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Against the Odds: Five-Color Unpredictable Sharknado Ultimatums (Standard)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 237 of Against the Odds. Ikoria is here, and we're kicking off our exploration of the format with a deck that might be the most Ikoria-y deck imaginable: Five-Color Unpredictable Sharknado Ultimatums! The deck's main plan is to stick Unpredictable Cyclone and cycle sorceries like Boon of the Wish-Giver and Migration Path, which will hopefully end up with us casting an Ultimatum for just one or two mana! Which Ultimatums, I hear you ask? All of them! That's right—our deck has every single Standard-legal Ultimatum, which will not only give us their powerful effects but can also make 7/7 flying Sharks thanks to Shark Typhoon! The end result is a deck that can do some absurdly powerful things really quickly! How good are the Ultimatums in Ikoria Standard? Is Unpredictable Cyclone actually playable in the format? How scary is a board full of flying Sharks? Let's get to the video and find out in today's Against the Odds; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Five-Color Unpredictable Sharknado Ultimatums

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The Deck

Figuring out the first Against the Odds deck for Ikoria season was surprisingly hard, not because it's a bad Against the Odds set—it's a great Against the Odds set—but because there are so many weird and cool things to do with new Ikoria cards that winnowing the field was difficult. In the end, I cheated a bit by playing a bunch of the sweetest Ikoria cards all in one deck. We have a companion, we have Shark Typhoon, and we have Unpredictable Cyclone and every Ultimatum! What could be more Ikoria-y than that?

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Unpredictable Cyclone is the centerpiece of our deck. Our main goal is to use Paradise Druid and Growth Spiral to get it on the battlefield as quickly as possible, which in turn will allow us to (hopefully) start playing Ultimatums for just one or two mana by cycling cards like Boon of the Wish-Giver and Migration Path. Of course, because Unpredictable Cyclone lives up to its name, we can't actually control which sorcery we'll cycle into. The nightmare scenario is that we happen to hit one of our two copies of Migration Path, while Boon of the Wish-Giver is actually a fine hit. Even though it isn't as exciting as an Ultimatum, drawing four cards will hopefully find us another cycling card to give us another spin at hitting something even better.

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As I mentioned in the intro, our deck is playing every single Ultimatum, with eight total Ultimatums in our deck, which means when we cycle a Boon of the Wish-Giver or Migration Path, the most likely outcome is that we will end up casting an Ultimatum for free with the help of Unpredictable Cyclone. Even though we have every Ultimatum, they aren't all created equal. In a vacuum, our best Ultimatums are Inspired Ultimatum and Genesis Ultimatum since they draw us more cards, which will hopefully find us more cyclers that will hopefully turn into even more Ultimatums!

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While not as consistently good as Inspired Ultimatum or Genesis Ultimatum, Ruinous Ultimatum and Eerie Ultimatum can be even more powerful in the right situations. Ruinous Ultimatum just wraths our opponent's entire board, and if we can cheat it into play with Unpredictable Cyclone, we can cast it at instant speed, which can lead to some massive blowouts (see: Cyclonic Rift in Commander). Meanwhile, in the late game, Eerie Ultimatum can often reanimate somewhere between five and 10 permanents, even though we aren't really built around stocking our graveyard. On the other hand, both Eerie Ultimatum and Ruinous Ultimatum can whiff if we cycle into them at the wrong time, which makes them less consistently good than Inspired Ultimatum or Genesis Ultimatum

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Emergent Ultimatum is just a one-of, and it's often the worst of our Ultimatums, although even the worst Ultimatum in our deck is still a powerful card. The big problem with Emergent Ultimatum is that it can only find monocolored cards, while our best cards are multicolored Ultimatums. Still, when we resolve Emergent Ultimatum, we can choose something like Boon of the Wish-Giver, Shark Typhoon, and Unpredictable Cyclone and end up with 11 or 12 mana worth of spells, which is still a solid deal.

