Esior/Tymna Tempo

My name is Lukas and this is my primer for Tymna/Esior, I am part of the Cologne community and have been playing Orzhov Death and Taxes with Tymna the Weaver and Ravos, Soultender for the most part in the past. The deck featured in this primer has basically evolved from this deck and has taken up the basic idea of this original list, the maximisation of Tymna. And Yes – adding blue, playing island go on the first turn makes me feel very smart.

An example list with a whole range of considerations can be found here

Video against Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar piloted by QKey can be seen here

Video against Selvala piloted by Branderpilot can be seen here

Introduction

The following primer focuses on the tempo-based version and all associated variations of the Partner Deck featuring Tymna the Weaver and Esior, Wardwing Familiar for the Archon format.

Tymnas individual power is not only known and feared in the commander format but also in more competitive settings like the c-EDH variation and other 1v1 based variations but also made huge waves in all different combinations (Tevesh Szat, Doom of Fools, Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful etc.) in the Archon format. Players were discussing this particular combination of Tymna and Esior since the preview of the little bird since those two do not only curve beautifully into each other but also complement each other very well by protecting Tymna and also giving an easy way to trigger her ability.

Join the Club – why you should play Esper tempo?

Pros

  • A deck that is very reactive but follows its own gameplan
  • A lot of interaction with the opponent
  • super close games all around (almost every matchup feels like 50/50)
  • very rewarding deck both in terms of metagaming and tweaking the list but also in terms of learning the deck and how its piloted

Cons

  • Long games that can make a tournament very exhausting
  • a relatively expensive deck and not really beginner friendly because it has so many moving pieces and you should know your opponents deck
  • because the 98 cards in the deck are very different you can draw the “wrong side” (removal against control, counter against aggro) – Check out the section about the mulligan decision

The One-Two Punch Gameplan

The partner mechanic is inherently potent because you basically have an additional card available to start off with. This deck wants to maximize the advantage by partners with this Tempo deck by using the advantages offered by the two Commanders to achieve permanent card advantage. All we need to do (in theory – sometimes the opponent also want to interfere :D) is to put Esior on the battlefield, cast Tymna the following turn and immediately draw a card off the Tymna trigger by attacking with Esior (to be more precisely, the damage dealt to the opponent). When this comes together, we will have 7 cards in hand, three lands and both of our commanders in play by the end of turn 3 (on the play without any mulligan and no play on t1).

Card Choices

If you have read the introduction and Gameplan, you will have noticed that no individual cards have been mentioned with the exception of the Commanders. This is already a big indicator that the deck is primarily built around the synergy between these two cards and the rest is relatively independent from that strategy.

Lands

We play a three-color deck that does not feature special land interactions like Dark Depths/Thespian Stage, nor do we have room for utility lands that do not also provide the colors for our spells except for wasteland because this card is simply so strong that individual games can be won on the back of it. The only specialty about this deck is that we feature Tainted Pact and adjust our mana base to it, which is not too difficult with access to three copies of strongest version of dual lands in existence and more and more options for non-basics to come (like the Esper “Triom” that will enter the format with Streets of new Capenna).

Since we have so many options, we only feature dual lands that enter (mostly) untapped like the usual suspects that are:

  • ABU Duals (i.e. Underground Sea, Tundra, Scrubland)
  • Schocklands (i.e. Watery Grave, Hallowed Fountain, Godless Shrine)
  • Fastlands (i.e. Darkslick Shores, Seachrome Coast, Concealed Courtyard)
  • Checklands (i.e. Drowned Catacomb, Glacial Fortress, Isolated Chapel)
  • Fetchlands (all of the Onslaught and Zendikar fetches that we can play + Prismatic Vista)

In addition, the two good man lands (Celestial Colonnade and Creeping Tar Pit) in the colours and a mixture of pain lands, pathways and basics.

Creatures

Creatures for the deck are either extremely aggressive for little investment (e.g. Delver of Secrets or Murktide Regent) or provide a clean 2 for 1 value (e.g. Baleful Strix or Snapcaster Mage). Because we don’t (have to) play many creatures, we only choose cards with an extremely high individual power level (or meta calls).

