One of the principal rules of Magic is that you pay more mana for more powerful spells. Emerge makes sure that isn’t necessary. You’re cheating out a massive creature for far less than you should be able to with this mechanic.
One of the biggest players out of Eldritch Moon, and just the actual biggest player in Standard right now, is Emrakul. The name of the game for many builds is to cast her for as little mana as possible.
And Emrakul, the Promised End is worth building around. Temur Emerge happens to be one of the best shells for such a powerful creature. With multiple spells that mill cards into your graveyard, green has become the consistent build-around color for her. Green has self-mill cards at instant, sorcery, and enchantment speed that all provide card selection while making the price much cheaper for Emrakul. Without effective ways to disrupt an opponent’s graveyard in Standard, Emrakul will be crushing people for a long time.
I don’t think anybody out there is remotely surprised to see emerge be a dominant mechanic. Elder Deep-Fiend is simply a beast as a 5/6 flash creature that can act as a Time Walk or ambush a creature. The fact that Elder Deep-Fiend isn’t even the most played emerge Eldrazi in this deck is what is truly shocking.
Wretched Gryff is slightly cheaper to cast than the Deep-Fiend. A single blue and 1 less mana overall is relevant against more aggressive decks. You also get to draw an extra card and have an evasive threat, albeit one that’s vulnerable to Languish and Grasp of Darkness.
If you’re going to play these big emerge Eldrazi, you’re going to need some enablers. And in this particular case, enablers means fodder. What’s crazy about this set of creatures is how unlikely any of them would have ever been to see play in a Constructed deck over the years. Pilgrim’s Eye gets you a land, but it goes into your hand, so that’s pretty far from exciting. In many ways, Pilgrim’s Eye is weaker than Nissa, except that this deck is actually somewhat prone to straight up running out of Forests. The other reason to play Pilgrim’s Eye is, of course, Emrakul. This is such an easy artifact to include in your deck that you absolutely don’t mind, and would even prefer, to have in your graveyard. Go ahead and die, give me my two card types, and some extra value in a land.
Primal Druid failed to make the cut in the Pantheon Temur Emerge deck at the Pro Tour, but it was an integral part of Team East West Bowl’s success. An 0/3 creature for 2 mana that has no impact on the board when you cast it? No thanks. Primal Druid does help ramp you to your bigger spells, and if you’re sacrificing for an early Wretched Gryff, the value is clear. You’re happy to get all the lands you can in a deck looking to resolve giant Eldrazi all the way up to Emrakul.
Sidisi’s Faithful sprung from the unplayable commons box into the spotlight with the rise of Rally the Ancestors last season. We haven’t really seen it since then, but an 0/4 creature that can help provide tempo for a single mana managed to make the cut in this deck! The fact that it can sacrifice itself, so your dig spells can find a bounce effect, gives you some additional play.
Ishkanah, Grafwidow is insane. Simply insane. You get delirium in the blink of an eye in this deck, and on turn 4 or 5 you can consistenly expect a swarm of Spiders. There’s no way to get through the arachnid army, and with so many tools to find the creatures you need when you need them, Ishkanah is your stabilizer to make sure Emrakul can do her thing game in and game out.
Kozilek’s Return is what really makes this deck into a machine. This is the only card in the main deck with a red mana symbol on it, but honestly you rarely need red mana to make this thing effective. Kozilek’s Return will often get cast from your hand for 0 value because the graveyard is where you really want it. With Wretched Gryff and Elder Deep-Fiend to trigger the Kozilek’s Return return for cheap, you can fire off a sweeper that kills just about everything in the format on turn 4.
With lots of self-mill options, getting additional copies of Kozilek’s Return into the graveyard isn’t a challenge. The fact that Kozilek’s Return trigger is a “may,” meaning opponents will need to sacrifice their Selfless Spirits and cast their spells before you even decide if the Return is being exiled, means you will never lose out on the value here.
