Ugin the Villain

Posted in Reconstructed on February 10, 2015

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

What's so bad about being a villain anyway?

I mean, there are some nice perks. You probably have a combination of superpowers, wealth, minions, and a secret base, not to mention endless dastardly schemes. If those heroes would just stop thwarting your incredible plans, you'd be having so much fun!

Well, let's try and have some of that fun today, shall we?

Today's Sultai deck comes all the way from Japan. But it isn't your ordinary kind of mill-Whip of Erebos Sultai deck. No. This is something far different, featuring an exciting package of cards new and old. And you may just get to be villain thanks to Villainous Wealth!

Let's take a look!

Asumu Fukuhara's Send More Money

The Battle Plan

The core of this strategy is a ramp strategy—but how that ramp plan manifests here will often be in the form of a combo.

This deck has plenty of powerful, expensive spells—and they're fueled by this card:

Heartbeat of Spring effects come at a dangerous price. Just as they double your mana, so do they double your opponent's. And while Dictate of Karametra mitigates that a little bit by having flash, it's still going to give your opponent plenty of mana to use to deploy his or her most powerful threats.

So, when is it right to use a card like Dictate of Karametra? Well, it has to be when you're sure that what you're doing is more powerful than whatever your opponent can do.

Like, say, this ragtag crew:

While, yes, sometimes your opponent might have something situationally better, this deck is set up well to take advantage of all that extra mana. End-step Dictate, untap and Villainous Wealth for nine? That should get the job done in a lot of matchups.

The key in refining this deck is to give it other plans as well. While the Dictate combo is nice, I also want to make sure it can do enough ramping on its own to just have a strong game of hard-casting a card like Ugin when it needs to. Right now it's close—but it could use a bit more help in that direction.

Deck Breakdown

Which cards should stick around to help our villainy and which ones can we remove from our devious plan? Let's go through this deck card by card and see what should stay and what should go.

Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix

We're trying to ramp up our mana, hit land drops, draw gas, and buy time, which makes these ubiquitous Standard cards a completely solid inclusion. Playing cards like these means you don't really want to play Crux of Fate in your deck, but that's okay—I don't really think we want it anyway. This eight-card package is nothing new that you haven't seen before, and it's certainly powerful and core enough to this kind of deck to make me want to play all of them.

Embodiment of Spring

I definitely want an additional cheap ramping card in this deck. The biggest question to me is what that card is supposed to be.

Embodiment of Spring is great on the first turn, staving off some damage and then ramping you later on. While it is susceptible to removal, if your opponent spends time killing this on turn two instead of playing a creature, that will often be okay anyway.

The problem with the Embodiment, however, is that later in the game it becomes a lot weaker. It takes a turn to activate it, and then you need to wait another turn to use the land you find—even with Font of Fertility, at least you can immediately use it and have the mana available next turn.

Additionally, it begins to impact how you shape your mana base. You don't want to play as many lands that enter the battlefield tapped because you want to be able to play an Embodiment on the first turn and then sacrifice it the next turn.

The card I'm interested in using instead is Kiora's Follower. It untaps your lands to ramp you (meaning you can still double up on the mana it gives you with Dictate of Karametra), and can trade in combat to buy time if necessary. While it does cost two mana, it's not really all that different than the Embodiment, since you needed to spend two mana to activate that anyway. I'm going with four Followers to sit next to my Caryatids here.

Dig Through Time

In a deck like this, you often need to find the right cards at the right time in the right order. You want to Dictate and then play your huge game-winning threat; you want to find the removal spell and them slam your threat. Dig Through Time helps ensure you'll have the pieces you need when you need them. While this deck can't supercharge its delve as well as some, you'll still be able to cast it for cheap often enough (or just tap four lands with a Dictate on the battlefield) to make playing three worthwhile.

Dictate of Karametra

This is one of the deck's key pieces. Dictate into a major threat will win a lot of games. Yes, it can be dangerous—but that's just a risk you accept by playing a strategy like this.

I definitely want the full four copies of Dictate in this deck. I want to draw one every game to make my deck optimally function.

Villainous Wealth, Empty the Pits, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

]

These are, essentially, your kill cards. You cast a Dictate and then untap and try and set up for some of these—ideally a Wealth or Ugin.

I like having exactly one Empty the Pits. It's usually weaker than the other two early, but can be important to Dig for in the long game to lock up the win. Otherwise, the big question is how many each of Wealth and Ugin.

I like having a mix, as then you're more likely to have the right one in the right situation. There will be matchups where one is better than the other. Overall, I like having three of each. Ugin's ability to sweep the board is not to be underestimated. If you think it's going to be good enough, there are even games where you can Dictate into Ugin, and then -5 to get rid of the Dictate and sweep the board—leaving your opponent with (hopefully) nothing and none of the mana from your Dictate.

So 3 Wealth, 3 Ugin, and 1 Empty it is!

Dissolve

There are going to be places where Dissolve is good, for sure. You can leave mana up for Ætherspouts, or Silence the Believers, or even a Dictate, and then Dissolve if necessary.

