Temur Emerge Deck Guide

Pro Tour Eldritch Moon showed everyone that there is much more to Standard than Bant Company. Besides the occasional Voldaren Pariah and Thermo-Alchemist sightings at the top tables, there were several new decks based around delirium, emerge, and/or Emrakul. I played a deck featuring all three.

Michael Majors, Immanuel Gerschenson, Thomas Hendriks, and I all ran the Team EUreka version of Temur Emerge, posting a combined Standard record, excluding draws, of 22-8. That’s a 73% match win percentage, which is really high. Immanuel Gerschenson had the best record, finishing 9-0-1 in the Standard rounds.

It all started 3 weeks before the Pro Tour, when Michael Majors posted the following list in our team forum.

Temur Emerge – First Draft

After a bunch of testing and tuning, mostly led by Michael Majors, we arrived at the following build for the Pro Tour.

Temur Emerge – Final Version

What Is This Deck’s Game Plan?

The main game plan of this deck is to emerge a turn-4 or -5 Elder Deep-Fiend on your opponent’s upkeep, triggering Kozilek’s Return in your graveyard. You sweep the board, tap down your opponent’s lands for a turn, and get a 5/6 to clean up any leftover planeswalkers. From there on, your card selection engine enables you to build up your mana base, chain Elder Deep-Fiends, and cast Emrakul for the win.

The Main Deck

Let’s break down the individual card choices.

You need some emerge fodder, preferably ones that provide some value in the process. Creatures like Noose Constrictor or Shaman of Forgotten Ways would lead to card disadvantage when sacrificed to Elder Deep-Fiend, so we went for other options instead.

We started off with a build that included Matter Reshaper and Foul Emissary, but we ultimately found that getting extra lands was more important than free spells or 3/2s. This is a deck that eventually wants to hard-cast Elder Deep-Fiend or Emrakul by turn 7, and Primal Druid and Pilgrim’s Eye provide the necessary lands. Primal Druid was also an excellent early blocker against Sylvan Advocate or Grim Flayer.

But why Pilgrim’s Eye over Nissa, Vastwood Seer, especially when there’s Liliana, the Last Hope around to kill the 1/1? There is one simple answer: delirium. Having an artifact in your graveyard makes Ishkanah, Grafwidow much more reliable, and it can also make Emrakul 1 mana cheaper. We felt that was important enough to run Pilgrim’s Eye.

If you’re interested in tweaking the deck, then the 4th Primal Druid or the 4th Pilgrim’s Eye may not be essential. If you draw 2 and get hit by Reflector Mage, it’s pretty miserable, so the 8th emerge fodder creature could be replaced by something else. But I always liked seeing at least one of these cards in my opening hand, so I would stick with our build for now.

I wrote about Elder Deep-Fiend before, and he’s as good as advertised. 4 tapped permanents means that you can deprive your opponent of mana, or at least 1 color of mana, for 1 turn. 5 power means that you can usually take down a planeswalker in 1 hit. And 6 toughness means that you can survive a Kozilek’s Return trigger later on. The card is great and well worth building around.

I think 6 emerge creatures is a good number, and I would play a 5th and 6th Elder Deep-Fiend if I could. But since that’s not allowed, our list has 2 other Eldrazis that can trigger Kozilek’s Return from the graveyard: A 1-of Wretched Gryff and a 1-of Lashweed Lurker. With Sanctum of Ugin and Traverse the Ulvenwald, you can search for them when you need them. Both are useful in different situations: Wretched Gryff has a lower mana cost, whereas Lashweed Lurker can get planeswalkers off the table.

There’s only 1 copy of Emrakul in the deck, but make no mistake: this is an Emrakul deck at its core. You have several ways to search for the 13/13 in the form of Traverse the Ulvenwald and Sanctum of Ugin, and that’s not even mentioning Grapple with the Past, Gather the Pack, and Jace, Telepath Unbound flashbacks.

The deck runs 5 different card types (creature, artifact, instant, sorcery, and land) so Emrakul can cost 8 mana if all goes well. By ramping once with Primal Druid, a turn-7 Emrakul is not only possible, but likely. And when you resolve Emrakul and get to make terrible decisions for your opponent, it’s typically hard to lose.

Kozilek’s Return is the card that allows you to beat Bant Company, Zombies, GW Tokens, and other decks that aim to build up a board full of creatures. Milling Kozilek’s Return is easy to do with Grapple with the Past and Gather the Pack, and it feels really unfair to set up a sweeper that didn’t cost you any cards and didn’t cost you any mana. It’s reminiscent of playing a Modern Dredge deck.

