Breaking the Meta with Exodia Priest

With the Boomsday expansion, Priests in Standard were given a new combo-based archetype allowing them to create massive Charge minions and one-turn-kill virtually any opponent regardless of their board state. This new deck was dubbed “APM Priest”, alluding to the vast number of actions the deck’s pilot would have to make on the combo turn to kill the opponent. Yet just a few months later, almost all clues of this deck’s existence have been scrubbed from the ladder. The extreme precision required to successfully pull off the combo and the deck’s weakness to the many aggro archetypes in the meta were reason enough to cause all but the most dedicated pilots to swap decks. But the call to craft the perfect one-turn-kill is not easily ignored – and pilots in the Wild format were not done with the deck just yet.

At this time, I would like to introduce Exodia Priest, or what has been jokingly called “Bananauve Priest” after its principal creator (“Bananaramic”) and myself, its principal pilot (“Auve”). I do not refer to the deck as Wild APM Priest, despite the fundamental ideas being similar to the Standard decklist, because the amount of actions required to pull off the combo are much lower. Instead, the pilot must learn how to effectively maximize damage while keeping in mind handsize issues – more on that later.

Deck Overview

This deck assembles a 6 card combo to deal anywhere from 24 to 46 damage (depending on the number of dead cards in hand), or a 7 card combo to deal infinite damage. You read that correctly – this is a true infinite damage combo, only limited by the turn timer and the pilot’s speed, able to reach upwards of 120 damage regardless of the opponent’s board state. In this way, the deck is like Exodia Mage, which assembles a 5 card combo that can deal infinite damage – but unlike Exodia Mage, an Emperor Thaurissan discount is not required to use our combo, and we can easily kill our opponent without needing to go infinite.

Before talking about card choices, the function of the engine behind the deck, or proper combo execution, I would like to discuss why this deck should be played.

  1. Exodia decks are fairly powerful right now, since Big Priest and Kingsbane Rogue have both picked up in popularity at high ranks following the nerfs to Aviana and Mana Wyrm.
  2. This Exodia Priest list was fairly vulnerable to Combo Druid and Aluneth Mage. The combo of Brann Bronzebeard and Loatheb was often a death sentence even if the Star Aligner combo itself didn’t kill you, while Ice Block from Mages prevented you from killing them in one turn. When your predators are gone and your prey is top tier, it’s usually a good sign that your deck is going to be successful in the meta.
  3. Unlike Exodia Mage, this Exodia Priest list has excellent survival tools against Odd Rogue and Even Shaman. The former deck is somewhat unfavored but it’s definitely not uncommon to survive its threats, and the latter deck is surprisingly favored since Even Shaman relies so heavily on board tempo rather than consistent face damage.

That being said, I will be honest with you – this deck will take a lot of practice and studying of how it works to pull off successfully. This is not a pick-up-and-play deck; for the first 2 weeks or so of playing it, Bananaramic and I faceplanted into the ground nearly every other game. Additionally, Skulking Geist has begun to see more and more play in response to the rise of Jade Druid – which incidentally guts our deck as soon as it hits play. To the casual player not wanting a challenge, be warned. However, if you are willing to put in the time, I can promise you that the wins will be endlessly rewarding and the deck’s meta strength is not to be underestimated.

Decklist and Card Selection

Bananaramic & Auve’s Exodia Priest


I will be splitting this section into 3 different parts: The Engine, Survivability, and The Combo. Since the deck relies heavily on synergy, there is a lot of overlap between these parts, but I think having a general understanding of how each of these elements function separately from one another will demonstrate why the deck is built as it is.

The Engine

Power Word: Shield: Pretty much the standard Priest cycling card, but it also doubles as a way to make an Acolyte of Pain or a Doomsayer slightly beefier depending on what you need in any given game. There are also some potential combo paths that open up if you’re able to make one of your minions have slightly more health.

