The Ultimate Guide to Drafting Ultimate Masters

by Martin Dang on 31 December 2018, Monday

Martin Dang

In preparation for GP Prague I’ve been drafting Ultimate Masters. As per usual, I would like to share my findings with you. We will go through the format in general, which archetypes I like to draft and how to draft those strategies successfully. As an additional bonus, we’ll finish with a few tricks you might not know if you’re unfamiliar with this set.

The set is filled with build-around strategies, which means there are lots of cards with good synergies which makes it hard to get a great deck. For example, you can be stuck with too many discard outlets and too few madness cards or vice-versa.

There are so many synergistic cards in the set that you can’t avoid having them in your deck. To make sure you have a good balance in your deck, you must keep more focus than usual on this aspect of the draft in Ultimate Masters. Simply put, the games are long and how well you play your match obviously counts, but I believe most drafts in this format are won during the picking of the cards.

Let’s take a look at the main worthwhile synergies in Ultimate Masters!


This is Ultimate Masters!

The strategy exists in any combination of the Jund colors. There are plenty of good madness outlets like Wild MongrelMad Prophet and Olivia's Dragoon to mention a few. Meanwhile you still have plenty of payoff madness cards like Basking RootwallaReckless Wurm and Twins of Maurer Estate.

Be aware though: I find it very hard to build an all-out aggressive deck in this format. The closest you get is a Red-Green madness deck that relies heavily on outlets like Wild Mongrel and so they have to draw the right combination of outlets and madness cards to be truly fast. 

Delve and Reanimation

This archetype is in any combination of Esper colors. Good enablers to keep an eye out for are Frantic Search and Deranged Assistant. To make use of the graveyard, you’ll have to pick cards like Resurrection, Unburial RitesGurmag Angler and Treasure Cruise just to mention a couple.

Heroic Auras

You can draft this in any color combination of Bant colors. If you're passed the cards for this, you have cards like Heliod's Pilgrim to find auras. And they are plentiful in this format, just as the creatures fitting well into this strategy. Especially with all the Umbras, Gods Willing will be great in your deck to protect your creature when you play an Aura on them, also triggering heroic abilities as an added bonus. Playing auras becomes a better and less risky strategy, since the removals are scarce. In the common slot Black has premium removal like Last Gasp and Unholy Hunger, Red has Fiery Temper and White has Faith's Fetters. From there on the quality of the removal declines a lot.

There are other options than these, but I don’t think they’re worth drafting. You’ll just randomly get a few of those synergies in your deck.

The Format in General: Late is the Name of the Game

This format is slow and clunky, because with synergistic decks you risk only drawing one end of your synergies. If that happens, you’ll have overcosted creatures or creatures you can’t cast because you need to get them to the graveyard and resurrect them.

When aggro decks are slow, I tend to go for the best control deck. I try to make sure that my deck has inevitability to win the late game. When I draft Ultimate Masters, I prefer to draft Blue-Black Madness/Graveyard decks to take advantage of two strategies. This is possible because they both want discard outlets which gives the two a natural synergy.

In the beginning I valued powerful and stronger cards over the discard outlets and often ended up with clunky decks with too many 8+ mana spells and 3/5 creatures for 5 mana.

How to combine synergies: Drafting UB Graveyard Control

The key to make this deck happen, is to find the right balance. Make sure you have good early drops that can function as outlets. Examples are Olivia's Dragoon, Deranged AssistantPatchwork Gnomes or Crow of Dark Tidings, all of which will do the job. Next, get strong midrange blockers like AethersnipeTwins of Maurer Estate or Moan of the Unhallowed. After that, get something to end the game with. Either some good rares, Eldrazi or Mahamoti Djinn can do the trick.

Last but not least, I feel like I mostly encounter slow midrange decks or control. So it’s important to me that I have cards that give me an edge in the very late game. Cards like Unburial Rites, Death DeniedTreasure Cruise or Foil are important to have in the deck. Any bomb rares can also substitute here, but I’d rather not rely on opening those. Basically, anything that gives you a boost in card advantage.

A controlling Draft Walkthrough

Here is the last deck I drafted. 


(I did play the Creeping Tar Pit, just didn’t add lands before taking the screenshot.)

I first picked a Forbidden Alchemy. My second pick was Unburial Rites and after that the tone was set. I picked the Frantic Search highly, within my first four picks. I think that card is very busted in many situations, especially with Twins of Maurer Estate, but also to get cards in the graveyard. And yes, I rare drafted the Cavern of Souls, I am not immune to value.

This deck has all the components I mentioned and is strong. Even though this deck has many cards that are not always easy to get a hold of, lots of these cards are replaceable. Angel of Despair could be any Eldrazi and Unburial Rites could easily be Treasure Cruise. The deck wouldn’t have been as powerful, but I have won with less and have faith it would have still done nicely.

The cards in Ultimate Masters are currently not worth much on MTGO. I think it’s because so many people draft it and players are migrating to MTG Arena due to Wizards' announcements. However, MTGO is still alive and kicking, and Ultimate Masters has lots of staples, so I feel it’s a good time to invest and draft.

Ultimate Tips and Tricks

I’ll leave you some pointers you might not be aware of in Ultimate Masters, that might give you an edge.

  • Blast of Genius does not draw cards if the target disappears.
  • You can use Frantic Search and Dreamscape Artist to discard a madness card and then after getting your mana cast the madness spell with that mana.
  • You can evoke creatures and before they die, use Turn to Mist on them to get the effect twice as well as have the creature stay in play.
  • Fume Spitter is good against persist creatures. Use it before you kill the creature and it won’t come back with persist.

So if you’re bored around New Year's Day or just want to practice for the first ever European MagicFest, give this format and strategy a go. I really enjoyed drafting it once I got to know it.

A belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

This article was written by Martin Dang in a media collaboration with

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