I don’t see myself ever getting sick of Ultimate Masters. Vintage
Cube is currently on Magic Online and I’m finding myself more inclined to
play Ultimate Masters. As a Cube aficionado, this is unprecedented
for any Limited set; that’s how good this format is. Before we jump into
the first couple picks of a draft, I want to go over what I believe are the
S Tier Commons
Both cards are completely unfair in this format. There’s too much
beneficial discard in this format to the point where Fiery Temper is often
Lightning Bolt with upside, and three mana to deal three damage is also a
fine rate. Frantic Search, however, just isn’t a fair Magic card. If my
opponent passes with two Islands and a Mountain, I must think about the
fact that they might flash in a Reckless Wurm thanks to Frantic Search.
Excuse me? A common facilitates something that busted?
Yes, yes it does. You should be taking both cards over every other common,
and they compete with many of the uncommons and rares as well.
Both cards are two-drops that you can maximize for synergy. Wild Mongrel is
already a great creature, but when paired with double-strike effects like
Double Cleave or Soul Fire, or madness cards like Basking Rootwalla or
Reckless Wurm, it becomes one of the best cards in your deck.
Thermo-Alchemist is playable in any red deck because the damage output is
that high. If you get enough spells, or multiples of them, just like Wild
Mongrel it can be one of the best cards in your deck. And it even combos
with Snake Umbra!
Two-drops of this caliber are rare and you should prioritize them.
These are the commons that I’m fine taking early. While Frantic Search,
Fiery Temper, Wild Mongrel, and Thermo-Alchemist are phenomenal first
picks, I wouldn’t be upset starting off my draft with any of the B-Tier
commons, but I wouldn’t be happy either.
Note: Honorable mentions that just missed B-tier are Olivia’s Dragoon
and Just the Wind.
Pack 1, Pick 1
There are plenty of good cards here, but after over 40 drafts of this
format, I don’t think I can get behind anything other than Wild Mongrel,
Ancient Tomb, or Blast of Genius.
I haven’t been super impressed with Ancient Tomb. It’s a great card, but
it’s usually utilized in formats that aren’t centered around creature
combat. The damage that piles up from Ancient Tomb is difficult to ignore.
While I don’t have a large sample size with the card, it has felt more like
a liability than I had originally hoped. There’s merit in taking it here
for more data, but as somebody with likely more data than you, I think it’s
safe to pass the card.
Aggressive decks that utilize Wild Mongrel with cards like Double Cleave
are fantastic. The most powerful decks in this format, in my opinion, are
multi-color blue-based decks with two or three of the following win
conditions: Blast of Genius with Treasure Cruise and a bit of recursion
(e.g. Verdant Rebirth), Rise from the Tides, and Laboratory Maniac. I
believe Wild Mongrel and Blast of Genius are pillars of the format. I see
both cards going fairly late in pack 1 of drafts online and they have
wheeled multiple times. They shouldn’t. But which would I rather start out
I would rather start with Wild Mongrel. Whether it’s the Gruul “Atarka Red”
style aggro deck, Selesnya Heroic (or even Reanimator), Golgari
Dredge/Delve, or Simic Dredge/Delve/Madness, Wild Mongrel plays an
irreplaceable role. The doggo allows your deck to function along an
entirely different axis by having such a potent two-mana threat. While I
think Blast of Genius is fantastic, and an important card, the efficiency
of a two-mana threat like Wild Mongrel is too enticing. I admit there’s a
pull towards Blast of Genius because I’ll likely wheel either Laboratory
Maniac or Living Lore, but I still think Wild Mongrel gets the nod due to
efficiency and archetype flexibility.
Pack 1, Pick 2
The Picks So Far:
While this pack includes a variety of non-green options, none are enough
better than the green options to pull the green bias of our pool thanks to
Wild Mongrel. I can see logic for taking Fire // Ice, as it’s a flexible
and efficient removal spell, but I would prefer to take Hero of Leina Tower
or Lord of Extinction as a green archetypal payoff, or Satyr Wayfinder,
which is one of the best green enablers.
I’m not really looking at the Hero, but I’ll note this may be my own flaw.
I haven’t had much success with the green heroic decks, so I don’t draft
Hero of Leina Tower often. However, many players I respect have voiced
Selesnya Heroic as one of the best archetypes and if you believe that’s
true, then I think Hero has merit here. Given my experience, I think this
pick is between Lord of Extinction and Satyr Wayfinder: payoff or enabler?
A couple weeks ago,
that you should take enablers higher than payoffs in Ultimate Masters. I still agree with this, and it’s one of the
reasons that Frantic Search is a card I consider “S-Tier” when it comes to
commons. However, it’s important to consider the power-level gap at play
here. Satyr Wayfinder is a fantastic enabler, but the ceiling on Lord of
Extinction is so much higher than that of Satyr Wayfinder that I’m going to
take the mythic. Combining Lord of Extinction with either Brawn or Anger
can end the game out of nowhere and the same goes for Soul Fire. The amount
of instant wins this card can provide is quite large, and I’ve
mentioned before that combos are one of the best ways to succeed in
This pick may look on the obvious side, because I’m taking the powerful
mythic, but I assure you that it’s closer than it looks. The best enablers
are at a premium, and you need to take them highly. I had a draft recently
where I was drafting a Spider Spawning deck and took my third Satyr
Wayfinder over my second Spider Spawning. The consistency and power that
good enablers bring to your deck is unparalleled. After picking up this
Lord of Extinction, you can bet I won’t be passing many more copies of
Satyr Wayfinder this draft.
These picks demonstrate the depth of Ultimate Masters, a format I
believe is one of the best we’ve had. The power level is incredibly high,
but mostly through synergy rather than sheer stats and abilities. This
format rewards creativity. If there’s one piece of advice I’d give,
especially after this draft, is that signals function a bit differently.
There are so many great cards that a late Wild Mongrel doesn’t necessarily
mean that green is open in the same way a late Dead Weight does in Guilds of Ravnica. In order to read signals, it’s extremely
important to note the cards that do or don’t wheel such that you can figure
out what other players at the table are doing. In this draft, there were
two Laboratory Maniacs, both in the same pack as Living Lore. These cards
go well together, as both reward you for playing cards like Treasure
Cruise, Faithless Looting, and the like. Whether these cards wheel or not
is crucial information for properly navigating the draft. Monitoring the
density of colors is less insightful in this format. It’s more important to
note the explicit synergy cards that are either late or wheeling, such as