Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 367 of Against the Odds. This week, we’re playing more of our new Panharmonicon, Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, but in Modern this time! If you’ve been following our YouTube for a while, you might remember that I love Emeria, the Sky Ruin decks. Well, today, we’re going to see if Mom is strong enough to bring Emeria back in Modern in 2023! Our deck’s goal is pretty simple: stall out in the early game with cheap card draw and removal creatures, stick Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, and take over the game with enters-the-battlefield value. If that’s not enough, we’ll eventually get Emeria, the Sky Ruin on the battlefield with seven Plains to reanimate something for free each turn, which should quickly overwhelm our opponent! Is Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines good enough for Modern? What are the odds of winning with it in a mono-white Emeria…or MOMeria shell in the format? Let’s get to the video and find out in today’s Against the Odds; then, we’ll talk more about the deck!
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Against the Odds: MOMeria
Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines is a really interesting card in the context of Modern. The good news is that there are a ton of good enters-the-battlefield triggers to double up, and Torpor Orbing the opponent is oddly effective against some of the most popular threats in the format, like Modern Horizon 2‘s evoke Elementals. The bad news is that five mana is a lot for the format. Some decks can win as early as Turn 3, which could make it hard to even get Mom on the battlefield. As such, the biggest challenge of building around Elesh Norn on Modern is staying alive long enough to make it relevant. Thankfully, many of the best creatures with Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines on the battlefield are also some of the best creatures to gum up the board and slow down the game before we have Mom.
Before getting to our enters-the-battlefield creatures, we need to talk about one other card: Ephemerate. Ephemerate is pretty absurd in our deck. The ability to blink something for just a single mana makes it a great way to protect Mom from a targeted removal spell and also offers a ton of value with all of our enters-the-battlefield creatures. As we work our way through our huge list of creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers, keep in mind that there’s a pretty good chance we’ll get to save them from removal once or twice for a single mana thanks to Ephemerate!
Take, for example, Wall of Omens and Spirited Companion. In the early game, they come down, draw us a card, and block to help us stay alive while we develop our mana and find Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines. They become even better once we get Mom on the battlefield since they’ll draw us two cards with their enters-the-battlefield triggers!
For removal, we have Skyclave Apparition and Solitude, which, much like our card draw, are good cards without Mom but become even better once Elesh Norn doubles up their exiling enters-the-battlefield trigger.
We’ve also got a small Ranger-Captain of Eos package. The three-drop is one of our better cards against combo since we can sacrifice it to keep our opponent from casting non-creature spells for a turn (this also helps make sure we can resolve Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines against counterspell decks) while also tutoring up a one-drop (or two, if we have Mom) with its enters-the-battlefield trigger. Our main target is Thraben Inspector, which gives us even more ETB card draw to work with Mom in the late game. But we also have one Esper Sentinel to tax spell-heavy decks and one Kami of False Hope, which can turn into a hard lock against combat damage in the late game once we get Emeria, the Sky Ruin going to reanimate it every turn.
When it comes to actually closing out the game, we often just drown our opponent in enters-the-battlefield value. But we have Sun Titan if we need an actual finisher, which is pretty absurd in our deck. Its enters-the-battlefield trigger reanimates every creature in our deck outside of Solitude and Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines, which makes it a great value play after we have Elesh Norn. Our dream is to play Mom on Turn 5 and follow up with Sun Titan on Turn 6 to reanimate things like Wall of Omens or Ranger-Captain of Eos to refill our hand. Sun Titan is also key to our Emeria, the Sky Ruin plan thanks to its ability to reanimate lands.
Speaking of our mana base, our main goal (outside of casting our spells) is to turn on Emeria, the Sky Ruin as quickly as possible. Once we get Emeria online, our deck becomes more or less unbeatable unless our opponent has graveyard hate. Reanimating a creature each turn offers a ton of value with Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines and also turns on two different locks. First, we can reanimate Kami of False Hope each turn to Fog our opponent’s attackers, essentially locking combat damage out of the game. Second, we can reanimate Ranger-Captain of Eos each turn to Silence our opponent’s non-creature spells, which more or less locks control and combo decks out of the game.
The only problem with Emeria, the Sky Ruin is that getting seven Plains on the battlefield takes a while, although Sun Titan helps. Alongside 10 Snow-Covered Plains, we’re playing Flooded Strand and Field of Ruin, which Sun Titan can return to the battlefield to ramp us into additional Plains to turn on Emeria. In a pinch, we can even use Ghost Quarter to grab a Plains from our deck by blowing up another land. Having four Field of Ruins and two Ghost Quarters also helps ensure we don’t lose to decks like Tron or cards like Urza’s Saga. And in the late game, we can occasionally turn them into Strip Mines by running our opponent out of basic lands to find.
On level one, we want to play against decks that struggle with Elesh Norn’s static ability. Decks like Elementals, for example, are heavily focused on ETB triggers from cards like Risen Reef, Fury, and Solitude, and Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines pretty much locks down those decks all by itself. We also want to play against decks that struggle to remove Mom, which is surprisingly resilient to most Modern removal since cards like Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt can’t kill it and its static ability shuts down popular removal spells like Leyline Binding. On the other hand, every once in a while, we run into a deck playing something like Terminate, which is pretty annoying since it cleanly answers Mom for just two mana.
Beyond keeping Mom on the battlefield, our toughest matchup is fast combo. While we do have some good sideboard cards, our main deck is really well suited to grinding out long, fair games but not nearly as good at keeping opponents from comboing off with spells early in the game. On the other hand, against midrange and control, our deck oozes enough value that it’s really hard for opponents to keep up, and this is doubly true because we’ll eventually turn on Emeria, the Sky Ruin, which should close out the game.
Record-wise, we finished 4-1 in a Modern league with Momeria, with our one loss coming to Izzet Murktide. Overall, though, the deck felt surprisingly good! Apparently, you can play fair, slow, Magic in Modern in 2023! As far as Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines itself, it was a mixed bag. We had some games that Mom won by shutting down the opponent’s enters-the-battlefield triggers and others where Mom won the game by supercharging all of our enters-the-battlefield triggers. On the other hand, we also had games where our opponent killed us before we could get Mom on the battlefield (see: our first game against Rhinos). We also got to see Mom’s body shine. A 4/7 is actually huge in Modern—big enough to shut down pretty much any threat our opponent could throw at us—which usually wasn’t many because once Mom stuck on the battlefield, we could usually close out the game in fairly short order. All in all, I came away from our league impressed by Elesh Norn’s potential in Modern and maybe even more impressed with the MOMeria archetype, which felt surprisingly strong. While I don’t think Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines is going to break Modern or anything like that, our initial test run does suggest that she is playable, at least, which means you should probably expect more Modern Mom in the not-super-distant future!
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Anyway, that’s all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.