Brewed Up: Esper Blinkbears

I went way overboard writing today’s entry but I could not help myself. I have worked on this brew on and off for over a year, finding disappointment each time. But Modern Horizons gave it everything it wanted and more. For Modern Humans players this will feel oddly familiar but wildly different. Blink and you will definitely miss it.

Decklist
Lands (20)
2 Darkslick Shores
4 Flooded Strand
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
2 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Silent Clearing
1 Watery Grave
Creatures (32)
2 Flickerwisp
4 Giver of Runes
4 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Meddling Mage
3 Reflector Mage
3 Spell Queller
4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Unsettled Mariner
4 Watcher for Tomorrow
Spells (8)
4 Aether Vial
4 Ephemerate
Sideboard (15)
1 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Damping Sphere
2 Dovin’s Veto
2 Fatal Push
2 Kaya’s Guile
3 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
1 Worship

Notable Interactions
Sculler + Meddling: you know exactly what to name

Reflector + Meddling: you name what you bounced

Reflector + Sculler: you exile what you bounce

Meddling + Queller: you name the exiled spell in response to removal on Queller

Reflector + Queller: you bounce a creature and then exile it when they try to cast it

Ephemerate + Meddling: reset the chosen card

Ephemerate + Sculler: exile something forever, exile a second card until they remove it

Ephemerate + Quellers: exile the spell forever

Ephemerate + Watcher: Pull the exiled card, repeat ETB, rebound Ephemerate and pull another exiled card, repeat ETB

Giver + Mariner: Removal on Giver is taxed, removal on anything else is taxed and then stopped

The Build
At its core this deck is somewhere between Humans, Spirits, and BW Eldrazi. It is a hatebear deck that nets absurd value from blinking its creatures. I have worked on this idea on and off for a longtime and have always been disappointed. It lacked good one drops with lonely Wanderer only triggering off Queller. Blink effects were love value (Cloudshift) or slow (Restoration Angel). On top of this it was difficult to protect the creatures through the early turns as Queller shows up late. Then it had no way to net card advantage outside of Militia Bugler, which is not great outside of Humans. Modern Horizons changed everything for this deck. So I will break it down card by card.

The manabase is nothing too exciting. A high number of fastlands is ideal for a lean deck that tops out at three mana. The primary color of the deck is white and you want to be able to generate UW and BW at any time, UB is irrelevant. Blue is nearly just as important so Seachrome Coast and Flooded Strand were chosen; with all of the fetchable shocks and basics of course. Black is still quite relevant though, especially post-board so the minimum twelve sources make it in. Silent Clearing is the first Horizons addition and it feels great to not be envious of Humans and their Horizon Canopies anymore. The manabase has been solid in testing but I could see some number of Ancient Ziggurat fitting in if you restrict the sideboard non-creature spells to one drops and two drops. Of course this is an Aether Vial deck so in many games you can just ignore strict mana costs and perform various surprise plays.

Let us begin with Giver of Runes. This beautiful lady was a godsend to this deck. It needed another one drop and it needed a way to protect creatures early and she does just that. She is going to eat removal a lot and for good reason. Many players are forgetting just how powerful on-demand repeatable protection is. Giver with another creature will block anything, no matter the size, forever until they can find an answer for it. Heck if you get out two of them they can both be declared as blockers and then tap to protect one another again and again.  She also stops any targeted removal so they are forced to go at her; again, if you have two copies it is hard to lose. On top of that she can even make your creature functionally unblockable in most board states. The other one drop is not quite as exciting but is still every effective. It is generally not as effective here as it is in Spirits decks but between Mariner and Queller it grows plenty often. Before the printing of Mariner it was underwhelming in the deck because there were few Spirits and the only taxing effect, Thalia, did not contribute. Thanks to Mariner we have a spirit that taxes while growing Wanderer and together they make targeting our creatures a daunting task.

The core two drops are Tidehollow Sculler and Meddling Mage, which will feel oddly familiar for Humans players. Sculler is a Kitesail Freebooter that gives up flying to hit harder and can exile creatures from the opponent’s hand. What really sets it apart though is that it has separate ETB and LTB triggers. If you blink a Freebooter, you just get to peek at the opponent’s hand before it comes back and takes a card. However, if a Sculler leaves the battlefield with the ETB on the stack, the LTB ability triggers and does nothing. Then the ETB ability resolves and places a card in exile forever. If you use a blink effect to achieve this, you will get to take a second card away as well; though they can get back one of the cards by killing Sculler. Of course, these effects are great with Meddling Mage as you will know exactly what to name after seeing the opponent’s hand. Meddling Mage is better than ever in this deck with all of the wild interactions listed above. It is the keystone of the deck’s disruptive packages.

