Hello everyone! Today I’m going to go over my build of Sultai Ultimatum. This deck is extremely powerful as resolving a single copy of Emergent Ultimatum can pull you out of so many spots and the Ultimatum package doesn’t even take up that much room in the deck. In that vein, there’s a lot of ways to build this as only 50-ish of the 95 total cards are set in stone (most of those cards being your mana base).
This deck was extremely challenging to both play and build as every small decision you made mattered immensely so a huge amount of work went into this final list. Before I get started, I would like to thank Shoop and Tristan for spending a lot of time with me tuning this list.
Let’s talk about card choices.
Companion: Yorion, Sky Nomad
This deck is very weird in the sense that we don’t play 80 cards to play Yorion, we kind of wanted to play 80 cards and just happen to get Yorion as well. Would I play an 80 card version of this deck without Yorion? Definitely not, but when I tried to construct a 60 card version of this archetype I quickly found I couldn’t fit in every card that I thought was necessary. With that, going for Yorion was the obvious choice. Yorion is still great as always at blinking stuff like Omen of the Sea or Binding the Old Gods, but it also has the secret advantage of filling a hole in my curve. My version doesn’t play that many 3 drops for two reasons: one, I thought most of them weren’t that good, and two, Yorion is always a 3 drop in a sense. I like aggressively getting Yorion out of the Companion zone as going turn 3 get Yoroin, turn 4 Binding the Old Gods, turn 5 Yorion has generally been a very powerful play. With that, something like 5 lands, a Heartless Act, and a Binding the Old Gods I would consider to be an excellent hand on the play as you can really put the pain on creature decks.
2 Valki, God of Lies
Valki is one of your best hits off of Emergent Ultimatum and for that reason alone, I like having 2 copies to insulate yourself if you draw it earlier. Furthermore, I’ve actually been quite happy casting Valki on 2 to disrupt the opponent’s curve and I’ve even won a few games because I took an important creature then had Valki transform into that creature. Lastly, games could definitely go long enough that you need to cast Tibalt twice, thus the 2 copies. In your Ultimatum piles, Valki is one of your most common hits.
1 Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
Like Valki, Vorinclex is also one of the Emergent Ultimatum choices. The appeal of Vorinclex is not only is the body great, the static ability on it allows your Tibalts and Sagas to tick up at twice the rate while effectively shutting off your opponent’s cards with counters in the process. Vorinclex isn’t always great, especially if the opponent may have removal, but it’s excellent when the opponent is tapped out or low on resources to lock them out of the game.
1 Bala Ged Recovery
One of the hardest parts about this deck was deciding which MDFCs you wanted and how many to put in. Bala Ged Recovery wasn’t initially on my radar until I actually lost to an opponent who had it in the mirror. Bala Ged is great at recurring powerful spells later in the game, but unfortunately can’t get back resolved Emergent Ultimatum or Alrund’s Epiphany as they both exile themselves, but if one of those got countered, they’re great choices. In a really grindy game, if I get to resolve an Ultimatum I frequently pick Bala Ged Recovery in my pile as it’s very likely an Emergent Ultimatum got countered earlier in the game.
3 Sea Gate Restoration
Sea Gate Restoration is another solid hit off of Emergent Ultimatum and a Bolt Island in a pinch. I used to play 2, but since I switched over to Wolfwillow Havens, I went up to the third as casting this quickly is now more tenable. You pick this in your piles either when you’re running out of good options or this can be good once you start drawing 3+ cards. In general, I tend to go for the other options first.
Cultivate is one of the best cards in the deck as it’s a ramper, mana fixer, and replaces itself by giving you a land to field and hand.
3 Extinction Event
How to split the Extinction Events and Shadow’s Verdict was really difficult, but we opted for 3/4. Extinction Event tends to play better against decks like Gruul, but aggro recently has gotten a lot smaller in the forms of Monowhite, Monored, and Boros. With that and the fact we have access to Wolfwillow Haven, Shadow’s Verdict got the nod for the wrath of choice.
4 Shadow’s Verdict
Pretty much what I said above, but exiling all creatures and Planeswalkers 3 cmc and less from the field and graveyard is quite nice. Although it is on the card, I didn’t realize initially this exiles cards like Basri Ket and The Royal Scions which was a cool find.
2 Alrund’s Epiphany
This will generally be your best hit off of Emergent Ultimatum and is a fine card to cast in general. Foretelling it will also give you a mana discount so keep that in mind.