There are few creatures in the format that live through 5 damage. Elder Deep-Fiend, Sylvan Advocate with a +1/+1 counter, or a Kalitas with two +1/+1 counters come to mind, but most of the time everything will die.

That said, the 2 damage front side of Kozilek’s Return is not bad either, as incinerating a Grim Flayer or Tireless Tracker on turn 3 can buy you a lot of time. We tried plenty of builds and colors in our testing, including ones that couldn’t even realistically cast Kozilek’s Return (these builds were just planning to mill the card or discard it to Haunted Dead.) But ultimately, being able to cast Kozilek’s Return from your hand was deemed important, and the mana base was set up for that.

It may seem counter-intuitive to play a 5-toughness creature in a deck that aims to deal 5 damage to everything, but there is a good reason: this deck spends a lot of time setting up, and you need a way to buy time, stabilize the board, and survive an early rush.

Imagine Jace on turn 2, Grapple with the Past on turn 3, and Gather the Pack plus Primal Druid on turn 4. This might allow you to cast an Elder Deep-Fiend on turn 5 if all goes well, but in real games of Magic your opponent will often have some kind of disruption to prevent you from emerging. Say, a Reflector Mage to bounce your Primal Druid. Meanwhile, your opponent is steadily whittling down your life total, while all you did was cast card selection spells. You need to affect the board somehow around turn 5, and Ishkanah is perfect for that.

6 power and 11 toughness, spread out between plenty of bodies, means that you have blockers for days. As a result, you gain around 2 turns that you can spend on more card selection spells, and eventually you can emerge out Elder Deep-Fiend for 2 mana by sacrificing Ishkanah.

We considered adding a Sunken Hollow to the deck to activate the Spider, but we never had any game in testing where the activation would have mattered, whereas the mana base would get noticeably weaker. Black mana is not a necessity for an Ishkanah deck.

Jace may get hit by removal sometimes, but he is arguably the best card in the deck. You can flip him on turn 3 after a Gather the Pack, which can save you a ton of life by ticking up for several turns. You can discard Kozilek’s Return or dig deeper for the cards you need. And you can flash back Grapple with the Past, Gather the Pack, or Traverse the Ulvenwald to keep a steady flow of Elder Deep-Fiends.

You frequently sacrifice one Elder Deep-Fiend to emerge out another Elder Deep-Fiend while you have Jace on 6 loyalty and 2 Grapple with the Past in your graveyard. In that case, Jace essentially presents 2 Elder Deep-Fiend triggers, which can keep your opponent off of Emrakul mana while you win the game by attacking with 5/6s.

Grapple with the Past is one of the best cards from Eldritch Moon. It’s like an Anticipate (that might mill Kozilek’s Return) on turn 2 that becomes a Regrowth (which is pretty powerful in a deck with this much self-mill) in the late game to set up Elder Deep-Fiend chains. With 4 Grapple and 4 Deep-Fiends in the deck along with Jace flashbacks, it is technically possible to cast 12 Elder Deep-Fiends over the course of a game. Actually, it’s 13 if you put one back on top with Lashweed Lurker, but that’s going deep. Either way, Grapple with the Past is an essential piece of the engine.

If you want some numbers: if you cast a Grapple with the Past in this 24-land deck when the remaining 59 cards are random and your graveyard is empty, then you have a 79.9% probability to hit at least 1 land and you’re only 0.9% to hit mono-instants-and-sorceries.

Gather the Pack is a card that I don’t view it as an automatic 4-of, but it’s quite good in a deck with 22 creatures. As you can see in the following table, you’ll miss in only 8.7% of the cases and will net 1.54 creatures on average when you have spell mastery.

Creatures in deck Probability to hit 0 creatures Probability to hit exactly 1 creature Probability to hit 2+ creatures Expected hits under spell mastery
12 30.6% 42.8% 26.6% 0.96
13 27.4% 42.4% 30.2% 1.03
14 24.4% 41.7% 33.9% 1.10
15 21.7% 40.7% 37.6% 1.16
16 19.2% 39.4% 41.3% 1.22
17 17.0% 38.0% 45.0% 1.28
18 15.0% 36.4% 48.6% 1.34
19 13.1% 34.7% 52.2% 1.39
20 11.5% 32.9% 55.6% 1.44
21 10.0% 31.0% 59.0% 1.49
22 8.7% 29.0% 62.3% 1.54
23 7.5% 27.1% 65.4% 1.58
24 6.5% 25.1% 68.4% 1.62
25 5.6% 23.2% 71.3% 1.66

By the way, the probability of hitting at least 1 Kozilek’s Return with Gather the Pack is 30.5%, and the reason why there is no enchantment or planeswalker in the deck is that I wanted to maximize Gather hits and spell mastery.

