastly, I played against a single Evolve Shaman (1-0), and beat it. Generally, you have a lot of board clear effects, so their early game push is usually pretty easy to deal with. As long as their Dopplegangster/Evolve isn’t too good, you should be able to beat them.
Your Legendary cards are largely your fatties, plus Barnes, who is a slam dunk non-replaceable card. You would be crazy to play the deck without Barnes, as you lose your best high-roll hands.
So, in regards to the rest of them, the easiest fatty to cut, in my opinion, would be Lich King. It is more vulnerable to removal than cards like Ysera (which are generally immune to Lightbomb and Shadow Word: Death). I have seen versions without Ysera, but I would not recommend them in this metagame, due to its strength against Priest. Y’Shaarj is another sacred cow. He is your best highroll minion by a pretty good margin, so I wouldn’t cut him.
Ragnaros is nice, but can be cut. It’s not great in aggro matchups, and is in the deck largely as a tech choice vs the control environment that exists right now. Sneed’s Old Shredder is also pretty strong, although not quite as much of a requirement as some of the other cards.
For any of the fatties that you are cutting, your first addition should probably be Obsidian Statue. I cut one copy of Statue in order to tech the deck against control, but it is definitely the strongest fatty to substitute in. Beyond the first fatty cut, I think the next fatty you cut should be replaced by a spell, such as the second Pint-Sized Potion. This would bring the fatty count down to the same level as the standard version, which makes Barnes a bit of a bigger liability alongside Shadow Essence, but not enough to substitute in a sub-par fatty.
Aside from that, I have seen Emperor Thaurissan used as a fatty option. I think that would likely be best in an aggro environment, as it helps you get on the board sooner, but it is probably the next best substitute option, if you require one.
That’s probably my last article until the next set comes out. The meta has gotten a little stale, and I can’t imagine I will get in enough games in November to write something new. That having been said, I have been wrong on that sort of thing before, so who knows. Either way, if you want to know when future articles are posted, the best way is to follow us on Twitter or Facebook, and I will post there when new articles go up. Alternatively, you can subscribe to my articles below. And, of course, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to join the discussion on reddit here.