Instants and Sorceries

Because we want to establish our own game plan on the battlefield on in the first 3-4 turns of the game, we try to maintain this board state by using instants and sorceries in the mid and endgame. This is especially successful by countering spells or removing permanents that have already been resolved in the first part of the game. A speciality of this list is a relatively high density of bounce spells because we want to develop our own board in the first turns, if possible, and then subsequently bounce the creatures that have already been resolved (according to the motto: I can still take care of that tomorrow).

In addition, we play the usual black discard spells and a combination of the best white and black removal spells. We prioritise the cheapest versions of this effects to be able to cast them on turn 4/5 and still have enough mana open to counter upcoming threats. However, this plan comes with the risk that the 1-2 mana spells are less potent than the slightly more expensive alternatives.

Special Features – Free Spells and Auras

Because, as described above, we are particularly good at generating card advantage but at the same time need to spend our mana on our gameplan in the first turns, we put a special focus on free spells. Free spells are usually cards that can be played “for free” (i.e. for 0 mana) by eating other resources like other cards (e.g. the classic Force of Will). However, because we have so much cards available to us in a normal game, we can go a step deeper and play cards with very minimal effect to get a little edge in the game (depending on the version of the deck: Ramosian Rally, Contagion, Dark Triumph etc.).

Auras are basically all bad in our format because our creatures usually come without protection and opposing decks with a removal spell (which are played quite a lot) can get an easy 2 for 1 by interacting with the creature that is targeted by the aura that is still on the stack. But we are special people <3 and don’t care about what others do! with Esior’s built-in protection, we can play cheap auras that generate card advantage. With that we can shift our gameplan accordingly by playing an aura on Esior on turn 3 (instead of casting Tymna) and thus draw a card or apply good pressure while keeping mana open for interactions.

Matchups

Mono-red aggression and burn (eg. Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer)

This matchup is one of our best because we have a creature with very defensive stats in the command zone that is hard to remove. A turn 2 bird is actually always extremely good at blocking, so we don’t follow our actual game plan and either keep turn 3 interaction open or play Tymna WITHOUT ATTACKING. Since mono red is extremely bad in late game and has big problems with its own card advantage, we don’t have to focus on Tymna’s card advantage and can exchange our Lifelinker for attacking creatures (even if they only cost 1 or 2 mana). A big mistake you often see from Tymna players is that they want to take advantage of the trigger and don’t want to “waste” Tymna by blocking. In my opinion, it is often worth accepting the speed loss in order to trade cards in combat and, in addition to the blocked damage, also get the 2 life points through the lifelink. We make an exceptions of this pattern when we can use the Lifelink through Tymna even better in the following turn (through e.g. Elspeth or Edge of the Divinity).

White-red, big red and other creature based aggro (e.g. Winota, Joiner of Forces, Boros Partners etc.)

Unlike mono red, these decks are even more dependent on small creatures, which we can also block with Esior in the first turns. However, the small creatures of this deck eventually become too big for us to block or trigger Winota. This is why we have to take care of them while we can. So here we have to ignore our primary game plan again (or postpone it) to play interaction in the form of counters (often too slow) or removal. Surviving the first turns is the most important thing! Unfortunately, these MU are relatively bad and a good mulligan decision is of particular importance.

Midrange (e.g. Leovold variations, Grist etc.)

These decks themselves play a whole range of interactions that we don’t care as much about in the first few turns (due to Esior’s protection). Playing against these decks tends to take a long time, and card advantage is extremely important. In these MU it is an advantage if we can execute our own game plan as usual and stop enemy attacks (which are usually larger than our own) with free spells. In general, these MU are characterized by an extremely large number of interactions and are always different, so that it is fair to say that no clear instructions can be given on how to tackle those decks. However, it is always interesting to ask whether you are the aggressor yourself or not and to adjust the game plan accordingly. Sometimes however, it makes perfect sense to attack even if we are on the back foot to ensure the card draw and dig for answers (this can be very scary at times – but trust me: being on the receiving end of our deck is scary as well :D)

Control (e.g. blue-white control, non-green control, Kess etc.)

