Creativity is rarely rewarded in the early stages of a format. There’s too much variance in Magic—both in the cards you draw and the matchups you face—to go far too outside the box. Without knowing what to expect, doing this with any sort of control strategy is liable to blow up in your face. When it’s successful, however, you can dominate a tournament, and it’s truly awesome.

Demonic Pact is one of the coolest cards in Magic. It does absolutely nothing the turn you cast it, gives you options for what to do on your upkeep, and one of those options just happens to be “you lose the game.” The others work out much better for you, thankfully! With a way to remove your own Pact, preferably by returning it to your hand in order to recast it, the card can completely dominate. It’s pretty close to a Cruel Ultimatum at only 4 mana, but it takes time and it will kill you if you are not careful.

There were already a number of ways to remove your own Pact, namely Disperse and Silumgar’s Command, but Shadows over Innistrad gives you a few new tools that happen to be pretty efficient removal spells. Angelic Purge has the “downside” of sacrificing a permanent in order to get a great removal spell for only 3 mana. When you turn that sacrifice into an upside, the card is super powerful. Anguished Unmaking is another versatile removal spell that is priced to move. Demonic Pact will give you a life buffer to mitigate some of the anguish from Unmaking it, while also being a solid removal spell against the format.

The real centerpiece to the deck is Starfield of Nyx. Kill my powerful enchantment? Don’t care, getting it back. This makes a card like Angelic Purge even more spectacular.

Get enough enchantments in play and attack with them for lethal. Even on a stalled board when your enchantments can’t attack, you can use removal or Pact to kill your own Pact and then bring it back! It’s a win condition and card advantage rolled into one. It also makes the best use of Oath of Jace in Standard that I’ve ever seen. Putting enchantments both into play and into your graveyard while digging for Pact or Starfield is fantastic. With 2 Oaths of Jace and a Starfield, you can continue to bring one back, killing the other due to the legend rule, and draw 3 discard 2 every turn to set up exactly what you need.

This is a control-combo deck that gets to play virtually no creatures, turning off almost all opposing removal. With tons of exile effects, Wasteland Strangler is the one creature of choice, but in reality it’s just a removal spell with upside.

The curve starts and ends with pretty cool Shadows over Innistrad cards as well. Sinister Concoction is a pretty cheap rate to kill a creature, especially when you don’t mind cards going into your graveyard for Starfield. Dead Weight is another cheap piece of Shadows over Innistrad removal that has nice synergy with Starfield. This deck doesn’t actually care that much if the creature dies, so putting Dead Weight on a 2/3 or 3/3 creature to mitigate damage is still excellent while setting up.

Sorin, Grim Nemesis is incredible as card advantage, life gain, and a win condition. The 6-mana price tag is hefty, so you can’t load up on them, but it’s a nice one to help control the board. This deck is happy to kill a creature and gain 6+ life to help set up an unbeatable board state.

Brewing doesn’t always get rewarded early in a Standard season, but sometimes it leaves you with awesome decks that may have legs going forward!

Esper Demonic Pact

Charles League, 33rd place in a Standard Open