Champions of Kamigawa's flip card mechanic was one of the strangest ever conceived. It was a radical concept, the first time since Invasion's split cards that Magic cards moved beyond the original frame laid out in Alpha, and the first time they "transformed" while in play.  They have been mostly forgotten by history because they were relatively weak and had little constructed impact, but are important for paving the way towards Innistrad's double-faced cards. These set the standard for double-faced cards going forward, as seen in the planeswalker of Magic Origins and most recently in Zendikar Rising's modal double-faced cards (MDFCs). 

These new MDFCs have been fun to play with, but have also been proven to be broken cards that will forever be important in every format where they are found. By comparison, the Kamigawa flip cards were few in number and very tame in their design. Most of my memories of them involve drafting. But one in particular, Erayo, Soratami Ascendancy, has always been in the back of my mind as one of the most potentially powerful but underutilized cards in Magic. 

Breaking Erayo

Erayo's flipped half is Erayo's Essence, an enchantment that counters the first spell the opponent plays each turn. This is clearly a powerful effect, whether it's slowing the opponent's development or offering protection on your turn from their counterspells or removal. Another enchantment that can counter multiple spells for free, Counterbalance, is among the most oppressive and frustrating Magic cards ever, and Erayo offers some of that same allure. 

Playing four spells in one turn is a major hurdle, however, and while simple to execute in theory, no deck has ever been able to consistently do so while proving Erayo was worth the effort. So it really caught my attention when I saw someone put an Erayo deck into the top 4 of a Modern Challenge.

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Esper Erayo by daibloXSC

'Esper Erayo' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: daibloXSC

Event:

Rank:

Modern

Market Price: $895.85

Cards

Fatal Push

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $1.80

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218830_200w.jpg

Destroy target creature if it has mana value 2 or less.
Revolt — Destroy that creature if it has mana value 4 or less instead if a permanent you controlled left the battlefield this turn.

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Erayo, Soratami Ascendant // Erayo's Essence

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $11.70

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/12430_200w.jpg

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Polluted Delta

Market Price: $38.87

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/92829_200w.jpg

{T}, Pay 1 life, Sacrifice Polluted Delta: Search your library for an Island or Swamp card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle.

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Snow-Covered Island

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.13

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230148_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {U}.)

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Watery Grave

Color Identity:B,U

Market Price: $11.02

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/175205_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {U} or {B}.)
As Watery Grave enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

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Thoughtseize

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $12.92

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218934_200w.jpg

Target player reveals their hand. You choose a nonland card from it. That player discards that card. You lose 2 life.

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Spellskite

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $4.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218815_200w.jpg

{U/P}: Change a target of target spell or ability to Spellskite. ({U/P} can be paid with either {U} or 2 life.)

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Emry, Lurker of the Loch

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $3.20

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198857_200w.jpg

This spell costs {1} less to cast for each artifact you control.
When Emry, Lurker of the Loch enters the battlefield, mill four cards.
{T}: Choose target artifact card in your graveyard. You may cast that card this turn. (You still pay its costs. Timing rules still apply.)

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Flooded Strand

Market Price: $34.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/92828_200w.jpg

{T}, Pay 1 life, Sacrifice Flooded Strand: Search your library for a Plains or Island card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle.

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Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $56.30

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218277_200w.jpg

+2: Look at the top card of target player's library. You may put that card on the bottom of that player's library.
0: Draw three cards, then put two cards from your hand on top of your library in any order.
−1: Return target creature to its owner's hand.
−12: Exile all cards from target player's library, then that player shuffles their hand into their library.

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Mishra's Bauble

Market Price: $10.13

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218598_200w.jpg

{T}, Sacrifice Mishra's Bauble: Look at the top card of target player's library. Draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.

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Silent Clearing

Color Identity:B,W

Market Price: $12.70

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190796_200w.jpg

{T}, Pay 1 life: Add {W} or {B}.
{1}, {T}, Sacrifice Silent Clearing: Draw a card.

