I played significantly more than the recommended daily allowance of Time Spiral Draft during that format's time in the sun, and there were few cards I was happier to see in my first pack than Tromp the Domains. I don't think I ever passed one, honestly, and occasionally you could even catch me sneaking in basic lands for colors I wasn't even playing, just to make darn sure all my little Saprolings got that extra +1/+1.
Overrun, Overwhelm, the ridiculous Vitalizing Wind, even the lesser nongreen "Overruns" like Charge Across the Araba or Swell of Courage... if it gives all your creatures +big/+huge, odds are I've probably ended a game with it at some point. And I won't say no to +N/+0, either—Run, of Hit fame, was one of my favorite cards in Dissension, which is saying something.
Actually, come to think of it, my love of Overrun goes back to before there was Overrun. One of the first cards I ever fell in love with was Marton Stromgald, who's a lot like a plucky little Overrun on legs. I had this black-red-green token deck that would make Saprolings and Goblins and Thrulls and Prisms (yes, Prisms! Thanks, Diamond Kaleidoscope!) until I could slam down Marton and (wait a turn and) crash in for 700 or 800 damage. Okay, I only did that once, but it was awesome. The other times I attacked with Marton I had to settle for merely doing 80 or 100 damage.
There's nothing not to like about Overrun. It'll often win a two-player game outright, and it'll do it in true green style. Other colors may send a Blaze or a Corrupt right over the defenders' heads, but green won't have any of that (barring the occasional Hurricane). Green attacks! C'mon. Your creatures, my creatures, monster e monster. Good honest Magic. Oh, except my creatures are all ridiculously huge and have trample. Good game!
Actually, there is one thing not to like about Overrun. Like I said, it'll often win a two-player game... but it's not nearly as much fun in multiplayer. Sure, you can roll over one or two players in a tide of righteous green fury, but there are probably other players still in the game ready to roll right back... and most or all of your creatures are tapped. Now, sometimes it's fun to make that huge play anyway and go out in a blaze of glory, but a lot of times I'll find Overrun or Tromp the Domains sitting in my hand doing nothing, because I'm not going to survive using it.
If only there were a more multiplayer-friendly version of Overrun... one that made my creatures even bigger and better, to punch through some of the big-and-nasties that accumulate around a well-populated table... and still gave trample... and added on some really fun, multiplayer-proven mechanic.... If only there were a card like...
Now that is an Overrun! Actually, it's more like an entwined Stir the Pride with an Overrun stapled to it, but whatever. Doesn't matter. The point is that this is a buff for all my creatures that will do me very proud around the multiplayer table.
Oh, and check out the art. It features the standard mob of creatures charging into battle, sure. But in the very back, you can see someone casting the spell... Why, it would appear to be none other than my favorite leonin (and yours, unless you're a Raksha Golden Cub fan), Ajani Goldmane—better known in this set as Ajani Vengeant. And that is pretty cool.
Even better? This is one of a cycle of Ultimatums. They're all big, ridiculous sorceries, and they each bear their own shard-appropriate version of that outlandish mana cost. Keep an eye out for the others—if Overrunnin' with big beasties isn't you shard of Alara (or, for that matter, even if it is), the other Ultimatums may have something to suit your fancy. These are not small spells.
Let's talk a little about +5/+5. That is a lot. Ever slammed down Epic Proportions on a supposedly wee and harmless creature? Suddenly it's enormous and altogether harmful, able to tussle with most unaugmented creatures, come out unscathed, and trample on over for some damage, too. Titanic Ultimatum is like that, for a turn, for all your creatures... but better.
A +5/+5 boost is going to make a professional-level beater out of even the humblest creature. Saprolings? 6/6. Grizzly Bears? 7/7. A lowly 0/1 Goat token from Springjack Shepherd or Springjack Pasture? 5/6. My friends, we are talking about a Goat—or Goats!— that could eat Oona, Queen of the Fae for breakfast and live to tell about it (or bleat about it, one supposes).
