There was a collective groan worldwide as the Standard lists were unveiled for the Magic World Championships. In one corner, you had 13 Collected Company decks—completely ridiculous for a 24-person field.
Luckily, that still leaves 11 decks in which to find creativity and innovation. There were 11 Emrakul decks.
Nowhere did we see Languish, Liliana, or anything new. Thought-Knot Seers and Reality Smashers were relegated to sideboard play. Eldritch Moon Eldrazi—Emrakul, Elder Deep-Fiend, Wretched Gryff, and Distended Mindbender—would be the monsters of choice.
In this sea of old ideas came one innovation. While it was yet another deck featuring the almighty Emrakul, she wasn’t the focal point. With some ramp spells leading to other rarely played mythics, Steve Rubin brought a deck that he thought could annihilate other Emrakul decks while still having some reasonable game against Bant Company.
U/G Part Crush Ramp
Steve Rubin, World Championships
This deck was named “U/G Crush,” but it’s pretty different from Crush decks we’ve seen in the past. Gone are cards like Elvish Visionary and Oath of Nissa, previously held as staple sources of card advantage early that combined well with both surging out a Crush. Instead, this deck focuses on Emrakul and more importantly, Part the Waterveil.
Part the Waterveil is no Time Walk. Increasing the mana cost from 1U to 4UU shows you just how overpowered the original Alpha card truly is, and yet Part is still a playable mythic in today’s Standard. Getting to 6 mana is no small feat, but this is a ramp deck at its core. With creatures or planeswalkers in play, taking an extra turn can offer another land drop, another card drawn, another attack, and another planeswalker activation.
Once you’re up to 10 mana, an awakened Part will animate a land into a 6/6 and allow it to attack that turn. When you get an additional turn, you also get to send that 6/6 back into the red zone. Chaining together Parts will allow you to attack for 12 and then untap and do it again! The combination of Part and Crush of Tentacles is expensive, but Crush will bounce everything your opponent has while leaving lands, even those that are awakened. With your 6/6 lands and your 8/8 Octopus token, it’ll be a challenge to stand in your way.
One of the coolest features of winning with cards like Part the Waterveil, Crush of Tentacles, and Emrakul herself is your immunity to the powers of opposing Emrakuls. None of these cards can be abused by an opponent taking your turn, and you’ll be able to maximize the value of all of your biggest threats!
While Part the Waterveil is the critical card in this version of the deck, the namesake Crush of Tentacles does plenty. It’ll reset an entire board, although Upheaval this is not. Leaving all of the lands behind to let them recast their spells means Crush hasn’t seen a ton of play, but the 8/8 creature is pretty monstrous. This isn’t great against opposing Reflector Mages, but all of the tempo gained from getting 6 mana in cards off of a Collected Company is now going to take serious amounts of time to build back up. Reflector Mage tends to be the smallest creature actually in the deck, so them needing to spend their mana to deploy the Mage first gains tempo.
Crush of Tentacles is also a convenient way to interact with opposing planeswalkers. Spending time ticking up only to get Crushed is not a great feeling. Tokens won’t be coming back, and you can actually set up some awesome loops with your own creatures.
The Den Protector combo with Crush of Tentacles is especially powerful. Once you’re at 10 mana, you can morph a Den Protector, unmorph it to bring back Crush, and then cast a surged Crush. This will create an 8/8 token and bounce the Den Protector back to your hand, meaning you can cast Crush every single turn until they break this up! It’s also an early creature, can bring back an Emrakul you might have milled, and can create value at any point in the game.
Sylvan Advocate doesn’t combo especially well with anything in the deck, although pumping up your Lumbering Falls and whatever land you may have awoken with your Part the Waterveils is a nice bonus. Instead, this is just a creature that can block early and help make sure you survive to the late game where your powerful spells should take over. You get to 6 lands before most other decks, so you can actually chip in for some points here and there with a large Advocate before theirs are online, but mostly you’re just looking to save some damage early. Many people play Elvish Visionary in this slot to dig deeper, but surviving longer will also make sure you find the action you need.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer is another way to find lands and a planeswalker that you can get a ton of value off of when taking additional turns. You get to 7 lands quickly in this deck, making flipping Nissa a reliable plan.
For your ramp spells, you have the full complement of Nissa’s Pilgrimages and Explosive Vegetations. You’re looking to get every single basic land you have out of your deck in a timely fashion. This deck will run out of basics quickly as games go long. You should lean toward getting Islands with your Explosive Vegetations when you can since you can only get Forests with Pilgrimage when you draw them. This deck will get to 6 and 7 mana early, allowing you to play your huge threats before anyone else.
This is also the type of deck that is happy to take a turn off from casting something big to resolve Nissa’s Renewal. Getting 3 lands out of your deck and ramping from 6 to 9 or 10 means that you’re ready to start awakening your Part the Waterveils. The extra life gives you a buffer to survive most attacks in Standard, and when the followup is casting Crush of Tentacles to bounce all of the extra creatures they played while you were ramping, it’s much harder to be punished for taking that time off.
In a similar vein, Hedron Archive ramps on both ends for Emrakul, as it provides 2 additional mana while in play, but also reduces her cost by 1 while in the graveyard. With so many ramp spells in the deck, you will get to the point where you have more than 10 lands in play, giving you the opportunity to cash in the Archive. Since you already have so many lands in play at that point, your spell density will also be higher, meaning you’re likely to find more action.
With all of these ramp spells and high end finishers, you’re going to need card selection. Anticipate is a nice one in that it’s cheap, meaning you can cast it early to find what you need or late to help surge, and it will dig deep with no restrictions. Unlike Grapple with the Past, Anticipate can find a ramp spell, Surge, or Part, so it’s the best dig spell you have available for the early game.
