I don’t often see a card that I’m this surprised saw print.
Emry, Lurker of the Loch is among the best grindy creatures we’ve ever
seen, with two abilities that enable different kinds of combo decks in
addition to being one of the best fair cards in Modern. Beyond its
application in Modern, it’s probably one of the most powerful commanders in
the game for Commander and could break Historic. I assume this sounds like
something worth your attention.
We’ll start with Modern, where Emry has the most options, and is the
easiest to find uses for. To get an understanding of the baseline of this
card, imagine playing it in traditional Affinity. Here, it will essentially
always cost U on the first or second turn, and it will almost always put
one or more artifacts in your graveyard when it enters the battlefield. If
your opponent doesn’t kill it, it will essentially tap to draw any artifact
that was in the top four cards of your library or anything that’s died this
game. That means it both gives you value out of the gate and protects all
your other cards, so it’s like a Mother of Runes except that every turn
they don’t answer it, you draw a spell.
That’s pretty good, but honestly, it’s a little off plan for Affinity and
Affinity really wants to maximize its artifacts and kill as fast as
possible, so I’m not sure how good it actually is as a maindeck card in
that deck. It’s clearly powerful, but a bad strategic fit. So where can we
keep the power, but make it fit better strategically?
The most obvious answer is Whirza. When Emry enters the battlefield, you
mill four cards, which digs for Sword of the Meek or any other artifacts,
which Emry will let you cast. If Emry is killed, any artifacts you milled
are still available for future Emrys or Goblin Engineers. If Emry isn’t
killed, it starts drawing a card every turn. You don’t have the artifact
density that Affinity has, but if you have a Mishra’s Bauble, at worst you
can draw an extra card every turn without spending any mana. If you have
Nihil Spellbomb, Pyrite Spellbomb, or Chromatic Star, you can spend mana to
draw cards or reuse your spellbomb effects. This means Emry plus Nihil
Spellbomb is a great way to lock out Dredge, for example, and Pyrite
Spellbomb functions similarly against something like Infect.
I played Whirza in Grand Prix Indianapolis this past weekend. I was really
impressed with the deck, and my conclusion about how it plays is that you
have a lot of creatures that generate value every turn they’re unanswered,
and that the value is always digging toward an infinite combo, so your
opponent has to try to answer each of them. Removal is necessary against
the deck, but the deck generates enough free card advantage that removal
spells are ultimately a losing proposition, which means your opponent can’t
really afford to play enough removal, and because the way you pressure your
opponent with your creatures generally doesn’t require overextending in any
real way, it’s hard for them to catch up with sweepers. This means each
extra creature taxes the finite amount of removal they have. Basically, I
realized that I really wanted four Goblin Engineers because they were so
strong when they lived, and that wasn’t particularly rare, and when they
didn’t, it usually cleared the way for Urza, Lord High Artificer.
Emry stretches opposing removal even further at very little cost. The only
real downside to overloading on Emry and Goblin Engineer is that it exposes
you to graveyard hate, but I think that means you just have to be careful
about sideboarding in a way that acknowledges and prepares for that.
This is just a minor tweak on the build of the deck I played this weekend.
It’s a great, safe starting place to test Emry where I’m sure it will play
well. I think it’s possible that Oko, Thief of Crowns could have a place in
the maindeck, and I could even see getting crazy with Gilded Goose, but
this feels like a good, safe starting place.
Emry is also a great fit in Lantern, where the only real problem with it is
that it turns on opposing removal. I’m not really convinced that Lantern is
good enough in Modern right now, but if I were to try, it would probably
look something like this:
Honestly, maybe this deck has legs again. Faithless Looting was always very
good against it, and that card’s banning might help a lot. Karn, the Great
Creator is scary, but Assassin’s Trophy is a good answer, and it doesn’t
really see that much play. Pithing Needle seems really well positioned at
the moment, which is a big help.