4 Emergent Ultimatum
The card this entire deck is built around. I tried an Emergent Ultimatum deck last Standard season, but there really wasn’t enough powerful cards yet to justify it and Rogues was too popular. Now that Rogues looks to be pushed out by fast aggro decks and we got huge additions to the archetype, this card went from unplayable to unbeatable.
3 Jwari Disruption
It really pained me not to play 4 of this card because it really put in work for me. For what it’s worth, I’m just biased towards cheap answers and if you’re playing Wolfwillow Haven, you don’t need as many proactive 2 mana plays. Furthermore, Jwari drops off quickly every turn past turn 2 so it’s not like having multiple copies is even that good, I just like this card probably a bit more than I should.
I was struggling to figure out how many 2 mana kill spells I wanted and I opted with 5. Eliminate is solid, but since it misses so many targets I didn’t want to overload on them. I tried a version of this deck with 4 Eliminate and even against Monored I would constantly have Eliminate stranded in my hand.
4 Heartless Act
The best 2 mana removal around. It’s versatile enough that it can kill most threats that worry you.
Initially I wanted to play 4 Negate main, but with the increase of aggro, that easily could’ve been a liability. Negate is really well positioned as many of Standard’s staple decks play a lot of non creature spells, but I was scared off as the newest versions of aggro leaned much harder on creatures and only played a few, albeit high impact non-creature spells. With that, you really only wanted one Negate a game and having 4 could make me have multiple in matchups I don’t want it.
1 Soul Shatter
I’m not at all sold on Soul Shatter, but I like it in theory. Soul Shatter gives me an out to any random threat I may not be able to kill normally like a Kiora Bests the Sea God token, Koma, Cosmos Serpent, Toski, Bearer of Secrets, and so on. Furthermore, this is just the best removal spell for Goldspan Dragon and is just a solid card in general.
1 Behold the Multiverse
I wanted a 5th piece of card draw beyond Omen of the Sea and I was really torn between this and Mazemind Tome. I opted for Behold the Multiverse as you can get the cards quicker than you can out of Mazemind Tome, and in most game 1 matchups, speed is a much more relevant factor.
4 Omen of the Sea
Cheap card draw is always great, and it’s even better when paired with Yorion.
4 Wolfwillow Haven
The main contention in Sultai Ultimatum lists right now is whether or not Wolfwillow Haven is a 4 of or 0 of. For awhile, I was firmly in the 0 Wolfwillow Haven camp as I preferred having more MDFC cards like Jwari Disruption and spice like Pelakka Predation for the mirror, but was eventually convinced Wolfwillow Haven was likely the way to go. The deck initially lacked a lot of proactive 2 drops and having a fast curve against aggressive decks is near mandatory. Considering you have to win most of your games off of Emergent Ultimatum, most of the time casting it even a turn ahead of time could easily be the difference between winning and losing. Furthermore in slow matchups, having a mana advantage can be very powerful to cast more interaction earlier or to outpace a Mystical Dispute. As long as aggressive decks are popular, I believe Wolfwillow Haven is likely better, but if the meta slows down significantly, I would go back to more MDFCs instead.
4 Binding the Old Gods
I can’t believe they made this card an uncommon! This is top rate removal in this deck as it can kill anything and then ramp us towards Emergent Ultimatum. As I mentioned before, blinking this with Yorion is also insanely strong.
1 Kiora Bests the Sea God
One of your best hits with Emergent Ultimatum as well. Making an 8/8 hexproof immediately is such a brutal start to a very powerful card and many decks simply can’t handle the body to begin with. Interestingly enough in the mirror, Kiora Bests the Sea God is not great game 1, but really good in the post board games. This has to do with the opponent likely having access to Shadow’s Verdict and Extinction Event to clean up the token, and most of the time, you won’t have a great permanent to steal.
The general consensus is that 30-31 real lands is correct, but beyond that it’s hard to say how many mana sources you want. Through my testing, I frequently found that although flooding could sometimes be an issue, missing a land drop was usually devastating, so the more lands the better. In my version without Wolfwillow Haven, I played 30 lands and 8 MDFCs, but here, we have now a potential 41 mana sources (and this is excluding Cultivate and Binding the Old Gods). For what it’s worth, when you have access to more mana, your MDFCs get to be spells more often rather than bad lands which is a nice advantage.
