March 5, 2013

Gatecrashing back to Esper Control


After some weeks of not playing magic - save for 1 week that I forced an Esper Midrange deck just because I played midrange for a long time - I was able to finish 2nd place last FNM and was certainly happy to go home with a Stomping Ground and a booster pack.

However, the winning feeling was first filled with a lot of questions and uncertainty during the tournament, as I was piloting a deck strategy that I thought I wouldn't be playing again - control.

Just a quick flashback, I was indeed a control player for a long time. But all these changed when I joined Grand Prix Manila 2012 last year. In that tournament, I brought with me Esper Control - with Sun Titan and Phantasmal Image + Consecrated Sphinx as my win conditions, that tournament was very hard (and hungry) for me since in the 9 rounds of playing Magic from morning to evening with no lunch breaks, bringing a fast aggro deck can be advantageous for you - you get to finish rounds quickly and you have time to grab a snack, eat lunch, rest, mingle with other people or have your cards singed by the guest Artist in the Grand Prix. But I shared a different fate, with my control deck, I ended up using all 50 minutes in almost all of the 9 rounds  with several times reaching into the additional 5 turns to decide the game. After that, I decided not to use control again, tapping into Delver and other midrange strategies until last week.

With the current meta game, Esper midrange is technically not a viable option and my mistake was my fear of not opening the gates again for Control even though the metagame clearly states that I need to shift back to that strategy. With Naya, Red-Green, and UWR as the other midrange decks in the format, Esper midrange is simply outmatched. Mono-red and boros are becoming more popular lately so for me, I need to really control the board first and wait for these decks to lose steam before setting up for a finish.

Esper Control March 2013

2 Watery Grave
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Godless Shrine
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Isolated Chapel
3 Nephalia Drownyard
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Island
1 Plains

4 Restoration Angel
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Augur of Bolas

1 Detention Sphere

1 Runechanter's Pike
1 Lingering Souls
3 Supreme Verdict
2 Terminus


3 Azorius Charm
3 Think twice
2 Dissipate
2 Devour Flesh
2 Ultimate Price
3 Sphinx's Revelation

3 Negate
1 Dispel
1 Psychic Spiral
1 Curse of Death's Hold
2 Jace, memory Adept
1 Supreme Verdict
4 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Purify the Grave

This is the decklist that I brought in FNM last week and the results were okay. I eventually lost in the last round against the eventual champion of the tournament but the game was exciting and we needed a 3rd game to decide who wins the tournament - boiling down to him defeating me in a crucial turn, when I will surely defeat him the next turn.

Tournament notes:
- Geist of Saint Traft is really strong against control, but is easily overrun by aggro so it is really better to keep him in the sideboard for now.
- Game 1 against control is all about Nephalia Drownyard. I lost a game against mirror when I was forced to resolve a Sphinx's Revelation to restock my hand with cards  - eventually helping my opponent mill me out a turn faster.
- Psychic Spiral and Jace, Memory Adept are nuts against mirror, so those are the cards you need to protect at all costs!
- Never play a hand with 2 lands! Eventhough you have draw engines and a Geist of Saint Traft in your opening hand, don't get tempted. Not missing a land drop is better than taking that gamble.
- Lastly, Eat at McDonald's before the tournament. :D just kidding, Eat before a tournament. Magic requires a LOT of thinking so you need to eat for your brain to have more stamina and so that your mind will be clear throughout the tournament.

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