It’s been a while since Standard was relevant or fun in Magic: the Gathering. MTG: Arena isn’t my idea of a fun time, plus the economy for that version of the game is broken. That means it’s been quite a long time since I’ve played Standard at any high level. You’ve got to go back to 2020 in the midst of the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the Pro Tour weekends that Wizards of the Coast ran. Back then, Standard was miserable. Now, it looks like the clouds have cleared, the sun is shining, and we have plenty of new cards from sets like Brother’s War, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, Dominaria United, and others. Esper (White, Blue, Black) Legends is one of the newest decks to spring up.

If you haven’t been paying attention to Standard, I don’t blame you. We went from Standard being the predominant format for most players back in 2012-ish all the way until now with Standard being cast off to the side. Thanks to the new Regional Qualifier system, stores that run these tournaments can pick what formats to play. In the past, Pro Tour Qualifiers being Standard meant that players HAD to play Standard to get to the higher levels of the game. As for the actual deck, there’s a new land from Brother’s War that ties the room together nicely.

Plaza of Heroes makes it so this deck has functional mana, and it gives us a spell all in one land. Combine that with the Channel lands from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, and you have a deck that basically only plays creatures, but has access to plenty of spells through its mana base.

Here’s the list I played over the weekend at a Regional Championship Qualifier. Click here to get an Arena Export version and the prices for all the cards!

Attacking People To Death And 28 Lands

Throughout my Magic career, there’s been one constant: I really enjoy attacking people with creatures. Esper Legends is for the people out there that enjoy decks like Tribal Zoo, Naya Aggro, or other types of attacking creature decks. Looking at the list above, it has 30 creatures, 2 instants, and 28 lands. For an aggressive creature deck, 28 lands might seem like way too much, but when you consider that 7 of the lands in the deck are really spells in Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, Otawara, Soaring City, and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire. Because the deck is all legendary creatures, you can get some insane value from these lands with their effects routinely costing 1 mana.

Also, with 28 lands, comes the benefit of having nearly flawless mana. With a Raffine’s Tower on turn 1, and then any non-Shipwreck Marsh/Shattered Sanctum land on turn 2, you have perfect mana for the rest of the game. The benefits don’t stop there though, Plaza of Heroes not only fixes your mana for Legendary and non-legendary spells, but it makes it increasingly difficult for opponents to remove your creatures in the later stages of the game. With 11 of your lands acting as spells, the deck has plenty of amazing draws in the late game.

Scaling Threats And Power Up And Down The Curve

Raffine, Scheming Seer is the card that ties the entire deck together. Sure, you have some good draws without this card, but any game you get Raffine online for multiple turns is one that you’re going to win. Remember how I was talking about 28 lands? Well, this helps you churn through the flood and get to the spells that matter. In addition, with a deck that is 99% legends, you can always discard extras to their ability. Raffine provides a must-answer threat in a deck with plenty of lightning rods for opponent’s removal spells. If they kill your Thalia on turn 2 and you play this, they’re in bad shape.

Against the other midrange and control decks of the format, Raffine helps filter your hand, and make your creatures bigger to get around Cut Down. Ward 1 is a real cost for some decks especially if they get bottlenecked on their mana. Combining it with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and that’s a turn 2/3 play that can win the game on the spot.

Besides Raffine, the deck acts like a Zoo deck with creatures that are undercosted for their abilities and power. Normally, a 2/3 with multiple abilities would cost more than 2 mana; but because it’s legendary and multicolored, it only costs 2. In this deck, you get so many cards like that up and down the curve (Ludevic, Necrogenius, Dennick, Pious Apprentice). Because of that, all your creatures are relevant at points in the game and there’s plenty of synergy with your best card, Raffine.

The Sheoldred, The Apocalypse Sized Elephant In The Room

This card isn’t very good in the deck.

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is a very expensive 4/5 for 4 mana that doesn’t really do much against certain decks in the format. Against Mono Red, Mono Green, or Blue/White Soldiers, the card is a house. It blocks everything, gains you life, and helps turn the tide of battle in your favor. However, against decks like Mono Blue Tempo, Grixis (Red, Blue, Black) Midrange, Blue/White Control, Mono White Midrange, and others with plenty of removal, Sheoldred doesn’t shine as much. In those cases, she’s just really a 4 mana deal 2 and you gain two.

The problem lies in the fact that there aren’t many great 4 drop legends on the curve besides Ertai Resurrected. For that reason, you still need to play Sheoldred, but don’t think of her like the lights-out finisher that she is in some other formats.

Odds And Ends With The Future Viability Of Esper Legends

  • Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor might read somewhat confusingly, but he does an excellent Raffine impersonation. You hit your opponents with creatures, pay 1 life and draw a card for each one that does.
  • You can’t trigger Harbin, Vanguard Aviator‘s ability in this deck, he’s just a 3/2 flying attacker.
  • Dennick, Pious Apprentice and Ludevic, Necrogenius are a non-bo, so don’t try to activate Ludevic’s ability with a Dennick out.
  • Try not to play your Raffine’s out on turn 3 against decks with Cut Down, be patient.
  • Go For The Throat is the best removal spell for the maindeck or sideboard at the moment, there aren’t too many of the Mythic artifact creatures running around right now.
  • After sideboarding, you become much more of a Midrange deck with plenty of counterspells and removal spells.

Esper Legends is one of the first decks to really feel like fun playing in Standard, so give it a shot at your local tournaments or on MTG: Arena. You’ve got plenty of power and can hang with anyone in the format.

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