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Drafting Shards of Alara Part 4: Esper October 31, 2008

Posted by James in : all, strategy, tips, limited, draft , trackback

Esper is unlike any other shard because you can generally draft any cards in the right color combination. Any red/green cards can go in a red/green deck. However, this is not the case with Esper. White cards made for Esper decks tend not to be good in non-Esper decks, and cards for non-Esper decks tend not to be good in Esper decks. This is all due to Esper’s artifact theme. The artifact synergy found in Esper is very important.

The end result is that Esper is very difficult to draft. You have to get enough cards specifically made for an Esper deck, or your deck will not be very good. Although I would prefer to play a black-blue Esper deck, this is not easy to do. If you play Esper, you will probably have to play a three color deck. To help you with this problem I would recommend you play some obelisks and pick other mana fixing cards higher than usual. (If a mana fixing card gives you two of the right colors, that is probably enough.)

I will discuss (1) the best Esper cards, (2) the best Esper commons & uncommons, and (3) reasons to consider playing Esper.

The best Esper cards


First Picks

Second Picks

Other cards worth mentioning

Analysis of Esper commons & uncommons

The double black mana for Infest can be a burden for Esper (unless you are playing a blue-black deck.) Other than that this can be a great mass removal card early game.

Simply the best removal in the entire set.

A powerful removal spell.

Executioner’s Capsule is one of the best creature removal spells in the set… and it is an artifact. Being an artifact is good for Esper.

Bone Splinters is much better in a deck with lots of small creatures you would like to sacrifice. (This is made for the Devour theme.) However, it can still be a good card in an Esper deck. It works well with Puppet Conjurer.

Excommunicate works better in a super fast green-white deck because it basically gives you a timewalk, but timewalk is much better when you have an army to attack with. Esper is generally on the defensive. Nevertheless, it is still a good card.

Fleshbag Marauder is better with the Devour theme, but it is still creature removal and it works well with Puppet Conjuerer.

Agony Warp is a great creature removal spell. The only reason I don’t rate it as a first pick is because it is two colors and I generally don’t want to commit to two colors early in a draft. Not to mention that I don’t like blue-black as much as I like other colors. (Red and white are the best colors in Shards of Alara.)

Tidehollow Strix is one of the best creatures in this entire set. This also helps Esper deal with large creatures, which is very important considering that Esper has almost no large creatures worth mentioning. (Rares don’t count.)

Esper Charm is very good, but I don’t like low mana cost spells that require all three colors. One or two of your colors should probably be a splash or almost splash, and you can’t expect to get all three colors early game. On the other hand you can expect to get all three colors late game, so you usually want to save three color cards for powerful high mana cost spells.

Tower Gargoyle is another three color spell that you want to play early game, but this is such a great card that it should be played when possible. It is also a very good card late game.

Tidehollow Sculler is a great card, but white and/or black are secondary colors to an Esper deck. Again, this card wants to be played early game, but you are lucky if you can play it early game. You could try playing a white/black esper deck with a splash of blue, but I think that would be quite difficult to pull off considering that white and black are fairly good colors and many others who drafts will probably take them as well. Blue on the other hand isn’t a color that will be difficult to fight over.

Metallurgeon isn’t very good by itself, but it can do two things for an Esper deck. One, it can give you a blocker that won’t easily die every turn. Two, it can ruin all of the creature removal that the opponent has. (All your creatures should be artifacts.)

Sanctum Gargoyle is so good in Esper decks that it makes me want to play more white. If you have two of these, then you can wait for one to die before playing the other to get it back. (i.e. you can get infinite recursion.(

The triple lands are more important in Esper than probably any other Shard because you will be playing all three colors.

Reasons to consider playing Esper

Esper is not the best Shard to play and blue (the main color of Esper) has almost nothing worth mentioning. In fact, I didn’t discuss a single mono-blue uncommon or common. That’s how bad it is. Not to mention that Esper almost always requires a three color deck, so you will probably get mana screwed more often in this Shard than any other.

However, there is so much synergy for Esper decks that you can make a decent deck. None of the cards made for Esper decks look that great in isolation, but they might work well with the artifact theme. And if no one else in your draft group is playing Esper, then you will get dibs on all the Esper deck cards.

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1. michael - November 3, 2008

I would also put Courier’s Capsule in the cards to mention. drawing 2 isn’t too bad for the artifact deck.

Resounding Silence is really the Bant super cycler. The Esper one is Resounding Wave.

Etherium Sculptor is also worth mentioning since it makes your obelisks cost less.

2. James - November 3, 2008

Resounding Silence is important removal for any deck playing white.

What I call a “second pick” might be worth first picking if you know you are in the colors. I try to only mention removal and the best creatures for this category. “Cards worth mentioning” aren’t usually worth taking right away, but they are very important cards and could be argued to be “almost as good” as a second pick. Etherium Sculptor and Courier’s Capsule aren’t “very important.”

I’m not impressed enough with Etherium Sculptor or Courier’s Capsule to mention here, just like I didn’t mention the the Plant Elephant in my green review despite the fact that you will probably want one in your deck. Just not important enough to mention.

They are playable, but they won’t win you the game. Etherium Sculptor is often about as good as squire. Esper is kind of a weenie shard and mana acceleration is often completely unhelpful. Also, some of of the best artifacts are colored mana (Executioner’s Capsule and Tidehollow Strix).

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