I’ve decided to stop asking questions about Historic.
- “Should this card be legal?
- “What should the format look like?”
- “Does this decision make sense?”
- “Wasn’t Historic supposed to be the format where I got to play my Standard cards that rotated?”
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to take what they give me and not think too much about it. The latest in a long line of reasons for my new stance is Mizzix’s Mastery.
Nothing fair was bound to happen with Mizzix’s Mastery but here we are. There was already a deck that tried to use Unburial Rites on Scholar of the Lost Trove to reanimate a big spell. Once the deck became built around casting Emergent Ultimatum and not needing anything else in your graveyard, Mizzix’s Mastery became the perfect way to add consistency to the archetype.
Scholar of the Lost Trove went from being an obscure card to being the linchpin of a major format, capable of putting together incredibly consistent Turn 4 kills.
This deck uses Faithless Looting, Cathartic Reunion, and Thrilling Discovery to put Emergent Ultimatum into the graveyard, which is then cast with either Mizzix’s Mastery or Unburial Rites on Scholar of the Lost Trove. From there, you’ll be able to chain a bunch of spells together, eventually ending in a win. I’ll get into the specific piles later but I want to start by talking about the deck itself first.
First of all, my version of the deck doesn’t contain any copies of Brainstorm. I started with them because I originally thought I might want ways to shuffle combo pieces back into my deck. In practice, that stuff rarely came to fruition. Toward the end of the tuning process, I cut Brainstorm because I found myself discarding the cards anyway. Working shuffle effects or ways to clear the top of your deck is more difficult than you might think.
Fabled Passage is the obvious answer but I found I’d rather have true dual lands than basic lands or Pathways, mostly because of the restrictive mana cost of Thrilling Discovery and Rip Apart. There’s always the scenario where you can Brainstorm back an Omniscience the turn before you Mizzix’s Mastery an Emergent Ultimatum, but you probably didn’t need the Brainstorm in that scenario.
Cutting Brainstorm also reduces the necessity for blue mana. Prismari Command and Mystical Dispute are holdovers from when I started with Brainstorm (and was considering things like Merfolk Secretkeeper) but we could easily cut the blue entirely. Using black for discard could be solid and would also allow you to cast Final Parting. You lose the ability to cast Time Warp, Alrund’s Epiphany, and occasionally Scholar of the Lost Trove, but the gains might be worth it.
I still have a basic Mountain because it casts most cards in the deck and I didn’t want to get bullied by Field of Ruin or Assassin’s Trophy. The basic Swamp in the LSV/Baeckstrom list is mostly nonsense and I don’t think you need it.
Cathartic Reunion is a much stronger card for the deck than Brainstorm. Even if you cast Brainstorm, you’re probably looking for the enablers to put cards into your graveyard, so you should probably play more of them. Against decks with discard, you want as many as you can possibly get your hands on.
23 lands (plus a Glasspool Mimic) is sufficient for ensuring you’re able to keep a wide range of hands. The other versions I’ve seen have much lower land counts and I don’t agree. You need to get to four mana on Turn 4 and have plenty of ways to filter through cards, so playing fewer lands doesn’t make much sense.
The rest of the deck is combo pieces and some Prismari Commands to round it out. If you wanted an additional slot for something, you could probably find something that’s mostly superfluous to cut. So far, I’ve liked everything and haven’t found the need for anything else.
The Emergent Ultimatum Piles
Warning: This section is going to be dense.
Keep in mind there are going to be stranger piles that show up depending on your opponent’s battlefield, what’s in your graveyard, and how you’ve sideboarded, so don’t feel like you have to stick to these lines.
This will be your first pile from Emergent Ultimatum the vast majority of the time, regardless of if you used Mizzix’s Mastery or Scholar of the Lost Trove to flashback Ultimatum. If they give you anything other than Scholar and Omniscience, they will lose. If they give you Scholar and Omniscience, whether you win depends on what’s in your hand and graveyard.
