Exploring EsperOne in Standard

The day before the deck submission deadline for the Magic: The Gathering World Championship, I was close to submit Esper. It was amazing versus Temur Reclamation and Azorius Control, which were the two decks we expected the most, although it only took few matches versus Seth Manfield on Mono-Red to move off the deck, as I couldn’t find a good way to deal with that matchup.

Upon more brainstorming, I finally managed to come up with a good plan there, and today I’m ready to show it to you.

EsperOne (Standard) - Andrea Mengucci 

The Birth of MeletisShatter the Sky

When Shatter the Sky was printed, I often mentioned how much worse than Kaya’s Wrath it was, and why I would never play that card in my Esper deck. Although, if you have followed my for any time at all, you know that “never” doesn’t exist for me, and here I am maindecking two Shatter the Sky!

The Birth of Meletis is just too good against Mono-Red, and a solid card overall, able to fix your mana as well as give you an untapped land in a deck with plenty of taplands.

Since I added Birth, I needed to revisit my mana base, and had to cut down many sources of a color. Black in this case—I would never give up on Narset, Parter of Veils.

Ashiok, Nightmare MuseElspeth Conquers Death

One month ago I played a version EsperOne for the first time with Theros Beyond Death, and the list today isn’t that far off.

I had to replace Ashiok, Nightmare Muse with Elspeth Conquers Death. Ashiok is just too weak against the latter and Elspeth Conquers Death has simply been a house to answer all the major threats in this midrange format where two-for-ones shine, especially when paired with Teferi, Time Reveler.

Agonizing RemorseThought Erasure

Many people ask me why they should play Esper Control over U/W Control, and the reason isn’t that one is better than the other, it’s just that I don’t enjoy relying on countermagic and I prefer discard spells. Being proactive is what I like in these Midrange/Control decks, also I want to never be held back by a Teferi, Time Raveler, which is very popular in Standard. I only play a couple of dead cards if there’s a Teferi in play.

Esper is favored against U/W Control according to my results, and having an edge in the mirror is definitely the reason to go Esper over blue-white.

EsperOne Sideboard Plan


-4 Agonizing Remorse
-4 Thought Erasure
-3 Narset, Parter of Veils

+4 Cerulean Drake
+4 Devout Decree
+2 Heliod’s Intervention
+1 Aether Gust

The reason why you would play U/W Control over Esper is its matchup vs. Mono-Red, as U/W is slightly favored overall where Esper is heavily disadvantaged in game 1 and only a slight favorite post-sideboard.

On the play, I like to cut the Dovin’s Veto and keep a couple of Narset, hoping to stall the board with Cerulean Drake and removal spells on key threats and take the game over with Dream Trawler.

Jeskai Fires

-1 Shatter the Sky
-1 Oath of Kaya
-2 The Birth of Meletis

+1 Despark
+2 Mystical Dispute
+1 Aether Gust

The fact that they have four Legion Warboss and some other threats like Robber of the Rich and Tithe Taker makes you unable to cut your removal spells. You’ll still respect Dream Trawler with a few sweepers.

I don’t like Heliod’s Intervention here as you already have Elspeth Conquers Death and Despark to deal with Fires of Invention, and you don’t want to overload on dead cards against their Cavaliers and Kenrith.

U/W Control

-2 The Birth of Meletis
-1 Shatter the Sky

+2 Mystical Dispute
+1 Thought Distortion

Another reason to prefer Esper to U/W is Thought Distortion, which is by far the best thing ever you can do against U/W Control, and I love any deck that can cast it out of the board, especially with the help of Narset, Parter of Veils to dig for it.

I still keep all my Oath of Kaya because Narset is the key here. Make sure to respect Dream Trawler with a sweeper.

Temur Reclamation

-2 Shatter the Sky
-1 Kaya’s Wrath
-2 Oath of Kaya
-2 Dream Trawler

+2 Heliod’s Intervention
+2 Mystical Dispute
+1 Thought Distortion
+1 Despark
+1 Aether Gust

Dream Trawler is very bad against Temur Reclamation, as it’s an expensive sorcery-speed threat and easily answered by Mystical Dispute. Even though it’s your only legitimate easy win condition, you need to cut them in order to have a better deck. You will only able to kill your opponent with the three Atris and the two Oath of Kaya, which will make the game grindy and very long, but if you navigate it properly, it won’t matter.

If you’re playing paper and you’re down a game, this plan wouldn’t work and you have to keep at least one Dream Trawler to win the super long game that you’re already dominating.

Happy Thought Erasure in the draw step everyone!

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