When the card was in Standard, I played it relentlessly, making big changes as sets were added, and was sad when it eventually rotated out. So, I pretty quickly made a version for Commander and had a great time with it. Grinding value out of my graveyard is something I love to do down to my core, and Glissa, the Traitor did that superbly. I eventually took it apart to build a deck for Skullbriar, the Walking Grave.
Not long ago, I was thinking about my current batch of decks and realized in a lot of ways I had built more Glissa, the Traitor-style decks but in different colors. Feldon of the Third path is all about grinding value out of my own graveyard with a heavy artifact theme. Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle is all about grinding value out of my own graveyard with a heavy historic theme that often takes the form of lots of artifacts.
So, when I saw Emry, Lurker of the Loch I knew I'd found yet another mono-color Glissa, the Traitor-style deck.
Emry has a lot going on. First in the text box is the cost reduction, which will often mean that Emry will just cost two or even one mana early in the game if you run enough cheap artifacts. Later in the game if you've got a bunch of artifacts on the battlefield it'll help defer quite a bit of any commander tax you may have accumulated. This means you can pretty much count on Emry to impact nearly all stages of any game.
The activated ability is the exciting part of the card: a tap ability with no mana attached to it that lets you cast a target artifact in your graveyard this turn. How very Golgari! And the triggered ability when Emry enters the battlefield helps to ensure you'll have at least one target to take advantage of the activated ability. But we'll want to build our deck with lots of artifacts that will end up in the graveyard by doing something useful so we can get them back with Emry.
Let's not forget that Emry is two very relevant creature types – Merfolk and Wizards both have tons of tribal support, and there are a bunch of tribal-themed artifacts there too, so you could easily build a tribal deck that has a strong artifact component if you wanted to go that route. Today, I'm just going to lean heavily into artifact shenanigans.
Before I move on, I just wanted to take a moment to talk about the artwork. The illustration by Livia Prima perfectly evokes the Lady in the Lake mythology—creepy, mysterious, and intriguing. What's really spooky is when you think about tying the art to the mechanics of the card: that may look like a lake Emry is lurking in, but it's actually a graveyard!
Okay, let's get brewing!
Now Emry's abilities are nice on their own, but we'll want to leverage them more. The first thing we'll want to do is to increase the number of times you can use Emry. The first card that I thought of was Thousand-Year Elixir; not only can you use it to untap Emry, but it gives that ability haste so you can use it when Emry enters the battlefield. Umbral Mantle is another artifact that can untap Emry, though the cost to untap is very mana intensive. With enough activations you can potentially make Emry big enough to be a threatening attacker! Illusionist's Bracers lets you double up each activation of Emry. Minamo, School at Water's Edge untaps a target legend so that's another way to get an extra use.
Mirran Spy is the real engine card this deck is looking for, letting you untap Emry each time you cast an artifact from the graveyard. If the artifact is cheap enough you can keep doing it over and over again. Don't expect Mirran Spy to live very long on the battlefield, so you'll want to carefully sculpt the turn you cast it.
Winding Canyons means that you can potentially use Emry's ability during an opponent's turn if the artifact you target is also a creature. Riptide Laboratory can save Emry from an untimely death, and replaying Emry can let you jump start your graveyard shenanigans in case someone has exiled all of the cards.
For flavor reasons I was considering which of the various sword cards I should put in the deck representing Excalibur, but then I realized there is really only one choice—Blackblade, Reforged! Being able to equip Emry in the late game can make quite a threat.
Blue has no end of cards that care about artifacts, and since the plan is to stuff the deck full of good artifacts, we'll need to find room for some good support cards, especially those that are also artifacts. Cards like Etherium Sculptor, Master of Etherium, and Scrapyard Recombiner are artifacts that love lots of other artifacts in your deck. Traxos, Scourge of Kroog is a heavy hitter that will gain virtual vigilance with all the artifacts we'll be casting, and makes a great legend to pick up Blackblade, Reforged too. Shimmer Myr lets us play any artifacts as though it has flash, unlocking the use of Emry on other turns than our own.