Nissa’s Pilgrimage felt like the missing piece of the puzzle to some of the emerge decks at the Pro Tour. The early ramp is perfect for getting Ishkanah out in a timely manner. This is also one of your main sources of card advantage. Drawing 2-3 Forests may not sound like the biggest edge, but when your endgame revolves around playing Emrakul, every extra land counts. Hitting every land drop while thinning your deck of mediocre draws is a great combination.
Gather the Pack may be the weakest card in the deck overall, but it serves a solid purpose. With only 17 total creatures in the deck, hitting 2 is certainly not a common occurrence. Getting 5 cards into the graveyard is good enough, though, and if you didn’t have other superior options, you would run 4 copies. As is, it’s already getting shaved and that number gets even lower after sideboard.
Grapple with the Past and Vessel of Nascency are the real stars. Vessel is an enchantment, offering a critical additional card type, but runs into the same issue as Gather in that you can only get what you reveal off the spell. This limits their power compared to Grapple, so you want to lead on either the Vessel or Gather.
Grapple with the Past is so good. 3 milled cards is fewer than Gather and Vessel, but you get full access to every card that’s been put there previously. This becomes a tutor later in the game for creatures or lands, as the more Vessels, Gathers, and Grapples increase your odds of finding an emerge creature, Ishkanah, or Emrakul when you need it. Without Grapple, you would lose your consistency, and this is what makes these decks into machines.
Traverse the Ulvenwald finds your basic Island or Mountain when you need it, but with delirium so easy to achieve, it acts as a reliable tutor for your best creatures. Adding an additional mana to the cost of your Eldrazi or Spiders is still a fine rate, and the added consistency is well worth it. Grapple is going to do a ton of your work to find and get back critical creatures, but Traverse makes sure your plan comes together even more often.
The mana base for this deck could use some work. The addition of Shrine of the Forsaken Gods makes Emrakul and hardcast Eldrazi emerge creatures more realistic, but it does mean you have fewer green sources. The Shivan Reefs likely have to go. A grand total of 14 green sources when you absolutely need to have one to keep an opening hand isn’t going to cut it, but the rest of the deck is such a well-oiled machine that this is easy to fix. Red mana is nice to cast your Kozilek’s Return, but it’s so far away from being a necessity that it’s easy to move in a different direction.
Here’s the list Michael Majors innovated to a Top 4 finish in the recent Invitational:
Michael Majors, 4th Place at the Invitational
Majors appears to have emerge himself, as he has solidified himself as one of the best Magic minds on the planet. Taking some of the things his team missed with some of the other shortcomings of the other Temur Emerge decks in the Pro Tour, I think he has created a masterpiece.
Going forward, I think there are some changes that can be made to the sideboard, but that’s an ever-evolving work on its own, metagame shifts will always dictate the optimal 15. As for the main deck, some of the cute things can probably go, and you can update the mana just a bit.
The shortage of green sources is the first necessary change. While I really like the inclusion of a creature that you can use in a utility role like Sidisi’s Faithful, I still believe it’s more cute than good, so that would be next on the list. Finally, Gather the Pack is only good, not great. I’m not sure yet whether you want to stick to 3 copies or go down to 2.
Here’s where I would start for a main deck, changing little from the excellent work Majors did:
With an additional green source and the full playset of Traverse the Ulvenwald, I feel like you can safely get back down to the 21 lands that The Pantheon used. You even have more basics to make sure the Traverses and Primal Druids are hitting, and the Forest count is high enough for Nissa’s Pilgrimages to stay active throughout the game.
Looking to the sideboard, one of the cards that will come out regularly is Wretched Gryff. It’s a cool card and is important in more aggressive matchups, such as against Bant Company, to be able to trigger Kozilek’s Return and be able to turn on emerge as quickly as possible. Against other decks in the format, you would prefer to have the most powerful creatures at your disposal, so the Gryff will get shaved.
There are also a number of matchups where Kozilek’s Return is unexciting, so that can be an easy cut. Gather the Pack gets shaved due to being the weakest dig effect, but you’re down to 2 in the main deck as is.
