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Alara Reborn Set Review – Esper, Part 2

As promised, let’s get to Part Two of my Esper set review!

Sanctum Plowbeast

Constructed – 1

I don’t expect this beast to do much plowing in Constructed.

Limited – 3

Double landcycling is pretty useful, although it would have been nice if this guy could actually attack. They certainly did a pretty good job of making this cycle of creatures mediocre when cast, Pale Recluse aside.

Sen Triplets

Ah, Sen Triplets. This is one of the most interesting cards in the set, and undoubtedly why many people anticipated this review.

Constructed – 2

I just don’t feel the Triplets in Constructed, at least not Standard. Untapping with this guy is usually going to mean that your opponent has nothing too useful in their hand. It is a powerful effect, and obviously warrants some watching, but I suspect if it sees play it will be in Block.

In Block, there may be an Esper deck with enough must-kill threats that most opponents will just run out of removal. Master Transmuter, Sen Triplets, Sharuum, Enigma Sphinx, Tidehollow Sculler all combine pretty well to lock the opponent out.

Limited – 4

Not quite a 5, Triplets is an excellent card in Limited. If they can’t kill the Triplets, you are going to start racking up cards pretty quickly, assuming you play if before turn 7 or 8. Accelerating out the Triplets with Etherium Sculptor or an Obelisk seems absurd, since they have a turn to kill it before you play one of their lands and a some of their spells, each of which is +2 card advantage. Even lategame, it shuts off counterspells and combat tricks!

Shield of the Righteous

Constructed – 1

Mask of Riddles, maybe. This equipment, not in a million.

Limited – 3

I actually like this card, which probably isn’t that much of a surprise. I tend to like defensive cards, since that’s generally how I draft Esper. Putting this on any reasonably-sized guy does a pretty good job holding your opponent at bay, although a mid-combat Naturalize can be pretty bad for you.

Soulquake

Constructed – 1

Upheaval this is not. There really is no great reward here for packing your graveyard, so I don’t foresee this ending up in any serious 60-card decks.

Limited – 2

Probably should be closer to a 1, but this does provide a pretty powerful effect. If you are playing against a control deck with very few creatures, you may get a card or two of advantage off this, but that’s kind of sketchy. Not only do you reset the board, it costs 7 mana. On the flip side, a control deck could slow the opponent down, but at the cost of undoing all the removal it used earlier. It doesn’t do either side well enough.

Sphinx of the Steel Wind

Constructed – 2

The only reason I give this a 2 instead of a 1 is lifelink and its artifact-ness. Sphinx is certainly no Master Transmuter, but bashing for 6 points of lifelink is pretty intriguing, and synergy with one of the best not-yet-broken cards (Master Transmuter) might count for something. Ultimately I suspect Path to Exile will keep this (and any other big Path-able guy) out of contention for any sort of playability.

Limited – 3

Eight mana is alot, and clearly the only reason that Sphinx isn’t a 4. Controlling Esper decks will be able to make use of this guy pretty well, and if you get to hit with him the game should be over. More incentive to play Etherium Sculptor, a guy who you can usually pick up pretty late.

Stormcaller’s Boon

Constructed – 1

If you want to make a Constructed-worthy cascade deck, there are many better spells available. Gaining 4 life is a good effect on a cascade card; giving your guys flying is not.

Limited – 3

Assuming that the flying aspect isn’t that important to your Blue-White deck, this is a mediocre card. It gets interesting once you consider a Bant deck with alot of green groundpounders, since once the card itself becomes useful, Stormcaller’s Boon edges towards a 2 for 1. The key with a cascade spell is to see what value the card itself provides, and weigh that with what you can cascade into.

Tainted Sigil

Constructed – 1

I like life gain more than most, since control decks use life as an important tool. Still, the only lifegain that has historically been playable is lifegain attached to a useful card (Loxodon Hierarch, Kitchen Finks, Jitte). Tainted Sigil unfortunately just gains life, and not even before you take the killing blow.

Limited – 1

Pure life gain still isn’t good in Limited, especially kind of bad lifegain like this.

