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Standard Esper Ravens Deck Guide

Standard Esper Ravens Deck Guide: A New Approach to Standard

Looking for a different way to attack Standard midrange decks? Eliott_Dragon has a new take on Esper that you'll be interested in! Find out how he uses a previously unplayed enchantment to grind out his opponents!

Last week, we explored the Standard metagame on the Control side of the Force with Jeskai Lotus.

This week was dedicated for me to exploration for combo decks but everything changed when I came across this Esper tokens decklist that I named Esper Raven.

Esper Disturb by cftsoc3
by DoggertQBones
Buy on TCGplayer $323.67
Standard
Midrange
best of 3
4 mythic
28 rare
16 uncommon
12 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (11)
Sorceries (4)
Enchantments (8)
4
Ominous Roost
$1.00
Lands (23)
1
Plains
$0.25
3
Adarkar Wastes
$7.47
3
Caves of Koilos
$1.05
3
Shipwreck Marsh
$10.47
3
Deserted Beach
$23.97
60 Cards
$234.06
15 Cards
$164.57

The list made it to top 16 of a Standard Challenge on MTG Online, and despite a lot of inconsistency in the build, there was definitely something there. Primarily, the deck is very well positioned against Liliana of the Veil thanks to its many tokens, the ability to grind with the Disturb mechanic, and its ability to thwart aggressive decks with the best removal of the format. I knew there was something here, so I tinkered around with it, and arrived here.

ESPER RAVEN
by Eliott_Dragon
Buy on TCGplayer $327.87
Standard
Midrange
best of 3
4 mythic
34 rare
15 uncommon
7 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (3)
3
Cut Down
$1.77
Sorceries (6)
Enchantments (8)
4
Ominous Roost
$1.00
60 Cards
$223.98
Sideboard
1
Spell Pierce
$0.25
1
Rotten Reunion
$0.25
1
Infernal Grasp
$1.49
1
Knockout Blow
$0.25
2
Void Rend
$4.98
15 Cards
$169.05

The key to this list is that it’s good against deck with spot removal and it can deal with the best threats that midrange deck can have. To be honest, the deck might not be tier one in a meta where enchantment removal is played, but in all the other matchups, you will feel comfortable. Many components of the deck allow you to be aggressive, but also allow you to switch to be more controlling, the clear definition of a midrange deck. This will become clear as we go through the cards in the deck and the reason they’re there.

The Enchantment Package

These are the central pieces of the deck. They are the cards without which the deck would not be viable. Wedding Announcement allows you to clog up the ground against creature decks starting turn three, and then in three turns, your creatures will be much more threatening.

The card Ominous Roost is more discreet since its release and creates Birds which can only block other fliers, an important against cards like Rafine, Scheming Seer or Ao, the Dawn Sky. The card works exceptionally well with the Flashback or Disturb cards that make up the rest of the deck and can put pressure on the opponent’s life total, especially when your tokens are accompanied by Raffine, Scheming Seer.

The Flashback package

Now let’s talk about cards that allow you to trigger Ominous Roost. The first half of these are flashback cards that you can easily discard or mill for free value. In the original list, we had Otherworldly Gaze and Faithful Mending, but I found these cards too slow, and the value produced did not compensate for the loss of tempo during games.

I preferred to integrate Homestead Courage and Tenacious Underdog which gives a more aggressive aspect to the deck and gives you the role of the aggressor rather than having to respond to what the opponent is doing. There is also the option to play Malevolent Hermit against control decks, but there are still too few of them to warrant its main deck inclusion.

The biggest reason to play this deck, in my opinion, is to have access to unconditional removal of Rite of Oblivion. Very similar to Vanishing Verse which allowed Esper to dominate the previous meta before Dominaria United, Rite of Oblivion being able to exile anything is excellent. The deck certainly does not lack tokens to sacrifice to get rid of cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse or Reckoner Bankbuster.

The Disturb Package

Now that we’ve started playing with the graveyard, let’s not stop there. Almost all of the creatures in this deck are able to come back from the graveyard thanks to the Disturb mechanic, which ensures you get more Ravens as the game progresses.

Lunarch Veteran is an early drop that gives you time to deploy your strategy as you slowly accumulate life.

Dennick, Pious Apprentice is multifaceted as it has Lifelink to protect you early and protects the other cards in your graveyard by making them untargetable to effects like Graveyard Trespasser or Chapter 3 of The Cruelty of Gix.