In those cases, though, I think it's going to be seldom that casting Dissolve is better than the other card you were going to cast anyway. A lot of the time, you're still going to want to play the Dictate despite having Dissolve mana up.

The more interesting use case to me is protecting yourself after a Dictate. That way you can, say, cast Ugin and still leave mana up to Dissolve your opponent's spell.

There will be situations where that is good. After all, you don't really want to just lose to Crater's Claws on accident if you can avoid it. However, that's a card to protect you when everything is already working and firing on all cylinders. I'd rather have more cards that build toward working when you don't have your Dictate game plan rolling.

Notably, a card I'm interested in here is Kiora, the Crashing Wave. It curves perfectly on four mana to follow up our Sylvan Caryatid or (flavorfully!) Kiora's Follower. It helps protect us from a problematic threat, or ramp us further while digging for more answers. Overall, it's a solid fit for the deck, and one I don't really want to play with too much countermagic around since I'll be tapping low on mana for Kiora a lot of the time. Three Kiora it is!

Sultai Charm

Sultai Charm can do a lot of things for this deck—the problem is that it doesn't necessarily do them as well as you need it to.

It can kill creatures…but plenty of problematic creatures for this strategy are cheap multicolor creatures like Siege Rhino or Savage Knuckleblade. It can dig for more cards…but not very efficiently. It can Naturalize effectively, but you won't always need that.

The thing I'm most worried about in this deck is surviving and being able to kill off opponent's threats for long enough to survive, which means I want the highest-quality removal spells I can. And the one that comes to mind instead is Hero's Downfall.

A huge issue for this deck is Planeswalkers, since you don't really have a good way to remove them. (And with Dissolve gone, you can't counter them either.) Downfall takes care of that, while also dealing with whatever major threat an opponent might have.

I'd like a pair of Hero's Downfalls here.

Silence the Believers and Ætherspouts

One common way to lose post-Dictate is if your opponent is just holding a grip of creatures and then deploys them all and starts beating you down.

Silence the Believers is pretty strong here. At four mana it is a bit more pricy than Hero's Downfall. However, where it shines is in stabilizing the game later on. Hitting seven mana naturally to deal with two creatures is pretty easy. But it's especially good in a post-Dictate game. In those cases, Silence serves as a sort of Plague Wind: you can just tap for thirteen mana and exile four of them.

Ætherspouts serves a similar role. For five mana, you can deal with all of your opponent's attackers. Even if it isn't permanent, you don't need it to be in this case. (Plus, it also potentially sets up your opponent's library for a Villainous Wealth!)

Ætherspouts is going to be a little better on average since you can use it more effectively in the early game to buy the time you need. However, in any deck with Dig Through Time, I like having a mix of spells since you can somewhat reliably find one-ofs over the course of a game if you need to. Three Ætherspouts and one Silence it is!

Temporal Trespass

There are some pretty cute things you can do in this deck with Temporal Trespass thanks to all the mana you generate. Ugin and Trespass in the same turn? Sign me up!

However, overall it's only good when you're already ahead. Most of the time, I'd actually rather have a card like Worst Fears to mess with the opponent's game plan post-Dictate and prevent the opponent from beating me with a huge threat or an X-spell. And there isn't even room for that here with the deck this tight. Trespass is going to have to go.

With all of those changes made, that brings the decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Karametra's Wealth

Bam! How about that—a crazy, different take on Sultai that doesn't feature Sidisi or Whip of Erebos?

With any deck like this, you can always make some tweaks depending on your local metagame. If there are a lot of, say, Crater's Claws running around, you may want Thoughtseize or Dissolve to help protect yourself. Similarly, if you need to fend off beatdown decks, more Hero's Downfall or a card like Bile Blight might go a long way here.

This is a fun strategy that can go big and dump huge threats onto the board early—have a blast with it! With Villainous Wealth on your side, who knows what cards you'll be using to win some of the games?

Honorable Mentions

What were some of the other decks originally submitted for Sultai Week to catch my eye for this article? Let's take a look!

 

Asada Masayuki's Dark Water

James Humphris's Sultai Superfriends

Matthew Johnson's Mono-Green Sultai

Kouhei Hayakawa's Villainous Fog

Tophat's Salty Sultai midrange

Ato Shingai's No Sidisi

Aidan's Sultai Control

From Sultai to Temur

In two weeks, it'll be time for a take on Temur for Temur Week! What ideas do you have for Temur in Standard? Well, let's see what you can come up with!

Format: Fate Reforged Standard

Restrictions: Your deck must contain only green, blue, and red (Temur)

Deadline: Monday, February 16, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time

Submit all decklists by emailing me at reconstructeddecks@gmail.com.

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain

4 Firedrinker Satyr

3 Ash Zealot

4 Lightning Bolt

…and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)

I'm excited to see what Temur has in store for this column! We've seen a lot of different kinds of Temur in Standard over the past several months—but what's something new and interesting we haven't seen quite yet? I'll be excited to find out!

Additionally, if you have any thoughts or feedback on this article you can always contact me—it is great to hear from you! The best ways to do that are to send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr.

I'll be back next week with something a little different than usual. Until then, have fun being the villain!

Gavin

@GavinVerhey

GavInsight

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