Casting Emrakul on Turn Three

Posted in NEWS on March 25, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

A deck that can cast Emrakul by turn three? Not just put on the battlefield, but cast, getting the extra turn and everything? As always, Modern is full of exciting surprises—I never thought I'd build a deck that could do this!

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn | Art by Mark Tedin

But let me back up for a moment...

There are so many cards tucked away in the format that every time you dig deep into it you can find an interaction that's just waiting to be taken advantage of. I've said it before and I'll certainly say it again: Modern-focused weeks are some of my favorite ReConstructed articles to write. The number of cool decks you send in is constantly wonderful.

I received a lot of awesome decks this week—and be sure to check out the honorable mentions list at the end to see several fresh bases to build your own decks from. But one deck (quite appropriately) grabbed me and pulled me into its clutches. Check out Kyle Casey's Fist of the Suns deck!

Kyle Casey's Eldrazi Fist

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Breeding Pool 8   Forest 4   Hinterland Harbor 1   Island 4   Misty Rainforest 4   Birds of Paradise 1   Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 3   It That Betrays 1   Kozilek, Butcher of Truth 4   Sylvan Caryatid 1   Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre 4   Chromatic Lantern 1   Cryptic Command 4   Farseek 4   Fist of Suns 4   Mana Leak 1   Pact of Negation 4   Serum Visions 3   Urban Evolution
60 Cards

 

The Battle Plan

Fist of Suns. A little artifact nestled back in Fifth Dawn that most people had probably forgotten about. Until recently, I hadn't heard this card mentioned in a very long time.

Normally, paying one mana of any color for a spell is a bit tricky to do and doesn't help you save that much mana. But when the format is Modern and you can use fetch lands-dual land mana bases, and when the card you're trying to cast costs fifteen mana, Fist of Suns becomes a pretty potent option.

What's more is that, unlike many cards that sneak Emrakul onto the battlefield, Fist actually lets you cast it! This mean that you do, indeed, get the extra turn and everything. This deck can do it as quickly as turn four—and, as I hinted at earlier, with one tweak I'm going to make, we can get it to turn three. But more on that later.

This deck's primary goal is accelerating out a Fist and then an Emrakul. So, where to take this deck from here?

Well, the first thing to do is to tighten up all of the pieces. There are some things that have a good start, but could be improved upon. Secondly, as I've said again and again, most good decks are about multiple things—and a secondary plan of attack, as well as some redundancy, could be in order here. Finally, prominent Magic streamer Jan van der Vegt (known online as DzyL) started playing with Fist recently, as well, and I want to take a bit of a different route than he did—I don't mind ending up somewhere close to him, but it's not very useful if I just recreate his deck.

Ready? Let's see what Fist of Suns has in store for us!

Deck Breakdown

Which cards fit this deck well, and which just don't quite fit like a glove? Let's run through the deck card by card to find out.

 

This deck's primary game plan is to accelerate into a Fist and slam an Emrakul—and Birds does a lot toward that goal. It comes down on the first turn and starts setting everything up for you. This sort of acceleration is the direction Kyle took for his deck—and that's what we'll stick with.

 

I definitely want another five-color accelerant, and at two mana this is one of the best options. Not only does it provide whatever color I'm in need of, but, unlike a spell, it also blocks well and helps stop some early damage—which is crucial in a deck like this. I'm happy with all four.

 

Kyle's decklist features six Eldrazi of all shapes and sizes. Three copies of It That Betrays, followed by one of each of the Eldrazi "titans"—Kozilek, Ulamog, and Emrakul.

When you're cheating cards onto the battlefield, you always want to choose the strongest card. After all, if you're going to circumvent its mana cost and just put it out there, why not have it be as strong as possible? To this end, I want to refine this list. It should definitely start with four copies of Emrakul: it's the most powerful, and also gives you an extra turn when you cast it so it sort of has an even-better haste.

