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Esper Doom in Zendikar Rising Standard


Hey everyone!

Since Omnath was banned, Standard has been fantastic. Each week a new foe appears only to be vanquished by the next big thing. The flat power level among the top decks combined with a variety of playable archetypes has been very fun. I especially like this format because Esper Doom decks provide the option to play tapout control - one of my favorite strategies.

The big decks in Standard are as follows:

  • Esper Doom Mirrors
  • Rogues (with and without Lurrus)
  • Mono-Green Food
  • Gruul
  • Temur Ramp

There are plenty of decks I left out, but the ones above play key roles in the current Rock-Paper-Scissors metagame. I'm going to heavily consider my matchups against these decks when building the optimal 80 card deck.

Here's my current list:

Esper Doom decks are currently Orzhov Midrange decks splashing Omen of the Sea- the best permanent to blink with Yorion. The sideboard features additional Blue cards to fight mirrors, Rogues, and Temur Ramp. Yorion decks of all flavors are best at interacting with creatures and have rough matchups against decks going over the top or countering spells. I think it's a mistake to not play Blue in Yorion decks at the moment.

The most notable change compared to the stock Esper Doom lists is the absence of Skyclave Apparition. It's considered to be a stock White removal spell, but it has been falling flat for me. The main draw is it's a removal spell to be reset with Yorion which turns problematic permanents into generic creatures to be exiled with Glass Casket. It's also a creature in a spell-heavy deck to return with Elspeth Conquers Death.

I don't want to play Skyclave Apparition because it doesn't deal with the most problematic permanents against Gruul - The Great Henge and Vivien, Monster's Advocate. It's also awkward playing a creature vulnerable to removal in a world filled with Bonecrusher Giant, Wicked Wolf, and Elspeth's Nightmare.

The most appealing reason to play Skyclave Apparition is to help your Mono-Green Food matchup which is rough. In fact, Mono-Green Food became popular because Wicked Wolf provides a passable matchup against Gruul while being favored against Esper Doom. Trail of Crumbs and Feasting Troll King are tough to answer consistently. Skyclave Apparition can answer Trail of Crumbs on curve. Individually Esper Doom can remove any permanent, but a constant stream of sticky threats demands a specific set of answers.

I'm choosing to play two Banishing Light and four Mythos of Nethroi to answer artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers instead of Skyclave Apparition.

Banishing Light can exile tokens and then be reset with Yorion much like Glass Casket. I would prefer to have an enchantment in this slot because Gruul can sideboard in Embereth Shieldbreaker. I would like additional ways to answer Klothys in an open decklist tournament as I would only be able to answer it with Elspeth Conquers Death. Banishing Light has easy color requirements to cast and answers Trail of Crumbs as well as Feasting Troll King. Exiling is also relevant against Rakdos as it deals with both Ox of Agonas and Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger.

Mythos of Nethroi has been very strong. In most scenarios it will be an instant-speed answer to nearly every creature in the format. The Green mana is deceptively easy to generate thanks to Indatha Triome and Golden Egg. I even play a Branchloft Pathway over a Plains; Fabled Passage is the only card that cares about basic Plains. It's reasonable to play a second Branchloft Pathway over the third Plains if you expect more Mono-Green Food and less Rogues. Milling too many basics can make Fabled Passage weaker.

Instant-speed removal is very strong against Gruul because of haste threats. Mythos, Eliminate, and Heartless Act are all-stars. It's important to immediately answer any large creature so the opponent cannot cast a discounted Great Henge on the following turn. Mythos can kill The Great Henge while a creature is on the stack to prevent a card being drawn.

Two Eliminates essentially replace Glass Casket because Banishing Light covers exiling creatures and I don't want too much sorcery-speed removal. Eliminate can kill 3/3s with reach created by Vivien. This is relevant because the counter granting the ability gets around Heartless Act. Crawling Barrins is also difficult to answer without Eliminate because Mythos of Nethroi cannot kill lands- even if it's a creature.

Omen of the Sun is playable, but I choose to include more two-mana removal for Gruul. The upside is making Yorion and Doom Foretold more powerful.

Extinction Event is another way to exile creatures. I play two because most large events are currently open decklist and I don't want the opponent to take advantage of me drawing too many. Extinction Event can exile Edgewall Innkeeper as well as adventure creatures if Gruul gets a quick start. I didn't like that my sweeper exiled my own Skyclave Apparition.

Baneslayer Angel is a rare inclusion, but is the best card in the deck against Gruul. First strike deals nicely with Embercleave even when it's equipped to Questing Beast. The drawback of Baneslayer Angel is she costs five mana; this means she competes with Yorion and Elspeth Conquers Death. Since ECD is also great against Gruul there's no reason to cut one for an additional Baneslayer.

The more sweepers I play the less I need Baneslayer Angel. I have played as many as four maindeck Baneslayers and cut sweepers altogether. I'm currently doing a split of Baneslayer and Extinction Event for curve consideration. If I didn't play Baneslayer the next best option in this slot is Shatter the Sky. I personally hate Shatter in this deck because most threats in Gruul would draw them a card. Black has access to great removal so I shouldn't have to lean on such an inefficient sweeper.

Archon of Sun's Grace can be considered a replacement for Baneslayer Angel, but actually has a very different function. Gruul creatures are so large that Archon cannot block profitably so it cannot be viewed as a stabilizer. For this reason I would have to play Archon in addition to sweepers and Baneslayer Angels.

I was high on Dance of the Manse last week, but Emeria's Call is likely the correct choice. My initial Yorion list I copied from Jason Fleurant featured Dance and most of my losses came from not drawing enough lands. I think of the third and fourth Emeria's Call as the Dance slot that helps me hit my land drops. Elspeth's Nightmare and Scavenging Ooze reduces the potency of Dance, too.