You’re typically looking for more ways to stop opposing powerful spells. The options for your countermagic suite are plentiful in Clash of Wills, Negate, and Summary Dismissal. Summary Dismissal is the weakest option for most matchups as its cost is quite high compared to the alternatives, but this is also the best way to deal with Emrakul. A Clash of Wills will usually serve, as taking your turn will not necessarily equate to devastating your position with no 13/13 on the other side, but Dismissal is the cleanest answer. If the metagame shifts such that Distended Mindbender is a big player, Summary Dismissal becomes more important, so keep that in mind going forward.
At the Pro Tour, The Pantheon used a mix of Dispel, Invasive Surgery, and Summary Dismissal as their sideboard counters of choice. I’m not sure any of these are good enough going forward, but they’re cards to keep in mind. Dispel and Surgery are especially effective for just 1 mana, but Negate and Clash cover your bases so much better that I think they’re worth the added investment.
Noose Constrictor earned a sideboard slot in many decks thanks to the quick rise in popularity of Fevered Visions-centric burn decks. This is a great early creature that can seriously pressure their life total while also making sure that you don’t take more damage than necessary against the powerful enchantment. They have added utility as a creature that can shut down everything Bant Company puts on the table, although if Bant Humans picks up in popularity, that will no longer be the case. The Noose is not particularly effective against decks with Thalia’s Lieutenant as their creatures simply get too big.
An additional Elder Deep-Fiend, as well as the sideboard Lashweed Lurker, are your replacements when Wretched Gryff hits the pine. These creatures offer such powerful effects that when you aren’t as concerned about emptying your hand quickly, you’re going to appreciate the boost. With additional Traverses to help find Eldrazi, as well as Shrines to hard cast them, this becomes a powerful and consistent game plan.
I like being able to go up to 3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow after board in creature-dominated matchups. This is the card that will stop your opponent from going wide. You don’t need more copies against decks that don’t play out numerous creatures, especially as a legendary creature itself, but you’re going to want to be able to board up to 3 in any delirium deck.
The Pantheon used Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy as a sideboard option to help overload opposing removal spells after sideboard. When most of your creatures are Eldrazi, it’s tough for your opponents to leave in their cheaper spot removal spells after board, making Jace a great change-up whenever Kozilek’s Return comes out. If they have to use their Ruinous Path or Murder on Jace, they may not have one available to hit your Deep-Fiend later. You can definitely hide behind a Jace and win with the ultimate, or just start powering up additional Traverses and Grapples to turn his -3 into a creature tutor spell.
Majors utilized Evolutionary Leap as a great sideboard threat against the black decks in the format. Leap plays especially well with cards like Primal Druid, but you don’t actually have that much fodder to get it going. Luckily, in those matchups, you are rarely pressured to emerge a creature early, so sacrificing your Primal Druids to go get more creatures is a reasonable strategy to get ahead.
Here’s the sideboard I would recommend going forward:
Keep in mind that this sideboard is very flexible and there are very few slots that are set in stone. While I would always want some number of counters, I discussed 5 very reasonable options that different people have played to success, so your metagame predictions should highly influence which counter you end up with in the end.
As for Noose Constrictor, this is another card that I think is excellent right now, but wouldn’t surprise me if 0 became the right number going forward. If Fevered Visions is not a part of the metagame, there are much better sideboard options available. Pulse of Murasa could also be considered over 1 of the Noose Constrictors currently as an option against the Burn decks.
If the Noose is no longer an optimal card choice, I would consider playing a creature like Dragonmaster Outcast as a trump card against Bant Company. While it can be hit by Spell Queller and doesn’t play particularly well with Kozilek’s Return, it’s still a really tough-to-deal with threat. Reflector Mage can set it back, but the fact that it costs only a single mana mitigates the tempo loss. This is another card I will consider going forward.
While a few of these cards are going to be rotating with Origins, the core and the vast majority of the deck are not. Emerge strategies centered around loading up your graveyard for Emrakul or casting Eldrazis to trigger Kozilek’s Return should be a major player in Standard for a really long time.
Do you think Temur Emerge is going to be the shell of choice going forward, or does Jund have the leg up? What are the best sideboard options you’ve found for your local metagame? Sound off in the comments!