 

After that, I think you could look at a lot of options. Kozilek and Ulamog are certainly reasonable. Something like Time Stretch or Cruel Ultimatum also isn't crazy: they both create pretty huge swings. Ultimately, though, I'm happy going down the Griselbrand route. While it's not particularly innovative, nor as sweet as Time Stretch, it's just efficient. Casting Griselbrand basically ensures you have a follow-up play. I want three cards to add to my Emrakul four-pack, and Griselbrand it is.

 

 

One of the key cards this deck is based around, you definitely don't want to play less than four copies. You want to draw one every game.

However, even with some digging, you won't always necessarily find one easily. I'm always a big fan of having backup combo plans—and this deck has a great one: Through the Breach.

For five mana, you get to get in there and attack straight with Emrakul or Griselbrand. Either one of those in the early game should be enough to lock down a victory, excluding perhaps your opponent comboing you out on their turn. Four Through the Breach is where I want to go.

 

The Lantern is a cute way to ensure you always have all the colors you need for your Fist. It makes all of your mana work effortlessly.

However, the downside of Lantern is that it takes time and several card slots in a deck where card slots are very precious. Fortunately, a mana base that works pretty well for all five colors can be constructed pretty easily out of fetchlands and dual lands. Lantern will go—and the mana base will certainly change to support the need for all five colors.

 

I can definitely see wanting another accelerant in this deck to help propel into Through the Breach and Fist. While Farseek is a fine candidate with all of the Ravnica dual lands that are going to be added to this deck, I don't think that's really what I want. If I'm going to play another accelerator, I need it to do something else besides just accelerate one mana—Caryatid, for example, blocks as well.

Explore is one other option—but you may not always have a ton of excess lands. Five mana is kind of this huge push point for this deck. If you can get to five, then you can slam a Through the Breach or pay for a spell through your Fist of Suns. It's too bad there's no accelerator that brings us straight from two mana to five mana...

Or is there?

There actually is, and it's one that shines in a fetchland focused mana base. It's time for Lotus Cobra!

 

While fragile, Cobra is also basically a must-kill. And not only can this help you cast cards like Through the Breach on turn three, but later on it's actually not that unreasonable to use it to help hard-cast Griselbrand. It also helps fix your colors for Fist of Suns.

Playing Birds and Cobra opens you up to getting hurt by removal—often in decks like these, you'll see them avoid any removal targets entirely –but if your opponent spends too much time Lightning Bolting your creatures (Pathing them isn't all that effective) then you can just reach five mana the hard way and set up for a game-ending play.

It's possible something like Pentad Prism is better, but I like how Cobra also helps you cast your spells if you haven't assembled your combo yet, whereas Prism makes you lose mana boosts in the future if you spend its counters. It also does the all-important job of actually killing your opponent after a Through the Breach, since there are definitely draws where Emrakul sets them back but then they can recover from five life while you do nothing. Four Cobra it is!

 

I can definitely see wanting another accelerant in this deck to help propel into Through the Breach and Fist. While Farseek is a fine candidate with all of the Ravnica dual lands that are going to be added to this deck, I don't think that's really what I want. If I'm going to play another accelerator, I need it to do something else besides just accelerate one mana—Caryatid, for example, blocks as well.

Decks like this are all about assembling combinations of certain cards—and any card that aids that is worth checking out. Serum Visions does that well, helping you to find the specific cards you need. Even with a bunch of fetchlands shuffling the cards you scry away back in, just setting up your next draw step by shoving two cards underneath your deck can be a big deal.

In addition to Serum Visions, I'd like another one mana dig spell. The two top contenders for me are Faithless Looting and Sleight of Hand. They both look at the same number of cards, but Looting also flashes back. Sleight stays at card parity whole Looting immediately puts you down a card (not counting the "card" of flashback"—but with the potential to draw redundant combo pieces, Faithless Looting lets you get rid of cards in your hand that aren't doing a lot which helps nullify that problem. I would give the edge to Looting here.

 

A big question this deck has to ask is if it plans to leave mana untapped, and if it wants reactive spells or any sort of disruption.

