This weekend is the TCGplayer $50,000 MaxPoint Invitational in Las Vegas. It should be super exciting and I can't wait to check out the live coverage on Twitch. While their format is Standard, however, I'm trying to branch out and find some good Modern decks that haven't yet been discovered. I ended up finding this gem by Francesco Amati. At first glance it reminded me a lot of the Faerie deck of old. Very tempo based while killing your opponents with small men. Well...It's kinda like that except you're disruptive and killing them with unblockable guys and flying guys. Here's the decklist!
I figured instead of breaking this deck down card by card, I'd just talk to the deck's creator! Here's what he had to say about the deck in the interview.
How'd you come up with the deck?
When Delver was the hot in Standard, I was playing Delverless Esper with Snapcaster Mages, Geist of Saint Trafts, Blade Splicers, Restoration Angels, etc. Combined with hand disruption, counters, and removal, Delverless Esper was the type of deck that capitalized on versatility, offensively and defensively. It had the ability to apply pressure from several angles. It was designed to go bigger than Delver, while remaining relatively cost-efficient and was tailored to counter the meta.
Needless to say, it's been my style ever since. Ultimately, Delverless inspired the design for Esper Twix, but I also drew inspiration from Hate Bears, Dead Guy Ale, and Faeries. The end result has been a deck comprised of unusual suspects, such as Tidehollow Sculler, Meddling Mage, and Esper Charm, but one that plays like an Esper version of Junk; versatile, adaptable, and resilient.
As for the name, it was originally 'Terrible Twos', but the Founder/Admin of the Facebook group 'Magic: The Gathering: Modern Meta Masters,' Hunter Cutchin, suggested I call it 'Twix', like the chocolate, to fit the highly disruptive theme of the deck - 'Two for me, and none for you'. I dig it.
That's pretty sweet. I can dig that. Actually kinda nice to play a hate bear tempo style deck that is in blue and not just monowhite.
Why'd you come up with the deck?
I came up with this deck because I've been studying the meta and thought, "Esper usually has answers for everything, but why isn't Esper relevant right now outside of Esper Mentor?" The truth may come down to Esper's lack of efficient beaters and versatile removals, but I've been determined to give players a reason to play Esper. I also value brewing over netdecking, but I use netdecks for inspiration. Traditional Control is not where you want to be in Modern, at least in Esper, because what we do, Grixis, Jeskai, and Sultai do it better. Going one-for-one while applying minimal offensive pressure is a recipe for high risk and very low reward. Esper has access to spells that control the game very well, but it relies on slow tactics to actually win, which may be fine in Standard, but won't cut it in Modern. There are too many decks that have ways to crawl back into the game or that simply win out of nowhere because of a combo that Esper can't interact with when it needs to.
This is what led me to the idea of executing a control plan through a different approach. In Esper Twix, we're not sacrificing offense for defense. On the other hand, we're executing both at the same time. To pull this off, I had to strike a balance between creatures and spells that would allow me to be simultaneously interactive and aggressive. The foundation was to keep the curve low and the versatility high. A challenge was not to dilute the focus of the deck by trying to do too much, which the deck already does.
Looking at the best decks is a very good way to make a deck combat a certain meta. I've also done this, and continually do it in Standard since it's so much easier to do.
Do you believe it is well positioned at the moment?
I believe this deck is very well-positioned for the current meta. The beauty of it, though, is that it will continue to adapt as the metagame changes. I've found that to be an innovative aspect of the deck, but this is mainly due the nature of its design through efficient creatures that provide additional disruption to complement its spells. While this approach is nothing new, it is unconventional-but-refreshing for Esper in Modern.
I came in 5th with my 'Esper Twix' deck at my local Modern tournament, at The Dragon's Lair in Newton, NJ, against a very good field. I was first going into Top 8 (I beat Grixis Twin, BW Tokens, and Affinity on the way to Top 8. I lost to Abzan in the Top 8; it was a very close match, but I lost to a top deck Siege Rhino. Who hasn't? Overall, I felt like the deck performed very well.
