Cruel Ultimatum. Do I have you interested? Do you need more? Okay, I guess we actually have to set up our Cruel Ultimatums (yes, plural—we have 2), but there are Ultimatums.
Cruel Ultimatum is one of the most powerful Magic cards in the history of the game, it has the casting cost to reflect that. Not only does the Ultimatum cost 7, but it’s 7 very specific colors. So do you get a fair return on your investment? Well, the ceiling is an 8-for-1 that swings the life totals by 10 points, so I think you could say that you do. If you have a creature in your graveyard and your opponent has cards in hand and a creature in play, you get 8 full additional cards with the massive life swing. Your creature is returned, theirs dies, their hand is gone, and your hand is refilled. That’s not easy to come back from if they don’t have an overwhelming advantage already—but the rest of your deck is looking to stop that.
The only creature in the deck is Snapcaster Mage, and I’m a bit surprised to see 3 copies over 4, but it can be clunky to flash things back when you already have a late game as powerful as Ultimatum. Snapcaster is the value creature to end all value creatures, and after all is said and done, Ultimatum will bring Snapcaster back to your hand to flashback the Ultimatum. If one deals a big blow, chaining them is lights-out.
You also have a whole bunch of Commands for card advantage and Snapcaster value. There’s a full playset of Cryptic Commands as a way to Time Walk the opponent’s attack, counter key spells, bounce problematic permanents, return Snapcaster to your own hand, and draw a card. Kolaghan’s Command can 2-for-1 your opponent by killing a creature and an artifact, but making your opponent discard or returning a Snapcaster can both be awesome. Again, returning Snapcaster just to flashback another Command is awesome value.
For card draw and selection, we’re moving away from Serum Visions or even Ancestral Vision. There are a couple Opts to make sure that you hit your land drops and let you dig a bit deeper to find threats. Think Twice gives you a nice instant-speed option to smooth out your draws and get ahead in cards. Search for Azcanta is a powerful tool, especially with Snapcaster and Commands to bring cards back, and does a great job of both accelerating to Ultimatum and helping to find it. You also have a pair of Nihil Spellbombs as a “cycling” card that can really do work in a variety of graveyard matchups.
The removal spells you’re playing the most copies of include Terminate, which is no surprise as a cheap way to kill anything dead, but also Electrolyze. Electrolyze does a great job at stopping people from flooding the board. Fast decks like Affinity will go wide before Ultimatum comes down, and at that point the 5 life and killing a creature won’t matter, but Electrolyze slows that down. You also have a couple copies of Fatal Push in your spot removal suite.
For mass removal, multiple copies of Damnation pair with an Engineered Explosives. These do great work at keeping the board under control and make it hard for anyone to recover before it’s Cruel time.
You have a full playset of Cryptics to counter key spells, but you need some early interaction as well. A Spell Snare can counter a number of key spells in Modern, especially on the draw. Mana Leak and Logic Knot aren’t present in large numbers, but a couple of each helps make sure that people aren’t combo’ing off on you in game 1. A single Shadow of Doubt gives you another utility card that can accidentally win a game against something like Scapeshift.
If you’re looking for a deck with few win conditions and the ability to cast one of the best Magic cards of all time, Cruel Control is definitely for you!