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Budget Magic: $96 (31 tix) UG Emerge (Modern)


Xewani, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time again! As we wait for Ixalan and rotation to reset Standard, this week, we're heading to Modern to play a deck that would be right at home in our current Standard: UG Emerge! Elder Deep-Fiend is a super-powerful card, and while it has occasionally popped up in Standard, it might actually be better in Modern, since the format is overflowing with good emerge support cards. One of the weird aspects of Modern is that the format is so focused on being efficient (and also dealing with efficient creatures) that a lot of decks really struggle to deal with huge creatures like Elder Deep-Fiend. As such, the basic idea of our deck is to start playing huge threats like Elder Deep-Fiend and Frost Titan as early as Turn 3, while also tapping down our opponent's lands to keep our opponent from doing anything relevant. Can UG Emerge make the jump to Modern? Let's get to the videos and see; then, we'll talk more about the deck.

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Modern UG Emerge (Deck Tech)

Budget Magic: UG Emerge vs. Death and Taxes (Match 1)

Budget Magic: UG Emerge vs. Boros Burn (Match 2)

Budget Magic: UG Emerge vs. Abzan Tokens (Match 3)

Budget Magic: UG Emerge vs. Dredge (Match 4)

Budget Magic: UG Emerge vs. GW Tron (Match 5)

The Deck

UG Emerge is essentially a unique ramp deck, with the main goal being to slam a big (and hopefully disruptive) threat as early as Turn 3. In a broad sense, the deck has two main parts—ramp and payoffs—although some of our cards sort of walk the line between the two groups.

Emerge Creatures

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Elder Deep-Fiend is the centerpiece of our deck and the main reason why emerge is a viable strategy in Modern. In our deck, it usually comes down for four mana, often as early as Turn 3, which makes it extremely powerful. We can play it on our opponent's upkeep and essentially Time Walk them by tapping all of their lands, which is fine in general but especially good against combo and control. Meanwhile, in creature matchups, it's often the biggest threat on the battlefield, blocking whatever the opponent has to offer (all the way up to Endbringers and Reality Smashers) while also going on the offense and killing our opponent quickly. Once we get a board state built up, we can turn Elder Deep-Fiend's tapping ability toward our opponent's blockers to let us get in a huge, often lethal attack. It's also surprisingly hard to kill, dodging all red removal and also Fatal Push, which means that, outside of Path to Exile, our opponent's options for dealing with Elder Deep-Fiend are limited.

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Wretched Gryff might look strange, but it's surprisingly good in Modern. It's basically the blue Restoration Angel, except it also dodges Fatal Push, which leaves us with a really efficient, hard-to-deal-with, evasive threat that also draws us a card when we cast it (Restoration Angel basically draws a card as well; it's just a creature that's already on the battlefield). More importantly, Wretched Gryff is key to helping us find our Elder Deep-Fiends thanks to Sanctum of Ugin. With a Sanctum of Ugin on the battlefield, all we need is a single Wretched Gryff (or Elder Deep-Fiend) to tutor up an Elder Deep-Fiend, and we can never have too many copies of the flashy Eldrazi. In fact, one of the most powerful things our deck can do is chain together Elder Deep-Fiends multiple turns in a row, keeping our opponent's lands tapped down and generally creating an insurmountable advantage. 

Emerge Enablers

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Farhaven Elf and Wood Elves are pretty much interchangeable in our deck, coming down on Turn 2 or 3, ramping us by tutoring a land directly to the battlefield, and then being the perfect converted mana cost to emerge an Elder Deep-Fiend or Wretched Gryff the following turn. Searching out a land is also key. With a Wood Elves or Farhaven Elf on the battlefield, it costs four mana to emerge an Elder Deep-Fiend, which means the land we tutor out guarantees we'll have the mana necessary to emerge our huge threat. The other big upside of these cards is opponents don't usually care about them. As 1/1s for three, they don't look especially threatening, which means our opponents typically don't kill them, even if they have a chance, leaving the creatures on the battlefield to be emerged. 

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The package of Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl does two important things for our deck. First, it gives us our emerge nut draw. If we can play either Arbor Elf or Utopia Sprawl on Turn 1, we can play Farhaven Elf or Wood Elves on Turn 2, which sets us up for an Elder Deep-Fiend (or Wretched Gryff) on Turn 3, and a turn three Elder Deep-Fiend is very strong. Second, they work well with our backup plan, which is to ramp into big threats naturally (i.e., without emerging them). While hard casting Elder Deep-Fiend or Wretched Gryff is a lot of mana, it does happen on occasion (plus, we have some slightly cheaper threats to ramp into), and when it does, it's usually because of Arbor Elf untapping a Utopia Sprawled land to make four mana. 

Other Stuff

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Venser, Shaper Savant is actually very important to our deck because of its versatility. Not only does it provide a good creature to emerge (making Elder Deep-Fiend cost just three mana and Wretched Gryff two mana), but it also works like a Remand by bouncing one of our opponent's plays back to their hand. We can also use it to return our own Elder Deep-Fiend to our hand, allowing us to Time Walk our opponent again, or sometimes we just cast it on Turn 2 thanks to Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl and bounce our opponent's land to set back their development. Basically, while Venser, Shaper Savant isn't great at any one thing, the flexibility and options it offers makes it very good in our deck.

