Believe it or not, Modern was at one point the go-to format for people who had found an old rotated Standard deck in the back of a closet to make some minor modifications and take their favorite lists into battle once again. Those days are well and truly behind us as the general power level of the format has grown, but some of those classic Standard archetypes were lucky enough to settle into Modern as reasonable choices in their own right. Some of Modern’s classic and most beloved archetypes started their lives this way – Scapeshift, Zoo, Infect, Splinter Twin and even the topic for today. In this article, we’re going to look at my first and favorite Modern deck of all time – Emeria Control.
As always, let’s start with some guidelines
- You should not expect excellence out of this list. My decks and articles are meant to give you a jumping off point, not a finish line. As such, the goal here is to learn the ins and outs of the format while playing an established or otherwise highly playable archetype.
- Each Modern list will average out to between $150 and $200 at the time of posting. Budget decks are meant to be affordable to the people who need them, not to be compared to some benchmark set by the prices of the top tier decks of the format.
- The decks I feature will be tested and worthwhile. I have no intention of handing you a pile of worthless cards. Usually the idea is that the deck is cohesive enough to see legitimate play, or get you on your way to owning the staples you need to play other decks once you’re ready to move on to bigger and better things. I do not feature decks that I went 0-5 with unless there’s a reason to do so.
Budget Modern Emeria Control by Darren Magnotti
Emeria Control is a tap out control deck that looks to utilize the extremely powerful recursive engine provided by Sun Titan and Emeria, the Sky Ruin to create a nearly insurmountable late game presence and out-grind any deck that plans on seeing turn five. To facilitate this, the deck loads up on cheap creatures that offer up some form of value as they enter play.
In traditional blink-deck style, it doesn’t particularly matter what happens to these creatures from there and they can be used as expendable tools to stall the game or set up later plays to extract even more precious value. Around turn six or seven, the deck then fully pivots as the recursion engine gets rolling, and it begins to slowly bury the opposition in card advantage while clearing their board of any relevant threats left standing. This deck’s main win condition, aside from chip damage or Titan beats, is one of my favorites in all of Magic – a desperate opponent’s concession from a game that they stand no chance of winning.
Getting right to the point, Emeria Control is a deck looking to set up some plays on turn six and seven. Emeria itself is an unanswerable clock for a lot of decks, being able to provide immense value every turn for no cost once it gets rolling. Not being legendary, this effect also stacks in multiples, enabling the return of up to four creatures each upkeep. Sun Titan fills a similar role in the deck, being both a great target for Emeria as well as a backup engine in and of itself.
The deck has a handful of methods to add some fuel to the fire, mostly via the likes of The Restoration of Eiganjo and Mortarpod. Restoration’s ability to pitch and reanimate cards in the early turns provides access to ramp, additional card advantage and some minor hand filtering while also turning into a threat later on. Mortarpod is used as a means to put some creatures in the graveyard if an opponent has caught on to what’s happening and is refusing to cooperate by casting removal or attacking in and offering a chump block.
Being a control deck, the base of Emeria Control is built on the same traditional fundamentals that you might expect, just in creature form. Classic card draw and early-game defenses from Thraben Inspector, Wall of Omens and Lone Missionary help to keep opposing aggression at bay as the engine starts to come online. These cards are further taken advantage of by the likes of Ephemerate and Flickerwisp, recycling those enters the battlefield triggers on repeat. Flickerwisp specifically comes with a lot of fun and neat tricks that it’s capable of, from resetting the counters on a Restoration to sneakily keeping an open mana by bouncing a Plains to come back untapped at the end of turn. Its one of those cards that players use to really show off their experience and prowess with a deck, and definitely one of the most skill-testing cards around.
No control deck worth their salt comes to play without a pile of removal at the ready. The core concept of this deck is to survive until the late game, and to make sure that that happens Emeria comes prepared. Path to Exile and March of Otherworldly Light are the classic mainstays of white in the Modern format, and are of course present here as well. They’re the cheapest and most efficient ways to remove any non-planeswalker permanent that’s choosing to cause some issues.
