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War of the Spark has proven itself to be a defining set in Standard, much like Dominaria. With a powerful cast of planeswalkers and a variety of effective removal spells, War of the Spark has given players a Standard format worth playing. With a nearly even split between combo, aggro, midrange and control (and with fringe prison strategies like Land Destruction and Xerox decks like Arclight popping up), Standard is in one of the best spots it has been in awhile. There is always a new deck, always something to learn, and a rich diversity in play patterns across many archetypes. With this diversity inevitability comes innovation, and this week’s take is an adjustment away from the Sarkhan and Shock heavy lists of Jeskai Planeswalkers for a more controlling Elderspell oriented Esper Planeswalkers list. This week I’ll be discussing the rationale for each card choice for both the main deck and the sideboard, as well as additional card choices worth merit in the current metagame.


The Planeswalkers

Narset, Parter of Veils | Competing with Teferi, Time Raveler for most impactful planeswalker in Standard is no small feat, but Narset thoroughly rises to the challenge. Shutting down powerful card advantage like Chemister’s Insight or Radical Idea, Narset serves as an important upgrade over Search for Azcanta for most decks. By disrupting opponents while digging for more threats, Narset contributes to a cohesive game plan, by serving as the lynchpin engine for most planeswalker decks.
Teferi, Time Raveler | Impacting multiple Constructed formats is no small feat, and Teferi, Time Raveler accompanies Narset on a veritable journey through Magic’s most iconic formats. Still, the impact in Standard is substantial, as shutting of Wilderness Reclamation and opposing counterspells has pushed the format into a tap out heavy metagame. This makes Teferi even more impressive, as his plus is able to leverage instant speed Wraths or Thought Erasures. Like Narset, Teferi at worst is a pseudo-life gain spell stapled onto card draw.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria | An iconic planeswalker since his printing in Dominaria, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the perfect late game for most control decks. Combining card advantage, board control, and a win condition into one 5 mana package, Teferi’s place in the format has only gone up as more planeswalkers have been printed. Four copies round out the primary suite of planeswalkers.
Dovin, Hand of Control | With the persistence of spell heavy Red decks, Dovin’s quality has only increased despite being cut from many Jeskai Planeswalkers lists. Slowing down Arclight Phoenix is relevant, and the ability to slow down large threats like Rekindling Phoenix gives Esper Planeswalkers enough time to grind out the opposition.

Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor | A largely filler planeswalker, Kasmina earns a spot by providing just enough protection while deploying bodies to pressure other planeswalkers.
Liliana, Dreadhorde General | The defining late game planeswalker of the deck, Liliana can combine with The Elderspell to immediately ultimate, and can serve as additional answers to wide midrange boards.
Karn, Scion of Urza | Once one of the more dominant planeswalkers in Standard, this almost forgotten addition to the planeswalker roster generates multiple bodies to pressure opposing planeswalkers while functioning similar to Kasmina with respect to hitting land drops. Ultimately without Saheeli Karn is relegated to a flex slot, and can be cut for whatever spells are necessary for your metagame.

Support Spells

Cast Down | With more threats than ordinary for control decks, a shift away from counterspells is necessary. Cast Down serves as the primary two-mana removal spell of choice, flexible enough to remove most creatures. While Moment of Craving lines up better against aggressive decks, Cast Down’s ability to hit Rekindling Phoenix and Crackling Drake earn its spot.
Kaya’s Wrath | Immediately cementing Esper Control as a standard powerhouse, Kaya’s Wrath importantly gives control decks an efficient answer for nearly any board state. Four copies are the default for Esper Planeswalkers, as protecting multiple planeswalkers is the most effective route to victory. Having access to four copies improves the likelihood of Narset finding a sweeper, ensuring a smooth curve of spells.
Oath of Kaya | With the rise in both Mono Red and planeswalkers, a removal spell that serves as a “smaller” Vraska’s Contempt is perfectly playable. Oath of Kaya serves as an additional life gain engine against aggressive decks since most decks will pressure planeswalkers through combat.

