Drive and Connive on a Budget – Pioneer Esper Greasefang – Deck Guide

It is the hope of every savvy Magic investor to find in their pile of random rares from four or five years ago that special something to turn their draft bomb or Commander niche filler into a legitimately viable archetype. This happens pretty infrequently, but when that perfect card does come around, the feeling couldn’t be sweeter. Today, we’re taking a look at a relatively recent addition to the Pioneer roster that’s come about thanks to Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty and has since received a major shot in the arm thanks to Streets of New Capenna. Let’s take a look at budget Esper Greasefang. 

Before we can take this deck from zero to 60, let’s cover some guidelines as always.

  • You should not expect excellence out of this list. My decks and articles are meant to give you a starting block, not a finish line. As such, the goal here is to learn the ins and outs of the format while playing an established or otherwise highly playable archetype.
  • Each Pioneer list will average out to around $100 at the time of posting. Budget decks are meant to be affordable to the people who need them, not to be compared to some benchmark set by the prices of the top tier decks of the format. 
  • The decks I feature will be tested and worthwhile. I have no intention of handing you a pile of worthless cards. Usually the idea is that the deck is cohesive enough to see legitimate play, or get you on your way to owning the staples you need to play other decks once you’re ready to move on to bigger and better things. I do not feature decks that I went 0-5 with unless there’s a reason to do so.




Budget Pioneer Esper Greasefang by Darren Magnotti


Header - The Deck

Greasefang decks in Pioneer come in several different flavors, with each three-color combination including black and white. The core principle of each is to spend the first couple of turns fending off the opponent while also putting the biggest Vehicle in the format, Parhelion II, into the graveyard. Then sometime around turn three, cast a Greasefang, Okiba Boss and stop in the begin combat step to return the Parhelion from the grave to the battlefield. Once there, Greasefang just happens to have enough power to singlehandedly crew the Parhelion, which can swing in that turn thanks to haste.

While the Vehicle is returned to hand at the end step, this process results in a flying attack for 13 damage that leaves two 4/4 flying Angels in play, which can ideally clean things up the following turn. The Esper variants of this archetype tend to assume the control role in their matches, relying on a flurry of removal spells and countermagic to keep things safe while they use looting effect spells to both dig for additional answers and put the Parhelion in the grave. 


Header - The Threats

We’ve already covered how to perform the “combo” that Greasefang decks get their namesake from, and it should be noted that this plan is the major driving force behind the list. Greasefang is at heart a reanimator deck, and to facilitate that, the likes of Can’t Stay Away and Obscura Charm are used here to fight through hate and removal that would otherwise keep the Rat Pilot at bay, while also enabling more meaningful use of the looting spells by creating situations where the Greasefang doesn’t necessarily need to sit in hand until it’s useful.

Raffine, Scheming SeerTomebound Lich

Backing up the main reanimation plan, the deck also packs some innocuous looking creatures. Raffine, Scheming Seer is an absolute workhorse in the deck as players are finding with their personal builds. Conniving is much stronger than a lot of us thought it might be, as it fuels the graveyard while creating a bulky threat in its own right. Similarly, Tomebound Lich does a fair impression of the conniving demon while keeping larger opposing threats at bay as a deathtouch blocker. 


Header - The Interaction

Esper Greasefang is the more control-oriented of decks packing the combo, and as such relies the heaviest on individual spells that throw an opponent off their game.

Obscura CharmVoid RendShatter the Sky

Obscura Charm is a real jack of all trades, filling all of the roles that the deck is looking for as a removal spell, counterspell and reanimation piece. Void Rend being able to dispatch any singular threat on the other side of the board while staying safe from counterspells is frequently just enough to turn the tide of the game, and Shatter the Sky acts as a reset button to buy additional time to find that missing Parhelion.

Portable HoleInfernal GraspMurderous Cut

Outside of those, the deck also has access to any myriad of other targeted removal spell that best suits the format or metagame expected at the time. Portable Hole is a generally solid play in the early turns that can disrupt most strategies, but other environments might call for something that packs a little more punch such as Infernal Grasp or Murderous Cut


Header - The Setup

While getting the combo into play might seem flashy, those two cards alone aren’t enough to win a game of Magic. That’s why this deck is built on a core of looting spells, that help it sift through its library to find the perfect card for each situation.

Faithful MendingTainted IndulgenceOtherworldly Gaze

Faithful Mending is a card that everyone knew had potential to be powerful from its spoiling. Drawing and discarding with the option to flashback is of course quite strong – a lesson we learned with Faithless Looting. However, the secret mode of Mending is the real spice to the card, as gaining two life per cast is typically enough to stabilize and claw your way back into a game against the more aggressive strategies.

Street’s of New Capenna’s Tainted Indulgence also plays a pivotal role in the deck, digging deep to find the combo pieces while being able to refill the hand in the later turns at instant speed. Otherworldly Gaze rounds out the package, able to set up future draws or dig deeper into the deck if the top of the library doesn’t hold the needed pieces. Between these 12 cards, the deck has very little issue finding what it needs and being able to put the cards it wants into the graveyard with relatively high consistency. 


Header - How Does It Play?

Running this build through several games, the major thing to note is its extreme consistency. There are a lot of redundant pieces, which makes it so that the specific lines of play are extremely reliable to find and make. On top of the strong card selection offered by the loot spell suite, the deck has very little issue finding the combo pieces or removal spells it needs on top of fighting against the mana base, which as a budget player, is a constant concern.

The combo itself provides a two turn clock at the least, which some decks in the format can take advantage of by just ignoring the initial 13 damage strike and killing on the crack back. Whether that plan is effective enough to make it in a specific meta game is up for debate, but in my experience most fields aren’t fully prepared to combat the strategy while also fighting through the removal spells.

Overall, Esper Greasefang is a deck with a low-ish floor and a relatively high ceiling that can take unsuspecting players by surprise. It is by no means the fastest beatdown available in the format, nor the strongest control suite, but sometimes being a good mix of both is enough to attack and dominate a metagame. 


Header - Upgrades


Pioneer Esper Greasefang by Darren Magnotti


The deck upgrades quite well into a real grindy midrange build. Ledger Shredder is another threat from New Capenna that fuels the combo game plan while becoming a huge flying threat, basically replacing or supplementing the Raffine plan. It also picks up some stronger interactive staples such as Supreme Verdict and Thoughtseize, which can be used to pivot into other builds as well. Lastly, some players are finding success with a sideboard juke, including the likes of Monastery Mentor and Aven Heartstabber to bring in and combat opposing graveyard hate. There are a lot of ways to take the deck as you move out of the budget sphere, and the archetype can really be built to suit any playstyle, so be sure to do your own experimentation. 

That’s all for this one. Esper Greasefang is one of the Pioneer decks I personally pilot, and I’ve been having a blast with it. If you choose to pick up the deck, I hope that you find it as rewarding and thought provoking as I do. Until next time, stay safe, play smart and thanks for reading.


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