• derek

Esper Walkers - Standard

Updated: Feb 13, 2019

This deck is a community submission by David Saunders.

David, my dood. This list was a lot of fun to try out. When you don't play super friends very often, you honestly forget how broken having 2-3 planeswalkers out can be.

Today, we are doing a deep dive into Esper Walkers, this deck has a lot going for it, but that doesn't mean I don't have a few suggestions! I'll give you my impressions up front and honest, I really enjoyed myself. I never really felt behind in most of the games, and that's how you want to be.

First Impressions.

I ended up going 5/1 with this list, although I didn't get an opportunity to play some of the most prominent decks in the meta. We did play quite a bit of Orzhov control, a deck that this deck just plowed through. We played a merfolk deck that did get us down to 3 life, but we were able to stabilize and finish the game with a well timed Phyrexian Scriptures. We also played an Izzet spell slinger deck running Guttersnipe and Electrostatic Field and our deck here completely crushed it. We only lost to mirror match, and even still, it was a close match.

The Control.

Let's first touch on the control before we get to our main win conditions. We are running a full play set of Thought Erasure in the deck. Whenever we had it, we always were able to cast it on turn 2; being able to have access to all of the necessary shock lands and check lands really smooths out our mana base. Thought Erasure is literally great against any match up, especially great against control. There is a reason that this card has been a clear staple since it released. Not only do we get to take our opponent's most important card from their hand, but we also get to pseudo scry our library, pitching away unnecessary lands or spells in order to find our better action.

We also have a single copy of The Eldest Reborn. I had the opportunity to play it in several of my games and the thing that people often forget about the first mode on this spell is that it not only hits creatures, but hits planeswalkers as well. There were games when I would play a Teferi, then my opponent would play their Teferi or Karn, and then I'd hit them with The Eldest Reborn on an open board. And what's even more fantastic is that as it steadily picks apart their options, we get to reanimate that planeswalker (or our own) from the graveyard on the final chapter of the saga.

Speaking of enchantments, one of the things that can really ruin our day are cards like Ixalan's binding or Conclave Tribunal, as they can exile away our win conditions and super friends. Luckily, with Ravnica Allegiance, we got the all-time-Orzhov standard staple, Mortify. This heavily reprinted card is a perfect answer for these exile enchantments. Mortify is cheap to cast (at 3 mana), is instant speed, and can also provide flexibility if we instead need to kill a problematic creature. And when we pair a turn 2 Thought Erasure into a turn 3 Mortify of our opponent's turn 4 play? Feels good as it opens up the door for us to play our Karn, Scion of Urza the following turn.

The deck is also running 2 Thaumatic Compass. This artifact is cheap and once you have 7 lands and are able to flip it, can be a great answer against something like a Ghalta or Great Wurm, as you can remove an attacking creature an opponent controls from combat. And, though it doesn't quite matter in this deck, there is a pay 3 generic to tutor up a basic land and put it into your hand. This can be a decent mana sync if you have nothing better to do as well as guarantee you hit your land drops for your 5 to 7 mana spells.

To round out our single targeted removal, Esper Walkers also runs 2 Vraska's Contempt. We've seen the power level of this card for years now. And what I find even more interesting is that for a while people were speculating that Vraska's Contempt would be come too expensive to play in Standard expecting things like Bedevil to take its place. While Bedevil may take its place in a Rakdos deck, our Esper deck thrives on this card. It becomes a perfect answer against Teferi, a special answer against troublesome creatures while also negating an early attack from the life gain, and being instant speed allows us to hold up other answers and better assess the situation. Definitely worth the inclusion.

Lastly, we are running 3 Phyrexian Scriptures. This is an interesting card in a deck like this because we end up having quite a few artifact creatures out at a time, so when the Saga hits its second chapter to destroy all non artifact creatures, our creatures are unaffected. What's more, we also get to effectively time walk our aggro or midrange creature decks as once they see a Phyrexian Scriptures hit the battlefield, they'll then wait to cast another creature until our saga wipes the board. This ends up putting our opponents a turn behind. Plus, having the ability to then exile away our opponent's graveyards, can be a great answer against things like Phoenixes or jump-start cards.

