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Interest in Emerging Markets

Wretched Gryff, by Darek Zabrocki, owned by Wizards of the Coast © All Rights Reserved.

To me, one of the most compelling aspects of pauper EDH is the enhanced role of creatures in general. This is for a simple reason: with the card pool limited as it is, many creatures with spell-like enters-the-battlefield (ETB) effects provide, in many cases, a comfortable level of redundancy to the spells we have access to, and in some cases, unique effects that would otherwise get pushed out of the format by being attached to more efficient higher-rarity spells. But that’s not all, folks. This has the additional side-effect of elevating flicker and recursion spells to integral parts of the metagame, by being to take advantage of the body that whatever desired ETB trigger is attached to. Leveraging creatures in this way largely satisfies the card advantage needs of the format, and gives a lot of play to creature-based strategies in a format where many creatures would otherwise be too inefficient to be considered playable.

So I took this premise and sat on it for awhile. Sure, getting our ETB triggers from an otherwise insignificant body can have its perks without any added deckbuilding elegance -- it can still attack and block, and it devalues single target removal spells from our opponents (casting a Doom Blade, for example, on a Fierce Empath after the fact is, by all accounts, pretty bad). We all know that there are many ways to sacrifice creatures for value, but the question always comes back to the most efficient and consistent method with which to do so. It’s a matter of matching up the best creatures to get value from as they enter the battlefield and the best way to leverage the body they leave behind once the bulk of their value is utilized. The answer that I arrived upon is Lashweed Lurker.

Lashweed Lurker as a commander is sort of a perfect storm -- it has a lot of small things going for it:

  • A Green/Blue color identity gives us access to the best ramp, draw, and tempo tools in the format. We also get access to the only two common-rarity emerge creatures, which gives a little more redundancy to our deck’s primary efficiency.

  • Some of the best utility/value creatures around exist at a converted mana cost (CMC) of three, and let us curve/emerge naturally into our commander the following turn. Creatures like Wood Elves, Farhaven Elf, Yavimaya Elder, Fierce Empath tend to be the cream of the crop here, and even cards like Merchant of Secrets are not only playable, but pull double duty.

  • By being able to pin down three-drops as a linchpin point on our curve, we have the ability to build the rest of the deck around consistent and proactive play patterns. We can use this to focus deck construction around producing that outcome as consistently as possible, and gain greater clarity into what cards are good for us or not. For example, one-drop mana accelerants allow us to play a three-drop on turn two, and emerge into our commander on turn three. This is something that we can plan for and build the deck to reinforce.

  • We can maybe get away with playing a copy of Scornful Egotist for. . .reasons.

Lashweed Lurker is, first and foremost, a creature deck. We are pulled in two primary directions when trying to capitalize on emerge as a mechanic -- creatures with ETB abilities, and creatures with death triggers. Because three drops curve naturally into our commander’s emerge cost, it’s generally the best place to start. The creatures I noted above are what I consider to be the auto-includes. They provide a solid foundation to what we are trying to do, and exhibit the sort of creature designs we are looking to exploit. The best example of the nuance that goes into creature selection here is, I think, Merchant of Secrets. It’s a great example of how the value of cards in a deck shift significantly based on the shell. In this deck, we actively want cards that may be a little overcosted on the front end so we can reap the benefits on the back end. We pay a little more up front for the Merchant, but we can leverage that into emerging our commander for a super efficient rate. This is the primary tension that the deck needs to be built around, and the idea translates to any number of creatures as CMC gets higher.

Cards like Kingfisher, Aven Fisher, and Runewing give us a card when they die. They are fine at just attacking and blocking, and they all mitigate the tempo loss of having to sacrifice them. Penumbra Bobcat and Penumbra Spider are great value creatures by virtue of the fact that they replace themselves on the battlefield -- exactly the sort of creatures we should be looking to emerge from.

