Making Esper Stax Work with Theros
By: Gapollard1 - 06 Jan 2020
Will These Theros Additions Make Esper Stax Viable?
Well it's that time of the year again, where enough spoilers have been released for us to attempt to insert new cards into our old decks. I love reliving the glory days after a new set is released, and going back to play revised versions of old classics. This time around, I'm excited to see if Esper Stax can get its moment of glory. This was one of my favorite archetypes during Eldraine, but unfortunately it was just never good enough to really make an impact at the tier one level. Many versions of this deck were created, but here is a more traditional version of the strategy:
Main 60 cards (18 distinct)
|Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (30)|
For those who aren't super familiar with the deck, the core of the strategy is to play a bunch of ETB effect artifacts and enchantments, and then control the battlefield with. Eventually, you can bring back all of your artifacts and enchantments from the graveyard with , creating a ton of ETB triggers and potentially a ton of 4/4 creatures.
While Esper Stax remains a solid tier 2 deck that can definitely win you some games, it has really lacked the power level to compete with the current top tier strategies. The deck has had its opportunity to get its time in the spotlight too, with big names such as Stanislav Cifka championing the deck for a time. Cifka and Mythic Champion winner Ondrej Strasky both played a version of the strategy in the big Twitch Rivals tournament after the Oko ban, and both did not have any great success, with neither making day 2.
I think the big problem with the deck lies in the role-players. While the deck has its core pieces, there remains 8-12 cards that are not crucial to the execution of the decks strategy. This had lead to a ton of different iterations of the deck, in order to try to find the best filler cards. In the deck featured above, there are 3 copies ofand 4 copies of , but sometimes you see cards like or instead. While these are good solid cards within the Esper colors, they do not do much at directly fulfilling the decks strategy and don't have any play with or . Additionally, cards like and do work well with the decks core strategy, but are not all-star pieces by any stretch of the imagination.
Enter Theros: Beyond Death.
While the whole set has not been revelead yet, there are already several cards which seem like natural additions.
Here is a 3 mana enchantment that will draw you three cards upon entering the battlefield, and you can avoid all downside from it by using Doom Fortold. Finding your combo pieces is a very important part of this strategy, so card draw and card advantage are integral. The ability to returnto the battlefield with means you have a very high celing for the amount of cards you can draw from this, and if you can get two of them out I can easily see situations where you are drawing 9-12 cards in a turn late in the game.
For 6 mana I am not totally sold on this card, but as a Mythic Rare in Theros I want to give it a shot. The ideal scenario for this card would be to put coin counters on creatures you control who are 4/4 reanimated enchantments. This would allow you to draw 3 cards every turn with Treacherous Blessing, or deal 3 damage and gain 3 life with. However, where this card really gets exciting is in a version of Esper Stax that plays Niv Mizzet Reborn. The 5 color mana cost is less of a liability in this deck, because and allow for mana fixing. This version of the deck also usually runs Chromactic Lantern, which can get Niv Mizzet off with any mana. Being a 6/6 flyer for 5 mana is great on its own, but where this card shines is in its ability to find your combo pieces the vast majority of times you use it. Digging through the top 10 cards of your library to find Dance or Doom fortold is an incredibly powerful affect in this deck, and doing that every turn seems insane. Additionally, of course you can use Athreos to steal your opponents creatures too, which can be pretty sweet.
With so much card draw in this deck, Nadir Kraken seems like an intriguing option. Esper Stax is weak to aggro decks with a good start, and although many run sweepers it can be good to get a body down early. I can see this as at least a sideboard card, but in a perfect world you can see this creating 5/6 tokens and becoming a must answer threat. The only negative is the 2 blue mana required, which may result in cracking a globe or an egg open early.
With so much more of Theros yet to be released, I think we need one or two more good releases to really make this deck shine. I think the biggest opportunity is to replace the globe or the egg, with hopefully a very strong 2 mana ETB effect artifact or enchantment.
This enchantment seems like a natural upgrade over either the Globe or the Egg. While not insanely powerful, the flash effect can be very helpful as a bluff for either a counter, or to keep your Doom Foretold going when your opponent thinks you won't have anything to sacrifice. I'm still looking for something with a slightly more powerful ability than this one, but it's a good start!
Heres to hoping this proposed version of the deck has a shot at being decent come release day!
Tune in to the Mythic Rare Podcast this week, back from a Holiday break, to hear all about the Theros spoilers and similar deck brainstorming like this!