Mana Base

And finally I come to the mana base, which Traverse the Ulvenwald is technically part of. You will win more games if you think of Traverse the Ulvenwald as an Eladamri’s Call that can get a land if you’re land-light (I have searched for Lumbering Falls at the Pro Tour, but usually you just grab a creature.) If you use it as a Lay of the Land that can get a creature in the late game, then you will find that you get mana flooded too often. In other words, don’t play Traverse on turn 1 unless you really need to.

I would love to play more Traverse, not in small part because I always want to have one in my graveyard to flash back with Jace, but it’s hard to fit them in. I would like to have at least 15 green sources among my lands (because almost any hand without a green source is a mulligan), at least 1 Sanctum of Ugin (to set up Elder Deep-Fiend chains), at least 1 Mountain (to cast Kozilek’s Return), at least 3 Islands (because you are playing double-blue cards but may accidentally mill an Island), and at least 4 Shivan Reef (to enable Reality Smasher from the sideboard). This adds up to 24 essential lands, so if you accept my requirements as given, then it is impossible to cut a land for another Traverse the Ulvenwald.

I guess you could shave a Forest or Island if need be, but I’d be hesitant to do so. Instead, I might consider cutting a Primal Druid, Pilgrim’s Eye, Gather the Pack, Ishkanah, or Lashweed Lurker for another Traverse the Ulvenwald.

While I’m at it, I would also love to play more copies of Sanctum of Ugin, but they would probably come at the cost of Shivan Reef, which can lead to occasional color screws. All in all, I wouldn’t tinker too much with the mana base without properly testing it. The deck ran smoothly for me throughout the tournament, so if you’re considering this deck for Grand Prix Rimini or Grand Prix Portland, then I’d recommend you stick with the original list.

The Sideboard

Out of respect for White Weenie Humans, we had 3 Radiant Flames in the sideboard. The card is also reasonable against Bant Company, but not great because playing Radiant Flames into Spell Queller mana is miserable. Since we only want to board 2 copies against Bant Company, at least on the play, and since White Weenie didn’t perform well at the Pro Tour, we may not need the third Radiant Flames going forward.

Negate is a staple sideboard option for any blue deck, including this one. Given that BW Control and RG Ramp did well at the Pro Tour, I may consider adding another copy to the sideboard.

Reality Smasher allows you to attack planeswalkers and presents a fast clock against pressure-light decks. The extra Sanctum of Ugin helps cast and find it. A common post-sideboard line against BW Control is to emerge an Elder Deep-Fiend on turn 5, sacrifice Sanctum of Ugin for Reality Smasher, and attack for 10 damage on the next turn.

A third Reality Smasher wouldn’t hurt if you have room for it—space is tight.

Against Liliana decks, Pilgrim’s Eye often doesn’t live long, so we replaced some of them with Tireless Tracker. Tireless Tracker lives through a -2/-1, provides you with a Clue token or two before emerging out Elder Deep-Fiend, and can also attack planeswalkers in a pinch.

We expected at least some mirror matches at the Pro Tour, and we theorized that it could come down to having answers to your opponent’s Elder Deep-Fiend. For that purpose, the best option we found was Titan’s Presence. You can reveal Elder Deep-Fiend or, alternatively, Lashweed Lurker, Reality Smasher, or Emrakul to take down their 5/6, using the mana that they are tapping down. And in contrast to Summary Dismissal, you can flash back Titan’s Presence with Jace to deal with another Deep-Fiend later on.

One thing to keep in mind: you can’t reveal Emrakul to kill Emrakul. It has protection from instants.

We never wanted to draw multiples in our opening hand in game 1, but it’s nice to have access to another copy against decks with Transgress the Mind or in the mirror match.

Against decks with a lot of planeswalkers, we found Lashweed Lurker to be more valuable than Wretched Gryff.

The idea was that Eldrazi Obligator would help against Ulamog or Emrakul, but this slot was disappointing for me. Against Emrakul, even if I had a Jace with 6 loyalty, my opponent rarely left me in a position that would allow me to tutor for or exploit Eldrazi Obligator on the next turn. I would consider replacing this card with Summary Dismissal or something else.

Other Sideboard Options

I already mentioned various main-deck or sideboard options that we ultimately decided not to play, but here are a few quick thoughts on other options.