Finally, the last addition to the deck is Devoted Grafkeeper which does an amazing job of filling up the graveyard, but also allows you to tap down enemy blockers in order to deal even more damage or kill the opponent’s planeswalkers. In combination with Rite of Oblivion, your opponent often has to keep three creatures back to block or risk a large attack!

Final Pieces

The last cards that make up the deck are more or less flexible, but it would be criminal not to play Raffine, Scheming Seer in a deck that has a lot of creatures and plays with the graveyard. It’s your power play when you need one, either on defense because she’s hard to kill, or on offense when you have an army of birds in the air.

The original list was playing 3 copies of Disdainful Stroke, but the card is extremely poorly positioned in a metagame with a lot of three mana power plays. I think you still prefer cards like or in this slot.

I personally went for an aggressive composition with three copies of to strengthen the deck in the early turns. Copies of can also help you get rid of more problematic cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse if Rite of Oblivion isn’t enough.

Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Malevolent Hermit Art by Daarken
Malevolent Hermit Art by Daarken

The meta is very diverse when it comes to the composition of the midrange decks of the format, Mono Black, Esper, Grixis, and Jund and it is more relevant to understand the individual strength of the cards rather than applying strict rules.

Against deck with a lot of creatures, you will often choose to integrate more removal and play the role of the controlling deck, conversely, if the opponent keeps a lot of spot removal, you can rely on grinding them out with your recursive threats.

Versus Midrange Strategies

InOut
+1 Disdainful Stroke-2 Lunarch Veteran
+2 Void Rend-2 Homestead Courage
+2 Ao, the Dawn Sky-2 Devoted Grafkeeper
+1 Malevolent Hermit-1 Cut Down (if +1 Infernal Grasp)
+1 Infernal Grasp (if more than 2 Sheoldred)

You can often choose to take out cards that scale down quickly in long games such as Lunarch Veteran or Devoted Grafkeeper that you replace with “catch-all” cards like Void Rend or Disdainful Stroke.

Versus Non Black Aggressive Strategies

Against decks that only have the aggressive plan, you must take the role of the controlling deck and sideboard accordingly. The longer the game goes on, the more your chances of winning increase. Cards like Ominous Roost can become a weakness if you only draw them.

Versus Blue Control Matchups

InOut
+2 Disdainful Stroke-3 Cut Down
+1 Spell Pierce-2 Lunarch Veteran
+1 Rotten Reunion
+1 Malevolent Hermit

Your strategy is quite problematic for control decks and you only have to maneuver against strong cards like Farewell, so a few counters should do the trick.

The rest of the sideboard is very flexible and I’ve selected a few one-offs that you can change if you feel some match-ups are more difficult than others.

Tips and Tricks

Devoted Grafkeeper Art by Raoul Vitale
Devoted Grafkeeper Art by Raoul Vitale
  • You can use your birds from Ominous Roost defensively against Fliers, but they’re much more useful when attacking, especially if you have Raffine, Scheming Seer, so don’t trade them too quickly.
  • Don’t forget that you can Blitz Tenacious Underdogfrom hand as well, not just the graveyard!
  • It is often better to make tokens with than to draw cards. The exception is if you believe your opponent is going to play The Meathook Massacre soon.
  • You can use Rite of Oblivion on a creature with Disturb to replay it from the graveyard.

Moving Forward

I think this deck has a lot going for it, and it will be more or less strong depending on the metagame as it counters Black Decks’ strategies well. At this stage, I recommend that you get an idea of the synergies and see if this tier 2 deck can earn a place on the podium alongside the greatest!

I hope this article is useful for you to understand the whole universe of the meta with Dominaria United and I’ll see you next time for another next crazy deck tech.

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Eliott_Dragon
Eliott_Dragon

I'm a MTG competitor since i 1998 and i have 6 GP top8 with a win at Prague in 2014. I love brewing new deck and I started streaming on twitch Eliott_Dragon 2,5 years ago and i really enjoy helping others getting better at MTG while having fun developing crazy deck ideas.

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2 Comments

  1. Hello Eliott I’m a fan of your decks.
    What do you think about Serra Paragon, I tested it in a similar brew with good results, The angel has nice sinergy with the Roost, triggers the roost, and returns the roost from gy. Nice deck.

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