Esports Hearthstone

Is Priest back in the doldrums?

Priest isn’t in the best shape. The class is plummeting across both win and play rates. Although a few archetypes are seeing limited success, it can’t seem to break out of Tier 4. It’s scarcely faring any better at the highest levels of play, with only two Priest decks making it to the HCT Fall Championships. But how has the class fallen since its heyday when Raza ruled the world? Can it regain its crown? And should it?

Lost glory days

Priest lost a whole bunch of its most powerful tools for the Year of the Raven

It didn’t used to be like this. Between Knights of the Frozen Throne and the launch of the Witchwood, Priest was terrifyingly powerful. Razakus was one, but the class also had access to a variety of powerful Dragon variants. Even after the Raza nerf, Priest had many avenues for success.

Even during Witchwood, Control Priest was a solid option. Powerful Warlocks had trouble dealing with Control Priest’s Psychic Screams and constant threat of burn. But in Boomsday, Priest’s power suddenly waned. After initial hype around OTK Vivid Nightmare priest, there hasn’t been a real niche for the class.

Few tools, hostile meta

Priest’s new tools aren’t all that flexible

While Boomsday gave every class powerful options, Priest’s were… niche. Test Subject hasn’t found much of a home outside of the inconsistent and difficult to pilot OTK deck, and Dead Ringer isn’t much better (though it has resulted in a slight improvement to Quest Priest). The only real standout hits were Omega Medic in Control Priest, and Zerek’s Cloning Gallery creating yet another OTK variant.

But out of these decks, only Control Priest and Resurrect Priest have much Ladder representation or staying power. Resurrect Priest can beat the plethora of control and combo decks in the meta, but is arguably just an inferior version of Quest Rogue. Meanwhile, Control Priest can deal with a wider variety of decks but has a burn-based win-condition that struggles to deal with Druid’s terrifying quantities of armorgain. With so much Druid in the meta, this evidently is not a great situation to be in.

What Priest needs

So what does Priest need to compete? Well, it could be hard to say. At the core of the problem is that all of Priest’s win-conditions are either clunky or easy to counter. There are two main ways to address this. One is a change in the meta. If the meta were to slow down enough, then Priest’s OTK decks would be able to prey on slower foes without fear of aggro. However, in this scenario, Quest Rogue would still likely be the superior option.

Another would be if Druid becomes less prevalent. Then the burn plan of Control Priest would have more traction. But with Druid’s tools unaffected by nerfs, and popularity unchanged, it would take a lot to knock it from its top spot.

Perhaps the best option would be simply to give Priest more viable board options. If there was more flexibility outside of burn and overly complicated OTKs, then Priest would be less vulnerable to fluctuations in the metagame.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via hearthstone.gamepedia.com

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