GG, I Was the Big Priest

My name is Roffle, and I play Big Priest.

In fact, for a fairly substantial portion of the past month, I climbed the Wild Hearthstone Legend ladder with Big Priest, one of the most universally despised decks in Hearthstone.

A Big Priest Primer


For those unfamiliar, Big Priest is a deck that uses Barnes and Shadow Essence to cheat big minions into play several turns early. After doing so, a slew of Resurrect effects are used to bring the fully stated minions back to life.

The main criticism of the deck is how draw-dependent and RNG-based the deck tends to be. Simply having Barnes in an opening hand increases the deck’s win rate to absurd levels. On the flip side, if the deck fails to draw into its combo, it spends several turns doing next to nothing.

Even the minions that are pulled into play from these summoning effects can dictate the course of the game. A Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound off Shadow Essence has a much different effect on the outcome of a game than Barnes. Likewise, a well-timed Obsidian Statue pull against an aggro deck can end the game on the spot.

This extremely high variance in outcomes becomes a source of frustration for players, leaving many questioning whether or not such decks should even exist.

An Accidental Experiment

Gnomish Experimenter

I never set out to perform a social experience by playing Big Priest. Honestly, I didn’t intend to write about it at all. (It’s not like anyone really needs a guide to playing Big Priest, right?)

Quite simply, the deck seemed like a good meta call. After surging up the ladder with Aggro Paladin, I found myself getting stuck behind giant walls of Voidlords in the increasingly popular Cube Warlocks and THICC Warlocks.

Somewhat frustrated, I adjusted my strategy and looked to punish these unrefined and slow-developing decks. With that goal in mind, Big Priest was an obvious choice.

What followed, however, intrigued me far more than the easy ranks I achieved with the deck. I knew people despised Big Priest (even I’ve had a few choice words for opponent’s playing it in the past) but the response was surprising nonetheless.

Gorge Your Hatred. Embrace Your Rage.

Y'Shaarj, Rage Unbound

Even before smashing the Play Wild button, I gave the list the (only half-joking) title of “S C U M B A G”. Soon, however, I was inundated with friends (and friend requests) looking to share their feelings about my deck choice. Twitter followers left in droves (okay, maybe only one) and Twitch viewers angrily switched channels (well, maybe not).

Early on, I felt the need to apologize to those on my friend list whispering me to express their disappointment. I even wrote off many of the rage-fed friend requests and aggressive emoting as justified based on the deck I was using.

Reductio ad Absurdum

There is always a deck that induces more rage than others. The right combination of power and perceived simplicity triggers Hearthstone players to no end. In the past, we’ve seen hatred pointed at several decks, in large part due to an oversimplification of their game plan. But, when you break any deck’s game plan down to its simplest form, it always seems straightforward to pilot. Let’s take a look at some examples.

Jade Druid

  • Summon a large man. Then, summon AN EVEN LARGER MAN. Win the game with LARGE MEN.

Midrange Paladin

  • Play good minions on curve. Win the game.

Pirate Warrior

  • Go face until face is dead. Win the game.

Face Hunter

  • Go face until face is dead. Win the game.

Aggro Druid

  • Go face until face is dead. Win the game.

Freeze Mage

Razakus Priest

Miracle Rogue

Big Priest

The problem with these oversimplified refrains is that they ignore the nuances of achieving the supposedly easily obtainable goal. Yes, some archetypes are undeniably more challenging to play than others. That said, if any Hearthstone deck was half as easy to pilot as the internet would make you believe, we’d all be competing a Legend Ranks.

So what gives? Why is it, then, that despite the apparent simplicity of these decks there is such a wide gap in the results some players have with them?

It Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy

The simple reality is that no matter how seemingly straightforward a deck may be from an outsider’s perspective, there are numerous decisions made over the course of a game that contribute to the outcome. Players fixated on the external aspects of a deck, especially individual outcomes, frequently overlook these choices and their benefits.

An Echo Chamber of Disdain

Soon, disdain for the current detested deck du jour spreads like wildfire. Once a player announces their disgust with a particular deck, it confirms a belief that members of the audience already hold. This negativity is repeated until the “unfair” nature of a deck is regarded as fact.

Soon, hatred for the deck gets redirected at the players who dare queue it up. Community pressure begins to build and induces a sense of guilt from anyone who enjoys playing the current taboo deck.

Contagious Vocabulary

Even more concerning are the words the community uses to describe these decks. Referring to something as insignificant as a Hearthstone deck as “cancer” or “AIDS”, while not personally offensive, distracts from the legitimate pain of those suffering from these diseases.