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Speaking of Sharknado, Shark Typhoon is the other important part of our deck. One of the problems with Unpredictable Cyclone is that additional copies are mostly dead draws, so we want to be able to cycle them away and hit a non–Unpredictable Cyclone enchantment to play for free. Shark Typhoon is the best option for our deck and in Ikoria Standard. In the early game, we can cycle it away to make a blocker to help keep us alive while we are setting up our Unpredictable Cyclone into Ultimatum gameplan. Then, in the late game, it makes a massive, unbeatable board of flying Sharks. What's better than casting an Ultimatum for just one or two mana by cycling with an Unpredictable Cyclone on the battlefield? Casting an Ultimatum for one or two mana and getting a 7/7 flying Shark as a kicker!

The Companion

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Hiding out in our pseudo-starting hand is our companion, Zirda, the Dawnwaker. Initially, I didn't plan on Unpredictable Sharknado Ultimatums being a Zirda deck. Instead, I built the deck and then, because starting with eight cards in hand is better than starting with seven cards in hand, I pulled up the list of companions and figured out which one required me to cut the fewest cards. It just happened to be Zirda, the Dawnwaker since our deck doesn't have many non-land permanents, and the ones we do have just happen to have activated abilities, so it was pretty easy to meet the companion requirement. While the main upside of Zirda, the Dawnwaker is starting with eight cards in hand, it actually has some nice synergy in our deck, specifically reducing the cost of cycling cards to just a single mana, which is especially helpful with Ketria Triome and Raugrin Triome, which are relatively expensive to cycle without Zirda on the battlefield. 

Other Stuff

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Rounding out our deck are planeswalkers and ramp spells. Narset of the Ancient Way is actually incredibly strong in our deck. The +1 helps to support our backup plan of hard-casting Ultimatums by making extra mana (more on this in a minute), while the 2 gives us some removal and helps to make sure that we don't flood out with expensive, hard-to-cast Ultimatums. Thanks to our ramp spells (Paradise Druid and Growth Spiral), we can often get Narset on the battlefield on Turn 3, making it fast enough to help stabilize the board against creature decks, buying us the time we need to start casting Ultimatums to take over the game. As for Teferi, Time Raveler, I really tried to play the deck without Teferi, but after getting Ultimatums repeatedly countered by Mystical Dispute and Dovin's Veto, I decided that actually being able to resolve our Ultimatums made it worth being a dirty Teferi player, although we only have two copies in the main deck. 

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Finally, the mana. While most of our lands are pretty self-explanatory and are designed to help us cast our ridiculous five-color pile of Ultimatums, Lotus Field deserves a mention. Adding three mana of any color makes it essential to our backup plan of hard-casting Ultimatums. One we get two Lotus Fields on the battlefield, we can usually cast any Ultimatum we happen to draw. Plus, sacrificing lands is actually an upside since we have Eerie Ultimatum to reanimate them later in the game.

The Matchups

By far our hardest matchup is dedicated aggro, like Mono-Red. While our deck is powerful, because our powerful cards are expensive and have challenging mana costs, unless we ramp into Unpredictable Cyclone on Turn 4, we're mostly just too slow against decks that start curving out on the first turn of the game (although having Zirda, the Dawnwaker as a free blocker helps, and we do have a bunch of removal for aggro in the sideboard). The other card that gives us problems is Teferi, Time Raveler since it shuts down Unpredictable Cyclone, although just hard-casting Ultimatums, planeswalkers, and Shark Typhoons is a pretty effective strategy against control decks. On the other hand, against midrange and slower aggro decks, our deck has an almost unbeatable late game of chaining Ultimatums and making massive Sharks, which makes the matchups solidly in our favor.

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches with Five-Color Unpredictable Sharknado Ultimatums and won four, giving us an 80% match win percentage and making the deck significantly above average for an Against the Odds deck. While the deck can take a bit to get going, the results are spectacular once it gets going, and the weird mashup of expensive Ikoria cards was more competitive than I had imagined. 

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Ikoria is here, and it's overflowing with sweet cards, so let's play another one in Standard next week! Which of these spicy Ikoria cards should we build around? Let us know by voting below!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.



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