Emrakul, The Promised End | Jaime Jones

Emrakul Is Still the best

Eldritch Moon Standard was a mess of Collected Companies and Emrakuls. Now that Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins have been pushed out by Kaladesh, we are left with most of the same cards from the decks that ran CoCo and Emmy, but one of the two categories is missing something important: its namesake, Collected Company. Maybe a few Bant decks with Tamiyo, Field Researcher will continue to be good, but the Emrakul decks... well, they still have Emrakul.

Kaladesh is pretty cool, I’ll give you that. But it isn’t particularly likely that any of its constructed-ready themes (Artifacts or Energy) are really ready for constructed yet. Maybe an artifact deck with Metalwork Colossus could come together, but why play an undercosted 10/10 that can recur itself (inefficiently) when you could play Emrakul? Maybe some sort of Simic or Temur Energy shell could work, but is that really worth pursuing when we have so many powerful things to do in Standard already, with Traverse the Ulvenwald tying them all together and Emrakul to top them off? It seems to me that, until we see more support for both of these themes in Aether Revolt, the answer to both of these questions is a pretty definitive “nope.”

(Note: while I wouldn’t bet on energy being very successful yet, I do like the work Michael Majors is doing over at StarCityGames on various Green-based Aetherworks Marvel decks. It could be that an energy shell ends up being powerful enough that it ends up being the best, or one of the best, Emrakul decks.)

There are some other cutesy things that people are assuredly going to try to do. R/spikes is riddled with decks like dredge, zombies, vehicles, reanimator, blink, tokens, humans, eldrazi aggro, energy aggro, spirits, control... while you all fool around with those, I will be trying to find the best Emrakul deck for the new format. And chances are the teams that end up doing well at the pro tour will be doing the same as me. It is Emrakul’s format: we are just playing in it.

I’m not playing in the Pro Tour, and the same (probably) goes for you. But we might still be able to build the deck that will win the Pro Tour and take it to a couple of FNMs. So let’s get to it!

If we are playing an Emrakul deck, we already know we are playing a green deck. The best delirium enablers (Vessel of Nascency and Grapple with the Past are in Green, and so are the best payoffs (Traverse the Ulvenwald and Ishkanah, Grafwidow). All of the cards I just mentioned are locked to be present in every single deck we discuss today, in addition to Emrakul.

Emrakul decks of past Standard have generally been separated into 3 categories: Green/Black-based Delirium Midrange decks, Temur Emerge/Turbo-Emrakul decks, and Green/Red-based Ramp decks. Of these, ramp has lost the most, and I don’t think it will be the best choice moving forward. Nissa’s Pilgrimage was a 3-mana ramp spell that put a sorcery into your graveyard, put you ahead a turn, and got your another one or two lands to thin your deck and keep hitting your land drops. There is no replacement for this card in a Ramp/Emrakul deck. They gained a powerful card in Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but without Nissa’s Pilgrimage the traditional mana acceleration plan is just not up to par. Temur Emerge also played Nissa’s Pilgrimage, and it will miss the card, but it was not nearly as fundamental the the strategy. Gaining Chandra offsets that loss and then some. Here is where I am starting for a Kaladesh Standard Temur Emerge deck:

As you can see, the deck has changed little from its previous version. While more testing could prove otherwise, I believe it has only gotten better with the new set.

It lost Gather the Pack which, while good in the deck, often missed on two creatures. The replacement 3rd delirium enabler is Cathartic Reunion, which could prove to be a necessary evil, a mediocre but solid roleplayer, or a powerful enabler. It can enable delirium/Emrakul with more precision than a mill spell, and drawing 3 new cards is no joke. It is especially good with Kozilek’s Return, which, while obviously great, often got stuck in hand with nothing good to do.

The deck gained Filigree Familiar, which could end up being better or worse than Pilgrim’s Eye, depending on the format and how much we need mana fixing.

While the deck lost Nissa’s Pilgrimage (which would have been best friends with Cathartic Reunion, by the way) it gained Chandra, Torch of Defiance. While it is not a direct replacement, it fills a similar role (acceleration) while adding another card type to the deck and acting as removal and card advantage. You can use Nissa’s Pilgrimage to accelerate your mana, but you never could win a game on its back. Chandra is a very good card, and I expect the deck to get significantly better on its account.

Temur Emerge would be my default choice for the Pro Tour, if decks had to be submitted tonight (and, of course, I was playing). It changed the least, so it is already somewhat tuned and its power level is pretty well established. It generally has a good matchup against other Emrakul decks, and it casts Emrakul faster than any other deck I am considering.