The dreaded life total of three. I'm sure we can all attest to dying fror a Siege Rhino while at three life. Three life is even scarier in Modern due to the staple, Lightning Bolt.
What are the deck's bad matchups?
I actually wouldn't say it has any 'bad' matchups, but it has a few that are more challenging than others, namely Abzan, Sultai, and Jund, followed by Grixis Delver. This is because these decks have a variety of removal coupled with offensive pressure from multiple angles. In other words, they're doing what we do, but more aggressively. Some Collected Company variations are more challenging than others (i.e. Elves and Bant Collected Company), but I have several answers vs. Company to cripple their explosiveness. Tron can also cause trouble if they can get to Ugin + Emrakul, but I've opted for a very proactive disruption + racing strategy that's worked rather well.
That being said, I've found the non-linear decks to be the most difficult, but adding Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Mirran Crusader have improved my matchup vs. some of these decks. Mirran Crusader is extremely well-positioned for the meta and can be a wall or a bomb vs. Abzan and other GBx decks, especially going over the top with Elspeth for a two turn clock.
Seems like a good portion of the decks can be an even battle or have one deck slightly more favored than the other. That's what happens though when you play a deck that's pretty good against everything, you'll hover around that 50% win rate mark with play and draws swinging the numbers back and forth.
What are its good matchups, does it pray on anything?
Its good matchups are any variation of Splinter Twin, some variations of Collected Company, Amulet Bloom, Gifts Ungiven decks, Infect, Jeskai, Burn, Affinity, and BW Tokens. These matchups are favorable because the deck has an exceptional plan against combo in general. Meddling Mage and Tidehollow Sculler can do a lot of work against these decks.
The maindeck takes care of quite a bit, but the sideboard is tailored to potentially transform it into Esper planeswalkers style deck.
This shift makes it resilient in the late-game. There aren't many answers for planeswalkers right now.
So basically combo decks and anything that is pretty linear seems to be a good matchup. And against the decks that try to grind you out like Jund and Abzan, you gain some planeswalkers after boarding to help against their strategy.
Would you recommend this deck?
I'd highly recommend it for those who want to play something viable in the current meta that's out of left field, but very good.
It has many interesting interactions, but it is not an easy deck to play. The deck presents itself with many options, but it also requires the pilot to know what's going on and how to best interact with certain matchups. Missing with Meddling Mage can be costly, as is exiling the wrong card with Sculler. The General idea is to manipulate their plays and apply pressure while doing so.
Meddling Mage can definitely be a tricky card and the card you name isn't always the one you saw in their hand. Sometimes naming a different card is correct, I can see how that is not an easy card to play and requires that you have a decent understanding of the current Modern decks. I like it!
On that note, what are some interactions new players might not see?
The following are some interactions new players may not see:
Restoration and Tidehollow Sculler. Angel can save Sculler from removal, but with six mana, you can cast Sculler and with Sculler's trigger on the stack, cast Restoration Angel targeting Sculler to permanently exile the card you choose with Sculler.
Kind of simple but Shizo, Death's Storehouse is very good with Tasigur, not only Geist.
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Elspeth, Knight-Errant. They may seem odd, but they put two different kinds of pressure on your opponent. A good way to attack.
Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Creeping Tar Pit. Sometimes it's the simple things that we forget.
Also with the Restoration Angel and Tidehollow Sculler play, you get to exile a card for good and you get to get another card to hide with Sculler. So the best card is gone forever and the second best is under Sculler; a very mana intensive-but-strong play. You could also blink your Sculler on draw step to get a new card or maybe they had no cards and you just played it as a 2/2 body but now you have drawn Angel and want to do one better than Vendilion Clique. Or maybe you just want to do it at end of turn to make sure you can resolve your Elspeth. Restoration Angel also works well with Meddling Mage. Resetting it as well or naming that Emrakul your Tron opponent just tutored with Eye of Ugin, likewise, the same can be done to Summoner's Pact and many other cards that force you to reveal what you tutor.
