Esper Control – All Inclusive Guide for GP Richmond

Esper Control
Designer: Jimmy Wray
1st/2nd at PT Atlanta RPTQ 2018
Lands (27)
Detection Tower
Field of Ruin
Irrigated Farmland
Fetid Pools
Drowned Catacomb
Glacial Fortress
Isolated Chapel
Swamp
Island
Creatures (4)
Torrential Gearhulk

Instants and Sorceries (25)
Cast Down
Disallow
Essence Scatter
Fatal Push
Glimmer of Genius
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Negate
Syncopate
Vraska’s Contempt

Other Spells (4)
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Search for Azcanta

Sideboard (15)
Arguel’s Blood Fast
Forsake the Worldly
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Yahenni’s Expertise
Jace’s Defeat
Negate
Profane Procession
Sorcerous Spyglass
The Eldest Reborn
The Scarab God
Vizier of Many Faces
Settle the Wreckage

I went into the RPTQ expecting a ton of RB Aggro and I was not let down. In the room, I think it was safe to say there were 60% RB decks, 10% Keld decks, and under 10% other decks(These are general estimates). I prepared my main deck to beat the RB aggro decks with minimum need to dedicate sideboard cards to the match-up, so i was comfortable with those numbers. I was extremely satisfied with my ability to win game 1’s both on the play or draw throughout the tournament, which is what we planned. I assume going into GP Richmond’s standard portion the meta will be roughly the same and I am confidant if you play this deck well you will have a ton of success in the GP.

The overall goal of this deck is to use an attrition based strategy to 1 for 1 your opponents until you can utilize your draw spells and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria to gain card advantage. The typical game will end up stabilizing with a Torrential Gearhulk before casting Teferi, Hero of Dominaria with 7 mana in order to plus for card draw and protect yourself with a Disallow.

This deck is all about patience. I can not stress enough how important it is to have patience and I can attest to the fact that lack of patience has lost me almost every game I’ve played. The basic premise of the deck is to use your 2 drop counter magic on turn 2, possibly a 2 mana counter spell on turn 3 and a Fatal Push on turn 2 to stabilize the board. Almost every turn consist of taking damage from early attacks and stopping the large spells from resolving with counter magic. When your opponent takes a turn off from casting spells you capitalize using Vraska’s Contempt to remove a resolved spell for that turn or a creature that was resolved earlier. Keep in mind Scrapheap Scrounger is one of the best resources for gaining card advantage, so it is imperative to keep their graveyard empty or exile it.

Managing your resources is incredibly important because you often need to be casting multiple spells a turn as soon as possible in order to stabilize. I often have to stop and play through a couple turns in advance to see what spells I should be using where. Syncopate is at is best when it can be used as a 2 mana counter spell, but offers flexibility that allows you to navigate late turns. On the play, It’s one of the best ways to exile a Scrapheap Scrounger while keeping their clock small. On the draw, it’s a great way to keep their graveyard empty to ensure an early Fatal Push will keep the Scrapheap Scrounger from being a big clock.

The deck is very straight forward from there, It usually lets you decide which 1 for 1 to use with minimal effort and eventually closes the game out quickly. The game is often over before you can win. The decks build is focused on streamlining removal and counters in order to keep the board stabilized.

Notes – Things I noticed when watching other people play this deck or even mistakes I’ve made

Remember, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria has a down mode. This mode is extremely important as it lets you gain incidental life points, while often times forcing your opponent to draw/recast a lack luster card. Also keep in mind, you have 2 turns to find a replacement answer to the tucked card while guaranteeing they won’t draw a power card. Most game successfully end when you can tuck and re-plus the following turn.

Without Question Torrential Gearhulk‘s best mode is a draw spell. All to often I see it remain in hand to be a counter-spell rebuy when it could be in play and netting cards off a draw spell.

Although it feels important to keep your Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Torrential Gearhulk alive, often times you use these cards to bait resources out of your opponent and get them to take turns off to eliminate them.  I rarely fight over the first Teferi, Hero of Dominaria if it means my opponent is taking another turn off from pressuring my life total to deal with it. Utilizing both these cards as advantage engines is quite easy, as they always provide a redraw when cast. Don’t be afraid to throw a Torrential Gearhulk into an Abrade to flash back a Glimmer of Genius.

