Magic is an incredibly rewarding game because it encourages outside-the-box thinking and careful preparation. Two people might reach different conclusions while approaching the same problem and neither are wrong.
If winning with Cruel Ultimatums in your deck is wrong, who wants to be right anyway?
This Grixis Control deck is not interested in playing small-ball. Of course, it still plays the most efficient removal options like Lightning Bolt and Terminate while supplemented by Snapcaster Mage, but other than interacting, we aren’t doing anything other than deploying haymakers.
Coalition Relic is the unsung hero of this deck, letting Grixis successfully bridge the gap from removal to its powerful planeswalkers like Jace, Architect of Thought and Tamiyo the Moon Sage. Once our opponent begins to manage the game a bit, that’s when we drop the real hammer: Cruel Ultimatum.
Once heralded by Patrick Chapin as the “nine-for-one,” Cruel Ultimatum might be one of the single most powerful and satisfying cards to cast in Magic, and it is no joke. Even if your opponent is able to survive the first Ultimatum, odds are that it returned a Snapcaster Mage from the graveyard, ready to repeat the process a few short turns later.
One subtle touch I love about this deck is a single copy of Dreadship Reef. This is a great complement to Coalition Relic for letting French reach Cruel Ultimatum ahead of schedule, and I can’t help but feel as if the “charge-lands” are heavily underrepresented in Modern as a whole.
Shawn’s sideboard is nothing crazy. Grixis Control has and continues to have issues with big-mana strategies and tough-to-handle planeswalkers and other assorted permanents. Crumble to Dust is a nod to the former, while Pithing Needle and Negate are able to cover many bases of the latter. This is all tied together with some removal and additional disruption, a simple and effective package.
Cruel Ultimatum is just one of those cards that’s too cool not to love, and Shawn French has been able to capitalize on that love with some tournament success as well.