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By: magma728, Jake Beardsley
Feb 26 2020 1:00pm

Since Ravnica Allegiance’s release, Hero of Precinct One has been the darling of many competitive Standard players. The card functions perfectly in aggro-control style decks that reward tight play and effective role analysis which, in the hands of extremely skilled players like Brad Nelson and Brian Braun-Duin, has time and again rewarded fantastic results. However, we have not seen the card shine in Pioneer yet, as the deck is both hard to build without an established metagame and can feel a little underpowered, especially in the face of powerful combo decks like Dimir Inverter. That obviously has not stopped me, as if it had I wouldn’t be writing this article.

Theros Beyond Death printed a few new powerful multicolored cards that I think can push this archetype to a point where it can definitely compete with the upper echelon of decks in Pioneer. I also think that Esper Hero is capable of beating almost any deck if it is built correctly, and the Pioneer metagame is settling to a sufficient point where I feel it can be attacked. Without any further ado let’s get into the decklist itself: 

While this deck does contain some components of an Esper Control deck, it is very important to treat this as an aggro-control deck; that is to say, it can play like an aggro/tempo deck if need be or as a true control deck. It all depends on your matchups and your draws. This makes Esper Hero incredibly flexible, but can also lead to both halves of the deck feeling slightly anemic when compared to a true aggro or true control deck. Take the namesake card Hero of Precinct One for example. It can operate as an army in a can that can aggressively pressure your opponent if you need to get them dead, or it can function as a steady stream of blockers against a deck that is trying to pressure your life total. This ability to play multiple roles is what makes Esper Hero so appealing in Pioneer at the moment, as you are likely to play against a wide range of strategies from Dimir Inverter to Mono Red Aggro to Azorius Control over the course of a single league, so having cards like Hero that can help produce wins against all of them is a great place to be.  

The glue that holds Esper Hero together is its suite of cheap interaction. Playing black means you have access to Thoughtseize and Fatal Push, and you also have their multicolored versions in Thought Erasure and Tyrant's Scorn. All of these one and two mana disruptive elements can give decks like Lotus Breach fits, especially when you pair them with the quick clock that Hero provides. These cards, in conjunction with Reflector Mage in particular, have made creature-based decks like Mono White Humans a breeze for Esper Hero, as you can comfortably sit back and 1-for-1 all of their relevant creatures until you can stabilize the board and resolve a card draw spell like Dig Through Time or a planeswalker.  

With role analysis being a major factor in succeeding with Esper Hero, here are some of Pioneer’s most popular decks and the approach I would take in the matchup, along with some ideas on how to sideboard:  

Dimir Inverter:

In: 2 Mystical Dispute, 2 Dovin's Veto, 2 Collective Brutality, 1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Out: 4 Reflector Mage, 2 Tyrant's Scorn, 1 Kunoros, Hound of Athreos

Your main focus here should be making sure they can’t assemble the combo, as you can usually out-grind them on the back of more discard and Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths. Teferi, Time Raveler is also an important card in the matchup, as being able to ensure you win counter wars will go a long way in ensuring you can keep them from getting there. Dispute and Veto are here to provide some instant speed interaction, Brutality gives you more discard that can snag their Dig Through Times, and the second Big Teferi is there to provide you some extra card advantage in the midgame after you have Thoughtseize’d each other into oblivion.  

Lotus Breach: 

In: 2 Mystical Dispute, 2 Dovin's Veto, 2 Collective Brutality, 2 Rest in Peace
Out: 4 Reflector Mage, 3 Fatal Push, 1 Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord

This is another combo matchup, but here your hate is a little bit more effective, as Rest in Peace can make it extremely difficult for them to combo. Focus on trying to get Hero down as quickly as possible and back it up with discard, because if you let the Lotus Breach deck set up their Ugin, the Spirit Dragon can be a major issue. Keep them off of Fae of Wishes and you should be ok.  

Mono Red Aggro:

In: 1 Kunoros, Hound of Athreos, 1 Fatal Push, 2 Collective Brutality, 2 Supreme Verdict
Out: 1 Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths, 1 Dig Through Time, 1 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Thoughtseize, 2 Thought Erasure 

Your discard can be a little bit clunky here, but a little bit is worth it to try and poke holes in the aggressive deck’s curve. You should be playing defense here until you can stabilize the board, at which point try to focus on killing them while padding your own life total with cards like Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord and Kunoros, Hound of Athreos. We shave a little bit of card draw to make sure we have plenty of cheap ways to fight their creatures, and Collective Brutality is a haymaker here, being able to kill a threat, take a burn spell, and gain us life all in one card.

Azorius Control 

In: 2 Mystical Dispute, 2 Dovin's Veto, 2 Collective Brutality, 1 Kunoros, Hound of Athreos, 1 Despark, 1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Out: 3 Fatal Push, 4 Reflector Mage, 2 Tyrant's Scorn 

They have a stronger late game than we do, so we are priced into being the aggressor in this matchup. Discard and Teferi, Time Raveler are both at a premium here, as they can help maneuver the game to a point where Hero can take over. Try to keep them off of haymakers like their own Teferi, Hero of Dominaria by tearing their hand to shreds. Be careful not to over-commit into a Supreme Verdict, especially since most of your creatures can kill your opponent on their own if you can keep them, backed up by disruption. Finally, remember that if you tick Teferi, Time Raveler up, you can play one of your discard spells on your opponent’s draw step after they draw, letting you take away their best option before they could even play it. 

Esper Hero is extremely fun to play, and has a lot of things going for it in terms of breaking out as one of Pioneer’s premier decks. As always, thanks for taking a look at another offbeat Pioneer deck with me!