Cards like Mana Leak, Cryptic Command, or even potentially something like Remand are nice—but they do require you to leave mana open, which is something I don't predict this deck will be doing a lot of. Pact of Negation is an exception, but it's a pretty frightening card to play with so many Birds in your deck and doesn't work with Lotus Cobra's mana bursts at all.

Looking more at proactive options for disruption/protection, there a few good ones. Tarmogoyf is actually a pretty reasonable choice—if your opponent fires off all their removal on your Birds and Cobras, then Tarmogoyf holds off the fort from any quick beatdown while also posing a large threat himself. However, I really want something to help shut off what the opponent is doing.

The cards I ended up with were Thoughtseize and Path to Exile. This deck is already going to be dealing a ton of damage to yourself, so you don't want to play a full boat of Thoughtseizes—but fortunately, with all of the dig spells this deck has, you can find one pretty easily if you think you'll need it. Two Paths help keep the opponent honest and gives decks like Splinter Twin a second thought.

 

I can definitely see wanting another accelerant in this deck to help propel into Through the Breach and Fist. While Farseek is a fine candidate with all of the Ravnica dual lands that are going to be added to this deck, I don't think that's really what I want. If I'm going to play another accelerator, I need it to do something else besides just accelerate one mana—Caryatid, for example, blocks as well.

If you're spending five mana on something in Modern, it has better be really good. Urban Evolution doesn't really fit that enough. While drawing three cards and playing a land is nice, at five mana it's just way too expensive to consider. These can go.

With all of those changes in mind, that brings the deck to:

Gavin Verhey's Sun of Emrakul

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
1   Breeding Pool 2   Forest 3   Gemstone Mine 1   Hallowed Fountain 1   Island 4   Misty Rainforest 4   Scalding Tarn 1   Stomping Ground 3   Verdant Catacombs 1   Watery Grave 4   Birds of Paradise 4   Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 3   Griselbrand 4   Lotus Cobra 4   Sylvan Caryatid 4   Faithless Looting 4   Fist of Suns 2   Path to Exile 4   Serum Visions 2   Thoughtseize 4   Through the Breach
60 Cards

As I hinted at the very beginning, this deck is capable of casting Emrakul as early as turn three thanks to Lotus Cobra. (Birds, Cobra, play and crack a fetchland, cast Fist, next turn Emrakul) That's hard to do, but even if you "merely" Through the Breach an Emrakul on turn five, that should still put most games away.

It can be fragile, and it's possible you want more disruption. As I mentioned earlier, a version that also has an aggressive plan with Tarmogoyf, Lotus Cobra, and maybe something is something you could consider for a two-pronged attack. If there's a lot of removal around I would consider going the other direction and cutting the Cobras. (Perhaps for Pentad Prism.)

In any case, this deck is a blast to play—not many decks can create the kind of draws that this one can. Have fun with it!

Honorable Mentions

What fantastic Modern decks didn't quite make the cut? Take a look at some of these for your own inspiration!

Walter McManigal's Heroic Storm

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
2   Arid Mesa 5   Mountain 4   Scalding Tarn 4   Steam Vents 1   Sulfur Falls 4   Akroan Crusader 1   Goblin Bushwhacker 2   Young Pyromancer 4   Cerulean Wisps 4   Crimson Wisps 4   Desperate Ritual 4   Faithless Looting 4   Gitaxian Probe 1   Grapeshot 3   Haze of Rage 4   Manamorphose 3   Past in Flames 4   Pyretic Ritual 2   Twisted Image
60 Cards

Gabriel Flores's Boros Burn

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Arid Mesa 4   Clifftop Retreat 5   Mountain 4   Plains 4   Sacred Foundry 4   Ash Zealot 4   Chandra's Phoenix 4   Figure of Destiny 4   Goblin Guide 2   Banefire 4   Boros Charm 4   Lightning Bolt 4   Lightning Helix 4   Path to Exile 3   Staggershock 2   Ajani Vengeant
60 Cards