Even better, you may recall that the red-green-white shard-plane of Naya has a thing for creatures with power 5 or greater. This won't do you any good for last week's preview, Where Ancients Tread, but if you've got some mana left over, you can make your creatures indestructible with last week's other preview, Spearbreaker Behemoth (why not?). There are some other Naya cards that give some handy bonuses for 5+ power that Titanic Ultimatum is pretty much guaranteed to turn on.
We Go First
The thing about big creatures is that they sometimes get double- or triple-blocked. But when a big creature has first strike? Forget about it. I have happy memories of slamming a Galvanic Arc onto a Siege Wurm (nixing one would-be blocker) and then happily swinging, secure in the knowledge that if lots of creatures try to block together, 5 toughness worth of them are very likely to be dead before they ever even get to hit back. Killing and blocking my Siege Wurm? Very difficult.
And after Titanic Ultimatum, barring any weird exceptions (like a Devoted Druid with a -1/-1 counter on it, which would end up as a 4/6—strange but true!), all of your creatures are going to be bigger than a Siege Wurmwith Galvanic Arc, and just as trampley and first-strikey.
Like all the best Overrun-type cards, Titanic Ultimatum gives your creatures trample to go with their newfound hugeness. This makes your opponents' creatures weirdly irrelevant after all, as your enormous fatties just roll right over them.
Trample is even more hilarious than usual here because it comes with a side of first strike. By the time the defending creatures would deal damage, not only will they probably be dead—it's very likely that their controller will be too. Overkill has never been sweeter.
Get a Life! (Or Sixty)
Everything I've said so far successfully makes the point that what we have here is an awesome finisher, but it all applies to two-player Magic just as well as it does to multiplayer. Make no mistake—Titanic Ultimatum will finish its fair share of two-player Limited and casual games in a great big rush of stompiness. If I open one at the Prerelease on Saturday, I'll make every effort to build my Sealed Deck toward Naya colors. It's that good.
But there's one word on Titanic Ultimatum that might look a little funny to people who are used to duels. That word?
In a duel, putting lifelink on a game-winning bomb is like putting rocket thrusters on a toaster; sure, it's kind of awesome, and it'll get the neighbors talking, but you're never actually going to use it for anything. (Unless you want your toast to be very, very far away when it's done, and possibly on fire, but that's really where the metaphor breaks down.)
Don't get me wrong. When I do play Titanic Ultimatum in a two-player game, I'll carefully calculate my final life total and compare it gleefully to my opponent's, which will now run well south of zero. I may even note the exact difference between our final life totals. Just for posterity, you understand. Certainly not for gloating purposes.
But in multiplayer, that innocuous little word does something way more awesome: it lets me swing for the fences with everything I've got and know that I'll be safely sitting at 50 or 80 or 100 life when I'm done.
You probably already know how great life gain is in multiplayer. Every time I look down at my life die eight or ten turns into a multiplayer game and see a 10 or an 8 staring back at me, I reflect on how much prettier I'd be sitting if I'd just gained half a dozen life somewhere along the way. When there are three or four or more other people whose boards are bristling with threats, 20 suddenly doesn't sound like a big enough number after all.
And when that life gain comes attached to a huge, ridiculous pump spell? Even better!
Finding a Sap
I managed to get a few advance copies of Titanic Ultimatum. I didn't have an existing red-green-white deck to put them in, so I drew on my longstanding love of tokens, Saprolings in particular, and tossed this deck together:
This is, you'll notice, pretty much just a green-white Saproling deck with some red mana sources thrown in. And you know, that's okay. Since my goal was to show off Titanic Ultimatum, I omitted some cards I would probably have in there otherwise, like Pallid Mycoderm and Thelonite Hermit. The two copies of Raking Canopy are there because there are few things dumber than losing to flyers while I've got dozens of Saprolings and I'm waiting to draw Titanic Ultimatum (or that singleton Squall Line).
