Hello spike rogues!
Preview season is upon us, and that means it’s time to brew! Unfortunately, we can’t actually play with these cards yet — a tricky dilemma for us at the Faithless Brewing Podcast, as we always like to put our brews to the test in Magic Online Leagues when we share them with all of you. Until then, I offer you this writeup on one of the most terrifying new cards previewed from Throne of Eldraine: Emry, Lurker of the Loch. We’ll have more to say about Emry, along with proposed decklists, on future episodes of the podcast. Stay tuned and happy brewing!
Overview: A brief introduction to Modern’s newest tormentor
This card is completely egregious. For purposes of discussion I will assume it normally costs U.
Tap: draw a card is not a reasonable ability for a creature, much less a 1 mana creature. Emry’s ability is better than that, because you aren’t drawing a random card, you are drawing an artifact of your choice. This can enable other synergies, including combo loops.
Even if you are not comboing, the tap ability is both card advantage and card selection. You can curve Emry into Goblin Engineer, immediately casting the artifact you tutored for.
Emry makes Mox Amber a real card. I was skeptical that we would ever see an artifact-friendly legend at two mana. The closest so far have been Erayo, Fblthp, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, or Baral — all medium at best. Here we have an outstanding one for just one mana. Crazy.
It passes the Wrenn and Six test, for some reason.
Even if Emry “dies to removal,” you still got the ETB trigger. This makes each of your future Emrys (or Goblin Engineers, etc.) more powerful. Remember: you only paid 1 mana for this creature. If they didn’t kill it right away with Bolt/Push, you start drawing cards next turn, or possibly combo kill them next turn. If they kill it with Path, or if the ETB mills something of value (Sword of the Meek?) you are very far ahead on the exchange.
Legendary status is relevant not just for Mox Amber but also for Goryo’s Vengeance. Goryo’s cares about self-mill and also wants creatures that gain value from haste or can result in a 1 turn kill; Emry checks both boxes. If needed, she can also be supplemented by other legendaries that check the same boxes (Urza, JVP, Obzedat, Sai, Kethis).
Compared to Goblin Engineer, Emry costs 50% less (huge), has a zero mana activation (huge), is a blue legend (huge), and generates card advantage immediately without requiring clunkier setup like Ichor Wellspring. However, the direct comparison is misleading, because the cards play so well together that they should likely be used in tandem.
Her most obvious combo enabler, Jeskai Ascendancy, is itself a reasonable card selection engine. Unlike the old Ascendancy Combo decks, which were piles of draft chaff with virtually no game text, the Emry Ascendancy combo only requires a single other card (Mishra’s Bauble) that you were already interested in playing anyway. You could build a very strong artifact deck around Emry, and just slot in some copies of Ascendancy for another angle of attack.
Of course, the best way for a new printing to gain traction in Modern is to simply slot into existing, proven decks. I believe that Emry could be immediately added to decks like UrzaSword with good results. Lower tier stuff like Lantern, Affinity, Whir Prison, Dice Factory, could also try it. However, what is really exciting is when a card can spawn entire new archetype, or trigger a fundamental rebuild of tier strategies. At Faithless Brewing we are all about that fresh new spice, so in the remainder of this article I will explore what those decks might look like.
The Combo, Part 1
The Emry Ascendancy combo works as follows:
- Cast Emry. This can be done on turn 1 with land, Bauble, Mox (Opal or Amber)
- Cast Jeskai Ascendancy. With a second land or Opal, this is easily done on turn 2.
- Sacrifice Bauble (could also be Welding Jar, Tormod’s Crypt, etc). Tap Emry, recast Bauble from GY.
- Trigger Ascedancy, untap Emry, repeat.
This will grow Emry to lethal proportions, and also let you loot through your entire deck for the turn 2 kill. (You might even have an extra mana on turn 1)
“But what if they have a blocker?” Well, at some point, you will loot a second copy of Mox Opal (or Mox Amber) into the graveyard. From there, instead of looping the Bauble, you loop the Mox (will die to legend rule) and actually generate a mana each time. Because the “draw a card” on Ascendancy is optional, once you have found the 2nd Mox you can generate infinite mana without decking yourself, but still have the option to dig as far into your deck as you want.
There is a chance that you might deck from Bauble triggers if you pass the turn, so it would be ideal to kill them immediately. A singleton Walking Ballista would do the trick, without dipping into the narrower stuff like Grapeshot, Lab Maniac, or Nexus of Fate. Grinding Station will also work if you don’t have too many Bauble triggers stacked up. But probably, passing the turn is fine, so you’re free to use something like UrzaSword (infinite thopters + life + cast your deck) if desired. Again, this is only if they have a blocker; if they don’t, Emry herself kills them immediately.
They can defend against this combo by killing Emry on sight. This works temporarily, but note that Goryo’s Vengeance grants haste. In the meantime, an Ascendancy on board will loot you very quickly toward your next Goryo’s or Emry.
Did I mention that the card only costs 1 mana?
(There are additional combos available with Emry; see below).
