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We've got a fun puzzle for you to solve from The Witchwood, as well as the answer to last week's episode.
Situation #20: What to Dude?
Welcome to the first follow-up episode of WTM! For those unfamiliar with the new format for the series, I've moved away from videos to try out a more community-oriented approach to WTM.
In episode 20, I presented the following situation from one my ladder matches:
I don't think I can sum up this situation any better than Ethiviath did in this comment. Here's what he had to say about this decision (with some minor edits for clarity):
I don't have much more to add than that! This was the exact play I made, and for all the same reasons.
Duskbreaker is the only true board clear we have in hand, and we just can't afford to waste it on such a low-investment board from our opponent. I'd rather Mass Dispel than Duskbreaker this turn, but both plays are inferior to Radiant Elemental + Potion of Madness on Drygulch Jailor + Dude + Dude. It denies him three Dudes of reload, develops our board, pops Divine Shield, removes one minion from our opponent's board, and empties our hand a bit to play around Divine Favor. Though our Dudes likely to die soon, they're also likely to soak up a few points of damage on their way out, which is just as good as healing in my book.
Situation #21: Azari Incoming!
Following up on my Vivid Velen guide, I'd like to present a challenging situation from one of my recent ladder matches with the deck. If you're unfamiliar with how the Vivid Velen cobmo works, I cover all of that and much more in the guide.
Here's the situation:
Deck Code: AAECAa0GBAntBbTOApDTAg37AaEE5QTJBtMK1grRwQLYwQLwzwLo0AKp4gLj6QKC9wIA
Replay Link: https://hsreplay.net/replay/kVZ6kdKS59mdnTpFpwqXE2
Cards in Hand:
Greater Diamond Spellstone Would only resurrect Radiant Elemental and Prophet Velen. Vivid Nightmare 2 Shadow Word: Death 2 Psychic Scream Mind Blast Shadow Essence 2 Loot Hoarder, 1 Bloodmage Thalnos, and 1 Radiant Elemental remain in my deck. Holy Nova My opponent just played The Final Seal and has Azari, the Devourer in their hand. A Prophet Velen and Radiant Elemental have already died this game, but both Loot Hoarders and Bloodmage Thalnos remain in my deck. I have a Greater Diamond Spellstone to resurrect these key combo pieces, but there's no way for us to OTK our opponent from 28 with just one Mind Blast and one Vivid Nightmare.
If we were to play Greater Diamond Spellstone, Vivid Nightmare the Velen, then Mind Blast, we would only deal 20 damage. Our opponent would be able to play his Azari on the following turn and kill Velen with his Demons on board, which would leave us with Holy Nova as our only source of damage for the rest of the game. Clearly, playing Spellstone here isn't a winning line. However, if we assume our opponent is going to play Azari next turn (spoiler alert: they play Azari next turn), there is a winning line to be found from this situation. Can you spot it? Let us know in the comments here on Icy Veins, in the reddit thread, or in a tweet to @Aleco_P.
As always, I highly encourage readers to submit their own situations to What's the Move! All you need to do is play with a deck tracker, send me the game's replay link, and include a screenshot of your situation and your decklist as I did above. The replay link and two screenshots will easily fit in a tweet, or in a direct message on Icy Veins or Reddit. I look forward to reviewing your submissions soon!
Vivid Nightmare is an essential card for the Prophet Velen combo deck. Learn more in our guide!
Vivid Nightmare is the next card in a long line of new combo cards for Priest, and it's the linchpin of a powerful new Prophet Velen combo deck.
I've been drawn to combo decks for as long as I can remember. Dating as far back as my elementary school days, when all the boys in my class would play Magic: the Gathering together at lunch, I was that annoying kid who who played combo decks whenever my classmates would allow me to. Sure, my friends only enjoyed playing against me when they won, but that's only because I was the best. Or so I told myself, but that's not important.