  • Gnarlwood Dryad – Several team members tested the card in various builds. It was deemed fine but unspectacular. Especially against decks with Emrakul or Grasp of Darkness, Gnarlwood Dryad doesn’t offer much in the main deck. It could find a spot in the sideboard, but the deck already has many moving pieces to get its engine to work, and it’s hard to find room while sideboarding.
  • Kiora, Master of the Depths – We considered it as a way to ramp more quickly into Emrakul, but you can only register a 15-card sideboard, and Kiora ended on the chopping block during the final cuts.
  • Shaman of Forgotten Ways – Same deal as Kiora, basically.
  • Sarkhan Unbroken – If you want a planeswalker, then Kiora’s abilities are better suited for this deck’s game plan.
  • World Breaker – I’m not scared of any artifacts, enchantments, or lands right now.
  • Thought-Knot Seer – The 4/4 doesn’t seem to fit a deck that aims to trigger Kozilek’s Return from the graveyard.
  • Invasive Surgery – I’d rather have the flexibility of countering Gideon or Liliana with Negate than a cost-reduction against sorceries.
  • Coax from the Blind Eternities – We completely missed this one. It’s a great find against decks with Transgress the Mind or Infinite Obliteration, and you can even flash it back with Jace. There should probably be one in the sideboard.
  • Bonds of Mortality – Tech against Selfless Spirit and Archangel Avacyn. We tried it and it was okay, but not impressive enough.
  • Evolutionary Leap – Against grindy midrange decks, Evolutionary Leap can yield a lot of value, especially when combined with a Den Protector/Deathmist Raptor package. However, that package took up too many slots, and Evolutionary Leap is a bit of a liability to have on the table against Emrakul.

Why Choose EUreka’s List Over Owen’s?

For reference, here is Owen Turtenwald’s 2nd-place-finishing Temur Turbo-Emrakul deck:

Temur Emerge

Owen had an incredible weekend immediately after being elected into the Hall of Fame, so congratulations to him. I haven’t been able to try his version yet, but after looking at the lists, I have a preference for the EUreka version.

The main reason is Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. We have 4 Jace where Owen has 0. He has 4 Vessel of Nascency instead. We viewed Jace as one of the best cards in the deck, and I wouldn’t want to run the deck without him. The inclusion of Jace also makes Gather the Pack much more reliable. If you scroll up to the table with the percentages, you’ll see that Owen’s deck will brick (i.e., hit 0 creatures) with Gather the Pack twice as frequently as our deck.

That said, Owen’s deck is more of a turbo-Emrakul deck than a dedicated emerge deck. His list focuses more on having all possible card types and mana ramp, with Elder Deep-Fiend as a Plan B. Our list focuses on chaining Elder Deep-Fiend as a Plan A, with Emrakul as the Plan B. This leads to different card choices: Owen has an extra Emrakul over the fourth Elder Deep-Fiend, Gnarlwood Dryad over Primal Druid, Vessel of Nascency over Jace, and Nissa’s Pilgrimage where we have extra lands.

Both approaches make sense, and the best list may actually be somewhere in between, but I prefer Octopuses as the main plan. You’ll be able to trigger Kozilek’s Return more reliably against creature decks, and you’ll be able to lock out your opponent’s mana to prevent them from casting Emrakul.

Why Choose EUreka’s List Over Andrew Brown’s?

For reference, here is Andrew Brown’s 8th-place finishing Temur Emerge deck:

Temur Emerge

The main difference between Andrew’s list and ours is that ours has a better end-game and a delirium engine in the main deck. Andrew’s creature base is more aggressive and excels in the midgame, using Matter Reshaper and Shaman of Forgotten Ways to cast Wretched Gryff early on. But it’s missing powerful plays after that. Our list excels in the late game, using Ishkanah to stabilize the board and then goes over the top with a Traverse the Ulvenwald for Emrakul.

To enable this delirium engine, we have Pilgrim’s Eye over Matter Reshaper, which also makes our mana better.

Why Choose EUreka’s List Over Dan Unwin’s?

For reference, here is Dan Unwin’s 4-Color Dredge deck:

Compared to our list, this version adds a fourth color for the Haunted Dead/Prized Amalgam engine, which replaces Primal Druid and Pilgrim’s Eye. As a result, the deck has trouble building up its mana base, which means that the list cannot afford as many Eldrazis: Unwin’s deck has no Emrakul, Lashweed Lurker, or Wretched Gryff.

Joel Larsson tried a similar 4-color list, but testing revealed that the fourth color was still a strain on the mana base and that Haunted Dead is a pretty weak card to draw. As a result, the 4-color build was dismissed, and the team split between Jund emerge and Temur emerge.

