Elder Deep-Fiend | Illustration by Jason Felix
The Eldrazi have always been the MTG equivalent of a strange alien threat, and although they have some pretty memorable mechanics like annihilator, nothing quite evokes the horror of their strangeness like emerge does.
Giving the impression that an Eldrazi monstrosity is bursting out of an ordinary creature, this was the perfect way to make a mechanic that screams “Eldrazi on Innistrad.” But how does this mechanic work? Where did it come from? Let’s crack open the fabric of reality and find out!
How Does Emerge Work?
Vexing Scuttler | Illustration by James Paick
A creature with emerge has an alternate casting cost that also requires you to sacrifice a creature. When you sacrifice a creature to the effect, the cost of casting the creature (for the emerge cost) is reduced by the mana value of the sacrificed creature.
For example, if you cast Abundant Maw, which has an emerge cost of six generic mana and a black mana, and sacrifice a Grizzly Bears (mana value two), you’d have to pay one black and four generic mana. It’s also important to note that the sacrificed creature only reduces the generic part of the emerge cost, not the colored part.
The History of Emerge in MTG
Emerge first appeared in 2016’s Eldritch Moon, representing the influence of Emrakul on the plane of Innistrad. It flavorfully showed Eldrazi monstrosities bursting out of the native creatures and the horror plane.
There were 10 cards with emerge in the set, across all rarities. It hasn’t been seen since, most likely because it’s tied closely with the Eldrazi. There’s no real reason why we won’t see it again since it’s not particularly overpowered. It just needs a flavorful reason for its inclusion.
Can You Emerge at Instant Speed?
Emerge doesn’t change the speed that you can cast the spell, so it depends on the emerge spell itself. But if the spell you’re casting for the emerge cost has flash, for instance, then you can cast it at instant speed.
Who Chooses What Creature to Sacrifice for Emerge?
The player casting the emerge creature chooses which of the creatures they control to sacrifice. They can choose a creature that they control but don’t own, like a creature they’ve gained control of with a Control Magic effect. You still own and control the creature you cast if you sacrifice a creature you don’t own to the emerge cost.
When Do You Sacrifice the Creature for Emerge?
Sacrificing the creature is part of the cost of casting the emerge spell, so you sacrifice the creature before the spell goes onto the stack and way before the creature with the emerge ability enters the battlefield. It also means that if the emerge spell is countered, you still have to sacrifice the creature to it.
But so far all emerge spells have on-cast abilities, like Wretched Gryff card draw ability, which somewhat mitigates this.
Gallery and List of Emerge Cards
- Abundant Maw
- Decimator of the Provinces
- Distended Mindbender
- Drownyard Behemoth
- Elder Deep-Fiend
- It of the Horrid Swarm
- Lashweed Lurker
- Mockery of Nature
- Vexing Scuttler
- Wretched Gryff
Best Emerge Cards
One emerge card stands out in particular when considering the best, and that’s Elder Deep-Fiend. It saw extensive play in both the main and side of competitive decks during its run in Standard. We’ve seen it pop up occasionally in some fringe Modern decks since then, but nothing particularly newsworthy.
Another card worth mentioning is Decimator of the Provinces, which does a pretty good budget impression of Craterhoof Behemoth. This is one of the options for you if you’re building a green creature-based Commander deck on a budget!
Decklist: Temur Emerge in 2016 Standard
Lashweed Lurker | Illustration by Igor Kieryluk
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy x4
Kiora, Master of the Depths
Nissa, Vastwood Seer x2
Elder Deep-Fiend x4
Emrakul, the Promised End
Gnarlwood Dryad x2
Ishkanah, Grafwidow x2
Pilgrim's Eye x4
Gather the Pack x3
Traverse the Ulvenwald x3
Grapple with the Past x4
Kozilek's Return x4
Lumbering Falls x3
Sanctum of Ugin
Shivan Reef x4
Yavimaya Coast x4
Emrakul, the Promised End
Sanctum of Ugin
Eldrazi Obligator x2
Reality Smasher x2
Tireless Tracker x2
Learn from the Past
Pulse of Murasa x2
Radiant Flames x2
This deck was a popular one played in Standard at Worlds in 2016, making the most of the power of Elder Deep-Fiend. Emerging it from a creature like Pilgrim's Eye was a fantastic way to make use of a relatively high mana value creature with a good ETB effect, and being able to flash it in on your opponent’s upkeep and tap down their creatures and lands was absolutely crippling.
While not quite getting the top spot at the tournament, this list put up good results, taking 4th. Some version of it was even played by stars such as Luis Scott-Vargas and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa.
Emerging from the Rubble
Abundant Maw | Illustration by Greg Staples
What do we think for an ability that’s only appeared on 10 cards so far? I really enjoy it and am hoping to have some fun with it on Arena now that Shadows over Innistrad Remastered is out there.
I think we could see emerge come back. All it needs is some way to play a high mana value card with a decent ETB, or on death/sacrifice trigger. It’s certainly not outside of possibilities with cards like Hollow One providing a high mana value body for a possible low cost.
What do you think? Would you like to see a return of powerful emerge cards like Elder Deep-Fiend, or should they stay gone where they belong? Let me know in the comments below or join the discussion in the Draftsim Discord.
Until next time, may your giant Eldrazi go un-countered!
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