There are many ways to build a control deck, but the city’s blessing added a new twist. While once you were mostly concerned with keeping the board as clear as possible, now it can be considered beneficial for you to have many permanents in play outside of your usual land drops.
The big payoff to having the city’s blessing may not seem like that big a payoff on the surface. Secrets of the Golden City is still a playable Magic card without ascend, but there’s a large difference between divination and concentration. Drawing two cards for 3 mana is an acceptable rate, but drawing three cards is 50% better. When it comes to trading off resources and trying to stay ahead of your opponent, this is a big deal. Early in the game, you can still draw two to make sure that you don’t fall too far behind, but once you have plenty of lands among your 10 permanents and can draw three while still adding spells to the stack, things get really impressive.
Golden Demise is another powerful ascend card, but you don’t need the city’s blessing at all to make this a useful tool. A simple Infest to clear up small creatures and any tokens on the battlefield is effective, and will let you save your spot removal for bigger threats.
Regal Caracal can stabilize the battlefield, get aggressive to close out the game, and trigger ascend. You’re getting three permanents, 7 total power, and a bunch of potential lifelink in a single card. This is your one spell with which Golden Demise could be a nombo, but once you have five lands and are creating a bunch of Cats, you should easily have the city’s’ blessing and not have to worry about losing any feline friends. Caracals stack well, as the second one also pumps the original big Cat, leaving you with a pair of 4/4 lifelinking Caracals and four 3/3 lifelink tokens!
Sailor of Means isn’t just a Limited staple anymore. A 1/4 body blocks most early drops, and the two permanents help get to ascend a little faster. When you don’t need a quick ascend, cashing in the Treasure for some acceleration and a Caracal works out nicely.
Should they deal with your other creatures, The Scarab God can close the game out. Bringing back these cards that gave you a board advantage puts the opponent away in short order.
You’re playing a control deck that also cares about having permanents in play. This means that enchantments that remove creatures become extra valuable. Baffling End is a great way to exile an early creature, and Ixalan’s Binding is already criminally underplayed. Binding is an excellent way to exile some of the tougher threats in the format, like indestructible creatures, and with almost all Standard decks featuring 3-4 copies of their deck’s best creatures, Binding offers virtual card advantage in all games that go long.
Fatal Push is another removal spell that provides excellent tempo and is going to be a tournament staple in every format it’s legal. Vraska’s Contempt gives you a way to deal with planeswalkers outside of attacking them while also killing haste creatures, indestructible creatures, and gaining a bit of life. Negate will try to make sure these planeswalkers don’t slip through the cracks, or to stop some of the bigger spells in Standard like Approach of the Second Sun.
Legion’s Landing can provide another avenue to the late game. If you’re flipping it, you already had three creatures attacking and will be close to ascend. It provides two permanents on a 1-mana card, and the late-game threat of churning out Vampires means that you can leave your mana up for instants while still adding to the board.
You’ve got plenty of sweet lands in Esper, especially with so many cycling lands available, but the big addition is Arch of Orazca. In a deck that’s so good at triggering ascend, the Arch is a nice way to convert extra mana into extra cards late in the game.
Building a control deck isn’t always about countering everything and casting sweepers. The city’s blessing has made permanents the new cool thing, and this deck ascends with the best of them!