Updating Esper Dragons for BFZ

I have been playing Esper Dragons since Dragons of Tarkir arrived with [card]Dragonlord Ojutai[/card]. The deck has been fun to play, and I’ve had success with it, but now that Theros is on it’s way out, is Esper Dragons going to survive? If so, will it be weaker or stronger? Will it even be the same deck?

Here is my pre-Battle for Zendikar list. Notice there are no [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s. I am cheap! I preordered the Ojutai’s (luckily!) and opened Jace at the Origin’s prerelease. [card]Despise[/card] and [card]Duress[/card] work for me, save me a few bucks, and aren’t rotating out. True, you can’t take away their draw step, but I don’t find myself in that position enough times to make it relevant. Also, the two life really does matter. I’ve won games with one or two life multiple times, and that is just one [card]Thoughtseize[/card] from death.

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[Deck Title=Standard Esper Dragons, Pre-BFZ ]
[Creatures]

*3 Dragonlord Ojutai
*1 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
*1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death

[/Creatures]
[Spells]

*3 Bile Blight
*4 Dig Through Time
*2 Dissolve
*2 Foul-Tongue Invocation
*3 Hero’s Downfall
*4 Silumgar’s Scorn
*2 Ultimate Price
*2 Crux of Fate
*1 Despise
*2 Duress
*1 Languish
*2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

[/Spells]
[Land]

*3 Island
*3 Swamp
*3 Caves of Koilos
*4 Dismal Backwater
*1 Flooded Strand
*2 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
*4 Polluted Delta
*4 Temple of Deceit
*2 Temple of Enlightenment
*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
[/Land]
[Sideboard]

*1 Orbs of Warding
*1 Bile Blight
*2 Dragonlord’s Prerogative
*1 Foul-Tongue Invocation
*1 Negate
*1 Ultimate Price
*1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death
*1 Dragonlord Ojutai
*2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
*1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
*1 Despise
*2 Drown in Sorrow
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Rotating Out

Let’s look at the cards in my Esper Dragons deck that are rotating out of Standard with Theros block.

[Deck Title= Rotating Out]
[Spells]

*3 Bile Blight
*2 Dissolve
*3 Hero’s Downfall
*2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

[/Spells]
[Land]
*4 Temple of Deceit
*2 Temple of Enlightenment
*1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
*1 Bile Blight
*2 Drown in Sorrow
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Overall, we lose six weenie wipers, two three-mana counterspells, three targeted creature and planeswalker removal spells, two value-train planeswalkers. and eight scries through our counters and temples. The Urborg was also helpful and we will have to adjust our manabase at it’s loss.

Weenie Wipers

Does the new Standard have any efficient two-or-three-for-one removal spells? Weenie wipers effectively clear the board when a handful of tiny monsters appear, especially tokens from red spells like [card]Dragon Fodder[/card] and [card]Hordeling Outburst[/card]. We will need a way to kill a bunch of small creatures.

[card]Rising Miasma[/card] is an interesting choice, but feels strictly worse than [card]Languish[/card] and [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card]. Sure, in the mid to late game, it can clear some creatures and give you a 3/3, but the deck has better creatures, and while the 3/3 isn’t nothing, it’s not hugely impactful either.

We may just have to rely more on our friend [card]Languish[/card] on turn four, five, or six. I can see putting a full playset of these in the deck. As we will see later in the article, there are also some new ways to put your own little creatures onto the battlefield in addition to doing some of the things you need to be doing. We may be less needy when it comes to those little threats from our opponent.

Counterspells

Losing [card]Dissolve[/card] isn’t so bad when you have another three-mana spell to replace it that arguably has more utility, giving you a creature late-game if you want. [card]Scatter to the Winds[/card] is a great two-for-one, putting a 3/3 into play after blanking something important from your opponent. That 3/3 can blank your opponents’ whole team of 2/2s and 1/1s.

[card]Dispel[/card] is a cheap way to prevent your opponent’s instants. It might be a good card to side in against the mirror match and [card]Collected Company[/card] decks. Your opponent will have to respect a single untapped blue mana source, and that puts you in a very good position. I wouldn’t main deck these, yet.

I am pretty sure that [card]Horribly Awry[/card] will not be going in the deck unless Eldrazi take over the format. Even if that happens, we still have [card]Disdainful Stroke[/card], which blanks more big spells than Awry.

