Lessons and Emrakuls

Posted in Top Decks on August 12, 2016

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

What did we learn at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon this weekend?

Well, we learned that I'm very lucky, but besides that, we learned that Emrakul was the villain all along. I guess all those Clues meant something after all, and Emrakul was certainly the biggest (and baddest) thing to come out of the tournament.

Let's take a look at some of the decks in the Top 8, and how they looked to either cast or deal with Emrakul. She is the center of gravity, the biggest card, and what this format is going to revolve around.

The winner of the tournament, Lukas Blohon, played White-Black Control, and he managed to defeat three Emrakul decks on his way to the title.

Lukas Blohon's White-Black Control—Winner, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon

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Game Plan: Kill all the opponent's threats; win with Kalitas, Avacyn, or a planeswalker.

Anti-Emrakul Technology: White-Black Control doesn't have very many ways to stop Emrakul in the main deck. The two copies of Transgress the Mind are about it, and given the relatively slow clock, it will be hard to end the game before Emrakul arrives. What this deck does have is a robust sideboard.

By boarding in Infinite Obliteration, another Transgress, and four copies of Gideon, White-Black Control increases both its disruption and its clock, giving it a solid chance against Emrakul decks.

Rating: I give this deck three tentacles out of five (look, I don't know how many tentacles Emrakul has). It's certainly a solid deck, but even with the extensive sideboard plan, I wouldn't want to play this in a field of Eldrazi. Only play white-black if you expect a lot more fair decks.

The next deck is what Lukas faced in the finals (and what defeated me in the Top 4):

Owen Turtenwald's Temur Emerge—Finalist, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon

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Game Plan: Use self-mill cards like Gather the Pack, Vessel of Nascency, and Grapple with the Past to put Kozilek's Return in the graveyard and reduce Emrakul's cost. Cast Emrakul, potentially after setting up by casting Elder Deep-Fiend.

Emrakul's Devoted Followers: The combination of Gather and Grapple, plus a wide mix of card types, helps this deck both find Emrakul and make sure she costs as little as possible. Casting a turn-six or -seven Emrakul is commonplace, and she often comes with a Kozilek's Return just in case.

Rating: Five tentacles out of five. This is the deck best-suited to find and cast Emrakul in the format. It gets to Emrakul faster and more consistently than anyone else. That doesn't mean it's just the best deck, because it makes sacrifices to be so streamlined, but it is built to be broken. The interactions between Kozilek's Return and emerge help too, and overall, this is the deck I'd look at playing going forward.

One of the decks Owen defeated on his way to the finals was piloted by yours truly, and despite my loss to Owen, I would definitely still recommend the deck. That deck is Bant Company, the deck everyone loves to hate.

Luis Scott-Vargas's Bant Company—Top 8, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon

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Game Plan: Pressure the opponent with early creatures, and use Spell Queller and Collected Company to stay ahead. Apply Reflector Mages whenever you start to fall behind.

Anti-Emrakul Technology: I will fully admit there were more Emrakuls in the tournament than we expected, and as a result this deck doesn't have the exact main deck I'd want to play. I'd recommend swapping three of the Dromoka's Commands with Clash of Wills from the sideboard (and just cutting the Negate from the sideboard). Clash of Wills is fantastic against the Eldrazi decks, and helps prevent them from landing their big threats.

Rating: Four tentacles out of five. Bant Company is still a great deck, and still plays a lot of powerful and consistent cards. Reflector Mage, Spell Queller, and Collected Company pack quite the punch, and I wouldn't count this deck out yet.

It may seem odd to see Liliana and Emrakul fighting side by side, but Sam Pardee's deck features that pairing as a centerpiece.

Sam Pardee's Black-Green Delirium—Top 8, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon

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Game Plan: Like White-Black Control, this deck wants to kill everything the opponent plays. The biggest difference is the use of Traverse the Ulvenwald to play a creature package as finishers, including Emrakul herself. It also has Grim Flayer, Sylvan Advocate, and Tireless Tracker, which give it a legitimate attacking angle.

Emrakul's Devoted Followers: Grim Flayer and Liliana fill the graveyard, and Traverse finds the Emrakul. This isn't the most dedicated delirium/mill deck, but it reliably finds and casts Emrakul by about turn eight or so.

Rating: Four tentacles out of five. Black-Green Delirium is the most midrange-y deck in the Top 8, and as a result can struggle with the bigger Emrakul decks. Languish isn't the card you want in those matchups, and this deck is a little heavy on removal. I'd look to play this if I expected more Bant, as having all the removal spells does help there.

The last deck I want to talk about is the one Andrew Brown played, which is a different take on Temur Emerge.

Andrew Brown's Temur Emerge—Top 8, Pro Tour Eldritch Moon

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Game Plan: Cast Primal Druid and Matter Reshaper, and use them to power out a fast emerge creature. Jace and Grapple with the Past provide a powerful engine, and Kozilek's Return does the sweeping required.

Emrakul's Devoted Followers: Well, the first thing I would do to this deck is move the Emrakul to the main deck (and play a second, even). Past that, you have Primal Druid, Shaman of Forgotten ways, and Grapple with the Past, all of which help let Emrakul join the party.

Rating: Three tentacles out of five. This deck is optimized for a solid emerge plan, which isn't quite as powerful as the Emrakul plan. I do like the Primal Druid-Matter Reshaper synergy, and Grapple plus Jace is awesome, but if you are going to go big, Owen's deck is slightly better-suited.

Where to Next?

Emrakul is taking this format for a ride. Whatever you are planning on playing, you need a plan to either answer her or utilize her power. Kozilek's Return makes it hard to go under (note the conspicuous absence of Mono-White Humans), so disruption or going bigger are among your better options. Summary Dismissal is a card I expect to see more of, and cards like Clash of Wills and Transgress the Mind will be cast many times over the next few months.

However you choose to deal with the Eldrazi menace, it's going to be an exciting time, and I wish you the best of luck at it.

LSV

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