When I first saw Esper Yorion, I thought the deck was solid but nothing terribly special. Sure you played some decent cards, but the deck as a whole was kind of underwhelming. However, week after week, I keep getting proven wrong about how powerful the deck is. First, the amazing MythicMatt got 7 wins in the Day 2 of the Arena Open with his iteration of Esper Dance.
This list was a by-product of Gruul being the biggest new thing then and it clearly shows. Matt put extra attention in that matchup with Dream Trawler, The Birth of Meletis, and the Bloodchief’s Thirst. I was happy for Matt and impressed, but I still wasn’t sold. However, last weekend completely flipped the script for me. Two members of my competitive Discord, Tristan and saanctum, created a list that got both of them into Day 2 of the MCQW and Tristan to the qualification!
I would say that their list was much more ready for an open metagame, which makes sense as Gruul’s popularity was definitely waning a bit within that two week timespan between Matt winning and Tristan winning. I liked a lot of the changes that they made like adding the third Treacherous Blessing to grind more efficiently and cutting the random creatures from the deck.
I was definitely more intrigued in the list, but before I could even start doubting the deck’s power, I learned that it was the 3rd most popular deck in the MPL split the same weekend! I intended on looking at the MPL lists and taking what I liked from Matt’s, Tristan/saanctums, and the MPL lists, but then I saw Andrea Mengucci’s 7 win list.
Esper Doom Foretold by Andrea Mengucci – November Zendikar Rising League Weekend (MPL)
Wow. That list is cleaner than a freshly mopped floor. It just looks so polished that changing anything in it would be a disservice to the work Mengucci clearly put in to get it to this point. Mengucci’s list is much more similar to Tristan/saanctums, but I’m sure he predicted that he would have a larger variety of matches compared to what Matt anticipated for his tournament.
Before we keep going, I haven’t forgotten about my Bo1 friends.
You can expect significantly more creature decks in Bo1, so this list is reflective of that. I significantly upped the amount of creature interaction and cut out a lot of the clunkier options in the deck. As you can likely tell, this list is based off Matt’s list which seemed well built against what you’d expect in Bo1, especially with small innovations like fewer taplands. If slower decks gain more stock in Bo1 (which seems unlikely), you can slowly transition back into more of what the Bo3 lists look like.
For my Mengu fans, let’s get into his card choices.
Companion: Yorion, Sky Nomad: I tried a 60 card Esper Doom Foretold variant multiple times this season, and the deck simply didn’t work. When you didn’t draw a wincon, you would just flail around until your opponent outdrew your interaction. Not a good time. With Yorion, you can always guarantee you have gas in the tank and it works extremely well with all of your random ETB permanents. Yorion doesn’t work the best with Doom Foretold, but the odds that Doom Foretold completely depletes you of your board is relatively small, thus making Yorion a really strong choice anyway.
4 Skyclave Apparition: One of the best white cards in Standard and a powerhouse with Yorion. Exiling ANY permanent with CMC 4 or less is such a strong move, especially if you get to do it multiple times. This does everything from stall aggressive decks to taking out important permanents from slow decks. Don’t leave home without 4.
3 Yorion, Sky Nomad: A lesson that players have learned this season that seemed unknown previously is that you’re allowed to play Companions in your main! Everything that I said about Yorion above applies here!
2 Dance of the Manse: I’ve heard a lot of talk of cutting Dance from Esper and I honestly can’t see why. Having the 2 of Dance is something the opponent has to constantly be vigilant about and gives you outs in board states that can seem impossible to come back from. Since Doom Foretold puts permanents in your graveyard anyway, having the ability to recur a few of them for value or a lot of them and making a strong fighting force is a huge boon for the deck’s power level.
4 Emeria’s Call: I talk about this card a lot, but it’s a land or a Broodmate Dragon. Why wouldn’t you play it?
3 Extinction Event: Esper definitely wants board wipes and it’s really between this or Shatter the Sky. Although Extinction Event won’t always hit everything guaranteed, it’s way easier to cast and exiling creatures can be relevant versus a lot of strategies.
2 Eliminate: Eliminate is generally worse than Heartless Act, but can give you more outs against small creatures that accrue +1/+1 counters (Scavenging Ooze, Luminarch Aspirant) which is fine but I’m assuming that’s not why he’s playing Eliminate. If I had to guess, Mengu was afraid of Crawling Barrens, a card that Esper traditionally has an extremely hard time answering.
2 Heartless Act: Doom Blade most of the time except against pesky counter creatures. The 2/2 split is very smart.
2 Glass Casket: This is probably one of the more contentious choices in the deck to me. If you are going to play this deck on ladder, you may want more Glass Casket since people tend to have a preference for creature decks there. However, for the tournament, I do like 2 Glass Casket but wonder if it would’ve served him better to have more in the 75. Having a play on turn 2 is rather critical for most matchups and one that helps stymie aggression is quite helpful.
3 Golden Egg: Mengu, Tristan, and saanctum all broke a sacred rule that I never understood why it was a rule in place. Golden Egg is a pretty mediocre card and it’s ok to not play 4. It does draw a card and can color fix or gain life in a pinch, but that’s not the most powerful effect. Potentially, I think the Golden Egg and Glass Casket numbers could’ve been switched, but I’ll opt to trust Mengucci here.
1 Banishing Light: Honestly, I keep forgetting this card is even legal. It’s been a long time since Banishing Light has seemed playable in Standard, but I don’t hate the 1 as an all purpose answer here. The card is very rarely bad and can give you outs to permanents you can struggle to answer quickly.
