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Winning Brussels with Swedish Sultai

I DID IT! Not only did I do it, but with my own deck as well! It doesn’t actually get any better than this. The story of Swedish Sultai starts many years ago, during the time I used to play Magic full time as a Platinum Pro (before I decided to give it up for while to pursue my degree and change my daily environment). To help you get a holistic view and understand how the deck came to be, I’ll take you on a journey through my personal Magic career’s history. If you only look for the decklist, you can find that a bit longer down in the article, along with an explanation of card choices and a sideboard guide.

The first contact I had with this archetype was… well when you had the first chance to play it, at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon in Australia or as many others like to call it, Pro Tour Emrakul. Emrakul, the Promised End and Ishkanah, Grafwidow were released at the same time and almost the entirety of Team EUreka, what would later become Team Revelation and Team Genesis, played Jund Delirium.

The deck had amazing results for the team as a whole, maybe the best we’ve ever had basically letting everyone hit their goal at the end of the season with myself netting a Top 16 placement. After that I continued to play B/G Delirium with a lot of success until Emrakul, The Promised End got banned, deemed to be too powerful for Standard. However, I got the taste for the good stuff. Traverse the Ulvenwald, Tireless Tracker, Liliana, the Last Hope, Ishkanah, Grafwidow and Emrakul would be a package I’d come to love and would look into playing in the future, if I ever had the chance again.

I got my first chance to try these cards again in Frontier. Many years later, another brewer’s paradise was released, Pioneer. I tried several different decks, such as U/W Control, Mono-Red and others, but that first foray into Frontier inspired me to take another stab at the “Four Horsemen.” Here’s the first iteration:

Four Horsemen in Pioneer

4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
4 Satyr Wayfinder
2 Courser of Kruphix
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Murderous Rider/Swift End
4 Siege Rhino
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Torrential Gearhulk
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
3 Fatal Push
1 Grapple with the Past
4 Thoughtseize
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
2 Abzan Charm
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Languish
4 Blooming Marsh
2 Botanical Sanctum
2 Hallowed Fountain
3 Fabled Passage
1 Forest (347)
1 Hissing Quagmire
1 Godless Shrine
1 Island (335)
1 Lumbering Falls
2 Swamp (339)
2 Watery Grave
1 Plains (331)
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Temple Garden

Sideboard
2 Veil of Summer
2 Negate
1 Assassin’s Trophy
1 Fatal Push
1 Collective Brutality
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Knight of Autumn
1 Cry of the Carnarim
1 Sin Collector
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Languish

Besides being quite an untuned list, the idea just didn’t work. The most important part was that the mana wasn’t good enough. With fetchlands, it was easy, but playing 4 colors with double black, double green and a double blue card just wasn’t worth it. Secondly, Siege Rhino just isn’t what it once was. There were a whole lot less red decks and small creature decks wasn’t as much of a thing in the way they didn’t really try to burn you out, rather play to the board. Other decks didn’t have a problem going over the top of Siege Rhino. Ultimately the fourth color had to go.

To replace the the incidental lifegain and threat that Siege Rhino was supposed to pose, Oko, Thief of Crowns was added and the deck became a whole lot better. Not only was Oko better, the mana actually worked as well.

Sultai Delirium

3 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Nissa, Vital Force
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
4 Fatal Push
1 Questing Beast
1 Murderous Rider/Swift End
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2 Courser of Kruphix
2 Thought Erasure
1 Vraska, Golgari Queen
3 Oko, Thief of Crowns
4 Thoughtseize
3 Fabled Passage
1 Island (335)
2 Swamp (339)
1 Castle Locthwain
4 Blooming Marsh
2 Botanical Sanctum
2 Watery Grave
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Breeding Pool
2 Forest (347)

Sideboard
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Collective Brutality
1 Languish
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Negate
1 Golgari Charm
1 Unmoored Ego
1 Mystical Dispute
1 Cry of the Carnarium
1 Painful Truths
1 Nissa, Vital Force
3 Leyline of the Void

