Well, I was going to write about Zada, Hedron Grinder this week, but after a quick tour of the internet, it seems my take on that deck is about the same as everyone else’s. Yes, creating tons of Goblins and Goblin tokens, replicating them with cards like Twinflame and Heat Shimmer, and then giving them some variety of +X/+0 or casting cantrips on them to draw tons of cards is exciting, but there’s not a lot of room for innovation there. (I do love the Aleatory/Fiery Gambit/Chance Encounter tech though.)
Once I realized that this wasn’t a terribly exciting option, I had to call an audible. I’m not too enthused about most of the legendary creatures in Battle for Zendikar, though, so you won’t see a Munda, Ambush Leader deck or a Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper deck out of me any time soon. I briefly considered the new Drana, but in the end, I settled on this monstrosity:
Ulamog requires a pretty steep investment—10 mana is a lot at the outset, and 2 more for each successive cast is a lot as well, but the effects you get are very powerful. Exiling two permanents is a decent deal for 10 colorless mana, and losing the top 20 cards of your library to the exile zone gets difficult to handle pretty quickly.
I’d say Ulamog is a good enough commander provided we’re ready to endure the restriction that comes as part of the deal: everything has to be colorless, and I mean legitimately colorless. Does it have a white, blue, black, red, or green mana symbol in its cost or rules text? If it does, you can’t play it—and yes, that does stop you from using basic land. (For the skeptics, see rule 903.5d: A card with a basic land type may be included in a Commander deck only if each color of mana it could produce is included in the commander’s color identity.) Cards that add “one mana of any color” are fair game, as are cards that produce colorless mana, so we’ll have a pretty hilarious mana base. Here are some of the lands I think will shine:
Sanctum of Ugin lets you grab an Ulamog (or Kozilek) to go with your initial casting of your Commander, which is a pretty good deal. Shrine of the Forsaken Gods’s second ability will be useful once you get into the Lots of Land portion of the game.
I’ll name Eldrazi.
So once we’ve assembled 40 or so nonbasics that fit our strict criteria, what are we going to do? Sticking to colorless-only means you won’t be packing very many nonpermanents, and that also cuts out many of your strategic options. I’ve chosen to focus on a creature-light deck with a lot of recursion and mass removal—as long as you can stay alive, ramp up to the point where you can cast Ulamog a few times, and then attack, you’ll at least have a chance.
I won’t get too deep into the mana rocks—cards like Mind Stone, Hedron Archive, and Dreamstone Hedron all make appearances, and I think you can understand the point of those inclusions, so I’ll talk more about how this deck can generate recursive value.
Obviously copying Ulamog’s trigger with Strionic Resonator is the dream, but sometimes what you need to do is double-up on a Mirrorworks trigger to copy your Hedron Archive again or exile two creatures with a Duplicant. Similarly, Rings of Brighthearth lets you exile two players’ graveyards with a single Tormod’s Crypt or bring back two artifacts with a Buried Ruin. With a small pool of colorless spells, you have to get as much as you can out of your cards. And yes, there is a Basalt Monolith in this deck—it’s not as though you can really combo the table to death with it, so I figure having the option to cast Ulamog for the 50th time is at least somewhat fair.
Disk doesn’t sacrifice itself, so these two cards can reset the board any number of times. If your group is more power-hungry than average, you can throw in a Mycosynth Lattice to really mess things up. In my opinion, though, that way lies madness.
With no basic land in the deck, you’ll never draw a card that fails the Candle Test—not that you usually do in most Commander games anyway. 4, T: Draw a card is good enough for me since the initial investment is only 2 mana.
Both of these cards give you the opportunity to flood the board with artifacts, whether they’re creatures or not. I like the interaction between Mirrorworks and any artifact that generates 2 or more mana, and Prototype Portal is a great way to pump out any artifact you might want more than one of. Might I suggest Sculpting Steel?
We’re going to need some threats, and this is a pretty good selection. Steel Hellkite wipes things out while Soul of New Phyrexia keeps your things safe. Wurmcoil and Myr Battlesphere are truly classic beatsticks. Finally, old-school Eldrazi are good at ending games—Kozilek trades indestructibility in for some value, which is fine, because in this game, we might have two Shens. I mean, two Ulamogs. (I’m waiting for that cosplay at our next Grand Prix, folks! Terrify me!)
This has been a fun and exciting trip through some cards, but let me show you the full list of 100. I hope you enjoy some of the more hilarious lands I threw in just for fun. Here it is:
Commander: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
That’s all for this week! How would you build a colorless Commander deck, and what commander would you choose? What cards would you add to or cut from my list? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you next week, when we return to the past for some old-school Commander builds!