4 Doom Foretold: The whole reason to play this deck. This card is extremely powerful when you build around it and is back breaking if you cast this while you’re ahead. It’s not great when you’re struggling to keep up, thus it does get boarded out in faster matchups, but forcing your opponent to sacrifice relevant permanents while you sacrifice cards you already got value from is huge.
4 Elspeth Conquers Death: The best white card in Standard. Although getting the third mode can be challenging, this card is so powerful it’s worth the effort. Excellent with Yorion in every capacity, whether it’s blinked after snagging a permanent once or bringing back a dead Yorion.
4 Elspeth’s Nightmare: I’ve mentioned it before, but I LOVE Elspeth’s Nightmare. I think going up to 4 of it is an extremely smart move since it’s incidentally insanely good right now. A lot of decks are running small creatures, non-creatures, and care about their graveyard, so when you can have a 3 mana card interact on all of those axes, it feels like a tremendous blowout.
3 Omen of the Sun: Slightly better Raise the Alarm on a stick. Good with Yorion and Doom Foretold yet again! Unlike Omen of the Sea though, you will board these out in some matchups unlike Omen of the Sea which never leaves the maindeck.
3 Treacherous Blessing: Extremely powerful and scary. Treacherous Blessing is probably the most flavorful card in Standard as it epitomizes what Black is all about, great power at great cost. When you cast a Treacherous Blessing, you need to ensure one way or another that you can get rid of it sooner than later because that damage can add up very quickly. Be careful on picking the spots you cast this.
32 Lands + 4 Emeria’s Call
2 Archon of Sun’s Grace: A big lifelinking threat who makes smaller lifelinking threats. Archon is great against decks looking to pressure you extremely quickly or against decks that can’t easily answer it. It’s ok to sandbag Enchantments to get more Horsies later on.
2 Cling to Dust: Not an exciting card, but a necessary one. Good when you need to exile random permanents from the graveyard or against Rogues, having a few Escape cards is always valuable. Be mindful of what you’re exiling as you don’t want to get rid of your Dance of the Manse fodder.
1 Extinction Event: To fill out the playset in the main deck, good against creatures!
1 Heliod’s Intervention: An extremely smart inclusion for the tournament and moving forward. Intervention was definitely a nod to the mirror where a Yorion blinking more than 1 thing can be absolutely back breaking, but Intervention is also excellent against Monogreen Food, the breakout deck from last weekend’s MPL Split.
4 Mystical Dispute: This card’s gross, if you’re playing Blue, you’re playing 3-4 of this.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARD GUIDE
|+2 Archon of Sun’s Grace||-3 Treacherous Blessing|
|+1 Extinction Event|
Easy enough boarding. Blessing is too risky to play against Gruul, and since this deck is more or less designed to be already good against Gruul, only minimal boarding is needed. Do your best to keep their legendary artifacts (Embercleave, The Great Henge) off of the board and you shouldn’t have too hard of a time.
|+2 Cling to Dust||-1 Banishing Light|
|+2 Duress,||-4 Elspeth Conquers Death|
|+1 Extinction Event||-3 Omen of the Sun|
|+4 Mystical Dispute||-1 Treacherous Blessing|
Rogues can be a difficult matchup, but you have a lot of tools to deal with them as well. Elspeth’s Nightmare is amazing against them as is most of your removal. If you can keep their board relatively clear and stop them from resolving Into the Story, this matchup is more than winnable.
MONO GREEN FOOD
|+2 Archon of Sun’s Grace||-2 Eliminate|
|+1 Extinction Event||-2 Glass Casket|
|+1 Heliod’s Intervention|
The new breakout deck from last week and easily one of your hardest matchups. With a good draw, they can easily diversify a lot of their threats so it’ll be difficult to keep up at times. You really need to find a way to win quickly or establish a lock on them with Doom Foretold to beat this matchup.
BIG UGIN DECKS
|+2 Duress||-3 Extinction Event|
|+1 Heliod’s Intervention||-2 Eliminate|
|+4 Mystical Dispute||-2 Heartless Act|
|+2 Shark Typhoon||-2 Glass Casket|
This is a tentative plan as there’s a lot of different flavors of Ugin Ramp right now, with the most popular version being Big Red (but Temur is coming back). All of your removal spells are basically dead so you need to board in cards that have a chance of doing something. Boarding in Mystical Dispute against a non-blue deck may seem weird, but Ugin is by far the most important card in the matchup and Dispute can stop it from resolving more often than not. Heliod’s Intervention can be good if they play Solemn Simulacrum and Mazemind Tome, but if they’re a version that doesn’t, bring in Archon of Sun’s Grace or even Cling to Dust just to cycle a card. These matchups can be very challenging, but they’re certainly not unwinnable.
|+2 Archon of Sun’s Grace||-3 Extinction Event|
|+2 Duress||-2 Eliminate|
|+1 Heliod’s Intervention||-2 Heartless Act|
|+4 Mystical Dispute||-2 Glass Casket|
|+2 Shark Typhoon||-1 Banishing Light|
|-1 Elspeth’s Nightmare|
Just a good old fashioned Control mirror. Take out your removal and put in your high impact cards like Mystical Dispute and Duress. Here we’re employing the classic strategy of boarding into creatures when the opponent is presumably going to be boarding down on removal, however if your opponent does the same with Archons or goes for Dream Trawler instead, definitely consider putting some Extinction Event back into your deck. Like all control mirrors, card draw and hitting land drops is paramount so prioritize that over everything else.
That’s all I have for today! If you like my content and want to see more of it, you can check me out on Twitch! Have a great day!