Ashiok to the System – Esper Standard Deck Tech
In my last article I wrote about my search for a Control list. I was going to move on and talk about the Blue Black deck but, during a rather heated argument with a bunch of my friends about what is the best Control list, someone mentioned an Esper list that had top-eight’ed recently.
We paused our argument long enough to look up the deck online and, in silence, study the card choices. Once the information had sunk in we took a deep breath and began our hostilities again, each of us picking out a card we loved or hated and explaining to someone with the opposing view why it was a must for the deck / a waste of a slot.
This is Shaheen Soorani’s list that came 2nd at the SCG open in Richmond.
1 Bile Blight
3 Prognostic Sphinx
4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
1 Disdainful Stroke
4 Drown in Sorrow
I was fairly impressed with the deck, which is a sort of Esper Superfriends list. I had been firmly in the camp that thought there was too much overlap between Black and White to have both of those colours in the deck. It was my short sightedness that trick me. I was looking at the U/B list and thinking it would splash white and we could call it a deck. That’s not the case. The deck comes in from a slightly different angle and solves each phase of the game with alternative tools. Sure, you have your counter spells as you’d expect in the early to mid game, but you can also have Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver down and putting in some work from turn 3. This will give your opponents a lot to think about.
I play the boss sligh RDW deck a lot and I have had the misfortune of having an Ashiok hit three creatures the turn he comes down and then deploy my own goblins against me, stealing what I thought was a game I couldn’t lose. Or even seeing a Stoke the Flames get milled into exile as one of your only ways to get rid of the blasted Planeswalker. Eventually they can get rid of the gender non-specific Planeswalker and you can then play out a Sorin, Solemn Visitor. At this stage you might have a few creatures you stole with Ashiok or you will have to -2 your new buddy and make a Vampire. The next turn you pop down your Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and run for the end zone.
It’s a simple plan. Keep alive until turn 6 and then win.
So apart from Planeswalker how do we get there?
Well, turn 1 you can Thoughtseize, it’s an awesome card. Game one it tells you what deck you’re up against and lets you take the most pressing threats. Despise is in the list as a 5th and 6th version of this spell. Sure it plays a little differently but you will quickly get a feel for when to Despise and when to Thoughtseize and early in the game sometimes a whiff with Despise is not as bad because of the information it might give you.
Turn 2 is where you can Bile Blight if needed. The list runs only two so you might want to wait until they commit another card of the same name to the board but it’s not always a good idea to be too greedy.
Dissolve and Hero’s Downfall are a little awkward because of the double colour pips. Two Blue or two Black might not always be available to you on turn 3 but you have the fetchlands so it’s easier to fix your mana for the right spell at the right moment. Just the one Utter End in the list. It’s doing the same job as the Hero’s Downfall here, with the handy bonus of getting rid of the sideboard Keranos, God of Storms that might get brought in against you.
End Hostilities is your sweeper. Don’t play it into counter Magic and you will be fine.
Card draw… well it’s the same two cards that are in every deck. Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise. In this list Treasure Cruise isn’t going to be as good as a dig. Getting to pick your cards from a selection is very handy here. With 26 lands it is possible that you could draw 2 lands with your cruise. Not many of your spells are interchangeable. There will be more times when you need a specific card for whatever is happening in the game and not just a straight card advantage.
The sideboard has the only seven creature cards in the list. 3 Prognostic Sphinx and 4 Nyx-Fleece Ram. Last time I spoke about the Resolute Archangel and its life gain ability being important to get you back in a game. The Ram does this slightly differently. It keeps you in a game. It blocks the damage from early in the game and steadily tops up your life. All in all it’s the better choice for life gain outside of Sorin.
The Sphinx will scry you into that Planeswalker you need to put this game out of reach. Whilst your Rams will have done their jobs by the time you feel the need to wipe the board, the Sphinx can be slightly awkward with End Hostilities. It’s fine if you sequence your cards correctly but it’s a bit rough when you are trying to stabilize with the Sphinx and then you draw into your sweeper. Don’t be afraid to off your own creature to get control of the board.
Negate has been doing work recently. I’m not sure if it’s one of those cards that people thought rotated out and stop playing around or that Control has not been a popular deck and they don’t know the list well enough. But with only two here in the board and 1 Disdainful Stroke, this deck isn’t at all focused on counter magic but they are nice things to have.
Over all I think it’s a strong list. I may be suffering a backlash from looking at and writing about budget lists for the last few weeks. I may have been seduced by the full Planeswalker suite. I’m not sure if this is the Control list for the rest of the format until we get Fate Reforged next year, but I’m willing to have a look. I will say that the man can be a bit awkward at times. A lot of your spells have double colours but that is the price to get access to cards with such a high power level.
Super friends is always something of an enigma. All these amazing cards that can warp a game on their own surely will win big… but that is not always the case. Look at this list. It plays Blue but there is no love for the face of Magic in his latest iteration. What’s up with Jace? Why is he so bad this time around?
Community Question: Which Planeswalker(s) would you like to see reprinted in Fate Reforged, and why?