Assuming they give you Scholar and Final Parting, put Scholar on the stack and then Final Parting, so that Final Parting resolves first. If you know they have no disruption at this point, search for a pair of Emergent Ultimatums. Otherwise you can put a Mizzix’s Mastery in hand to flashback a Time Warp later. Scholar of the Lost Trove will flashback the Emergent Ultimatum, allowing you to search for your second pile.
Note: This isn’t a necessary step but it makes things much easier. If you aren’t doing this pile second for any reason (they have an Annul, your Triumphant Reckoning is in the graveyard, etc) then put a Mizzix’s Mastery in your hand with the above Final Parting. You can also use this as your first pile if you just want to start with Omniscience on the battlefield because you already have an Emergent Ultimatum in hand.
No matter what, you will end up with Omniscience on the battlefield with an Emergent Ultimatum in hand from the previous Final Parting. Resolve the Omniscience last so there isn’t a window for them to Disenchant or bounce it before casting Emergent Ultimatum.
Now you have a 5/5 flyer and Omniscience on the battlefield and are casting your third Emergent Ultimatum. If they didn’t give you Final Parting on the last pile, it means you can use it in this pile. If they did, it means you have an extra spell in hand. Either way, you get to put some bodies onto the battlefield and take some extra turns.
You can flashback Final Parting, get a way to take an extra turn, and go from there.
Now, there are theoretical situations where attacking for fifty damage over the course of a few turns isn’t enough. For example, Bant Angels could have a ton of life and some giant flyers to brick-wall you. You don’t need Sublime Epiphany in any of the Ultimatum piles but having access to it to get rid of Righteous Valkyrie or something could be valuable in fringe scenarios.
The Sequence for Beating Grafdigger’s Cage
You can Mizzix’s Mastery through Grafdigger’s Cage, but the issue is, what do you get? Well, you can put Omniscience onto the battlefield no matter what, but what if you have nothing relevant besides that?
If they’re smart and give you Omniscience and Mizzix’s Mastery, you’re in the same position you were before, except you’re down a 5/5 body. Assuming they don’t let you have Omniscience, you can put Mizzix’s Mastery on the stack first (targeting your original Mizzix’s Mastery), and then resolve Final Parting. Search for a pair of Emergent Ultimatums, resolve the Mizzix’s Mastery, and have the copy target Emergent Ultimatum.
Get the Omniscience pile and now you have Omniscience on the battlefield and Ultimatum in hand. Presumably both of your Final Partings are gone but that means you’ll have a Prismari Command to blow up their Cage. From there, you can go off as normal, except you won’t be starting with a 5/5 on the battlefield. You’ll probably Ultimatum for Time Warp, Alrund’s Epiphany, and Scholar and try to put something together on those extra turns.
I’m not convinced these are the most concise piles you can possibly have. At the moment, I have a few extraneous pieces because of the risk that you’ll have to discard them at some point, but additional Scholars or Mizzix’s Masteries make that less likely to matter.
Sideboarding is difficult because the combo package is so massive. You can often shave a piece or two but it’s rare that you’ll be able to sideboard out eight or ten cards. A transformational sideboard plan is likely out of the question. There are clear best options for fighting the various hate cards, so we’re maxing on those.
In general, you’ll sideboard based on what disruption your opponent’s deck typically plays. You’ll be facing off against graveyard hate; counterspells; Narset, Parter of Veils; and taxing effects. Some matchups come down to pure speed as well. Five-Color Emergent Ultimatum is much stronger before your opponents are able to bring in their scary hate cards. In general, you’re trying to win Game 1 and steal one of the sideboard games.
VS Aggro (Gruul, Boros, Orzhov Auras)
Again, you should sideboard based on what hate you’re expecting. Prismari Command is excellent at slowing down their aggression and killing artifacts while also furthering your gameplan. For the most part, the creature decks don’t have artifact-based graveyard hate, so you’ll often prefer Rip Apart.
