The Priest, once officially the most annoying class to play against in Hearthstone, has fallen out of favour since an early round of re-balancing took some of the sting out of its most unpleasant cards. As with every class in the game, it's still worth spending some time familiarising yourself with the mechanics, and it's a fun playstyle if you like controlling the ebb and flow of a match.
The Priest's ability to apply its healing Hero Power to minions as well as to itself is not just a handy tool for prolonging a game, it also synergises extremely well with other cards that are exclusive to the Priest's arsenal. See our stand-out note about the popular Northshire Cleric for an important - and very common - example of this.
Popular Priest cards
Mind Vision - Put a copy of a random card in your opponent's hand into your hand.
Thoughtsteal - Copy 2 cards from your opponent's deck and put them into your hand.
Both of these cards provide the Priest with the opportunity to use another class's cards. We probably wouldn't recommend making these spells part of a beginner's deck, as they require pretty broad knowledge of Hearthstone's mechanics and classes to be effective. You'll also be forced to adapt your strategy around your newly acquired cards - an intimidating prospect for a new player.
Should you find yourself playing against a Priest who's wielding these spells, always assume that they've taken the most powerful cards that are in your hand or are remaining in your deck. If your memory is as bad as ours, it would only be slightly ridiculous to keep a pen and paper handy so you can keep track of what they might have pinched from you, and when they've spent their ill-gotten goods.
Despite its small stature, the Northshire Cleric is an extremely important card that you'll encounter very often when playing against Priests. For the price of a single mana point, it allows the player to field a minion capable of crippling an aggressive opponent's early game, while using their Hero Power to draw plenty of additional cards. This leads to a wide range of options when the time comes for them to switch to a more aggressive strategy.
If you find yourself on the wrong side of this card, prioritise taking it out as quickly as possible. With that said, do not attack the Northshire Cleric unless you can completely destroy it before your opponent's next turn. Note that your opponent cannot benefit from the Cleric's card drawing effect if he or she heals a minion that's already at full health.
Shadow Word: Pain - Destroy a minion with 3 or less Attack.
Shadow Word: Death - Destroy a minion with an Attack of 5 or more.
It's a rare control Priest who forgets to pack these superb cards into their decks. The power to dictate the tempo of play, and to crush even the toughest of minions, make these cards extremely useful in a wide variety of match-ups. As the player, both cards are best used when you can lay down a weak minion on the same turn, allowing you to dictate the tempo and maintain board presence at the same time.
As with the Mage's Polymorph and the Shaman's Hex spells, you need to find a way of playing around these often maddening cards, and ideally bait them out before you commit a critical minion to the board. If you find yourself struggling to escape their clutches, consider investing in creatures that dish out four damage, and so lie beyond the threat of these spells.
Even the richest players have a soft spot for the magnificent Chillwind Yeti, for example, and it's a free card you'll find in the majority of budget decks. Just make sure you don't greedily buff one of your Yetis up and push them into Death's range - we've all done it.
The Priest's core area of effect removal spell is a near essential component of any competitive deck. There are so many different ways for a board to develop that it's impossible for us to tell you when to use this spell, but you must find a balance between getting the most value from it, while not holding back for so long that your opponent buffs up their minions beyond its reach.
From the other side of the table, you should always assume that the Priest you're playing against not only has at least one of these cards in his deck, but has one in his hand right now. If you're taking a rush approach to victory, make sure you can buff your minions' health above two before your opponent can spend five mana. A Holy Nova combined with a Northshire Cleric or two can create all kinds of hell for you.
Mind Control might be expensive, but when you reach the very final stages of a match it's the ultimate tool for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. In an ideal situation you'd steal your opponent's "match-winning" card from right underneath their nose, but don't be afraid to take a mid-game minion if they're low on health and you've both been reduced to playing the next card you draw from the top of your deck.
If you find yourself close to the end of a long, drawn-out match with a Priest, you might want to think about throwing an average card on the board before pulling out that massive threat you've been itching to play. If you can pressure the Priest into make a desperate play for your weaker minion, you may just get that chance to dominate the board, and lunge over the finishing line.
The best basic Priest deck
The idea behind this deck from Icy Veins is pretty simple. Get your Northshire Clerics in play as soon as possible, use any buff cards you can to keep them in play, and try to keep control of the board for as long as possible. If you can drain the opponent of their minions and cards and get to the late game, you should find yourself in a position to bring your ogres into play, then use Mind Control later to take something tasty from your opponent. Don't waste these valuable spells on worthless minions, but don't be too picky either - as this is a free deck, you need every boost you can get.
Don't forget that your Berserkers gain three attacking power every time they take even a single point of damage. Heal 'em up to keep them alive longer, and give your opponent something to worry about. These cards may not look great at first, but you'll be surprised at how much firepower your opponent will throw around to get them gone. In a match-up against another Priest, those Yetis will keep you safe from Shadow Words.
One final note. If you're playing against a Hunter, Paladin, Shaman, Warrior or Rogue, you should try to keep hold of the Acidic Swamp Oozes until your opponent is wielding a weapon. Otherwise, treat it like a very efficient early minion.
You can find the rest of our round-up of the best basic Hearthstone decks from the index page of this article.