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Godless Shrine

Color Identity:B,W

Market Price: $12.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182836_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {W} or {B}.)
As Godless Shrine enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

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Aether Spellbomb

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.24

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216111_200w.jpg

{U}, Sacrifice Aether Spellbomb: Return target creature to its owner's hand.
{1}, Sacrifice Aether Spellbomb: Draw a card.

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Snow-Covered Swamp

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.87

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230149_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {B}.)

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Aether Gust

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192535_200w.jpg

Choose target spell or permanent that's red or green. Its owner puts it on the top or bottom of their library.

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Repeal

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.11

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/145425_200w.jpg

Return target nonland permanent with mana value X to its owner's hand.
Draw a card.

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Mox Amber

Market Price: $30.54

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/162125_200w.jpg

{T}: Add one mana of any color among legendary creatures and planeswalkers you control.

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Thought Scour

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.93

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/216526_200w.jpg

Target player mills two cards.
Draw a card.

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Engineered Explosives

Market Price: $16.86

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/218293_200w.jpg

Sunburst (This enters the battlefield with a charge counter on it for each color of mana spent to cast it.)
{2}, Sacrifice Engineered Explosives: Destroy each nonland permanent with mana value equal to the number of charge counters on Engineered Explosives.

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Hallowed Fountain

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $8.07

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182831_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {W} or {U}.)
As Hallowed Fountain enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

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Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Color Identity:B,W

Market Price: $6.39

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212282_200w.jpg

Companion — Each permanent card in your starting deck has mana value 2 or less. (If this card is your chosen companion, you may put it into your hand from outside the game for {3} any time you could cast a sorcery.)
Lifelink
During each of your turns, you may cast one permanent spell with mana value 2 or less from your graveyard.

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Minamo, School at Water's Edge

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $16.10

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/12093_200w.jpg

{T}: Add {U}.
{U}, {T}: Untap target legendary permanent.

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Snow-Covered Plains

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/230147_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {W}.)

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Waterlogged Grove

Color Identity:G,U

Market Price: $6.66

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/190793_200w.jpg

{T}, Pay 1 life: Add {G} or {U}.
{1}, {T}, Sacrifice Waterlogged Grove: Draw a card.

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Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Color Identity:B,G,U

Market Price: $0.28

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/179475_200w.jpg

Delve (Each card you exile from your graveyard while casting this spell pays for {1}.)
{2}{G/U}{G/U}: Mill two cards, then return a nonland card of an opponent's choice from your graveyard to your hand.

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Unearth

Color Identity:B

Market Price: $0.27

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/191138_200w.jpg

Return target creature card with mana value 3 or less from your graveyard to the battlefield.
Cycling {2} ({2}, Discard this card: Draw a card.)

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Teferi, Time Raveler

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $19.59

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/187194_200w.jpg

Each opponent can cast spells only any time they could cast a sorcery.
+1: Until your next turn, you may cast sorcery spells as though they had flash.
−3: Return up to one target artifact, creature, or enchantment to its owner's hand. Draw a card.

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Soul-Guide Lantern

Market Price: $2.06

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206867_200w.jpg

When Soul-Guide Lantern enters the battlefield, exile target card from a graveyard.
{T}, Sacrifice Soul-Guide Lantern: Exile each opponent's graveyard.
{1}, {T}, Sacrifice Soul-Guide Lantern: Draw a card.

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Monastery Mentor

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $12.70

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/95274_200w.jpg

Prowess (Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)
Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, create a 1/1 white Monk creature token with prowess.

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Erayo received some attention when Mox Amber was printed in Dominaria as a perfect enabler with the legendary, and it plays a key role in this deck's best draws. Turn two Erayo followed by Mox Amber and a Repeal leads to a quick flip that puts the opponent in a very tough situation. 

