Table of Contents
- POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS / NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS
- TIPS AND TRICKS
Hello everyone! I’ve talked about this deck multiple times throughout a few articles, but I’ve never actually taken the time to dedicate a whole guide to it itself! For those who don’t know the origins, Esper (or Dimir) Witch is actually a deck that’s been around for a little while.
At the tail end of the last Standard season (right before Crimson Vow) SCG hosted their Invitational and the metagame seemed abundantly clear: Monowhite, Monogreen, and Izzet Turns (doesn’t that sound familiar?) Despite everyone assuming the metagame was more or less set in stone, very few people actively tried to innovate. However, by the end of the tournament, there was a breakout deck that seemed powerful and was performing well against the rest of the metagame, and that was Dimir Lier.
Dimir Lier is a Control deck at heart, but what sets it apart from traditional control decks is the use of Sedgemoor Witch and Lier, Disciple of the Drowned over more traditional win conditions like Hullbreaker Horror or Alrund's Epiphany. This gives the deck more velocity as resolving either creature and keeping it there can end any game extremely quickly if navigated correctly. To that end, I knew I wanted to try the deck when I first discovered it and this was the first iteration I tried.
It started as a Bo3 deck so that’s where I tried it first. The deck delivered on it’s main promises as it felt solid against pretty much everything. My main contention with the deck is that playing 4 Duress main in a metagame where you can run into a deck with no hits is super awkward, but whatever it takes to beat Izzet Turns. Nevertheless, when I started playing Bo1 more, I wanted to port it there and skew it more towards an anti-creature version as the Turns deck is much less popular there.
Unsurprisingly, when tuned to be better against creatures, I was able to pretty easily beat up the creature decks while still not being bad against the slower decks/Turns.
I was going to work on it more, but then Alchemy came out and my attention was diverted there. After trying out a bunch of new archetypes out, one of the first older things I tried was Esper Lier, and surprise surprise, it was still excellent. Even now, this is the deck I tend to play if I’m looking to grind ranks in Alchemy as it’s consistently been good for me. Here’s my current version for that.
The creature decks in Standard are certainly punishing, but it’s a whole different ball game in Alchemy. Inquisitor Captain makes every White creature deck have insane staying power, Werewolves got a huge power boost, Dragons are very threatening and so on.
To compete, we really need more aggressive creature removal and in this case, we’re opting for board wipes. If you try to 1 for 1 these extremely efficient decks, you’re very quickly going to fall behind so board wipes feel more or less mandatory. I played this a lot and then have been looking at Standard again to see if there were any developments.
Although the metagame is more or less where I left it, I came back to it when a fresh insight on what makes this deck good in a more powerful format and how best to build to still have as strong a base as possible while also being better against the metagame as a whole. With that, here’s where I landed for my Standard Bo1 list.
Although board wipes are certainly nice, they don’t feel as mandatory in Standard as the metagame is a bit more split on what decks you’ll be facing and even against the creature decks they aren’t always the best. Reidane, God of the Worthy, Elite Spellbinder, Old-Growth Troll, and Esika's Chariot are all really good at making wraths feel a bit silly. I know I was down on Duress before, but against most decks you’ll likely have a reasonable hit off of it and if you don’t, you can always loot it away with The Celestus. Overall, if you’re liking Control and want to be able to play it in either Standard or Alchemy, this would be my recommendation on doing so!
Ok, so this is good in both Standard and Alchemy, but look how many wildcards it is! Like any competitive deck, it plays it’s fair share of expensive cards, but what if I said you didn’t have to? For just 3 Rares and 3 Mythics, you can easily have this deck be a similar power level to the optimal versions! Let’s take a look.
Considering the interaction is what makes the deck and it’s all commons and uncommons, this deck is definitely viable in this form! Ideally you’d have an upgraded mana base and The Celestus is very good in the deck, but this version will definitely work for those who only have a few wild cards to spare! The deck works the exact same way, answer threats and ride one of yours to victory!
POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS / NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS
This may seem like a silly idea to include in a deck that has access to Black, but it’s actually not as bad as it seems. Being able to kill a creature or walker is definitely nice, but the real utility with it is you can blow up a Pest token when you have a Sedgemoor Witch out for a wacky 4 mana draw a card. That effect by itself is nowhere near good enough, but when attached to a removal spell, it’s not as crazy. I still don’t think it’s good enough, but it’s something to consider.