How's your personal success been with the deck?
I've had a lot of success with this deck and The General reception has been very positive. Some are referring to it as Esper Good Stuff and others as Esper's Junk. It's by no means perfect, but the foundation is strong and established. Even when I lose, the losses rarely ever feel bad. The deck grinds very well. It has a fair shot against pretty much any deck in the format, but it's also not designed to blow any deck out. Although the deck is capable of some game changing plays, such as Elspeth and Geist of Saint Traft or a timely Esper Charm to dump their hand and put them in topdeck mode (which this deck does more often than not). It's a great feeling when my opponent plays Deceiver Exarch / Pestermite with two cards in hand and I play Esper Charm in response. Boom! There goes their Splinter Twins.
The biggest surprise for me has been my matchup vs Infect and Affinity. Two very explosive decks who fall significantly behind against Tidehollow Sculler, Meddling Mage, and hand disruption.
All very good points. Something I'd like to add, naming a certain card that's different than the card your opponent has in their hand might make them play differently. Since you didn't name that card in their hand or maybe didn't Sculler it away then it most likely means you have an answer for it, right? Or maybe you don't but you need them to think that way so you can win? Mind Games to be had for sure. You seem to be doing really well with this deck, and that's exciting!
What are some possible card choices for the deck and when would you play them?
The deck has several spells it can consider, but I've narrowed it down to the following top three creature options for this deck per converted mana cost (CMC.)
Two CMC: Spellstutter Sprite, Phyrexian Revoker, Kor FirewalkerThree CMC: Kitchen Finks, Aven Mindcensor, Brimaz, King of OreskosFour CMC: Hero of Bladehold, Venser, Shaper Savant, Linvala, Keeper of Silence Five CMC: Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Baneslayer Angel, Dragonlord Ojutai
I can see all those seeing playing depending on the situation. Then again I could probably see almost any card seeing play. Some other spells to keep in mind would be Ojutai's Command (very sweet interactions with Meddling Mage and Tidehollow Sculler), Valorous Stance, and Mark of Asylum, which is very good against Pyroclasm type effects.
Anything else you'd like to add before we wrap things up?
I just want to give a shout out to those who helped me throughout the development of this brew and who've greatly contributed to the deck it's turned into:
TCGplayer Hunter Cutchin - Magic: Modern Meta Masters (Facebook)
Tom Pampalone - The Dragon's Lair (Newton, NJ)
AJ Graziano - He plans to pilot it in Charlotte
Nevin Kirk - Magic: Modern Meta Masters (Facebook)
Jason Latham - Magic: Modern Meta Masters (Facebook)
William Joyce - Magic: Modern Meta Masters (Facebook)
Jacob Hoppenfeld - Magic: Modern Meta Masters (Facebook)
Michael T. Butler - Magic: Modern Meta Masters (Facebook)
Modern is a format with a very large card pool. We can all play the best, most known decks in the format, but there's also a disadvantage to that. I strongly advocate the element of surprise, brewing, and playing decks that suit your style. A deck is only as good as its pilot and Esper Twix has proven that the format has room for Esper and quality, competitive brews.
I whole heartedly agree! Can you imagine how insane it was to pilot a deck like Amulet Bloom when nobody knew what you were playing. Pretty incredible and boosts your win percentage by a decent margin I'm sure. Thanks for the deck and answers Francesco!
And thank you all for reading. If you have any questions about the deck, I'm sure Francesco or I would be glad to answer them.
And be sure to listen to Freshly Brewed: A Magic: The Gathering podcast, where two brewers, Frank Lepore and I, discuss all things brew.
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Thanks again for tuning in. Catch you next Tuesday!
Modern isn't remotely solved,Ali