With every new Hearthstone expansion, the first decks I look to practice and tune are always combo decks. I've tested just about every combo which has been posted on either HS Pro Deck Feed or /r/CompetitiveHS, which is where I found a post titled "An OTK with Short Animations?! (4 to Legend Velen Priest Guide)" by reddit user itsonfosho. It was a guide for an OTK deck which was built around a new Witchwood card in Vivid Nightmare, a card I had already crafted to test out a failed Stormwind Knight/Divine Spirit/Inner Fire combo.
Excited to try the deck for myself, I began playing Vivid Velen around rank 3000 Legend. Here's what happened next:
I started off on an absolute heater. I climbed from the 3000's to peak in the 600's, at one point boasting a 25-7 record after winning 14 out of 15 games. In hindsight I had pretty good luck throughout this streak, but wouldn't that be true of any 14/15 winstreak in a game with as much variance as Hearthstone?
Regardless, I've never come anywhere close to a streak like this while playing in Legend. As much as I'd like to believe that I magically became a better Hearthstone player overnight, I think that a hot streak such as this one is more indicative of a deck which is well-positioned for the current meta than a sudden spike in skill level.
I finished 7-7 with Vivid Velen and settled on a 66% winrate after 50 games. I didn't change a single card in all 50 games (which is almost certainly incorrect), though I plan on making some minor adjustments to the list going forward. Here's the decklist I was working with, which is exactly the same as the one posted by itsonfosho:
Deck Code: AAECAa0GBAntBbTOApDTAg37AaEE5QTJBtMK1grRwQLYwQLwzwLo0AKp4gLj6QKC9wIA
Beyond all the numbers, the deck feels right. Once you get a sense for all of the different situations where you can OTK out of seemingly nowhere, it starts to feel a lot like an early version of Cubelock or Highlander Priest. I'm not saying this deck is as strong as either of those decks are, only that it's just as intricate and difficult to play as Cubelock or Highlander Priest. Vivid Velen has provided me with some of the most fun and challenging Hearthstone games I've ever played, and I'd expect the same to be true for any true fan of combo decks.
How does this deck kill?
Though a lot of this was covered in itsonfosho's guide, I'll repeat it here for clarity. Here's how a typical OTK looks:
Have Prophet Velen and Radiant Elemental die at any point in the game. Use a Diamond Spellstone to resurrect them both (3 Mana left). Use Vivid Nightmare on Radiant Elemental (1 Mana left). Use Vivid Nightmare on Prophet Velen (0 Mana left). Mind Blast twice for 40 damage. Steps one and two of this combo are fairly non-negotiable, but steps three through five are flexible and highly dependent on the game at hand. After steps one and two, you can kill opponents who dip down to 20 life (which is very relevant against Warlock) with just two cards: a Mind Blast and a Vivid Nightmare, or two Mind Blasts and no Vivid Nightmares. Adding a Bloodmage Thalnos to the death pool bumps that up to 24 damage, which is frequently enough to kill Rogues. 24 turns into 48 with an additional copy of Mind Blast or Vivid Nightmare, which is a bit more than 30. With an extra Radiant Elemental or a third copy of Vivid Nightmare off Shadow Visions, you can make three Velens to Mind Blast blast for 48, which should be more than enough to slug through high armor decks such as Taunt Druid, Big Spells Mage, and Odd Warrior.
Barring the rare games where your opponent leaves your Prophet Velen alive (allowing you to kill without a combination of Mind Blasts and Vivid Nightmares), you'll almost always have an upgraded Diamond Spellstone and a dead Prophet Velen to be able to OTK. The other combo pieces are surprisingly flexible. Playing an extra Radiant Elemental from hand before playing Spellstone essentially buys you an extra Vivid Nightmare, allowing you to combo with one fewer card than normal. A lingering Radiant Elemental allows you to use both Vivid Nightmares on Prophet Velen, setting up an OTK with a single Mind Blast for 40.
