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The New Standard: New Dragon Priest

We continue onward through the catacombs, and my, there are quite a few dragons down here. Dragon Priest is a deck I’ve wanted to play since the set dropped, and today we are going to break down the list that Zetalot took to legend. Though Anduin and I rarely see eye-to-eye, I have always enjoyed […]

Joe Russo Dec 27, 2017 12:55 pm

Introduction

We continue onward through the catacombs, and my, there are quite a few dragons down here. Dragon Priest is a deck I’ve wanted to play since the set dropped, and today we are going to break down the list that Zetalot took to legend. Though Anduin and I rarely see eye-to-eye, I have always enjoyed the pacing of Dragon Priest. Not only that, but the new tools it got with Kobolds have made it more fun than ever. Midrange decks are always a blast to play because you get the fun early game cards of aggro decks mixed with the big threats of control decks. This list combines both of those extremely well and then ties it all together in a big, dragon-in-hand bow. We may have seen Dragon Priest before, but not quite like this.

Key Cards

Potion of Madness/Greater Healing Potion/Harrison Jones

Holy tech cards, Batman! Zetalot’s original list had a focused plan that came with double Greater Healing Potion to combat hyper aggro/Hunter and a single Skulking Geist to take down Jade Druid. However, times have changed, which has led me to spread things around a little bit. To understand these three slots, we need to discuss the meta as a whole. Potion of Madness is newest addition to this deck, and that is simply because of how well it works against both aggressive Paladin builds and Possessed Lackey. Being able to stall out early turns or take down a key combo piece is more than enough worth for a one mana spell. Not only that, but even in slower games you can get some good value out of it when combined with Twilight Acolyte.

Beyond Potion of Madness, you are still going to want the single Greater Healing Potion (and you could honestly run two). Damage piles up quickly in the current meta, and being able to get twelve health back (or even more when you pull one from Shadow Visions) can help you stabilize in a lot of games that would normally lose. The final slot here is Harrison Jones. Weapon removal is a critical right now. Not only it is strong against Paladin and Hunter, but it also crushes Aluneth and Skull of the Man’ari. Letting Mage draw a ton of cards or letting Warlock drop free demons into play is going to lead to a loss every time. This could be Gluttonous Ooze if you prefer, but I favor the card draw because the two weapons you want to destroy most have no attack.

Twilight Acolyte

Everyone thought this card was going to be insanely strong during the opening days of the set, and my God, were they right. Twilight Acolyte is not only an overpowered three drop, but it may very well be the entire reason to run this deck. The ability to manipulate attack has long been something Priest has wanted, and the fact that it comes on a well-statted three drop is icing on the cake. Changing minions and then stealing or kill them will swing many games in your favor. Even just being able to take out a minion’s attack to allow a favorable trade can be worth it. You don’t always need to go big here. You just need to be effective. Getting a 5/4 and allowing your Cobalt Scalebane to kill a 5/5 and live may not seem amazing, but it pushes the board and gives you another threat. Also note that the spell-casting Kobold can hit your own minions. That may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re going to trade in something big against a minion with low health, sometimes it can be good to move the attack elsewhere.

This card has an insane amount of utility that is extremely important in today’s meta. Most of the popular decks right now are either hyper aggressive or slow control. To be able to sit in the middle of that means you need to be able to have cards that are good against both. Twilight Acolyte is one such card. The three mana minion can be run out early in the game to stonewall something like a Blessing of Kings, but it also is fantastic at enabling you to take out massive threats with Shadow Word: Pain. By far the best interaction the 2/4 has is with Cabal Shadow Priest. In fact, stealing away things like Carnivorous Cube or Voidlord is how you beat Control Warlock. Always think about the different ways you can use this card, and figure out where you can get the most value.

Cobalt Scalebane

Something that is important to remember when looking at this deck is that it is a midrange build through and through. That means you are almost always going to win the game by cementing yourself early and then using over-statted threats to close things out. Cobalt Scalebane is one of the best cards for that plan because it creates two threats at once. The 5/5 has been a staple of tempo decks for the past few months because of its raw power, and when you add in the fact that it’s a dragon, there is no reason it should not be in this one. Damage is not easy for you to find in a deck like this. A lot of the time you either get an early push or go long. However, a well-timed Scalebane can generate enough pressure to end games before your opponent can find their finishers or bigger threats. Even if they do come up with an answer, you’ll still have priority.

