Last updated on August 5, 2021

Emergent Ultimatum - Illustration by Zack Stella

Emergent Ultimatum | Illustration by Zack Stella

Sultai Ultimatum is no newcomer to the metagame. We’ve been playing with and against this deck for quite a while now, and it remains one of the most powerful and popular strategies in Standard. It gained close to nothing from Forgotten Realms, though, but that’s not going to stop us from covering it.

Sultai Ultimatum is a deck that’s very flexible and hard to beat, and it is still one of the tier 1 decks in Standard. Let’s jump in!

The Deck

Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider (Kaldheim art series) - Illustration by Richard Luong

Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider (Kaldheim art series) | Illustration by Richard Luong

The Strategy

This is a control-ramp deck with the best top-end spells in Standard that goes over everything else. The key card of the deck, Emergent Ultimatum, allows you to find a three-card combo that will normally win the game on the spot. The worst-case scenario usually ends up being a 6/6 trample-haste and two 1/1 flying bodies plus an extra turn.

All you want to do in the early game is to survive, which is why the deck plays great answers to opposing permanents, sweepers, and spot removal. Trying to ramp in the first few turns is the key to casting the most impactful cards as early as possible.

The Ramp Package

The deck’s ramping aspect is very important since casting Emergent Ultimatum one (or two!) turns ahead of schedule is huge. Being able to multi-spell as soon as possible is also crucial against aggro decks.

Wolfwillow Haven is the deck’s cheapest ramp spell and a great way to start the game. It’ll also have some use later in the game when you have a lot of mana since you can sac the enchantment for a 2/2 creature.

Cultivate is the other piece of ramp in the deck. It cost one more mana but is a clean two-for-one that tutors basic lands of your choice, ramping you into powerful turn 4 plays.

The Answers

These could easily be the most important cards of the deck in the current, very aggressive Standard meta. Trying to survive the first six or seven turns is your objective before you resolve Emergent Ultimatum. You should adjust the number of removal spells relative to the number of permission or card advantage spells depending on how the meta shapes up.

Heartless Act is probably the best removal spell in Standard right now. Of course, it has some bad targets (e.g., Polukranos, Unchained or Stonecoil Serpent) but it’s one of your best draws when facing an aggro deck.

Power Word Kill is the only addition brought by Forgotten Realms. It also has some important restrictions since not killing Goldspan Dragon or Faceless Haven is an issue. In general, though, you’ll be happy to kill anything else with it.

Eliminate is also in the mix of premium-instant speed removal spells, efficiently killing small-sized creatures. Binding the Old Gods is a great card that fits perfectly in this deck. It destroys a permanent, very important against the new Classes, and ramps you, which makes it a very valuable two-for-one that’s also a blinkable permanent with Yorion, Sky Nomad.

Extinction Event is one of the deck’s two sweepers. Trading one creature for one spell isn’t normally enough to beat aggro decks, but this kind of sweeper is really needed to have both card advantage and the ability to reset the board.

Shadows’ Verdict is the deck’s other sweeper. It costs one more mana but also exiles part of the graveyard, which is very useful against Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks. Not to mention that not having to choose between odd or even is a big plus.

The Creatures

Polukranos, Unchained is a very well-sized creature just for four mana, and its ability is very important against aggro decks. It definitively stops the board if unanswered and its resiliency via escape is very valuable, sometimes even going so far as to close out games.

Elder Gargaroth is a big creature in the five-mana slot. The abilities when attacking and blocking are all relevant and will create a snowball situation if unchecked the same turn it enters de battlefield. Quandrix Cultivator is an interesting flex slot. choice. It serves as both a decent body and a ramp card.

Permission and Card Draw

Omen of the Sea is a very useful card that digs in your library looking for whatever you need: ramp, removal, or Emergent Ultimatum. Being an enchantment is also a plus because it’ll eventually be blinked by Yorion, Sky Nomad to get some card advantage.

Mystical Dispute is another very important card, especially against mirror and control matchups. You’d be happy to play up to three copies depending on the metagame. A very aggressive meta should encourage you to play zero copies, though.

The Ultimatum

Emergent Ultimatum is the deck’s key card and probably the single most powerful legal card in Standard. You can basically read it as, “when you cast this spell, you win the game,” because the ability to cast two very costly, impactful spells in the same turn is huge.

