Can I just take a minute to tell you all just how excited I am that the Eldrazi are back? As a long time fan of the Cthulhu mythos, Rise of the Eldrazi was, in my mind, the most exciting Magic set of all time. I mean, we got gigantic, eldritch horrors so ancient they predate the concept of colored mana with the ability to wipe out huge chunks of the opponent’s battlefield by simply attacking. These creatures immediately had an impact on every format, with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn taking the lead due to it’s sheer power and versatile, game-ending abilities. You can imagine my utter joy when I learned that not only would Battle for Zendikar have new Eldrazis, but we would be getting new versions of old favorites. With baited breath I eagerly anticipated the sheer badassery of what these evolved Eldrazi titans would bring, and I was not disappointed with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.
For 10 mana, one cheaper than his previous incarnation, we get the familiar 10/10 indestructible body, but there’s a pretty serious twist. When you cast Ulamog, rather than destroying one permanent like before, you exile two permanents. Exile. Two. Permanents. This is massive, and I feel gives it a real spike in power over the older version. In a world of Reanimator and Tarmogoyf, exile is a big game over decks that rely on graveyard interactions. As well, while the previous Ulamog could handle most threats, one of his biggest weaknesses was having to deal with multiple threats. This is no longer as much of an issue since you get to take out their two biggest problems even through countermagic. This is great for handling board states like double Ensnaring Bridge, or Karakas plus Mangara of Corondor which could otherwise stabilize after losing one permanent.
However, that cast ability pales in comparison to the two biggest changes Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger brings to the table. The first, and undoubtedly the scariest, is that he no longer has the Gaea’s Blessing clause that shuffles your graveyard into your deck. It doesn’t even shuffle itself in. This is the first Eldrazi titan that can be reanimated, and that is terrifying. Sure, playing this turn 1 in Reanimator isn’t as oppressive as say, turn 1 Iona, Shield of Emeria, but there are ways to play around most threats, and in decks like Dredge and Recurring Nightmare Nic Fit it can often serve to end the game at a much faster rate. By simply attacking, the opponent has to exile the top twenty cards of their deck. In an increasingly threat-light format as Legacy, Ulamog’s attack trigger can devastate an opponent’s deck in ways that most creatures can only dream of, especially since the opponent will be decked out in three swings regardless of blockers. Even a single attack can deprive them of resources and 1-ofs that they sorely need.
So where do we put such a behemoth? As I mentioned earlier, Reanimator-style decks and graveyard decks seem to be the fastest route, but are they necessarily the best? Of course, Reanimating gives you speed, but you’re missing out on the cast trigger, which is often the first of a very painful series of events for the opponent. Of all the decks in Magic, only three really come to mind that are capable of casting a 10CMC creature: OmniTell, MUD, and 12Post. OmniTell probably won’t bother, because as good as exiling permanents is, if they’re going to be searching out a creature with Eladmri’s Call, it will most likely be Emrakul. This leaves us MUD and 12Post.
MUD has probably the most consistent means of slowing the game down long enough to cast Ulamog due to its early prison gameplan of Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere. Couple this with Metalworker and Grim Monolith and you can hardcast an Ulamog as early as turn 3-4. With Metalworker and enough artifacts in hand, 10 mana is a breeze seeing how often the deck can cast Blightsteel Colossus which costs two mana more. The main issue with this is that while colorless, Ulamog is not an artifact, which means that having it in hand will not produce mana with Metalworker, it will cost more with a Lodestone Golem in play, and it can not be tutored with Kuldotha Forgemaster. MUD is a fairly well-tuned machine centred around the consistency of its draws, and if it stumbles even slightly then it can collapse. There have been versions of MUD that have popped up with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and even having that was pushing it.
This leaves us with 12Post, which I believe to be the best suited deck for our new Eldrazi friend. 12Post is unique in that it has the means to tutor, ramp, and even protect Ulamog by virtue of just its own manabase. The Cloudpost engine is fantastic for getting absurd amounts of colorless mana, and thanks to Eye of Ugin you can tutor up Ulamog and cast it for only 8 mana. In case the opponent has a way of getting rid of Ulamog, such as Swords to Plowshares, Karakas can bounce it back to our hand, protecting it and setting us up to exile even more permanents. Another point in 12Post’s favor is that there is already a precedent for all three of the first Eldrazi titans seeing play, and I have no doubt that Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger will take over for its previous incarnation because it fills the same role only twice as much.
At the end of the day, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is but one of 274 cards to be spoiled in the upcoming weeks, but it is certainly the one I’m most excited to play with. The sheer versatility and power of its effects is sure to give it a home in a variety of archetypes, and that’s just Legacy! There are plenty of opportunities for Ulamog to see play in Modern, Standard, and even Commander, so I have high hopes for the card. I, for one, welcome our new Eldrazi overlords, and I hope you all do as well.
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