Each copy of Mind Blast, Vivid Nightmare, and Radiant Elemental beyond the first is essentially interchangeable. You'll need at least one copy of each card to pull to off an OTK, but it's important to remember that two Vivid Nightmares and one Mind Blast typically does the same amount of damage as one Vivid Nightmare and two Mind Blasts. Keeping in mind that a Radiant Elemental in hand as good as a Vivid Nightmare from hand, four is the magic number of Vivid Nightmares/Mind Blasts we need to deal 40 or 48 damage, and three is the number we need for 20 or 24.
Shadowreaper Anduin is this deck's backup win condition in case Prophet Velen is Polymorphed or buried on the bottom of our deck. We know from our days with Highlander Priest that double Mind Blast with an Anduin in play is 16 damage and triple Mind Blast is 19, which is often enough damage to close out games against control decks. Anduin also does double duty as a defensive tool with its board clear, its 5 Armor gain, and the hero power which can target minions.
What's up with the Twilight's Call/Deathrattle package?
The restriction on Lesser Diamond Spellstone means we can play no more than 4 unique minions in our deck. Prophet Velen and Radiant Elemental are necessary, which means we only have room for two more minions in the entire deck. As much as I'd love to play some kind of Dragon package with Duskbreaker in it, that just isn't feasible. Diamond Spellstone is the reason this deck works, so 4 minions is what we get. This basically rules out Northshire Cleric as our tool for card draw, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
With Bloodmage Thalnos and Loot Hoarder as our only Deathrattle minions, Twilight's Call does a great impression of Arcane Intellect in the late game, and plays excellently with Spirit Lash as tool for gaining Reno-esque amounts of life with Bloodmage Thalnos. Combo decks need card draw, and this Twilight's Call package is about as effective at drawing cards as any Northshire Cleric/Wild Pyromancer package is. Don't be surprised to see a few more combo decks crop up in this Standard year with Twilight's Call as it's card draw tool of choice, even if the deck isn't built around a Diamond Spellstone combo. The Twilight's Call package is lean, it plays to the board, and it's effective at churning through your deck to find missing combo pieces.
Warlock, Druid, and Paladin:
Seeing as Warlock, Druid, and Paladin are the three most popular classes in the early Witchwood meta, Vivid Velen finds itself in an excellent spot. I had a 7-5 record against Warlock (Cube and Control), a 9-3 record against Druid (Spiteful and Taunt), and a 5-1 record against Paladin (Odd, Even, and Midrange).
Cubelock and Spiteful Druid are two of the most played decks right now, and they are both very winnable matchups. Though both decks are capable of nut draws which can Vivid Velen before it has a chance to OTK, smart play and a a good hand of your own can easily counteract their fast starts. I'd estimate that Vivid Velen is a 60-40 favorite against both Spiteful Druid and Cubelock.
Odd/Even Pally, Control Warlock, and Taunt Druid are very favorable matchups. Aggro Pally has a rough time getting a board through all of our board wipes, while Control Warlock and Taunt Druid are far too slow to kill you before you can Psychic Scream them back to the stone age while setting up your OTK. Mind Blast couldn't care less about Voidlord or Hadronox.
Hunter and Rogue:
The worst matchups for Vivid Velen are Odd Rogue, Quest Rogue, and Odd Hunter. Though I finished with a 3-2 record against Rogues, it sure seems as though Rogue decks are capable of too much burst damage for Psychic Scream to stabilize the game until we can OTK. I'd expect that Odd and Quest Rogue are at least 60-40 in Rogue's favor, while the Tempo and Mircale Rogue matchups are closer to even.
