Who’s This Guy?
Hey all! I’m a Twitch streamer and Magic: the Gathering enthusiast who plays entirely too much Standard on Arena, and I’m grateful to share that experience here with all of you!
Is Esper Really That Great?
Esper isn’t just a single deck right now in Standard. There are at least three major variants of Esper that align with the three major MTG archetypes (aggro, midrange, and control). This speaks to the depth of the color combination, because it has access to basically all the best threats and removal in black and white plus stack interaction and card draw in blue.
Today, we’ll be looking at the style of Esper that honestly has it all and falls comfortably into the midrange category.
The Interaction Suite
Go For the Throat and Cut Down are still the premier creature removal in the format, and will likely remain so until they rotate in September 2025. Cut Down is far better against hyper-aggressive decks like Mono-Red or Soldiers, but often falls flat against control – hence only two in the main with the other two in the sideboard.
Make Disappear is one of the most versatile counterspells in Standard and is clutch in the early game. Because it can hit any type of spell, it’s very comfortable as a four-of in the main with more specialized counters like Negate and Disdainful Strokein the board.
Other powerful interaction spells exist, such as Dissipate, Infernal Grasp, Sheoldred’s Edict, or Void Rend that may come in and out of fashion depending on meta shifts. At this moment, they aren’t included even in the sideboard of most builds because they are either too expensive to consistently trade profitably (Dissipate, Void Rend), don’t provide enough benefit over less costly options (Infernal Grasp), or don’t find meaningful targets often enough (Sheoldred’s Edict).
Of all of these, I’d say Sheoldred’s Edict has the best chance to get into the main deck if we see Planeswalkers rise in popularity. Also, if strong ward creatures such as Phyrexian Fleshgorger become more popular, Edict and even Void Rend could be invaluable tools coming out of the sideboard. As it stands, these spells are far more popular in control lists to provide depth and flexibility to the interaction suite.
The Two Queens of Standard
I’m not going to sugar-coat this or bury it. If you’re reading Standard content, you probably already know how good Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and The Wandering Emperor are. They are the top-end finishers in a myriad of Standard decks right now for good reason. They both provide game-ending clocks that also boost your survivability. This deck takes advantage of both of these cards because, frankly, why wouldn’t you?
There is a third bomb in the mix in Raffine, Scheming Seer, who is a three-drop flier that provides excellent card selection through her Connive X ability. Combine this with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, and you get a massive life boost simply for attacking and smoothing out your hand. The downside to this, though, is that if Raffine doesn’t have an allied Sheoldred online, an opponent’s Sheoldred can mean you take two life loss for every attacker you control. You may need to dig for an answer, but it does restrict your combat options if you don’t want to die on the spot.
This deck isn’t simply these three cards and some interaction, though, it also has several lower-cost threats in Wedding Announcement, Lord Skitter, Virtue of Loyalty, and Dennick, Pious Apprentice These can win the game alone if they aren’t answered, so it pressures the opponent to spend their interaction. Ideally, they’ve used it all up when Sheoldred or the Emperor finally arrive on your side of the board.
Tips to Getting the Win
On the play, you’ll want to prioritize threats like Dennick, Pious Apprenticeand Wedding Announcement to establish tempo and get your opponent off balance. On the draw, you’ll want to prioritize interaction. Spending your turn two countering or killing your opponent’s three drop is a turn well spent. In the first few turns, try to curve out and get value each turn if you can. If you’re playing against control, your job is to end the game quickly. Against aggro, your job is to simply survive until you can jam one of your killer four-drops.
In general, but especially against midrange, your job is to identify when your opponent is likely holding interaction and when the coast is clear. Often, you will want to hold up mana even if you could have played out a threat if you anticipate a non-creature threat such as The Wandering Emperor or Invasion of Zendikar (that’re only susceptible to your interaction on the stack) will come down on the other side.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to run out threats into counterspells or kill spells. Dennick is in the deck because he is a two-drop threat but also a decent three-power flyer your opponent will have to respect. His job is honestly to soak up kill spells and clear the way for your other finishers while possibly getting in some early lifelink chip damage.
The Bottom Line
This deck is the top of the tier list as I write this for a reason. It contains most of the best cards in the format with a solid, efficient curve. If you’re looking for a ladder deck or a deck to tackle an upcoming tournament, this is a rock-solid option.
Until Next Time
Thanks for indulging my thoughts on Esper Midrange! I’ll be back with more articles soon covering all things Standard and I genuinely can’t wait! You can find me on Twitch and YouTube under the name HamHocks42. I also host several podcasts and shows with other amazing community members. Links to those and my socials can be found here: https://linktr.ee/hamhocks42. I’ll catch you on the next one!