Home Forums Highlander Decklists Control WUB Combo-Control – “Esper Gifts”

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    Sarven McLintonSarven McLinton

    WUB Combo-Control – “Esper Gifts”


    Esper Gifts is an archetype that dates back to when Gifts Ungiven was the 4 mana powerhouse in Vintage (before the days of Jace, the Mind Sculptor). With Gifts Ungiven de-pointed in the first half of 2019, players have rekindled love for the Blue-Black-White combo-control hybrid shell. “Esper Gifts” is a loose term for a variety of decks with the same overall strategy: play a fair game insofar as to survive until you can cast Gifts Ungiven at the end of your opponent’s turn, and then win. The actual method by which Esper Gifts wins is largely trivial, all the way from two-card artifact combos with redundancy like Academy Ruins, to two-card Unburial Rites reanimator-style approaches, all the way to the busted enchantment-theme you’ll see featured below!

    OPTION 1: “Replenish”

    Replenish, or “Omniplenish” was developed by Sarven McLinton and piloted to a Top 4 finish at the AE Challenge in May 2019.

    Adelaide Eternal Highlander Challenge (May 2019)


    The deck takes a unique angle on abusing enchantments without actually being an ‘enchantress’ deck with all the issues that normally entails. The enchantment-based wincons are less vulnerable than artifacts, and the deck blanks creature-removal almost entirely, making it a great choice in a meta full of Abrades, Fiery Confluences, Dack Faydens and Kolaghan’s Commands!

    Check out the video deck tech here:

    This type of deck would suit control players who want to crush with a consistent and soul-crushing combo finish. Intuition, Gifts, and Replenish are all powerhouse “One Card Combos” (in the realm of “resolve this and you’re 99.9% to win”), but it is all within a control shell backdrop. You almost always use the fair-game control cards (TNN, Lingering Souls, etc.) to stall the board (cue Teferi on Arena saying “Let’s slow this down…”) until you can combo.

    The Replenish deck plays out a lot like very old Gifts lists used to in Vintage: build up mana sources, slow the game down, leverage hard counters to protect your game plan over soft/cheap disruption found in turbo combo, then end of turn Gifts/Intuition, untap and win… so this is not a fast combo deck. Note also that among your 23 lands you’re also specifically running 7 basics and 9 Fetches; you can abuse the incorrect read from Blue Moon players in that you aren’t a red deck and they incorrectly keep their moons in. Just fetch basics aggressively, use your cycling and cantrips to hit your lands and play the long game, then build up to a counter war on their end-step over Intuition (don’t be afraid to Remand your own Intuition). Bait spells are great too; the longer the game goes the less you actually end up needing Intuition or Gifts to resolve as you likely have one important piece in hand. Drain something and hardcast Omniscience… or sometimes fight a decoy war then untap and pay the full 7 to hardcast Cruel Reality. You also have a lot of staying power when your combos are answered in Replenish, Snap Replenish, Brief Replenish, and so on.

    Against faster decks like aggro, your critical turn is often Turn 5 (when you can guarantee an Omniscience after Gifts/Intuition at the end of their turn). Dig aggressively for either Gifts or Intuition, and if your meta is heavily aggro then opt for Merchant Scroll as your 7th point for this very purpose. You have a lot of tools at your disposal to survive against aggro, including Strix, Lili, Brutality etc., but your key card is Moat, plus Enlightened Tutor out of the board for a consistent Moat, Warmth, or Porphyry Nodes. That being said, you can sometimes mise a cheeky Show and Tell for one of your 7-8mana payoffs in the early game, but overall two-card combinations are not the name of the deck, it’s just an incidental upside of Show and Tell (but no Flash or tutors for one half of a combo). The name of the game are the one-card combos… Intuition and Gifts!


    Space reserved here to link the AE Highlander Challenge penultimate round, in which Replenish is featured so you can see it in action (video will be linked soon).

