Tuesday's announcement was full of news: not only Blizzard announced the new upcoming expansion Ashes of Outland, but we also got to know that Priest will receive a redesign of its (almost completely terrible) Core Set, to arrive with the upcoming March 26th patch.
Some old cards received a buff, but there are also some very interesting additions: let's break down every single one of them.
Some cards may be wrongly evaluated, since we only know them and aren't aware of what toys Priest will get to play with in the next months, but we've given it a good shot. Moreover, all the cards that were cut off from the Core Set won't be deleted from the game: instead, they'll be HoFed and will be playable in Wild Mode!
The cards moving to the Hall of Fame
Some weeks ago ShadowsOfSense shared with us his own take on a (not so much anymore) hypothetical overhaul of Priest's core set with a really detailed article; more recently CheeseEtc also gave it a crack. Now that everyone knows what will happen, we think it is interesting to see the difference between how they handled this change and how instead the Developers decided to act. Make sure to check them out!
Cost reduced from 3 to 2
While the spell's effect remains unchanged, the cost reduction is still good news. The card is essentially a "draw 2 [random-ish] cards" effect, comparable to cards like Astral Rift, Clever Disguise and Violet Haze rather than Arcane Intellect. If you see it this way, this buff almost looks like it's long overdue. Moreover, if you happen to have this card in your opening hand it will be much easier to bring out now, since you'll be able to slot it in the classic turn 2 hero power face + emote window. Not game changing, but I'm quite happy to see this change. Also, more (and better support) for Thief Priest, an archetype that hasn't really taken off yet. Is this the time?
Cost reduced from 6 to 5; attack reduced from 6 to 5
This is surely a step in the right direction, but I'm not sure it will be enough for this card to see extensive play. We've seen many times how a health buff can really ease things: granting more health to your minions and developing a board at the same time means gaining control of the early stages of the match, which obviously puts you in a favorable spot. Now, Temple Enforcer has the same effect as Kabal Talonpriest, a perfect example of what I'm trying to explain, but the cost difference makes me fear that the former will affect the board too late, in a stage of the game when units are bigger and you have enough mana to just wipe out your opponent's threats with a powerful AoE effect. Only time will tell, but in the end we have to remember that we're talking about a minion from the Classic set, which should help a class to develop its identity rather than break the game.
Brand new card
If Temple Enforcer may (or may not) cost too much, Kul Tiran Chaplain doesn't have this problem at all. Sweet early game minion, it grants really nice tempo if chained as a followup to a 1 cost unit in order to get a favorable trade and to establish early control of the board. It is clearly meant to be played in some sort of Tempo Priest, an archetype that has been pushed with mixed fortunes since Saviors of Uldum but that has powerful tools like High Priest Amet. I'm glad Blizzard finally decided to acknowledge Priest as something else other than straight Control and I'm excited to see how these cards will be supported.
Brand new card
What if Shadowreaper Anduin and Shadow Word: Horror had a child? Situational but powerful spell: clearly an interesting effect worthy of being tried out and, probably, run in Control archetypes. It is basically a Shadow Word: Death AoE that bypasses the very common Evasive "can't be target by spells and hero powers" minions recently introduced in Descent of Dragons. Moreover, it's incredibly useful against decks that tend to go both wide and tall, which are not that rare nowadays: ladies and gentlemen, Embiggen Druid has just found a worthy opponent. Really sweet card that I can't wait to play.
Cost reduced from 3 to 2
Just wow: a simple buff, yet quite powerful. Shadow Word: Death has long been one of the few good cards from Priest's Evergreen set; moreover, it has seen a considerable amount of play throughout all the metas it's been in, allowing you to remove a big threat for a totally reasonable cost. Forbidden Words, another great piece of single removal, has been able to push Shadow Word: Pain out of the meta, but not its bigger brother. And now it's even better. Unexpected buff from my point of view, but I'll gladly take it.
Cost reduced from 4 to 3
Due to Res Priest being the most prominent archetype in the class and the fact that the latest metas didn't really have 3 attack minions worth teching against (the last example being Voidlord), Shadow Madness has recently seen play only due to Zephrys the Great shenanigans. Another healthy buff that will surely increase the playrate of the card, even through discover options. On a side note, now Potion of Madness is a bit more justifiable than before.
