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Building Emmara


Minos Judges the Sinners by Gustave Doré (1857). Aminatou, the Fateshifter by Seb McKinnon.

This week I’m going to build around one of the new Guilds of Ravnica legendary creatures. You may remember the first incarnation of her from Dragon’s Maze. Her name is Emmara and she’s a big fan of creature tokens.

Emmara, Soul of the Accord
Emmara Tandris

Emmara, Soul of the Accord (on the left) is the first legendary creature spoiled out of Guilds of Ravnica. Emmara Tandris (on the right) was this character’s first appearance on a Magic card. She was a very heavily-costed way to protect your creature tokens from damage.

For the refreshingly low cost ofwg, the new Emmara will produce a 1/1 White soldier creature token with lifelink every time she is tapped. That means is that we’re going to want to build a deck designed to allow her to tap as easily and as often as possible. The second phase of our plan will be to find ways in Green and White to turn a modest army of token creatures into a significant threat to win the game. We’ll also include a way to go infinite, though being in Green and White doesn’t make that easy.

Emmara may be competitively costed, but she doesn’t have a high ceiling. I’m not aware of any infinite loops she can easily create, and while we should be able to create a viable game plan it won’t be fast or powerful enough to reliably compete with true cEDH decks or even fast combo decks. Because we’re going to rely on going to combat, we’re already going to be a step behind the stronger decks in the format. Because we don’t easily go infinite with Emmara’s ability, we’re also looking at playing a “fair” strategy to try to win.

All of that means this should be a fun deck playable at casual tables - so pretty much right in my wheelhouse as a deck-builder.

Ways to Tap Emmara

Everything we do in this deck is going to try to make it easier to tap Emmara. She doesn’t actually care how she gets tapped. If an opponent were to rudely tap her with an ability that would force her to stay tapped for a turn, she would still pop out a 1/1 White soldier token with lifelink. Fortunately, we can set up to be able to tap her without even having to attack.

Paradise Mantle
Springleaf Drum

There are lots of ways to let us tap Emmara to make mana. Nothing beats a traditional ramp strategy in a deck that’s in Green, but when we can combine mana generation with token generation it’s a win-win. Paradise Mantle is a zero-cost equipment that equips for 1 mana and will let us tap Emmara to make 1 mana of any color. Earthcraft is an enchantment that costs just 1g and will let us tap Emmara to untap a basic land. Springleaf Drum costs 1 mana and will tap to let us tap Emmara to generate a mana of any color.

Sky Skiff
Smuggler's Copter
Mobile Garrison

Emmara is a 2/2 so we have a variety of vehicles we can run as ways to tap Emmara. We’ll probably want to wait until the end step of the player to our right to use their crew ability. The vehicles with flying will be useful blockers in the event someone sends a Dragon, Angel or other flying attacker at us. Sky Skiff and Smuggler's Copter both have a crew cost of one and both of them have flying. If nobody attacks us we can just tap Emmara to crew one of them on that end step and start our turn with an extra soldier. Mobile Garrison will untap another creature we control when it attacks. That gives us the ability to get an extra Emmara tap, but it has no evasion, so sending Mobile Garrison into combat is a little risky.

CItanul Hierophants
Field Surgeon

There are also creatures we can run that give us the ability to tap other creatures we control. Bramblesnap lets us tap a creature to give it +1/+1 until end of turn - not great - but if it means getting another soldier, it’s also not that bad. Citanul Hierophants will let us tap our creatures to make mana. We should have plenty of creatures if things go well. Field Surgeon will let us tap a creature we control to prevent the next 1 damage to target creature this turn. Again, that’s not amazing but if our game plan is to allow us to tap Emmara, it fits right in.

Chord of Calling
Sundering Vitae
Hour of Reckoning

Convoke is a keyword that allows you to tap your creatures to help pay for spells. While we may not necessarily want to tap our soldiers, we’ll probably have a few and we’ll definitely want to tap Emmara. Chord of Calling will go get a creature and put it onto the battlefield. We’re not running many tutors or juicy tutor targets, but there are a few in the mid-game we might want to go get with this. Sundering Vitae is enchantment or artifact removal with Convoke. Hour of Reckoning is a boardwipe with Convoke that will leave our token soldiers untouched.

There are lots of other little spells thrown into this list that let us tap Emmara - possibly too many. I would normally play a deck and over time to identify and remove cards that don’t seem to help and I’m sure some of these tap spells would drop out in favor of better spells or just more removal options.

Ways to Untap Emmara

If we can untap our commander and we’re running on-board tap enablers that means we’re going to be churning out token creatures at a pretty nice rate.

Seedborn Muse
Quest for Renewal
Paradox Engine

Seedborn Muse is a fantastic enabler for decks that want to tap creatures to do broken things. She is great in Yisan, the Wanderer Bard and in Mayael the Anima. In Emmara, we’ll be setting ourselves up to hopefully churn out another soldier on each opponent’s turn if we have a way to tap her whenever we like. Paradox Engine will let us untap all nonland permanents when we cast a spell, setting ourselves up for all kinds of shenanigans.

