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Goldfish Gladiators: Esper Tempo (Standard, Magic Arena)

Welcome to Goldfish Gladiators! Hero of Precinct One is a powerful Magic card, but is it powerful enough to be the centerpiece of an almost exclusively multicolor deck? That's what we're going to find out today! Last week during our Instant Deck Techs, we talked about an Esper Tempo list that drops Teferi, Hero of Dominaria altogether and instead looks to win with a motley crew of multicolored creatures, backed by some solid removal and Hero of Precinct One. The main plan is to grind our opponent out of the game with some strange value from cards like Thief of Sanity, Basilica Bell-Haunt, and friends before winning eventually, either with our random creatures or by going wide with Hero of Precinct One tokens. Is it actually possible that the right way to build Esper in Standard is to forget Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and play a bunch of creatures?  Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Goldfish Gladiators: Esper Tempo 


  • Esper Tempo felt great! While we know the deck works well in best-of-three, considering it managed to Top 8 a big paper tournament last week, it seems to also be great in best-of-one, as we managed to hit the maximum of seven wins pretty easily, only dropping one match to control along the way. 
  • Maybe the most impressive part of the deck is just how much it crushes aggro. Basilica Bell-Haunt has to be one of the best cards against Mono-Red in the format, and when you toss in some extra lifegain from Lyra Dawnbringer, Dovin, Grand Arbiter, and Depose // Deploy, it feels like our deck is massively favored against perhaps the most popular deck in the best-of-one format.
  • Hero of Precinct One was every bit as good as we had hoped. Since our only non-multicolor card in our main deck is two copies of Lyra Dawnbringer, Hero of Precinct One is basically a must-answer threat on Turn 2. If it sticks around for even a couple of turns, it generates a nearly overwhelming amount of value. While it's not as exciting off the top of our deck in the late game, we can often cast it and immediately cast another multicolor spell to get a token and minimize the impact of our opponent's removal. Basically, Hero of Precinct One is great at playing defense in the early game, quickly turns to offense after the board is stabilized, and sometimes picks up free wins when we have multiple copies in our opening hand. 
  • Maybe the biggest sleeper in the deck is Depose // Deploy. While the card doesn't look like much, it's surprisingly good in most matchups. In the worst case, we can cycle it away for two mana and hopefully prevent a bit of damage by tapping down a creature, which makes it hard for Depose // Deploy to ever be truly bad. On the other hand, against aggro, the incidental lifegain from Deploy often closes the door on our opponent's hopes for winning the game, and the ability to cast it at instant speed to make a couple of flying attackers gives it some value against control decks.
  • While Dovin, Grand Arbiter is a hotly debated planeswalker, it's perfect for Esper Tempo. It curves nicely with Hero of Precinct One to make an extra token, and if our opponent doesn't have early-game removal, the combination of Thopters and Hero tokens allows us to rush to the ultimate. While drawing the best three of our top 10 cards isn't directly game ending, it's often enough to pull so far ahead that our opponent doesn't have a very realistic shot of getting back into the game.
  • Finally, the last big upside of Esper Tempo is that the removal is great. Hostage Taker and Deputy of Detention offer some nice value attached to bodies, and Mortify might be the best removal spell in our current format, since it gets rid of things like Search for Azcanta or Wilderness Reclamation against control decks, where creature removal is often dead. The important thing to realize about our removal is that it isn't designed to control the opponent forever, especially considering that most of it comes attached to creatures that return the removed card when they die. As such, if you decide to pick up the deck, the main plan is to use the removal aggressively to disrupt our opponent just long enough to win the game with our janky creature beats and value.
  • All in all, Esper Tempo felt great. While best-of-three and best-of-one have sort of evolved away from each other and into two different formats, Esper Tempo is competitive in both formats, which is a nice upside on Magic Arena. The only downside is that thanks to a combination of a ton of rare creatures and a three-color mana base, the deck takes a lot of wildcards to put together. Disregarding the cost, Esper Tempo felt legitimately great and like it will probably be a real contender in Standard moving forward, thanks to its ability to crush aggro, while still having enough powerful threats and card advantage to fight against slower midrange and control decks, especially after sideboarding.


Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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