Austin B's Gifts Vine

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
1   Breeding Pool 3   Forest 1   Gavony Township 1   Godless Shrine 1   Hallowed Fountain 4   Misty Rainforest 2   Overgrown Tomb 3   Razorverge Thicket 1   Swamp 1   Tectonic Edge 4   Verdant Catacombs 1   Watery Grave 1   Woodland Cemetery 4   Birds of Paradise 1   Bloodghast 1   Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite 4   Fauna Shaman 3   Kitchen Finks 1   Knight of the Reliquary 4   Lotleth Troll 3   Noble Hierarch 1   Scavenging Ooze 1   Stinkweed Imp 1   Sun Titan 4   Vengevine 3   Abrupt Decay 3   Gifts Ungiven 1   Path to Exile 1   Unburial Rites
60 Cards

Ethan Raffman's Beck Elves

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Breeding Pool 4   Forbidden Orchard 8   Forest 4   Hinterland Harbor 4   Arbor Elf 2   Craterhoof Behemoth 4   Elvish Archdruid 4   Elvish Visionary 1   Essence Warden 2   Ezuri, Renegade Leader 4   Heritage Druid 2   Joraga Warcaller 4   Llanowar Elves 4   Nettle Sentinel 2   Regal Force 4   Beck // Call 3   Cloudstone Curio
60 Cards

Jack Watters's Akroma's Initiative

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Arid Mesa 4   Blood Crypt 4   Godless Shrine 1   Lavaclaw Reaches 4   Marsh Flats 2   Mountain 2   Plains 3   Sacred Foundry 2   Swamp 4   Akroma, Angel of Fury 1   Fortune Thief 2   Weathered Bodyguards 1   Angel's Grace 3   Anger of the Gods 4   Boros Charm 3   Cloudshift 3   Inquisition of Kozilek 4   Legion's Initiative 4   Lightning Bolt 4   Path to Exile 1   Rakdos's Return
60 Cards

Ross McClure's Tibalt Recursion

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Dragonskull Summit 4   Graven Cairns 2   Keldon Megaliths 8   Mountain 6   Swamp 4   Chandra's Phoenix 4   Demigod of Revenge 4   Reassembling Skeleton 4   Rotting Rats 4   Squee, Goblin Nabob 3   Vengeful Pharaoh 4   Faithless Looting 1   Flame Jab 1   Raven's Crime 3   Rekindled Flame 4   Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
60 Cards

Dawn's GW Hatebears

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
2   Forest 2   Gavony Township 4   Ghost Quarter 2   Horizon Canopy 3   Plains 4   Razorverge Thicket 4   Temple Garden 2   Aven Mindcensor 2   Grand Abolisher 3   Leonin Arbiter 4   Loxodon Smiter 4   Noble Hierarch 2   Qasali Pridemage 3   Scavenging Ooze 2   Spirit of the Labyrinth 3   Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 4   Voice of Resurgence 2   Wilt-Leaf Liege 4   Æther Vial 4   Path to Exile
60 Cards

John Lee's Tezzeret's Staff

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Darksteel Citadel 2   Inkmoth Nexus 6   Island 4   Misty Rainforest 4   Scalding Tarn 4   Watery Grave 2   Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 2   Batterskull 1   Defense Grid 4   Guardian Idol 2   Krark-Clan Ironworks 3   Mox Opal 4   Proteus Staff 4   Relic of Progenitus 4   Thoughtcast 3   Torpor Orb 3   Vedalken Shackles 4   Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
60 Cards

Adam Minniear's Pox-Rock

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
1   Leechridden Swamp 4   Overgrown Tomb 2   Swamp 4   Treetop Village 3   Twilight Mire 3   Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 4   Verdant Catacombs 3   Woodland Cemetery 4   Dark Confidant 4   Gatekeeper of Malakir 1   Scavenging Ooze 4   Tarmogoyf 4   Abrupt Decay 4   Bitterblossom 2   Dismember 4   Inquisition of Kozilek 4   Smallpox 2   Sword of Light and Shadow 3   Liliana of the Veil
60 Cards