Cards that cheat on mana are very important, and Ultimatum is no exception. Normally you choose three of the following cards, although you might need to grab a couple sweepers to stay alive in some spots.

planeswalker that should only be played as a creature in very rare scenarios, especially if it’s in your opening hand. The juice is on the planeswalker side of the card, sagas.

Time Walk effect can be, especially if you have a second copy of Emergent Ultimatum in hand. This sequence is devastating.

Tips and Tricks

Omen of the Sea - Illustration by Piotr Dura

Omen of the Sea | Illustration by Piotr Dura

  • Don’t forget this is still a Yorion, Sky Nomad deck. Make sure to pay the cost to add it to your hand as soon as you have the mana to cast it.
  • Be aware of your land sequencing. This will depend on your opening hand, but you’ll need a black source to kill something on turn 2, a green source on turn 3 to ramp, plus eventually the exact mana to pay Emergent Ultimatum’s cost.
  • A good opening hand should ideally consist of three lands, a ramp card, a couple of removal spells, and a payoff. Consider mulliganing a hand that has no interaction, since surviving the early turns is very important. You also want to throw away a hand with a low land count.
  • Be conservative and look for the safest play. Surviving the first six to seven turns is your absolute priority to win the game, so taking care of your life total is very important.
  • After choosing Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider and a planeswalker or saga, make sure to put the cards in the pile in the right order. You have to choose the saga/planeswalker first and Vorinclex last so that the Phyrexian resolves first and the saga/planeswalker is affected by its passive ability.

Sideboard Guide

Mono Green Aggro

This aggro deck is very well positioned right now. Ramp decks historically have a lot of problems dealing with aggro decks, but you have the tools to deal with them unless they have a very good draw. Take out your counterspells and a big spell to load more answers.

Out

-2 Mystical Dispute, -1 Alrund’s Epiphany

In

+1 Eliminate, +1 Kaervek, the Spiteful, +1 Shadows’ Verdict

Naya Winota

Similar to mono green aggro, Naya Winota is in a very good spot right now. The ability to cast Winota, Joiner of Forces on turn 3 for one (or even two!) triggers is very difficult to beat. You need to keep two mana open at all times to instant-speed kill Winota before combat. This is not an easy matchup, but one you can fight.

Out

-2 Mystical Dispute, -1 Alrund’s Epiphany

In

+1 Eliminate, +1 Kaervek, the Spiteful, +1 Shadows’ Verdict

Mirror Matchup

The Sultai Ultimatum mirror match is partially about who can resolve Emergent Ultimatum first, so discard and counterspells will be key. Keep in mind that some lists run Shark Typhoon in the sideboard, which can also be a very important part of this matchup. Having access to some Extinction Events or spot removal could be clutch to kill Koma, Cosmos Serpent, another key card in the mirror.

Out

-2 Shadows’ Verdict, -4 Heartless Act, -1 Eliminate, -2 Power Word Kill

In

+3 Koma, Cosmos Serpent, +3 Duress, +1 Mystical Dispute, +1 Test of Talents, +1 Disdainful Stroke

Gruul Adventures

This is another race of a matchup. Surviving the first turns is very important to survive Embercleave. A hasty Goldspan Dragon could also ruin your day, so be sure to close out the game as quickly as possible.

Out

-2 Mystical Dispute, -1 Alrund’s Epiphany, -2 Omen of the Sea

In

+1 Eliminate, +1 Kaervek, the Spiteful, +1 Shadows’ Verdict, +2 Elspeth’s Nightmare

Wrap Up

Extinction Event - Illustration by Filip Burburan

Extinction Event | Illustration by Filip Burburan

I think this deck will be a big player until Throne of Eldraine rotates. If the aggressive decks continue to be very popular, you might want to consider swapping out three or four cards of the main deck to have more responses and sweepers.

Sultai Ultimatum is versatile and has the proper tools to adapt to the different metagames. Sultai’s game is very solid and straightforward. If you don’t want to join the multiple aggressive decks crowding the metagame, give this deck a chance!

I hope you enjoyed our guide today. Feel free to leave a comment down below if you have any questions or suggestions for future deck guides. If you’re going to be climbing the ladder in MTGA, don’t forget to grab Arena Tutor for free to track your matches and get statistics and insights.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll see you next time!

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