This is the card that is going to push you through a lot of matchups, and you should never hesitate to run it down to force your opponent to react. It is easy to get caught up in the idea that you need to get repeated value from the 5/5, but often Cobalt Scalebane does its job even off of one trigger. There have been many times where my opponent has used their turn five dealing with Drakonid Operative and I have run out Scalebane alongside a Northshire Cleric on turn six. That may not seem great, but you get a 5/5 and a 4/3 that will only grow with time. Those type of plays are where this card truly shines. Another great opportunity you should look for is when you can play this out while you’re ahead on board. Yes, you may want to shy away from AOE or big removal, but many decks are going to have problems handling the three attack. If they cannot get an answer right away, they are likely going to die.

Cabal Shadow Priest

Even without the insane synergy with Twilight Acolyte touched on above, Cabal Shadow Priest is a heavy hitter in the current meta. For a midrange deck to be good, it needs to have strong swing plays or incredibly efficient minions that help it put on pressure. Shadow Priest is your swing play that enables to close out boards or take over a game. There are a lot of small minions running around right now that you should have no problem stealing. Anything, from Plated Beetle to Possessed Lackey to Righteous Protector is a great pull. However, you should not get caught up in what exactly you’re taking. Unless there is a set target that you must take to win the game (i.e Voidlord) you almost always want to leverage Cabal Shadow Priest as a tempo card. The 4/5 basically reads “remove a minion with 2 or less health from the game, then re-summon it on your side.” Play it as such. Yes, that card you steal can be a dream hit that cripples your opponent’s plan, but for the most part you don’t need to get caught up in trying to go big. This deck doesn’t operate on large hits, it operates on pure value. When you have an opportunity to take the board, you should.

Dragonfire Potion

As with any dragon list, this is your ace in the hole. Dragonfire Potion is not just AOE, it is tempo AOE that often allows you to close out games. You get some dragons down, your opponent counters with their own threats, and then you hit them with a six mana, five damage Flamestrike. GG. That is going to be the main mode with this card, and you should try to set it up as much as you possibly can. Your dragons are resilient, which often means you are going to be able to keep one or two on the board during the middle turns of the game. As soon as your opponent lets a minion live or cannot kill a threat, you want to punish them. You don’t have to go too wide, but you also don’t want to use that swing card too early. If you sense yourself losing the board, pull the trigger, but if you have a good pace and think you can sneak one more dragon out, take the chance.

The other mode of Dragonfire Potion is when it acts as a pure control tool. You want to be aggressive, but you can lean on your slower cards should things get out of hand. Decks like Paladin, Hunter and Zoo can jump on the board in a hurry and then use that pressure to take over. In those situations you don’t want to get caught up trying to play your opponent’s game. Rather, sit back on your removal, leverage your AOE, and then try to lean on Primordial Drake/Ysera to close things out. The way you use potion comes down to how you begin. If you’re on the board early and pressing, it should be tempo. If you have to react, then turn it into a way to climb back into the game. Just remember that you have a couple cards here that aren’t dragons. It is easy to fall into a rhythm and then blow up your board of Twilight Acolyte/Cabal Shadow Priest/stolen minion. Don’t let that happen.

Deck Code

AAECAZ/HAgSQB6 IJtbsCt7sCDZAC5QTTCtcK8gyCtQK6uwLqvwLR wQLJxwLKywLL5gL86gIA

Matchups

The four decks I see the most while playing the ladder.

Control Warlock

There are currently two types of Control Warlock on the ladder right now. Cube Combo appears to be more popular, but classic control has a good showing. Either way, you want to fight both forms in the same way. This is a game where you need to be extremely aggressive, and then use that aggression to wrap things up far before your opponent can even get their engine up and running. Bloodreaver Gul’dan is quite difficult to beat, especially if your opponent manages to stick a couple big threats like Voidlord or Doomguard. You need to keep up a constant string of threats in this one. Play out a big body, see if your opponent has an answer, than run out another. Also note that Warlock’s only true AOE is Twisting Nether, and that doesn’t come down until turn eight. If your opponent stalls or has a weak turn, do not hesitate to flood.

The most important thing about facing down Gul’dan is saving Twilight Acolyte and Cabal Shadow Priest for one of your opponent’s big finishing threats. Most of the time you want to try to take away Voidlord to shut down Bloodreaver Gul’dan, but snatching up a Doomguard or a procced Carnivorous Cube also does the job as well. When facing more classic control versions you should look to take Rin, the First Disciple, who can cause you a lot of problems if you aren’t putting on a ton of pressure. If you can manage to steal one key minion you should build up enough threat density to grind your opponent down.

