26, Sep, 23

Esper Annihilates Competition at Magic World Championship 2023!

Article at a Glance

MagicCon Las Vegas was a major success and had a ton going on. From a Limited Open event with a $100,000 prize pool that sold out rather quickly to the popular Secret Lair Showdown, there were tons of things for players to do.

Additionally, MagicCon Las Vegas was responsible for hosting the Magic World Championship. Magic World Championship XXIX, the most prestigious MTG event of the year, featured players from around the globe competing in Standard and Wilds of Eldraine Draft.

Wilds of Eldraine had a massive impact on the Standard metagame at the World Championship. We’re here to break down the metagame, go over some of the best performing archetypes, and give the inside scoop on how things unfolded. A little over 100 of the best players on the planet came to battle, so let’s begin by taking a look at the most popular decks registered.

Metagame Breakdown

The biggest takeaway from the World Championship metagame is that Esper decks featuring Raffine, Scheming Seer were everywhere. Over 25% of players registered an Esper deck utilizing the powerful three-drop. 9 players settled on a more Creature-heavy version making use of a ton of legends to help maximize Plaza of Heroes and Channel Lands such as Otawara, Soaring City.

By contrast, 20 players played a version of Esper with more midrange elements, leaning heavier on non-Creature spells such as Make Disappear and Wedding Announcement. The key difference between these Esper variants is that the Creature-heavy version leaned heavily on Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, something the midrange version with a higher density of removal and Counterspells couldn’t do.

Beyond Esper, the next most popular archetype was mono-red aggro. Mono-red aggro has seen a reasonable amount of play in Standard over the past couple months, and the addition of Goddric, Cloaked Reveler helped solidify its place as one of the top decks of the tournament. 10 players registered the blazing fast aggro deck.

Next up, we have Domain Ramp, a well-established multi-color archetype maximizing Leyline Binding, with the goal of ramping into powerful top-end cards like Atraxa, Grand Unifier.

Finally, the last deck registered by at least 8 players was Golgari Midrange. Golgari Midrange surged with the introduction of Mosswood Dreadknight, an aggressively costed two-drop with a ton of grinding potential. Together, these decks made up over half of the room.

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Wilds of Eldraine Influence

Virtue of Persistence

Many of the top performing decks from the World Championship showcased a handful of new Wilds of Eldraine cards. The Wilds of Eldraine card that saw the most play by far was none other than Virtue of Persistence. Virtue of Persistence is a very flexible card, serving as a two-mana removal spell and a seven-mana late game bomb all in the same card thanks to the Adventure mechanic. Virtue of Persistence saw play in a variety of different archetypes. Golgari Midrange, ramp decks, five-color “Cascade,” and reanimator decks alike all made use of the powerful spell.

Virtue of Persistence was not the only card from the cycle of Adventure Enchantments to see lots of play, though. Virtue of Loyalty was the second highest played card at the World Championship from Wilds of Eldraine. This card was mainly utilized in Esper Midrange decks, as the combination of Virtue of Loyalty and Wedding Announcement could help win games in board stalls.

Perhaps one of the more surprising cards to see a lot of play from Wilds of Eldraine is Lord Skitter, Sewer King. As it turns out, Lord Skitter is no ordinary Rat. For only three mana, you get a 3/3 Creature that churns out rats every turn cycle. While the Rats are only 1/1 bodies themselves that can’t block, they work quite nicely in conjunction with Wedding Announcement, Virtue of Loyalty, and Raffine, Scheming Seer. It’s cool to see a more underrated card perform quite well at such a high stakes tournament.

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Lord Skitter, Sewer King

Esper decks featuring Raffine not only dominated the tournament, but the finals of the World Championship saw Jean-Emmanuel Depraz emerge victorious with Esper Legends over Kazune Kosaka wielding Esper Midrange. The top 8 of the World Championship showcased 3 Esper decks and 2 Domain Ramp decks, with Azorius Soldiers, Golgari Midrange, and Bant Control rounding out the last three spots.

Esper having such a dominant weekend is definitely interesting, especially given the recent success of the “Cascade” deck that had a relatively weak showing at this tournament. Esper’s impressive showing is also likely to blame for mono-red aggro’s poor performance overall, despite making up almost 10% of the field.

It was also interesting to see Greg Orange make top 8 wielding Bant Control, as he was the only person in the room playing the deck. The deck functioned mostly like a normal Azorius Control deck, playing a mix of removal, Counterspells, card advantage, and win conditions. By adding green, however, Orange got to play Up the Beanstalk as a cheap source of card advantage. Between Leyline Binding, Horned-Loch Whale, and Sunfall, there were plenty of ways in the deck to trigger Up the Beanstalk and draw extra cards.

The last major takeaway from the event was simply how incredible Jean-Emmanuel Depraz’s run has been. He absolutely crushed this tournament, winning both the semifinals and finals (both best-of-five matches) without dropping a game. After placing 2nd in the 2021 World Championship, which is a fantastic accomplishment by itself, he outdid himself by placing 1st only a couple years later. This was a very impressive run, and it’ll be fun to see how the Standard metagame evolves in the coming weeks.

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