Last updated on October 17, 2023
Yorion, Sky Nomad | Illustration by Steven Belledin
Everyone’s favorite Sky Nomad, Yorion, is once again making its way into a powerful strategy. This time into Esper Doom Foretold. Often regarded as the third-best deck in Standard, Esper Doom Foretold is a control deck. It aims to control the board, generate card advantage, and win in the late game with a potent threat.
As opposed to regular control decks that use card draw spells like Rain of Revelation, this deck uses value-generating enchantments like Treacherous Blessing. This deck adopts this different approach to sacrifice these enchantments to Doom Foretold (more on that later) or blink them with Yorion’s ability to push your card advantage further.
Whether you want to win with this deck on a ladder or learn how this deck operates so you can beat it, get ready because this is the deck guide for you.
Dance of the Manse | Illustration by Yeong Hao Han
After a lot of testing and comparing with the lists the pros are playing, here’s what I currently recommend:
Golden Egg x3
Since control decks don’t follow a specific mana curve, you could often play 3-mana spells on turn 6 and that’s fine. So I’ll be tackling the card choices as a whole. You need to know why each card is in your control deck to use it efficiently, after all.
Doom Foretold is the namesake card of this deck. It slows down your opponent, and the most experienced players will just wait until it leaves the battlefield. Other players, however, will keep trying to feed permanents to it to prevent you from gaining the benefits.
However, you benefit in both cases since you sacrificed enchantments that you already got value from. Treacherous Blessing, for example. This also allows you to set up for a massive Dance of the Manse turn in the future. Doom Foretold was one of my favorite decks in the previous Standard environment, and it still is.
Make sure to pay attention to timing when you cast Doom, since it’s not very useful when you’re behind.
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Yorion works exceptionally well in this shell since it combos with our valuable ETB permanents. Think Skyclave Apparition and Treacherous Blessing. Some Doom decks only play 60 cards with two to three copies of Yorion in the main deck. After testing both, I’ve found that the 80-card Yorion versions work better. Having it in the companion zone ensures that you have a win-con ready when you need one.
It always gives you a sink for any extra mana in the late game. Some people have concerns about pairing Yorion with Doom since the latter forces you to sacrifice your permanents. After enough testing, I can assure you that this rarely happens and, even when it does, getting a 4/5 for eight mana whenever you need a win-con or a blocker is enough of a reason to play Yorion as your companion.
The Apparition is one of the better white cards printed in a while. In the fast matchups, it can take care of the annoying creatures your opponent sends your way like Kazandu Mammoth.
Taking care of your opponent’s Mazemind Tome in grindy matchups or any four or less CMC card is pretty backbreaking. The multiple uses you can get from this card, either through Yorion or ECD, is what makes it shine even more. Never play less than four copies.
Some other lists replace the Egg with Glass Casket or Mazemind Tome. But with the meta adjusted and most Gruul decks now siding in Thrashing Brontodon or Wilt, the Casket isn’t an attractive option anymore. When it comes to the Tome, I still think it’s a great card but I don’t think it’s what you want in a Doom Foretold deck where you’re most likely tapping out each turn. In the best case, all I can do with a Tome is a couple of scries over multiple turns, which isn’t worth a mainboard slot.
Golden Egg improves your mana base by giving you a source of card draw and mana filtering. It can also help you gain life in a pinch against aggro decks or if you’re taking too much damage from your Treacherous Blessing. An excellent interaction to keep in mind is using its effect to filter mana, thus removing it off the battlefield and then recur it on the same turn with Dance of the Manse.
Dance of the Manse
Speaking of the Dance, this card can single-handedly turn the game around and bring you back from a disadvantaged position to straight out winning the game. With Doom Foretold already feeding permanents to your graveyard, playing two copies of Dance in the mainboard to recur them feels like a no-brainer. This list only plays two copies, though, since it’s a bit too slow in some matchups and you wouldn’t want to draw too many early on.
Emeria’s Call / Emeria, Shattered Skyclave
The Call is a win condition that doubles as a land. There’s no reason not to play four copies of this card. It even allows you to play 32 lands in an 80-card Yorion deck.
Shatter the Sky
Board wipes go in any control deck. Most players opt to play Extinction Event over Shatter the Sky because it’s easier on the mana base, but exiling creatures is also a massive plus versus Rakdos midrange or mono green food.
When I first started playing Magic, I learned that black could offer you anything at the cost of life, including card draw. This is what we see in Treacherous Blessing. This card is our main card draw engine.
A piece of advice: make sure you have a way to remove the Blessing before opting to play it. It can and most likely will kill you if you play it too recklessly. If you’re in a pinch, though, feel free to risk it. Losing a couple of life is always better than losing the game.
Both Omens are essential to this strategy.
One offers you card draw and a source of scrying while the other provides much-needed chump blockers and life points against aggro matchups. They both synergize well with Yorion, making the all-star Sky Nomad an even better card. Five mana for a 4/5 flier that draws cards and gains life? Sign me up!
They also provide you with permanents to sacrifice to Doom Foretold.
Beyond dealing with Scavenging Ooze in the Gruul matchup and Luminarch Aspirant in the newcomer mono white aggro, what are other reasons to play Eliminate? Good question. I never understood why this odd choice would fit until I started playing Dimir control a month ago. What does that have to do with Eliminate? Two words: Crawling Barrens.
It’s become one of the main ways Dimir control wins games. Esper decks can’t deal with it without Eliminate. If Dimir control falls out of favor at any point, feel free to go for four Acts and three Eliminates. For now, I encourage you to play four Eliminates in the main with the rise in Dimir mages.