That said, the category of decks I have not yet discussed, Green/Black-based Delirium, has a lot of room for experimentation and change. Several new cards have been added to the deck’s card pool, and several old cards have left. While I wouldn’t just want to jump on a version of the deck without much testing, I think there is a lot of potential for something in this category to be the actual best deck for the Pro Tour.

This is what I would start at for a plain old Green/Black Delirium list:

The biggest changes? I’ve got one (compound and made-up) word for you: Gearhulk. The Verdurous and Noxious Gearhulks are not only extremely powerful creatures to add to the deck’s arsenal, but provide the never-before-seen artifact type, making it easier to turn on delirium and letting you cast Emrakul for as little as 6 mana.

The Gearhulks are going to make waves in Standard, most of all in delirium shells. They give the deck a less linear, more goodstuff quality, since it is no longer as reliant on getting 4 types in the graveyard to enable its midgame haymakers. Verdurous Gearhulk in particular gives the deck the ability to be very aggressive, buffing a Grim Flayer or other random creature(s) the turn it comes into play, putting a ton of pressure on your opponent to find some sort of answer. Keywords like deathtouch, trample, and vigilance gain new meaning and power as the size of the creature grows.

The mana is even better than before: we get to cut Evolving Wilds (which did rarely enable Delirium when it otherwise couldn’t be, but that is a small loss), and Llanowar Wastes for Aether Hub and Blooming Marsh. This means fewer tapped lands and no damage from our mana. Since the deck does not run any 4-drops, Blooming Marsh’s downside is minimal, and outside of drawing too many Aether Hubs early, it is effectively just a painless, untapped dual in a deck with such good mana.

This is a great consistent baseline for the deck that, depending on the meta, could be the best choice. If there are lots of leaner, more aggressive decks like Bant Humans, then this would be a good PT pick. This is the best Emrakul deck against U/R Thermo-Thing, which could be a good choice if Emrakul is as popular at the Pro Tour as it should be. However, it is generally the worst Emrakul deck in the Emrakul mirror. For that reason, I will be looking to splash a third color to fight the midrange fight better, even if I give up a little bit of consistency.

Splashing gives us 3 new options: Sultai, Jund, and Abzan. With the rotation of great cards like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Dragonlord Silumgar, there isn’t really a lot of reason for this type of strategy to play blue. While Sultai Emerge is a very good deck in its own right, it does not play Emrakul and is mediocre against Emrakul, so it is off the table.

Jund offers the powerful Chandra, Torch of Defiance, efficient removal, and Kozilek’s Return, which I have omitted from the mainboard of this particular list due to its being relatively narrow without an emerge package.

As you can see... this actually ends up looking a lot like GB Delirium. After building the deck, it becomes clear that, unless the format has a lot of aggressive strategies that Harnessed Lightning, Galvanic Bombardment, and Kozilek’s Return are important against, I would not choose this deck over GB. If Kolaghan’s Command were still in Standard, this deck would be significantly better, but as-is I would rather stay away from it for now.

That leaves Abzan. This is where things get interesting. One of the most powerful cards that will be legal in Kaladesh Standard is Eldrazi Displacer. Many people have been building G/W decks not unlike the old Tokens build, but centered around Displacer. I don’t think that is going to be very good in Standard, but I do think the idea has a lot of potential, and incorporating it into a Delirium deck with Emrakul not only lets you, well, cast Emrakul, but also pair Eldrazi Displacer with cards like Noxious Gearhulk and Ishkanah, Grafwidow, while enabling the synergy better with Traverse the Ulvenwald.

This list has a lot of things going for it. This deck can go over the top of just about anything with Emrakul or Displacer and one of the 5 or 6-drops, but it can also be tuned to beat any sort of aggro list. With access to Dead Weight, Noose Constrictor, and Fumigate, Abzan Delirium has the tools to beat RW Aggro, UR Burn, or Bant Humans.

Testing will prove if the white splash is worth it, however. GB is a very solid deck, and perhaps Emrakul, the Promised End is enough of a late game that we don’t have to bother with the other stuff. But then again, if that is the case, why don’t we all just play Temur Emerge? I will be testing all 3 decks heavily, and next time you hear from me, it will be with what I think is the best deck for the Pro Tour. A few days after that, we will all know if I’m right.

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A photo of Caleb YarbroughCaleb Yarbrough

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Caleb was introduced to Magic in Zendikar, but has only been really involved in the game since Theros. His favorite format is Modern, followed closely by Cube. A Spike at heart, he rarely brews for fun, but boy does he love to brew. You can follow him on Twitter @CalebYarbrough1.

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