Thopter Foundry

Constructed – 1

This looks like an engine card, but I don’t see the reliable pieces being available. Not sure exactly what would take to make this work, but it probably isn’t worth it.

Limited – 3

You will want a hefty amount of artifacts to make this absurd, but even with 8-10 artifacts it should make the cut. Eating a dying dude or a Borderpost is good use of resources, and in a pinch the Foundry can eat itself. See, this is the kind of life gain I can get behind!

Time Sieve

Constructed – 2

I really doubt this will be good enough, but it certainly has the potential to do some interesting things. Maybe Jon Loucks is on the right track in his article, and there will be a deck with enough cantrip artifact food to feed this beast.

Limited – 1

I wouldn’t be surprised if people try this, but an extra turn is nowhere near worth 5 artifacts, and the situation needed to make this good is pretty far-fetched.

Unbender Tine

Constructed – 1

The Tine can function as a mana producer, but without something like Time Vault to untap, this won’t really be worth its cost.

Limited – 1

At least Filigree Sages offers a 2/3 body along with a mediocre ability. The number of Esper Battlemages needed to play this is probably around 5, and even then I doubt it would make the cut.

Vectis Dominator

Constructed – 1

The only tappers I can ever remember making the cut in Constructed were Stormscape Apprentice and Goldmeadow Harrier, both if which cost one mana. This guy not only costs three, but isn’t even actually a tapper.

Limited – 2

I don’t follow the storyline, so I don’t know who the Vectis are, but they sure aren’t very powerful. Between Vectis Silencers, Vectis Agents, and Vectis Dominator, it would be tough finding a worse tribe (group? country?) to belong to. If the 2 life doesn’t matter, the opponent will just pay it and bash you, and if it does, then you finally have a tapper. If you are really short on playables or have a very aggressive deck, maybe, but for the most part I suggest you leave this one on the bench.

Zealous Persecution

Constructed – 3

One of the many solid Constructed cards in the set, Zealous Persecution should be instrumental in breaking open the token mirrors for a while. Providing a +2/+2 differential on a key turn will make any mass combat step a sketchy proposition for your opponent.

Limited – 3

Most Limited games have a fair amount of creature combat, and this is a pretty solid trick. Any battle with two or more creatures on either side will be pretty heavily impacted by the Persecution, and if you manage to get into a huge brawl this will be insane.

So that’s Esper, which is definitely my favorite shard. Not because I think it is the best, but because its cards work towards the same kinds of strategies I love, so it really seems to fit me.

In Limited, it looks pretty good. You can draft it aggressively, but I of course like a more controlling Esper deck. Cascade is a good source of card advantage, and if you can leave out the two drop creatures aggro needs, a control deck can maximize their cascades.

Best Limited Esper cards:

1) Enigma Sphinx

2) Mask of Riddles

3) Necromancer’s Covenant / Sen Triplets

One is good early and the other is good late, and I am unsure which is better.

Constructed Cards:

1) Identity Crisis

A powerful Mind Twist that makes topdecked Reveillarks and such useless, the synergy between Identity Crisis and Windbrisk Heights is what makes it so much better than Mind Shatter. In Block, it just is one of the best spells to cast midgame in the white control mirrors.

2) Zealous Persecution

Not as much Block application, Zealous Persecution will make a big impact in all the token mirrors in Standard. Even if they have an Anthem and you don’t, this swings the battle in your favor.

3) Enigma Sphinx

I really want this to be good, since I like the deck it would fit into, but this is much more speculative than the 1st and 2nd cards on this list. Sphinx into Sharuum just seems so backbreaking!

4) Sen Triplets

This also looks pretty awesome, although much harder to really get going. The natural problem is always going to be that if they have good spells, then why haven’t they cast them? The effect here is powerful enough that I am willing to give this some leeway and see what happens.

That pretty much wraps up Esper, although there are many interesting cards left in Alara Reborn. Check back during the week as we go through the reviews of each shard, and let us know in the forums if you agree or disagree with our rankings!

LSV

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