This week Adam Plays Magic is legen—wait for it—dary, with Standard Esper Legends. This archetype put three players in the top 8 of of the European Championship in Naples over the weekend, including @ToffelMTG whose second-place list we've taken for a spin. The deck utilizes disruptive creatures like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Skrelv, Defector Mite, and Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition to put the opponent on the back foot and throw off their curve. Then, Raffine, Scheming Seer and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar use these go-wide small creatures into very tall, game-winning threats.
What I Like
Each card in this deck is individually powerful but they also work well together. For example, Raffine's connive triggers work alongside Sheoldred, the Apocalypse to gain massive swaths of life to lock out aggressive opponents. It also helps to stick Dennick in the graveyard to bring it back for its disturb cost. With all of these legendary creatures, Otawara, Soaring City, Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, and Takenuma, Abandoned Mire have their activation costs reduced to as little as one mana. This makes their effects much more efficient and makes it harder for the opponent to play around.
Additionally, Plaza of Heroes does a ton of work as an untapped five-color land and really ties the deck together. Casting pip-intensive spells like Dennick into Adeline into Sheoldred is surprisingly reliable thanks to Plaza. Later in the game, Plaza is an on-board trick that protects the deck's high-impact creatures by giving hexproof and indestructible.
I'm also a big fan of Razorlash Transmogrant in Standard since so many players are utilizing three-color mana bases. It's able to return to play from the graveyard for just two mana against top decks like Grixis Midrange, weakening the impact of opposing edict effects from Liliana of the Veils and Invoke Despairs.
Speaking of Grixis, Dennick's graveyard protection stops the triggered ability from Corpse Appraiser and Graveyard Trespasser // Graveyard Glutton, weakening those main threats. Similarly, Dennick stops reanimator strategies from cheating Atraxa, Grand Unifier and Titan of Industry into play. That's a lot of practical use for a two-drop!
What I Dislike
There isn't much to complain about with this deck. It runs smoothly and consistently. If I had to pick something, it would be that the deck's accommodations for Thalia prevent it from playing some of the stronger noncreature spells in the format like The Wandering Emperor and Make Disappear.
Given that each creature is legendary, there is a risk of drawing too many copies of any individual card since the legend rule will prevent them from being deployed to further grow the player's board presence. However, given the card selection of Raffine and the kill-on-sight nature of Adeline and Sheoldred, it makes sense to have backup copies ready.
Esper Legends is a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with in Standard. Given how prevalent it was in the European Championship, I fully expect its popularity to rise. With "team up" legends confirmed for the upcoming March of the Machine set, I'm certain this deck will receive even more powerful additions and remain a top dog in the format. There are also many strong legends in the format that didn't make Thoralf's list but that did show up in other builds like Gabriel Nassif's. The Raven Man and Gix, Yawgmoth's Praetor especially seem great in the archetype. There are so many configurations this deck can take going forward, I can't wait to help iterate on it.