You may not know this about me, but I absolutely love aggro decks. They’re my favorite type of deck to play as there’s something so satisfying about curving out and absolutely steamrolling people who weren’t ready for it. Furthermore, one of my favorite types of aggro decks is easily Mono White. Mono White, no matter when you play it, is generally a super low to the ground aggro deck that focuses on perfect curves and/or swarming the board to get your wins. I played it a bunch when Brave the Elements was Standard legal, I played it a bunch when Benalish Marshal was legal, and still I play it a bunch whenever I can. So how convenient is it than in Bo1 Standard Mono White is one of the top dogs?
Since Bo1 is mostly dominated by the best fast deck, Mono White has had a pretty strong advantage in this field. First it started off as pure Mono White as that deck was very powerful, especially in conjunction with Faceless Haven. Faceless Haven got banned and then eliott_dragon’s Naya Aggro started getting really popular which was Monowhite splash Snakeskin Veil and Halana and Alena, Partners.
Recently, Naya cut the Green, added Sunrise Cavalier and Thundering Raiju and quickly rocketed to the top of Bo1 ladder. While many would think 3 iterations of Mono White would be more than enough to combat ladder with, there’s actually one more iteration which is the least popular of the 3, but brings a whole new dimension to the strategy. What iteration can that be? Well since I’m assuming you read the title, you know it’s Esper Aggro.
Rather than explaining what that new dimension to the deck is now, let’s go over the cards quickly.
Like all good aggro decks, you definitely need a one drop to get the ball rolling. As is tradition in every iteration of Mono White, we have Hopeful Initiate. Just being the strongest of the 1 drops, it can scale up quickly if you have a good curve and bonking off artifacts or enchantments when you have enough counters and mana is always welcome. Unfortunately the good one drops more or less end there, but that’s not a problem for the rest of the curve.
For our two drops, we have 2 excellent options and one very reasonable one. Starting with the modest inclusion, Sungold Sentinel is an on again off again choice for Mono White that’s always solid when included. A 2 mana 3/2 with attached graveyard hate is reasonable, but if you manage to activate the Coven ability, you can very easily have a nigh unblockable threat.
Luminarch Aspirant needs little introduction as it’s not just the best White two drop in Standard, but just the best two drop with how fast it scales and how dangerous it is left alive.
Finally, we have Thalia, Guardian of Thraben which helps tax spells from our opponents as well as tussling extremely well in combat.
Mono White decks generally have more three drops than anything else, but Esper has even more than normal! Elite Spellbinder is very commonplace in Mono White as a great flying threat that can also stall the opponent’s best card putting them off balance.
Brutal Cathar obviously functions as removal, and unlike the other Mono White variants, we don’t mind passing the turn which makes this even better than normal.
Like Elite Spellbinder, Adeline, Resplendent Cathar is a staple in Mono White as it’s such a huge threat both in stats and with the triggered ability pumping out additional threats the opponent has to deal with.
All of these three drops are great, but far and away the best one and the main reason we’re splashing two colors is for Raffine, Scheming Seer. When I first saw this card spoiled I assumed it would be played only in Aggro as the ability is obscene when you curve out, but in reality, the card is so powerful you don’t even need a good curve to make it powerful.
I say that, but don’t get wrong, it is absolutely disgusting when you have any type of curve as it can just grow your creatures to ridiculous proportions. The way I see it, Raffine is a better Halana and Alena, Partners that flies, is harder to kill, blocks better, and can grow itself. Now this isn’t strictly better, Halana and Alena, Partners is an excellent card, but that is a lot of praise for a three drop.
For the final threats of the list, we have the top end at the 4 drops. First off we have The Wandering Emperor which isn’t typically played in aggro decks, but is far from out of place. Being interaction, a way to produce more threats, or to win combat and then do any combination of these after the fact as well is clearly an excellent card.
To keep up the mini flash theme, the second reason we’re double splashing is to play Obscura Interceptor. Obscura Interceptor does a great Venser, Shaper Savant impression which is a very powerful effect for an aggro deck. This deck will very often go 2 drop into 3 drop and if the opponent is at all behind and you have Obscura Interceptor in hand, the game generally ends there. You can Time Walk them, get a small filter, and then have a lifelink threat which is excellent against aggressive decks (less important against slow decks, but these effects tend to be much weaker against aggro so this mitigates it extremely well).
Now to circle around what new dimension the double splash brings to Mono White. All the other variations of Mono White add cards that just abet the aggressive game plan of the deck. Whether it’s better threats or Burn spells, that’s all working towards the same plan, and as a consequence, isn’t necessarily better against the cards that are good against Mono White.
Going Esper though adds Raffine, Scheming Seer and Obscura Interceptor which give you two cards that are excellent against the anti-aggro decks of Bo1. Raffine is a huge pain to kill and scales your threats out of The Meathook Massacre range which is unbelievably important for aggro decks. Obscura Interceptor on the other hand is the perfect card in those matchups as you can easily rob them of a turn while also not overcommitting into a board wipe.
The scariest part of Mono White is balancing how many threats to deploy as you don’t want to be stonewalled or picked apart by removal, but you also don’t want to get blown out by a sweeper, so Interceptor does the perfect job at stalling the sweeper to end the game or you can simply deploy it end step for an additional creature. To that end, I would argue this iteration is a bit more meta dependent as the higher curve lends itself much more to beating anti-aggro decks while still being fast enough to get run over, but if you’re facing a litany of non-aggro decks, it’s hard to do better than this.
Tips and Tricks
- Remember that when you play The Wandering Emperor, you can activate the abilities at any time throughout the rest of the turn. Most typically you’re going to play it and activate it, but there will be scenarios where you play it earlier in the turn (such as the opponent casts Duress against you), but you want to wait to use it.
- Hopeful Initiate can pull +1/+1 counters from ANY creature you control to activate it’s ability, not just itself. It’s best to pull it from Initiate most of the time, but different scenarios will require different creatures losing their counters!
- Although activating the Coven ability on Sungold Sentinel is good, don’t make it a big priority. Attacking, blocking, and trading are all vital parts of the deck and holding back hoping to get a decent ability is very rarely worth it.
- It’s always tempting to take the opponents next play with Elite Spellbinder, but 99% of the time I’m just taking the best card from their hand. The only time I take an on curve card (barring it being their best card of course) is if it potentially robs them of a turn as that’s a huge tempo swing.
- Since we have 6 flash threats, don’t be afraid to pass the turn with Brutal Cathar out to try and eat more creatures!
- If you hold up mana for Obscura Interceptor and the opponent just passes, playing out the Interceptor for additional pressure is a legitimate line if it substantially increases the clock.
Thank you for reading!