Esper is perceived as a pure control deck. In reality, it can be shaped just as Abzan or Jeskai: into Aggro, Midrange, Combo (Tokens/Whip).
Thanks to Shaheen Soorani’s fantastic performance at SCG Richmond, Esper players got top primers on how to pilot the deck. In the SCG Events Coverage Archive you can watch five Shaheen’s matches: wins vs. Mardu Midrange, Jund Chord, 4-Color Midrange, Abzan Aggro, loss in the final vs. Jeskai Tokens.
So, instead of going with detailed guides on various matches, today I’m writing about taking a general Esper deck and making it your unique one. Your personal twist can be put in your main 60. It can also be brought from the sideboard to surprise the opponent at your local FNM.
THE MC HAMMER’S CORE
Dig Through Time (DTT). Bile Blight. Dissolve. End Hostilities. Drown in Sorrow. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. These 18-20 cards provide the deck’s core, the MC Hammer’s core (meaning: you shouldn’t touch this). Lands count stops on 26, so you have 14-16 slots to work with.
The core provides a powerful middlegame with counters, removal, and drawing, as well as the basic win condition (wincon) in Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.
The extensions presented below provide early drops plus additional wincons.
4 Raise the Alarm
3 Meditation Puzzle
2 Taigam’s Scheming
3 Stain the Mind
This version leans toward very late game. Most of cards provide means to survive early turns.
Raise the Alarm brings blockers.
Meditation Puzzle buys an extra turn to DTT for any answer.
Taigam’s Scheming smooths draws: gets rid of excessive lands when flooding, provides much needed lands when choking, fuels graveyard for DTT, searches for a next turn sweeper.
After you stabilize, Stain the Mind takes care of the most annoying things in the opponent’s deck: Jeskai Ascendancy, Siege Rhino, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Stoke the Flames, Butcher of the Horde. You play one Stain, then DTT for the second. The rest of the game becomes easy, because you’ve just got rid of two opponent’s wincons. For a couple of following turns he/she is busy drawing lands, while you merrily look for Elspeth to close the game.
2 Resolute Archangel
2 Colossus of Akros
3 Raise the Alarm
3 Meditation Puzzle
2 Clever Impersonator
4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
This Esper extension can set up very powerful plays, difficult for an opponent to respond. If he/she finally waddles through Nyx-Fleece Rams, tokens, counters, there comes a chain of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Resolute Archangel, Colossus of Akros. Or as I call it, choose your way of losing the game.
Resolute Archangel’s main purpose is to reset your life after heavy beating. Sometimes she can carry some damage in the air, but usually dies quickly. Four toughness doesn’t shield from Stoke the Flames. That’s fine, because if she takes away Abzan Charm, it means one danger less for Colossus of Akros on the next turn.
Colossus of Akros is a great finisher. I personally see it in top three of current Standard, after Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Villainous Wealth. It stops Siege Rhino, successfully blocks monstrous Fleecemane Lion. You can play End Hostilities to clear all Goblin or Soldier tokens without fear of losing the Colossus. Two turns later the game just ends. Turning sideways this 20/20 indestructible trampler feels a bit like activating annihilator 6 ability on Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Watch out for Utter End or Abzan Charm, though. These cards exile permanents, Colossus is susceptible to exile.
In this build Clever Impersonator shows some of his true power. He can copy any of opponent’s threats (how about two Siege Rhinos crashing into each other or your own Jeskai Ascendancy to loot through your library?), he can make additional Nyx-Fleece Rams to preserve life points, as a second Resolute Archangel he can win you a damage race in the air. Very helpful, very powerful. Not too expensive, at least in Mana Leak’s prices.
I’ve started to like Nyx-Fleece Ram in my test Azorius builds (not finished, I wait for Fate Reforged). Especially I like them in multiples: two Rams/Impersonators blank three-four attacking creatures, or slow down Hornet Queen’s tokens enough to draw a sweeper.
4 Nyx-Fleece Ram
3 Dragon’s Eye Savants
4 Monastery Flock
1 Clever Impersonator
2 Phenax, God of Deception
Definitely, this is not my last attempt on making a winning Phenax, God of Deception deck. However, this is as good as it may be for the current pool of cards. When Phenax comes on the board with three creatures on your side, an opponent has practically one attack to win the game. You block (or don’t), at the end of turn tap creatures to mill 15 cards (one Ram, one Flock, one Savants), then on your upkeep repeat milling.
Dragon’s Eye Savants and Monastery Flock have morph ability, which works great against small Red creatures. Flipping Savants shows you an opponent’s hand. Now you know what you can expect in the next couple of turns. You know also how many creatures you can safely deploy – usually three is the best number, with one or two in hand to rebuild after End Hostilities.
4 Frost Lynx
4 Seeker of the Way
3 Peel from Reality
The strategy of the last today’s extension of Esper is a funny one: to keep one opponent’s creature on board, but stop it from attacking.
Dissipate provide additional three-mana counters to do that.
Frost Lynx taps a blocker, making a free attack of Seeker of the Way or the first Lynx. If opponent retaliates, he/she comes right into AEtherspouts, which clears the battlefield. If opponent plays around and doesn’t attack, you can Peel from Reality his/her creature as well as your Lynx. Then attack for free. Then wait for the opponent to replay the creature, then freeze it again with Peeled Frost Lynx, gaining another free attack.
This way of playing brings you 6-10 damage. So when you finally play Elspeth, tokens finish the game quickly.
That’s it for today. Have fun making your own version of Esper!