Thursday 21 July 2016

Emrakul, the Promised End.dec

The Promised End is a card of sufficient power that it could substantially change the cube dynamic. Some cards will become weaker, others far better. I suspect archetypes based around the Promised End will arise although as yet I have no idea what colours they might be. I am going to take a look at some of the best things you can complement the Promised End with and see if any obvious deck directions jump out at me.

Emrakul, the Promised End
So, Emrakul is at its best when it costs very little. To get it costing little you want a lot of different card types in your graveyard. There are several ways to go about doing this but they all start in much the same way and that is of course by having those kinds of cards in your deck! Without looking at specific cards you can assert that to get the best odds on having a cheap Emrakul you want to play a smooth balance of the different card types. There are 8 card types but obviously a deck with 5 of each thing isn't working out so well. Lands are always going to be a significant part of any Emrakul deck, lets assume we are going with a light count of 16.  This means we have about 24 cards to get a balance of the remaining 7 card types.

Fortunately there are a number of cards with several card types at once, which all of the tribal cards are. Ignoring these tribal cards and other dual type cards we can say that we have 24 slots we want to evenly divide up into 6 remaining card types. This means we want roughly four each of planeswalkers, instants, sorceries, creaturs, artifacts and enchantments. This is going to be one of the biggest challenges for the deck. Very few existing archetypes have anywhere near this kind of balance of stuff. Try and build it one way you will be desperately putting in rubbishy cards of one type while struggling to cut cards of another types. Try and build it another way and this effect will just reverse somewhat. We will return to the problem of doing this later and for now just continue to look at how we theoretically optimise our Emrakul.

BitterblossomAssume we manage to get a balance of 4 or so of each of the non-land card types into our deck how can we then further improve our Emrakul? This is where things get a little more divergent as the plans will likely use very different selections of cards. Instants and sorceries are not so much of an issue, there is a wide array of widely playable and decently cheap ones on offer for basically all the colours and these cards put themselves into the graveyard automatically for the most part (yes, I know about Temporal Mastery and the Zenith cycle... stupid Magic being impossible to talk about generally).

When it comes to creatures, planeswalkers, artifacts and enchantments and to some extent even the lands you have more of an issue. Some in terms of general cost and redundancy, others in terms of being able to get them into the graveyard. It is all well and good having a balance of stuff however if you don't have it in the bin it is doing nothing for your Emrakul. There are three broad solutions to this problem.

The first is to use very cheap cards with inbuilt sacrifice mechanisms such as Seal of Fire, Sakura Tribe Elder, Chromatic Star and so on and so forth. This sounds great in principle but in reality there are not that many of these on offer and building a deck with too many of them would leave to a bit of a do nothing list. The next solution is using lots of looting effects in your list so as to bypass any need for having ways to sacrifice permanents or even the need to keep things on the cheaper side. The last option is to use cards like Intuition and Gifts Ungiven to directly tutor up the specific things you want to have in your bin. This is a little less consistent and a little clunkier however it can add a lot more than just doing that to your deck and it also take a huge amount of strain off the need to balance things that much. If you plan on pulling cards out of your deck you don't need to draw them and so you don't need the redundancy.

Time to look at some of the best potential cards for these kinds of roles:

Looting Effects

Faithless Looting
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Looter il-Kor and lesser looters
Dack Fayden
Frantic Search

Graveyard Filling Effects

Satyr Wayfinder
Seal of Nascency
Grisley Salvage
Nagging Thoughts
Liliana of the Veil
Dredge stuff (Life from the Loam)

Grisly SalvageTutor Effects

Gifts Ungiven
Traverse the Ulvenwald

Playable Tribal Cards

Crib Swap
Warren Weirding
Sage's Dousing
Skittering Invasion
Reach of Branches
Namesless Inversion
Reach of BranchesLignify
Gilt-Leaf Ambush
Faerie Trickery
Eyeblight's Ending
Bound in Silence
All is Dust

Unique Dual Type Cards

Artifact Lands
Baleful Strix
Shardless Agent
Courser of Kruphix
Bow of Nylea
Whip of Erebos
Xenagos, God of Revels
Dryad Arbor
Vessel of NascencyBrain Maggot

Cheap Sacrificial Permanents

Capsules (Couriers/Executioners/Dispellers)
Seal of (Fire/Removal/Cleansing)
Vessel of Nascency
Sakura Tribe Elder
Insolent Neonate
Hapless Researcher
Mogg Fanatic
Alchemist's Apprentice
Chromatic Star/Sphere
Sac Lands

It looks like blue and green have the most to offer all round with black and red competing hard for a look in. With such tight deck construction parameters three colours seems better than one or two for an Emrakul deck. I'm sure you can make one work with most 3 colour combinations. White is the weakest colour by a long way with little more than some tribal cards to offer so probably avoid that.