Elspeth's Nightmare can play a role against any matchup. Since it's the best way to deal with small creatures I'm playing fewer Bloodchief's Thirst. If you play Elspeth's Nightmare on turn four a Yorion can blink it on curve to get a second Duress on chapter 2.

Mazemind Tome and Treacherous Blessing are occupying the same slot. I've played four Treacherous Blessing, but they have diminishing returns - especially against Gruul. My sideboard is geared toward beating Blue decks which means I want the maindeck to stand up to Gruul.

Mazemind Tome is weaker than Treacherous Blessing because I would prefer to cast an Omen or Egg on the second turn to help bridge to the mid game. If Gruul becomes less popular it's reasonable to play a second Mazemind Tome over a removal spell.

As I mentioned before the sideboard is designed to cut a majority of removal for counters, hand disruption, and Shark Typhoon. So far, this plan has worked out well and I've won a majority of Blue matchups in games two and three.


Esper Doom Mirror

Game 1 is very fun. There are plenty of removal spells and not enough targets. Card advantage is king as Yorion blinking Treacherous Blessing is the most powerful thing to be doing in the mid game.

Dance of the Manse is one of the ways to bust the game open. Some lists play it currently. Elspeth's Nightmare exiling artifacts and enchantments is the best way to interact with Dance in Game 1.

The first game can take a long time, but post board will go faster as both players will bring in anti-Blue cards.

+4 Shark Typhoon +3 Negate +3 Mystical Dispute +2 Duress +2 Cling to Dust

-2 Eliminate -2 Extinction Event -4 Doom Foretold -1 Bloodchief's Thirst -2 Glass Casket -2 Baneslayer Angel -1 Heartless Act

Baneslayer gets hit by Elspeth Conquers Death and Shark Typhoon can replace her as a top end threat.

Doom Foretold is weak in games where the opponent draws too many cantripping permanents. I would prefer to have additional counters and removal. I've seen players leave in Doom Foretold in the mirror; it's either a mistake or they don't have enough cards to board in.


Game 1 is about destroying every creature- especially if they lead to a quick Great Henge. Play Treacherous Blessing later in the game if possible, to avoid life loss. Mulligan hands that are good against Yorion where your early plans involve simply cantripping. You win games where the early turns involve killing creatures.

It's worth devoting an early removal spell for Edgewall Innkeeper even though it won't help much in casting the Great Henge. Heart's Desire can be answered by Glass Casket, Banishing Light, and Elspeth's Nightmare. Since the Lovestruck Beast should be killed immediately answering the 1/1 token can come later.

+1 Negate +1 Duress

-2 Treacherous Blessing

I expect the opponent to cut all Fire Prophecies, Embercleaves and some Brushfire Elemental. These spells will be replaced by Ox of Agonas, Vivien, Wilt, Soul Sear, and any other grindy card in the sideboard.

Game 2 and three are harder because Esper is only bringing in a couple ways to interact with noncreature card advantage engines while Gruul transforms into a deck filled with sticky and diverse threats. Overall, it's the matchup I would like to face most often.

Rogues (No Lurrus)

Brazen Borrower must be considered when casting Glass Casket, Banishing Light, and Doom Foretold.

The combo of returning Brazen Borrower with Zareth San, the Trickster must always be respected. Don't cast removal spells after blockers have been declared to avoid being blown out. Zareth San will take milled permanents such as Omen of the Sea, but they cannot be blinked with Yorion or else it will return under your control. Extinction Event on odd will help reclaim the advantage if Yorion is taken from your graveyard.

+3 Mystical Dispute +3 Negate +4 Shark Typhoon +2 Cling to Dust +2 Duress

-2 Glass Casket -2 Banishing Light -4 Elspeth Conquers Death -1 Bloodchief's Thirst -2 Baneslayer Angel -1 Eliminate -2 Extinction Event

Rogues (with Lurrus)

Lurrus versions of Rogues plays out more proactively than the Zareth San version. I'm more interested in tempo as the game will be decided earlier.

+3 Mystical Dispute +2 Cling to Dust +2 Duress +3 Shark Typhoon

-4 Elspeth Conquers Death -2 Glass Casket -2 Banishing Light -2 Baneslayer Angel

Mono Green Food

The difficult part of the Food matchup is I need to respect both creatures and noncreatures. The maindeck is filled with creature interaction while the sideboard is good against noncreatures. This leaves Yorion with the opportunity to draw the wrong half of the deck.

+2 Duress +2 Shark Typhoon

-2 Glass Casket -2 Eliminate

I have tried Negate against Food, but was incredibly awkward. Leaving up a counter only to let a creature slide through leads to massive tempo loss. Duress is able to snag a Trail of Crumbs on the draw.

Temur Ramp

Game 1 is difficult. Since they don't play many small creatures it's all right to run out Elspeth's Nightmare to discard Genesis Ultimatum. There are plenty of ways to destroy Ugin; it's much easier to answer than Ultimatum.

+2 Duress +4 Shark Typhoon +3 Mystical Dispute +3 Negate

-2 Glass Casket -2 Eliminate -2 Banishing Light -2 Extinction Event -2 Baneslayer Angel -1 Elspeth's Nightmare -1 Elspeth Conquers Death

I'm much more comfortable beating Temur Ramp after sideboard. Just focus on hitting your land drops and leaving up countermagic for Genesis Ultimatum.


It's no secret Esper Doom lines up well against Gruul so I expect it to continue to succeed. Gruul luckily can handle the decks designed to prey on Esper Doom. I don't foresee Mono-Green Food to become a large percentage of the field because it's greatest matchup would naturally fade.

That's all I have for today. Standard continues to be great. Give Esper Doom a shot; it's nice to be favored against the perceived best deck.


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