Thursday, November 14, 2019

Making Magic in the Arena - Esper Dance

It's been a while since we've stepped foot into the Arena, and it's looking less like a place to do battle and more like a ballroom. Then again, I suppose a duel can be thought of like a dance, both contestants moving to their own rhythm.

Join me for a tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme... Dance of the Manse.

That's right. We're in Esper colors, and having a ball.

You can find the decklist here.
Now that Field of the Dead has been banned in Standard, and Oko, Thief of Crowns has taken its place as the dominant force in the meta, I figured we should give some other strategies a try. And early on, when Eldraine first released, this was the deck that caught my interesting. Admittedly, there are better versions of this deck these days, better equipped to handle the Oko meta, but this is the first version of the build I saw and built up to.

This deck revolves around two key cards: Dance of the Manse, from which it gets its name, and Doom Foretold, which does a fantastic job of removing threats on the board if set up properly. As long as we have permanents to sacrifice to it, we can keep it around long enough to neutralize our opponent's board and then take cards out of hand directly.

For the reason, we run playsets of cheap 2-drop Artifacts like Golden Egg and Guild Globe. Both of them draw us a card when we play them, which can help us to work through our deck to arrive at the key pieces we need. In addition, we can sacrifice them to fix our mana in a pinch. The Golden Egg can even be consumed for extra health if we're in our last legs.

More importantly, we can sacrifice both of them to Doom Foretold to keep in around as it slowly eats away at the key pieces our opponent has out. Because it specifies and non-land, non-token permanent, the food tokens Oko creates won't be able to save him from us. Once we've sacrificed so many of our permanents and deal with our opponent's pieces, then we use Dance of the Manse to revive all of our artifacts and enchantments as 4/4s and end them game in a few large attacks. Oath of Kaya fits neatly into strategy as well, with a powerful ETB that doubles as both removal and lifegain while serving as a potential sacrifice to Doom Foretold.

Teferi, Time Reveler has several powerful functions in this deck as well. His passive ability prevents opponent's from casting counterspells, or anything else during your turn, which protects your plays and makes it easier to tap out for that big Dance of the Manse. But even before we get to that point, we can use his -3 to bounce one of our artifacts, like that lone Wishclaw Talisman or Oath of Kaya, back to our hand to be replayed. And with his +1, have the flexibility of casting some of our board clears like Kaya's Wrath and Planar Cleansing on our opponent's turn, and choose to instead dump our mana into a Dance right before it's our turn to suddenly swing for game.

To round it out, cards like Murderous Rider and Thought Erasure are early game removal and Dovin's Veto can be a powerful counterspell in a pinch. Legion's End, while a leftover from the days of Field of the Dead's reign, can still be used to take care of tokens, but it's smarter to replace it with another Doom Foretold or something these days.

Lastly, while the mana base isn't much to write home about, I should point out the lone Castle Vantress, whose Scry ability and be useful on our off turns. Not necessary, but could be help in a pinch.

And that's the deck. I like this kind of control. Unlike a more classic counter deck with tons of counterspells and removal leading to be big win-con, this deck controls the game more deliberately, by constantly forcing our opponent to make sacrifices. Give a version of this deck a shot if you're able to, and I'm sure you'll also adore it.

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