Update: I have since found out from Nakai Salway that this deck was not actually played to a 19th place finish. This list was played by his brother, Talin Salway, to an unfortunate 3-4 drop finish. Nakai actually played Abzan Aggro to 19th place. It seems as though coverage simply got the decklists and player names mixed up. Still quite an interesting list.

While I definitely did well at Grand Prix Oakland with Mossy Mardu, one player did a little better with quite the surprising deck. Nakai (Talin) Salway managed a pretty sweet 19th place finish with an Esper deck focused on killing (or rather exiling) everything in sight and winning with a specific few enchantments. Take a look.

DECKID=1257860

Now one thing I'm initially concerned about, despite him having such a successful finish, is how few answers to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon we have. I went over it in my head and, while we do have things like Scatter to the Winds and Utter End, if an opponent does manage to resolve an Ugin they could get rid of everything from Palace Siege, to Stasis Snare, to Silkwrap. The logical conclusion I came to was that this was the reason for having six maindeck sweepers, in case all of the inmates are freed from Arkham Asylum.

Another concern was the deck having only 24 lands, a number so low even decks like Abzan Aggro avoid it, but the finish doesn't lie. Either way, I honestly have no idea how the deck will play out as it's one of the most unusual things I've seen in quite some time. Let's check it out and discuss things after the videos.

Esper Enchantments vs. Atarka Red

Esper Enchantments vs. Esper Tokens

Esper Enchantments vs. Atarka Red, Match 2

Esper Enchantments vs. Four-Color Ramp

Uh...huh. Well, that was something. It's been a long time since I've felt that far out of so many of the matches I was playing. I was a little reluctant about the deck when I first saw it as there were definitely some red flags; I just kind of put them out of my mind considering that the deck managed a 19th place finish at Grand Prix Oakland. I still have no idea how that happened. Just so you know, when you mention on Twitter that you might be playing a deck in your article, it's not a good sign when Kai Budde himself responds with the following…

@FrankLepore @OriginalOestrus if you do, i suggest putting lands in the deck.

— Kai Budde (@kaibudde) January 14, 2016

As I mentioned, I knew going in that 24 lands was simply too few, especially considering eight of them were fetch lands. We frequently had mana troubles, including often missing our second or third land drops. And this was after mulliganing to sometimes five cards! We have nine five-drops in the deck and, as a control deck, we kind of have to hit every land drop if we want to survive.

Another concern was that we simply don't have very good win conditions. The plan is either to grind them out with Palace Siege or to play five enchantments and swing with all of our newly animated creatures thanks to Starfield of Nyx. Unfortunately, there are certain decks in the format that cards like Silk Wrap, Pacifism, and Stasis Snare are just terrible against, and it's not the greatest feeling to just throw out a Silkwrap onto an empty board because our opponent's deck will never have any targets. Additionally, when we do this, there's nothing stopping our opponent from using their Utter End or Ultimate Price on our Starfield of Nyx, you know, considering we have literally no other creatures for them to target.

We also have no way to get anything into the graveyard to take advantage of the Starfield's Reanimate ability. This being the case, having to have five enchantments in play just to attack, isn't it more efficient to use a card like Dragonlord Ojutai as our win condition? Or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon? Or even Sigil of the Empty Throne? Maybe we could include some Ojutai Monuments. Not only would they ramp us from three to five, a key point on our curve, but they would also serve as additional win conditions and mana production.

I'm not sure what this deck needs, but it certainly felt like it was something: a stark contrast from the result of finishing just outside of the Top 16. Salway must have had a record of 12-3, which is incredibly impressive to say the least. I would love to have him chime in to tell me what I was doing wrong (if anything), or what he may have been doing right at the Grand Prix. Perhaps it was just dumb luck and he hit some very good matchups...I'm just not very sure what they could have been.

I definitely think there's room for a Starfield of Nyx deck in Standard right now. I'm just not entirely convinced from my experience with the deck that this is it. At least not in this particular configuration.

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I'll be back again on Monday with some more Modern and next week we'll be starting Conley's huge Oath of the Gatewatch Set Review. So be there. Thanks for reading and I'll see ya soon!

Frank Lepore
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