The deck was definitely fine, but wasn’t great and in my opinion, slightly too bad to be called a tier 1 deck. The main issue was that the deck didn’t do anything too broken, nor did it pressure your opponent enough, as there wasn’t great enough win conditions that was hard enough to deal with to finish the game fast. That meant you had to try to control whatever your opponent was doing until you finally found your win condition in Emrakul, the Promised End. Forcing the game to go that long, leaving the game to mostly top deck wars because of the nature of Thoughtseize decks gives you a lot of issues, especially since it takes some time before you can eventually resolve an Emrakul. Suddenly there’s so many different things you have to control and doing it all is too difficult.

Fast forward to Theros Beyond Death. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath was released. I knew immediately that this is a card that’s probably fine for standard, but for sure not fixed for any older format that can abuse it’s escape mechanic. I also knew where I would try it first. My Sultai deck.

I built a couple of iterations of the deck, but before trying it online, I talked to two friends and fellow Swedes, Lukas Horosiewicz and Alexander Rosdahl that I knew were qualified to Player’s Tour Brussels. Funnily enough they both, separately, had similar ideas of trying Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath themselves, as they are deck builders themselves. Their first versions inspired me to try a few cards, but they were both a little too focused on ramping and being streamlined, both with Nissa, Who Shakes the World, but one with Hydroid Krasis and the other with Eldrazis. I knew I wanted to make Uro the best card it could possibly be and you do that in multiple ways.

Uro immediately performed. Not only Uro did perform, but the deck as whole. I knew I was really on to something when I just didn’t 5-0 or 4-1 almost all of my leagues on Magic Online, but I also won most of my matches 2-0. Leagues such as these stopped being a miracle, but rather something common.

After about 8 leagues and tons of discussion doing logical tuning, trying to get the right numbers between matchups, me and the other Swedes, a group that had grown to more players both playing the Grand Prix and the Player’s Tour ended up on what became the final version.

Swedish Sultai 2.0

2 Courser of Kruphix
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
4 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
1 Walking Ballista
1 Murderous Rider/Swift End
4 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Scavenging Ooze
4 Fatal Push
2 Grisly Salvage
4 Thoughtseize
3 Traverse the Ulvenwald
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
3 Fabled Passage
2 Island (335)
1 Forest (347)
1 Opulent Palace
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Swamp (339)
1 Watery Grave
4 Blooming Marsh
1 Botanical Sanctum
4 Breeding Pool
1 Castle Garenbrig

Sideboard
1 Cast Down
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Duress
1 Hostage Taker
3 Leyline of the Void
2 Mystical Dispute
1 Noxious Grasp
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Sultai Charm
1 Tireless Tracker
1 Vivien Reid

Personal Record in constructed at Player’s Tour Brussels:

UB Inverter: 5-0

Bant Spirits: 1-0

Temtur Breach: 1-0

UW Control: 1-0

UB Control: 1-0

UG Ramp: 1-0

Monowhite Devotion with Heliod: 1-0

MonoB Aggro: 0-1

UW Spirits: 0-1

Total: 11-2

Total Win Percentage of the 5 people playing the deck: 69.44% with one of those losses being to a mirror!

(Data found here).

Card Choices

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

4 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

We’ve been mentioning Uro a little bit already in the article and some that saw me on coverage might have seen me say it, but Uro is really doing it all. Let’s walk through his abilities, part by part. First off, he gives you a very important life buffer that you need. When you want to grind your opponent out, whether it’s with Tireless Tracker, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or wait for the late game with Emrakul, the Promised End, it’s important that you get to have the option to get the most out of your cards. With less life available, you will have to trade your cards less efficiently and play them before the best opportunity to do so – like Tireless Tracker without a land drop or a removal that you wish you could save for a threat more dangerous.