The Value Cards.

We do have a couple value cards at our disposal as well. We see a full play set of both Fountain of Renewal and Treasure Map. Fountain of Renewal becomes an excellent turn 1 play for this deck. It grants us the ability to gain a life every turn while also giving us the ability to draw a card mid-to-late game if we really need the action. Getting 2 or 3 of these out can spell game over for our opponents, and we can easily find them with our next category of cards as well. Not to mention, having this 1 drop artifact really plays well into our artifact sub-theme that we have for this deck, and I am incredibly happy to play it almost whenever I draw it.

Treasure Map feels very much the same way. Fantastic turn 2 play, and it can even help scry you into your missing 3rd land or your needed removal spell with an end step then upkeep scry. Not to mention, it is mana acceleration and card draw all with a single card when it flips. And while I mentioned it with the Fountain of Renewal, being able to have 3 Treasure artifacts once this card flips, really plays into our sub-theme.

The Super Friends (and Chromium).

Super Friends, coming to save the day! Now we are able to get into our card draw and win conditions for the deck.

Let's start with our cheapest and easiest to cast planeswalker, Karn, Scion of Urza. For 4 generic mana, we get a five loyalty planeswalker that grants us a pseudo card draw on our plus one (as our opponent gets to choose what we keep, while exiling the other card), we can then have more selective card draw with his -1 by pulling the exiled cards into our hand, but we also get the main win condition for the deck, his -2. By removing 2 loyalty counters, we are able to get a 0/0 Artifact Construct that gets +1/+1 for each artifact we control. So, now all of those Fountain of Renewals, Thaumatic Compasses, and Treasure Maps/Treasures start adding up. It feels pretty great to pay 4 mana late game, and over the course of 3 turns get 18+ power on the board and still sort of draw a card.

To further our artifact sub-theme, the deck also runs 3 Tezzeret, Artifice Master. For 3UU, we get a 5 mana planeswalker that can +1 to give us an Thopter artifact creature token, a perfect blocker to stave off attacks. Also, with his -0 ability, we get the ability to draw a card, which scales to 2 cards whenever we have Metalcraft (3 or more artifacts in play). Then, his ultimate (-9!), can also bring us closer to victory, as we can then continually tutor up our most important permanents and put them into play. However, out of all of the games, I never once have been able to get that -9 ability, probably because it would take over 5 turns to do it. Still, that +1 and 0 ability are absolutely fantastic repeatable effects.

Lastly, the deck also runs the scourge of Standard, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Teferi is an extremely powerful planeswalker, allowing us another answer to something like exile enchantments, other planeswalkers, or problematic creatures by tucking them away with his -3. But where he really shines is this +1 that allows us to draw a card and then untap 2 of our lands on our end step. Often times, I found myself untapping a Treasure Cove or 2 or a Spires of Orazca (if you used it to cast a spell that turn). And with that, Teferi can be a win condition all himself (just like all of our walkers, really) as he will eventually become a mill win whenever his ultimate fires and we substantially control the board moving forward. All in all a good selection of walkers.

Lastly, we get to Chromium. Chromium, the Mutable is an incredibly durable creature that can flash down and eat a Lyra or Doom Whisperer swing. Not only that, but he is a great answer to control decks as we can flash him in, and he has the added ability of being unable to be countered. We then also have another ability that allows us to discard a card to turn him into a 1/1 with hexproof that can't be blocked...a great way to deal with single target removal on him. Once we are able to establish Chromium on the board, he will end the game in 3 swings. And if you pair him with a Karn construct or 2? You can even win the game on the spot.

The Sideboard Strategy.

The sideboard has some interesting pieces in it. We have first and foremost, 2 Dawn of Hope. Dawn of Hope is a great answer to control match ups, as it comes down early, and when paired with our 4 Fountain of Renewal, we have a very powerful and potent card draw engine online as early as turn 3. Not to mention, but being able to pay 3W into the enchantment to get a 1/1 with lifelink, it not only fuels itself but can become yet another win condition for the deck.