Bloodmage Thalnos: One of the strongest cards in the deck and is most certainly required. The combination of Spell Damage and Deathrattle is extremely important here, since Thalnos and Spirit Lash clear most early game aggressive boards and heal you for large amounts, all while keeping the draw engine going. In most cases, Bloodmage Thalnos is a keep card off the mulligan.

Dead Ringer: The reason why the Priest cycle engine is so strong and the undervalued core of the Boomsday Priest OTK decks. All of your Deathrattles are relevant in both cycling towards your combo and finding defensive tools to deal with your opponent’s threats, and this guy is the key behind keeping that dual-purpose draw engine alive. Always keep off the mulligan.

Loot Hoarder: The nuts and bolts of your draw engine. Unlike Dead Ringer, which tutors cards, and Bloodmage Thalnos, which doubles as removal/healing with Spirit Lash, Loot Hoarder is a plain way of cycling through your deck. Keep it in the mulligan if you have Twilight's Call in hand or are against a slow matchup.

Acolyte of Pain: Only a single copy in the deck since you start having handsize issues against Control decks if you run two. Acolyte is a powerful draw card, particularly when coupled with Explosive Sheep or Spirit Lash to guarantee multiple draws. He is in the deck as insurance against unlucky dry spots where you don’t find many Deathrattles; sometimes the engine fails to take off at the start of the game, and he adds a bit of stability to your draw patterns. Only keep off the mulligan when paired with a Deathrattle.

Twilight's Call: The core of the engine – the reason we can speed up our cycling immensely is thanks to this card. Sometimes you will need to play it with only 1 Deathrattle minion in your graveyard, so be aware of that. Always keep Twilight’s Call off the mulligan in slow matchups, but only keep it against aggro if you have another Deathrattle in hand.

Survivability

Awaken the Makers: A huge blessing to the Wild version of this deck is the ability to run the Priest Quest (in large part thanks to the addition of Explosive Sheep). Your first goal in nearly every matchup is to complete the Quest so that you can live long enough to find the combo. The Deathrattle engine works very nicely in completing the Quest, and I would highly suggest using it in this deck – no replacement is going to be as impactful. Always keep off the mulligan, even against Aggro decks – your win condition against them is to complete the Quest.

Doomsayer: Very powerful early play in this meta. Most first turn Odd Rogue boards and even second turn Even Shaman boards are very vulnerable to Doomsayer. Before the Giggling Inventor nerf, this list only ran one Doomsayer – but I’m happy to be running two now. Keep it off the mulligan against Rogues, Shamans, and Hunters.

Explosive Sheep: The reason this deck can be successful in Wild. Turn after turn of resurrecting this guy and blowing him up is enough to obliterate the early pressure of even the most resilient Wild aggro decks. He has great synergy with Spirit Lash – and even more with Zilliax, which functions like a Reno Jackson with added board-wipe. Even against Control decks, Explosive Sheep is a good way of destroying a board of Deathrattles when a clever opponent is being careful not to let your draw engine come online. Definitely keep it off the mulligan against Rogues, Shamans, and Hunters – but you can also consider keeping it along with another Deathrattle or an Acolyte of Pain against Control decks.

Spirit Lash: Very straightforward inclusion – it procs Deathrattles, clears boards of small minions, and heals for a boatload. It has good defensive synergy with Explosive Sheep and good draw synergy with Acolyte of Pain – and a fair bit of both when paired with Bloodmage Thalnos. Consider keeping it off the mulligan only when you have one of those three minions in your hand.

Shadow Visions: One of the lynchpin cards of the deck. It functions as an engine piece, a combo piece, or a removal piece depending on what you need. The difference between a good pilot and a great pilot is the correctly timed usage of this card (which goes for most Priest decks). A piece of advice is to wait until the turn before you need a card to use Shadow Visions (such as turn 6 for Psychic Scream) so that you can draw as many other spells as possible until that time, maximizing your odds of finding the spell you want. Generally, you do not want to keep this card off the mulligan – you’d rather keep the other cards this could find.

