Standard is a cyclical format—the metagame shifts and an outdated deck can be good again.
Right now that’s the case with Esper Dragons and RG Landfall, both of which have good matchups vs. Rally and other decks that are dominating the metagame at the moment.
Esper Dragons was my weapon of choice for the upcoming RPTQ in Milan. In preparation for this event, I played a lot on MTGO—I played many types of decks and I found out that there’s not a clear tier 1, and even if Rally is the best deck, it’s difficult to pilot and has a giant target on its head.
There are so many Company decks at the moment, which means that they play few spells that don’t interact well with the two big threats that Esper Dragons packs.
After 2 weeks of testing and an SCG IQ win, this was my final deck list for RPTQ Milan, where 178 players battled for only 8 slots.
There aren’t many changes from the list I won the WMC with some months ago. This deck didn’t gain much from the new set, but it’s still a strong choice.
As much as I love Painful Truths, I don’t want to play too many in the main deck since life points are relevant against so many decks. I’ll have the second copy to sideboard in when needed.
I chose to cut Monastery Mentor because it was good against the mirror and Ramp. The mirror has disappeared and Ramp now has Kozilek’s Return. Also, Reflector Mage makes any creature out of the sideboard worse.
Even if Reid Duke hates Infinite Obliteration, I think it’s needed. It’s not spectacular against Rally, but if they haven’t landed a Nantuko Husk, getting rid of it is very painful for them. And against Ramp it’s simply phenomenal—less now than before, but still very important.
After playing against Rally many times, I feel comfortable in saying that it is a favorable matchup. Landing an Ojutai on turn 5 is usually game. If you don’t have a counter for Reflector Mage, pass the turn with your wall and set up a huge Crux of Fate. But make sure your opponent won’t be able to resolve a Rally the Ancestors after your wrath.
Arashin Cleric is important to block the early damages and give you time to reach lategame, it also protects Ojutai from a Flashbag Marauder.
Versus Bant Company
This is a very close matchup. Den Protector and Stratus are a nightmare, but they are soft to wraths. Ojutai is once again your best card since they don’t have ways to deal with it when it’s untapped, and once they overextend to pass it, you’ll resolve a Wrath and steal the game.
Versus Abzan Aggro
This is another close matchup. It depends a lot on how quickly they start the game and if they resolve Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Jace is excellent and Silumgar is big game as well, mostly against the version that shaves on Abzan Charm to play Oath of Nissa and Stubborn Denial.
You are the underdog here. Ojutai is once again all that matters since you need to pressure them, and you can’t wait around for them to destroy all your lands with World Breaker. That’s why I think this version is better suited to beat Ramp than Dark Jeskai or Reid’s Esper Control.
Versus Dark Jeskai
Finally, a deck that is equipped to kill Ojutai. Be careful and don’t tap out to play your Dragon if they have Crackling Doom. They don’t usually have counterspells main deck, so you’ll be able to resolve your powerful spell while denying your opponent the ability to cast his. The only problem comes from the full set of Painful Truths and Duress that they play—that can be problematic.
Versus Mardu Green
This is very similar to the deck I just described, but without counterspells, even post-board. I shaved Jaces here because they have plenty of ways to kill them between Kolaghan’s Command and Fiery Impulse.
I pretty much covered all the major archetypes but if you want more clarification, please ask in the comments!