Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. The Eldrazi deity is fast becoming the end boss of Modern, finishing games in a heartbeat upon its arrival. It's the good, the bad, and the ugly all in one skyscraper-sized tentacled cloud monstrosity. Untouchably powerful and impossibly big, all the other big creatures in Magic tremble as Emrakul approaches, and rightly so. It's the Death Star of Magic: The Gathering, if you will.
Emrakul's grotesque shadow is cast over the whole of the Modern late game. In many matchups, if you get past the fourth or fifth turn then the impending doom of Emrakul just comes closer and closer. And he's seemingly everywhere. As much as any one card, the raw power of Emrakul has been enough to seduce many of the best players in the world, and they've been very creative in finding all sorts of new ways of bringing this 15/15 to the table.
Ah, Emrakul—how do we love thee? Let me count the ways...
The Hard Way
(a.k.a. "Actually Paying Fifteen Mana")
By far the most common way of playing Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is to put together a collection of Cloudposts and Glimmerposts to generate a ton of colorless mana from your lands. That's at the heart of the "Twelvepost" deck that is one of the pillars of the Modern format. Using cards like Primeval Titan and Expedition Map players can search through their deck for the Loci and start generating mana from their Cloudposts, which generate mana equal to the number of Loci on the battlefield. The turbo version of this deck uses the combination of Scapeshift and Amulet of Vigor to search up the full set of Cloudposts at once, with the Amulet ensuring that they enter the battlefield untapped and can immediately summon forth Emrakul!
One weakness for the Twelvepost decks is that they are very vulnerable to land destruction, which can easily leave them with a lonely Glimmerpost on the battlefield and Emrakul sitting useless in hand. The truly committed Emrakul devotees often add a second way of generating fifteen mana, such as a set of Overgrown Battlements. This version tends to look a lot more like the Eldrazi decks we see in Standard at the moment, but it does give the Twelvepost decks some added mana stability at the expense of stripping down most of the deck's countermagic defenses.
The "Why Not?" Way
(a.k.a. "I Have Infinite Mana and Cards, so I Might as Well Cast Emrakul")
The Elf combo deck has been chosen by around a dozen players in this Pro Tour, using the combination of Nettle Sentinel and Heritage Druid with a Cloudstone Curio to ensure that they can generate an infinite supply of green mana. Throw an Elvish Visionary into the mix and you can also draw infinite cards. Once you've done all that, it doesn't take too much imagination to decide that casting Emrakul is one of the more interesting things you can do when you have a gazillion mana and every card in your deck. It might be relegated to the role of a tentacled Time Walk in the Elf deck, but the voluminous one does it very well indeed.
So, having explored all the ways of actually casting Emrakul for its mana cost of 15, players then started to get creative...
The 40% Discount Way
(a.k.a. "Buy One, Get One Free")
The Twelvepost decks that shun blue countermagic for more green cards are often choosing to invest in some serious discounts on their Emrakul, in the form of Tooth and Nail. For just 5GG they can search their deck for Emrakul and a burly friend, or drop an Emrakul they were already holding onto the battlefield. Pay the added entwine cost of 2 and you can do both—search for Emrakul and a friend, then put them straight onto the battlefield! Paying 7GG is a healthy saving on the 15 to cast Emrakul for its mana cost—a 40% discount!
The One-Hit Wonder Way
(a.k.a. "The Breach Boys")
A late development in the Pro Tour preparation was the buzz yesterday about Through The Breach, with news of the card's appearance in Twelvepost decks seeing dealers rapidly sell out of the unheralded Champions of
Kamigawa rare. Through the Breach cuts the cost of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn even further than Tooth and Nail does, all the way from fifteen mana to just five. In this version Emrakul doesn't stick around to actually finish the job, but the chances are that the one attack will do enough to win the game. That's 15 damage to the opponent and six of their permanents binned by the annihilator keyword! What could be better than that?
Well, how about our next one...
The Old Gods Don't Die Way
(a.k.a. "It's ALIVE!!!")
One of the sneakiest ways of getting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the battlefield is probably also the quickest as it's possible to have Emrakul swinging into the red zone as early as the second turn! This obviously sounds a crazily good idea if you can pull it off, so what do you need to do? The first step is to get Emrakul into your graveyard by discarding it to cast Lightning Axe, although obviously you'll need a handy creature to aim your Axe at. Failing that, there are any number of other draw/discard affects you can use. The important thing is to send Emrakul to the graveyard somehow so that you can bring it back to life.
But wait, that doesn't work—when Emrakul goes to the graveyard your whole graveyard gets shuffled into your deck, so how can you reanimate it? The secret is timing, as it so often is in Magic. Goryo's Vengeance is an instant, so once Emrakul's effect to shuffle it into your deck is on the stack, you can respond with Goryo's Vengeance and wrench your dying god back into the game!
The Top Seven Way
(a.k.a. "It's a Trap!")
Returning to the classic green cards, it's possible to bring Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play for nothing. Nil. Nada. Zip. All you need is an obliging opponent, a bit of luck, and Summoning Trap. Play a creature that your opponent wants to counter, somehow sweet-talk them into countering it by assuring them that you aren't playing Summoning Trap in your deck... then cast Summoning Trap! They may want to call you a dirty liar as you reveal Emrakul in the top seven cards of your deck, but they'll be too busy running and screaming.
All that outlines the many ways that players have come up with to use and abuse one of the most powerful creatures we've ever seen in Magic. But there is one more route to getting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play, and it doesn't even involve having Emrakul in your deck to begin with...
(a.k.a. "I Wasn't Even Supposed to Be Here Today")
Bribery. 3UU. Sorcery. Search your opponent's library for a creature card and put it into play under your control.
As it became obvious just how many players and decks were going to try and bring the big Eldrazi to the table, the search was on for an answer. You couldn't counter Emrakul, and once he was in play you rarely had time to kill him before your cards vanished from under you and the game was over. The answer to this threat was Bribery, because even the Eldrazi can be bought if you bring enough gold. Bribery is appearing in the sideboards of many decks here at the Pro Tour, deciding mirror matches between Twelvepost decks, giving the control decks the perfect weapon against their biggest foe and offering all the other blue-based decks a powerful option to turn their opponent's best card against them. In a format with a card pool as large as Modern there is always going to be an answer to any deck, and the decks hoping to exploit Emrakul, the Aeons Torn may well come to regret their decision.
We've a long way to go before we can declare Modern to be the domain of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but it's certain that Emrakul has been one of the focal points of player creativity in the lead-up to this Pro Tour—and that we're going to see a lot of the Eldrazi behemoth before we crown our Pro Tour Philadelphia champion!