Zilliax: The most recent addition to the list and a solid replacement for a Giggling Inventor – the card was probably borderline playable in this list even before the nerfs. The main benefit of this card is as a tempo 5 drop that removes small threats and heals you for a decent amount. However, in certain niche situations Zilliax can be combined with Explosive Sheep to apply Lifesteal to the “Deal 2 damage to all minions” effect – which results in a massive heal / board wipe. This card can be replaced with any neutral defensive minion without a Deathrattle (so as to not disrupt the engine) – Bananaramic has suggested Glacial Shard, and I have previously played Tar Creeper and Lone Champion in testing. Zilliax should never be kept off of the mulligan.

Psychic Scream: One of the best board wipes in the game; definitely has a place in a deck trying to stall until reaching a combo. Part of the reason why this card is so strong is that it doesn’t actually remove the threats from the game in a way that Lightbomb or Dragonfire Potion would, since it ignores all minion text entirely by shuffling the cards back into the opponent’s deck.  While this might be a downside for a Tempo or a Control deck, Exodia Priest is perfectly fine with delaying the game even if it means some threats aren’t removed permanently. As far as the mulligan, you will never want to keep this card – you will likely draw into it or have a Shadow Visions ready to find it in time for turn 7.

The Combo

Holy Smite: I’m going to avoid talking too much about the function of the combo. Instead, I’ll save most of that discussion for the next part of the guide. Holy Smite is a required combo card – Having one copy along with the other combo core will let you deal between 24-46 damage (depending on how many dead cards you have in hand at the start of the combo), and two copies will let you deal infinite damage. This can also function as removal against aggressive decks in a hurry.

Test Subject: The main enabler of the combo. Also the only minion who’s completely vulnerable to Dirty Rat. I will go over how to use this card in the combo in the next part of the guide. Never play it out as a Quest activator, unless completing the Quest is the only way to stay in the game.

Radiant Elemental: You will need to have three copies of this minion in play for the combo. This means some variation of Radiant Elementals and Vivid Nightmares will be necessary to add up to three Radiants on board. Playing out a Radiant Elemental as a tempo minion is sometimes appropriate against an aggressive deck where the combo will likely not happen for a long period of time.

Velen's Chosen: This single copy is required for the combo. Having multiple copies can sometimes increase the maximum damage of the combo but can also create handsize issues. I would almost never use Velen’s Chosen as a tempo play, unless you made a copy with Shadow Visions.

Vivid Nightmare: At least one copy will be necessary for the combo, both as a means of setting off the Test Subject chain and as a way of copying a third Radiant Elemental – one copy can do both. This card is also valuable as a way of copying Deathrattles in the early game to maintain the draw/removal engine.

Executing the Combo

The Basics

Figure 1: Basic hand needed to execute the combo.

Unfortunately this is the hardest part of the guide to explain; to teach you how to play correctly, and to visualize while following along. Combo execution is very complex and has many avenues and pathways that are somewhat unexplored. For these reasons, I highly suggest using this free browser Github simulator to practice the combo – many of you might be familiar with it as a practice tool for the Standard version of APM priest, but the creator was kind enough to implement additional features on this version!

Make sure to set Stonetusk Boar, Topsy Turvy, and Divine Spirit to 0, and set Vivid Nightmare to 1. If you flip through 2 pages of settings, you can then set Velen's Chosen to 1 and Holy Smite to either 1 or 2 depending on the combo. You can also set Psychic Screams from 0-3 depending on how many dead cards in hand you want to practice with.

A normal starting position should look something like that shown in Figure 1. This position is the basic 6 card combo that can deal up to 46 damage. Note that you’ll need a full 10 Mana Crystals to begin the combo. There are no dead cards here, which is unrealistic in a real game – but I think this position is a good place to start.

Figure 2: Initial Development

From Figure 1, we’re going to make the standard plays that are made at the start of every combo.

