Hello there, and welcome to another edition of Under the Hood; a series of articles that aims to undress a particular mechanic of the game and address its potential to impact our favourite format; Commander. For this issue I figure I’d take on a reasonably recent addition to the plethora of mechanics of Magic: The eldrazi keyword of Emerge.
Emerge is an ‘Cost Reduction’ (The ability to cheat on costs of spells) mechanic that previewed with Eldritch moon, which allows large creatures to be cast at a discount by offering a creature as a sacrifice – The higher the converted mana cost of the sacrifice, the bigger the discount. Now, while cost reduction mechanics have historically been broken (Delve or Affinity, looking at you here); Wizards surprised us by offering up a mechanic that was remarkably… fair. The nature of the emerge mechanic offers opportunities for the caster to get 2-for-1ed, having sacrificed a creature only to get the Emerge card countered, and a lot of the payoffs for emerging were seemingly tailored to be barely worth it in a lot of cases.
Regardless, the mechanic was impactful in draft, with plenty of emergers showing up at common, and there being a few archetype defining choices, such as Lashweed Lurker or Distended Mindbender, rearing their tentacly appendages at higher rarities. In standard, Temur Emerge had a brief run around Eldritch Moon’s launch, taking advantage of mostly Elder Deep-Fiend but also making use of Lashweed Lurker and sometimes Mockery of Nature out of the sideboard. Alas, this deck is a relic of the times now, as with the release of Kaladesh Temur decks were phased out in favour of the much more explosive Aetherworks Marvel decks.
Due to the previous disadvantages, Emerge has yet to make an impact in any other formats such as Modern or Legacy – decks in these formats either don’t run a creature curve high enough to make a real payoff via discount a reality such as Infect, Affinity or Burn, or cheat in big creatures that don’t want to be sacrificed as they can win the game on their own (Sneak and Show, Eldrazi Stompy, or Reanimator)
Implications on the format
That’s about enough of other formats, what about the format we all care about? The wide-reaching plane of Commander surely wants them, right? Can emerge be made good in the same format as Ad Nauseam and Iona, Shield of Emeria? My answer is going to be ‘Potentially’.
Had there been many (if any) more multiplayer-focused ones i’d say almost definitely; Unfortunately, all of the emerge creatures released have effects only aimed at one player, so have a tendency to feel underwhelming in a multiplayer arena. If Abundant Maw had the same wording as Siege Rhino it would look better, if still underwhelming in a 40 life total format.
However (and this is a big ‘However’), EDH has access to all of the many ways other formats would have to abuse this mechanic, without all the pre-existing requirement to be as efficient as possible. For example,. Delve creatures (Rotated out as soon as Shadows over Innistrad hit shelves) would provide a huge discount without the construction restraint that comes with Emerge. Unfortunately, unless this is really interesting to you, I would recommend cramming a ton of Delve creatures into a deck purely for use with Emerge, though Tasigur, the Golden Fang is an easy include (repeatable too, from the command zone), and turning him into a Drownyard Behemoth or Elder Deep-Fiend at a moment’s notice for 1-2 mana seems like a good deal to me. To add to this musing, Delve creatures centralise primarily around Sultai colours, allowing a graveyard-value deck such as Tasigur or Sidisi, Brood Tyrant to take advantage of both sets of creatures; though, I don’t believe that the mechanic has been explored to the point where there are enough good Emerge cards to justify a deck with the theme (not that it’s impossible).
Even if we aren’t looking to build around it however, we have plenty of good examples that synergise with other strategies. For example, Ephara, God of the Polis is best friends with the two flash Emergers, Elder Deep-Fiend and Drownyard Behemoth. Being able to pick and choose when you play these cards (Almost always during your opponent’s turn) allows a premium style of flexibility on whether you’d like to grind out maximum value from your Commander. Also being able to take an attacker by flash-blocking is a huge bonus, of course.
For my favourite card for the format, Decimator of the Provinces may well live out his retirement in EDH (He didn’t really have a standard run to speak of, with Emrakul overshadowing him as Green Finisher). He fills a great niche as a budget replacement for Craterhoof Behemoth, providing the instant gratification that isn’t provided by similar recent Creature-Overrun Pathbreaker Ibex. While it Isn’t as splashy as the Ibex, it makes up for adding 7 hasty damage to your team’s alpha strike, and in a token deck that could be the difference between lethal and a revenge back swing.
I know I said I recommended against it, but here is a (very) quickly thrown-together list that comprises the base of a deck with an Emerge subtheme.
Wanting to squeeze out as much value from Emerge as possible Tasigur is at the helm, providing a high CMC body for minimal cost. Other eldrazi fill out the frame, containing some helpful synergies (and an above-all flavour win in my books). For example, Brood Monitor and Eyeless Watcher are both vanilla 1/1s once they unleash their ETB burst of Scions, but that high cmc body is a great enabler for Emerge creatures. Deathless Behemoth and World Breaker are huge discounts on semi-easily recurrable bodies too. Perhaps my favourite part of the deck though comes in the Decimator Haymaker. Through incidental token generation through summoning Eldrazi, Awakening Zone or From Beyond, a critical mass of spawns can allow a Decimator of the Provinces to come in and threaten to kill multiple opponents at once. The venerable Ulamog and other titanic threats are there too to curve out the Eldrazi monster.
That’s it for this round of Under the Hood! Feel free to let me know how you think it’s gone and provide feedback if you can.
Until next time though, Unmistakable Out.