Nelson Rosenberg's Feeding The Pack

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
19   Forest 1   Miren, the Moaning Well 4   Overgrown Battlement 2   Sapling of Colfenor 4   Traproot Kami 2   Tree of Redemption 4   Vine Trellis 4   Wall of Tanglecord 2   Wolfbriar Elemental 4   Feed the Pack 3   Genesis Wave 2   Leyline of Vitality 3   Parallel Lives 4   Search for Tomorrow 2   Garruk Wildspeaker
60 Cards

Chris Ingersoll's Ideal Prison

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
3   Arid Mesa 4   Hallowed Fountain 2   Island 3   Marsh Flats 1   Mistveil Plains 3   Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx 4   Plains 2   Sacred Foundry 1   Scalding Tarn 3   Tolaria West 1   Heliod, God of the Sun 1   Purphoros, God of the Forge 1   Cathars' Crusade 1   Copy Enchantment 2   Detention Sphere 3   Enduring Ideal 4   Ghostly Prison 3   Leyline of Sanctity 3   Nevermore 2   Oblivion Ring 1   Peace of Mind 3   Porphyry Nodes 1   Privileged Position 4   Runed Halo 1   Sacred Mesa 1   Sphere of Safety 1   Story Circle 1   Wheel of Sun and Moon
60 Cards

Connor Shaffer's Shared Fate

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
2   Cascade Bluffs 3   Island 1   Mountain 4   Shivan Reef 4   Steam Vents 4   Sulfur Falls 3   Anger of the Gods 4   Desperate Ritual 4   Faithless Looting 4   Gitaxian Probe 3   Mana Leak 4   Manamorphose 4   Pyretic Ritual 4   Rune Snag 4   Serum Visions 4   Shared Fate 2   Spell Pierce 2   Spell Snare
60 Cards

Scott Whitty's PyroBlossom

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Arid Mesa 3   Blood Crypt 2   Godless Shrine 4   Marsh Flats 2   Mountain 1   Plains 3   Sacred Foundry 1   Swamp 2   Temple of Triumph 4   Dark Confidant 3   Grim Lavamancer 4   Young Pyromancer 4   Bitterblossom 4   Boros Charm 2   Inquisition of Kozilek 4   Lightning Bolt 4   Lightning Helix 4   Lingering Souls 2   Path to Exile 3   Thoughtseize
60 Cards

Chase Turose's Joiner

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
18   Forest 4   Verdant Catacombs 4   Arbor Elf 4   Elvish Archdruid 4   Elvish Mystic 4   Elvish Visionary 3   Ezuri, Renegade Leader 4   Llanowar Elves 1   Regal Force 4   Viridian Joiner 4   Summoner's Pact 4   Umbral Mantle 2   Vines of Vastwood
60 Cards

Josh Spies's Myr-ciless Summoning

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Blackcleave Cliffs 4   Blood Crypt 4   Dragonskull Summit 2   Graven Cairns 2   Mountain 4   Swamp 3   Mudbutton Torchrunner 4   Myr Superion 4   Perilous Myr 3   Priest of Urabrask 4   Simian Spirit Guide 2   Street Wraith 4   Faithless Looting 4   Heartless Summoning 4   Inquisition of Kozilek 4   Lightning Bolt 4   Shred Memory
60 Cards

Laurence Adams's RUG Delver

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
1   Academy Ruins 2   Breeding Pool 1   Forest 5   Island 4   Misty Rainforest 1   Mountain 4   Scalding Tarn 2   Steam Vents 1   Stomping Ground 4   Delver of Secrets 4   Snapcaster Mage 4   Tarmogoyf 2   Vendilion Clique 1   Batterskull 1   Burst Lightning 2   Cryptic Command 2   Electrolyze 4   Lightning Bolt 3   Mana Leak 2   Remand 4   Serum Visions 2   Spell Pierce 2   Spell Snare 2   Vedalken Shackles
60 Cards

