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Legacy Weapon – Attacking With Esper

Those following me on Facebook know I’ve been PTQing with Jund. It’s a consistent deck with no inherent weaknesses in a format full of glass cannons and inconsistency—a bastion of sanity in this crazy world we call Standard.

That said, crazy can be fun. Feast your eyes on this succulence:

Esper Aggro

[deck]4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Watery Grave
4 Godless Shrine
4 Drowned Catacomb
3 Glacial Fortress
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Cavern of Souls
4 Knight of Infamy
4 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Sin Collector
2 Restoration Angel
2 Duskmantle Seer
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
1 Feeling of Dread
3 Syncopate
3 Warped Physique
4 Spectral Flight
4 Azorius Charm[/deck]

I recorded a set of vids with an older version of this deck, which you can check out here if you haven’t already.

The goal of the deck is to put a [card]Spectral Flight[/card] on a [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], but in a less all-in fashion than Bant Hexproof. To back up the flying Geist core, we have a suite of efficient, versatile disruption, value creatures, and some other evasive threats.

[draft]warped physique
azorius charm
feeling of dread[/draft]

Due to the aggressive nature of the deck, it uses some of these Esper cards in non-typical ways. [card]Warped Physique[/card] isn’t just a removal spell, it’s also a [card]Giant Growth[/card] for a random x/4 flyer. [card]Azorius Charm[/card] doesn’t just cycle and [card]Submerge[/card], it also gains a pile of life to win the race.

[card]Feeling of Dread[/card] crushes face in this deck, so much so that I tested multiples, and when that failed I tried a second in the board. Unfortunately, while Feeling is the best topdeck in the world in a race, it’s also dead in a lot of situations and a poor card in the opener. While I’d like access to it more consistently, 1 is the correct number.

[draft]knight of infamy
vampire nighthawk
sin collector[/draft] [card]Knight of Infamy[/card]’s protection from white bricks [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card]s and [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]s, and the exalted works well with the core of the deck. Sometimes, a turn two Knight into a turn three [card]Spectral Flight[/card] gets there. Against Jund, the 2/1s are a liability, mere fodder for [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card], but that’s what the sideboard is for.

[card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card] and [card]Sin Collector[/card] round out the three-drop slot, and have the potential to dominate the matchups they’re intended for. Against aggro, [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card] combines with exalted triggers and [card]Spectral Flight[/card] to build your own [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card]. Against U/x decks, [card]Sin Collector[/card] strips the opposing hand of relevant answers while leaving behind a body to blink with [card]Restoration Angel[/card].

The 2-2 split between these two creatures recognizes their potential to carry a game while hedging against drawing multiples when they’re bad. If I was facing a metagame that was less diverse, more heavily skewed towards aggro or spell-based decks, I would adjust the count accordingly.

[draft]restoration angel
duskmantle seer[/draft]

Moving on to the four-drops, [card]Restoration Angel[/card]’s stats are the least impressive in the deck, and you can’t even blink the pro-white creatures. However, having a threat with flash is valuable, and throwing off the opponent’s math wins games. Attacking with Geist and blinking it before blockers is a great way to get damage in if you don’t have a [card]Spectral Flight[/card].

[card]Duskmantle Seer[/card] isn’t there for any particular matchup, it just has synergy with the deck. Like Geist, it can straight up murder people. That said, it’s a poor topdeck when you’re behind, which is why there’s only 2. Against control, our discard and other hard-to-deal-with threats mean that we rarely need to draw multiples. A potential replacement that needs testing is [card]Sublime Archangel[/card], which has a ton of synergy with the Nighthawk, Geist, and Baron plans.

[draft]blood baron of vizkopa
obzedat, ghost council[/draft] [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card] is really good right now, and one of the main reasons I started testing the deck in the first place. Baron’s particular set of skills can brick entire armies, and the card beats Junk Aristocrats by itself. Jeremy Stowe had the idea of sticking a [card]Spectral Flight[/card] on it, which lets it attack through hoards of green creatures and protects it from [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]. That combination isn’t the focus of this deck, but it’s a sweet win when it happens.

[card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card] isn’t as good as Baron against the creature decks, but it’s a more resilient threat against control and Jund. [card]Spectral Flight[/card] doesn’t look like a combo at first, as you’ll lose the enchantment when you blink out your Obzedat, but two mana to jump for 7 damage can end the game.