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Thragtusk is partly a ramp payoff and partly another good creature to emerge, since it leaves behind a 3/3 Beast when we emerge it. It's also very important to giving us a shot against the most aggressive decks in the format. Gaining five life against Burn is often the difference between winning and losing the game, which is key because Burn tends to be a rough matchup (since our opponent can cast their burn spell on their upkeep in response to us tapping down their lands). Plus, Thragtusk isn't a bad creature on its own. A 5/3 blocks just about anything and can even go on offense and close out the game in just four swings. 

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Finally, we have Frost Titan, which gives us another huge threat to lock down our opponent's mana and is extremely hard to kill. In a pinch, we can emerge it to Elder Deep-Fiend, but for the most part, we are just hoping to ramp into Frost Titan on Turn 3 or 4, lock down our opponent's biggest threat (or a land), and use our huge creatures to close out the game quickly. One of the risks of playing ramp is that you draw all ramp spells and no threats, and beyond our emerge creatures, Frost Titan felt like the best backup option for a huge, disruptive finisher.

Spells

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As for non-creatures, we have a single Dismember for when we really need to kill something forever and Remand, which is extremely versatile in our deck. While we most often use Remand as a tempo play to help us stay alive in the early game by returning one of our opponent's plays to hand (and drawing us a card to find our ramp and finishers), we can also use it on our own Elder Deep-Fiend. Since Elder Deep-Fiend triggers when cast it, we still get to tap down our opponent's stuff; then, Remand draws us a card and leaves us with an Elder Deep-Fiend in hand to tap down our opponent's things again the following turn!

Wrap-Up

All in all, we finished our matches 3-2, although it's worth noting that apart from getting blown out by Tron, every match was super close and hard fought, which means we could have easily posted a worse record with a bit less luck (especially against Dredge; I still can't believe we won that match) or a better record with a bit more luck (like drawing a Thragtusk against Burn). 

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Elder Deep-Fiend was great, and even if this exact build doesn't catch on, the Eldrazi's definitely Modern playable. It's big enough to be good against creature decks, and the ability is disruptive enough to be helpful against control and combo, which means it's at least reasonable in most matchups. This being said, we still had to deal with the age-old ramp problem where we sometimes draw the wrong half of our deck. Our emerge creatures are great if we have something to sacrifice, but once opponents start to catch on to our plan, they focus more on killing our random copies of Wood Elves and Farhaven Elf, which can leave our big payoffs rotting in our hand. One possibility would be to play Serum Visions to smooth our draw or to play a big card-draw spell like Pull from Tomorrow, although I'm not sure how to make either fit in the deck. 

Overall, UG Emerge was a ton of fun to play. While it might not be quite as competitive as Favorable Winds, it makes up for this by overflowing with really sweet cards like Frost Titan, Thragtusk, and Elder Deep-Fiend. If you like jamming big, tricky creatures and annoying your opponents by keeping all of their stuff tapped down (or if you are looking for a new home for some of your rotating Standard cards), UG Emerge might just be the Modern deck for you!

Ultra-Budget UG Emerge

We don't have to change a ton of cards to get UG Emerge down into the ultra-budget range, but some of the changes we do make are pretty impactful. The biggest is the loss of Utopia Sprawl, which is unfortunately expensive at $16 a playset. Since we are cutting Utopia Sprawl, Arbor Elf becomes a Llanowar Elves with downside, so we cut the Elf as well and go with Elvish Mystic and literal Llanowar Elves as our mana dorks. While the new additions work exactly the same when we are on the mana dork into Wood Elves into Elder Deep-Fiend plan, we lose the nut draw of casting a Turn 3 Frost Titan with Arbor Elf untapping a two-mana land. Otherwise, Remand becomes Mana Leak, and we drop the single copy of Breeding Pool (which makes our Wood Elves slightly worse, since it can't find blue mana). Otherwise, the deck should play pretty much the same as the one in the video. All in all, the ultra-budget build will be a bit slower in some games, but it still should be good enough to play for fun.

Non-Budget UG Emerge

The biggest upgrade in the non-budget version of UG Emerge is—by far—the mana base, where we get fetch lands and Breeding Pool (which is especially important because of Wood Elves). Otherwise, we get some more good emerge enablers in Kitchen Finks (to help against aggro), Vendilion Clique (for combo and control), and an Eternal Witness (for general value). We also touch up the sideboard a bit but keep the core of the deck the same. Arbor Elf and Utopia Sprawl is the fastest early-game ramp in the format, and Elder Deep-Fiend and Wretched Gryff are the best emerge creatures no matter the budget. The other possibility would be to splash black for discard like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek and maybe Distended Mindbender as another emerge payoff, although I'm not sure how much adding another color would really improve the deck (although it would be pretty easy to do, since we have so much fixing). All in all, the non-budget version is a meaningful upgrade to the build we played for the videos, but mostly just because the mana is so much better.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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