Pet Project - Ultimatums.deck

(Cruel Ultimatum| Art by Todd Lockwood)

There is Always a Greater Power

I was listening to an episode of the EDHRECast, when the wonderful Joey Schultz said something that immediately got the brewing gears whirring - he made a joke about playing all ten Ultimatums in a single game of commander. What was to many an amusing throwaway line, was to me a challenge: can we actually build a deck solely around playing all ten Ultimatums?

Before anything else, it's probably worth running through all ten of the ultimatums themselves. All are three-color, seven-mana sorceries with ridiculously powerful and splashy effects.

Most of you will be familiar with the cycle of wedge Ultimatums from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Coming in the era of Commander-based design and power creep, each one of these sees heavy amounts of play - ranging from 19% of decks for Ruinous Ultimatum, to a still respectable 5% for Inspired Ultimatum. Interestingly, perhaps the most powerful of these Emergent Ultimatum, is also the second least played - probably because while casting Emergent Ultimatum into, say, Expropriate, Omniscience and Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur may be extremely powerful, it's also a good way to ensure your playgroup never invites you back to game night.

Looking at the Ultimatums from Shards of Alara compared to those from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths really shows how much Magic has changed in the 12 years between these two sets. Not only is the enormous power creep we've seen fully on display - for the same mana cost, you can destroy three of your opponents' permanents with Violent Ultimatum, or all of their nonland permanents with Ruinous Ultimatum - but the changing focus of Wizards of the Coast's design philosophy too. In a Singleton format, Clarion Ultimatum does almost nothing - at its best, it'll grab a few basic lands. This change in philosophy and power level reflects itself in the play rates of these Ultimatums - Cruel Ultimatum, the most played of the OG Ultimatums, at 4%, sees least play than the least played new Ultimatum. Clarion Ultimatum, meanwhile, is played in a pathetic 504 decks, or 0%.

This series isn't about making powerful decks, though - it's about making fun decks - and so playability isn't going to stop us from playing all ten.

RAMPant Growth

Running ten eight-mana, three-color sorceries means two things - we're going to have to be playing all five colors, and ramp is going to be a key part of our strategy. Immediately, I knew the perfect commander for us.

Even with all the commanders, and five-color commanders in particular, we've had since Dominaria, Jodah, Archmage Eternal stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to big mana strategies. As well as serving as cost reduction, Jodah's Fist of Suns ability also serves as fantastic mana-fixing - crucial when 10% of your deck is made up of extremely color specific sorceries. No wonder, then, that eight of the ten Ultimatums appear on his EDHREC page.

Jodah is always a major lightning rod for removal, however, meaning mana fixing and acceleration are going to be in high demand throughout our list.

Along with an above average land count of 40, we've got 15 cards solely dedicated to ramping. Absolutely key among ramp cards, however, are those that let us forget about having specific colors of mana available to us - like Chromatic Orrery, Chromatic Lantern and The World Tree, the latter fetchable with effects like Hour of Promise. We don't only struggle with mana fixing because of all the Ultimatums, but because of how we want to be running at least a pair of each basic land to ensure Clarion Ultimatum isn't literally a dead card.

You're a Wizard, Harry

We aren't done once we've ramped into an Ultimatum or two, however. Our deck doesn't top off at casting ten Ultimatums - indeed, to get the most out of them, we want to be casting each of them several times. In this way, our deck brings a weird sort-of Spellslinger package along with it.

Not all Ultimatums work super well with these copy effects, unfortunately - the first Clarion Ultimatum may not do much, but the second is likely to do even less. I think it's still playing them, however - even with only one or two creatures on the field, for instance, getting two Titanic Ultimatums off at once can be game ending.

One of these effects definitely worth mentioning is Efreet Flamepainter. This lil guy is criminally underrated - seeing play in less than 4000 decks, or 0% of those on the EDHREC database. Despite this, I'd say he's worth a shot in any Spellslinger deck - it shouldn't be hard to clear the way with, say, a Swords to Plowshares, then get in for combat damage to cast the Swords again along with a Cultivate you chucked in your yard a few turns ago. But he's especially nutty in this deck, casting not just Cultivates but Cruel Ultimatums too.

There are also a few other payoffs we run, geared specifically towards playing spells with a high mana value.

Sunbird's Invocation is one of the most fun cards you can run in any big-mana deck; but probably more powerful than it is Ovika. He works especially well with one Ultimatum in particular - cast a Titanic Ultimatum while he's on board, and you've suddenly got 48 power's worth of lifelinking, trampling tokens on the field.

Of course, having only ten big mana payoffs in a deck isn't really going to cut it - and so as well as all the Ultimatums, we run a whole load of other expensive instants and sorceries.

I will admit, initially this slot was filled up with some of the obvious picks, mainly extra turn effects - like Expropriate, Time Stretch and friends. But then I realized getting double Expropriates from a Twincast on the field, or Time Stretching then attacking with an Efreet Flamepainter may be fun at first, but the novelty will probably wear off extremely quickly - especially for your opponents. Instead, then, I tried to pick some of the splashiest spells that won't have our opponents questioning their friendship with you. Sure, Blatant Thievery isn't the most fun card, but it doesn't quite reach the depths of infinite misery that the aforementioned Time Stretch does - especially with how easy it is to get infinite turns with the Stretch.

Final Flourish

From here, the deck is pretty much done - but we'll throw in a few removal spells as a finishing touch.

In Garruk's Wake might be a strictly worse Ruinous Ultimatum, but it's still one of the most played cards in Jodah lists for a reason, at 43%. Ondu Inversion is a card I slot into just about every white deck, as a board wipe on a land, although it works especially well when we'll sometimes be able to cast it for only five mana. The few spot removal spells you want to run are up to you - with Lost Caverns of Ixalan now out, Wilds of Eldraine may seem like a distant memory, but Stroke of Midnight is still, in my opinion, quite possibly the best board wipe in the entire format.

Ultimately (pun intended), the list comes together like this:

Ultimate Ultimatums

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Sorceries (33)
Instants (6)
Creatures (7)
Enchantments (10)
Artifacts (3)
Lands (40)

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Bring the Ending

This deck was definitely one of the trickiest I've had to build in this series so far - mainly because the Ultimatums were never supposed be put in a deck together, and they all tend to pull us in different directions. Along with the ramp, Spellslinger-ish shell, Clarion Ultimatum requires us to run a lot of basic lands, Genesis and Eerie Ultimatum want us to be playing with a decent number of permanents, and so forth. The way this deck comes together, however, is as a brilliant twist on the classic five color. Big-mana good stuff decks, sacrificing power for splashiness and fun - which, in my mind, is always a trade worth making when it comes to casual EDH.

That's all for this week, folks. Would you make a deck playing all ten Ultimatums any differently? Any thoughts, suggestions, or improvements? Leave them all down in the comments, where I'll be sure to read them!

Read More:

Ranking Every Ultimatum with EDHREC - Honorary Battlecruiser Cards!

Too-Specific Top 10 - Three-Color Mana Sinks

Pet Project - March of the Mirrors

Since around M14, Magic has been taking up far too much of Martin's time, to the detriment of his wallet and his social life. When he isn't arguing mono-white is superior to all other color combinations in EDH, or claiming MTG peaked during original Kamigawa, he lives a (relatively) normal life as a student.

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