Up against RB Burn, Mono Red Burn/Aggro, and Niv-Mizzet Control, we also have Absorb, a great addition to the sideboard to allow us to counter our opponent's important spells like Judith, the Scourge Diva, but can definitely stabilize us with the very important text of "You gain 3 life." It is our main answer to counter spells (in addition to Thought Erasure) and is another equalizer against the right match up.

Against Aggro decks, we also have 4 Moment of Cravings. This instant speed -2/-2 can save us plenty of life in the early game, but can even counteract an early attack with its "gain 2 life" clause. The 3 Kaya's Wrath are additional answers to Aggro and Midrange, but is a great 1 for 1 swap with Phyrexian Scriptures if our opponents are playing a similar strategy. Lastly, we round out the sideboard with 2 The Eldest Reborn.

My Suggestions.

So, there were a couple of things that stood out to me. Let's first talk land base: there are absolutely no basics in the deck. Personally, I found this troubling as there were several occasions when I had the opportunity to activate my Thaumatic Compass to search for a basic, but was unable to because I, well, had no basics to fetch. On top of that, this makes our strategy incredible vulnerable to Field of Ruin if we ever come across an opponent with it. If you are going to run Thaumatic Compass, then you should probably put in 1 of each basic at least.

However, if you don't want to run basics, then I would remove Thaumatic Compass for something a little bit better.

If you want an artifact to take its place, consider running an Damping Sphere. While the first clause won't pertain to us in Standard too much (it does stop enchantment ramp like New Horizons), the second clause can be really great for us. We want to slow down the game quite a bit in this deck, and playing this out on turn 2 can really slow down our storm/burn players or our aggro players from playing out their hand. I like that this helps us with our game plan while also fulfilling our artifact strategy requirement.

Another interesting option could be a main deck Sorcerous Spyglass. There are a lot of targets for a spell like this, Adanto, a flipped Azcanta, Doom Whisperer, Vivian Ried, Vraska, Teferi, etc. and having the ability to main deck shut them off, is hilarious. Besides, even if there isn't a good thing to name, the card gives you knowledge of their hands, allowing you to make better plays. Not to mention, it also feeds our artifact strategy.

I also think there is a case to be made to run Dovin, Grand Arbiter in place of Thaumatic Compass as well. Dovin basically does everything this deck wants to do. It changes the focus of attacks to Dovin, he creates a 1/1 artifact thopter, and his ultimate (which can be fairly easy to reach) allows us to dig 10 deep into our library and grab any 3 cards and put them into our hand. Wow, that's powerful! I think Dovin has a real shot to shine in this deck, and I hope you give him a try.

Oh, and if you do try out Dovin, I'd also remove the 2 additional eldest reborn and instead run 2 Kaya, Orzhov Usurper in its place. Kaya has frequently impressed me with her ability to deal with important spells like the Phoenixes, Chemister's Insight, or a Quasiduplicate. Not to mention, if you are up against aggro, it is a really good option to continually gain life turn after turn after turn, which could mean running it in addition to (or maybe in place of) an Absorb and a Moment of Craving. If you are in a Niv-Mizzet heavy environment, I'd definitely still prioritize your The Eldest Reborn, as it is great answer to Niv-Mizzet once he has resolved. However, not only does Kaya fit will with the theme of the deck (esper planeswalkers) she can also bring some good sideboard utility to your deck.

Lastly, I'm personally still struggling a bit with Phyrexian Scriptures. It did do work for me, but there were other times that I just couldn't cast it opportunely. Instead, I'm thinking a split with Settle the Wreckage could be a good answer, giving you the ability to surprise a board wipe on your opponent.

In Conclusion.

If you can't tell, I really like this deck a lot. It felt good to play, your grip was always full, and you never really missed a land drop. The mana felt very consistent and it was easy to get all the colors we needed, when we needed it. The control elements were just right; at first I thought there should be more counter magic main, but after playing it I'm a believer. So, if you like super friends and you don't mind spending a few hundred dollars, try this list out (and maybe play test some of my suggestions for your meta), it is powerful, resilient, and a blast to pilot.

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