Hi Everyone! Today I am going to go over my Esper Control deck that I am currently running in stardard (and took second at a recent StarCityGames.Com Open Trial with). The list is below.
Creatures (6)Spells (18)Enchantment (2)Planeswalkers (9) Land (25)
Against Aggro/ Midrange:
Most of you know what this deck is about, for those who don’t the general idea is this, wipe the board once or twice with Supreme Verdict, keeping card advantage with Think Twice or Azorius Charm. Once you have the ability to protect them, put out your planeswalkers to maintain a stable board (costing no additional mana each turn), until you have the ability to just mill them out with Nephalia Drownyard or Jace, Memory Adept.
Recent lists of this deck that have done well have not used this particular mix of board stall, relying more on Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Lingering Souls to generate cheap chump blockers. Often time these decks still end up relying on an Obzedat and Sorin Emblems or some such thing to actually win by doing damage, which is interesting but not in the true spirit of what I like to think of as “Traditional Control”.
This deck does not give them the off chance of having something such as trample or outnumbering your blockers to sneak in damage, it simply wipes the board. The four copies of Snapcaster Mage is something that is not seen a lot in current control decks, but with this build, you need to cast Supreme Verdict more than one time per game, and the Snapcasters are played with the thought that they are essentially a 6 cmc Supreme Verdict, with the flexibility to be something different in the late game. Liliana has popped up in a few of these lists as a cheap way to make them sack one of (if not their only) early creature and then keep their hand size small, while yours stays on par flashbacking Think Twice or using Jace, Architect of Thought’s -2 ability.
In addition to all of this utility, planeswalkers also act as a damage soak. The key here is to make them threatening enough to make the aggro player worry about taking them out, rather than using they few turns they have the advantage to put you within reach of a burn spell kill.
This is where the deck requires a pilot that is comfortable in this deck type. The key here is usually to wait for them to pull the trigger first. Let them try to resolve the first Sphinx’s Revelation, or land their first Planeswalker. Up until then, simply worry about getting a land out every turn, discard cards if need be, keeping only relevant spells. For example, discarding one of your 4 Supreme Verdicts is not a problem when all of their creatures are Lingering Souls and Snapcaster Mage.
By that time they try this, you should have gone through enough Think Twice or Azorius Charms to find a Dissipate, a planeswalker of your own to answer with, or a Negate out of your sideboard if it is game two or three.
After this point it really is about mitigating losses until you can gain total control of the game. More often than not, it is the Tamiyo emblem that has meant all of the difference in the world here, which is why this deck runs two instead of the more often one-of. This should be relatively easy to accomplish against a control deck, being that they usually don’t run many creatures, and you have the tools for the few creatures they do play. This is where this deck takes advantage by running enough Snapcasters that he can be flashed in as an attacker to keep their planeswalkers down, while possibly chump blocking for your own.
Seemingly Odd Decisions:
The biggest question I get on my deck choice is running 3 Jace, Architect of Thought and only 2 Sphinx’s Revelation. Sphinx’s revelation is not a card I want to see in the first 4 turns of the game, as it is a dead card if you have less than 5 mana on the board, where as Jace is versatile and usefull in all matchups. For example, against R/B zombie/burn (the worst matchup) he essentially HALVES the damage coming from my opponent. Against the mirror match, his “-2” is the most effecient way of searching for a specific card in standard. For four mana you effectively get to see 6 cards, at least two of which you get to bring to your hand. The closest thing to this in Standard is forbidden alchemy, but at 3 cmc for 4 cards, is hardly comparable, and has only one use. I have used Jace’s -8 in a few tournaments, and when I have, it is an absolute blow out. You can cast my Memory Adept (or Tamiyo or whatever specific card you need) for free, while taking the biggest threat out of their deck and using it for myself. Because of all of this, you want to be sure to see Jace early and let him find my the Sphinx’s that you are looking for, rather than just draw the Sphinx.
The one basic is simply to deal with Ghost Quarter. This is a deck that can NOT afford to be a land short in the first 4-5 turns, and if your opponent manages to land a Ghost Quarter in that time and you can’t fetch a replacement for whatever it destroys, you are in deep trouble.
Here are a few neat interactions to take note of if you play this deck or run up against it. I did not notice any of these until they were on the battlefield in front of me. Once you have Tamiyo emblem, you are unstoppable (I reliably get this in over 50% of my games). This is very obvious, but there are few things you might have overlooked. Yes, you can use Memory Adept or Nephalia Drownyard to draw cards, most everyone knows this. But, Liliana’s “+1” to make everyone discard now has no downside, and if you have a Memory Adept on field and Liliana above “6”, you can mill them for 20 cards in one turn by using her “-6” to sacrifice your Memory Adept, recasting it, and using his “0” ability for a second time. Alternatively, if you already have Memory Adept on board you can use his “0” cast any other Jace to force the “Legendary Rule” and cast Memory Adept again to mill them for another 10. Yes this is a minimum of 9 mana, but at this stage in the game this tends to be irrelevant, and milling ANYONE for 20 in one turn is usually enough to make them concede if not remove every threat left in their deck.
I am looking to fit in an additional Dimir charm as it is very versatile against Aggro decks since it can remove the early threats, or keep them from drawing their threat or keep them low on land if need be. I am also looking to add Orzhov charms for more unconditional spot removal, but this is proving to be quite a challenge as the list is very tight already.
If you have any thoughts on these tweaks, any suggestions, or any other questions on why certain cards are in the deck, post them below! Looking forward to next week everyone!