Esper Control (or Esperone) has long been Andrea Mengucci’s favorite Standard deck – he even wrote about it recently. Today, I wanted to take a look at a slightly more aggressive update to the strategy, which just made Top 16 at last weekend’s Standard Challenge on MTGO.
Standard Esper Control
Control the game with counters and removal, and finish the opponent with one of your midgame threats.
This deck has cheaper finishers than most control lists – instead of Hullbreaker Horrors, we are seeing Graveyard Trespassers and Henrika Domnathi, with Iymrith as the closer. That pushes this a little closer to midrange, though the combination of sweepers, removal, counters, and card draw make it still land firmly in the control camp. Still, it is nice that it can have draws like turn three Trespasser, turn four Sorin, and just aggro them out.
Meathook Massacre is fast becoming a staple across both Standard and Historic, as a modal Wrath that also sticks around and gives you a bunch of life drains is awesome. It’s especially good if you can land a high toughness creature first, then wipe their board of small things. Path of Peril plays similarly, as it can go low or high, with this deck being able to cast both sides.
These four threats are what make this deck a lot more assertive than most control decks. All of them provide value besides just attacking (three of the four even have lifegain attached), and there’s the potential for card advantage all over here. The typical reason not to play creatures in control decks is that it turns on dead removal spells, but all of these threats either protect themselves, draw cards, or both.
A control deck needs to kill things, and this combo of removal spells is good early and late. Grasp making you pay life can be tough, but all the lifegain in the deck helps offset that.
Counters are also critical, and the light touch here gives this deck a few good ways to interact with big spells like Alrund’s Epiphany, though the sideboard has plenty more just in case.
Tips and Tricks
- Don’t overlook the possibility of an aggro start, especially with a curve of creatures into Hall of Storm Giants as a finisher. Just because the deck is called control doesn’t mean it has to play that way.
- The only card that requires white mana is Path of Peril (with Vanishing Verse in the sideboard), so you rarely need more than one white source. In general, you want to play your Pathways as U or B, with just one needing to be white.
- You aren’t forced to attack with Iymrith. If they keep all their mana up for a kill spell, you can juke them by leaving it back for a turn.
This deck is a creative take on a solid control shell, and I like the addition of the threats for more pressure. Good luck, and may you always hit with Siphon Insight.