Originally this week I was going to write about Scavenging Ooze.
Instead, I accidentally stumbled into having some fun, but I’ll still give you the “quick handful of words” version of the article I would have written.
In many ways, Core Set 2021 Standard is defined by Cauldron Familiar and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. While there’s some amount of Teferi, Time Raveler showing up without an overlap with Uro (and fringe strategies too of course!), in most contests you can expect to play against these two cards. This isn’t some groundbreaking analysis, but the point is that graveyard-based inevitability engines are a huge part of the environment and represent some of the most potent threats.
Uro is frequently Plan B or C in decks, but it isn’t as if there is any real opportunity cost to playing with or casting it on its face. It’s such a powerful backup plan that it typically represents one of the best topdecks an opponent can have going late and the fact that it gains a large amount of life means that racing it is typically impossible.
Cauldron Familiar, while less costly and with less dramatic and immediate impact, plays similarly. You can’t really race it when paired with Witch’s Oven (since it effectively shuts down the majority of your attacks) and eventually it will kill you, either by itself or paired with Mayhem Devil / Judith, the Scourge Diva / any other Rakdos engine.
The point is, you can’t really sidestep these cards. You have to go through them.
Scavenging Ooze is one of the uniquely equipped cards to accomplish that. Its ability to stabilize, kill people, and have utility against both macro-archetypes due to its potency against Uro means that it is a very worthy maindeck card right now.
This is the “normal deck” that I’ve enjoyed the most:
This isn’t reinventing the wheel. While removal spells are about as bad as they’ve ever been in a Standard format, Eliminate still gives you a wide range of coverage and helps reduce the amount of embarrassment Game 1 against the odd aggressive deck you’ll run into.
You still have a one-turn window to kill an opposing escaped Uro, and while Eliminate doesn’t feel particularly strong in the exchange, it still gets the job done and lets Ooze munch on the aftermath.
Agonizing Remorse is similarly just close enough to “not embarrassing” given the proliferation of “graveyard matters” in the environment, and you need something cheap to interact with Temur Reclamation early on.
Quick note on Scavenging Ooze in terms of Rakdos Sacrifice matchups:
Generally you don’t want to commit Ooze to the battlefield early. They frequently aren’t putting you under a ton of pressure, and giving an early Priest of Forgotten Gods good targets or letting your opponent be mana-efficient or convert at all with Claim the Firstborn is a good recipe for disaster. Committing Ooze later in the game when you actually have mana up to start threatening their Cats and other targets will make their life much more difficult.
Scavenging Ooze is also a worthy aggressive creature when paired with any interaction or other synergies. Mono-Green, Gruul, and Selesnya Counters will all benefit from its utility in this format.
Play more Scavenging Ooze.
On to Yorion Esper Blink!
The other day I was playing on the Magic Arena ladder and got whooped by someone (sorry I didn’t keep your username) playing a clear variant of the Yorion Orzhov Blink deck popularized by Ben Stark and company at Players Tour Online 3. It had many of the cards and powerful loops from the Orzhov variant with Charming Prince; Yorion, Sky Nomad; and various enters-the-battlefield cards, but the loops were turbo charged in redundancy with Niambi, Esteemed Speaker and Teferi, Time Raveler.
I built what I assumed was a relatively close version and enjoyed it enough to get through some iterations. Here’s where I am:
I’ll flatly state that this deck isn’t very tuned, and rather than trying to give some comprehensive guide, I’ll largely be discussing card choices and alternatives while offering general thoughts and information about the deck.
At this stage I’m not particularly confident that this could be one of the strongest decks in the format, but given the (at least brief) success of Yorion Orzhov Blink, I think it’s fair to say there’s additional wiggle room to experiment with this style of strategy. I do know that Esper Blink is capable of some extremely powerful things.
For starters, Charming Prince + Yorion, Sky Nomad is a loop. Charming Prince can repeatedly “Astral Slide” out Yorion (is this what we call this? Back in my day…anyway, this certainly isn’t blinking), which then does the same to Charming Prince and any other desirable permanents on the next end step — which then results in everything come back the following end step, which repeats the process ad nauseam.
While simple on the surface, the timing of everything can become extremely tricky when you’re trying to manage where Oath of Kaya and Elspeth Conquers Death triggers are going alongside managing any need for blockers.
Teferi, Time Raveler, in addition to being one of the best raw-strength cards in the format, can also reset your Yorions, which allows for even more looping potential. Niambi, Esteemed Speaker from Core Set 2021 can do the same as well as critically gaining you a bunch of life.
You’ll notice that there’s quite a bit of lifegain in this deck between Niambi, Oath of Kaya, Charming Prince, the singleton Omen of the Sun, etc. This opens up the potential to play Bolas’s Citadel — which really gives the deck a ton of raw power. It’s basically impossible to ever keep up with Bolas’s Citadel outside of a clean reset with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.
Some quick call-outs:
I’m not playing this card even though it was in my original version and clearly is in the Orzhov version. Mostly I think this card just sucks, but the real catalyst for cutting it is that fueling Uro ahead of schedule can easily mitigate any advantage that this card actually generates and pushes you to adapt to a more reactive gameplan faster than is desired.
