Esper is gone, but counterspells are back!

Core Set 2020 was just introduced to Standard and brought a lot of new decks and deckbuilding possibilities. Yesterday, I did a 14-hour stream with special guest Frank Karsten where we tried 8 new, different decks. The deck that performed the best and that I liked by far the most was Simic Flash.

We took a 5-0 list by Austin Collins from Magic Online, made some tweaks and arrived at this.

Simic Flash in Core Set 2020 Standard

8 Island (335)
5 Forest (347)
4 Breeding Pool
3 Temple of Mystery
4 Hinterland Harbor
4 Frilled Mystic
4 Brineborn Cutthroat
3 Spectral Sailor
4 Nightpack Ambusher
4 Merfolk Trickster
4 Essence Scatter
4 Sinister Sabotage
2 Negate
2 Opt
2 Syncopate
3 Unsummon

Sideboard
4 Entrancing Melody
2 Vivien Reid
1 Aether Gust
4 Shifting Ceratops
1 Veil of Summer
1 Thrashing Brontodon
2 Negate

You can find the VOD of the 14 hour stream here and some especially insane games that looked unwinnable here.

How does the deck work?

The name of the deck says it all–everything can be played at instant speed. You are never going to tap out in your own turn and will keep your opponent guessing what you have. This kind of strategy is very effective because you are the one deciding if spells are going to resolve or not and are always choosing the best possible answer to their threats, whereas your opponent will never know what’s coming. If they don’t play anything, you resolve one of your creatures and start attacking.

Your two main win conditions are Brineborn Cutthroat, who gets jokingly referred to as the blue Tarmogoyf, and Nightpack Ambusher, which basically almost always gives you a free token every turn. The rest of the deck are support creatures with useful enter-the-battlefield abilities and counterspells.

What about Teferi, Time Raveler? This is probably the toughest card to play against, because it stops all your counterspells and creatures with flash. But even though Esper was 40% of the metagame at the last Mythic Championship, I basically haven’t seen it on the ladder since Core Set 2020 released. Everyone is trying out new decks instead. And even if you do get paired against Esper, you still have a lot of ways to counter it or pressure it with creatures.

Card Choices

19 Blue Sources, 16 Green sources, 0 Blast Zone

You need to be able to cast your spells. Between the main deck and sideboard, there are 16 cards that require GG to cast. I’ve seen similar lists with 12 green sources and that’s just crazy. You can even turn a Forest into the fourth Temple, but I like having a lot of untapped lands.

Essence Scatter over Essence Capture

The reason for this is the mana requirements. It’s more important to cast multiple blue spells in one turn without running out of blue mana than it is to get a +1/+1 counter on your creature. I also actually like Essence Scatter right now, as most decks are full of creatures.

0 Mu Yanling

This was a 3-of in the original list, but it just doesn’t fit the deck and what it’s trying to do. You are trying to play everything at instant speed, not tap out in your own turn for a planeswalker that doesn’t even any immediate value.

Unsummon 

At first, I was skeptical. Returning a creature to hand is normally card disadvantage and this kind of strategy is usually only effective in Limited, but rarely in Constructed. In this deck, it actually plays out really well. You will still use it as a tempo play sometimes, but most often you will Unsummon your own Frilled Mystic, effectively turning it into another Counterspell, or save your Nightpack Ambusher from removal. I wouldn’t advise adding the fourth copy though, it’s not a card you want to draw in multiples.

0 Spell Pierce, 0 Quench

Spell Pierce and Quench can be effective cards in a Mono-Blue Tempo deck, where games only last a couple of turns. You can also run Spell Pierce in a Izzet Phoenix style of deck, where if it’s bad you just discard it to Tormenting Voice. In this deck, the games often go fairly long and you have no such option to effectively loot it away for something better. Drawing either card in this deck on turn 10 means you effectively drew a complete blank.

3 Spectral Sailor

In my opinion, this is the weakest card in the deck. It has a decent ability if the games go long, but it’s not a card you want to draw in multiples, so 3 seems like a good number.

0 Curious Obsession, 0 Dreamcaller Siren

This is not a tempo/aggro deck. You can play a tempo game, but it’s not your main goal. Curious Obsession works much better on evasion creatures than on ground creatures like Brineborn Cutthroat or Merfolk Trickster. There are also already 8 four-drops in the deck, which is also a reason why Chemister’s Insight isn’t really a consideration, either.