Tips and Tricks

This deck is very hard to play. Many of your cards offer choices, and you have to plan several turns ahead. I wasn’t able to get much practice in with the deck before the Pro Tour, and I piloted the deck horrendously at the tournament. I was stumbling through every game, but at least I was able to entertain my teammates with stories on embarrassing misplays every round.

The fact that I posted a positive record is a testament to the deck’s raw power.

Still, if you pick up the deck, then prepare for the feeling that you have no clue what you’re doing in the first couple of games. It takes a while before you get a feel for the typical flow of a game.

  • If you have 4 or more cards in your graveyard, then you can tap Jace to loot and sacrifice him to emerge out an Elder Deep-Fiend in response.
  • If you have delirium, then you can cast Ishkanah, put her enters-the-battlefield trigger on the stack, and respond by emerging Elder Deep-Fiend to sweep the board with Kozilek’s Return. When the dust settles, you’ll be left with a 5/6 and three 1/2 Spiders.
  • When you cast Elder Deep-Fiend with a Kozilek’s Return in the graveyard, it will trigger, but you only choose whether or not to exile it when the trigger resolves. This means that if your opponent sacrifices Selfless Spirit or casts Archangel Avacyn in response, you can choose not to exile Kozilek’s Return, allowing you to trigger it again with the next Eldrazi.
  • While Elder Deep-Fiend is mostly cast on your opponent’s upkeep, it can also happen during combat (to ambush an attacker), at the end of their turn (to play around sorcery-speed removal), on your own turn (if your opponent is tapped out and you don’t want to give them an opportunity to cast Archangel Avacyn in response), or at various other times. Always be on the lookout for possibilities.
  • Emrakul has protection from instants (which means that damage from Kozilek’s Return won’t harm it) but it is susceptible to Ruinous Path, an Ob Nixilis activation, or a deathtouch creature. Be mindful of that.
  • When you are Mindslavering your opponent, don’t forget to force them to take damage from their painlands.
  • When both players are at 20 life and you suspect that both players have Emrakul in hand with not much else going on, it can sometimes be correct to decline to cast your Emrakul. The reason is that when Liliana or Jace get involved, the second Emrakul is often better than the first. After all, they can give your Emrakul -2/-1 or -2/-0 with a planeswalker and then force it to chump-attack into their 13/13.
  • Regarding sequencing on turn 2, I would typically cast Primal Druid if it can block a 2-power creature and cast Jace if my hand has too many lands that need to be looted away. If I have no creature, then I usually lead with Gather the Pack over Grapple with the Past, as Grapple has more utility in the late game.

Sideboard Guide

The following guide is what I used during the Pro Tour, although I typically changed one or two cards depending on my opponent’s specific card choices and whether I was on the play or draw. But I always like to have a baseline guide.

Bant Company (Slightly Favorable)

Out

In

Expect Ojutai’s Command or Summary Dismissal post-sideboard. You board pretty much the same way against UW Spirits and against UB Zombies.

BW Control (Slightly Unfavorable)

Out

In

The Pro Tour winning deck is a slightly unfavorable matchup because a 5/6 Kalitas can be hard to beat. What’s more, they’ll gain discard spells and Gideon after board. To deal with their key threats, we have to keep at least some number of Kozilek’s Return after sideboard.

GW Tokens (Favorable)

Out

In

White Weenie Humans (Slightly Favorable)

Out

In

BG Delirium (Slightly Favorable)

Out

In

Be mindful of Transgress the Mind after sideboard.

Temur Emerge Mirror (Even)

Out

In

RG Ramp (Even)

Out

In

I didn’t play against this deck at the Pro Tour, so this is all guess-work on my part. They are a faster Emrakul deck because they ramp harder and faster, but we can keep them off of Emrakul mana by chaining Elder Deep-Fiends, so I expect it will equal out to an even matchup.

Conclusion

Cost reduction and self-mill effects are always dangerous, and in this deck they are borderline broken. I think the list is fairly well-tuned, and I wouldn’t make sweeping changes. But if you’re interested in tweaking the deck, then the slots that I could see changing are the 8th emerge fodder creature, the 4th Gather the Pack, the 3rd Ishkanah, and the 24th land. I would consider exploring the addition of a Traverse the Ulvenwald, a Sanctum of Ugin, and/or an Emrakul to the main deck. In the sideboard, you could explore replacing the 3rd Radiant Flames and the Eldrazi Obligator by something else.

I think Temur Emerge (any build, really) will be a good choice for the upcoming Grand Prix weekend. If you’re competing there or at another event, then best of luck!

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