Esper Prison Deck-Tech

Abbi Marie | 23rd May 2018

If you have come through Instagram you may have seen my Esper Prison deck post, it’s been 6 months in the making and my god has it been tough. It was something that I had in my head for ages and I figured I could add pretty much anything I liked the look of and I was sure it would work (Apparently that’s not how deckbuilding works, who knew?!) It took a short while to get the deck core together, (Phyrexian Unlife and Solemnity, because Magic is for me to play, not my opponent) as that was what inspired me to start the deck, but after that It just got harder and harder.

There were no decklists I could find online close enough to what I wanted, and defiantly no top 8 lists I could steal from, so I was pretty much all on my own.

Originally it was Mono-White, with cards like Ghostly Prison, Wall of Omens, Thalia, and both (yes both) Avacyns and even Gisela and Bruna (Which I did meld at FNM once, I’ll have you know). After that didn’t work how I wanted I moved to Black/White to add in Bitterblossom, and even with the massive improvement this brought, It still wasn’t a fast enough win-con before my opponent could find an answer to my lock, or sideboard too many answers in for game two. This finally led to where I am now, Esper. Honestly, It flows a lot better, I can control my draws, and Zur, of course, was practically made for my deck. It’s been emotional, but I’m so close. Just some minor adjustments left to do, but my God It works!!!

The Deck:


Path To Exile x 4 | $7.99 SCG

Obvious spot removal, which is essential in my deck as I play no big block creatures, or counterspells, so when Bob, Snappy or Goyf come down, It’s gotta go. This could be a possible change for Fatal Push, I’m currently considering as I play Ghostly Prison in my sideboard, when you’re making people pay 2 to attack you, you don’t wanna be giving them those lands.

513bkiwxHoL._SY450_Serum Visions x4 | $3.99 SCG

Early draw, early scry, if you can get this off turn one it can make the game. It can also set you up if you didn’t already have the main combo in your opening hand to make sure you do have it come turn 3.


Search for Azcanta x1 | $15.99 SCG

I’d like to eventually run two of these, once I can pick another up. This is great for that later game card dumping, once you’ve locked them out by turn 3/4 you don’t want to be top decking lands for the next 4 turns, you want to be adding to that lockdown, and this can be an essential piece for this. As the deck isn’t aggro at all, we need all the help we can get quickly securing the lock fast, and then getting our win cons down ASAP.

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Greater Auramancy x2 | $37.99 SCG

The strongest thing about this deck is the fact that a lot of other modern decks simply don’t run enchantment removal. About 80% of my FNM and tournament game ones end with my opponent scooping because they simply don’t have a solution. So game one if I don’t have to show them I have this, I won’t, as even most sideboards only run one or two removal spells, i.e Wear and Tear, or Nature’s Claim etc. Even then if you get both copies down you’ve got a lockout. The only suffering would be Fracturing Gust, but that’s a rare sight. I’ve never actually come up against an enchantment wipe, so this card really pulls its weight.

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 Bitterblossom x4 | $42.99 SCG

Do I need to explain? Obviously, damage is different to loss of life, so when you’ve got your combo down and you’re on zero..? Free Faeries!!! Attackers, blockers? Tap 10 Faeries to make your opponent mill 10? Why not! (I shall reveal all further on).

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 Phyrexian Unlife x4 | $4.49 SCG

*Angels Choir* The holy grail. So this is what made me want to build the deck, not much explanation needed. BUT, as mentioned before, damage is different to lose of life, so any spells/abilities that state ‘you lose a ‘life’ still go off, but you just carry on into the minuses, you would NOT take poison damage if you are already past zero, so, you’re welcome.

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 Solemnity x 4 | $1.25 SCG

Another obvious one really. Though it does have to be said that this has done me some solids in mainboard just on its own. Walking Balistas are shut down, as well as any bitch ass combos people got going on, not on my watch.

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 Lingering Souls x2 | $0.99 SCG

Lingering Souls is just an absolutely fantastic card. Something that I learned with Bitterblossom as well, people don’t handle flying very well, even if it’s only a measly 1 or 2 damage a turn, it gets through most of the time.

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 Phyrexian Arena x2 | $8.99 SCG

This is just more of that getting you ahead in the game, you’ve got your lock, you’re making three Faeiries a turn, you’re drawing two cards, (and not taking any damage from it) and being able to decide if you wanna dump the first draw, It builds on that tempo, and keeping you ahead in the game, till you’re simply too far ahead.

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 Detention Sphere x1 | $2.49 SCG

This is a one-off in my deck, simply because it’s 3 mana, which in modern is a lot for a removal spell, but it does it’s work against the odd planeswalker (Lilliana is a bitch to this deck, and all decks I guess) and removing up to 4 of the same enchantment in Bogles, or any decks that play multiple of the same creature really.

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 Zur the Enchanter x 4 | $2.25 SCG

I’ll be honest with you guys, I didn’t know this dude existed till a couple weeks ago at the Birmingham GP, I was playing some turbo town modern and my opponent saw Unlife and my lands and was like ‘ahhhh a Zur deck?’ And I was like ‘Wha???’ So he literally opened his trade folder, pulled one out and gave it to me (So thank you, if you’re reading this). I can tell you now, he’s FAB. My entire curve in this deck is basically 3 mana (Except Leylines) so he covers pretty much EVERYTHING. He’s also 4 toughness, so is just missed by Bolt, flying, so people don’t always have blockers, and only one damage, go on take it, it’s only 1! I was considering adding a copy or two of Lightning Greaves so he can swing straight away, and of course to avoid those Path’s and Fatal Push Revolts, but I’m not sure yet if it’s worth it.