2 Chainweb Aracnir
I used to hate itsy bitsy spider, but it’s actually excellent right now. The most obvious function of it is an Escape card against Rogues, but it actually has 2 other great applications as well. Against Izzet Tempo, they surprisingly don’t have any good way to permanently deal with Aracnir so this could be a real issue for them. Secondly, using Chainweb as a roadblock against small creature decks is surprisingly effective. I won a match against Monored because I was able to keep Escaping Chainweb Aracnir in a long game so they couldn’t kill me with Goldspan Dragon.
Duress was something I wasn’t sold on in the mirror until I was extolled it’s good virtues by my playtesting team, now I can’t put it down. Picking apart your opponent’s hand in the mirror is the easiest way to win as the matchup is all about Ultimatum and whether you can cast yours or stop your opponent from casting theirs. Taking their Ultimatum is generally the best, but robbing them of a Negate is also a very strong play.
2 Mazemind Tome
This was a bit of theory more than practice, but I think it’s sound. So we wanted more card draw in the mirror and Mazemind Tome looked to be the best option. It has two particularly down sides though, it’s slow, and it’s susceptible to Binding the Old Gods. With that, we highly considered playing more copies of Behold the Multiverse until I realized that Binding the Old Gods is already good against this version because of Wolfwillow Haven, and the raw cards can actually be more important than 2 curated cards. Why? Both lands and spells are extremely important in the mirror. Furthermore, Tome combined with Wolfwillow Haven can do a lot of work in making opposing Mystical Disputes bad as this easily sneaks right under it. This may end up being worse than more Behold the Multiverse, but I think the inclusion makes sense.
To round out the playset in the 95. Negate is great against decks with a lot of non-creature spells unsurprisingly.
4 Mystical Dispute
Mystical Dispute is extremely important in every blue match to help force through your spells. Since a lot of the time it can be a 1 mana hard counter, this is an extremely powerful tool to have access to.
1 Crippling Fear
It may look weird to have Crippling Fear over the last Extinction Event, or realistically at all, but I think the inclusion makes sense. Extinction Event is great against the Adventures decks since their curve is mostly odd and they can have large creatures like Lovestruck, but decks like Monored, Monowhite, and Boros aren’t the same. They have a nice mix of 1 and 2 mana spells generally backed up by a few 3 drops, a combination that makes Extinction Event not very exciting. Crippling Fear sort of acts like Shadow’s Verdict number 5 in those matchups which is exactly what we needed. If the metagame keeps shifting towards really low to the ground aggro, feel free to add more Crippling Fear.
WHY SO ANTI-AGGRO?
Something I found really weird about other lists when I was scouting them out is how little interaction they seemed to have for aggro. Even with 5 2 mana removal spells, a Soul Shatter, and 6 wraths main, I still feel like my aggro matchups are close. I’ve seen many lists that also run like 5 2 mana removal spells, but then no Soul Shatter and like 2-3 Wrath effects main. If you build your deck like that, I think you are begging to just lose to aggro, and I’m not about that especially for ladder play. Even though my build is worse in the mirror, I prefer that than having a significantly worse matchup against every aggro deck in both the pre and post board games. Different people have different priorities, but I think it’s higher EV to have a better matchup against a larger portion of the field. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that you NEED all the removal I have, maybe you can get away with 1-2 fewer pieces and still be fine, but that hasn’t been my experience.
I was heartbroken to cut Elspeth’s Nightmare from my deck as I started out with 3, but I think it makes sense for now. The theory behind Elspeth’s Nightmare is that it’s never really bad, as against creature decks you get a 2 for 1 and against control decks you get a slow Duress. If this was always true, I would happily be playing 3 or 4 copies, but in testing, this isn’t what happened. Elspeth’s Nightmare was missing constantly against my aggressive opponent’s, whether it was on the first chapter or the second which was very brutal. Second, although this is a slow Duress in the mirror, it’s also a really easy Binding the Old Gods target and I didn’t want to make Binding any better than it had to be. If there were a lot of Rogues I would’ve considered keeping some anyway, but with how often I was having Nightmare be blank cardboard, I think it isn’t the right time for it.