    “Replenish” DECKLIST:

    COMBO (11)
    1 Cabal Therapy
    1 Show and Tell
    1 Intuition *
    1 Gifts Ungiven
    1 Unburial Rites
    1 Griselbrand
    1 Academy Rector
    1 Omniscience
    1 Overwhelming Splendor
    1 Cruel Reality
    1 Replenish

    1 Force of Will *
    1 Mental Misstep
    1 Thoughtseize
    1 Inquisition of Kozilek
    1 Remand
    1 Counterspell
    1 Mana Drain *
    1 Hymn to Tourach
    1 Teferi, Time Raveler

    1 Brainstorm
    1 Ponder
    1 Preordain
    1 Lay Claim
    1 Mission Briefing
    1 Snapcaster Mage *
    1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor *
    1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

    1 Swords to Plowshares
    1 Collective Brutality
    1 Baleful Strix
    1 Toxic Deluge
    1 Liliana, the Last Hope
    1 Lingering Souls
    1 True-Name Nemesis *
    1 Cast Out
    1 Moat

    LAND (23)
    1 Underground Sea
    1 Tundra
    1 Scrubland
    1 Hallowed Fountain
    1 Watery Grave
    1 Godless Shrine
    2 Swamp
    2 Plains
    3 Island
    1 Flooded Strand
    1 Scalding Tarn
    1 Polluted Delta
    1 Misty Rainforest
    1 Marsh Flats
    1 Bloodstained Mire
    1 Arid Mesa
    1 Verdant Catacombs
    1 Windswept Heath
    1 Creeping Tar Pit

    1 Enlightened Tutor *
    1 Porphyry Nodes
    1 Warmth
    1 Elesh Norn
    1 Back to Basics
    1 Supreme Verdict
    1 Duress
    1 Flusterstorm
    1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
    1 Dovin’s Veto
    1 Nihil Spellbomb
    1 Leyline of the Void
    1 Seal of Cleansing
    1 Stony Silence
    1 Null Rod

    OPTION 2: Matthew Austin’s Artifact Two-Card Monte!


    List copy-pasta from Facebook, if there are any changes I’ll ask Matthew to let us know about the latest configuration of his latest list!
    Lands (23) – Mana base inspired from Sarven’s Esper list
    Arid Mesa
    Academy Runis
    Bloodstained Mire
    Creeping Tar Pit
    Flooded Strand
    Godless Shrine
    Hallowed Fountain
    Marsh Flats
    Misty Rainforest
    Polluted Delta
    Scalding Tarn
    Underground Sea
    Verdant Catacombs
    Watery Grave
    Windswept Heath
    Creatures (7)
    Restoration Specialist
    Iona, Shield of Emeria
    Snapcaster Mage *
    True-Name Nemisis
    Torrential Gearhulk
    Baleful Strix
    Painter’s Servant
    Other Spells (30)
    Swords to Plowshares
    Lingering Souls
    Council’s Judgement
    Mental Misstep
    Intuition *
    Gifts Ungiven
    Mana Drain *
    Mission Briefing
    Jace, the Mind Sculptor *
    Force of Will *
    Mystic Confluence
    Cryptic Command
    Inquisition of Kozilek
    Collective Brutality
    Toxic Deluge
    Unburial Rites
    Hymn to Tourach
    Liliana, the Last Hope
    Teferi, Time Raveler
    Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
    Ashiok, Dream Render
    Thopter Foundry
    Sword of the Meek
    Engineered Explosives
    Sideboard (15)
    Seal of Cleansing
    Elesh Norn, Grand Cerobite
    Back to Basics
    Vendillion Clique
    Fatal Push
    Bitter Ordeal
    Leyline of the Void
    Dovin’s Veto
    Supreme Verdict
    Anguished Unmaking
    Esper Charm
    Nihil Spellbomb
    Helm of Obidience

    OPTION 3: Esper Control

    This is the conventional version where you simply play a strong WUB Control game but add in Gifts, plus the two-card package of Unburial Rites and a creature of choice (Griselbrand, often Elesh Norn or Iona in the board) to provide a combo-esque finish. Simply sleeve up your favourite Esper 75 and slot in the above 3 cards and you’ll enjoy it!

    • This topic was modified 4 months, 3 weeks ago by ShaneShane.

    I manage Adelaide Eternal, a group running monthly tournaments in SA for Vintage, Highlander, and Legacy. We also commentate feature matches which are uploaded to our YouTube channel every month. Visit: www.youtube.com/adelaideeternal

    AvatarDrew Carter

    An excellent explanation and demonstration of the deck can be found in the below commentated feature match.

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