As good as Mox Amber is with Erayo, it's not really good enough to play without something else to help to turn it on. That void was filled by Emry, Lurker of the Loch, which is a natural inclusion in a deck already full of free artifacts for Erayo. Emry threatens to generate free card advantage every turn with Mishra's Bauble, and offers recurring disruption with Engineered Explosives or Aether Spellbomb

This mixture of artifacts to enable and flip Erayo, which protects Emry's card advantage engine, is the basic core of the deck. The rest is built on top of this foundation, in the form of both more synergies benefiting from the enablers, and further protection and support for the key pieces. 

The next step is Monastery Mentor, which is at its best combined with the deck's many 0 and mana spells. The deck is designed to play many spells in one turn for Erayo, so incidentally it's also perfectly set up for Monastery Mentor. Playing it and following up with a few spells will be good enough to win plenty of games, whether it's an early rush racing a combo deck or in a longer grind against control. 

Erayo and Emry are capable of putting the opponent in a bad position, but don't actually win the game. In some sense this is truly a Monastery Mentor combo deck, with the blue legendaries in supporting roles protecting and fueling it.

With the deck revolving around three key creatures, it's the perfect candidate for Unearth. These creatures are high-value and vulnerable targets for opposing removal, so having reanimation to help fight through it is useful—maybe even necessary in some cases.  Like Reanimate, it also offers a sort of combo-like ability to accelerate these creatures into play for just one mana. There's potential for plays like turn-two Monastery Mentor, or a one-mana Erayo that leaves a mana open to spend towards flipping it. It's enabled by both the mill of Emry, Lurker of the Loch and by Thought Scour, which also acts as another cheap noncreature spell. It's important that this deck focus on cheap spells for Erayo and Monastery Mentor, and Unearth offers an impact greater than its one-mana cost.

Unearth gets some extra utility with the potential to hit Lurrus of the Dream-Den, which is just a great card in a deck with Mishra's Bauble and other cheap artifacts to recur for value. Erayo being a two-drop to replay is an added bonus. 

With Erayo and the other creatures having such targets on their head, Spellskite adds valuable protection against removal, and has nice synergy with Unearth, Lurrus, and Emry.

Teferi, Time Raveler rounds out the deck as some extra protection from disruption. It clears the way for those big turns playing and flipping Erayo, and ensures Monastery Mentor doesn't eat a removal spell before it can play a chain of spells. Its ability to bounce a permanent is also very useful on the 0-mana artifacts, where it adds another spell to the count, and a mana when hitting Mox Amber, which it also enables. 

The bounce effect is also a nice piece of blanket disruption for dealing with anything troublesome from the opponent. Hosers like Chalice of the Void could be a big problem, but Teferi will get it out of the way when it matters. This bounce effect is especially strong in a deck that might have the opponent stuck under Erayo's Essence to counter it on the way back down to play.  This fact makes Repeal truly great in the deck, where it's already the glue that holds things together as a way to bounce a free artifact and add two spells to the count. 

With plenty of bounce effects, removal from Engineered Explosives, and Erayo itself, the deck does a good job of disrupting the opponent. It hopes to make the opponent stumble long enough to either take over with card advantage from Emry or race them with Monastery Mentor.

This plan is taken further by the sideboard, which is essentially nothing but more disruption to help tailor the deck against whatever specific strategy the opponent is playing. Thoughtseize is perfect for slowing down combo decks or stripping removal from control. Fatal Push is the best tool against the format's many creature decks. It's important that the deck use the cheapest spells available in order to make the most of Erayo, and these are some of the best cards in Modern.

Tips & Tricks

Sideboard Guide

4-Color Uro Control

The top deck in Modern and its wealth of disruption presents a challenge for Esper Erayo, but it's also vulnerable to all of the deck's payoffs. They don't have much cheap fodder to throw into Erayo's Essence, nor ways to clean up multiple tokens from Monastery Mentor. You can keep playing threats and hope they stick, but may also play around their disruption and try to set up for a big turn. This measured approach is even better after sideboarding in Thoughtseize, just don't take too long or Field of the Dead tokens will take over the game. 

Unearth isn't at its best against Path to Exile, so it can be removed along with Thought Scour, which is otherwise not necessary.