Outside of the fair way of playing Emry, there are also several ways to use
Emry in combo decks. There are a lot of ways to establish infinite loops
with Emry – all you need is something that untaps Emry when you cast the
spell you target, like Jeskai Ascendancy, Paradox Engine, Intruder Alarm,
or Mirran Spy, and a way to get whatever you’re casting into your graveyard
again, like the legend rule on Mox Opal or Mox Amber, or sacrificing the
artifact, either to itself or something else. At that point you can win
with whatever you want, but Walking Ballista is a solid default. Honestly,
I don’t have a lot of faith in those strategies because they’re vulnerable
to graveyard hate and creature removal, but it’s worth noting that this is
very easy to combo with, especially if you’re looking to use Emry in
Commander, where it should be patently absurd, given that it will basically
always cost U even after it’s been killed several times, and is very easy
to combo with, which is the cleanest way to win a game of Commander.
The combo I’m most interested in with Emry is one that doesn’t technically
involve an infinite loop, but should let you go through your entire deck,
which is using it with Kethis, the Hidden Hand.
- 2 Hope of Ghirapur
- 1 Diligent Excavator
- 4 Lazav, the Multifarious
- 4 Kethis, the Hidden Hand
- 4 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
Here, Emry’s activated ability is an afterthought. The real purpose of the
card is just to mill four cards when you cast it. The goal is to get
Kethis, the Hidden Hand onto the battlefield, which you can accomplish by
casting it or by getting it into your graveyard and either casting Unearth
or activating Lazav, the Multifarious. Once you have Kethis on the
battlefield, you want two copies of either Mox with the ability to tap for
blue (or one and a Grinding Station to sacrifice it) and two copies of Emry
between your hand, graveyard, and battlefield. Then, because over half of
your cards are legendary, Emry should keep you fueled to churn through your
deck finding more Moxes and more Emrys so that each Kethis activation mills
more cards. Eventually you’ll make enough mana to copy your one Diligent
Excavator with Lazav and deck your opponent, or you’ll deck them with a
Grinding Station that you already had on the battlefield. The best part of
this is that it lets you get away from Diligent Excavator as your primary
engine, which was the most vulnerable part of the deck. This build of this
deck is weak against cards that make it impossible to deck your opponent,
but it has Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and Oath of Kaya to fix that in the
sideboard. If it’s a concern, I’d recommend moving the two copies of Oath
of Kaya to the maindeck.
There’s also a very good chance that a version of Kethis that looks more
like the current Standard decks, but with the addition of Emry will be one
of the best decks in Historic.
Emry benefits a lot from the larger pool of cards available in older
formats, but I also think there’s a chance the card will also find a home
in Throne of Eldraine Standard. Throne of Eldraine is
starting to show some tools for graveyard decks in Feasting Troll King and
potentially Lochmere Serpent, so we might be able to do something with
Emry’s enter the battlefield ability.
Here’s the list of artifacts I find interesting with Emry in Throne of Eldraine Standard:
There are a few others you could use, but I think these are the highlights
- 1 Chamber Sentry
- 4 Gilded Goose
- 1 Shimmer Dragon
- 4 Murderous Rider
- 2 Feasting Troll King
- 2 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
This deck has a little less Food than I’d like, but I imagine there will be
at least a couple more strong cards that create food in Throne of Eldraine, which will make playing Emry and Tamiyo to
find Feasting Troll King allow you to get the Troll onto the battlefield a
little faster. There’s some tension between using food to reanimate
Feasting Troll King versus stockpiling artifacts for Shimmer Dragon, but
both seem powerful.
I really like the interaction between Trail of Breadcrumbs and Murderous
Rider, where Trail of Breadcrumbs can find Murderous Rider because it’s a
permanent even though it acts as a spell in this deck, and the fact that
you’re creating all this Food means that losing two life to cast Swift End
doesn’t hurt too much. It’s also nice that you can sacrifice the Murderous
Rider to Witch’s Oven to return it with Tamiyo, Collector of Tales to start
the loop over again.
Ultimately, I think the food deck might be more promising without Emry,
since it’s mostly not artifacts that make food, but if there are just a few
more good artifact creatures we might be able to see something happen with
Steel Overseer and Emry.
Ultimately, I think Emry could end up being fun in Throne of Eldraine Standard, and will mostly be innocuous, but we
all might grow to hate this card in every other format, and I honestly
think printing it is a pretty big mistake, so I’d try to put yourself on
the right side of this card as soon as possible.