Hello everyone! Standard is wild! I don’t remember seeing so many decks perform well after more than a month from the last set release. There are still many tournaments ahead so today I will make a breakdown of the deck with a wider range of possibilities.
If you like midrange decks, and tuning and updating your list week by week according to the metagame, then Esper Hero is perfect for you. I believe the strategy is capable of being favored against every deck, but not at the same time. You will have to choose what decks you want to beat, therefore card choices are key.
Match-ups with an Average List
Kanister and BBD chose this archetype for the weekly MPL battles and adjusted the list as the format developed. Also Misplacedginger and Marcio Carvalho chose it to play in the MOCS finals recently with very different approaches.
So let’s see, what do we expect the metagame to be?
Recently, there has been a huge success of Planeswalkers decks (Jeskai, Esper and 4c 《Command the Dreadhorde》), Mono Red still on top, Izzet Phoenix is doing well, Esper Control, Esper Hero and White Aggro have lost a bit of terrain, and we still have some less popular decks such as Nexus, Gruul Aggro, Bant Flash and Grixis that also see some play.
For an average list of Esper Hero I would say:
Card Choices: Mainboard
Now is time to analyze how to build the deck card by card.
Let’s start with the cards that are almost an “auto-inclusion”.
I wouldn’t say that the deck is built around this card, because it can function perfectly without it. However, it synergies with basically all cards in the deck, providing good defense to our Planeswalkers, making sure we can survive while we attack with 《Thief of Sanity》, and even developing a sweeper demanding threat against control with just one creature. It is the reason this deck has a favorable matchup against White Winnie.
This is a high variance card, it can be solved by 《Shock》 in a bad tempo exchange, it can meet a 2/2 《Hydroid Krasis》 that you can’t kill or it can just win the game alone if uncontested. The fact that we can play 《Thought Erasure》 on turn 2 increases the chances of the latter, and the fact that they might feel forced to kill 《Hero of Precinct One》 on turn 2 also diminishes the chances of the first one. So overall a very strong card for the deck.
Very decent tempo card at the least, with the upside of being huge when your opponent relies on instants like 《Wilderness Reclamation》 and all counter-magics. Also synergies with discard and bouncing 《Oath of Kaya》.
Good old Teferi gives us some raw power to close the games. The deck really needs the card advantage that Planeswakers provide.
Instant multicolor unconditional removal that also can deal with some of the cards that we fear the most such as 《Experimental Frenzy》 and 《Search for Azcanta》. Three mana is a fair price we are willing to pay.
Flexible card to kill small creatures or finish Planeswalkers, with so many Planeswakers in our deck the second ability is also very relevant.
It will be hard to find a list without these cards above. But let’s analyze the other cards, in particular the 4 drops, here is where we find more differences between all the lists.
This one is not very flashy but it does help in both opposite scenarios, providing life gain and high Loyalty against aggro and recursion against control. It will be better if we play 《Hostage Taker》 and 《Deputy of Detention》 too, since we really need those alive.
I think this card could be maindecked if we expect a lot of 《Hydroid Krasis》 and White Aggro decks. Otherwise I would just have it as a sideboard card.
I started high on this card, however, as time went by I started to dislike it because most of the decks either play 《Lava Coil》 or both Teferis, is not the perfect world for this Angel of Justice.
Very good against Mono Red and never disappointing (well maybe if they have 《Narset, Parter of Veils》). A solid option that is starting to gain popularity.
Even better against Mono Red and also never disappointing. I was surprised when I saw Marcio Carvalho registered 4 《Basilica Bell-Haunt》 in the maindeck for the MOCS. It makes a scary matchup as Mono Red be actually favorable.
I’m not a big fan of this one since the body is usually not very relevant and it’s easy to kill. It becomes better if we have many 《Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord》 our deck, I rather have it in the Sideboard.
Usually we find one or two 6 mana Planeswalkers. While Liliana has the bigger power level sometimes leading to an absurd advantage and winning the game alone, Ugin is the most solid choice that will save you more often from an opposing Planeswalker or 《Experimental Frenzy》. As for how full of Planeswalkers the metagame is today I’d stick with Ugin.
When I saw Marcio’s list from the MOCS I noticed 2 《Duress》 in his maindeck and really liked it. In a world full of Planeswalkers and 《Command the Dreadhorde》 we want extra discard. With 《Teferi, Time Raveler》, it is less likely to be dead. It’s not great in our best match-up (White Aggro) but it still has some targets.
I started by disliking this one but as Izzet Phoenix picked up some popularity I have to give it another try. I think one is the right number.
So this is where I want to be nowadays. Since there are many decks that don’t play creatures I like to keep the removal count low, and rely a bit more on the life gain from the 4-drops against aggro to minimize the dead cards against control.
Also I would recommend not to play only one basic land since the most ambitious mana bases are bringing 《Field of Ruin》 to the metagame.
Card Choices: Sideboard
Let’s see how we build the sideboard from here.
This card can be so powerful that with all the Planeswalkersmania out there I woudn’t leave home without packing a pair of these.
Obviously very good against control and Planeswalkers decks, but it turns out they also play 《Teferi, Time Raveler》. So I don’t like playing more than two of this because sometimes things can go wrong and you don’t want to have dead cards, especially postboard.
I suggest to play 2 or 3 total in maindeck and sideboard, since we already have 4 《Thought Erasure》 and we don’t want to overload the discard count. Same that happends with 《Dovin’s Veto》 and 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 could happen with 《Duress》 and 《Tamiyo, Collector of Tales》.
I like this one as a singleton. It can be massive against 《Arclight Phoenix》 and 《Finale of Promise》 if things pan out our way. It can also see play against the 《Command the Dreadhorde》 decks and against White Winnie.
It obviously crushes the aggro plan from Mono Red, but we still need to keep 《Experimental Frenzy》 under control. In case you decide to play 《Seraph of the Scales》, I rather have 《Lyra Dawnbringer》 in this slot.
I think it’s necessary to have some other early interaction that can give us some breathing room against aggro in the first turns. It might be needed when we are on the draw.
Decklist and Sideboard Guide
4 《Godless Shrine》
4 《Hallowed Fountain》
4 《Watery Grave》
4 《Drowned Catacomb》
4 《Isolated Chapel》
3 《Glacial Fortress》
-Land (25)- 4 《Hero of Precinct One》
4 《Thief of Sanity》
3 《Elite Guardmage》
1 《Basilica Bell-Haunt》
4 《Thought Erasure》
2 《Tyrant’s Scorn》
2 《Oath of Kaya》
3 《Teferi, Time Raveler》
2 《Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord》
3 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》
2 《Ugin, the Ineffable》
Mono Red Aggro
Jeskai or Esper Planeswalkers
I hope you can enjoy this sweet Standard that we have, and remember that it’s crucial to keep making adjustments to the list as the format develops! Thanks for reading.
Sebastian Pozzo (Twitter)