For my last series of videos I decided to play a deck that is not very well known, but this time I have done just the opposite. About a month ago Esper Tokens may have been a deck that was not on the radar at all, but now it might be the most popular deck in Standard! How crazy is that? Not only is the deck powerful, but it is actually enjoyable to play with. Casting Secure the Wastes and then making all of your tokens bigger with a planeswalker is great.
The list that I decided to use was that of Ray Perez, as he finished second with it at Grand Prix Indianapolis. Here it is:
This list has a lot of the staple cards in it, though after playing the games I learned how important it is to configure your deck for the mirror. It is obvious that there are a variety of cards within the Esper colors that are important pieces, and some can be swapped into the maindeck depending on the metagame. The core of the deck is disruption, planeswalkers, and then landing a Wingmate Roc, but the support cards are where the debate starts. After watching the games play out you may see what I mean.
I shouldn't have been surprised to play two mirror matches. This deck is all over Magic Online at the moment. While it is easy to dwell on the matches lost, the deck did perform well versus the aggressive red-based deck, and the ramp deck. Red decks are what this deck is built to beat. Personally, I have stopped playing Red Aggro for the moment because of how bad the matchup can get versus Esper Tokens.
Ramp on the other hand is supposed to have a pretty good matchup versus this deck. However, that may not actually be the case. We were able to beat an Ugin, the Spirit Dragon that sat on the table for multiple turns, which is not an easy task. After sideboard the Esper Tokens deck has a lot of tools that it can bring in against any slower deck relying on big non-creature spells. The support cards that impressed me the most, both when casting them and having them cast against us, were Duress and the suite of countermagic.
In the last couple rounds our draws were not particularly good in the mirror, but the deck also wasn't particularly well configured for the matchup. Ray Perez likely wasn't too worried about the Esper Tokens mirror when playing in Grand Prix Indianapolis, but the format has clearly shifted since then. Both of the opposing Esper Tokens players we faced had maindeck Duress. Duress is a card that is normally found in the sideboard, but it is maindeckable at the moment. With so many powerful non-creature spells in the format, it may be time to move away from so much spot removal, and towards something like Duress.
There were definitely spots where a card like Silkwrap or Murderous Cut was stuck in hand, or felt underwhelming when cast. This is because at best these cards are going to be a one-for-one trade in the Mirror Match, and other times you are simply killing a token with one of these cards. We also saw one of our opponents casting multiple copies of Negate after board, whereas Ray only had one copy. The mirror clearly comes down to who can land the first big threat, a card like Wingmate Roc is a game changer. The other major factor, and card that you always need to be thinking about with this deck is Knight of the White Orchid.-->
Personally I haven't played a bunch with Knight of the White Orchid, but the card definitely completely changes how the game and deck plays out. First of all I'm not even sure this deck wants to be playing first, especially after board in the Mirror Match. The difference between a two-mana vanilla creature, and one that actually helps ramp you to a Wingmate Roc is huge. In addition, after board you can play Knight of the White Orchid, and then have up Negate or Disdainful Stroke for your opponents turn four. This actually happened against us and it was the difference in the game. Remember that any time Knight of White Orchid is in your deck it is important to play out your white sources first, as that is easy to forget when it is not in your opening hand.
Overall it is clear that Esper Tokens is a very powerful deck, and one that should be a powerhouse in Standard for a while. It is unclear if configuring the deck in order to have a better mirror matchup, hurts the deck in other areas. I plan to continue working on the deck so that I have an updated list, as the one that Ray played could use a few changes. Still this reminds me of how players have been configuring Jeskai Black decks specifically to be able to beat the mirror. Whenever this happens it should indicate that a deck is very good. The other factor that helps indicate how powerful the Esper Tokens deck is that it become one of the top decks in Standard almost overnight, which is a rare occurrence.
Thanks for reading,