If you allow your opponent to have an Uro ahead of schedule and you aren’t ready with an answer, that could just be lights-out if you haven’t sufficiently set up some kind of overwhelming battlefield presence to start blinking that can go toe-to-toe with the Titan of Nature’s Wrath.
Having a sufficient amount of cheap things to play and blink is pretty easily handled now with Omen of the Sea, a card which has already seen a ton of play with Yorion pre-bans and does an excellent job of letting Esper both set up and hit land drops. You never really run out of things to do with your mana, so hitting your land drop every turn is critical.
These aren’t controversial cards by any means, and I’ve covered to some extent in my Ooze section about why I’m high on Agonizing Remorse as a cheap interactive card to start, but I do want to call out how critical Glass Casket is.
On the surface you likely wouldn’t assume that this style of card is particularly effective at being blinked since you’re trading one threat on the battlefield for another. A huge uptick in Hydroid Krasis and Nissa, Who Shakes the World changes this paradigm significantly.
Glass Casket is still a great and mana-efficient way to answer Uro and Mayhem Devil, but a sustainable way to kill the aforementioned cards (especially since Krasis can’t be touched by Elspeth Conquers Death) is a big deal.
Until today I was playing Elite Guardmage instead of Doom Foretold. I think this still could be correct, as Elite Guardmage is a solid blink target that is strong with Bolas’s Citadel and just generally getting you off the ground, but I’ve struggled a few times with managing my Treacherous Blessings and the “training wheels” of Doom Foretold likely would have made many of my games much easier. Notably, it is also a respectable follow-up to an Ugin wipe, taking some pressure off Elspeth Conquers Death as well as just being a fine card to cast into a lone Uro or Wilderness Reclamation.
I’ll be experimenting with both, but just because Doom Foretold is a four-of in the Orzhov version doesn’t necessarily mean that a similar but different strategy is also locked into a card as part of their core (a similar argument you could make for Burglar Rat). Sure it’s a lot easier to deal with Treacherous Blessing with Doom Foretold than Teferi, Time Raveler, but having a leaner package to do a job is always going to be stronger when building decks, even if it can make navigating the games more challenging.
My mana is kind of goofy. Yarok’s Fenlurker by no means needs to be played on Turn 2 every game, but it still puts some stress on the manabase. While also a late-game card, Bolas’s Citadel is similar. Perhaps it’s just the “obvious” answer of maxing Temple of Enlightenment and moving on, but again since you’re cruising through so many cards when Esper really gets going, having a bunch of untapped lands to maximize your number of game actions is quite desirable.
Cards I Consider Cuttable
Here’s the stuff I think you can touch if you want to experiment:
Niambi improves the deck’s redundancy, but similarly to the Teferi/Doom Foretold note, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is optimal to play (or two copies specifically). Omen of the Sun is another piece of redundancy against aggression, but while it isn’t necessary, it does provide a ton of additional value every blink loop. This might be relegated to the sideboard.
A lot of what Kaya is doing is similar to why Scavenging Ooze is strong. This is the card on the list I’m most hesitant to touch since it does provide value in multiple types of matchups, but when it isn’t directly interacting with Uro against those respective decks, it’s quite a weak card. I could see something like Mortify here to give you similar but more reliable coverage.
Cards I’d Look To Play/Want To Try
Here’s the stuff I want to experiment with:
These are all largely role-players, but the deck isn’t in need of finding more haymakers since your late-game and general engine are so strong. There isn’t too much to note here; this is really just a matter of details. That all said, I could see a desire for pairing a copy or two of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon with Solemn Simulacrum.
I know I want some copies of Dovin’s Veto, Despark, and some split on sweepers. The rest is up in the air. Yorion decks have never been particularly good at sideboarding, so picking a lane of “load up on some relevant interaction” is basically the best that you could hope for.
If Solemn Simulacrum does eventually become a part of the deck, then I’d look to have one more haymaker. Thought Distortion, as a tool against Wilderness Reclamation and hard control decks, comes to mind. The fact that this actually seems like a legitimate plan might push Solemn over the edge for me.
I’ll note that, while Dovin’s Veto and Despark have high ceilings, I’ve been disappointed when bringing in a lot of copies of them against various Uro strategies, so I’d keep that in mind to be generally conservative with these cards unless you’re playing against Temur Reclamation.
Since that matchup is the most relevant, I’ll at least provide what I’ve been doing there, but do note again that everything has been in flux.
Although the implications of actually playing and figuring out what will happen when and planning accordingly, actually mechanically playing Esper Blink is fairly simple — you always try to build a huge battlefield of various value permanents, hit your land drops, and line up your removal as necessary. If you’re playing against Sultai or Bant, be prepared for an all-out war. The games will go super-long, they will be massive slogs full of a ton of game actions, and you’ll have to contain multiple copies of Krasis, Uro, Nissa, Ugin, etc.
Elspeth Conquers Death is often the most important card assuming both players have reached the mid-game, so keep an eye out when tearing through your deck. If more “midrange soup” versions of Sultai keep popping up, I’d start to look towards playing a fourth copy of this card.
If you’re getting sick of the usual Cat and Titan rat races, I highly recommend giving Yorion Esper Blink a try. The deck is very much in its early stages, so this isn’t the most confident analysis I can give on a strategy, but hopefully you’ll have some fun on the Arena ladder doing something a little different!