Sai, Master Thopterist should be able to churn out a whole host of 1/1 Thopters we can use as chump blockers if need be, though hopefully there will be enough around when the last chapter of The Antiquities War is read and we can have a sudden army of 5/5 fliers.
Vedalken Archmage should let us draw a ton of cards, and Vedalken Humiliator will make it much easier to attack our opponents when we want to punch some damage through.
Both sides of Mirrodin Besieged do a lot of work, churning out chump blockers if you need them or potentially ending the game in a few turns if things have gone long.
We've got ways to shave the mana costs for Emry and for artifacts, but we'll still want a fair number of other ways to accelerate our mana. Mind Stone and Burnished Hart are particularly nice because they can be sacrificed for value and then replayed from the graveyard with Emry.
Mishra's Bauble and Urza's Bauble do a lot of work in this deck. Played early one can shave a mana from Emry's mana cost, then turn into a draw engine by sacrificing it and replaying with Emry. I like the new Throne of Eldraine card Witching Well as something you can play early to help with Emry's cost, smooth out some draws, and then you can cash it in for cards and cheaply play it from the graveyard with Emry.
Kuldotha Forgemaster has a normally high cost of sacrificing three artifacts to tutor out an artifact from your library to the battlefield, but Emry's ability means that sacrifice can often be a benefit. Sure, you'll most likely still go find some giant artifact threat, but offsetting the sacrifice with Emry means that sometimes you can just go get some utility artifact you need.
Ugin, the Ineffable doesn't say anything about artifacts, but since most artifacts are also colorless spells you will often be able to get a hefty discount to your artifact spells. Meanwhile, you can use it to make chump blockers that can eventually net you cards, or use it to destroy problematic permanents.
One of the advantages of playing a monoblue deck is you have access to permission spells like Swan Song, Arcane Denial and Force of Will. I've included Spell Swindle too since it can potentially give you a whole bunch of artifacts on the battlefield that can take advantage of various artifact synergies. Pongify and Reality Shift provide some pinpoint interaction, and Fumble can provide some temporary relief from a problem creature that can sometimes get you an extra artifact or two out of the deal!
I did want to include some artifact-based interaction that we can get back with Emry like Tormod's Crypt, Ratchet Bomb, Walking Ballista and Oblivion Stone. Hope of Ghirapur is spicy tech here since you can attack with it, sacrifice it to lock someone out of playing non-creature spells and then replay it with Emry.
I'm going to round the deck out with some spicy artifacts that go well with what we're trying to do. Elixir of Immortality can shuffle our graveyard back into our deck in response to someone trying to exile our graveyard. Manifold Key can untap artifacts like Thousand-Year Elixir so you can get another use from Emry, or make something huge unblockable this turn. If we can chain together any big turn casting lots of artifacts with some sort of engine, Aetherflux Reservoir becomes quite a threat. Blightsteel Colossus is the perfect threat to search out with Kuldotha Forgemaster and is another way to end a long game.
And of course, if you have any sort of artifact presence, you just have to play Trading Post!
Sweet deck! Let's see how close we are to 100 cards.
0-1 mana: 16 (including lands that don't produce mana)
2 mana: 18
3 mana: 12+commander
4 mana: 11
5 mana: 5
6 mana: 4
7+ mana/X-spells: 5
72 total cards plus 37 mana-producing lands equal 9 cards too many, so we need to make some cuts! Let's see what we can trim.
Where possible I'd like to trim non-artifact cards since if they get milled into my graveyard from Emry's triggered ability it's a bit of a waste. Whir of Invention is one of those cards, and even though it's nice to have an instant-speed tutor for artifacts, I'm happier with an artifact-based one like Kuldotha Forgemaster. Ancient Stone Idol is fun, but I don't know how often I'll be able to count on the cost reduction, especially if it's lurking in my graveyard. Myr Battlesphere is a solid card but I have to make some tough cuts and I like the other higher-cost spells better.
I chose Staff of Nin because I liked the idea of pinging off an opponent's threat when it's been turned into a 1/1 with no abilities thanks to Vedalken Humiliator. But Walking Ballista can serve that role and is much more flexible and potentially game ending, so Staff of Nin gets the boot. I do like Padeem giving my artifacts hexproof, but honestly Emry's ability is going to negate a lot of artifact removal people play in Commander outside of exile effects so I feel it's a safe cut. Of all the cards that shave mana from the cost of artifacts, Foundry Inspector is probably the worst of the bunch so I'm shaving that as well.