For the most part, you don’t want Deafening Clarion unless your opponent is playing Selesnya Company with Archon of Emeria; Reidane, God of the Worthy; and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. If you’re on the play, you’ll usually be faster than decks like Gruul and Orzhov Auras anyway.
VS Rakdos Arcanist (Lurrus)
This is a matchup where you’d prefer to go the Unburial Rites route because your graveyard is safer than your hand because of their discard spells. Each time you cast Faithless Looting, you’ll be down a resource, so that combined with their discard spells means you’ll be light on resources much of the time. It’s easier to put together an Unburial Rites win because those things will all live in the graveyard. All you need to do is filter through cards and get to four mana.
For graveyard hate, you can expect Soul-Guide Lantern more often than anything else. However, clever folks will eventually add in Cling to Dust, which is nigh-unbeatable. Rip Apart can blow up Soul-Guide Lantern, although it will cost you your graveyard. Thankfully, their clock is slow, so you might have time to rebuild. If they have Leyline of the Void, bring in the fourth Rip Apart.
This is one of the matchups where you could potentially sideboard out all the extra turn effects because it’s difficult for them to beat an army of 5/5 flyers.
VS Izzet Phoenix
Izzet Phoenix will probably be bringing some counterspells to the table but Narset, Parter of Veils and Soul-Guide Lantern aren’t out of the question. Their clock is decent but they’ll still need a piece of disruption or two to effectively race.
VS Nissa, Who Shakes the World Decks
Overall, decks like these are good matchups. The most common version is Bant and they’re chock-full of cards that don’t matter against you. The first game should be relatively smooth sailing but things become more difficult after sideboarding.
They usually have Grafdigger’s Cage, some counterspells, and occasionally Rest in Peace. I wouldn’t sideboard in Rip Apart in the dark and wouldn’t touch them until you know they have two or more copies. If they have more counterspells, the fourth Mystical Dispute is great too.
VS Five-Color Emergent Ultimatum
The mirror is the only matchup where I want Soul-Guide Lantern. Game 1 is all about who goes first, whereas the sideboard games get a little more interesting. I wouldn’t expect them to have graveyard hate, so you have a slight edge.
VS Jeskai Control
Unless control decks have an abundance of graveyard hate or counterspells, they’re in big trouble. Most decks don’t have much, so it’s probably smooth sailing.
VS Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)
On the bright side, Dimir Rogues will mill you. Unfortunately, Dimir Rogues is the worst matchup imaginable. They have access to discard and countermagic, and they already want to play Cling to Dust. They also have a relatively fast clock. Winning this matchup is going to take a lot of luck. Honestly, Yuta Takahashi winning a big tournament with Dimir Rogues is the worst thing to happen to this deck.
Bryan Gottlieb recommended I try something like Niv-Mizzet, Parun as an uncounterable threat but I don’t recommend it. Not only does it not necessarily beat them, but they also have Drown in the Loch to remove it cleanly. It’s not uncommon to die before Turn 6 too.
How Good Is Five-Color Emergent Ultimatum?
It’s consistent, powerful, and invalidates several old Historic strategies, such as Sultai Ramp (Yorion). Even decks like Rakdos Arcanist and Izzet Phoenix will find it difficult to compete without the required hate. It’s the new benchmark for Historic. That said, it won’t necessarily be the best deck.
Think of it like the new Goblins. It will occasionally be the strongest deck on a certain weekend but I fully expect people to sideboard against it and other graveyard decks. Those decks probably won’t stand up to the hate, they will fade away, and players will start cutting their hate. At that point, maybe Mizzix’s Mastery can crush a weekend.
All of this information is assuming you’re playing in Best-of-Three on MTG Arena, either on ladder or in tournaments. Clearly the biggest issue for the deck is graveyard hate, so playing this deck on ladder in Best-of-One could yield incredible results.