The other two drops are Unsettled Mariner and Watcher for Tomorrow. Admittedly, Mariner does not have any synergy with the blink effects of the deck. He makes the cut because if these disruptive creatures go unremoved, we basically just win. Meddling Mage locks down spells while Sculler and Queller exile them. These creatures need to be removed for the opponent to progress their gameplan. The combination of Giver and Mariner make it near impossible to do so. They are not the disruptive creatures that the opponents want to remove, but they do not really have a choice in the matter. And as mentioned previously, it is a spirit for Wanderer which always helps. Watcher, on the other hand, has felt a bit all over the place. When we blink him with Ephemerate and draw a bunch of cards it feels wonderful. But entering tapped makes it impossible to surprise chump block with him. He is a creature that we are begging them to kill in a deck full of creatures that they actually want to kill. Due to the inconsistency, I am not sure this one is going to stick around. Thalia, though she does not appreciate blinking, is a great card in such a creature heavy deck. Bugler would fill a similar role but I am not sure this deck can handle too many more three drops. Ranger-Captain of Eos is another tempting option.

Finally we come to the three drops. Reflector Mage‘s ETB is obviously great with blink effects. Humans players will recognize the positive interaction with Meddling Mage. Now though, your “Freebooter” can grab a bounced creature out of the opponent’s hand to exile it. There are times where you will wish Reflector could bounce your own creature for value but please do not play Aether Adept. The other key three drop is Spell Queller. Just like Sculler, if you blink it in response to the ETB you will be able to exile the spell forever. However, there usually will only be one spell on the stack so you will not be getting a second ETB; just guaranteeing the permanent exile. Playing Queller and Meddling in the same deck is particularly fun because if they target Queller with removal you can use Vial or Ephemerate to name the exiled spell with Meddling Mage at instant speed. Flickerwisp also makes the cut as a blink deck cannot lean too heavily on a playset of blink effects. Unfortunately, it is sorcery speed without Vial so some of the tricks will not be viable. Restoration Angel warrants testing but take care to not boost the decks curve too high.

The final card to discuss is Ephemerate and it might just be the best card in the deck. At a basic level cards like this counter targeted effects by blinking your creature in and out of play. But in a deck like this, as explained above, you net powerful ETB triggers that are worth much more than one mana. On the flip side though, playing these effects too early opens you up to a two-for-one from opposing removal. There needs to be significant value potential to justify it. Ephemerate is a huge upgrade to what we have seen in the past. Rebound gives you a second shot at the effect during your upkeep and therefore another value opportunity. However, you need a fair number of ETB abilities that are actually useful at your upkeep. To satisfy this requirement we have Watcher and Reflector while Wanderer also enjoys random spirits being blinked on your turn. This is the card that really makes the deck tick and has tempted me to try out Essence Flux; we do have plenty of Spirits after all.

I have already gushed about this deck quite a bit so I will not bore you with the sideboard details. You are playing the three best sideboard colors in the format so the struggle is not finding good options. The issue is fitting them all in. You have access to the potent white enchantments. Then on the removal front you have to decide between Path and Push. Then for dealing with creature-light decks you have to decide between counterspells and targeted discard. On top of these, there is now the extremely versatile Kaya’s Guile to squeeze in. You can even go for various WW, UW, or BW planeswalkers for grinding capability. Also there are various hate creatures like Plaguecrafter to try out. Whatever you choose, please run the singleton Worship. Some decks just scoop to it, you can Meddling Mage their few outs, and it is hard to actually remove all of your creatures.

Wrap-Up
I do hope that you enjoy this brew as much as I do. Whether you come from a Taxes, Spirits, or Humans background I can guarantee you will find something to love. I will continue to test and iterate on this deck as time goes on. What are you brewing up with Modern Horizons? We would love to hear about it in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow to talk about Modern’s newest boogeyman. Until then my friends.

2 thoughts on “Brewed Up: Esper Blinkbears

  1. I feel like this deck could easily fit a moorland haunt or 2 in the manabase, even with how intense of a manabase is needed for your turn 2 colors.

    Like

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