If you’re facing a lot of Control in Standard, this is a consideration as it’s good against Alrund's Epiphany, Expressive Iteration, and other foretell spells like Saw it Coming and Behold the Multiverse while still being at absolute worst a 3 mana counter. We want to avoid how many counters we play with Lier, but I’ve played a Wash Away or 2 in my Izzet Lier deck.
This doesn’t necessarily fit super well in the deck, but it’s so good that it can always be a consideration in the right metagame.
There were versions of this deck using both Witch and Poppet Stitcher to try and overwhelm opponents with tokens which I don’t hate in concept. The issue is, Stitcher is very weak by itself where Witch isn’t which makes justifying the inclusion of it much harder.
In Standard, you don’t have to play Esper just for Vanishing Verse and Valorous Stance if you don’t want to. If you want to make the deck more balanced for the metagame, going Dimir and adding some more card draw is definitely the way to go. If so, Thirst for Discovery is excellent.
Unexpected Conversion (ALCHEMY ONLY)
I tried playing Unexpected Conversion before just in case I ran into other Control decks, but it was pretty poor against the aggro decks which made it a tough sell for me. It’s definitely fine if you really want to play this effect, but I personally wasn’t a fan.
The main appeal to Memory Deluge is the Flashback, but since Lier already gives our spells Flashback, it’s not the most necessary. I wouldn’t play this before I played 44 Behold the Multiverse, but playing 4 Behold and 1 Memory Deluge certainly isn’t out of the question.
Definitely sweet with Pest tokens from Sedgemoor Witch, but probably too cute overall.
This deck is mostly looking to nickel and dime people, but playing 1-2 Hullbreaker Horror could definitely make your life easier when you’re trying to close tha game.
I’ve seen some people liking this card in general, but please do not play it. It just isn’t good, giving your opponent a bad spell is still card disadvantage, especially if they find a non-embarrassing way to use it.
I’ve strongly considered adding 1-2 of these in the deck as it’s so good with Sedgemoor Witch and Lier, but I haven’t pulled the trigger. If there are a few cards you aren’t a fan of, I would highly consider trying these out.
If you’re looking to get out of White and need more removal, I would likely play this over Flunk.
Unnecessary in the Esper version, but definitely reasonable in the Dimir version.
This is generally a 1 of in the Dimir versions so it’s always a consideration in any version you’re playing.
TIPS AND TRICKS
- Although protecting Sedgemoor Witch can be nice, it isn’t particularly high priority. Feel free to run it out on turn 3 and let it eat a removal spell rather than the opponent developing more. If they let it live, then the value can start rolling in.
- If you are looking to protect Sedgemoor Witch from a removal spell, make sure you let the opponent pay the Ward cost first. It’s easy to forget when you know you’re going to save it, but 3 life is by no means irrelevant!
- It’s tempting to save Consider for a turn with Sedgmoor Witch (and you certainly can), but I like aggressively using them to sculpt my hand early.
- Use your Jwari Disruption as early as possible (either as the land or counterspell) as not only will it naturally drop off in the late game, it’ll be useless with a Lier out.
- I tend to aggressively Foretell my cards as both give the 2 mana cost reduction in full. If you’re afraid of something in particular or you have a Jwari Disruption, you definitely don’t have to Foretell, but I personally like doing it most of the time.
- Unlike Sedgemoor Witch, protecting Lier is a significantly higher priority. I will generally not play it out unless I have a way to protect it in hand or graveyard (Fading Hope, Valorous Stance, Divide by Zero), I’m confident they don’t have removal, I have multiple, or obviously I feel I have no choice.
- I tend to priortize letting The Celestus switch between day and night for the one life and looting, even over developing my board sometimes. Sculpting the ideal hand is generally the easiest way to win with this deck and we’re very capable of doing so.
- Don’t discount The Celestus‘s ability to switch between Day and Night for 3 mana. A very common play in the late game is to let it go to Night, on your turn switch it back to Day, not cast anything, and let it go to Night again. The life quickly adds up and you can filter your hand very effectively.
- In the Esper version, be careful with how you sequence your lands (doubly so in Alchemy). Plot out your first few turns of interaction and figure out what you’re going to need immediately.
- I know it’s on the card, but when Lier is out, all spells are uncounterable. No matter how many times I play with this deck, I tend to forget for whatever reason.
Thank you for reading!