Uro closes out the game quickly and does so in a reliable fashion. He’s a 6/6 that needs multiple burn spells to kill, can’t be killed by Ultimate Price or Cast Down and you need revolt to kill it with Fatal Push. He is also recursive, meaning that even if they kill him with Abrupt Decay, you have the means to bring him back. If you don’t kill him, he gets additional attack triggers to gain more life, draws more cards and ramps more, basically every type of advantage you can get in Magic. If you do kill him, you get another enters the battlefield trigger.

Uro is also a “free threat” that you can play from your graveyard. In a deck that already wants to play Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Satyr Wayfinder and other self mill effects make him even better, meaning you get more opportunities to play more reactive cards, as it’s easier to find your threats. Lastly, Uro ramps, which helps you to get to Emrakul, the Promised End faster as well as other haymakers.

You might have ways to find him with these self mill effects as well as Traverse the Ulvenwald, but since he’s not necessarily worse in multiples, it’s a heresy to play any fewer than 4 Uro. You want to increase the chances to find on as much as possible, and especially milling one down every time you loot or play a self mill effect, as every game with Uro vastly increase your chances of winning.

So how do we make Uro as good as he can be?

Self-mill

It’s important to be able to rebuy Uro quickly and also repeatedly.  It’s optimal to be able to as often as possible bring back Uro into play on turn 4, which you do by filling your graveyard quickly before turn 4 as well looking at more cards to find him with every card you mill.

Satyr Wayfinder

4 Satyr Wayfinder

Satyr Wayfinder is definitely the best way to mill yourself. It gives you something to trade or chump creatures with. It fills your graveyard for delirium. It also finds you lands for Uro so that you can put multiple lands into play the same turns more often. This little common is the unsung hero of the deck as it has been for many decks before this one.

Grisly Salvage

2 Grisly Salvage

Grisly Salvage is likely the second best version of self mill. While Vessel of Nascency is interesting for Emrakul and delirium, paying another mana for a card with tons of shock lands and 1 mana spells is a real cost. Also keeping up mana for Grisly Salvage for a removal spell or a counterspell post sideboarding is definitely relevant. The reason why something like Grapple with the Past is less enticing is that it’s important to mill a fair amount of cards since Uro has an escape cost of not only 4 colored mana, but also 5 cards, so every card really matters. Grisly Salvage also helps finding creature bullets more easily, which can be extra relevant post sideboard with Reclamation Sage or when you have less removals and rely on Murderous Rider.

1-Mana Spells

Meaningful 1-mana non-permanent spells is important to enable Uro for two main reasons. Firstly, it fills your graveyard so you can play Uro on schedule. Secondly, it lets you double spell with Uro the turn you either play it from your hand or escape it from your graveyard which is the kind of absurd turns that win you games.

Fatal Push

4 Fatal Push

Fatal Push needs little to no introduction. It’s the most efficient removal in the format, which is even better in this deck that doesn’t only have access to Fabled Passage, but playing Uro from your hand actually triggers revolt for Fatal Push and gives you the extra land drop to play it the same turn. Quite the one two punch.

Thoughtseize

4 Thoughtseize

Possibly the best card in the format and a major reason to play black. Thoughtseize is almost great against every deck, except for monoblack aggro and more aggressive red decks (where it is still fine). It works well with Uro as a 1 mana spell mentioned earlier, but it also goes well with the life gain buffer Uro provides.

Traverse the Ulvenwald

3 Traverse the Ulvenwald 

Fixes your mana in a pretty color intensive deck like Swedish Sultai, transforms into a tutor for a spell or land late game that lets you play fewer amount of cards that you like to have available both pre – and post sideboard. Together with Uro, it lets Swedish Sultai have some of the best top decks in the format, while having enough of a mana source count to cast all your spells.