[card]Cavern of Souls[/card] is sweet in this deck, replacing [card]Moorland Haunt[/card]. Haunt was fine but rarely won the game, and there was never time to activate it against aggro. Cavern is great against control, and can actually tap for colored mana. Moving it to the main deck freed up sideboard slots. Note that there is some crossover between creature types, including:

Vampire: [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card], [card]Duskmantle Seer[/card], and [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card] Cleric: [card]Sin Collector[/card], [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] Spirit: [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card], [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] Human: [card]Knight of Infamy[/card], [card]Sin Collector[/card] (never name Human)

Sideboard

The sideboard changes constantly, and I’ve never submitted the same 15 for two different events:

[deck]2 Supreme Verdict
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
3 Duress
3 Appetite for Brains
1 Sin Collector
2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Rhox Faithmender
2 Rest in Peace[/deck]

This is a proactive deck with fast threats, and cheap discard fits the shell much better than expensive countermagic. Hand disruption comes in for Nighthawks and [card]Warped Physique[/card]s against decks full of spells, and Nighthawks come in for hand disruption against decks full of creatures.

[card]Supreme Verdict[/card] is only there for Hexproof, as it’s one of the few ways to interact with their threat base that doesn’t lose to [card]Spell Rupture[/card]. Meanwhile, red aggro has a lot of hasty threats, and we’d rather develop our board than cast a sweeper. This deck can’t untap and [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] to stabilize—it’s designed to attack.

Notable exclusions:

[card]Negate[/card]. Against Esper colors, the blue decks expect some amount of countermagic and bring in [card]Dispel[/card].

[card]Dissipate[/card]. While Dissipate can answer an [card]Unburial Rites[/card] or a [card]Thragtusk[/card], it’s also a clunky three mana, which this deck can’t afford.

[card]Lyev Skynight[/card]. While interesting, Skynight proved too vulnerable and underpowered. Nighthawk is a stronger card.

[card]Gloom Surgeon[/card]. Tested poorly. A worse [card]Knight of Infamy[/card] is not what the deck needs.

[card]Gift of Orzhova[/card]. Not being able to enchant the pro white Knights makes it worse than [card]Nearheath Pilgrim[/card].

[card]Nearheath Pilgrim[/card]. Could be fine as a one- or two-of, as soulbonding with pro white guys works. Unfortunately, Pilgrim is bricked by almost anything and doesn’t interact well in combat, making it worse than Nighthawk or Faithmender.

Matchups

Hexproof

The Hexproof matchup is hand dependent. If they load up a Geist, you can trade legends and win (until the M14 release). [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] can’t be answered preboard, but sometimes Nighthawk can race it.

[card]Knight of Infamy[/card] is weak here, but it combines well with the lifelinkers and needs to be left in in some number. Still, if Knight is your only pressure, the hand is probably a mulligan.

Remove

[draft]2 Sin Collector
1 Feeling of Dread
2 Azorius Charm
2 Warped Physique
1 Knight of Infamy[/draft]

Add

[draft]2 Supreme Verdict
3 Duress
2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Lavinia of the Tenth[/draft] [card]Duress[/card] hits some of the trickier enchantments, like [card]Rancor[/card], as well as clearing out countermagic so the important threats can resolve.

[card]Supreme Verdict[/card] is one of the few ways to get rid of [card]Invisible Stalker[/card], and can clear mana dorks as well. It’s not good against [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] and [card]Strangleroot Geist[/card], but at least those cards can be blocked.

Hexproof is not an ideal matchup, but we have a few good tools against them.

Aristocrats

Esper Aggro crushes both forms of Aristocrats, particularly the Junk version. The pro white creatures, the flying Geists, everything Esper does is difficult for Aristocrats to answer.

Remove

[draft]2 Sin Collector
3 Syncopate[/draft]

Add

[draft]2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
2 Rest in Peace[/draft]

Post-board, [card]Rest in Peace[/card] is an absolute house, as creatures no longer die or trigger dying effects. This is the main reason to run Rest over the more tempo-y [card]Purify the Grave[/card].

Lavinia is untested, but she looks good on paper.

Junk Reanimator

Junk Reanimator has inevitability and needs to be killed before it gets going. Cards that give reach, like [card]Feeling of Dread[/card], [card]Spectral Flight[/card], and [card]Duskmantle Seer[/card] do work here.

Remove

[draft]2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Knight of Infamy
2 Sin Collector[/draft]

Add

[draft]2 Rest in Peace
3 Appetite for Brains[/draft]

Post-board, [card]Appetite for Brains[/card] answers [card]Thragtusk[/card]. [card]Rest in Peace[/card] buys some time, but Junk will have answers to it. Ideally Rest will hit some value in the graveyard, but it doesn’t always work out that way.

Take care for [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] on [card]Spectral Flight[/card].

Red Aggro

The Nighthawk plan gives Esper some game against fast red aggro, especially when combined with a spare [card]Spectral Flight[/card]. On turn two, [card]Azorius Charm[/card] is a [card]Submerge[/card]. After that, it’s a gain eightish life. The goal is to live until you can land a Baron or an Obzedat to stabilize the game.