Let’s start the baseline Emry package as follows:
4 Mox Opal
1-4 Mox Amber
4 Mishra’s Bauble
Complementary artifacts like Arcum’s Astrolabe and Chromatic Star are likely to also appear in some numbers, possibly four of each.
For the basic combo angle, let’s add:
3-4 Jeskai Ascendancy
From this point, decision trees start to branch. The first direction to explore would be all-in combo, likely supported by 3-4 Goryo’s Vengeance, with additional legends and self-mill to tie things together. Cards to consider:
3-4 Urza, Lord High Artificer
0-4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
0-4 Grinding Station
0-2 Welding Jar/Tormod’s Crypt (these enable the combo, similar to Bauble)
0-1 Walking Ballista
Note that Karn, the Great Creator can serve as your kill condition (finds Grinding Station/Ballista/Lattice), while also being important for the Emry mirrors that are likely to crop up if this deck actually works.
The most robust deck here would simply lean on Urza, whose power with the ThopterSword combo is well established. So cards like:
3-4 Goblin Engineer
2-4 Thopter Foundry
1-2 Sword of the Meek
0-1 Spine of Ish Sah
0-3 Whir of Invention
Plus as many utility artifacts from the UrzaBlade shells as you care to include.
Remember, once you are going off with Ascendancy, you will generate infinite mana and loot through as much of your deck as you want, so even small numbers of these cards will be useful as secondary win conditions. (A singleton Chromatic Star allows you to replenish your hand, if Ascendancy was the last card in your hand; or a singleton Echo of Eons).
The challenge in the above scenarios would be finding the Jeskai Ascendancy in a timely fashion. One option is cantrips and card draw (Serum Visions, Thoughtcast, Thirst for Knowledge), but these dilute your artifact plan. Glittering Wish is used in old Ascendancy Combo, but that seems to take the Emry build in slower, messier directions.
Staying within the artifact theme, Wishclaw Talisman is an option worth considering. Even if you are not ready to use its ability (ideally to win that turn), it can sit on the battlefield reducing the cost of your Emrys and boosting your Urzas. If the game bogs down into a value-fest, Goblin Engineer allows you to sacrifice the Talisman in response to your own activation. Alternately, Teferi, Time Raveler can bounce it back to your hand after activation.
Certain Ascendancy Combo alums like Fatestitcher are worth consideration, but as these don’t really do anything without the Ascendancy in play, they are less attractive. Note, however, that an unearthed Fatestitcher will let you double-activate the Talisman, fetching two combo pieces.
Less Combo-Focused Builds
Alternately, rather than emphasizing a speedy combo, we could lean more into the Esper Goryo’s shells of old, relying on Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Obzedat, Ghost Council to convert a non-lethal Goryo’s into a potent standalone threat. Such a shell would be more interested in a “value” legends like Urza, Lord High Artificer or Sai, Master Thopterist.
Outside of Goryo’s, legendary planeswalkers also complement the Emry-Amber-Opal core nicely. Teferi, TIme Raveler would also work well with everything this version is trying to do: protect key pieces, bounce Moxen for extra mana / cast triggers, bounce Astrolabe or Emry for additional ETB triggers, etc. Narset, Parter of Veils can find your pieces. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer offers another copy of Sai.
Any “fair” midrange build will likely want 3-4 Goblin Engineer, as the synergy with Emry is too powerful to ignore. Each copy of Emry makes your future Engineers better, and vice-versa, even though they both “die to removal.”
The fact is, we are not accustomed to having this many cheap Moxen and artifact-friendly Legends available at a given time, with multi-format powerhouse Arcum’s Astrolabe in the fold to boot. Useful cards like Thoughtcast, Galvanic Blast, Thoughtseize, Thirst for Knowledge, etc could easily appear in a more midrange decklist. Basic questions, like how many lands to play, how many legends are needed, how many cheap artifacts are needed, and how many graveyard-adjacent cards should be incorporated to turn on Emry’s card draw will all need to be sorted out. Karn TGC is likely to be a problem, but also a solution, in that you could easily build your own deck to harness Karn and thereby win Emry mirrors.
Additional Combo Directions
I mentioned that there are other combos outside of Ascendancy, some of which are fragile, but some of which may ultimately prove to be even more potent.
Erayo is primarily of interest because of Mox Amber. Flipping Erayo has always been possible in Modern, but often too slow and requiring too many very poor zero mana artifacts. If it happens too late in the game (read: turn 3) you may not even win with Erayo’s Essence, because your resources are exhausted and they might already have a board presence.
Emry flips the script here, adding two outstanding complementary pieces (both herself, and Mox Amber which is now actively useful). You can simply slot some copies of Erayo into your Emry Ascendancy build, making your Ambers better and giving you another powerful threat.
(Note that Erayo does not work with Goryo’s Vengeance, as it remains the same object even if successfully flipped into Erayo’s Essence. So, you will still have to sacrifice it to Goryo’s.)
Alternately, you can lean harder into Erayo with a full playset. 8-Mox has never really been a thing before in Modern, due to the lack of enablers for Amber, but with Emry in the equation many things suddenly become possible.
