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Against the Odds: Esper Etrata (Standard)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 159 of Against the Odds. Last week, we had our first all-Guilds of Ravnica Against the Odds poll, and the result was unsurprising in the end, with Etrata, the Silencer coming out on top. As such, we're heading to Standard today to see if we can win some games by exiling (and putting hit counters) on our opponent's creatures with our new Vampire Assassin. Etrata, the Silencer is a tricky card to build around, since whenever we hit our opponent with Etrata, we're forced to shuffle it into our library, which really slows down the process of making our opponent lose the game. Thankfully, there are some tricks to making Etrata, the Silencer more consistent, but will it be enough to make make a functional, fun, and perhaps even competitive deck in Guilds of Ravnica Standard? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Esper Etrata (Standard)

The Deck

Etrata, the Silencer is a weird card. In theory, it might be good enough to just play fairly (at least, in small numbers) in some sort of Dimir midrange-style deck as a blocker that can also turn into a removal spell, but cards don't come in first on the Against the Odds poll because they might be decent removal spells in Spike decks. As such, the main goal in building our deck this week was to make it as much about Etrata, the Silencer as possible, maximizing our odds of winning the game by getting three hit counters on our opponent's exiled creatures, even if the deck itself was less competitive than just slotting Etrata into a random Dimir deck. While we're still working with a Dimir shell, which does include a handful of good Dimir cards, we've actually got four plans to support our Etrata, the Silencer kill and hopefully make our opponent lose the game.

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Etrata, the Silencer is a strange card. While it's technically a creature, it's really more like a removal spell that dies to our opponent's removal spells. If we can get it to stick on the battlefield for a turn, we can attack, deal three damage, and exile our opponent's best creature. If we can do this three times, we win the game (by making our opponent lose the game). The downside is that when we exile one of our opponent's creatures with Etrata, we lose Etrata as well, since we are forced to shuffle her back into our library. In theory, we can just hope to draw Etrata, the Silencer a bunch of times, but the odds that we just naturally draw three Etratas during a game are pretty low, even more so when you consider that Etrata, the Silencer does die to removal spells, so we might need to draw four or even five copies to get enough hit counters to win the game. As a result, a big portion of our deck is geared toward making sure we can find Etrata, the Silencer as consistently as possible and to trying to minimize the drawback of having to shuffle our namesake card back into our library once it deals damage.

Plan 1: Find Etrata

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While we aren't a Vampire deck, we do have four copies of Forerunner of the Legion, which gives us a way to consistently find copies of Etrata, the Silencer. Not only does it help us find our first copy on Turn 3, tutoring it up so we can cast it on-curve on Turn 4, but in the late game, Forerunner of the Legion also lets us find Etratas that we shuffle back into our library after dealing damage, to get closer to the game-ending third hit counter. Since we are playing Forerunner of the Legion, we also have one copy of Vona, Butcher of Magan, which is basically the Vampire version of Lyra Dawnbringer as a huge lifelinking threat, to buy us time against the aggro decks in the format.

Plan 2: Blink Etrata

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Our second plan for abusing Etrata, the Silencer is Siren's Ruse, which allows us to do a sweet trick with Etrata, the Silencer's combat-damage trigger. When we hit our opponent with Etrata, the Silencer, we put a trigger on the stack that will exile one of our opponent's creatures with a hit counter and then shuffle Etrata back into our library. If we manage to Siren's Ruse our Etrata, the Silencer with this trigger on the stack, we still get to exile our opponent's creature and still get a hit counter on that creature, but Etrata, the Silencer won't shuffle back into our library, leaving it on the battlefield so we can attack and do it again the next turn. If we have one Etrata and two copies of Siren's Ruse, we can theoretically kill our opponent in just three turns of attacking while blinking Etrata, the Silencer in between! It's also worth mentioning that if we happen to draw Siren's Ruse when we don't have Etrata, the Silencer, we can also use it to blink Forerunner of the Legion to tutor up another copy.

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While not really part of our Etrata, the Silencer plan, we also have some other strong enters-the-battlefield creatures to use with Siren's Ruse when we don't have Etrata. Hostage Taker and Ravenous Chupacabra give us removal that is blinkable, and Hostage Taker even draws us a card with Siren's Ruse, since it's a Pirate. Meanwhile, Dream Eater gives us a huge top-end threat that can surveil to help us find Etrata, the Silencer while also bouncing our opponent's best permanent to slow down their game plan.

Plans 3 & 4: The Backup Plans

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Most of the time, we win by tutoring up Etrata, the Silencer with Forerunner of the Legion and blinking it with Siren's Ruse, but we have a couple of backup plans as well. Helm of the Host is just a one-of, but if we manage to get it on an Etrata, the Silencer, we get a free non-legendary copy of Etrata, the Silencer each turn, which allows us to attack with the copy, leave the original back on defense, and kill our opponent in three attacks. Meanwhile,  Lazav, the Multifarious is mostly in our deck to give us some defense on Turn 1, but if we happen to have an Etrata, the Silencer die (or we surveil one with Lazav itself), we can use Lazav, the Multifarious to copy Etrata from the graveyard to exile another creature with a hit counter and potentially win the game.

Other Stuff

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Doom Whisperer is just a one-of, but it simply offers too much value to pass up as a 6/6 for five. Plus, if we have enough life, we can use it like a tutor to surveil a Etrata, the Silencer to the top of our deck, sort of making it a really life-intensive version of Forerunner of the Legion. Otherwise, we have a bunch of removal to slow our opponent down and answer their threats, along with two copies of Discovery // Dispersal to cantrip in the early game and be a weird bounce spell in the late game. 

The Matchups

The matchups for Esper Etrata are really simple: we don't want to play against control. Because Etrata, the Silencer itself needs our opponent to have creatures to really do anything, things go really, really poorly if we run into a deck that's playing nearly (or literally) zero creatures and winning with planeswalkers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Ral, Izzet Viceroy, since we not only have four copies of Etrata, the Silencer but also another 10 cards that are dedicated to making Etrata work, so a huge portion of our deck is dead in these matchups. On the other hand, our deck is good against midrange creature decks and surprisingly effective against aggro, where Etrata, the Silencer being a 3/5 means it dodges a lot of removal, making it a solid blocker while we are waiting to work the game into a position where we can win by attacking with Etrata and building up hit counters.

The Odds

All in all, we played seven matches and won four (including a third match against Mono-Red that I didn't include in the video), giving us a 57% match win percentage, along with winning nine of 17 games, giving us a 53% game win percentage, making Esper Etrata a bit above average for an Against the Odds deck. As far as Etrata, the Silencer itself, the biggest thing we learned about the card is that you don't really need to get to three hit counters to really impact the game. In multiple matchups, we found that once we got two hit counters on our opponent's exiled creatures, we could pretty much lock our opponent out of playing creatures for the rest of the game, since if they played a creature, they risked immediately losing to another Etrata, the Silencer attack. The other upside of Etrata, the Silencer is that even in games where we didn't manage to kill our opponent with hit counters, it was often still fine, working like a weird, slow removal spell that also deals a bit of damage along the way, while also changing the way the opponent played the game out of fear that they would randomly get janked out by a future Etrata, the Silencer

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Guilds of Ravnica is still new, and we've got a ton to explore, so let's play another spicy Guilds of Ravnica card in Standard next week! Which of these cards should we build around for the next episode? Let us know by voting below!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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