Ever since I saw my buddy Ray Perez, Jr. dominate the field at Grand Prix Indianapolis earlier this year with Esper Tokens, I knew he was onto something. The deck was definitely the "it" flavor for the next few weeks, and I was pretty sold on playing the deck at any chance I could get. The deck was unlike anything that was being played at the time, complete with cards like Painful Truths (which, at the time, had yet to see any real play), Knight of the White Orchid, Secure the Wastes, and a full suite of planeswalkers including Gideon, Sorin, and Ob Nixilis...the deck was battling on an axis that was completely unique in Standard.
Interestingly enough, the deck actually came from Magic Online user __FAB__, otherwise known as Fabrizio Anteri, who piloted a list only a few cards different to a second place finish in the Magic Online Championship Series. Ray Perez, Jr. also came in second with the deck at Grand Prix Indy and it appeared that, despite dominating every initial event it was played it, the deck was always meant to be a bridesmaid and never a bride.
Nevertheless, the deck continued to put up solid finishes while the archetype evolved ever so slowly. We're going to be playing a version of Esper Tokens today that was adopted from these initial lists, piloted by Magic Online user iamd3vastat1on to a 5-0 finish in a Standard League.
As you can see, the Knight of the White Orchids and Hangarback Walkers of old are gone, replaced by cards like Eldrazi Skyspawner and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Honestly, I can't tell which plan is correct at this point, as both pairs of cards seem like good ones. Skyspawner is very good against cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Silkwrap, and most spot removal. Producing two bodies means it's great at being able to trigger raid on our full set of Wingmate Rocs; you'll typically always have a creature to swing with.
I was also very eager to play Painful Truths, especially in conjunction with Jace's ability to flash it back. The deck had a good deal of ways to gain life, such as Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Shambling Vent, and Wingmate Roc, so it was unlikely that the life loss would do us in.
Esper Tokens vs. U/G Ramp
Esper Tokens vs. Green Ramp
Esper Tokens vs. U/G Ramp, Match 2
Esper Tokens vs. Abzan Control
Wow, that's a lot of Ramp matches.
If you want to know a sad truth, here it is: Ray Perez, Jr. lost to Abzan in the finals of Grand Prix Indy, and Fabrizio Anteri lost to Abzan in the finals of the MOCS. Now this could be a coincidence, but considering that I also lost to Abzan in my set, well...it might be the deck's problematic matchup. This is, of course, unfortunate, as Abzan is one of the most popular - and powerful - decks in the format. To be fair, however, I did lose to a more controlling version of the deck, and I did mulligan to five in the first game, so there may be hope yet.
Other than that though, I never thought I would see the day where I would rather have Eldrazi Skyspawner in a deck rather than Hangarback Walker...yet here we are. I basically never felt like I would have time to activate a Hangarback Walker. This deck ends up tapping out a lot actually, and Skyspawner ends up dealing a ton of damage in the air that Hangarback Walker just wouldn't be able to. Additionally, the format is gunning for Hangarback Walker with things like Silkwrap and Utter End. If you use any of those cards on a Skyspawner, you've still gotten value out of it thanks to the 1/1 token. Additionally, if they use Silkwrap and you're able to Utter End it, you get even more value from it, while Hangarback would just die. The card was surprisingly good. I mean, who wants to ever use removal on it? (It also dodges Abzan Charm, Ultimate Price, and all of the sideboard removal spells like Surge of Righteousness.)
Overall, the deck performed amazingly and, despite playing against three Ramp decks in a row, I think we got a good feel for how it performs. I never really felt bad about playing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and making an emblem immediately...not when it makes Skyspawner produce five power and we have cards like Secure the Wastes in the deck. I guess I just wish the Abzan matchup was a little more favorable. I wonder if there's something we can do about that. If you guys have any suggestions, be sure to let me know in the comments.
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Next week we start our holiday break, which will include two weeks of Reader Favorite articles and Author Favorite articles. But don't fret: we'll be back again on Monday, January 4th with our regular brand new content. Thanks for reading and I'll see ya soon!
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