Targeted Creature and Planeswalker Removal

We lose [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card], and that is going to be trouble. [card]Ruinous Path[/card] appears to be a strictly better version, until one notices the type line, “Sorcery.”  [card]Bile Blight[/card] and [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] both had the benefit of waiting in your hand to see what your opponent chose to do during their turn. We are losing all of those. [card]Ultimate Price[/card] will have to pick up a lot of the slack here, but I am nervous because many of the best creatures in the format are multicolored or, now, colorless. I think a couple copies of [card]Ruinous Path[/card] are necessary to deal with planeswalkers and multicolored and colorless creatures that our [card]Languish[/card] can’t reach.

I don’t think [card]Bone Splinters[/card] will be an option because we just won’t have expendable creatures to sacrifice to it, however, a one cost kill spell is very enticing and may be an answer to a kill spell on a tapped [card]Dragonlord Ojutai[/card]. Cycling dragons out of the graveyard with [card]Haven of the Spirit Dragon[/card] can bring those sacrificed Ojutais and Silumgars back to your hand. In the end, Splinters is a two-for-one, but in favor of your opponent. That is just not something this deck can afford to do.

EN_Ashiok_Header

Planeswalkers

Our good friend Ashiok is leaving us. What can I say about Ashiok, but that he was a huge target with a small casting cost. He would save me from taking early damage. He put creatures into play that my opponents wanted to play, so typically they were good for me too. In the mirror, an unanswered Ashiok (only counters and Downfalls could do it) won the game. I don’t see [card]Ob Nixilis, Reignited[/card] taking on Ashiok’s role. Baby Jace might be the new format’s Ashiok. We will have to wait and see.

Lands

We get one-drop dual lands to replace our temples in [card]Prairie Stream[/card] and [card]Sunken Hollow[/card], so we can sleep easy knowing that our mana base should continue to be stable. As benefits, these lands come into play untapped in the late game and can be fetched. The downside is that we are losing a total of eight sources of scrying in the rotation between [card]Dissolve[/card] and the temples. Those scry triggers are so useful for smoothing out our draws, especially in the early game. I am pretty worried about this change, and I think it will lead to more variance in the play of the deck. This is probably a good thing for the format, as oppressive control strategies are quite boring to play against.

We straight up lose Urborg, which was great for turning fetches into swamps when paying life wasn’t an option or was less desirable. There isn’t much to be swapped in or out here. We could put in a colorless source with upside like [card]Blighted Fen[/card], [card]Blighted Cataract[/card], or [card]Blighted Steppe[/card]. We could put in a black source with a pretty useful ability like [card]Mortuary Mire[/card]. I think all of these are interesting choices. I am most intrigued with the magical Christmasland thought of playing a [card]Sandstone Bridge[/card] targeting Ojutai, swinging for six in the air, getting the Anticipate trigger, and my opponent never having the opportunity to target him! I don’t really want a white-only source of mana in the deck, but I am going to have to try it, because I want to make pull this off at least once!

Most likely, we are going to see [card]Shambling Vent[/card] take Urborg’s place, because a land that can gain you life and block small creatures is going to be very relevant in this kind of deck. It also taps for the right mana, which doesn’t hurt.

Final Post-BFZ Standard Deck

When I put it all together, here is where I end up for post-BFZ Standard Esper Dragons. What does your list look like? What changes would you make to adjust for the new format?

[Deck Title=Esper Dragons Post-BFZ Standard]
[Creatures]

*3 Dragonlord Ojutai
*1 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
*1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death

[/Creatures]
[Spells]
*4 Dig Through Time
*2 Foul-Tongue Invocation
*2 Scatter to the Winds
*4 Silumgar’s Scorn
*3 Ultimate Price
*3 Crux of Fate
*1 Despise
*2 Duress
*4 Languish
*3 Ruinous Path

[/Spells]
[Land]

*3 Island
*3 Swamp
*1 Caves of Koilos
*4 Dismal Backwater
*1 Flooded Strand
*2 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
*4 Polluted Delta
*1 Shambling Vent
*1 Sandstone Bridge
*3 Prairie Stream
*4 Sunken Hollow
[/Land]
[Sideboard]

*1 Orbs of Warding
*2 Dragonlord’s Prerogative
*1 Foul-Tongue Invocation
*1 Negate
*2 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
*1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death
*1 Dragonlord Ojutai
*2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
*1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
*1 Despise
*2 Ugin’s Insight

[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

About the Author
David has been an on and off Magic player since the very 1st set back in 1993. He is an active card trader on PucaTrade and Deckbox under the name Rheebus, a name he used for 7 years on Dungeons and Dragons Online. He produced the longest-running segment to DDOCast called Rheebus the Rogue's Top Ten, and now aspires to contribute actively to the Magic community through writing.

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