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Why I Brought Esper Midrange to SNC

Why I Brought Esper Midrange to SNC

Bringing Esper Midrange to the SNC Championship

Today I am going to be talking about something very important, and that’s deck selection. For the SNC Championship that took place last weekend, I spent a lot of time preparing for both Historic and Standard. In Historic, I felt pretty comfortable choosing Azorius Auras, as I had played the deck a lot previously, and like the playstyle of the deck.

There will be times you are more confident in one choice and less so for the other deck you are selecting, when it comes to a split format event. The weird thing about the preparation leading up to the SNC Championship is everyone I was testing and preparing for the event with thought Esper Midrange was the best deck to play for the Standard portion of the tournament. Raffine, Scheming Seer had really overperformed many players expectations, and we were doing well with the deck on the MTG Arena ladder.

Sometimes it’s difficult to make the right deck selection when you are winning a lot in practice games, which makes it more likely you will choose to play a deck. The problem was that the competition wasn’t that great on the MTG Arena ladder, and we weren’t facing the same decks that would eventually show up to the SNC Championship. For instance, the Grixis Vampires deck came completely out of left field, because one group of players came up with it.

Anyway, going back to my actual deck choice it definitely went through my head that if 25 of the best MTG players in the world thought Esper Midrange was just the best deck in the format, I should be trusting and going with that. I felt comfortable playing the deck and felt like I had tuned my decklist to prepare for the mirror match, which was key since we did expect there to be a lot of other players who also chose to play Esper Midrange. This is the deck I submitted:

Creatures: (14)
Legion Angel
Luminarch Aspirant
Tenacious Underdog
Obscura Interceptor
Raffine, Scheming Seer

Planeswalkers: (6)
The Wandering Emperor
Kaito Shizuki

Spells: (14)
Emeria’s Call
Vanishing Verse
Ray of Enfeeblement
Duress
Infernal Grasp
The Meathook Massacre
Wedding Announcement
Lands: (26)
Brightclimb Pathway
Clearwater Pathway
Hengegate Pathway
Hive of the Eye Tyrant
Deserted Beach
Shipwreck Marsh
Shattered Sanctum
Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
Raffine’s Tower
Plains

Sideboard: (15)
Archon of Emeria
Legion Angel
Negate
Divine Smite
Portable Hole
Duress
The Meathook Massacre
Disdainful Stroke

I was happy with having Duress maindeck in a field that seemed like it would be a lot of control and midrange, and that metagame prediction did end up being accurate. Being able to take a key noncreature spell away from the opponent on the first turn, and playing with perfect information can be very important. There are also two copies of Ray of Enfeeblement maindeck, because of how popular we expected Esper to end up being, and it’s also good against decks like Naya Runes, which ended up being the next most popular deck. Overall though this list was close to the “stock” esper lists that most people were playing going into this event.

I ended up submitting the most played deck in the tournament, and the strategy that most people had likely prepared to play against the most. Esper Midrange was very popular on the MTG Arena ladder as well, so it being a third of the field didn’t come as a huge surprise. As far as my actual results in the event, I did not do well with Esper Midrange, losing two close mirror matches and one match against a Five Color Ramp deck.

Looking back, I regret not pushing harder to find a different deck to submit. Even though the logic of your entire testing team is playing a deck so you should probably too makes some sense, I think the problem is many of the players sort of also defaulted to what other people were doing, We didn’t dig deep enough into the format, which led to simply submitting what we believed to be the default best deck.

While Esper Midrange did okay, putting two pilots into top eight, overall it was far from the best performing archetype considering how many players chose to play it. In retrospect, I wish I had done more and tried more different decks, but credit goes to those players that found other decks that were naturally well positioned against Esper Midrange. The Jeskai Hinata deck that won the tournament has impressed me a lot.

Esper Midrange was a safe choice because of its diverse array of answers, and it doesn’t have any truly terrible matchups, but also doesn’t have great ones either. It’s kind of a Jund deck of sorts in that it tries to answer opposing threats on a one for one axis, before deploying its own high impact creatures and planeswalkers. However, choosing a deck that is trying to win a lot of coin flips is a tough task when you need to win a ton of matches in a 14 round event, and if I were to go back in time I would have done things differently,

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield

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