No matter how pressured you feel in the mid range match-ups don’t cycle Hieroglyphic Illumination. Even if you have to take a turn 4 off to draw two, the card advantage it provides will go a long way to start the ball rolling on burying your opponent. I often times found myself cycling early just to be one card short of stabilizing. The cycle mode is usually only against the hyper aggro decks when finding an answer now is super important. You just have to remember on average, 1 in every 3 cards your mid-range opponent draws will be a threat, whereas the other 2 are lands or useless removal spells.

Sideboard Guide

Grixis Midrange / UB Midrange

Our strategy is to bank on them taking their removal out after game 1. We try and play a more board presence strategy since they can’t remove most of the things on the board without casting their larger spells. We try and get early threats/advantage so we can use our counters as tempo to close the game.

InGlint-Sleeve Siphoner OutCast Out, 2 Glimmer of Genius, 1 Fatal Push Generates card advantage early while letting you deal with their larger threats, they often take out their early game removal so these guys can run free.

InThe Scarab God OutTorrential Gearhulk We are better at out reanimating them because we have better counters and removal. The end game is to be able to better protect your God.

InProfane Procession OutVraska’s Contempt This card Generates a ton of removal and they can’t really deal with it once it has resolved.

InJace’s Defeat OutNegate Every big threat in their deck is blue, along with their counters.

InArguel’s Blood Fast OutHieroglyphic Illumination Having an advantage engine they can’t get rid of is important to get around Duress.

InForsake the Worldly OutSyncopate Conversely, keeping them from getting their Arguel’s Blood Fast off the board is extremely important.

Turbo Turns

Our strategy is to pressure their life total early with siphoner. They don’t have counter magic to stop our black creature so we use it to draw tons of cards and pressure their life total while we stop them from getting into the lock. We need to stop them from ramping as well to prevent them from casting an early Carnage Tyrant.

InGlint-Sleeve Siphoner OutFatal Push Generates card advantage early and keeps your hand full of counters to prevent their threats from landing.

InArguel’s Blood Fast OutEssence Scatter The only creatures they have we can’t counter, so another early draw spell to keep us from letting them resolve late game spells.

InVizier of Many Faces OutEssence Scatter The Vizier will let us copy their Carnage Tyrant or Nezahal, Primal Tide so we have a counter clock or an answer to theirs.

InJace’s Defeat OutGlimmer of Genius It will act as a 2nd Negate for all their relevant spells, We already have a ton of earlier card advantage that has replaced Glimmer.

InNegate OutHieroglyphic Illumination Same thing with Jace’s Defeat, we already have a ton of early card draw that we will use the extra counters to protect.

InThe Eldest Reborn OutHieroglyphic Illumination This is another answer for Carnage Tyrant and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

Control Mirror

Our strategy is to pressure their life total early with siphoner. We are able to lean on our Vraska’s Contempt‘s to deal with their planeswalker’s. We just play an aggro/tempo strategy to prevent them from resolving late spells by pressuring them early and using our pressure to generate card advantage.

InGlint-Sleeve Siphoner OutFatal Push Generates card advantage early and keeps your hand full of counters to prevent their threats from landing.

InThe Scarab God OutEssence Scatter The only creatures they have we can’t counter. This is just another recurring threat that can reanimate our creatures late game.

InArguel’s Blood Fast OutCast Down Early card advantage lets use sit back and play our strategy while building card advantage since they can’t pressure our life total.

InJace’s Defeat OutGlimmer of Genius It will act as a 2nd Negate for all their relevant spells, We already have a ton of earlier card advantage that has replaced Glimmer.

InNegate OutEssence Scatter We are essentially pulling out one counter and replacing it with a useful one.

God-Pharaoh’s Gift

This is a tough match up due to it’s auto 2 for 1 nature. If we can’t provide a fast enough clock they can durdle all day until they eventually get their God-Pharaoh’s Gift in play. They can also just cast their creatures and spells until they have you out of counter’s. It is a tough match up to navigate.

InGlint-Sleeve Siphoner OutFatal Push I like having early pressure while a card advantage engine since they can’t remove them well.

InThe Scarab God OutGlimmer of Genius The Scarab God lets us turn their strategy against them and use it as graveyard removal.

InArguel’s Blood Fast OutGlimmer of Genius I like committing to more efficient draw spells that have later upside.

InSettle the Wreckage OutHieroglyphic illumination It can help us catch up from behind and often times deal with a God-Pharaoh’s Gift that has resolved. However it is extremely hard to get out from under them getting back their Champion of Wits and drawing extra cards.