Vraska’s Contempt | A catch-all answer for a variety of permanents, this former Standard staple is seeing less and less play. In Esper Planeswalkers, however, the need to remove Rekindling Phoenix and Adanto Vanguard are high, and exiling a Tamiyo prevents Command the Dreadhorde from being used to bring her back.
The Elderspell | Serving as both a defining story moment and format icon, The Elderspell combines with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Liliana to create an emblem in one turn. One copy shows up in the main deck of most lists, with additional copies in the sideboard.
Thought Erasure | Removing any threat for two mana is a premium effect, and Thought Erasure gives Esper the ability to leverage three mana planeswalkers efficiently. Thought Erasure also gives Esper the much-needed ability to dig for lands on Turn 2, an effect noticeably lacking in versions without Discovery/Dispersal or Search for Azcanta.


The Sideboard

Spell Pierce | Noncreatures are proving to be the defining threat base in the format, converting Spell Pierce from fringe playable to format staple. A couple copies shore up Jeskai Planeswalkers and Command the Dreadhorde matchups.
Dovin’s Veto | As with Spell Pierce, Dovin’s Veto’s value is largely dependent upon the amount of Command and planeswalkers in the format. As there are many, Veto contributes to overall positive matchups for Esper variants.
Moment of Craving | Colloquially referred to as the ” Spell Pierce for creatures” (just kidding, no one calls it that), Moment of Craving serves an important role in stabilizing against the popular Gruul and Mono Red matchups. Removing a Legion Warboss profitably is a huge swing in those matchups, and a couple copies are standard in most lists.

The Elderspell | As discussed above, The Elderspell is the best answer for opposing planeswalkers, and can combo kill with Liliana. Double black and sorcery speed restrictions give most opponents ample opportunity to play around The Elderspell, but the flexibility of targetting your own planeswalkers mitigates the risk of drawing multiples.
Cry of the Carnarium | An effective answer to resilient threats like Arclight Phoenix or Adanto Vanguard, two copies of Cry of the Carnarium make their way into most Esper sideboards as tools against many of the most effective threats against the deck.
Enter the God-Eternals | With the rise of Gruul Aggro and other aggressive Red decks, the need for additional life gain is never greater. Enter the God-Eternals provides Esper Walkers with a 2-for-1 against a variety of strategies while doubling as a win condition against many decks.

Sorcerous Spyglass | As other planeswalkers grow in metagame percentage, Sorcerous Spyglass serves as an important answer for most planeswalkers, with the foremost Chandra. With a Static ability only relevant at protecting her from combat damage, Spyglass is one of the few clean answers to this problematic permanent.
Command the Dreadhorde | Command the Dreadhorde is living up to our claim in our Sultai Command article as the best late game in the format, and Esper Planeswalkers is not without a couple of copies of this powerful sorcery.
Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering | With Command providing a powerful late game engine, Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering is proving itself an often overlooked addition to these lists. Effectively a mini-Command, Yawgmoth’s Vile Offering affords Esper pain-free access to a potential 3-for-1 in planeswalker mirrors.

Other Options

Duress | Similarly to Spell Pierce, Duress serves as a better sideboard option against most decks, but is weaker to Mass Manipulation and Command the Dreadhorde. If these decks are less present, then Duress is a better option against Red decks.
Despark | With Gruul seeing a rise in recent days, Despark serves as the most mana efficient answer to both Rekindling Phoenix and Experimental Frenzy. Both of these cards represent significant roadblocks for Esper Planeswalkers, and Despark hedges against these decks while acting as an additional removal spell to bluff with Teferi.
Lyra Dawnbringer | With Mono Red and Gruul serving as the primary aggressive decks, Lyra’s 5/5 body races most board states and necessitates a 2-for-1 at minimum. Additionally, Lyra can pressure Tibalt and other planeswalkers, breaking many of the mirror matches.
Deputy of Detention | With most players likely to trim removal spells in postboard games, Deputy can serve as an extra Elderspell against opposing planeswalker decks. By removing a problematic planeswalker and pressuring others, Deputy serves as a powerful option that can mitigate the effects of Hydroid Krasis. I would recommend a couple copies in a metagame filled with Mass Manipulation.


 

Thanks for checking out our Esper Planeswalkers Deck Tech, and as always, let us know what you think in the comments section below. For decklists, MCQ stories, and early format brews, you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PariahPopular.

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