Remove

[draft]2 Sin Collector
1 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Duskmantle Seer[/draft]

Add

[draft]2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Rhox Faithmender
1 Lavinia of the Tenth[/draft]

Faithmender works well in multiples, but this deck’s goal isn’t to stall the board. In general, we rarely have inevitability. Rather, Faithmender helps win the race in combination with Nighthawk, Baron, or Azorius Charm, and it’s only wanted against red aggro.

Jund

Jund is designed to murder creatures, and Esper Aggro relies on creatures to win. It doesn’t help that the presence of Hexproof has made Jund pilots tried and tested at answering Geist.

Sadly, Esper Aggro’s best chance is for the Jund player to flood out and die, but that’s the same for most creature decks.

Remove

[draft]2 Vampire Nighthawk
4 Knight of Infamy
1 Azorius Charm[/draft]

Add

[draft]3 Appetite for Brains
3 Duress
1 Sin Collector[/draft]

Post-board, we have a reasonable chance of shredding Jund’s hand and winning that way. As in the Junk matchup, Appetite answers Thragtusk.

Naya Midrange

Esper Aggro can handle [card]Domri Rade[/card]s, [card]Boros Reckoner[/card]s, and [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card]s, but it can’t handle fast [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card]s or [card]Aurelia, the Warleader[/card]s.

Remove

[draft]2 Sin Collector
1 Syncopate[/draft]

Add

[draft]2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Lavinia of the Tenth[/draft]

Post board the matchup stays similar, only the Nighthawk plan is more consistent and we have fewer dead draws. While [card]Sin Collector[/card] does hit [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card]—one of the only ways to kill Blood Baron—that’s all it hits.

UWR

The UWR matchup is Esper Aggro’s dream matchup. As a deck choice, Esper excels in a field of UWR and Aristocrats over any other metagame composition.

[card]Sin Collector[/card] is one of your most important cards here, especially since [card]Renounce the Guilds[/card] started showing up in lists.

Remove

[draft]2 Vampire Nighthawk
3 Warped Physique
1 Azorius Charm[/draft]

Add

[draft]3 Duress
1 Sin Collector
2 Rest in Peace[/draft]

I love that they have to leave countermagic in, as it’s one of the few ways to deal with Geist, yet much of the time the counters get bricked by [card]Cavern of Souls[/card].

Post-board, we have a ton of ways to strip their hand, with [card]Rest in Peace[/card] to deny [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] value.

Depending on what we see in game one, it could be correct to leave in some number of [card]Warped Physique[/card] or, if it’s a more controlling list, cut the [card]Feeling of Dread[/card].

Esper Control

Esper Control features a critical mass of spells, much like UWR, though with even fewer creatures and more disruption. This matters a lot, as they can consistently answer Geist, making more resilient threats like Obzedat necessary. Either way, you bring the same cards in against both decks.

Remove

[draft]2 Vampire Nighthawk
3 Warped Physique
1 Feeling of Dread[/draft]

Add

[draft]3 Duress
1 Sin Collector
2 Rest in Peace[/draft]

Note that we leave [card]Knight of Infamy[/card] in against the [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] decks but not the Bonfire ones, mostly because Knight is a great way to get in early damage without getting [card]Azorius Charm[/card]ed. Later, Knight can attack through [card]Restoration Angel[/card] or [card]Lingering Souls[/card] tokens.

Modern

I had a few people ask me for my updated UWR Twin list for GP KC. While the format hasn’t changed much since last PTQ season, I have monkeyed with a few slots.

UWR Twin

[deck]Main Deck
1 Sulfur Falls
2 Island
2 Cascade Bluffs
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Steam Vents
4 Arid Mesa
4 Celestial Colonnade
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Spellskite
4 Deceiver Exarch
3 Restoration Angel
2 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
4 Wall of Omens
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Pestermite
1 Pyroclasm
2 Lightning Helix
1 Electrolyze
4 Splinter Twin
4 Path to Exile
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Remand
Sideboard
1 Negate
2 Rest in Peace
4 Dispel
2 Threads of Disloyalty
1 Celestial Purge
1 Pyroclasm
1 Wear/Tear
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Spellskite[/deck]

This deck has a ton going for it, including a great matchup against creature decks. This includes Pod, which increased in popularity due to [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card]. Pod took up three of the Top 8 slots in GP Portland, the last major Modern event.

Unlike UR Twin, this version can actually advance a board state or answer a [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], and it’s much less vulnerable to hate. On top of that, it imitates a control deck well, leading to some surprise kills.

The main changes were to fit an [card]Electrolyze[/card] into the main deck and a pair of Cliques in the board. [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] was great, but sacrifices must be made, and Clique does more work in closer matchups. In the end, the potential to blink Clique with [card]Restoration Angel[/card] pushes it over the top.

After the M14 rules change, I look forward to [card]Splinter Twin[/card]ning [card]Vendilion Clique[/card].

Caleb Durward

Discussion

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