  1. Play two  Radiant Elemental (reducing the cost of all your spells by 2)
  2. Play Test Subject
  3. Velen's Chosen @ Test Subject
  4. Vivid Nightmare @ Test Subject

Figure 3: First Rotation

See Figure 2. Every combo turn where you have a single Holy Smite will start out looking like this. You will notice that we only have 3 mana left to work with for this turn, so we will need to make sure we have a third Radiant Elemental soon so we don’t run out of mana. The one exception is when you have both Radiant Elementals and both Vivid Nightmares in hand – at which point you can make three Radiants right away at the start of the combo and still have a Vivid Nightmare left over for the Test Subject.

Figure 3 shows the final step for completing what we refer to as the “First Rotation” – Holy Smiting the clone from Figure 2 yields a Velen's Chosen, a Vivid Nightmare, and another copy of Holy Smite.
We’re starting down the path of generating the resources we need to complete the combo.

Figure 4: Second Rotation

While it might be immediately tempting to use the Vivid Nightmare on a Radiant Elemental to get to the required number of three Radiants, doing so would get rid of our single copy of Vivid Nightmare and kill our combo on the spot. The proper sequence to perform a Second Rotation is as follows:

  1. Velen's Chosen @ Test Subject
  2. Vivid Nightmare @ Test Subject.
  3. Holy Smite @ Test Subject copy

See Figure 4. You can see that we now have two copies each of Velen's Chosen and Vivid Nightmare in hand. More importantly, we are left with exactly 1 mana, which is just enough to cast  Vivid Nightmare for a third Radiant Elemental.

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the basic portion of the combo. At this point, we are able to cast our Vivid Nightmares and Velen's Chosen for free to complete the combo. You will be using these basic steps (Initial Development, First Rotation, Second Rotation) to initiate virtually all your combo turns. I would recommend practicing these first few steps over and over in the Github simulator until you are very comfortable with them.

Advanced – Three Combos To Remember

There are an extremely high number of possible combo turns, so it would be fruitless of me to try to teach all of them to you. In fact, I don’t really know how to do most of them – they’re completely unnecessary in the vast majority of games. In reality, I think only 3 combos are worth learning to understand how the deck works and when the combo turn has arrived. We’ll call these combos the 46-0, the 30-3, and the Infinite.

46-0 Combo

The name of the combo refers to the amount of damage the combo can do (46) while having no dead cards in hand. All other variables are assumed to be normal – in other words, you should have two Radiant Elementals, one Vivid Nightmare, one Velen's Chosen, one Test Subject, and one Holy Smite before proceeding.

Figure 5: Third Rotation for the 46-0 Combo

The starting position is the same as that in Figure 1 in the Combo Basics section, so we’re actually going to pick up from where we left off in Figure 4. From there, we make the following moves:

  1. Vivid Nightmare @  Radiant Elemental (reducing the Cost of all our combo pieces down to 0)
  2. 2x Velen's Chosen @ Test Subject
  3. Vivid Nightmare @ Test Subject
  4. Holy Smite @ Test Subject copy

See Figure 5 for the resulting position of this Third Rotation.

Please note that there’s a common issue with the single Holy Smite combos – handsize. We have just finished a Third Rotation, but we cannot go all in on a Fourth Rotation here. The extra copies of Vivid Nightmare are starting to clog our hand and are going to make us lose the Holy Smite we are using to kill the clone.

When you kill a clone, you receive all of the spells cast on it in the order they were cast – since Holy Smite is cast last on each individual clone, it will be the first card lost to handsize issues.

Here’s where you need to make a key observation – from our Third Rotation you can see that our 8 attack Test Subject returns 8 cards to our hand when killed. If we continue same as before, our next Rotation can yield up to 14 cards – way more than needed, not to mention we would lose our Holy Smite in the process.

Instead, we’re going to get crafty and use a technique I like to call “Cutting the Clone”. Normally this deck aims to max out Test Subject buffs before copying it – that’s how you maximize Spell Damage for your kill turn. But sometimes you will need to copy the Test Subject before or mid-way through buffing him to not overdraw key pieces.