A Mox-heavy build with Emry and Erayo would likely lead you toward Paradoxical Outcome as your combo piece of choice, rather than Jeskai Ascendancy. This makes the mana much simpler, and Outcome is a perhaps even more dangerous than Ascendancy when you don’t yet have your combo assembled.
Consider this build, developed by David Inglis and Cain Rianhard, which took 9th place this weekend (out of 400+) in the MTGO PTQ. This has the ability to convert a single Outcome into a 1-turn kill thanks to Urza + a bunch of zero-mana artifacts. The quickest sequence would involve turn 1 Mox Opal into Everflowing Chalice on 1, turn 2 Urza. From there Outcome can be cast (likely on turn 3-4, but possibly on turn 2) and if you draw the right cards (a second Outcome + more zero drops) you are off to the races. However, if the matchup is not about pure speed, Sai and Urza can come down early to provide both board presence and grindy advantage, and you are always threatening to go off with Outcome at any time.
Adding more Ambers, Emry, and Erayo into this deck could speed up its fundamental turn considerably while providing yet more angles of attack. Remember, Emry herself is a stand alone threat just for her card draw ability. Exhausting your hand to flip Erayo looks a lot better whan a single Sai, Outcome, Emry, or Urza can turn on the fountain of gasoline all by themselves.
Finally we have the dark-horse entrant from Standard, Kethis the Hidden Hand. In Standard, the Kethis Combo requires Diligent Excavator, and is more of a midrange deck that also applies snowballing pressure as the game progresses, since each copy of Kethis threatens to immediately run away with the game value-wise, or kill them immediately.
While many of the supporting pieces seem too weak for Modern (Lazav, Oath of Kaya, even Diligent Excavator) the basic combo of Kethis + some self-mill engine + a bunch of legends (including legendary Moxen) should be doable within the constraints of Modern. Notably, Emry slots perfectly into everything Kethis wants to be doing: it is a cheap legend that enables your Moxen, fills the graveyard, finds combo pieces, and provides a solid backup plan of grinding value.
The most powerful self-mill enabler appears to be Grinding Station (conveniently, an artifact which Emry can cast). Others to consider are Shriekhorn, Altar of Dementia, Diligent Excavator, Hedron Crab, JVP, Lazav.
Self mill is likely to hit either a Kethis or an Emry, which incentivizes you to play Unearth or Goryo’s Vengeance, or both.
From there it is a question of rounding out the deck with plausible cards that are not too clunky. Cards like Chromatic Star and Terrarrion all make sense, as they benefit from Kethis’s cost reduction and work with Emry. Hope of Ghirapur is more speculative, but is zero mana off Kethis and protects you from counterspells. Oath of Jace is a possibility. Mishra, Artificer Prodigy and Urza, Lord High Artificer are both plausible, as is Sai.
The manabase for Modern Kethis could attempt to incorporate various Legendary Lands. Or, for more solid mana, simply play snow+fetches to get more reliable Arcum’s Astrolabes.
Some number of Erayo could also be slotted in cleanly into a Kethis build.
I would not personally play this card, as it has very little going for it. However, it gives you an important line of text from Jeskai Ascendancy, while also being an eligible target for Unearth.
In Conclusion: Emry Winter Is Coming
If it wasn’t already clear from this wall of text, I consider Emry to be a completely unreasonable card in Modern. I have focused on the combo potential, as those are always the first things that jump to mind when a new broken engine is spoiled. Much like Hogaak with Altar + Bridge from Below, Emry lends itself to some truly degenerate combos at a frighteningly early turn of the game, and in a supporting shell that can also hold its own with powerful artifact synergies. Also like Hogaak, I believe that the most resilient, most oppressive build is also likely to be one that eschews the infinite combo as the primary angle and just focuses on the raw strength and efficiently of everything the Lady of the Lake has to offer.
Emry is sure to be the focus of a great deal of attention in Modern, so I’ll restrict myself here to just these big picture thoughts, to get your brewer’s gears turning.
If you enjoy this type of content, let me recommend to you once more our podcast, Faithless Brewing, which is all about brewing spicy new decks that attempt to unlock the power of exciting build-arounds in Modern. Each week, we brew around a new card and propose multiple lists, then report back the next week on how they performed in tournament play. If you are familiar with decks like Rainbow Niv-Mizzet, Kiora Ponza, or Bant Monkeyform, these were all developed in earlier episodes of our cast.
We’ll be weighing in on more Throne of Eldraine spoilers in this week’s episode (which should be released on Friday; we haven’t recorded it yet, so if you have thoughts or questions about Emry or other Eldraine previews, post them below and we may tackle them on air). Whether you are a dedicated Modern grinder on the hunt for fresh tech, or an unabashed full-on jank brewer, Faithless Brewing is the podcast for you. We hope you will check it out and come brew with us!
As always, thanks for reading!
Dan Schriever (cavedan on Magic Online) is co-host of the Faithless Brewing Podcast. Find him on Twitter @FaithlessMTG.