Brand new card
A cheaper Quicksand Elemental with a single target effect: it kind of reminds me of old Shrinkmeister, which had an almost identical Battlecry. It may look like nothing special, but I genuinely think that it has interesting synergy with a lot of other Priest cards that work around minions' attack: you can use it get a nice steal with the freshly buffed Shadow Madness (see above) and with Cabal Shadow Priest, but also put an enemy threat in Forbidden Words' range if you're really desperate. Considered by itself, it is able to invalidate most 1-drops in a fight for the early control of the board. Worthy of consideration to say the least.
Brand new card
Crystalline Oracle with a Battlecry for the cost of losing the Elemental tag which, in Priest, is not that big of a deal. Nice card that helps shaping the idea of Priest as a "thief" class that uses the opponent's resources against him.
If Priest gets some tempo tools along the line of Vendetta or Underbelly Fence but for cards that didn't start in the deck, I guess this minion will cover the role of a turn 1 enabler like Swashburglar, but I think it's too early for those kind of thoughts. For now, just a fun card that may generate some Trolden clips. Also, more Shadow Priest yay!
Cost reduced from 1 to 0; doesn't draw a card anymore
Its original form was really good, allowing a bit of cycle together with a small, but sometimes crucial, impact on the board: I really struggle to remember a deck that didn't run this card as a 2-of (maybe Res Priest?). For this exact reason, I'm quite conflicted on the matter: is it a buff or a nerf? While I'm leaning towards the latter, I'm not completely sure what the correct answer is, but it is sure that it won't be as be as versatile as before. On a bright side, this is another 0-cost spell for Anduin, together with Year of the Dragon's Lazul's Scheme and Whispers of EVIL: I see the potential for a power cycle strategy with the help of Gadgetzan Auctioneer, but unfortunately I fail to find a solid win condition outside of the one-time trick Chef Nomi. Maybe Ashes of Outland has even more surprises for us...
Brand new card
Power Word: Tentacles anyone? Since PWT was such a bad card, I'm not that surprised to see a straight up better version of it. If you somehow manage to land this card on a taunt in the early game, I dare to say that you should be in a pretty good spot. For what concerns the effect by itself, it is clearly designed to fit the non aggressive nature of Priest while being, at the same time, a buff your opponent can't just ignore without taking the risk of being punished pretty hard. Completely different effect, but same principle behind Shadow Word: Ruin: it is again a situational spell that, if played in the right moment, might give you the last push you need in order to seal a win.
Brand new card
Spicy: definitely one of the cards I'm most excited about. High attack and a really powerful effect, which can target both friendly and enemy minions. Is there a late game threat on the board and you're running out of removals? Just eat it. This is obviously the best part of the card, but that's not all: if you really want a Deathrattle to trigger (e.g.: you cast Grave Rune on a friendly minion) you can do that as well. We did our research and, currently, the only legal 7-drop with Deathrattle is Tunnel Blaster, which doesn't have the best synergy in the world with Natalie. For this reason, there isn't a dream curve yet, but the card still remains quite versatile. On the other side, Natalie Seline is awfully weak to silence, which sadly is quite common nowadays thanks to Zephrys the Great's wishes. In the end, a really cool card.
Damage increased from 2 to 3; now only targets minions
For this one I'll borrow Chadd Nervig (Initial Game Designer)'s words: "Things like Prophet Velen, which is an iconic Legendary for Priests, sounded really cool … but really was only used for [one-turn kill strategies], which we weren’t planning to support." So here's the reason: given that Priest won't receive support for OTK strategies, Holy Smite has no reason to remain as it is right now. Instead of just rotating it, they probably decided to redesign it in order to allow the card to give a better idea of what the class should do, in this case stabilizing the match. Is it good? Is it going to see play? Only time will tell, but my bold prediction is that it has the same role of Penance, a card that is going to be legal for another year and that is really really good.
Cost decreased from 5 to 4; doesn't damage the enemy hero anymore
Holy smokes: they really did it. Now Priest finally has a viable AoE in its Evergreen set to fight against aggro and swarm strategies. I can't stress enough how useful this change is: Priest hasn't had much early game since the birth of the game except a couple of fringe archetypes, so waiting 5 turns for basically a Consecration has always been not enough for the spell to see play and for the class (without better alternatives) to stand above the others. Coming down one turn earlier means better chances to keep the situation under control and prevents your opponent from doing as he pleases while you're worried about your mana crystals being not enough.
Note that these cards will be added to the Basic and Classic set and, therefore, to Zephrys the Great's pool, which will surely have some interesting implications for the future.
What do you think about these changes? Do you like the new cards?