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Goldfish Gladiators: Esper Raff Flash (Magic Arena)

Welcome to Goldfish Gladiator, a new series with a twist: rather than taking place on Magic Online, Goldfish Gladiator is focused on Magic Arena. If you aren't familiar with Magic Arena, it's the next digital Magic client (currently in beta). While Magic Arena will eventually have normal Standard just like paper and Magic Online, it has a unique format right now, highlighted by the lack of Kaladesh block and a best-of-one (no sideboards) tournament structure, which means deck building is slightly different.

Today, we're playing one of my favorite Magic Arena decks: Esper Raff Flash. We played the Standard version of the deck on stream a little while ago, but today's build is designed for the Magic Arena card pool and metagame. Can Raff Flash port over to Magic Arena? Can we get to seven wins (and earn some sweet prizes to grow our collection), or will we get our three losses first? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll have some thoughts on the deck!

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Much Abrew: Esper Raff Flash (MTG Arena)


  • What a wild ride. On Magic Arena, tournaments last until you get seven wins or lose three times, and we started out just about as bad as possible by losing our first two matches. Thankfully, Esper Raff Flash refused to quit, and we ended up reeling off seven wins in a row to finish at 7-2, which earned us some sweet prizes! 
  • Normally, losses give us an opportunity to learn about our deck, but in this case, it's hard to glean much information from our 0-2 start. In game one, we kept a land-light hand and never got enough mana to cast our wrath and stabilize. In game two, our opponent had one of the most absurd nut draws I've ever seen on Magic Arena, literally killing us on Turn 4 with a 15-power flier. If anything, these games just illuminate the difference between best-of-three and best-of-one tournaments. In best of three, we probably would have been favored in both of those matches, but in best of one, all it takes is one clunky hand (or nut draw from the opponent), and you lose not only the game but the entire match. 
  • Thankfully, the rest of the tournament went great. We played against a lot of midrange and control, and Esper Raff Flash is pretty dominant in those matchups. 
  • Urza's Ruinous Blast (especially backed by Settle the Wreckage) is even better on Magic Arena than it is in normal Standard. Decks on Magic Arena tend to skew heavily toward aggro because the more games you win, the faster you grind into new cards, and having a reset button that not only deals with creatures but things like Radiant Destiny (from Vampires) and Anointed Procession (from tokens) along with opponents' enchantment-based removal is a huge deal. It's well worth the cost.
  • In fact, Urza's Ruinous Blast is the main reason to be Esper rather than straight blue-white. Cards like Seal Away and Cast Out are necessary in straight blue-white, but playing enchantment-based removal makes it impossible to effectively play Urza's Ruinous Blast. Going into black costs us a bit in terms of consistency with our mana, but we get Cast Down (to replace Seal Away) and Vraska's Contempt (to replace Cast Out) as our rewards, which allows us to use Urza's Ruinous Blast to full effect. 
  • The weirdness of the Arena format / meta also explains some of our card choices. For example, Golden Demise is almost exclusively a sideboard card in normal Standard, but since Magic Arena doesn't have sideboards, we need the card to fit into the main deck if we want it. Considering that aggro dominates the Magic Arena meta, it's very worth it as a one-of, even if it looks strange to players of "normal" Standard.
  • While I think Esper Raff Flash is very strong on Magic Arena and has the potential to be a tier deck, I should warn you that it's also pretty expensive. On Magic Arena, a deck's price is basically the number of rares and mythics you need to build the deck, and Esper Raff Flash has a massive 12 mythics and 21 rares (with more than half of the rares being in the mana base). Even on Magic Arena, Esper Raff Flash is far from a budget-friendly deck.
  • So, should you play Esper Raff Flash on Magic Arena? The deck is good, but if you're a free-to-play player, it's going to be very hard to actually get the mythics and rares you need, so you might be better off focusing on a different (more budget-friendly) deck. The good news is that if you decide to spend your wildcards on Esper Raff Flash, you'll be spending them on good cards—Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, History of Benalia, The Scarab God, Lyra Dawnbringer, and rare lands—so even if you decide to stop playing Esper Raff Flash, you should still be able to put all of your rares and mythics to good use in other decks. 


Anyway, that's all for today. What do you think of Magic Arena content? Do you want more? Is it better to wait for full Standard? Make sure to let us know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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