Figure 6: Fourth Rotation for the 46-0 Combo

By copying our 8 Attack Test Subject before we add any more buffs to it, this 8 Attack copy will return 9 cards to our hand when killed – the previous 8 plus an additional copy of Vivid Nightmare we had to use to create the copy in the first place. If we can get our handsize down to 1 card, we should be able to complete the very rare Fourth Rotation without losing any combo pieces! The steps for doing so are listed below, resulting in the new position shown in Figure 6.

  1. Vivid Nightmare @ Test SubjectCutting the Clone at 8
  2. 4x Velen's Chosen @ Test Subject
  3. Vivid Nightmare @ Test Subject
  4. Holy Smite @ 8 Attack Test Subject copy.

Wow! The legendary Fourth Rotation! As far as I am aware, the 46-0 combo is the only way to make this final rotation happen. As you can tell, the handsize limit for the single Smite combos is very prohibitive. It goes without saying that we will not be killing the 16 attack clone. As mentioned before, that guy returns 14 cards!

From this position, the finish is fairly straightforward. We’re going to use all four copies of Velen's Chosen on our Test Subject (bringing it up to 24 Attack and +12 Spell Damage) and clone him twice. Holy Smite will now deal 46 damage, as seen below on Figure 7.

Figure 7: Complete 46-0 Combo

30-3 Combo

Figure 8: Initial Development of the 30-3 Combo

The name of this combo refers to the maximum damage you can achieve (30) while having 3 dead cards in hand. This is the typical combo that you will be using on ladder. I showed the 46-0 to illustrate how much power is behind the combo when it’s uninhibited by dead cards – but realistically speaking, you’re going to have some cards you won’t be able to use in a normal game. These will be illustrated in the Github simulator with Psychic Screams, but they could be virtually anything that you cannot play in the same turn as your combo (I.E., most minions, since you need full board space to maximize damage).

Our starting position is shown here on Figure 8. You’ll note that we’re already developed and ready for our First Rotation (like we would be in Figure 2 over in Combo Basics). The 3 dead cards don’t change the first two rotations, but they make the Third Rotation impossible since it always returns 8 cards to our hand.

Figure 9: Second Rotation of the 30-3 Combo

From the Initial Development phase shown in Figure 8, we’ll carry out the first two Rotations as follows:

  1. Holy Smite @ Test Subject copy
  2. Velen's Chosen + Vivid Nightmare @ Test Subject
  3. Holy Smite @ Test Subject copy
  4. Vivid Nightmare @ Radiant Elemental (3 Radiants in play, all our spells cost 0)

See Figure 9 for the resulting position. This is the position from which a Third Rotation would be impossible. After another round of Velen's Chosen, Vivid Nightmare, and Holy Smite, we would add 8 cards to our hand and overdraw our Holy Smite.

Figure 10: Third Rotation of the 30-3 Combo

Once again we’re going to need to “Cut the Clone” just like we saw during the 46-0 combo (refer to Fourth Rotation, Figure 6). Due to the additional number of dead cards in our hand, we need to copy our Test Subject even earlier, when it’s at 6 Attack.

From Figure 9, take the following actions:

  1. Velen's Chosen @ Test Subject
  2. Vivid Nightmare @ Test SubjectCutting the Clone at 6
  3. Velen's Chosen @ Test Subject
  4. Holy Smite @ Test Subject copy

At which point, we arrive at the position seen in Figure 10 with the perfect 10 card-hand and an easy path to victory laid out for us. Use all three copies of Velen's Chosen on our Test Subject (bringing it up to 14 Attack and +7 Spell Damage), and copy it three times with Vivid Nightmare. Holy Smite will now deal 30 damage, as seen below on Figure 11.

