Oh No, It’s Esper Control!

Grand Prix Indianapolis Top 4 competitor Brian DeMars tells you why you need to be ready for Esper Control at SCG Standard Open: Cleveland this weekend.

The moment we have all been waiting for is finally here. Theros is on the shelves, and the new world of Standard has arrived!

I have been busy since the full spoiler went up working on decks for Pro Tour Theros, and it is really exciting watching the new metagame unfold. The first couple weeks of a fresh Standard format are always really cool to watch develop because everything is new and it is so interesting to see it all play out.

The deck that has really pushed itself to the forefront of my gauntlet is Esper Control, which I will be talking about in today’s article.

Esper is a deck that I predicted would be a frontrunner for best deck in the format even before the Theros spoiler went up because of how good the archetype was in Return to Ravnica Block Constructed. After the first StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Worcester, it seems plausible that this prediction isn’t too far off the mark since two Esper Control decks cracked the Top 8 of the event.

Instant winners.

In my opinion, Jace, Architect of Thought (and by extension Sphinx’s Revelation) are the biggest winners from Innistrad block’s rotation and the new Theros cards. The problem with Jace in old Standard was that there were so many big haste creatures that saw play that could take him out on sight.

Jace is happy to see these critters go.

Jace is simply awesome all things considered right now. He is very good against the slower, smaller aggro decks that are available, and the powerful four-mana planeswalker is also the key to winning the control mirror. In short, Jace is basically just good against everybody.

Let’s take a look at the two Esper Control lists that have been successful so far.

Why is this archetype good?

Well, the deck has a ton of raw power. The Return to Ravnica U/W gold cards are all extremely powerful and versatile spells. Between Sphinx’s Revelation, Azorius Charm, Supreme Verdict, and Detention Sphere, that is half a deck already premade!

Secondly, creatures have gotten nothing but better in recent years, and board sweepers are basically at a premium, with Supreme Verdict being the best one.

Third—and most importantly—Sphinx’s Revelation is basically the best late-game threat in the format. It is pretty much impossible for most strategies to beat a "nail in the coffin" late-game Revelation for five-plus cards and life.

Here’s why Esper Control is so good—it kills or counters everything its opponent does very efficiently and then has the ability to draw a lot of extra cards to replace and restock its removal. Sphinx’s Revelation draws so many cards and replaces so much life that it just isn’t realistic for most decks to recover from an Esper mage resolving the powerful mythic spell.

Yeah, Revelation is still good—and perhaps much better than it was before (which is kind of a scary thought).

What I’d like to do is put these two decklists next to each other and try to build a composite version.

Here are the cards that are different between the two lists:


+1 Aetherling
+1 Essence Scatter
+2 Far // Away
+1 Merciless Eviction
+1 Azorius Guildgate
+1 Swamp


+1 Plains
+2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
+2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
+1 Detention Sphere
+1 Sphinx’s Revelation

The maindecks are very close and only off by seven total cards!

Here is a possible composite list that I like:

I feel very confident this deck is playable out of the box.

Esper Control is the frontrunner metagame force because it can basically do everything pretty well.

Want to kill creatures?

Want to kill creatures and planeswalkers?

Want to counter spells?

Want to outdraw your opponents?

Want to play really powerful threats?

Esper Control is simply a very well-rounded winning machine, and the deck is going to shape the metagame moving forward. Be prepared to play against this monster a lot in the next few weeks at any Constructed Standard event large or small.

From my testing so far for the Pro Tour, here are the five cards I least want to play against when I’m piloting Esper:

You have two choices regarding Esper Control—you can either join it or try to beat it.

I guess you have a third . . .

You can lose to it.

But that isn’t a very good option.


Brian DeMars

Follow me on Twitter @briandemars1