Looting

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound

3 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound

Jace is quite amazing in the deck as he has a unique way of synergizing with the deck on so many levels. It basically makes not only Uro a better card but almost every other card as well. Firstly it lets you loot Uro into the graveyard if you wish. It’s often pretty great to just cast Uro directly from your hand, but sometimes you need to interact with the board instead of doing that, while getting an Uro into play on turn 4. It’s looting ability also helps you get delirium much easier as well as filtrating your cards for the match up.

Jace is also great with cheap efficient instant and sorceries that you can flash back, which we already want to make Uro better in the first place.

Additionally, Jace goes very well with the self mill cards, Satyr Wayfinder and Grisly Salvage. The sequence of Jace on turn 2, followed by a Satyr Wayfinder or Grisly Salvage lets you flip Jace right away to start netting value from him. It also helps you find instant and sorceries to flash back with Jace, which expands your range quite a lot. Having this type of velocity, seeing more cards and being able to find for example your Thoughtseizes when they are crucial is an amazing tool to have.

Lastly, Jace becomes even better post sideboard as it puts your opponent in a peculiar situation where together with Tireless Tracker forces them to keep removals against a deck which removals are inherently bad against, as Swedish Sultai thrives on any 1 for 1 trade it can make to slow the game down. The other option is having these cards snowball against you. It also lets you reuse some of your most important cards, which is especially a thing post sideboard.

Cards to Ramp into

Having something more powerful and expensive to do with your mana except for casting double spells is another way to make Uro even better. 

Emrakul, the Promised End

1 Emrakul, the Promised End 

Emrakul is an integral part of the deck, even though you don’t win that many times by actually casting it. Having it in your deck means you have an inevitable late game that many decks can’t really reliably deal with, like UW Control or UB Control. It also lets you have a free out of jail card in almost any situation and a way to even combo the combo deck. Since you have Traverse the Ulvenwald, you only really need to play 1.

Walking Ballista

1 Walking Ballista

Walking Ballista is another thing to sink your mana into, that you can traverse, but while it isn’t as powerful as Emrakul, it’s a lot more flexible. It’s great at getting you delirium and casting Emrakul cheaper and can interact with aggressive decks as early as turn 2.

Nissa, Who Shakes the World

2 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

This is the perfect card to ramp into with Uro and play on turn 4. It’s powerful on its own, it ramps into Emrakul and can power out a Walking Ballista. It’s even better post sideboard when powerful cards in a vacuum become better, especially since your opponent becomes better at reacting to what you are doing. Let’s also just add that I’ve cast Emrakul for the full 13 a fair amount of times!

The Rest

Courser of Kruphix

2 Courser of Kruphix

While not being a very powerful card, it’s a swiss army knife in a way. It blocks the ground early, gets you important incidental lifegain, synergizes with Fabled Passage and Tireless Tracker to find what you need and hit land drops, is an enchantment for the graveyard and something that is reliable through graveyard hate.

Tireless Tracker

1+1 Tireless Tracker

Tireless Tracker is something you can search for in the midgame to be proactive, before you can cast Emrakul, that synergizes with not only Courser of Kruphix but also Uro putting more lands into play. Also plays very well against when your opponent tries to attack your graveyard with Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void as well as cheap interaction like Fatal Push, Thoughtseize and Mystical Dispute. Lastly Tireless Tracker also fills the role of a win condition when Nissa and Emrakul are too slow.

Scavenging OozeIshkanah, GrafwidowMurderous Rider // Swift End

1 Scavenging Ooze, 1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow, 1 Murderous Rider

Powerful bullets with Traverse the Ulvenwald expanding your toolbox with low opportunity cost.

Liliana, the Last Hope

1 Liliana, the Last Hope

Great against aggro, great against control but a little slow. Main reason it’s in the deck, besides being another type for delirium and Emrakul, is that it’s a way to get Emrakul back in case it becomes milled or discarded. I’d pay a penny or two for an Eternal Witness to expand what Liliana enables.

