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Much Abrew About Nothing: Esper Brain Gifts (Modern)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to the new and improved Much Abrew About Nothing. Last week in our Instant Deck Tech voting, Esper Brain Gifts in Modern was by far the most popular, which means that this week, we are heading to Modern to see if we can fuse our way to victory with the help of Brain in a Jar and Beck // Call! When things go well, we can make four 1/1 fliers and draw four cards as early as Turn 4, and when things go badly, we have Gifts Ungiven to bail us out, either by finding answers or by setting up the reanimation combo with Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Unburial Rites. Is it really possible that Brain in a Jar is Modern playable? We're about to figure it out! I'll have some thoughts about the deck in a minute, but first let's get to the videos!

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Esper Brain Gifts: Instant Deck Tech

Esper Brain Gifts vs. Mardu Nahiri (Match 1)

Esper Brain Gifts vs. Jeskai Control (Match 2)

Esper Brain Gifts vs. 8 Whack (Match 3)

Esper Brain Gifts vs. Grixis Delver (Match 4)

Esper Brain Gifts vs. Eldrazi & Taxes (Match 5)

Esper Brain Gifts (Wrap Up)


  • First off, the deck was awesome. Despite some questionable Gifts Ungiven piles, we managed to go 4-1 in matches, losing only in an extremely long match against Grixis Delver, where I'm pretty confident we lost by making a bad pile with Gifts Ungiven
  • Speaking of Gifts Ungiven, unlike a lot of Gifts decks, this one makes a lot of value piles. Gifts Ungiven is pretty easy to play when we're getting Unburial Rites and some big creature to reanimate every time we cast it, but in this deck, finding the right pile is extremely challenging. While which pile is best depends almost exclusively on the situation, it's important to keep in mind that Lingering Souls is often a free roll (if the opponent puts it in our hand, we get a Lingering Souls, and if the opponent puts it in our graveyard, we get to flashback a Lingering Souls). As a result, nearly all of our non-combo Gifts Ungiven piles were Lingering Souls and three other cards. 
  • The other key card with Gifts Ungiven is Noxious Revival, which allows us to Gifts Ungiven on our opponent's end step for piles like Lingering Souls, Noxious Revival, Supreme Verdict, and Languish. This means that no matter what cards our opponent gives us, we get a wrath. Similarly, we had a few piles that were Lingering Souls, Noxious Revival, Anguished Unmaking, and Abrupt Decay, which is a guaranteed way to kill something like Liliana of the Veil
  • Brain in a Jar was much better than I thought it would be. It's absurd when we combo off with Beck // Call. It's extremely hard to fuse a Beck // Call and then proceed to lose the game, since it gives us a bunch of chump blockers or evasive attackers along with a new hand of cards. Brain in a Jar also allows us to catch opponents by surprise, since it breaks timing restrictions and allows us to cast sorceries at instant speed. This can lead to some sweet blowouts with cards like Thoughtseize (during our opponent's draw step), Lingering Souls (for surprise blockers), or Supreme Verdict
  • We also won some games by simply controlling the board and than hard casting Beck // Call for eight mana. While this plan is extremely slow, it's also pretty effective, assuming we live long enough. The great thing about Beck // Call is that after the first one resolves, it often draws us into another copy to keep the value train chugging. The best example of this was game two against Eldrazi and Taxes, where we went from barely alive to making twelve 1/1 fliers and drawing twelve cards in just three turns. 
  • While I loved the deck overall, there were a couple of cards I really didn't like. First off, Trickbind is just too cute to be good. While the Magical Christmas Land scenario of countering a Nahiri, the Harbinger ultimate is sweet, it mostly just rotted in our hand. I'd like it more if it could work in a Gifts Ungiven pile, but since there isn't really another similar card in Modern, it just seems bad in our deck. The other card I really disliked was Peer Through Depths for many of the same reasons. It doesn't work well with Gifts Ungiven, it can't find our Brain in a Jar, and it was pretty much just an expensive cantrip in most situations. 
  • The other thing that drove me crazy was the complete lack of counterspells in both the main deck and sideboard (discounting Invasive Surgery, which is too limited to really count). There were a lot of times where I really wanted a Negate in my hand for extra protection. As such, when I play the deck again, I plan on cutting Peer Through Depths and Trickbind for Negate and another counter (most likely Mana Leak but possibly Deprive or Cryptic Command). Adding in two counters gives us yet another Gifts Ungiven pile (Lingering Souls, Noxious Revival, and two counterspells) and another way of protecting ourselves against some worst-case scenarios. 
  • All in all, the deck felt really solid, although I think it might have been partly due to the matchups. Matches against midrange and control felt great, since we could simply out-value our opponent with Gifts Ungiven, Esper Charm, and Beck // Call. The matches against aggressive creature decks felt closer, but after sideboarding, we had enough removal that I felt favored in games two and three. My worry is that we didn't really play against any fast combo decks, and I have a feeling these might be our worst matchups. While having six discard spells helps, unless we get a quick Brain in a Jar into Beck // Call, I'm just not sure we'd be fast enough to beat Ad Nauseam, Scapeshift, and the like. 
  • Should you play Esper Brain Gifts? Yes! I had a ton of fun playing the deck. It's stuffed full of value, and since there are a ton of one-ofs, every game felt different. Unlike some Gifts Ungiven decks, where the correct play is always searching up Unburial Rites and a big creature, Esper Brain Gifts actually has a ton of play to it. Plus, it felt very competitive; I could certainly imagine playing it in a real tournament. Unless your local meta is overloaded with combo decks, I expect you'll have a reasonable amount of success with the build with just a few slight changes. 


Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck by liking, commenting on, and subscribing to Instant Deck Tech videos! 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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