Worse yet, descriptions thrown around for the pilots of these decks are a plague upon the gaming community. Ignoring the fact that insulting a player for their deck choice is absurd behavior, freely describing an opponent as “retarded” or “autistic” is a practice that needs to end immediately.

Beyond Good and Evil (Decks)

Excavated Evil

Too frequently, players assign a sense of morality to the strategies used to win the game. The game score becomes less important than the strategy used to achieve the result. With this mindset, players begin attaching a sort of morality to certain strategies. In-game tactics are quickly labeled as “bad” and the players who dare use them are shamed for stooping so low.

All’s Fair in Love and Hearthstone

Moreover, Hearthstone players question the fairness of decks in their frustration when facing them. Certain tactics are regarded as unsporting and underhanded.

The reality, however, is that abiding by the predefined rules of the game is, by definition, fair. You may not like how your opponent accomplished their goal, but there is absolutely nothing unfair about how they went about it.

The exception, of course, is when a player using tactics that break the rules of the game or use information outside of the game to gain an advantage. Obviously, doing so is dishonest and unfair, but conflating cheating with a rule-following strategy is a harmful inaccuracy.

An Unwarranted Sense of Superiority

Many times, it’s far easier to attribute a loss to an opponent’s deck, strategy, or team composition than it is to look internally after defeat. Why analyze your plays when it takes less time to dismiss the opponent’s game plan as “cheap” or “brain-dead”?

The defense mechanism results is an unwarranted feeling of superiority after suffering a loss. Instead of taking responsibility for the decisions made over the course of the game, players too frequently and easily spurn the strategy used against them.

Taking this easy out, however, limits your growth as a player. Even if the opponent’s strategy was effortlessly realized, whether because of a good draw or a straightforward deck, choices made are still worth considering. In some cases, better decisions could have resulted in a different outcome.

There is no such thing as “good” decks or “evil” decks, but rather “effective” and “ineffective” decks. Reframing your vocabulary for the deck makes it easier to see an opponent’s more effective deck as something to be learned from or emulated, not shunned or reviled. This objective analysis is part of what separates good players from great players.

Take Responsibility 

Argent Protector

As a gamer, how you respond to the outcome of a match is fully your own responsibility even if the result itself was out of your hands. Because of this, you have the ability to adjust your reaction to both wins and losses.

By improving your mindset and/or adjusting your strategy you can substantially better your gaming experience. If all else fails, it may be worth experiencing strategies you despise so deeply first hand.

Improve Your Mindset

Mindset goes a long way in improving your gaming experience. Often times, the source of frustrations are internal rather than external. Before blaming a bad outcome on an underhanded game plan, instead, consider what you could have done differently.

If you feel the frustration continue to build, it’s probably time for a break. After all, gaming is meant to be fun. If you’re just getting angrier after every game, why keep playing? Time away from gaming will help separate you from the source of your irritation and help you gain a better perspective on the situation. Then, when you do come back, you’ll often do so with a renewed enthusiasm.

You Can’t Win ’em All

No matter how favored you may be, you are going to lose some contests. In card games, especially, there are going to be matches that you simply cannot win.

Far too often, however, players either don’t recognize this fact or simply refuse to accept it. Instead, every loss is taken as an affront to their abilities and immature, insecure reactions are rampant.

In Ranked Play, by the time you reach your true rank, losses should happen about half of the time. Accepting this reality makes defeat significantly easier to cope with, no matter the strategy used against you.

Adjust Your Strategy

When a strategy stops working, it’s undeniability frustrating. That said, continuing to jam the same strategy that has proven to be ineffective isn’t going solve the problem.

Instead, modifying your game plan, whether slightly or completely, can alleviate some of the frustrations that go hand-in-hand with repeated failure. Change a few cards in your deck. Pick a different hero. Try a new archetype. Just do something other than what is not working.

If You Can’t Beat ’em…

Before you throw another tantrum after losing to a specific deck or gameplan, queue it up for a few games yourself. Changes are, it isn’t nearly as simple or powerful as you imagined.

Even if it is, the insight gained from playing a few matches can expose weaknesses that weren’t obvious before trying it yourself. As a result, you’ll be far better equipped when facing this strategy in the future.

Game Better.

What are some in-game tactics that you find frustrating? How do you deal with them? Share your experiences in the comment section below!

4 thoughts on “GG, I Was the Big Priest

    • I appreciate that, slizzle. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for awhile, but my experience piloting Big Priest last month gave me a lot of clarity on the subject (and a good narrative).

Comments are closed.