Bolstering these is a full four Skyclave Apparition, a relatively recent addition to eternal formats that’s solidified its place due to its immense utility. Apparition’s ability to answer most planeswalkers that Modern has on offer as well as every other creature threat in the format that wasn’t part of the M11 Titan cycle makes it a versatile and powerful tool to any white mage’s arsenal. If all of these somehow fail, the deck is also packing a couple of the more traditional board wipes – here, Day of Judgment – to even the scales should an opposing army grow beyond what the single targeted pieces can handle.
Being monocolored really has its upsides when you’re playing on a budget. Being a deck of nearly all basic lands, Emeria can afford to pack access to even more tools out of the mana base. A suite of land destruction lands will help buy time against a greedy multicolor pile who is skimping on basics, as well as disrupt some of the deck’s otherwise worst matchups in decks like Tron and Amulet. Aside from Emeria itself, the deck is also playing Mistveil Plains, which provides the ultimate inevitability should a match come to a race to see who can deck out first. Normally, I would have more comments about the mana situation and how it might affect the course of a game thanks to the budget restriction, but basic lands are the best lands in the game, so there’s not much more to say here.
Emeria Control, like most control decks, is not for the faint of heart. The deck will frequently go to time in any event with a clock, and play on MTGO needs to be tight and precise to avoid the negative consequences on that front.
Aside from moving at glacial speed compared to the rest of the format however, the deck turned out to be extremely strong and well suited for several aspects of today’s competitive meta game. Every non-Titan Urza’s Saga deck is easily on the list for Emeria’s best matchups. As mentioned earlier, this deck was born to grind, and can easily dispatch a Ragavan, Tarmogoyf or Construct token without breaking a sweat. Other slower control-style decks were also underprepared for the axis of attack that this deck takes. UW Yorion specifically felt very winnable both times that I played against it.
After taking this deck through about 15 rounds of lower level competition and one competitive league, I have absolute confidence saying that this deck can hang in today’s Modern metagame. After breaking my undefeated streak at eight wins to Blue Tron (a deck that I’m positive Emeria cannot beat should Ugin resolve), I was confident enough to take to the leagues where I went 2-3. I’m not sure when the last time that Wall of Omens or Lone Missionary got a single league match win was, but I’m fairly confident that Splinter Twin was still legal when they had.
The deck gave me an amazing performance and really let me show off some skills I’ve held on to for nearly seven years since picking it up as I first entered the format. Whether those results are replicable is yet to be seen, but it just goes to show that my old adage of “any deck can take down any event at any time given enough luck, pilot skill and preparation” still holds true in our Modern Horizons-dominated world today. I believe that this deck has a very high ceiling for potential, and can absolutely dominate any local scene in the hands of an experienced pilot, even while on a budget.
Modern Emeria Control by Darren Magnotti
The shift to non-budget sees a dampening of the mana base as we shift to the decks original true colors, splashing for the likes of Teferi, Time Raveler, Prismatic Ending, Supreme Verdict and access to counterspells out of the sideboard should a metagame call for it (typically when dominated by combo decks or decks that play to the stack rather than the board). The core and feel of the deck stay relatively unchanged as additional and more useful tools are added.
Additionally, one can also choose to include one of the infinite combos enabled by Sun Titan. In this example, I’ve gone with Fiend Hunter plus a repeatable sacrifice outlet, but Saheeli Rai, Saffi Eriksdotter or any of the myriad enchantment recursion pieces such as Kaya’s Ghostform will also get the job done. The deck is extremely flexible as it upgrades so long as the main creatures in the deck cost three or less mana.
That’s all for this one! I had a great time reliving my early days in Modern with this deck, and I hope that someone out there might emulate my experience by giving this deck a try as well. If you enjoy making an opponent suffer through your pile of draft commons while you slowly bury them in an avalanche of value, this is absolutely a deck to try out. But until next time, stay safe, play smart and thanks for reading.