Modern Musings: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Modern Musings: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

It was spoiled at PAX this weekend and the Magic playing world is in an uproar. Automatically Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger has shaken up the world of Commander. Today we approach the questions: Is this card good in Modern? What deck could it find a home in? The first step to figuring out the answer to that question is to analyze the card and value its abilities. Let’s take a step back into some elementary card analysis techniques. We need to compare this card to another card of comparable power…  and its pretty obvious, let’s put the measure the might of the Ulamogs.

 ulamog the infinite gyre

Newlamog                                Oldamog

Putting these two cards side by side is telling. The “on cast” triggered ability of Newlamog exiles two permanents, which is a lot better than Oldamog. Oldamog has a better “on attack” trigger versus most decks in the Modern format whereas Newlamog’s ability is mostly good against combo decks and as a finisher. Exiling a third of a person’s deck can be devastating when they are only playing a few combo pieces. Newlamog costs a mana less and no longer shuffles into the library when it hits the graveyard.

So Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is a card that wants to be cast so clearly it could go into any tron deck. “Tron” being the archetype for the Urza land cycle. The RG Tron deck can do really devastating things like cast Wurmcoil Engine or Ugin on turn 3. However, reaching the 10 mana need to play Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger would be more challenging. This deck thrives on its explosiveness and Newlamog doesn’t quite fit that mold


What deck in modern plays games long enough to cast this card? Well there is one deck in Modern that can. It has fallen into obscurity a little as of late (but so has most of the Modern format, since it’s Standard season). The deck I’m talking about  has a storied history, being piloted to a 3rd place of a Grand Prix by noted Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas. Here is his deck list from 2012:

UW Gifts Tron by Luis Scott-Vargas (2012)


4 Celestial Colonnade
1 Eye of Ugin
3 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
3 Seachrome Coast
1 Tolaria West
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
25 lands1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
4 creatures
4 Azorius Signet
1 Condescend
1 Day of Judgment
3 Expedition Map
4 Gifts Ungiven
1 Oblivion Ring
4 Path to Exile
4 Remand
1 Repeal
1 Talisman of Progress
4 Thirst for Knowledge
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Unburial Rites
1 Wrath of God
31 other spells2 Celestial Purge
1 Disenchant
2 Dispel
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Ghostly Prison
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Negate
1 Pact of Negation
1 Rule of Law
2 Timely Reinforcements
1 Wurmcoil Engine
15 sideboard cards

 

If you have never seen Gifts Tron the heart of the deck is a UW control deck that happens to run the card Gifts Ungiven. Gifts Ungiven decks are very interesting because they play “packages” of spells to deal with certain situations. If you need a guaranteed removal spell, cast Gifts during your opponents end step for Day of Judgement, Wrath of God, Path to Exile, and Oblivion Ring. Your opponent must choose two to give you and the rest go into your graveyard. Better yet, want to reanimate Iona, Shield of Emeria during your turn? Cast Gifts, and select only Iona and Unburial Rites, and your opponent must put those cards into your graveyard. This deck archetype can do some very complicated things and has an answer for almost every magic card. The list above is pretty outdated, but this deck is still around today.

Here is an updated list… Oh it happened to 1st place at States in 2015… in Connecticut:

UW Gifts Tron by Jonathan Morawski (2015)


2 Island
2 Plains
4 Celestial Colonnade
3 Flooded Strand
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
25 lands1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
4 creatures

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 planeswalker

4 Azorius Signet
1 Batterskull
2 Expedition Map
1 Talisman of Progress
2 Condescend
4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Path to Exile
2 Remand
1 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Thirst For Knowledge
1 Day of Judgment
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Unburial Rites
1 Wrath of God
30 other spells1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Torpor Orb
2 Spellskite
1 Stony Silence
2 Celestial Purge
1 Condemn
1 Disenchant
2 Negate
1 Rest for the Weary
1 Karn Liberated
2 Timely Reinforcements
15 sideboard cards

Do I have your attention yet? Gifts Tron is still a good deck, but it’s a hard one to play. It’s the kind of deck that rewards players with new and interesting situations and has the complexity and intricacies of a control and combo deck. So that brings us back to the point of the article, does Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger fit in this deck? Oldamog was in LSV’s previous iteration but that was many years ago. What can we glean from the Internet?

From a Primer on UW on Mtgsalvation forums

“Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre – This card is good for tying together the mid and late game. At a cost of 11, he’s perfect in that situation. Since he also has a Vindicate ability, it’s not unreasonable to tap out for him in some matchups. That said, many matchups are combo-oriented where he’s just awful. Killing one creature for 11 and putting pressure on a combo deck isn’t exactly the best idea. He’s solid in the Jund matchup, that’s for sure, but lackluster in basically every combo matchup and most aggro matchups. When you play a card that costs 11 and don’t want to tap out for it, you might as well wait for Emrakul. If you wait for 13 for Ulamog, you can stall until 15 most likely. You absolutely tap out for Emrakul every time, but almost never for Ulamog. He provides a lot of pressure on the board, but combo decks will play around him and aggro decks will win faster than he can come out.”

Typically there is one slot open for your preferred method of killing. Jonathan’s list Ulamog the Ceaseless Hungerabove plays Wurmcoil engine, most play an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, while Owen Turkenwald favors a version of the deck that wins using Mindslaver. There are many different versions of this deck and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger looks to be a prime candidate for a round of testing. He is a two-for-one when you cast him and now he can also be another reanimation target for Unburial Rites. When all is said and done this is an interesting new option to an old deck. Much like the quote above states, Ulamog is really good against the the Jund archetypes (and pretty much any BGx deck). Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is a little bit better than its predecessor against Combo and Aggro match ups. The deck probably won’t be catapulted into the ranks of tier 1, but it rewards good players who devote time to some time to playing it.

My proposed list is based off of Mike Kenney’s list (See his Deck Tech)

1 Island
1 Plains
1 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Plains
4 Celestial Colonnade
2 Flooded Strand
3 Hallowed Fountain
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
25 lands1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
4 creatures

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 planeswalker

4 Azorius Signet
1 Batterskull
2 Expedition Map
1 Talisman of Progress
1 Condescend
4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Path to Exile
3 Remand
1 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Thirst For Knowledge
1 Day of Judgment
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Unburial Rites
1 Wrath of God
30 other spells1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Torpor Orb
2 Spellskite
1 Faith’s Fetters
2 Celestial Purge
1 Condemn
1 Disenchant
1 Mindbreak Trap
2 Negate
1 Swan Song
2 Timely Reinforcements
15 sideboard cards

About the Author

Calexir AKA Nick Parenteau has been a board and card game enthusiast his entire life. He is an amateur game designer and frequent modder of existing games. Nick is your friendly neighborhood Dungeon Master, Brew-master, and Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. A walking cacophony of song, puns, and nerd knowledge; he’s here to answer your questions, meet your challenges, and leave you wanting more: Doink1212@yahoo.com