Scott Morgan's Seismic Red Control

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
1   Forest 2   Island 4   Misty Rainforest 8   Mountain 4   Scalding Tarn 3   Steam Vents 1   Stomping Ground 3   Snapcaster Mage 3   Squee, Goblin Nabob 2   Anger of the Gods 3   Blood Moon 4   Faithless Looting 3   Izzet Charm 3   Life from the Loam 2   Lightning Axe 4   Lightning Bolt 4   Mana Leak 4   Seismic Assault 2   Koth of the Hammer
60 Cards

Itou Kazunari's Battle Cry of Aura

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Cavern of Souls 4   Mountain 10   Plains 4   Sacred Foundry 2   Anax and Cymede 2   Eidolon of Countless Battles 4   Favored Hoplite 2   Grand Abolisher 4   Hero of Iroas 2   Kor Spiritdancer 4   Nomad Mythmaker 2   Phalanx Leader 1   Angelic Destiny 4   Boros Charm 1   Breath of Fury 4   Ethereal Armor 1   Flickerform 1   Honor of the Pure 4   Path to Exile
60 Cards

Khanman's Eidolon Chains

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
8   Forest 4   Overgrown Tomb 8   Swamp 4   Woodland Cemetery 3   Entropic Eidolon 2   Fauna Shaman 4   Lotleth Troll 4   Pack Rat 4   Shambling Shell 4   Verdant Eidolon 4   Abrupt Decay 3   Grisly Salvage 4   Maelstrom Pulse 2   Putrefy 2   Treasured Find
60 Cards

George Wolfe's Faerie Jump

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Darkslick Shores 5   Island 2   Misty Rainforest 2   Scalding Tarn 4   Swamp 1   Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth 4   Watery Grave 2   Mistblade Shinobi 4   Ninja of the Deep Hours 3   Ornithopter 3   Snapcaster Mage 4   Spellstutter Sprite 4   Bitterblossom 4   Familiar's Ruse 4   Remand 3   Spell Pierce 2   Spell Snare 1   Sword of Feast and Famine 1   Sword of Fire and Ice 1   Sword of Light and Shadow 2   Vapor Snag
60 Cards

Shao Middle's Time Lords

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
2   Academy Ruins 1   Alchemist's Refuge 2   Boseiju, Who Shelters All 4   Breeding Pool 3   Forest 8   Island 4   Misty Rainforest 2   Azusa, Lost but Seeking 1   Laboratory Maniac 2   Oracle of Mul Daya 2   Crucible of Worlds 3   Cryptic Command 1   Panoptic Mirror 4   Remand 3   Spell Pierce 4   Spreading Seas 4   Temporal Mastery 4   Time Warp 1   Vedalken Shackles 2   Walk the Aeons 3   Jace Beleren
60 Cards

Mo Holmes's Goryo's Gardener

Download Arena Decklist
Other (60)
4   Blackcleave Cliffs 1   Blood Crypt 4   Gemstone Mine 1   Graven Cairns 1   Mountain 1   Overgrown Tomb 1   Stomping Ground 2   Swamp 1   Twilight Mire 4   Verdant Catacombs 3   Emrakul, the Aeons Torn 4   Gravecrawler 4   Griselbrand 4   Lotleth Troll 4   Slitherhead 4   Vengevine 3   Abrupt Decay 4   Faithless Looting 4   Goryo's Vengeance 3   Thoughtseize 3   Through the Breach
60 Cards

Beginning the Journey

It's hard to believe, but in two short weeks we'll be kicking off Journey into Nyx previews! It seems like Born of the Gods only just got here, and it's already time to show off the exciting third set in Theros block. I can't wait to show you my preview cards!

But until then, since I'll be building with a brand new card you guys haven't seen yet and have no context for, there isn't a deck challenge for this week. But if you have any questions or suggestions feel free to send them my way. You can either post in the forums or send me a tweet and I'll be sure to take a look.

I hope you enjoyed this unique look at Modern! I'll be back next week with something a little special. Until then, have fun casting a turn-three Emrakul!

Gavin
@GavinVerhey