Those shenanigans definitely include Isochron Scepter, a bunch of mana rocks and a handful of instants that will let us untap target creature. We’re building a fair deck but it will behoove us to throw in at least one infinite combo.

Blessed Alliance
Emerald Charm
To Arms!

With a tap-enabler out, we can imprint these on Isochron Scepter and greatly (or infinitely) increase our ability to churn out soldier tokens.

Soldiers Matter

There’s no way to get around it. If we’re building Emmara we’re going to have soldier token creatures so we might as well make the most of them.

Catapult Master
Knight-Captain of Eos
Benalish Commander

Having five soldiers on the field shouldn’t be too difficult, so Catapult Master should set us up to be able to exile any creatures without hexproof that we decide need to go. If we can find extra ways to untap all of our nonland permanents we should be able to deal with a lot of threats and open ourselves up to be able to attack and gain a bunch of life.

Knight-Captain of Eos also cares about soldiers. When he comes into play he makes two 1/1 soldier creature tokens and for w and the cost of sacrificing a soldier we can prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn. We don’t want to lose a single soldier but if it means surviving an alpha strike or just positioning ourselves for the win, it’ll be worth it.

Benalish Commander is a Human Soldier Lord who cares about the number of soldiers we control. His power and toughness equals that number and he can be cast with a suspend cost that will help us generate additional soldier tokens.

Captain of the Watch
Hero of Bladehold
Akroan Horse

Captain of the Watch will make our 1/1 soldiers into 2/2s and will give them vigilance. When it enters the battlefield, we’ll also get three 1/1 White soldier creature tokens. Hero of Bladehold will make two 1/1 soldier creature tokens when she attacks. If we’re willing to risk giving our opponents creatures, Akroan Horse will immediately go to an opponent when it enters the battlefield. While that sounds bad, it will give us and everyone but its controller a 1/1 White Soldier creature token on its controller’s upkeep.

Tokens Matter

We’re making tokens and we’re in Green and White so it makes sense to run cards to support a tokens strategy.

Parallel Lives
Anointed Procession
Elspeth Tirel

I’m going with Parallel Lives and Anointed Procession to double up the number of creature tokens we generate. If I had a spare Doubling Season, I’d probably consider adding it and replacing Akroan Horse or something else that wasn’t pulling its weight.

Elspeth Tirel will help push up our life total and if we can get to her -5 loyalty ability and have a decent board of token soldiers, destroying all other permanents except for lands and tokens should put us in a pretty good position.

How We Win

I already mentioned that we’re going to win by combat, but that might not seem like an easy thing to do with a board of 1/1 soldiers. Sure, we can try to go infinite but in the vast majority of games we’re going to have to give them a little help.

Beastmaster Ascension
Cathars' Crusade
Coat of Arms

It should be relatively easy to get Beastmaster Ascension up to seven counters with this deck and turn our 1/1s into 6/6s. If we can manage that, we should both be able to attack for a big chunk of damage and gain a big chunk of life. Cathars' Crusade will put a +1/+1 counter on each creature we control every time a creature enters the battlefield under our control. If everything else is going well, this will help pump up our team quite nicely.

Coat of Arms will pump each creature equal to the number of other creatures on the battlefield that share a type with it. Again, that will set us up for a nice attack, but we’ll need to be careful as it will also help our opponents.

Our last way to easily close out a game will be Triumph of the Hordes, which will give our soldiers +1/+1 and infect. If we’re wide enough we should be able to find an opponent we can finish off with Triumph. In the early game we may even be able to find someone who hasn’t gotten a quick start and get a kill as early as turn five or six.

The Decklist

I’m running some basic mana rocks, some card draw staples and some proven removal staples. The mana base has a few untap lands like Maze's End, and lands like Survivors' Encampment and Holdout Settlement that help us with our goal of tapping Emmara.

Emmara, Soul of the Accord - Commander | Stephen Johnson

There’s some good stuff in there, but I have faith in your ability to take the above list and improve upon it. Drop out cards that don’t make sense for your meta, add more removal, and put your mark on it.

Akroan Horse not working for you, but you’ve got a spare Vigor in your rare binder?

Don’t have Heroic Intervention, but you’ve got an extra Dauntless Escort?

By all means improve upon this list and make it your own. Every list is really just a starting point, and for most of us the fun is in figuring out how to give a deck its own style and personality.

Final Thoughts

After missing many of the early spoilers from the Commander 2018 season I’m going to try to take a look at a legendary creature from Guilds of Ravnica each week in the run-up to the release of this exciting new set. My take on a new commander will probably lean a little on the casual side, but every now and then I’ve been able to produce a fairly spicy list. My Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury and Xantcha, Sleeper Agent decks have been performing really well, though neither are what I would call truly competitive builds.

That’s all I’ve got for you this today. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!