Tech-Edge: Esper Manse Deck Tech

By MajorMineral

Tech-Edge is a new player friendly column featuring iterative deck techs! Check back in two weeks to see your favorite article revisited and discussed after further experimentation during play testing

I’ve been playing magic since Invasion and have maintained a 20 year interest in the game, however I much more recently started to play with frequency on MTG Arena with Ixalan and Dominaria.

The Esper Manse deck began its life in the late 2019 standard with Throne of Eldraine introducing the titular card, Dance of the Manse, and persists in Gladiator today. The deck uses multiple enchantments and artifacts to grind the opponent out and resurrect problem enchantments from the graveyard to the battlefield. In singleton, the deck favors a controlling gameplan, employing high-value enchantments like sagas to grind out the midgame and threaten our opponents with armies of tokens. Meanwhile, actions are setting up for a huge Dance to close out the game or to resurrect a big threat from our graveyard to threaten our opponent’s life total.

The deck’s access to consistent card advantage and disruption allows it to persist to the mid-game, which can be difficult for creature heavy decks to answer effectively. Many of the threats are made by noncreature sources, such as sagas and planeswalkers, which reduces the effectiveness of targeted removal common in other controlling decks. Esper decks have access to flexible and efficient interactive spells, which allow the player to control the game at all stages. If you enjoy a flexible deck that can win in multiple ways and enjoy getting creative with less popular cards, I highly recommend this deck. The deck is not present in the current meta so if you’re looking for a change of pace this is a good place to start. As more artifacts and enchantments enter our format you can expect the deck to only improve as it gets more tools with new sets being added to our format.

Game Plan

The goal of the deck is to fill the graveyard with sagas and other enchantments affect the board when they enter the battlefield and bring them all back using Dance of the Manse, overwhelming our opponent with triggers and/or by making 24 power of enchantment creatures at once. The rest of the deck supports that game plan or provides more value to the enchantments we play. Alela, Artful Provocateur adds to an ever growing air force with each artifact and enchantment we play. Ugin, the Ineffable can make an army of spirits or immediately destroy a problem permanent. Doom Foretold turns all of our lower quality cards into fuel for maintaining it’s symmetrical tax, trading them for opponents higher value permanents, while also helping us get our smaller enchantments and artifacts to the graveyard setting up for a Dance of the Manse end game. The deck also plays a few reanimation effects like Unburial Rites to recur milled off or countered threats out of our graveyard and return them to play.

Matchups

Due to their recent success in tournament play, Gruul aggro/midrange and Mono-Green Stompy are the decks to beat.I’ve included both Divest and Noxious Grasp to help us K.O. problematic creatures like Questing Beast before they cause a fatal problem for us. In order to survive past hyper aggressive strategies such as Stompy or Mono-Red, I’ve included a number of cards that gain us life or help to prolong the game until the rest of the deck comes online. The Birth of Meletis is the best example of this, it gains us access to double white mana and provides a 0/4 which blocks most early problems. For colored mana concerns I didn’t want to include Oath of Kaya but it made it into the list by the virtue of being able to kill an x/3 or Planeswalker and gain us some extra life. Field of the Dead is also a very common value card in green lists so Field of Ruin and Ghost Quarter make it in.

As a control deck, Manse has some struggles against aggressive strategies like Mono-Red Aggro and Stompy decks, which are also unfortunately favored in Gladiator, a format that is missing Fatal Push and other premier removal spells. In these matchups the game becomes a matter of life total and timing a board clear to knock the red decks out of the game to make the time the deck needs to establish itself. The other part about this deck; it is very good at winning the game, however it can take some time to actually finish the game. So it has a harder time against combo decks that like to win in one turn like Omniscience or Bant Nexus. However the deck fares very well against other midrange decks and control decks where it’s resilience and methodical gameplan can take our opponent apart.

Opening Hands

Assessing advantaged hands will often depend upon what our opponents are playing. Against aggro decks we want cards like Tymaret Calls the Dead, Oath of Kaya, Timely Reinforcements, or The Birth of Meletis and the mana to cast them. If we’re in a control mirror we’re much more keen on Search for AzcantaKarn, Scion of Urza and hand attack cards like Thought Erasure to be able to get card advantage over our opponents and disrupt their game plan.

A keepable hand might look like:

A few of the problems that the deck encounters are that it’s top end is not particularly fast at ending the game and since it is a deck that wins incrementally it doesn’t have very many powerful plays that take over the game outside of Dance of the Manse or a sudden resurrected creature, we are not on a list with a high density of threats so that can let opponents get back into the game while we are looking for a finisher.The deck also has a hard time if it gets stuck on colors, which is not unknown for a three card deck. The cards the deck really wants are ones that help it to survive and take over the game and not get frozen out by another blue deck. Cards like Teferi, Time Raveler come to mind to be able to both instant cast Dance of the Manse and lock our opponent out of answering us on the stack when we are removing their threats. It also really wants some cards to help it just completely take over the game which a card like Fall of the Thran coming out of the graveyard could do. There has been a laundry list of cards that the list has used in its various iterations and a large number of cards unable to make the cut. Initially, I wanted to focus more on recurring spells and threats, that proved to be ineffective in games that were short, instead I had to focus on cards that allowed the deck to get to the long game by taking out  recursion and the self milling  in favor of removal and counters to be able to interact early on.

Building the Deck

Taking a look at the deck there is a pretty high number of rare wild cards so we can go through them and discuss which are absolutely necessary in order to play, and which cards you get for free through the new player experience. If you have been around since Ixalan you are already at an advantage because you have a set of 3 checklands, You will also have Twilight Prophet, Hostage Taker, History of Benalia and Entrancing Melody. In the New Player experience you will have a free set of shocklands, time wipe and deputy of detention given to you. Which is already a total of 13 cards that are not needed to be crafted by a player who has been playing since Ixalan making the building of the deck a little less demanding upon wild cards. Overall I would say that if you have been playing Arena for a while the deck isn’t very hard to assemble. I’ve enjoyed playing it and the resilience that it has, I have taken it to a few tourneys and not had embarrassing performances and I think with a little tuning it could perform even better, how it fares will all be revealed in the next segment.