Odd Hunter is the biggest threat to this deck by far. I went 0-4 against Hunters, with two games against Odd Hunter and against Midrange Hunter. A couple of these games were winnable, but I'm not really sure how Vivid Velen beats an Odd Hunter nut draw. An early Radiant Elemental into Power Word: Shield start with Bloodmage Thalnos into Spirit Lash could probably beat some of Odd Hunters average draws, but the issue with the matchup is that they deal way too much face damage for your Psychic Screams to ever be relevant. Midrange/Secret Hunter is also a bit problematic, as there are few ways for Vivid Velen to beat a turn 5 Greater Emerald Spellstone. You have to have some combination of Bloodmage Thalnos, Holy Nova, and Spirit Lash to have a chance against that card, as Psychic Scream will come down a turn too late to keep you alive. I'd estimate that Odd Hunter is a 70-30 favorite over Vivid Velen, while Midrange/Spell/Secret Hunters are closer to 60-40 favorites.
Priest, Shaman, Warrior, and Mage:
Priest: 3-1 Shaman: 1-0 Warrior 2-1 Mage: 3-0 Priest, Shaman, Warrior, and Mage were the least popular classes on my climb, and I don't believe that these classes have any popular decks which pose a threat to Vivid Velen. My two losses were to Control Warrior and Spiteful Priest, and they were 100% my own fault. I would have won both games if I had used Shadow Word: Death on my Prophet Velen, but I instead opted to heal face for 4 and got Tinkmaster Oversparked and Mind Controlled, respectively.
I probably should have seen more Spiteful Priest than I did, but I'd expect that matchup to be about as favorable as the Spiteful Druid matchup. They typically can't pressure us as fast as the Spiteful Druid decks can, but they do have Mind Control for our Prophet Velen if we can't find play him early enough. That's hardly the end of the world, as we should always be able to save a Shadow Word: Death for our Prophet Velen against Priests who are likely to be running Mind Control, but it's still something that can lose us a game if we don't plan accordingly.
As for the rest of these decks, Shudderwock Shaman is significantly slower and clunkier than we are, Tempo Warrior can't really deal enough burst damage to fight through Psychic Scream, and Control Mage/Priest/Warrior are exactly the kind of decks we are hoping to prey on. Tempo/Aggro Mage might be a bit problematic, but I did beat the deck the one time I played against it. I would actually highly recommend watching that match if you're interested in seeing just how resilient Vivid Velen can be, as I ended up wining the game fatigue after having my Prophet Velen burned by overdraw. You can watch the whole game right here. It was played against Sonecarox (whose name I recognized from the Coffin Crasher card reveal) while he was streaming, so I was able to find the VOD on Twitch after the game was over. If anyone reading this speaks Brazilian, I'd love to hear what he had to say about the game!
The Mulligans with this deck are surprisingly straightforward:
Always keep: Loot Hoarder, Bloodmage Thalnos, Radiant Elemental and Power Word: Shield with Radiant Elemental Always mull: Vivid Nightmare, Mind Blast, Shadowreaper Anduin Often correct to keep: Power Word: Shield, Lesser Diamond Spellstone, Prophet Velen, Psychic Scream, Shadow Word: Death, Spirit Lash Often incorrect to keep: Shadow Visions, Twilight's Call
The two drops minions are the best possible keeps, without question. They play to the board and draw us cards at the same time, and else really needs to be said about that. Turn 1 Coin into Radiant Elemental + Power Word: Shield is just as good in this deck as it is in other combo decks, and I don't believe I've ever passed up an opportunity to do so with this deck.
After the two drops, we're looking for the most relevant interaction possible for our opponent. Against decks with Mountain Giant, Doomguard, and Carnivorous Cube in them (you know who you are), the best interaction we can possibly find is Shadow Word: Death. Try to play Shadow Word: Death immediately on Mountain Giants and Doomguards in order to play around Carnivorous Cube.
When facing aggro and midrange decks, Spirit Lash, Holy Nova, and Psychic Scream become the most important cards in your deck. It is often correct to keep these cards (Psychic Scream is excellent against Spiteful Summoner decks in particular), as you can easily get run over by minions if you fail to keep the board clear. Against faster decks, I recommend mulling away everything that's not a 2 drop in order to dig for these board wipes.