Figure 11: Complete 30-3 Combo

Going Infinite

You didn’t think I would call this deck Exodia Priest without an infinite damage combo, did you? Allow me to introduce to you a 7-card combo without need for an Emperor Thaurissan set-up turn that deals more damage during the turn-timer than even Exodia Mage. For this combo, dead cards are irrelevant.

Figure 12: Initial Development for Going Infinite

The development for this combo is quite different than the single Smite combos demonstrated above, so I’m going to start us off early into the combo.

Looking at Figure 12 here, you’ll notice that this is similar to the start of the 30-3 combo, with the key difference being that we have two Holy Smite in our hand. From this position, you will recognize the standard First Rotation practice of Velen's Chosen + Vivid Nightmare on the Test Subject and Holy Smite on the copy – except in this case, note a slight difference in the order of spells cast:

  1. Velen's Chosen @ Test Subject
  2. Holy Smite @ Test Subject
  3. Vivid Nightmare @ Test Subject
  4. Holy Smite @ Test Subject copy

Figure 13: First Rotation for Going Infinite

See Figure 13 for the resulting position. And just like that, they’ve already lost – they just don’t know it yet.

Remember what I said before about the order of cards cast on a Test Subject being the order in which they’re returned? Well, take a look at what we’ve cast on our Test Subject so far: Velen's Chosen, Holy Smite, and Vivid Nightmare in that order. Those cards will always be returned first whenever we kill a Test Subject copy.

Figure 14: Second Rotation for Going Infinite

Moving on to the Second Rotation:

  1. Velen's Chosen + Vivid Nightmare @ Test Subject
  2. Holy Smite @ Test Subject copy
  3. Vivid Nightmare @ Radiant Elemental (3 Radiants in play, all our spells cost 0 )

See Figure 14 for the resulting position. Now we can perform as many Rotations as we possibly can during the turn timer. Once again, note that the three rightmost cards in hand will always be Velen's Chosen, Holy Smite, and Vivid Nightmare. As long as you use each of those cards in the right order for each Rotation, you get to keep going for as long as your turn lasts. You can throw extra Holy Smites at the opponent if you find yourself having issues with the order of cards returning to your hand.

Realistically, you won’t be able to get your Holy Smites to deal much more than 80 damage each before the turn timer. In the Github simulator, you don’t experience lag or animation times like you would in actual Hearthstone, so it doesn’t give an accurate representation of the time you have to pull off the infinite combo. However, with proper and efficient play, that will still be well over 100 damage with practice.

If you would like to see the infinite combo in action, you can look at this replay game against a Big Priest.

Figure 15: Complete Infinite Combo

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed reading this guide! I know it’s a long one, but I think the concept is rich enough to justify a bit more exploration than a standard guide might have. To close things off, here’s a few of my favourite highlights with the deck.

As I’ve said, this deck still has a lot of new territory to cover, and I feel like I learn new things with it almost every other game. Needless to say, not everything contained in this guide may be 100% accurate – I wouldn’t be surprised if someone discovered a 48 damage combo from the 0 dead card position. The paths are very diverse and can be difficult to navigate – I hope I’ve at least given you some of the necessary tools to explore them yourselves!

Lastly, I’d like to give a huge thank you to /u/Patashu for building the Github simulator which was instrumental in us being able to practice  the best ways to execute the combo. I hope that it will help all of you as much as it helped me.

Sincerest Regards,

Auve

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5 Responses

  1. Vv says:

    Why is this better than the standard boar-Topsy turvy OTK? the damage cap is much higher with that one.

  2. siegfrieddo says:

    Sooo complicated! My favorite and ever growing stronger OTK is the Paladin with Beardo and spare parts! Please Gunnolf DON’T do a guide so that it remains a rare sight!

  3. mariofanatic says:

    Put this together for halloween, and it’s been performing pretty well so far (at least, after I stopped bricking on my combo turns). I haven’t played a deck that felt this advantaged against the meta for a long time.

  4. Angga Da says:

    nice OTK, but hard to play if not practice yet.

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