Razakus Priest

Despite my inhibitions, Razakus Priest still appears to be going strong. The deck is quite popular, which fairs well for you because this is a game where you have a large advantage. Not only does Priest not have the consistency to keep up with a stream of big threats, but you also dodge your opponent’s best removal in Dragonfire Potion. This game is going to play out like the Warlock matchup, except when your opponent uses a card, they can never use that trick again. Know this and always try to bait out certain cards. Getting your opponent to burn a Shadow Word: Death on Drakonid Operative can be a lot better than allowing them to take out Cobalt Scalebane.

As usual (some things just don’t change) your number one priority should be to grind your opponent out of cards. Priest makes a living off of going in with Shadowreaper Anduin/Raza the Chained, but they can only take full advantage of the free hero power when they have a full grip. If you can get them to constantly use strong cards on your board, by the time they get to their finishing combo, they won’t have enough gas to kill you before you kill them. On that note, be careful about playing into Shadowreaper Anduin. The DK is great, and you should always try to limit your five health minions when he comes down.

Note that most Priest builds these days can go over thirty burst damage, which means your health is rarely going to matter. However, you do want to be careful about falling down below twenty four, which enables them to kill you without Radiant Elemental.

Aggro Paladin

Be aggressive. Be-be, aggressive! Aggro Paladin, much to my enjoyment, is one of the best decks in the game right now. Some versions play the Pirate Package with a ton of one drops, while others want to stock their board with murlocs. Either way, they are both Call to Arms decks that want to get on the board fast and then Divine Favor or charge their opponent right out of the game. As such, this is the only matchup where you need to take the pure control route. You come packed with AOE, an anytime you can use it to put yourself ahead, you should. This is also a matchup where you need to aggressively clear or steal everything your opponent plays. Leaving two recruits alive doesn’t seem like a big deal, but all it takes it one buff or Sunkeeper Tarim to lock you out. Don’t take chances. Keep grinding until your opponent has nothing left.

Paladin wants to be the fast deck, and you aren’t going to be able to beat them on that front. Rather, you should sit back and pace them as much as possible. Use your cards liberally to play around Divine Favor, matchup your big threats against small minions, and play to cards like Cabal Shadow Priest and Primordial Drake. Greater Healing Potion is a great way to stay ahead of burst, and both Duskbreaker and Dragonfire Potion do a lot of work. Just be careful to wait until your opponent commits a lot of their hand or a Call to Arms on the board before pulling the trigger. Timing this one wrong can be disastrous.

Secret Mage

Bringing up the rear is Secret Mage, a strong deck that can’t quite garner the popularity of the above three builds. Even so, this is one you should not underestimate. Mage is blindingly fast, and they only care about damage. This is a game where you want to get out fast and take the board as soon as you can. It may seem like sitting back and controlling the game will work out fine, but, unlike other aggro decks, Mage can easily shift gears into a pure burn shell. Even taking ten or so damage is going to drop you down into lethal range extremely quickly. Not to mention, your opponent also comes equipped with things like Aluneth and an armada of free 5/5’s. If you fall behind early, you are never going to come back or be able to match your opponent’s tempo. Aggressively clear here and push whenever you get a window to stack up pressure. Every turn Mage spends trying to keep your board in check is another turn you don’t need to worry about them going at your face. In that same vein, always try to sneak in your hero power when you can, and save a cheap spell or the coin for Counterspell. The secret will destroy you if you let it.

Mulligan Guide

This is a midrange deck, and as usual that means we’re starting low. Northshire Cleric, Netherspite Historian, Shadow Visions, and Shadow Word: Pain are your must keeps. Beyond that, you want Potion of Madness against aggro, and you should always keep Power Word: Shield with an early minion. Twilight Acolyte is a solid keep against more aggressive decks when you have a strong opening, and Duskbreaker should always be kept against aggro. Finally, Drakonid Operative is solid against Priest, and you should always keep Harrison Jones against Warlock or Mage when you have a good curve.

The most interesting part of this mulligan is trying to decide how to keep dragons. This is tricky, but my rule is that I will always keep a big dragon if I need to trigger either Netherspite Historian or Duskbreaker. Otherwise, I don’t look for the synergy.

Conclusion

Here there be dragons! There are a lot of classes and decks to choose from so far in Kobolds, but this one has some of the most powerful out there. I am not sure why it isn’t more popular, but I think it is because people simply prefer Raza Priest. Either way, if you’re looking for a strong midrange build, or if you simply enjoy dragon synergy, then this is the deck for you. I highly recommend giving it a spin, which is why I covered it in the first place. Until next week, Happy Holidays!


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