Against control decks, I think you always want to keep Prophet Velen and sometimes want to keep the first copy of Lesser Diamond Spellstone. Having Velen on the bottom of our deck or being forced to spend 4 turns upgrading a late Spellstone is one of the ways we can actually lose to control. It's probably not always correct to keep a Spellstone, but if you have something like Radiant Elemental + Power Word: Shield in hand I think its unlikely you'll mull into a better card. I'm also keen on keeping Velen against other combo decks (such as Shudderwock Shaman or Quest Rogue), as these matchups quickly devolve into races to see who can combo first.
One thing that stands out to me about the mulligans with Vivid Velen is that I rarely keep Shadow Visions. Though it's an insta-keep in most Combo Priest decks, it just isn't that great here. The deck has 12 different spells which Shadow Visions can pull from, making the card horribly inconsistently at finding the exact card you need in the early and mid game. Think of Shadow Visions as more a tool for finding missing combo pieces in the late game (typically Vivid Nightmare and Mind Blast) than a tool find fighting aggression.
Mulligans are more of an art than a science, but I think the mulligans for Vivid Velen are relatively clear and easy to understand. Keep 2 drops, mull Vivid Nightmare and Mind Blast, consider keeping board clears and removal spells against board-oriented decks, and consider keeping Prophet Velen and Lesser Diamond Spellstone against slower decks.
Tips and Tricks
One of the easiest ways to lose with this deck is to play your Prophet Velen into an effect which prevents it from dying. Against decks which might be running Polymorph, Hex, Mind Control, or Tinkmaster Overspark, hold on to your Velen until you can safely play him and Shadow Word: Death on the same turn. Smart opponents will hold onto these cards for as long as possible, but that isn't exactly a winning fight for them if you can find a Shadow Word: Death. Dumb opponents will play their Doomsayers to keep their hand size low, which is a free invitation to add Velen to your death pool or to draw cards with Twilight's Call. Try not to overreact in the early game with Spirit Lash. In many matchups, you'll need at least one massive burst of healing from Spirit Lash + Velen or Spirit Lash + Bloodmage Thalnos to get out of burst damage range. In these matchups it's best to not play your second Spirit Lash (and sometimes your first) unless its a true life or death situation. Spiteful Summoner decks and Carnivorous Cube decks stand out as matchups where you'll likely need to use Spirit Lash as a mini Reno Jackson. Vivid Velen is capable of clearing board after board against most decks, but it can't sit back and clear boards all day against token style decks which have pack boards than we have board wipes. Eventually, these decks will run us out of resources and we'll never get the opportunity to play a Velen without dying. In these matchups (Dude Paladins, Hand/Token Druids), try to play Velen at the first viable opportunity, as you may never get a second opportunity to do so. With thoughtful play, you should rarely lose because your Diamond Spellstone wasn't upgraded enough. I punted one game away game because I didn't Shadow Word: Death my opponent's Alexstrasza before Psychic Screaming away the rest of his board. I ended up one spell short on the following turn of a fully upgraded Spellstone and missed on Velen when I cast Diamond Spellstone for 3. Situations such as this one can often be prevented by playing spells like Holy Nova or Twilight's Call for no value whenever the extra Mana presents itself, especially against control decks. Vivid Velen often struggles to keep its hand size low, and it is frequently correct to play spells for little or no value to free up space for future draws. You can cheat a bit on upgrading your Spellstone if you don't play a Bloodmage Thalnos or a Loot Hoarder. You may also need to do this if one of your non-Velen gets Polymorph or Hexed, as the beast will be added to your dead minion pool for Spellstone. You need to cycle through quite a few card to assemble your combo, so don't be afraid to play Power Word: Shield on your opponent's minions or to play Mass Dispel into an empty board. This is especially true if you already have a Spellstone in hand. If you're in a pinch, Spellstone into Spirit Lash can be used as an emergency button to go back to full health and clear the board, even if it doesn't set up an OTK. This sucks if you have to build up