Abrupt Decay

2 Abrupt Decay 

Very efficient removal that also lets you have a versatile answer against other cards like Detention Sphere, Underworld Breach or Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver as well as breaching numbers between the sideboard and main deck. Assassin’s Trophy to have an even more versatile answer is a trap in a deck that’s playing a reactive game with Thoughtseize. The extra mana against most decks where the extra versatility matters, the land often matters a great deal as well.

Sideboard Guide

Remember that if you ever play a tournament with open decklists, try to not have a sideboard guide. It will only make you more likely to autotomize your sideboarding where it often varies depending on which version your opponent is running. For example, I played against 5 different UB Inverter of Truth decks at the PT and sideboarded differently against all of them.

UB Inverter

-4 Fatal Push

-2 Courser of Kruphix

-1 Liliana, the Last Hope

-1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

-1 Abrupt Decay

+2 Disdainful Stroke

+2 Mystical Dispute

+3 Leyline of the Void

+1 Tireless Tracker

+1 Duress

Underworld Breach Combo

-1 Walking Ballista

-1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

-1 Liliana, the Last Hope

-1 Murderous Rider

-2 Courser of Kruphix

-4 Fatal Push

+2 Mystical Dispute

+2 Disdainful Stroke

+3 Leyline of the Void

+1 Tireless Tracker

+1 Duress

+1 Sultai Charm

UW/Bant Spirits

Draw

-1 Emrakul, the Promised End

-2 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

-2 Courser of Kruphix

-1 Satyr Wayfinder

-1 Scavenging Ooze

+2 Mystical Dispute

+1 Cast Down

+1 Noxious Grasp

+1 Tireless Tracker

+1 Vivien Reid

+1 Sultai Charm

Play

-1 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

+1 Hostage Taker

Monoblack Aggro

-1 Emrakul, the Promised End

-1 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

-4 Thoughtseize

+1 Cast Down

+1 Reclamation Sage

+1 Tireless Tracker

+1 Vivien Reid

+1 Hostage Taker

+1 Sultai Charm

Niv to Light

-1 Scavenging Ooze

-3 Fatal Push

-2 Courser of Kruphix

-1 Liliana, the Last Hope

-1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

+2 Mystical Dispute

+2 Disdainful Stroke

+1 Noxious Grasp

+1 Vivien Reid

+1 Tireless Tracker

+1 Duress

UW Control

-4 Fatal Push

-1 Scavenging Ooze

-1 Abrupt Decay

-2 Courser of Kruphix

-1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

+2 Mystical Dispute

+2 Disdainful Stroke

+1

Tireless Tracker 

+1 Reclamation Sage

+1 Vivien Reid

+1 Duress

+1 Sultai Charm

Izzet Ensoul

-2 Thoughtseize

-1 Scavenging Ooze

-1 Emrakul, the Promised End

-2 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

-2 Courser of Kurphix

+2 Mystical Dispute

+1 Cast Down

+1 Reclamation Sage

+1 Tireless Tracker

+1 Vivien Reid

+1 Hostage Taker

+1 Sultai Charm

Chonky Red

-2 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

-1 Emrakul, the Promised End

-1 Liliana, the Last Hope

+1 Cast Down

+1 Sultai Charm

+1 Vivien Reid

+1 Tireless Tracker

Red Deck Wins

-4 Thoughtseize

-1 Emrakul, the Promised End

+1 Cast Down

+1 Sultai Charm

+1 Tireless Tracker

+1 Duress

+1 Reclamation Sage

Thank you, everyone

Thank you everyone who has supported me during the Player’s Tour in Brussels from home, live at the site and all the people I got to meet again after I haven’t seen in a while since I chose to finish my degree. A special thank you goes to Elias Watsefeldt, Marcus Angelin, Alexander Rosdahl and Lukas Horosiewicz that helped me tune the deck down to every small detail. It’s great to come back and do well after being gone for a while. I’ll finish my studies as I’m done with my degree this summer, but that won’t stop me from giving my best at the Pro Tour Finals in Houston. See you there!


Cheers,

Joel Larsson

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