Modern Monday: Transcendent Esper

A while back, a friend of mine, Francesco Amati, began showing off a Modern deck of which he was quite proud. It was an Esper Control list he had been toiling over for some time. The deck eventually added Narset Transcendent, and Francesco kept encouraging me to try it while he was promoting it through his social media channels, including a Facebook group for those interested the archetype.

This week, with the addition of Fatal Push and while on my search for a Modern Monday list, I decided to try it out. The following is one version of the deck that went 5-0 in a Modern League in the hands of Magic Online user Bornich.

Transcendent Esper

As you can see, it’s how you’d envision a pretty standard Esper Control list with a decent planeswalker package, tons of 1-mana removal, and a full set of Esper Charms, which are especially versatile in this format. I always complain about white decks not having ways to deal with enchantments in the sideboard, and this one has 4 built in. This is great against problematic cards like Blood Moon or Stony Silence (just kidding). After all the hype Francesco created around the deck, I was eager to try it out.

While I did end up losing to two of the more aggressive decks in the format, I was pleased with how the deck performed. I think a lot of Magic is about the way a deck “feels.” Sometimes when you’re playing a game or a match, you might feel like something is off. Or you might feel like you’re always falling behind. A lot of time that I’m preparing for an event, I don’t play a million matches against every potential deck—I just play enough to get a feel for my own deck, along with how and when I should be casting spell or attacking or how things interact. Sometimes, even if you lose, you can still get a positive sense of your deck in those games, and I had that.

For example, I think my Burn opponent drew incredibly well, and I also could have timed my life gain a little differently. Against the Death’s Shadow deck, I think I got a little flustered on mana, and I might have been able to navigate a little more precisely to come out on top. Or maybe not, and sometimes you just lose some games. Either way, I don’t think the deck lacks the tools to win matches like that by any means.

I would love to add a couple copies of Timely Reinforcements to the sideboard. Considering that my two losses were to aggressive decks that have creatures you’d want to block, the 6 life and 3 extra troops could be a huge boon. Being able to flash them back is also pretty good. You also might want to consider some number of counterspells. I’m partial to Cryptic Command, but something like Mana Leak could also get the job done.

One mistake I made was to keep in a good deal of the planeswalkers against the aggressive decks. Unfortunately, I have a hard time cutting a deck’s flagship cards, especially when I’m in the process of trying them out. I really want to get a feel for Narset Transcendent in action, and I did manage to get her emblem out in one game against Tron, which was huge.

Another problem with the deck, which is really a necessary evil, is that it has a somewhat clumsy mana base. Unfortunately, this isn’t really easy to change. You want a ton of colors for Snapcaster Mage + whatever you flashback, Supreme Verdict, and Esper Charm. You also have some of the most efficient creature lands, which forces you to have a number of lands that enter the battlefield tapped. While this was rarely a deal breaker, it would be nice to take a little less damage from your lands when 13 of them can cause you some amount of life loss.

If you’re a fan of control decks and are looking for a fun one in Modern, this is a great option, especially now with cards like Fatal Push and Blessed Alliance. Be sure to give it a try if you get the chance!

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