Since Emry is a Merfolk I thought Merrow Commerce might be a fun way to untap during other player's turn, but unless I can give the cards flash it's really not going to do all that much. I think it's a safe cut. Corridor Monitor is mediocre as a one-shot untap for Emry and needs a red combo piece like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to really warrant a slot.
Last was the hardest cut, Expedition Map. It hits all the right notes—cheap artifact to shave a mana off Emry's mana cost, sacrifice for value and easy to replay from the graveyard. There are certainly special lands I'd like to search up. But one more card needed to be cut and I couldn't think of anything else I'd want less than this.
Okay, so here's how the deck ended up:
- 1 Blightsteel Colossus
- 1 Burnished Hart
- 1 Etherium Sculptor
- 1 Hangarback Walker
- 1 Kuldotha Forgemaster
- 1 Master of Etherium
- 1 Master Transmuter
- 1 Merchant's Dockhand
- 1 Metalwork Colossus
- 1 Phyrexian Metamorph
- 1 Scrapyard Recombiner
- 1 Shimmer Myr
- 1 Solemn Simulacrum
- 1 Spellskite
- 1 Steel Hellkite
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 1 Artificer's Assistant
- 1 Chief Engineer
- 1 Mirran Spy
- 1 Shimmer Dragon
- 1 Vedalken Archmage
- 1 Vedalken Engineer
- 1 Vedalken Humiliator
- 1 Hope of Ghirapur
- 1 Traxos, Scourge of Kroog
- 1 Emry, Lurker of the Loch
- 1 Sai, Master Thopterist
- 1 Aetherflux Reservoir
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Elixir of Immortality
- 1 Gilded Lotus
- 1 Illusionist's Bracers
- 1 Manifold Key
- 1 Mind Stone
- 1 Mishra's Bauble
- 1 Nim Deathmantle
- 1 Oblivion Stone
- 1 Ratchet Bomb
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Thousand-Year Elixir
- 1 Tormod's Crypt
- 1 Trading Post
- 1 Umbral Mantle
- 1 Urza's Bauble
- 1 Witching Well
- 1 Mirrodin Besieged
- 1 The Antiquities War
- 1 Arcane Denial
- 1 Force of Negation
- 1 Force of Will
- 1 Fumble
- 1 Negate
- 1 Pongify
- 1 Reality Shift
- 1 Spell Swindle
- 1 Swan Song
- 1 Blackblade Reforged
- 1 Mox Amber
- 1 Bident of Thassa
- 1 Echo Storm
What do you think? Are there any cards I've overlooked? If you see any new cards from Throne of Eldraine that should find a home here, let me know!
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Also, come play Commander with me! Coming up November 8 is Magic Fest Richmond right here in my hometown, and I'm planning on hitting the Command Zone there at least one of the days. The following weekend November 14-17 is the always spectacular SCGCON ! Their Commander Celebration has set the standard for incredible Commander experiences and I'll be returning as a special guest so I'll be in the Command Zone all weekend playing Commander!
But that's not all—recently Gavin Verhey from Wizards of the Coast announced that Wizards is teaming up with tournament organizers to put on entire weekends of Magic events to cater to multiplayer Magic!
I hope you're all excited for COMMANDFESTS. Yes, this is Magic trying out special, Commander-focused weekend events starting in the US... this year! I'm so stoked. They're:— Gavin Verhey (@GavinVerhey) September 11, 2019
Seattle & Chicago, Nov. 1-3
Washington DC, Dec 13-15
Check out @commandcast for more info! :D#wotcstaff https://t.co/nYCO9o7Wec
Star City Games® will be putting on #CommandFestDC December 13-15 and I'm thrilled to announce that I'll be one of the special guests there. Stay tuned for more details as they become available!
I've been writing about the Commander format and Magic: The Gathering in general for nearly two decades. Visit the Star City Games® article archives for tons of content dating back to January 2000!
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