With its powerful Year of the Mammoth cards rotating, Priest is in a pretty bad spot. Without Psychic Scream, Shadow Visions, Radiant Elemental or Shadowreaper Anduin, the class sorely lacks in utility and removal. This has been reflected in the 2019 world championships, where only one player brought a Priest deck. Unfortunately, this proved unwise, as David ‘killinallday’ Acosta’s Nomi Priest proved a weak point in his lineup, losing several times and only managing one victory. So what’s wrong with Nomi Priest? Why couldn’t Priest cut it at Worlds?
The Nomi Priest’s strategy relies on drawing their entire deck. To do this, they have three main draw engines; Acolyte of Pain, Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Northshire Cleric. When everything lines up right, these cards can rip through a deck with terrifying speed. However, there’s a catch: each are reliant on drawing the right mix of draw activators.
For Northshire and Acolyte, you usually need a Wild Pyromancer and cheap healing spells like Divine Spirit and Circle of Healing in order to draw the cards you need and efficiently cycle through the deck. For Gadgetzan Auctioneer, you require a bunch of 0 cost spells. Add in the fact that many of your cards are all but useless outside this specific context, and you end up with a deck that can just fall over and die if it draws badly. This is exactly what happened in Killinallday’s decisive final game against Mihai “Languagehacker” Dragalin, where a bad draw left him unable to do much of anything.
An Unforgiving Field
Beyond the inherent inconsistencies, the tournament field was not kind to Nomi Priest. This card does well against the wide boards and limited removal of Token Druid and Zoo Warlock, but the tournament meta was dominated by Rogues and Warriors, a far less favourable matchup. Bomb Warrior, in particular, is almost impossible, as the rapid cycling deck is massively vulnerable to bombs.
Killinallday faced a particularly hard situation in the group stages. In the Group winner’s match, he was forced to ban LFYueying’s Bomb Warrior, leaving up his Khadgar Mage, another horrible matchup. With no good answer in the deck to Mountain Giants, Nomi Priest torpedoed a promising 2-1 lead.
Skill Caps Go Both Ways
One might think that since Nomi Priest is such a high-skill deck, with a great deal of technical and strategic experience necessary, it would do better in tournaments. This is true, to an extent. Being able to properly sequence the draw combos while knowing when to commit resources does take experience. But the more experienced the opponents are, the better they can take advantage of the deck’s many weaknesses.
Pro players can ruthlessly exploit the lack of efficient removal options to burn down the deck with boards resilient to Pyromancer or Mass Hysteria. Alternatively, if they’re a controlling deck, they can cycle to and then save their removal, ready to counter the waves of Nomi boards. Ultimately, the deck ends up performing worse than against ill-prepared ladder opponents in many situations.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com and PlayHearthstone on Twitch.
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