Vexing Shusher is counterspell insurance if I have any mana left over after playing Titanic Ultimatum, which, surprisingly, will happen pretty often. As intimidating as that mana cost looks, it's only actually seven mana, and there are spells more expensive than that that are awesome in multiplayer.
Speaking of mana, I was really surprised at how well it worked out on the whole. All of my rare dual lands in these colors are tied up in other decks right now, but there are enough good common and uncommon "dual" lands that I really didn't feel the lack. Utopia Mycon, by the way, is a natural match for Titanic Ultimatum; creatures and mana are the two things Titanic Ultimatum needs lots of, and this little Fungus is eager to provide.
In the games I played, I always had by turn seven or eight from my "bounce lands," "storage lands," Terramorphic Expanses, and Utopia Mycons. The Lorwyn Vivid lands (like Vivid Meadow) would have been good options too. And all this, by the way, was without the benefit of members of either of these budget-friendly cycles from Shards of Alara:
Arcane Sanctum's from the wrong shard, but you get the idea—and yes, every shard has both a common "fetch land" and an uncommon "comes into play tapped" triple land. These would've helped a lot, probably replacing the Fungal Reaches and Saltcrusted Steppe (which turned out to be a poor fit in a deck that wants to play creatures every turn).
And, of course, there are rare dual lands out there that can help. The Lorwyn lands are fine The Ravnica "shock lands" (like Sacred Foundry) and Tenth Edition "pain lands" (like Karplusan Forest) are good staples, even if they do cause pain. ("Oh no! My lands have given me lots of mana but dealt me some damage on the way! However will I turn into some kind of life gain?") And the Shadowmoor and Eventide "filter lands" (like Wooded Bastion) are probably the best rare lands for the Ultimatums, because they can turn into (for instance), fixing up any weird imbalance in your mana.
And on the subject of rare lands, what about the Lorwyn hideaway lands? Spinerock Knoll is a little awkward, but wow, Mosswort Bridge and Windbrisk Heights are awesome with Titanic Ultimatum! Do you have a lot of creatures? Are you planning on attacking with them? Great! How crazy is springing a Titanic Ultimatum out from under Windbrisk Heights after blockers are declared? As I tinker with this deck (and other Ultimatum decks), I really want to try out the hideaway lands. And even if you don't get Titanic Ultimatum under the hideaway lands, you've still got them in a deck that's going to have an easy time turning them on.
Wort, the Raidmother is, like Vexing Shusher, mostly there to protect against pesky counterspells. If you conspire Titanic Ultimatum, that pesky blue mage (or mages) would have to counter both the original and the copy to keep you from going all Braveheart on them. But wow, even if you're not worried about counterspells, Wort can do some silly things.
I played one two-player game that turned into a drawn-out creature stall after I played three Utopia Mycons and two Sporesower Thallids and made an absurd number of Saprolings. My opponent was at 20, though, and I didn't have Titanic Ultimatum, and I couldn't quite punch through... so I played and conspired Dryad's Caress, gaining 32 life (twice) and untapping all my creatures (once, since I didn't pay for the copy), leaving me at over 80 life. Then, in the same turn, I sacrificed 18 Saprolings and played Squall Line for 20—conspired, because there was blue mana up, and, well, why the heck not?
So far I haven't even gotten to play Titanic Ultimatum, much less conspire it, but someday I will. Let's say I have ten Saprolings. If I play Titanic Ultimatum, they'll all be 6/6 and have lifelink, and I'll probably be able to deal 60 damage and gain 60 life, and that's totally ridiculous. But if I have Wort, the Raidmother... and I conspire that Titanic Ultimatum... they'll all be 11/11 with double lifelink, so even accounting for the two Saprolings who now have to sit out, I’ll be able to dole out a cool 88 damage and gain 176 life.
Now that's what I call titanic!
Don't miss your first chance to play with Shards of Alara cards at the worldwide Prereleases this weekend (September 27 and 28)! And get your first opportunity to buy Shards of Alara at worldwide Launch Parties October 3, 4, and 5!