Here again, it is true that we don’t have to worry much about removal in the first turns. The opponent’s counterspells are more problematic, which is why I would start with hand disruption, or particularly rely on creatures with flash. If we don’t have access to these two options, it can make sense to reflect on the very basic characteristics of the format and simply cast both Esior and Tymna into the spells (because our Commanders are not lost forever but will come back eventually). In addition, I would avoid a fight over Esior. On the one hand we can cast them again in the fourth turn, and on the other hand Tymna is the much more important card here (because control often plays fewer creatures, Tymna can trigger herself and does not have to rely on the flyer). Pick the battles that you fight!

Combo (e.g. Inalla, Teferi, Aluren etc.)

We have a whole range of interactions against creature combo because we have access to the Esper colors and play creature removal in addition to counterspells. Difficult here are key cards like Grand Abolisher, T3feri or Sylvan Safekeeper that make life difficult for us. Against spell based combo I have developed a special strategy – lose quickly and go to the next kiosk. Seriously – because our own interaction in the form of removal doesn’t do anything and counterspells and hand disruption only push the combo backwards, we’re just buying ourselves time. But because we hardly get any pressure on the board, these early interactions are usually only a way to gain time, which is usually not enough for us to kill the opponent. Spell based combo is therefore probably the most difficult MU.

Metacalls – how to adjust the Deck?

Because the indispensable core of the deck actually only consists of the commanders (and their synergy), the remaining 60 cards (the mana base is relatively fix) can be adapted very flexibly. Besides the usual bombs of the colour combination (T3feri, Swords to Plowshares, Thoughtseize, Force of Will, Demonic Tutor etc.) there are no no-goes. I can only encourage everyone to question supposedly “must-have” cards.

The deck variations I have tried myself so far include the following:

  • More creatures that are especially focused on enter-the-battlefield effects to enable shenanigans with Ephemerate or Restoration Angel. An important part of this plan can also include a small or larger Stoneforge package. Stoneforge Mystic could be the subject of a separate primer, but it makes sense to question the package when new equipments enter the market since Esior wields them very well.
  • Voltron variant in which Esior’s built-in protection is tried to be used by casting 2-3 Auras on Esior and trying to win the game quickly and keep counter for removal up after the first 2-3 turns. Key cards are different variants of Unholy Strength, Unstable Mutation or Empyrial Armor.
  • Spell based variation that features even more cantrips to maximize on creatures like Gurmag Angler, Pteramander, Monastery Mentor or Sedgemoor Witch. This Version is probably less focused than the other versions but features the highest quality of cards.

Overall, finding the correct balance for the deck is one of the biggest challenges. However, this flexibility also comes with the advantage that the deck remains exciting to play, although it almost always plays similar first turns. The deck doesn’t just play 2-3 cards to adjust for a certain meta, but in extreme cases can even adapt the entire playstyle. Check out my Considerations in the Moxfield list (see above) to get some inspirations.

The Mulligan – not a Burden but a Chance

Since our deck can generate card advantage from the command zone, we should aggressively take mulligans that enable our one-two punch (which basically means only 3 lands and the rest doesn’t matter too much). If we get several bad hands and mulligan down to 5, 4 or even less cards, we should consider keeping high variance cards in order to “gamble” because a fair game is almost impossible to win anyway.

In grindy matchups we should tend to keep slightly weaker hands because the sheer number of resources can be significant. Similarly, we prefer to keep hands with many lands against control to realise the advantage of the Commanders (2-3 times casting) and to make counters and removals that trade 1 for 1 worse. Against combo, on the other hand, we should take even more extreme mulligans to find hand disruption or removal against creature based combo. This can also include decks like Dargo, the Shipwrecker or Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis that we wouldn’t traditionally characterize as a combo deck, but can be blown-out by a single Swords to Plowshares. In principle, the mulligan decision is one of the most important in the game and should be seen as a chance to trade your too weak hand for another hand instead of complaining about having to reduce to 6 cards. In this respect, some players should work on their mindset.

The Way Ahead

I dissolved the deck for the sake of focusing on another project after a very good run with a total record of 29/10/4 over 13 tournaments. Left with the feeling that there is still a whole galaxy to unravel and still being far away from the optimal list, I am more than sure to come back and revisit this awesome deck at some point. I can only encourage the more experienced players to pick up the deck and experiment. Have fun, good luck and let the bird fly!