Welcome to the Standard circus of value, where we don’t need the Rakdos to put together one hell of a circus! You want cast triggers? Hero’s got you covered. ETB removal? Let me introduce you to the Deputy. Instant two-for-ones? Resistance to removal? Synergy? It’s all here, down at the Circus of Value.
Some of you may have realized I’ve got a thing for midrange decks. It’s generally where you’re going to see the coolest cards do their thing. In today’s deck, we’ve got a ton of cool cards doing a ton of cool things in an honest-to-goodness midrange-masquerading-as-control deck. Everything here has maximum value in different ways, so let me introduce you to our lineup.
Hero of Precinct One is no stranger here. With a three-color deck comprised almost entirely of multi-color spells, there’s no reason not to run four of our token-making friend here. She’ll give us attackers for Dovin’s +1 and defense against aggro strategies for the most part, plus she can punish a slow start from our opponent.
Thief of Sanity is absolutely brutal if not answered immediately, letting us cast the best spell from the top three of our opponent’s deck. It’s like card draw, but better. In some edge cases, he holds off mono-blue for a few turns both as a blocker and as a threat they have to leave a blocker for.
Deputy of Detention is a new face from Ravnica Allegiance. For those of you familiar with Detention Sphere, you know exactly how useful he can be. For the rest of us, well, it’s not hard to tell that removing a nonland permanent is both versatile and powerful. Also, if your opponent happens to have a lot of tokens out, Deputy will just kill them all in one fell swoop. Permanently.
Seraph of the Scales is also from Ravnica Allegiance, though she’s been in a couple deck techs before. She’ll kill anything she blocks and leave behind two spirits, or she can keep getting in with vigilance to keep the defenses up, which is very nice when we’re running two planeswalkers.
Basilica Bell-Haunt is fantastic against any sort of aggro strategy. Played on turn 4, he’s going to get one of their last and generally more valuable cards, plus the three life is a huge deal against them. Against any other deck, I’m perfectly happy with the two-for-one and the three-power body is one of our better attackers in this deck.
Lyra Dawnbringer doesn’t need much explanation, so I’ll keep it simple. She’s a fantastic finisher, coming down on turn five and usually after our opponents have used up their resources. She’s a brick wall against aggro and a four-turn clock assuming we haven’t gotten any damage in yet. Her synergy here is a little light, so we only run two.
Karn is our card advantage engine. Oddly enough, in Esper our card advantage are not very diverse. Dovin can also be card advantage, but he’s mainly there to let us pile on the value while we answer their threats. We have a wealth of answers, but all the answers in the world won’t end the game if you don’t have something going on on the board. Dovin makes sure we do.
I do want to mention the obvious absence of Standard’s currently most powerful planeswalker: Teferi. He’s so plainly powerful and a frustrating and overwhelming game-ender in control. I don’t like playing against him and he’s not interesting to play with. I imagine if you replaced the Karns with Teferis, the deck would be that much stronger, but I’m not here to build decks with boring cards.
Any deck with both blue and black should seriously consider a playset of Thought Erasure. It disrupts our opponents’ gameplan, takes their most relevant threat or answer, and tells us what their plan for the next few turns will be, allowing us to play around counterspells or removal.
Discovery // Dispersal is mainly for smoothing out our draw. We’re probably one land short, given our curve, but with the selection Discovery gives us, we can find what we need. Dispersal can, occasionally, deal with a threat when we can’t find the appropriate answer.
Mortify is solid removal. It’s important that it hits enchantments too, as there are quite a few popular enchantments running around in the meta right now. Wilderness Reclaimation, Curious Obsession, and Conclave Tribunal come to mind.
I gotta be honest, I had some high hopes for this list. I’d played against similar lists and usually lost, plus the gameplan looks solid just glancing at the cards. In practice, however, I experienced something entirely different.
I lost about eighty percent of my games, give or take, and I’m still not sure why. A lot of the time, I didn’t have key interaction with my opponents’ creatures and either got beaten down by fliers or raced by aggro. The thing is, this deck is built with a lot of interaction. Yes, some games I drew too many Thought Erasures, or Dovin when I had no creatures, but otherwise this deck is stacked with interaction and ways to find it. I want to say I got unlucky, but it’s honestly hard to tell. If you don’t count Thought Erasure, the deck isn’t too heavy on removal, so perhaps I’ll need to add more.
Card-by-card, most performed as I expected. Thief of Sanity was incredible no matter what he did. I sometimes used him as removal bait, sometimes as defense, and sometimes he broke a stalemate or won a topdeck war. Thought Erasure did very well and the surveil on that is not to be underestimated. Hero of Precinct One wasn’t too impressive, but at the same time, getting the incremental value for just playing my deck allowed me to get pressure on my opponent or keep spawning blockers. Dovin was probably the most underwhelming, but then again, if I had a bit more removal I think he’d get better. The creatures in this deck are small and can’t engage in combat favorably most of the time.
As for matchups, I played against mostly mono-blue tempo and izzet drakes. There was a rakdos aggro and mardu aristocrats match as well, both of which this deck did fairly well with. Against mono-blue and drakes, though, I lost nearly every time. With mono-blue, the amount of interaction I’m running didn’t turn out to be enough against their counterspells and Dive Downs. With drakes, their aerial threats manages to be too big for me to deal with. I thought because there are typically only 8-10 threats in those decks I could win the attrition war, but that’s not how it played out.
The mana in the deck was quite consistent, only giving me a small bit of trouble when I was looking for double-white for Lyra every now and then. It does have the price of often making you shock yourself once or twice to keep on curve, but the life loss rarely came into play.
Basilica Bell-Haunt is more ammo against aggro, one of this deck’s weaker matchups, as well as a useful threat against control. Duress is also for the control matchup, but after playtesting I’m going to remove it. Devoting six cards to hand disruption just doesn’t feel right. Consecrate // Consume is a good way to deal with decks that have hexproof threats or rely on fewer yet larger creatures such as the Gates deck. Negate is for mono-blue and control. The Eldest Reborn is a great value card in the grinder matchups, and a third Karn is useful there as well.
Though I didn’t think so after the initial deckbuild, this list needs more removal. Something simple like Moment of Craving might be useful, but with the popularity of mono-blue, either Fungal Infection or Cry of the Carnarium could be the pick as well. Duress is coming out for another Negate and removal. Lyra is great, but I think I want something even later like a Chromium for longer matches. I'm also considering a couple Tithe Takers in the sideboard to make it harder for mono-blue to counter my interaction.
Anyways, that’s all for this week’s deck. Hopefully my changes will buff this into the beast I know it can be and get this Circus some real attention. See you next week!