Squirming Into Standard!

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See how Squirming Emergence is transforming MTG Standard play. Get insights on using this card to dominate games with effective deck-building tips.

Welcome Magic lovers!

As the Standard Regional Championship Qualifier season winds down, we’ve seen format stalwarts Domain Ramp and Esper Raffine contort themselves to adapt, as the rest of the meta game surged against them with the return of Bant Toxic decks and the rise of Rakdos Midrange. Even as we enter the twilight of the season, we are still witnessing not only innovative additions to popular archetypes, but also a few brand new, potentially top tier, decks coming together over the last couple of weeks. Some of these new decks have been built to take advantage of the distinct lack of targeted graveyard hate-cards currently being played in Standard. While several of different lists have been floating around the top tournament results from the last few weeks, the one that we’ll be focusing on today is Squirming Emergence reanimator:

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With very solid finishes in several large Standard tournaments in Japan over the last couple of weeks, the Squirming Emergence deck has now been seeing an uptick in play on Magic Online also, landing a copy in the top 8 of the Standard Challenge 64 last weekend. The main gameplan of the deck is to mill, surveil and discard as many permanents as possible, as quickly as possible, in order to cast a Squirming Emergence to bring back an Atraxa, Grand Unifier, Titan of Industry or One with the Multiverse on turn three or four. That is usually enough to put the pilot of the deck so far ahead in the game that it’s almost impossible for the opponent to claw back into it. To function smoothly, and achieve its goals as quickly and consistently as possible, a reanimator deck like this one must play a solid foundation consisting of three main pillars: a way to rapidly fill the graveyard and discard the large, unwanted reanimation targets that will inevitably be drawn during the course of a game, the giant reanimation targets themselves and, finally, a way to cheat them back into play. That’s it! Removal spells, counter magic, disruption...all of that belongs in the sideboard, as game one is simply all about executing the main gameplan. In addition, the deck wants to play as many permanents as possible to power up the Squirming Emergence as rapidly as possible. Let’s cover each pillar of the deck in detail, starting with the enablers.

Magic the Gathering Card - Founding the Third Path - MTG Circle

Founding the Third Path is one of the key enablers here, letting one cast a self-mill card for free on turn two via the first chapter, like the Free the Fae side of Picklock Prankster or Wail of the Forgotten, then fueling the graveyard with chapter two, and finally allowing one to cast Squirming Emergence or another enabler from the yard on the last chapter. Nut draws consist of casting a turn one Otherwordly Gaze into turn two Founding plus Free the Fae/Wail of the Forgotten, which lets the second chapter self-mill for four on turn three, putting seven or more permanents into the graveyard, enabling a Squirming Emergence to slam Atraxa or Titan into play. On the play, that’s an extremely powerful start for a Standard deck, and against decks like Boros Convoke and Mono Red, or opponents without access to counter magic like Domain Ramp, it may just cause them to lose the game on the spot. Fallaji Archaeologist also does good work here, getting cards in the graveyard while also picking up Squirming Emergence and providing a healthy butt to block with against low-to-the-ground aggressive decks. Wail of the Forgotten, another fantastic enabler, gets cards into the graveyard while also smoothing your draws, and its ability to bounce a creature is a fine tempo play in a pinch. It really starts to shine once the Descend 8 condition is met, which is trivially easy for the deck to hit by turn three or four. When a card is able to simultaneously enable the deck’s main gameplan, regain some tempo by bouncing a creature and generate two-for-one card advantage by drawing a card while making the opponent discard, it becomes an extremely potent spell for the low cost of only two mana.