A huge aspect of leveraging emerge on our commander is to maximize the value we get from sacrificing our creatures. This opens a lot of other doors in terms of where we can gain other small efficiencies. For example, Primal Growth becomes much more attractive. It’s a card that I like to think of as the emerge equivalent to pure ramp. Another tertiary synergy is with a pet card of mine, Silkweaver Elite. Revolt is something that we are triggering all the time, and there isn’t a better card to take advantage of it than the ol’ Silkweaver Elite. Lifecraft Cavalry could do some heavy lifting as well. By the same token, if we feel so inclined, there are a few cards with morbid that we could dip our toes into. None of them are particularly synergistic outside of the fact that we are consistently triggering morbid, but there some arguments to be made that are good enough to where I’d definitely consider them.

As we cast and recast and recast our commander, we need larger and larger creatures from which to emerge. Remember, the emerge cost is still affected by the commander tax! This has two primary effects. First, it steers us into an end-game defined by large creatures. Second, it highlights the necessity of a robust ramp package. Essentially, we need big creatures and enough mana to cast them. The aforementioned Primal Growth is exemplary here, as are Commander mainstays Kodama’s Reach, Cultivate, Skyshroud Claim, Ranger’s Path et al. Getting to a board state where we can cast multiple spells per turn is critical, especially considering how the primary synergy of our deck involves, essentially, casting two spells. Once we get up to an embarrassment of riches in terms of mana available to us, the sky really is the limit.

Cards like these do a good job of representing where we want to end up. Maul Splicer and Vedalken Dismisser are the logical outcome of taking ETB triggers and attaching higher mana costs onto them. Both creatures provide a large effect attached to a body that is largely expendable, ripe for the emerging. Ruin Processor is a little different. It is a creature with a big ETB effect that also has a relevant body. One of the perks of running a significant amount of ramp is that we can include cards like this at pretty much no cost. Even something as basic as Eldrazi Devastator can come out on turn five and throw the table for a loop. These cards can give a level of inevitability alongside our other little value tricks. After all, it’s all fun and games until Ulamog’s Crusher hits the board.

There’s another benefit, however, to stacking the top end of the curve with high CMC creatures:

These cards will be responsible for a lot of wins on their own. The fact that every one of our premiere threats will retrieve them from the graveyard is one thing, but our commander, which we will be able to reliably cast at a considerable discount, will recur them as well. These two cards represent just another layer of inevitability. It’s also important to mention that cycling Dragon Wings is almost always preferable to casting it, and while Dragon Fangs fights with Rancor over the slot, I’m of the opinion that Dragon Fangs pulls slightly ahead in the long run (or you could just play both and not worry about it).

The other big payoff worth mentioning is Rush of Knowledge, the splashiest draw spell in the format. Between Lashweed Lurker and the glut of creatures at our top-end, if this card resolves it isn’t uncommon to draw seven or eight cards. Cards like this one here are generally pretty awkward and require the proper vessel so that the amount of cards it provides doesn’t fluctuate too wildly. When our commander has a CMC of eight, and can be cast significantly ahead of the curve, stock in Rush of Knowledge goes way up.

Emerge is not only a really interesting, multifaceted ability to have in the command zone, but it is also something that is entirely unique to pauper EDH. The aspects of it that we’ve discussed here are only the broad strokes -- there is a lot of room for customization and refinement. While Lashweed Lurker is my personal favorite of the options available, there are several other emerge creatures at uncommon rarity that can all bring their own flair as a commander. At this point I’m curious to see what we can’t do with Abundant Maw, eschewing blue and green completely in favor of mono-black, or what a deck for Vexing Scuttler might look like, or how that effect could be abused.

What do you all think? Are we on to something here? What other shenanigans can we pull off with emerging commanders? I’m always lurking over at the PDH Homebase Discord, so if you’ve got a neat idea to share on this front, tag me in your reply and I will. . . emerge. . . from the shadows? Ha. Ha. Ha. *dies*



#Emerge #Eldrazi


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