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With Theros Beyond Death, Esper Will Finally Be Good Again

After playing Esper for a while in Eldraine Standard, I found that the main problem with Esper was its mana base, and I couldn’t wait for Theros Beyond Death to bring the missing Temples so that we could finally cast our spells on time.

I hate that the mana bases of Standard are so bad, and I hope for a future where we won’t have cycles of mono-color rare lands.

Temple of EnlightenmentTemple of Deceit

In my last version of Esper Control, I had to say goodbye to Narset, Parter of Veils, as the mana base couldn’t handle playing both Kaya’s Wrath and Narset. Also having to play Fabled Passage as a fixer means that I had to play several copies of Plains in my Thought Erasure deck, which is just not OK.

Now we can finally fix our mana properly.

Although these lands aren’t as good as Glacial Fortress and Drowned Catacomb, having 10-12 taplands in your deck means that you’ll have to lower your mana curve a lot, as you could be playing one turn behind for the entire game. Narset will do a great job of providing card advantage as well as being a cheap card that you can play at any point on the curve.

Field of Ruin

I don’t believe we need to play Field of Ruin right now, although this Standard format will still have months of new sets, and it’s not unusual to see very good lands printed to beat control decks. Only Castle Vantress and Castle Locthwain pose a threat, which I don’t think justify playing Field of Ruin maindeck, whereas Search for Azcanta and Field of the Dead would have.

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse

After playing the promotional event on MTG Arena with Ashiok, Nightmare Muse, I was very impressed, and eager to replace Liliana, Dreadhorde General with this planeswalker.

The main reason to do so is to lower your mana curve. Ashiok, Nightmare Muse -3 ability is a good one. Only Teferi was capable of removing an opposing threat no matter what (including planeswalkers and enchantments). Of course, bouncing is worse than putting third from the top, but getting the discard bonus is very relevant, as this deck often grinds your opponent down to empty-handed, acting basically as a removal spell.

Ashiok’s +1 ability is also very good. A 2/3 makes Cry of the Carnarium especially tempting, and of course the exile ability of your tokens plays well with Ashiok’s -7.

I am positive that Ashiok will be a very good Standard card that will see play in many different strategies, although I think it will perform best when paired with Hero of Precinct One.

The 4-drop slot has been very close between Basilica Bell-Haunt and Elite Guardmage. I was a big fan of Bell-Haunt in Esper Control with Kaya’s Wrath, but also loved Elite Guardmage in Esper Hero.

I believe both decks will be viable with these new Theros Beyond Death spoilers and can’t wait to try both of them.

Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths - Extended Art

Atris is another card that will compete with Bell-Haunt and Guardmage for the 4-drop slot. It produces a unique effect that provides raw card advantage but in a tricky way, you could give up on a guaranteed spell to pick up two lands. If you play this in paper Magic, it’s important not to let your emotions become tells and make decisions quickly in order to get your opponent to make the pick you want. This card will definitely need a lot of testing, from both sides, and will be the first card I want to try when Theros Beyond Death is released.

Although the 3 life from the uncommon 4-drops is a big miss here, menace isn’t particularly relevant, especially if we decide do play the more controlling version.

I still believe that Basilica Bell-Haunt will be necessary in Esper Control, whereas you can jam three, or even four copies of Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths in a more aggressive version with Hero of Precinct One and maybe even Thief of Sanity.

I’ve got a premature list of both archetypes, although keep in mind that we’re still wrapping up the spoiler and many more Esper cards could be implemented in these decks.

Esper Control

Andrea Mengucci

1 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Silence
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Watery Grave
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Godless Shrine
3 Basilica Bell-Haunt
1 Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths
2 Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
2 Murderous Rider/Swift End
4 Thought Erasure
2 Tyrant's Scorn
2 Mortify
2 Oath of Kaya
4 Teferi, Time Raveler
3 Narset, Parter of Veils
2 Absorb
2 Absorb
2 Cry of the Carnarium
2 Kaya's Wrath
1 Dovin's Veto

Sideboard
2 Noxious Grasp
2 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper
2 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 Disenchant
1 Despark
1 Devout Decree
2 Mystical Dispute
1 Duress
1 The Elderspell
1 Kaya's Wrath

Esper Hero

Andrea Mengucci

2 Swamp
1 Island
1 Plains
4 Temple of Deceit
2 Temple of Silence
4 Temple of Enlightment
4 Watery Grave
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Godless Shrine
3 Hero of Precinct One
3 Thief of Sanity
3 Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
4 Thought Erasure
2 Mortify
3 Oath of Kaya
1 Drown in the Loch
1 Duress
1 Despark
4 Teferi, Time Raveler
2 Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
4 Tyrant's Scorn
1 Dovin's Veto
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