Earlier this week, I had a conversation with Joe Fiorini (AKA @IslandSwamp) about a Vintage deck he was brewing, built around [casthaven]Monastery Mentor[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Dread Return[/casthaven]. The idea is to pump out a bunch of tokens with Mentor, then flash back [casthaven]Dread Return[/casthaven] to reanimate [casthaven]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/casthaven]. Unfortunately opponents tend to scoop at this point, so you don’t often get the satisfaction of beating down with an endless army of 3/3 Monk tokens.

As you probably know, I am a sucker for a fair deck that can win with an explosive combo. I decided to riff off the idea and ended up settling on a tempo-based Esper deck for Legacy.

Esper Dread Return

Creatures (13)
Deathrite Shaman
Monastery Mentor
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Tidespout Tyrant

Spells (28)
Lingiring Souls
Swords to Plowshares
Force of Will
Dread Return

Land (20)
Underground Sea
Polluted Delta
Marsh Flatts

Like most Esper Midrange decks, the early game plan is to develop the board while harassing your opponent with discard and counterspells. [casthaven]Deathrite Shaman[/casthaven] is an ideal turn one play, as it allows us to ramp into our power three drops: [casthaven]Monastery Mentor[/casthaven], [casthaven]Lingering Souls[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Intuition[/casthaven].

[casthaven]Monastery Mentor[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Lingering Souls[/casthaven] go together like bananas and Nutella. (Try it, you’ll love it.) Playing a [casthaven]Lingering Souls[/casthaven] with a Mentor in play will build you an instant army of tokens, while triggering prowess. Flash back [casthaven]Lingering Souls[/casthaven] next turn and your opponent will be shaking in their boots. Finally, cast [casthaven]Intuition[/casthaven] to find three more [casthaven]Lingering Souls[/casthaven] and make sure that the fun never ends.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. The deck pops out tokens faster than Cell in that crazy fever dream of a Dragon Ball Z episode.


Seriously, what the hell was going on in this episode???

[casthaven]Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy[/casthaven] pulls double duty, helping you find the combo pieces and dump them into your graveyard. Once you have a critical mass of tokens, flash back [casthaven]Dread Return[/casthaven] to bring a big scary monster into play. [casthaven]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/casthaven] is your first choice for the win, or [casthaven]Tidespout Tyrant[/casthaven] if you need to clear the way.

Remember, [casthaven]Intuition[/casthaven] can also help you find the combo and give your opponent an impossible decision. A fun game to play is to make an [casthaven]Intuition[/casthaven] pile of Elesh Norn, [casthaven]Tidespout Tyrant[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Dread Return[/casthaven] and see how long it takes your opponent to realize that there is no “good” choice.

Some of you may be wondering about my choice of only running two copies of [casthaven]Force of Will[/casthaven]. In practice [casthaven]Force of Will[/casthaven] is by far the worst counterspell. You are trading two cards in hand in order to counter one of your opponent’s spells. This card disadvantage can make or break games. However due to the nature of turn one combo decks, [casthaven]Force of Will[/casthaven] has become a necessary evil. The current metagame, focused on midrange BUG decks and Miracles, means that we can shave a few Forces in order to free up more slots in the main deck. Nevertheless, you can expect me to run the other two copies of [casthaven]Force of Will[/casthaven] in my sideboard for the combo matchups.

[casthaven]Daze[/casthaven] is very powerful in the current Legacy metagame. Everyone is trying to resolve three drops on turn two using [casthaven]Deathrite Shaman[/casthaven].[casthaven]True-Name Nemissis[/casthaven], [casthaven]Leovold, Emissary of Trest[/casthaven], [casthaven]Liliana of the Veil[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Shardless Agents[/casthaven] are only a few of the targets we would love to [casthaven]Daze[/casthaven]. Don’t forget [casthaven]Daze[/casthaven] is also extremely important protection for our own three drops. This deck likes to tap out early and often. As such, it’s important to have a free counter up your sleeve just in case.

The Spicy 61st

[casthaven]Recoil[/casthaven] has been a pet card of my friend Josh Cicio for awhile now. If you listen to him trumpet [casthaven]Recoil[/casthaven]’s virtues on this week’s episode of Leaving a Leagacy I am sure he will make a believer out of you as well. As he puts it, Recoil is an instant-speed [casthaven]Maelstrom Pulse[/casthaven] that is blue instead of green. Even if our opponent has other cards in hand to discard, the tempo play of bouncing a threat is often enough to swing the game in our favor. If we bounce something like [casthaven]Gurmag Angler[/casthaven], there is a good chance our opponent will not have enough cards in their graveyard to cast the zombie fish a second time. The real blowouts happen when you bounce something like a Marit Lage token and end up getting a sweet two-for-one play.

Hope everyone enjoys this Esper token monstrosity. See you all next time!

Jerry Mee is a Boston Native who has been playing Magic since Onslaught Block. Primarily a Legacy player, he cohosts the weekly Leaving a Legacy Podcast found on Mtgcast.com. He can be reached on Twitter at @Jmee3rd

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