Some cards I haven’t had a chance to try yet, but that might work in this deck:

Dream Eater could be an interesting 1 or 2-of, but you would probably need to run more than 24 lands. Swift Warden is another reasonable creature with flash that can protect your Brineborn Cutthroat or Merfolk Trickster. The problem is the GG in the mana cost, but it could work.

Faerie Duelist–If Vampires and White Weenie are popular, this would be a decent sideboard card. It can kill a 2/1 for free and than trade for another creature. Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi is essentially a 9/9 flash creature with haste. What I really like is that it’s not a blue creature, so it can take down a Shifting Ceratops. It’s also just a good card against something like R/G Dinosaurs in general, because it’s going to be almost impossible for them to deal with a 9/9.

Finally, Search for Azcanta could be a very effective card against Control decks out of the sideboard.

Sideboard Guide

4 Entrancing Melody

The perfect card against the hyper-aggresive decks like White Weenie or Vampires. It’s also very important at getting rid of Runaway Steam-Kin, which can otherwise give you a lot of trouble.

4 Shifting Ceratops

I expect this deck to get fairly popular and there are exactly 4 non-blue cards in the main deck. This is the best card for the mirror and also against control decks with Teferis, where it both can’t be targeted by them and can kill either Teferi in one swing.

2 Vivien Reid

This card fills multiple important roles. It gives you a big threat against control decks that can search up multiple copies of Frilled Mystic, but also works as an answer to Lyra Dawnbringer or Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. If these decks aren’t very popular, Vivien is a fine card to replace.

1 Veil of Summer

This card is great against decks like Esper and Grixis, mostly for countering their Duress and Thought Erasure.

1 Thrashing Brontodon

It’s here to take down Wilderness Reclamation and Experimental Frenzy.

The best part of this deck is that it doesn’t require many rares and mythics. If you are deciding whether or not to use your wild cards to craft cards for this deck, I think it’s pretty safe to do so. Nissa, Who Shakes the World is busted and there are so many good different versions of U/G that you can be certain it will stay as one of the top archetypes for the foreseeable future.

R/G Dinosaurs

Out:

Spectral SailorSpectral SailorSpectral SailorNegateNegate

In:

Aether GustEntrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyEntrancing Melody

If they have a lot of Shifting Ceratops, you probably want to bring your own to trade with them.

Mono-Red

Out:

Spectral SailorSpectral SailorSpectral SailorNegateNegateFrilled Mystic

In:

Entrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyThrashing BrontodonAether Gust

B/W Vampires

Out:

Frilled MysticFrilled MysticUnsummonUnsummon

In:

Entrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyEntrancing Melody

Boros Feather

Out:

NegateNegateSpectral SailorSpectral SailorSpectral Sailor

In:

Entrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyAether Gust

Simic Nexus

Out:

UnsummonUnsummonUnsummonEssence ScatterEssence ScatterEssence ScatterEssence Scatter

In:

NegateNegateAether GustThrashing BrontodonVivien ReidVivien ReidShifting Ceratops

Temur Elementals

Out:

Spectral SailorSpectral SailorSpectral Sailor

In:

Entrancing MelodyEntrancing MelodyAether Gust

Esper

Out:

UnsummonUnsummonUnsummonEssence ScatterEssence ScatterEssence ScatterEssence ScatterMerfolk TricksterMerfolk Trickster

In:

Shifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsShifting CeratopsVivien ReidVivien ReidVeil of SummerNegateNegate

 

One thing that I’d like to mention is that you don’t always want to play Opt or Temple of Mystery on turn 1. Sometimes you will be a position where either land or spells would be a good draw, so you will just want to save the Opt for a future turn. It’s not going to happen all the time, but there certainly are situations where it’s correct to wait with the scry.

Lastly, many people have been asking me how rotation works with the new set, and which sets are leaving Standard etc–go to www.whatsinstandard.com and you can very easily see which sets are legal and for how long.

As always, you can find me streaming almost every day on www.twitch.tv/MartinJuza and find more Magic updates from me on www.twitter.com/MartinJuza

Thanks for reading and see you next time!