Traverse the UlvenwaldI am going to try a versatile Sultai Gifts style list and a Temur list which is more direct. The Temur list is what we shall look at first. It is looking to raw dog the cost reductions using a good balance of card types and lots of looting. The Temur list is pretty all in on casting Emrakul as getting a balance of the things you need makes the deck not do all that much else. As such there is some tutor effects for the Emrakul, given you need it to win it seems a necessity even with all the looting. The deck looks rather like a combo deck in how it will approach winning. Fun and differently complex but sadly using rather too many weak cards that are not commonly found in drafting cubes.

The deck only manages to pack 3 planeswalkers and 3 tribal spells but it has at least 4 of everything else. Having not tested the list I cannot say exactly how I would change it yet but it doesn't have a refined look about it presently so I am sure some tweaking is needed. As the deck is so all in on Emrakul I have included some means to give her haste to greatly increase her odds on getting a kill.

Chromatic StarTemur List

24 spells

Traverse the Ulvenwald           s
Faithless Looting                     s
Tarfire                                      i t
Seal of Fire                              e
Birds of Paradise                     c
Brainstorm                               i
Chromatic Star                        a
Careful Study                          s

Looter il-Kor                           c
Coiling Oracle                         c
Sylvan Library                        e
Lignify                                    e t
Fire // Ice                                 i
Explore                                    s

Dack Fayden                           p
Courser of Kruphix                 c e
Shardless Agent                      c a
Gilt Leaf Ambush                   i t
Bow of Nylea                         e a
Fierce Empath                        c
Domri Rade                            p

Arlinn Kord                           p
Anger                                     c

Emrakul, the Promised End

16 Lands
including an artifact land, at least one basic and some sac lands

Fierce EmpathMy second list idea for The Promised End is much more power dense and actually looks quite like existing an cube archetype. The list offers reasonable control and some alternate win mechanisms compared to the previous list it is somewhat slower. Compared to more pure control decks it is a lot more fragile, most of the best control cards for this kind of deck are instant or sorcery.

My fear for the Sultai deck is that it is too slow to make Emrakul cheap and get her in hand before you have run out of gas and been killed. To get Emrakul to less than seven mana before turn seven you will need to cast either a Gifts or an Intuition, likely a recursion spell for Emrakul and then ontop of that you will have to play and sac or loot away the cards put in hand from the Gifts/Intuition. Restricting a slow! The concern for the Temur deck is when you don't win the game with Emrakul, the concern with the Sultai list is that the added control does not offset the slower pace of the deck enough.

Sultai Gifts
Grapple with the Past
Birds of Paradise                c
Deathrite Shaman               c
Noxious Revival                 i
Thoughtsieze                      s
Divining Top                      a

Sakura Tribe Elder             c
Nameless Inversion            i t
Baleful Strix                       a c
Grapple with the Past         i
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy           c
Arcane Denial                    i
Explore                              s

Intuition                              i
Liliana of the Veil              p
Eternal Witness                  c
Gifts UngivenBow of Nylea                     a e
Pernicious Deed                 e
Sultai Charm                      i
Courser of Kruphix            e c
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver p

Gifts Ungiven                     i
Damnation                          s

Reach of Branches             s t

Emrakul, the Promised End

16 Lands
including at least one basic, some sac and one artifact land.

Having spent far too long working on these prototype lists I have actually concluded I like the Temur colours better but somewhat prefer the style of the Sutlai deck. I shall try and actually build and play with it and will do one final article on that and what I learned from it. I hope you all have as much fun brewing The Promised End into lists. I greatly look forward to seeing her in the presently unknown best decks for her as well as seeing some entirely unexpected and creative uses.


  1. Nice article. My own experience with SOI limited is that even without any specific effort, it is not really difficult to have delirium with any deck, after four or five turns, and even having 5 different types in the yard. In cube where there is access to fetchland and a wider access to PW, I am sure achieving six is fearly easy. It just takes a few milling/looting effects. No need to go into tribal stuff or other fringe playable effects.

  2. You may well be right that you can play a Promised End without having to focus much at all on reducing its cost as it will happen relatively naturally for a lot of decks. Whenever it comes to new archetypes I push them as far as they can go first as I find it the best way to learn and understand the deck. After that the decks tend to replace the less important support cards with good old fashioned powerful cube staples.