a second Spellstone to OTK again, but at least you'll live to fight another day and can try to kill with Shadowreaper Anduin as a backup plan. It feels like a majority of my games come down to whether or not I choose the correct card off Shadow Visions. I've roped many times on Shadow Visions decisions in the early game, because you get these super difficult choices between card draw, board clears, and combo pieces in a time where it's difficult to say what you'll need most. Though I won't say you should never play Shadow Visions in the early game, I will say that the longer the game goes on, the easier it is to make correct Shadow Visions choices. Unless you're in dire need of a specific board clear to stay alive or a specific combo piece to end the game, it might be smarter to hold onto your Shadow Visions until such a situation arises. I haven't talked at all about Shadow Essence, partly because I have mixed feelings on the card. It seems to have won me about as many games as it has lost me, though its hard say for certain. The card is excellent when you can't find that missing Velen or Radiant Elemental buried at the bottom of your deck, and it's a really strong play on turn 5 off The Coin or a Radiant Elemental which survived the early game. However, Shadow Essence has a nasty tendency to sit around in my hand and be totally useless when I'm behind on board. If I were to make any changes to this deck, I might consider cutting the Shadow Essence for a Holy Smite. One tough decision which comes up very is often is whether or not you should use a Vivid Nightmare to copy one of the Deathrattle minions, especially to set up a stronger Twilight's Call. Though this is the correct play on occasion, I'd suspect that this is the incorrect line more often than not. Sure, the Vivid Nightmare will typically generate you 2 extra in these situations, but expending a Vivid Nightmare as a card draw tool also means that you'll likely need to draw one more Mind Blast/Radiant Elemental than you would have had to draw previously. It's difficult to say when the extra card draw is better and when the extra combo piece is better, so you'll need to make that judgement call on a case by case basis. Generally speaking, I'd be more inclined to use my Vivid Nightmares on Deathrattle minions if I had a healthy number of total Mind Blast/Radiant Elemental/Vivid Nightmares in hand and needed to dig for Prophet Velen, and would be less inclined to use Vivid Nightmare on Deathrattle minions if I already had Prophet Velen in hand.
Combo Priest in The Year of the Raven
Priest rotated more playable cards than any other class when The Year of the Raven began. They lost Drakonid Operative, Dragonfire Potion, Kabal Talonpriest, Potion of Madness, Priest of the Feast, Pint-Size Potion, and Shadow Word: Horror to name a few, in addition to a number of key Neutral minions which were the backbone of the Dragon Priest and Big Priest archetypes.
Despite these losses, Combo Priests were left largely unscathed by the set rotation. Divine Spirit/Inner Fire decks lost Potion of Madness and Kabal Talonpriest, but the numerous combo cards which were added during The Year of the Mammoth are here to stay. Journey to Un'Goro brought Radiant Elemental, Shadow Visions, and Lyra the Sunshard, Knights of the Frozen Throne added Eternal Servitude and Shadow Essence, and Shadowreaper Anduin, and Kobolds & Catacombs tacked on Lesser Diamond Spellstone and Twilight's Call. This puts Combo Priests (as nebulous a term as that is) in a great position to start The Year of the Raven. Combo Priest have already picked up Vivid Nightmare from The Witchwood, and will almost certainly pick up additional tools in future expansions.
The Twilight's Call/Diamond Spellstone synergy at the heart of Vivid Velen still has plenty of room for innovation and new decks. Any number of potential OTKS could slot into the Vivid Velen shell in place of Radiant Elemental, Prophet Velen, and Mind Blast. Perhaps a better deck builder than myself will be able to find a new OTK with Twilight's Call/Diamond Spellstone? We're less than a week from the release of The Witchwood, and there is still plenty of time to test new decks on the ladder before the meta fully settles in.
For now, Vivid Velen certainly seems to be a like strong choice for the current meta. It's extremely difficult to play it optimally, but that's true for all the best combo decks. It's a fun, it's challenging, and it has positive matchups against the three most popular classes in the game. What more could you ask for?