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November 6, 2015

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A Higher Standard: Time After Time

Alright. I have five cards in hand my opponent has none and I currently have 3 counterspells at the ready for whatever he draws. I just need to keep attacking with this Shambling Vent. There is no way I could lose.

“TIME!!! Active player finish your turn…….”

NO! I have my opponent dead to rights but it’s going to take at least 5 more attacks for me to finish him off. I don’t deserve to lose this game. UGHHHH!!

Unless you are some kind of superhuman I’m sure this has happened to you if you have been playing Esper in the current format. With the way the format is the games take quite a long time. In GP Quebec City there were 86 fetchlands in the top 8. (Including Evolving Wilds) That is 10.75 per deck. That is crazy! Even more crazy though is that it is absolutely optimal to be playing so many fetchlands in the Battleland mana-base. That means you are going to be spending roughly 5-10 minutes per match just shuffling. Control decks have always taken the longest to win but in this standard your window for victory is much smaller.

Allot of pros have been saying that if the rounds were untimed Esper would absolutely be the best deck but it struggles to win fast enough. I’m going to break down some ways you can still play this absolute powerhouse of a deck and finish in time.

– Play Faster

It sounds a little too obvious but I still see people taking too long to make their decisions while playing control. This is the absolute most important part about not going to time.
Ways you can pick up your pace are:

– Think on your opponents turn

If you are making the decisions about what you are going to do on your opponents turn factoring in what you could possibly draw you can cut the game time down drastically.

– Play a lot of the deck and recognize similar situations

When you recognize the similar play patterns you won’t have to think about what you are supposed to do. You don’t have to analyze the entire board every turn you already know what is happening and what could happen.

– Know your deck list very well

The better you know your decklist the less you will have to think about what you could draw in possible situations. It just cuts your thinking time down when you already know what the possible draws for you are.

– Keep your in-game operations very fast

A lot of the time when you win with a control deck it’s by attacking for 8+ turns with a Shambling Vent or similarly paced victories. That means you need to be quite brisk with these operations. Have your 3 mana ready to activate your land and quickly “Animate, Attack and Go.” These turns should honestly take less than 15 seconds.

– Keep your opponents pace up

Your opponents play speed matters a lot as well. We need to get rid of the stigma that definitely exists that you are being a jerk by telling your opponent they need to play faster. Honestly if you are nice to them about it I have never found it to be a big deal. The last thing you want to do is to leave the game with a draw and think to yourself it was your opponents fault because let me be honest with you it is your fault too. You have a responsibility to make sure your opponents play speed is up to par and it is in no way wrong to do so. I don’t care if you are in a stressful match playing for a top 8 or if it’s just FNM. You are going to want to be given the opportunity to finish your games. Don’t let your opponent take that away from you.

– Play More Win Conditions

Some people aren’t meant to play the 3-4 win condition versions of Esper. Even if they are the optimal versions if you aren’t capable of finishing the games in time it is okay to just play more ways to win the game. It usually isn’t actually the worst to play more win conditions anyway. This means you will have more threats for the mirror match and will be the one who has inevitability. I think some people thinks it makes them the “Lesser Control Player” because they had to crutch on more win conditions. It’s just not true so don’t let that stop you from playing sweet Planeswalkers and creatures.

Ultimately the best thing to do is to practice and study. Yes study. If you have a better idea of what cards your opponents could be playing and what you are playing you are able to skip the phase of remembering what could and couldn’t happen. You get to just evaluate the current situation and calculate for your possible draws and your opponent’s possible draws. Esper Control is currently my favourite standard deck. That’s largely due to the fact that I have trained myself to stop getting draws.

Well that’s time in this round thanks for reading!

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Andy Football-Peters