InNegate OutTorrential Gearhulk While the gearhulk is great at providing a clock. we need early stopping power to ensure we don’t fall to far behind.

InForsake the Worldly OutEssence Scatter A lot of time we just need to keep one God-Pharaoh’s Gift from being on the table. The one of is usually enough to answer it while we can clock under.

RB Aggro / Mid-range

Our deck is setup to beat this match-up main deck. However with the amount of inbreeding the RB decks have to do to beat each other, it’s important to recognize the cards they play in game 1 to understand which strategy they are playing. I tend to be more aggressive against the mid-range strategy and more controlling against the aggro strategy.

Mid-range Only
In
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner OutFatal Push The mid-range strategy is usually to side back into their bomat couriers but in that instance the GSS can be used to block and be removal.

InThe Scarab God OutTorrential Gearhulk The Scarab God is usually unbeatable. Using their powerful creatures against them lets you block and counter pressure their life with the reanimated spells.

InArguel’s Blood Fast OutHieroglyphic illumination The early card advantage engine let’s use keep tempo on them, and eventually keeps us in the game with the life gain.

InProfane Procession OutGlimmer of Genius Card draw duties go to the Siphoners and we hedge against bigger hasted threats with another exile effect.

InForsake the Wordly OutNegate We are hedging for exiling their Scrapheap Scrounger and Heart of Kiran.

Aggro Only
In
Settle the Wreckage OutDisallow This lets us catch-up on the board and get rid of some of their hard to deal with threats.

InThe Scarab God OutTorrential Gearhulk The Scarab God is usually unbeatable. Using their powerful creatures against them lets you block and counter pressure their life with the reanimated spells.

InArguel’s Blood Fast OutSearch for Azacanta The early card advantage engine let’s use keep tempo on them, and eventually keeps us in the game with the life gain.

InForsake the Wordly OutNegate This just becomes a better removal spell for Scrapheap Scrounger and Heart of Kiran.

InYahenni’s Expertise OutGlimmer of Genius I like that this card catches us up early on turn 4 and lets us get to our 1 for 1 strategy.

Keld Red

This match up is 50/50. It’s hard to beat their best hand but they can easily stumble. They easily turn our 2 mana spells into trades the wrong way. While we prefer to trade our 2 mana spell for their 3+, they force us to deal with their 1 mana spells. The best advice I can offer is stop the swarm early. It isn’t easy but if you can keep the 2 power creatures from connecting you should be able to stabilize above 6 life. The goal is to try and get the game over ASAP.

InYahenni’s Expertise OutGlimmer of Genius A timely Expertise can usually catch us up. Don’t be greedy with your Fatal Pushs. Preserve your life total at all costs so you can stay out of burn spell range.

InArguel’s Blood Fast OutSearch for Azcanta This is almost strictly for life total preservation. Usually if you get to the point where you can sacrifice one Torrential Gearhulk that is enough to stabilize.

InSettle the Wreckage OutDisallow Another way to catch up on the board since all their creatures are always sideways. Disallow isn’t the best in this match-up because again you have to trade your 3 mana spell for a 1 mana spell.

Mono-Green Stompy (Blue or Black Splash Version)

This match up is 50/50. Their clock is big and fast. you have to bottle-neck their mana because of Blossoming Defense. It is really important to win the die roll as we need to counter their ability to ramp and have excess mana. Once they sideboard their hexproof threats can be extremely hard to beat. That combine with the fact they bring in negates means you have to play smart to play around negate and Blossoming Defense.

InYahenni’s Expertise OutGlimmer of Genius Expertise is great against the slew of mana dorks and the near-impossible to kill Vine-Mare. It’s important to have an answer to the mana dorks so by the time they cast Carnage Tyrant. Our The Eldest Reborn will be able to hit it.

InArguel’s Blood Fast OutSearch for Azcanta I like Bloodfast in this match up because often times we get low and our Scarab God lets us game life to stabilize.

InSettle the Wreckage OutVraska’s Contempt While Vraska’s Contempt is really important in the match up, we usually are playing from behind and need to lean on a the settle to stabilize.

InThe Scarab God OutTeferi, Hero of Dominaria Teferi isn’t the most useful in this match up because it can get easily blanked by a Blossoming Defense or Negate. The most important thing to do is set-up our God to pressure their life total and provide extra blockers.