One issue that often occurs with a reanimation strategy like this, is drawing the giant, un-castable cards early in the game and having no way to get them into the graveyard where one wants them. Thus, having the ability to discard the massive seven and eight-mana spells that the deck is planning to cheat into play early is critical. This is accomplished with the new Murders at Karlov Manor detective, Steamcore Scholar. This role was previously filled by Tempest Hart , and while the elk's adventure side is a cheaper way to discard those large reanimation targets, its 3/4 body was far less relevant in most games. Steamcore Scholar not only loots away unwanted cards, it can also become a draw spell if one simply loots away a single Atraxa, or Squirming Emergence. It’s flying and vigilance abilities make it much more relevant than Tempest Hart against the other decks one is likely to face in the current Standard landscape, as it does an excellent job at pressuring planeswalkers like The Wandering Emperor, with its evasion to fly over the samurai tokens and not get exiled by the Emperor’s third ability, as well as swinging in for damage while also blocking or trading for Deep-Cavern Bat and Spyglass Siren.

Magic the Gathering Card - One with the Multiverse - MTG Circle

The second pillar is the fun part of the deck: the expensive, flashy, mammoth haymakers that comprise the suite of creatures and spells that one is trying to cheat into play early. We’re fortunate that, currently, one of the best reanimation targets ever printed is legal in Standard: Atraxa, Grand Unifier. Not much needs to be said about why Atraxa is the target of choice for almost every ramp and reanimation strategy. Its power can’t be overstated. Backing it up is Titan of Industry, since its ability to gain life and put multiple bodies onto the board is one of the best ways to stabilize once the deck falls behind. Portal to Phyrexia is a great way to not only clear the battlefield, but it also provides an immediate inevitability that most opponents won’t be able to deal with. One with the Multiverse fills out the last slot, as a way to set up a ‘combo’ turn by cheating in the eight-mana enchantment and then immediately casting an Atraxa, Titan or Portal for free, either from hand or off the top of the deck. Setting up the top of the deck with Otherworldly Gaze or a surveil land is often easy to do.

Magic the Gathering Card - Squirming Emergence - MTG Circle

The last pillar of the deck is, of course, the big finish: Squirming Emergence to reanimate a huge threat on turn three. Squirming Emergence costing a paltry three mana is really what allows this deck to compete in Standard at the highest levels. While its fathomless descent condition may seem steep at first, as the cards the deck is trying to target with it cost seven, eight or even nine mana, the deck can often power it up by turn three or four via the cheap, powerful enablers we covered previously. This makes it a very real threat at almost any point in the game after the first couple of turns, forcing opponents to either leave up whatever meager interaction they may have or, more commonly, trying to race the Squirming Emergence with aggression. In game one, many decks simply won’t be able to recover from or race a turn three or four Titan, Atraxa, Portal or Multiverse.

However, in the post-sideboard games, things get more complicated for the reanimator deck. This is due to its one, obvious weakness as a deck attempting to utilize the graveyard to power up its strategy: it is quite vulnerable to cards that attack the graveyard. In particular, repeatable graveyard removal like Unlicensed Hearse, Lord Skitter or Graveyard Trespasser. Oftentimes, the deck can self-mill quickly enough to ignore single-card graveyard removal like a Lord Skitter or a Trespasser, as there will be too many targets for the opponent to take before one can be cheated into play, but repeatable, double-card removal like Hearse is backbreaking. Thus, we see cards like Tear Asunder and Pithing Needle in the board, which should be sideboarded in almost every match. As decks like this continue to tick up in popularity, the more sideboard graveyard hate-cards opponents will be playing, making bringing it to a tournament an increasingly risky proposition. Currently, it can power through one or two pieces of sideboard hate, but even that can be tricky.

The deck has a lot of play to it, with many intersecting lines of play and many interesting decisions, such as what to surveil/mill off the top of one’s deck, and when to go for the Squirming Emergence. Remember, it’s a combo deck, and should be played like one, with maximum effort spent in the early game to combo off as quickly as possible by filling the yard and slamming an early Emergence for seven. However, in certain matchups, for example, against Azorius Control, it may be better to play around No More Lies or find a spot to overload their counter magic by casting multiple spells in a turn. Practice and experience playing the deck will make a very large difference in one’s win rate with it, so be sure to play plenty of practice games with it before bringing it to a competitive event. Now, get out there and start squirming!

Hi, I'm Damien! I'm a Canadian television and voice actor turned streamer! I've been playing Magic: the Gathering since the early 1990's when the game first released, and was heavily involved in competitive Magic for many years.
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