How many of my pet cards was I forced to cut from this deck? Too many. In theory, Shark Typhoon is really good in slow matchups. It’s a mana sink, it draws a card, it can be put in Ultimatum piles, you can do some work when hard cast, but in practice like Elspeth Nightmare, it didn’t work that way. In the mirror, I thought you would have time to tap out for a large Typhoon, but that’s not what the matchup is about, it’s about Emergent Ultimatum. There were many situations where I had Shark Typhoon in hand, I get Duressed for my one piece of interaction then an Ultimatum just kills me. Shark Typhoon can be good when neither of you have Ultimatum, but the games generally don’t work out that way. With that, we opted for Mazemind Tome as that draws us into more interaction and into Emergent Ultimatum faster. Furthermore, Toski has been noticeably absent from most of the Sultai lists so Shark Typhoons stock goes down again. Against something like Izzet, although Shark Typhoon is solid, it generally just gets bounced by Brazen Borrower anyway. The only matchup I was very happy with it was Rogues, but again, Rogues seemed like a small portion of the metagame anyway. It was also pretty solid against midrange decks, but this deck is already excellent against midrange so we didn’t really need anymore help there.
Toski, Bearer of Secrets
On an uncontested board, Toski can be the nuts (get it?) However, if the opponent deploys a single blocker like a 2/2 Shark token, this card just doesn’t do much if anything at all. The upside was there, but too often it was blank cardboard.
Koma, Cosmos Serpent
I was actually a pretty big fan of Koma, but I don’t think it’s his time to shine yet. Koma was excellent against Izzet, but not great against Rogues and just fine in the mirror. Furthermore, Koma has the Shark Typhoon problem in the mirror, its just not what the matchup is about. I don’t think it’s wrong to play some Koma, but I wanted more early card advantage, not a late game threat.
Ok this isn’t really a notable exclusion, but I thought this card was pretty sweet in the mirror. However, with how much aggro there was, it didn’t feel particularly good. If slow matchups take over the meta, look towards Pelakka Predation.
MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING
|+1 Crippling Fear||-1 Negate|
The boarding and matchup is pretty straightforward, try to resolve an Ultimatum before Gruul can run you over. Thankfully, as Gruul isn’t the fastest of the aggro decks, that is generally not too difficult of a proposition. Something to note, if they are the Gruul version that splashes for Negate, you should board out the Behold the Multiverse over the Negate and can even consider bringing in another Negate/Mystical Dispute as well.
|+2 Chainweb Aracnir||-3 Negate|
|+1 Crippling Fear|
Despite how many wraths I play, these matchups can still be challenging (which makes it more surprising that there are versions with significantly fewer wrath effects). Same as Gruul, try to survive the early onslaught of creatures and take over with an Ultimatum. Mulligan aggressively towards a fast curve or a lot of interaction.
|+4 Duress||-3 Extinction Event|
|+2 Mazemind Tome||-4 Shadows’ Verdict|
|+1 Negate||-1 Eliminate|
|+4 Mystical Dispute||-3 Heartless Act|
The board plan is relatively simple with take out your creature removal and board in your anti-blue package, but this could change depending on the opponent’s configuration. If they have 4 Shark Typhoon and Koma, you probably want to keep in some Heartless Act and trim something like Wolfwillow Haven. Nevertheless, this matchup generally revolves around who can stick their Ultimatum so your game plan is to force through yours or stop the opponent from using theirs. This list is better suited at fighting over Ultimatums, but worse if you don’t draw the Ultimatum in a timely manner versus the Shark Typhoon versions. With that, a timely Kiora Bests the Sea God or Sea Gate Restoration can be similarly devastating so always keep those options open as well.
|+2 Chainweb Aracnir||-3 Extinction Event|
|+4 Duress||-4 Shadows’ Verdict|
|+2 Mazemind Tome||-1 Eliminate|
|+1 Negate||-4 Wolfwillow Haven|
|+4 Mystical Dispute||-1 Binding the Old Gods|
This matchup, although decreasing in popularity, is an interesting one so I kept it in. This ultimately will be a matchup about patience, you need to keep waiting and deploying land drops while your opponent does the same and deploys the occasional threat. Your ultimate goal is to keep the peace until you can start jamming Ultimatums into counterspells without getting severely punished, or have a turn where you can deplete the opponent of resources before going for another Ultimatum. The secondary game plan is to do pretty much the same thing, but using Chainweb Aracnir instead. Funny enough, Izzet really doesn’t have a good way of dealing with Chainweb Aracnir and it’s perfectly sized on it’s Escape to beat a Goldspan Dragon. I can and have used a single Spider to beat my Izzet opponents to death, and it is very satisfying.