+4 Thoughtseize
+2 Soul-Guide Lantern
+2 Aether Gust
+1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

-3 Unearth
-3 Thought Scour
-2 Engineered Explosives
-1 Aether Spellbomb

Rakdos Death's Shadow

Rakdos Death's Shadow is jammed full of discard and removal, so resolving a threat and keeping it around is tough to pull off. They also have big threats that close the game quickly, and that are hard to deal with. Just keep jamming threats and hope one sticks. Engineered Explosives is an ace in the hole here, and Repeal is also great against their threats. Fatal Push also helps a lot.

+4 Fatal Push
+1 Spellskite
+1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

-4 Teferi, Time Raveler
-1 Soul-Guide Lantern
-1 Thought Scour

Heliod Company

Without Path to Exile and with only one Skyclave Apparition for removal in game one, and normally just a few of each in the sideboard, Esper's threats are very safe in the matchup. On the other hand, their combo kill can overpower anything Esper is doing. Repeal can stop their combo, while Fatal Push and Aether Gust help after sideboarding.

+4 Fatal Push
+3 Aether Gust

-4 Teferi, Time Raveler
-1 Soul-Guide Lantern
-1 Spellskite
-1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Mono-Red Obosh Aggro

Mono-Red Obosh has become one of the most popular decks in Modern, and it's a challenging matchup for Esper. Luckily their maindeck set of Blood Moon isn't too much of an issue, but do play around it by fetching basics or it can become one! Their wealth of burn spells are very problematic for destroying the deck's few threats, but there's not too much you can do about it. Prioritize disrupting them and keeping your life total high, and then hopefully have a big Monastery Mentor turn.

+4 Fatal Push
+3 Aether Gust
+1 Spellskite

-4 Teferi, Time Raveler
-3 Thought Scour
-1 Soul-Guide Lantern

Selesnya Titan

With only Path to Exile for removal and some big spells vulnerable to Erayo, this is the sort of matchup where Esper shines. Prioritize flipping Erayo ASAP or going off with Monastery Mentor, and kill them before Primeval Titan wins the game. 

+4 Thoughtseize
+3 Aether Gust
+3 Fatal Push

-4 Teferi, Time Raveler
-2 Engineered Explosives
-1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
-1 Spellskite
-1 Soul-Guide Lantern
-1 Aether Spellbomb

Amulet Titan

Amulet Titan is even more vulnerable to Esper's threats, but it's also faster.

+4 Thoughtseize
+3 Aether Gust
+2 Fatal Push
+1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

-4 Teferi, Time Raveler
-2 Engineered Explosives
-1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
-1 Spellskite
-1 Soul-Guide Lantern
-1 Aether Spellbomb

Tron

Tron has little (if any) cheap removal against the deck's threats, but it does have speed and high power on its side. Prioritize killing them with Monastery Mentor over flipping Erayo, since they can get around it with their many 1-drop spells or just exile it with Ulamog's cast trigger.

+4 Thoughtseize
+1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

-2 Engineered Explosives
-1 Spellskite
-1 Soul-Guide Lantern
-1 Teferi, Time Raveler

Hammer Time Combo

Mono-White Colossus Hammer-Sigarda's Aid combo has been on the rise in Modern. It completely lacks removal, so Esper is free to operate at it's leisure. Teferi, Engineered Explosives, Aether Spellbomb, Repeal, and post-sideboard Fatal Push help disrupt their gameplan, so this should add up to a pretty strong matchup.

+4 Fatal Push
+1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

-2 Unearth
-1 Spellskite
-1 Soul-Guide Lantern
-1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Ad Nauseam

+4 Thoughtseize
+1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

-2 Engineered Explosives
-1 Soul-Guide Lantern
-1 Aether Spellbomb
-1 Spellskite

Death and Taxes

+4 Fatal Push
+1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

-3 Teferi, Time Raveler
-1 Spellskite
-1 Soul-Guide Lantern