The best dig spell for the mid-to-late game is actually Pieces of the Puzzle. You get to see 5 cards, but with only 26 spells in the deck, the odds of hitting multiple spells aren’t tremendous. As a turn-3 play, Pieces has some potential to actually hit nothing (approximately 5% of the time)! This will still be a play you make from time to time, especially if you need to find something like Explosive Vegetation, but it’s not your plan A. Instead, you want to cast Pieces after resolving some of your many ramp spells. Once the deck starts to have fewer and fewer basic lands in it, the odds of hitting spells get dramatically higher! Once you’ve built up 10+ lands in play, your Pieces will become massive favorites to hit 2, 3, or even more spells, hopefully giving you the option of taking exactly what you need.
Traverse the Ulvenwald can function as a basic land early in the game, then as a combo with your Emrakul that can just flat-out win the game. Traverse can be hit by Pieces of the Puzzle or be brought back for cheap with a Den Protector to find the creatures you need. You can even chain Traverses into Den Protectors to get them all out of your deck, creating a huge force of creatures, or backup Den Protectors to set up a tough-to-beat Crush of Tentacles loop!
Jace, Unraveler of Secrets is a bit surprising in this deck, but provides some valuable tools. It’s another card type that can help to make Emrakul cheaper, it’s valuable when you start taking extra turns, and provides card advantage and selection to help find your big spells. Being able to bounce opposing creatures, in addition to your own creatures to set up your combos, means Jace gets the final slot in the main deck.
This deck is a beautiful little package to punish the midrange and control decks that lean on Emrakul to win the game, able to turtle up before unleashing powerful threats. Looking at Rubin’s sideboard shows how much the deck can shift.
You have a bunch of cards that cost 1 and can help shore up the early stages of the game. Then you have a 7-mana hexproof flyer, a 10-mana Eldrazi, and some expensive counters that can also stop Eldrazi cast triggers. You’re able to move dramatically in both directions.
Gnarlwood Dryad is not in this deck to be a threat. While it’s possible to turn on delirium early in this deck, especially with Pieces putting cards in the graveyard, this is just your early blocker that is going to trade off early with cheap opposing threats to make sure you’re still alive by the time you can cast your big blue spells or Eldrazi. It’s also a 1-mana creature, meaning it does a perfect job of turning on surge for the cheapest Crush of Tentacles possible.
For another spell that can stop an early rush, you have the rarely-seen Retreat to Kazandu. I love this find! Talk about the perfect card for a ramp deck to play against a UR Burn deck filled with spells! We’ve seen Jaddi Offshoots throughout the years, and it’s solid, but it can also be taken out pretty easily by a Fiery Temper, Incendiary Flow, or Collective Defiance. Retreat can’t really be dealt with by a burn deck and will provide tons of life thanks to cards like Explosive Vegetation. Retreat into Nissa’s Renewal against Burn? Get 3 lands, gain 13 life, thank you very much.
Speaking of cards that can shut down a Burn opponent, how about Orbs of Warding? Giving yourself hexproof means you simply can’t be burned out. It also means you can’t be targeted by discard spells or have an opponent target you with Emrakul. There’s also some fringe splash damage in that an opponent won’t be able to use the mode on Demonic Pact to make you discard, meaning they get to “you lose the game” a turn earlier, and they also can’t target you with the Harmless Offering.
Sometimes, you just need to get bigger. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger exiles a pair of permanents to hinder opposing Emrakul decks, although this is one of the ways they have to actually hurt your own board when they cast your Ulamog. Luckily, this is a cast trigger, so they can’t actually use Ulamog to target Ulamog.
A lot of the decks that you want to go bigger against will have spot removal that can actually deal with an Emrakul. A deck like W/B Control won’t have many answers to Sphinx of the Final Word though. Due to the popularity of cards like Summary Dismissal and more people playing Planar Outburst, I’m not sure this is the most effective tool, but it’s an interesting option.
After sideboard, you get to optimize your interaction. You want to be able to stop their counters and Summary Dismissals, so Dispel has value assuming there are additional targets. Summary Dismissal is a powerful weapon against Emrakul and any other Eldrazi with a cast trigger, such as Elder Deep-Fiend and Distended Mindbender. Spell Shrivel can stop everything and make sure it’s exiled, which is often enough against even the Eldrazi with cast triggers. Stopping the 5/6 body or 13/13 flying trampler from hitting the battlefield is still a big step forward in winning the game.
The final sideboard card Rubin utilized is Aerial Volley. This is the cheapest interaction you have available to deal with opposing flying creatures. A single mana to stop a Spell Queller at instant speed and free up your critical spell is important, but against a Spirits deck, this is a back-breaker. With many people playing Selfless Spirit in a variety of decks, you have a bit more opportunity to get 2 creatures than you might normally. It’s not clear that this is better than a card like Plummet, but the single mana gets it the nod here in a mana-hungry deck.
This is a ramp deck and should be played as such. Develop your mana early and end the game with huge spells late. It may not look like other ramp decks in the past, but Part the Waterveil and Crush of Tentacles really are more powerful late-game options than something like Dragonlord Atarka, and their effects on the game will be somewhat similar.
I think this deck will be relatively easy for an inexperienced player to pick up and play proficiently, although there are actual tons of small edges and little timing plays that will continue to add percentage points for a more experienced pilot. This deck looks like a load of fun to play, and based on Rubin’s results in the Standard portion of Worlds, it is clearly powerful.
My question to you is whether you think that this will be the best version of Crush of Tentacles going forward? Will it be the best version of ramp decks? And is there going to be enough game against Bant Company decks for this deck to be a serious contender in the closing weeks of the current Standard format? Sound off in the comments!