|+2 Chainweb Aracnir||-1 Valki, God of Lies|
|+4 Duress||-1 Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider|
|+2 Mazemind Tome||-1 Emergent Ultimatum|
|+1 Negate||-1 Eliminate|
|+4 Mystical Dispute||-1 Soul Shatter|
|+1 Crippling Fear||-4 Wolfwillow Haven|
|-4 Binding the Old Gods|
|-1 Kiora Bests the Sea God|
This matchup is similar to Izzet except their threats are much lower to the ground and can really disrupt you when they mill over Ultimatum hits. My team mate told me we could use a plan where we try to win off the back of a Chainweb Aracnir, but without Shark Typhoons as well, I feel like that doesn’t work. If you play patiently enough and answer their threats, I’ve found you can force through Ultimatums eventually and generally the first one can be game winning. The hardest part is staying alive through the first wave of creatures so try to keep a hand with a Wrath or mulligan into one.
COMMON EMERGENT ULTIMATUM PILES
Valki, God of Lies/Kiora Bests the Sea God/Alrund’s Epiphany
This will generally be the most common pile as its just the 3 most powerful spells in your deck. Generally no matter what the opponent picks, they will be in pretty terrible shape.
Valki, God of Lies/Kiora Bests the Sea God/Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider
This is very similar to the first pile, but has the additional threat in Vorinclex over the Time Walk. You can do this pile when Emergent Ultimatum is your last card as the extra turn wouldn’t be particularly helpful anyway. In this pile, you are nearly guaranteed to get Kiora Bests the Sea God and Vorinclex so keep that in mind. In game 1 of the mirror, I don’t recommend this pile as one Extinction Event can ruin this completely, but in sideboarded games, this can be very effective as most mirror opponent’s won’t keep in enough removal to deal with this. Keep in mind though, the first pile is generally the best.
Valki, God of Lies/Kiora Bests the Sea God/Bala Ged Recovery
This pile is generally for longer games where one of your Ultimatums was countered previously. You can easily substitute either of the threats out for an Alrund’s Epiphany as well, but most of the time that means you’ll just get another crack at an Ultimatum and not much else which is not usually what you want out of an Ultimatum pile. However, if you already have a threat on board, that could be a good option.
Alrund’s Epiphany/Kiora Bests the Sea God/Shadow’s Verdict
This is a rather common pile against aggressive decks when they have a huge board you need to deal with. If Kiora Bests the Sea God and Valki aren’t enough to stop the aggression, don’t feel bad about using an Ultimatum to give yourself more time.
GENERAL GAMEPLAY TIPS
- Always remember your game plan when you are thinking about mulligans. In game one, if you don’t see a companion, you can likely assume it’s an aggressive deck. With that, you can keep hands that are interaction heavy game 1. If you see Yorion, assume it’s the mirror or control so having hands that look to have a fast Ultimatum or at their best. Try not to keep land light hands unless they have a Cultivate in them, it’s really hard to win when you miss a land drop with this deck.
- Don’t be afraid to run out Valki against creature decks on turn 2. I’ve won a surprising amount of games by having Valki disrupt the opponent’s curve or stall them long enough to get an Ultimatum off. I’ve even won games by cloning the creature underneath Valki and killing my opponent with it.
- Vorinclex is a great threat, but works very awkwardly with Mazemind Tome on both ends. It accelerates your Tome’s decay and makes sure the opponent’s Tome never gets any counters. Keep that in mind if you’re looking to cast it.
- Bala Ged Recovery is mostly for rebuying Ultimatums in longer games. Thus if you’re in the mirror, I would try to save it but if you’re against aggro, use it aggressively either as a land or to rebuy an interactive spell. This is similar to Sea Gate Restoration where generally you want to save it in the mirror but use it as a land in every other matchup as early as possible to not Bolt yourself unnecessarily.
- Remember to Foretell your Alrund’s Epiphany when you have the chance to do so. The dream curve is Alrund’s Epiphany on 6 mana into Ultimatum on 7.
- Get your Yorion out of the Companion zone more often than you did with other Yorion decks. The curve of getting Yorion, Binding the Old Gods, and playing Yorion is one of the best the deck has to offer.
- Wolfwillow Haven is your best 2 drop on 2 so deploying it first is generally correct.
- Make sure you play out your basic lands first and your MDFCs last, you don’t want to be caught with the wrong colors on an Ultimatum turn. With that, getting green is at a lower priority because of Wolfwillow Haven, so don’t be too aggressive in getting green sources early.
That’s all that I got for today! If you like my content and want to see more of it, you can check me out on Twitch! Have a great day!