With Murders at Karlov Manor cards now legal in a variety of Constructed formats, many players are anxiously waiting to see what cards and decks emerge as frontrunners in Standard and beyond. We’ve already begun to see the Surveil Lands from Murders at Karlov Manor make a splash in Modern Crashing Footfalls shells, allowing players extra flexibility with their Fetchlands. There’s no doubt more new cards will start to come out of the shadows in the coming weeks.
Typically, towards the end of a set’s reign, formats like Standard can feel a bit stale. After all, players have mostly stopped brewing, people know what the best decks are, and as such, many eagerly await the next set to help shake things up. This weekend, though, as Prerelease events were still running, an intriguing Standard deck comprised entirely of cards from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan or before made the top cut of a Regional Championship Qualifier.
Notably, Karlov Manor cards were legal at many events this weekend, but the difficulty associated with obtaining new cards definitely played a role in the set’s lack of immediate impact. Either way, that only makes this deck’s run in the tournament more impressive. For anyone who enjoys Alchemy, this archetype has been a decent choice in the format for a little while but has been very underrepresented in Standard. Perhaps this is the breakout performance this deck needed to get over the hump and make a real impact in paper.
Building Around Squirming Emergence
The goal of this archetype is to bring back massive, game-breaking permanents from your graveyard to the battlefield in an efficient manner. One of the best ways to do this is by using Squirming Emergence. Squirming Emergence is a powerful card but requires a few key elements in deckbuilding. The first thing you need is a bunch of ways to fill the graveyard with permanents.
Squirming Emergence is most exciting when bringing back massive permanents. However, the higher the mana value of the thing you are looking to put onto the battlefield, the higher the number of permanents you need in your graveyard to cast Squirming Emergence in the first place. As such, this deck utilizes a bunch of ways to mill cards and pitch haymakers from your hand.
The most synergistic of these cards is definitely Founding the Third Path. Founding the Third Path mills four cards, which is already a decent start. However, thanks to chapter III, you can cast important spells from your graveyard, including copies of Squirming Emergence you mill over. Founding the Third Path is also a permanent itself, helping to fuel your Squirming Emergences when it goes to the graveyard or is milled over.
Similarly, Picklock Prankster, while a permanent, has an Adventure that can fill your graveyard and find copies of Squirming Emergence. The only cards in the maindeck besides Squirming Emergence that aren’t permanents are Bitter Triumph and Otherworldly Gaze, which are too efficient to pass up. Gaze is great at filling your graveyard while digging for Squirming Emergence, and Bitter Triumph is a strong removal spell that allows you to discard your absurd bombs when necessary.
Impactful Top End
Beyond just cards that fill your graveyard, you also need a decently high density of powerful cards to bring back to play with Squirming Emergence or Invasion of Tolvada. The absolute best card to bring back in most situations is going to be Portal to Phyrexia. Forcing your opponent to sacrifice three Creatures typically buys you a lot of time. From there, you can start reanimating big threats that you milled along the way.Atraxa, Grand Unifier is the perfect threat to return to play, generating tons of card advantage and presenting a huge Creature with Lifelink to stabilize the board. By digging 10 cards deep, there’s a good chance you will find additional copies of Squirming Emergence, Founding the Third Path, or Invasion of Tolvada to overwhelm the opponent.
Against a deck like mono-red aggro, returning Titan of Industry is often good enough to stem the bleeding while providing a nice life buffer in the face of burn spells. So long as you can get to the point where you are resolving Squirming Emergence, you should be in decent shape.
Buying Time and Fighting Through Hate
Where this deck tends to shine is against decks where you have time to set up your gameplan. Decks like Rakdos midrange and Domain ramp, for instance, don’t have the quickest clock. At the same time, you also don’t have to worry about much counter magic disrupting your ability to resolve Squirming Emergence. In games that go long, hard casting your seven-mana Creatures is a nice option to have, too.
The problem with the deck, and likely why it hasn’t had quite as much success in the current Standard metagame, is that mono-red aggro and Dimir midrange are so popular. Mono-red aggro is capable of assembling a fast enough clock to win before you even get a massive threat into play. Dimir midrange can assemble some early pressure and back it up with disruption in the form of counter magic and Deep-Cavern Bat.
Azorius Soldiers and Bant Poison are strong tempo-based choices as well that can make it tough to get a threat into play in the first place. This doesn’t even factor in the possibility of the opponent playing any form of graveyard hate, like Unlicensed Hearse. Obviously, sideboard cards like Path of Peril against aggressive decks and Duress counter magic can help, but you only have a few slots available for spells that aren’t permanents. Otherwise, your primary gameplan becomes a lot less reliable.
In this sense, Squirming Emergence has a strong engine and is certainly a decent metagame call but hasn’t been in the best position. Perhaps this will change moving forward with the release of Murders at Karlov Manor. There’s a lot of room for new or underrated decks to make a surge, so definitely keep this deck on your radar.