Let’s Metagame – The Un-Red Deck (Esper Control)

What a weekend!

With another Pro Tour in the books, and an unsuccessful SCG Regional Championship for me (unfortunately), a lot of Magic was played this weekend. This was a great time to evaluate where Magic is, especially in Standard.

Now, opinions of the Pro Tour’s Top 8 accounted for. I don’t think Standard is in a bad spot. Looking past the Top 8, there are plenty of other decks that barely missed the exposure that causes so many people to grumble. Go look for yourself.

With the exception of 7 of the 8 decks, we did have one non-red based deck make its way into the Top 8, and since I’ve already written an article on R/B Aggro, let’s take a look at this lonesome deck.

Esper Control
Ernest Lim
7th Place at Pro Tour Dominaria on 6/1/2018

Creatures (6)
3 Torrential Gearhulk
3 The Scarab God

Planeswalkers (2)
2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Lands (26)
4 Island
1 Plains
4 Swamp
4 Aether Hub
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Evolving Wilds
4 Fetid Pools
1 Field of Ruin
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Isolated Chapel

Spells (26)
3 Cast Down
2 Censor
1 Commit
4 Disallow
4 Fatal Push
4 Glimmer of Genius
3 Syncopate
4 Vraska’s Contempt
1 Arguel’s Blood Fast

4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
1 Cast Down
1 Essence Scatter
1 Forsake the Worldly
4 Negate
1 Settle the Wreckage
3 Duress

The Scarab God has finally found itself back in the mix of things, and I think it’s no surprise. This was a great metagame call with R/B hypothetically being the most played deck going into the tournament. This deck has the right mixture of early game removal and a late game clock, providing enough answers to combat the most played decks in the format.

Why Esper?

We’ve been seeing U/W put up a favorable amount of numbers in the weeks leading up to the Pro Tour. So, you may be askig yourself “why Esper instead of the traditional U/W gameplan?”. Well, I think there are some good observations to be made from this deck choice.

    – Early Game

It’s been noted time and time again. But more times than we’d like to admit, U/W control can get shut out in the early game before it can get anything going. Heart of Kiran has proved to be the bane of U/W’s early interaction, and being able to power through Seal Away has ended up being a big problem for the U/W Decks.

Fatal Push changes the dynamic of Control Decks’ approach to dealing with the pesky Heart of Kiran problem. Being able to effectively deal with this 2 drop powerhouse is one reason for Esper Control’s success. Having access to a card that deals with Vigilant creatures before turn 4 is a game changer, and it also kills most of the other potential 1 and 2 drops that could be popping up throughout the tournament.

Cast Down is essentially on the same axis as Fatal Push, as it’s a clean answer to most of the creatures being played in the meta right now. It kills Goblin Chainwhiler and Glorybringer, just to name a few. The fact that it can deal with pretty much every creature seeing a substantial amount of play makes it a great addition to Control Decks that can sometimes struggle in the early game, Cast Down was a fantastic call going into the Pro Tour.

Another card with great game changing effect is Arguel’s Bloodfast. While more of a card positioned at the Control mirrors, Arguel’s Bloodfast is a great early game card that can easily keep more cards in your hand than your opponent’s, and that’s obviously very important when playing against another Control player. And while fringe, it can also help you to stabilize against Aggro and Midrange decks with it’s flipped ability. Pairing the flipped ability with The Scarab God is a huge interaction against creature decks that can for sure help keep you in the game long enough to help swing the tide in your favor.

    – Vraska’s Contempt

It’s been awhile, but I think it’s safe to say that Vraska’s Contempt is the best 4 drop exile spell in Standard again. Cast Out seemed to be at the forefront for a little bit, but with the speed of R/B, and with Hazoret, the Fervent, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Rekindling Phoenix running around as well, you want a exile spell that also gives you some life back, and that’s why I think this is the better card right now.

   – The Scarab God

There was a time (a couple weeks ago) where we were saying that The Scarab God was essentially unplayable, but now times have changed. This card is just a game ending threat that R/B can’t always effectively deal with. If this God stays on the battlefield, it spells trouble for the creature decks, and things are going to get out of hand real quickly. That’s what The Scarab God does, it adds another layer to the deck that opponents have to be ready for, otherwise they are going to get blown out by their own creatures (in zombie form). Let’s not forget the nice little interaction between The Scarab God‘s ability and Torrential Greahulk, a decent chunk of extra value and a good sized body can go along way.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Not a new innovation, I know. But we can’t talk about a Control Deck without touching on the premiere Planeswalker in Standard right now. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is fairly broken, and while he didn’t share a lot of the spotlight with Goblin Chainwhirler this past weekend, he has shown us time and time again why it’s good to be a control player right now.

His +1 let’s you tap out for him, knowing that you’ll get to untap to have access to your Fatal Push, Cast Down, or counter spell on your opponent’s turn. Control Decks don’t usually like to tap out on their turn for something, but Teferi makes it so worth it.

His -3 just simply deals with threats, putting essentially anything you want back into your opponents deck (or your deck if the situation calls for it) is a great tempo swing. He can also keep you from decking if the game goes super late.

The -8, game ending. Draw enough cards, and exile all of your opponent’s permanents. This can lead to an easy concession if you can get the emblem lock on your opponent, no one wants to play with no permanents knowing whatever they thrown down is going to get blown up when they pass the turn.

The New “Best” Control Deck?

I don’t think I’m qualified to make that statement, but don’t get me wrong, this deck is the real deal. Having the best of both U/B and U/W Control seems very fitting for the way Standard is going right now. Having the early interaction is crucial if you want to deter what the aggressive decks have in the early game, as well as having the late game finishers with The Scarab God and the cards we’ve already seen from the U/W variant. That’s why I think Esper is the way to go right now, and why it made the Top 8 at Pro Tour Dominaria.


It’s not surprising to say that Standard will still change in the coming weeks, so we may see a different Control deck become the “de facto” Control deck of choice. This is what makes Standard so interesting, is that a week from now the format could look very different. This is where analytical skills and that knack to adapt come into play. Standard is super fast, and you have to keep up if you’re going to stay on top of the competitive train.

I know some people having issues with the results from the Pro Tour, and that’s okay. Just understand that these players are playing to win, and while diversity is great, that’s not always going to be the case. Just give Standard another week or two and I’m sure that things will change again. If the past few weeks have given any insight, things are bound to change sooner than later.

All the negativity aside, I can’t wait to get out there and jam some Standard, it’s been awhile for me with strictly Modern events rounding out last season and the beginning of this new one, and although I should be practicing for GP Vegas, I need to change it up a bit and see what the local PPTQ scene is doing Standard-wise, so wish me luck!

As always, I’m super thankful to MTGDeckTechs for giving me the opportunity to write for such a great (and up-and-coming) MTG website, writing is a great alternative outlet for Magic: The Gathering, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am. So, please go give us a like on Facebook or a follow on Twitter. The more exposure we get the more content we can get out to you guys! So get out there and share the word!

Again, thank you for taking the time to read my article.

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One more time, thanks for the support, and I hope you enjoyed this week’s article.

This has been your metagame insight, see you next week!


While not playing Magic as long as others, Logan strives to be the best he can be. With a preference towards constructed formats, he prides himself in his ability to constantly evaluate and adapt his choices to everchaning metagames. You can find him frequently at Grand Prix and SCG Events alike.

Twitter: @logan_actual
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