It wasn’t long ago that Esper Dragons was the clear best deck in Standard. With cheap interaction and powerful threats, Esper Dragons reigned supreme with many of its most famous pilots boasting incredible records even versus the red aggressive decks, the one matchup that was supposed to be the most troublesome.
You don’t hear about Esper Dragons too often these days, but when Esper aficionado Shaheen Soorani enters a tournament, you can expect him to bring his favorite Shard. Dragonlord Ojutai is one of the best finishers in Standard and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is one of the best enablers (and eventually, potential finisher). The big issue with playing a control deck that relies on these cards is that opposing removal spells will always be useful in a matchup where they may have been closer to dead. Crackling Doom—one of the best removal spells in the format and that many decks are finding ways to splash—is particularly potent against the Dragonlord.
It’s been mentioned many times before, but Dig Through Time is good enough to be restricted in Vintage. The card is awesome. Getting to play a card this powerful is huge.
Oath of the Gatewatch didn’t add many cards for Esper Dragons, but the card it did add is a huge one. This isn’t the first time Grasp of Darkness has been printed, but it adds a way to kill early game creatures, like everything in Atarka Red and Jace, midrange creatures like Mantis Rider, Anafenza, the Foremost, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, and even some late-game creatures like Goblin Dark-Dwellers, tapped Dragonlord Ojutai, or any of the various non-hexproof creature lands. Grasp does a lot to bring a deck with an average converted mana cost of 4 together.
This is a slow and expensive deck, so having the cheap removal option that takes care of so many important creatures helps bridge the gap from the early to late game. Grasp adds another dimension to the deck and is a cut above a more limited card like Ultimate Price. If you’re looking for a control deck with some Dragons at the top of your curve, Esper Dragons is still a player in Standard.