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 Leyline of Sanctity x2 | $42.99 SCG

Yes, I mainboard two. I used to mainboard a playset, but I don’t have space anymore, but the other two are in my sideboard. With 50% of decks running Thoughtseize, Inquisition, and Lilliana (Who you can’t ultimate on me so hahahahaha) This card is one of the most important in the deck, getting this opening hand has won me a hell of a lot of games, (And even a scoop on turn zero, should I be proud of that? Probably not, but I am).

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 Ad Nauseam x 1 | $8.99 SCG

Locked them out? They haven’t done anything for 3 turns, waiting to top deck a solution? Excuse me while I just filter through my entire deck (FOR FREE) and pick my win con, what to choose….

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 Jace, Memory Adept x1 | $5.99 SCG

This guy I absolutely love, does he belong in this deck tho? Maybe not. Yes, he’s bloody good, but may be misplaced, does his 0 win games? Yes, especially if they’re locked out not doing anything, but he doesn’t offer much else to my deck, and turn 5 is quite late on for a slow mill; however until I find something worth swapping him out, I’ll be using his 0 like there is no tomorrow when he’s down.

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Phenax, God of Deception x 1 | $7.49 SCG

Phenax is here because I thought his ability was amazing, tapping 8 Faeries to make your opponent mill 8 is a lot of fun, or Zur to make them mill 4 (especially if there is some reason you can’t attack) once you’ve got your enchantments out. The only downside with Phenax is that I very rarely have enough devotion to making him into a creature, which is something I’d like to look into in the future, what cards would work, and also up my Black/Blue devotion??

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Axis of Mortality x 1 | $1.49 SCG

What to say about Axis?


I see you’re on 19 and I’m on -1, would be a shame if something were to… change that.


Pretty self-explanatory I’m sure, playing Esper I’ve had to try and make it as consistent as possible when it comes to getting the right mana.


 Marsh Flats x4 | $39.99 SCG

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 Godless Shrine x4 | $16.99 SCG

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 Watery Grave x2 | $17.99 SCG

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 Shambling Vents x2 | $2.49 SCG

That life link when you’re on -1 can be really juicy.

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Sunken Hollow x1 | $2.49 SCG


Basic Island x6

For those pesky Blood Moons.


 Basic Island x1


 Basic Swamp x 2

The Sideboard:

White is actually a very well rounded colour for sideboarding, and I’m sure most of the cards I have in mine will explain themselves.


Leyline of Sanctity x 2 | $42.99 SCG

There are actually very few decks where this won’t make some kind of difference, but I like to up my chance of getting one in my opening hand for things like Burn, or anyone who is playing ANY black.

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Reast in Peace x2 | $4.99 SCG

Anything remotely graveyard based, (Delve, Living End etc.). The only thing it effects with my own deck is Lingering Souls, so it’s always worth it.

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Stony Silence x2 | $7.99 SCG

Affinity, basically, as it’s a very fast deck which can be a very hard matchup for me. It does stop Aether Vials, but so does my Solemnity, so It’s not a massive issue there.

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Damping Sphere x1 | $2.49 SCG

Because FUCK TRON, that’s why.

Tron is probably my WORST matchup, it either a quick ass-whooping or a grinding ass-whooping. Either way, there’s an ass-whooping at my expense.

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Ghostly Prison x2 | $4.99 SCG

Can slow the game down a tremendous amount, which is so valuable when you’re playing a long game. (Which we are) and can bring your opponent to the decision of playing a spell OR attacking each turn.

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Countersquall x2 | $3.49 SCG

To get on top of those planeswalkers, collective companies, etc.

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Authority of the Consuls x2 | $3.49 SCG

I actually just love this card, It can be such a nuisance to your opponent, and I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve been on 0 life and my opponent didn’t want to play any creatures because it would put me back up to plus life, and have to get to the poison damage all over again.

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Suppression Field x2 | $1.99 SCG

Nice Lilliana you have there, shame you’ve gotta pay 4 to plus 1 her hahahaha.

Slows down planeswalkers, artifact decks, and Krank-Clan Ironworks, as well as fetch lands, if them fetching is doing more damage than me.

Some questions I have asked and been asked since I’ve been playing:

So with the combo down, how do life gain and loss work?

Like I mentioned before, loss of life is different to damage. If you have Solemnity and Phyrexian Unlife down and you’re on 0, and your opponent swings in for damage, the creatures technically swing in with poison damage, but you are unable to get the counters, so nothing happens. However when it comes to your next turn, and you have Bitterblossom down, you lose a life, so you go to -1 (As you can’t lose the game with 0 or less life) If you were then to swing with Shambling Vents and gain lifelink, you go back up to 1 life, and your opponents have to swing in again to get you to or past 0, then again for poison (whether you’ve got Solemnity down determining whether you get the counters or not).

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