This is one of the better removal spells printed in a while. You can even use it in a pinch to remove some counters and survive an extra turn. Will Kaldheim print a better removal spell to dethrone the Act? Let’s wait and see.
Elspeth Conquers Death
Remember how I said Skyclave Apparition was the best white card printed in a while? Well, before it made its way into the hearts of many, Elspeth Conquers Death was already the white card everyone was talking about, and for good reason.
Blinking this enchantment with Yorion to exile another permanent the following turn makes it even scarier for your opponent. This card isn’t limited to exiling permanents, either. Bringing back a Yorion or a Skyclave can also turn any game’s tide.
Killing a creature and removing a card from your opponent’s hand while gaining perfect info, plus exiling the graveyard in plenty of matchups where it matters. How versatile can a card get?
You can even hard cast this on turn 3 versus a control deck to take a look at their hand the following turn and ensure an essential spell resolve. All in all I love this card and can’t recommend it enough.
This card does everything against rogues. It stops their early threats and counters Into the Story, the card that usually wins them the game with massive card advantage. You can stop an Ultimatum for one mana if you’re up against Temur, often winning you the game. Worst case scenario it’s a worse Mana Leak, but that’s still good enough for Standard.
Many pros agree that every Standard environment needs Duress, and I have to say I’m all for this.
Duress can be used reactively to strip away crucial spells like Into the Story or Elspeth Conquers Death in the mirror. You can also use it proactively to ensure an essential spell resolves by removing counterspells. I can’t count how many times I held Duress in my hand up until the turn I needed to resolve Doom Foretold or Dance of the Manse to win the game.
Why do we need Heliod to intervene? It helps us with the mirror match and against mono green food.
Against the mirror, it prevents Yorion from flickering too many permanents, significantly decreasing the amount of value this serpent can generate. This card alone can shut down mono green food by taking out Trail of Crumbs, their primary value engine. You can also use it in tight situations to survive an additional turn, and you know what they always say: All I needed was one extra turn!
Shark Typhoon is a significant threat that can’t be countered and draws you a card. What more do I need to say? A perfect card for the grindy matchups, and nothing is more fun than getting it back later on with Dance of the Manse.
Cling to Dust
Every black deck in Standard needs to run this, whether it’s to deal with recurrent threats like Skyclave Shade or decrease your graveyard size against rogues to turn off an early Into the Story or Drown in the Loch. Be careful when escaping this since you don’t want to exile Dance of the Manse targets.
Archon of Sun’s Grace
This lovely creature shuts down any aggressive deck and forces them to keep removal spells in the main. You have to respect the Archon and, let me tell you, resolving a Dance of the Manse with an Archon in play? Best feeling ever!
Aggressive decks require aggressive measures. Or just an extra wrath effect in the sideboard. If you aren’t facing enough aggro on the ladder, feel free to replace this with an extra Shark Typhoon or any of the other cards mentioned, really.
After numerous hours of testing, this is how I recommend handling your sideboard cards. Keep in mind that it isn’t sacred. If you only have six minutes to win the game, it’s okay to side in Archon of Sun's Grace and Shark Typhoon as some extra early pressure.
Gruul Aggro Matchups
Life is the name of the game. You can't afford to lose life points because of Treacherous Blessing, nor do you have enough time to play a huge Dance of the Manse. An additional Extinction Event plus the lifelink from Archon of Sun’s Grace should allow you to survive into the long game where you can take over.
This matchup proved to be the most challenging. Make sure to deal with Into the Story by Duress-ing it or simply countering it with Mystical Dispute. Use Cling to Dust to ensure that your graveyard doesn’t fill up and you should be fine.
Seeing how Doom Foretold runs few creatures beyond Yorion, you need to cut down on removal spells from the mainboard. Doom Foretold isn’t as effective as other matchups seeing how your opponent will also be running numerous enchantments.
In order to win the game, make sure to pressure them with Shark Typhoon, strip away key cards using Duress, or counter game-winning cards like Dance of the Manse with Dispute. Heliod’s Intervention stops Yorion from blinking many permanents by destroying them before he enters the field, while Cling to Dust can remove future Dance of the Manse targets all while providing you with card draw the key to winning control matchups.
Temur Ramp Matchups
Dispute and Duress stop Genesis Ultimatum, the key winning spell for Temur ramp, making them essential sideboard slots. With four copies of Bonecrusher Giant in Temur ramp, Skyclave Apparition seems to be less effective in those matchups. In addition, Eliminate can be awkward when your opponent has Terror of the Peaks in play.
Mono Green Food Matchups
You win this matchup by shutting down Trails of Crumbs using Doom Foretold or Heliod’s Intervention or by applying enough early pressure through the Archon. Extinction Event is also a perfect way to deal with recurring threats like Feasting Troll King.
Tale's End | Illustration by Randy Vargas
I have to say, Esper Doom Foretold evolved quite a bit in the last couple of months. It went from a deck that simply played powerful cards to a powerful contender that can help you reach mythic any day.
My main tip is to know the meta so you know what to play around. You’re a control mage and in order to play control properly, you need to know the ins and outs of every other deck. Make sure to check out some of our other content, which will definitely help you get there. And if Arena is your thing, make sure you check out our tracker, Arena Tutor, which has our signature AI built right in.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments down below. I’d be more than happy to help a fellow Esper mage! You can also pop on over to our Discord if you want a longer discussion.
Good luck, and see you on the ladder!
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