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Out of the Deck Box – Quest for Ula’s Temple

Magic, of course, is a game about wizardly combat. What really sets it apart from Saruman and Gandalf shouting power words and throwing thunderbolts at each other, however, is the significant role creatures play in the game. Though I do play some spell-based control from time to time, there’s really just nothing quite as satisfying as sending a motley squad of Giants, Birds, Elephants, and Barbarians across the battlefield to punch, claw, stomp, and stab their way to victory. As fun as the regular creatures are, the bigger ones are even better (I still remember a time when Craw Wurm was truly awe-inspiring), and the fun factor really tops out when you can get those big creatures for cheap or nearly free (Elvish Piper and Reanimate are the go-to examples, but have you ever pulled off Urborg Panther / Feral Shadow / Breathstealer into Spirit of the Night? I highly recommend it).

When Quest for Ula’s Temple was first revealed from Worldwake, it made my day. Not only was it another entry into the “huge guys for free” pantheon of effects, but it operated by means of a loose collection of tribes that have historically been the perfect balance of enormous and expensive, terrible and terrifying, and monstrous and moronic. With such great potential for both savage beatings and comedy gold at the same time, I just had to get in on it. The set of Quests I quickly traded for languished in my binder for months before I finally manned up and took the initiative to actually put the deck together.

First things first, if I’m going to build this deck at all, I have to go all-in. Cards that don’t directly relate to the journey or completion of the Quest are a total no-go. Turns spent not advancing my progress in that respect are turns spent not controlling Krakens, and that’s completely unacceptable. For this I need a heavy mass of creatures (including plenty of Krakens, Leviathans, Octopodes, and/or Serpents), as well as a heavy mass of Scry and other similar library manipulation effects. The manipulation isn’t just necessary for making the Quest work, but for finding a copy of it as soon as possible if there wasn’t one already in my opening hand. I need enough mana sources to get myself rolling and keep it up until The Stars Are Right, but not a whole lot, since I’ll hardly need any more past that point. I’ll go ahead and present the list here, and then get into more detail about the choices below:


Lands (22)
4x Halimar Depths
18x Island

Creatures (26)
4x Augury Owl
4x Cryptic Annelid
4x Grozoth
4x Inkwell Leviathan
2x Polar Kraken
2x Stormtide Leviathan
4x Survivor of the Unseen
2x Wrexial, the Risen Deep

1x Ancestral Knowledge
4x Condescend
3x Dream Cache
4x Quest for Ula’s Temple


Land Base

Halimar Depths is pretty much an auto-include for a deck that has Blue spells and a particular need to poke around the top N cards of the library. The number of Islands I chose to fill out the base is driven by the fact that I desperately want to get to 4 mana in order to cast Cryptic Annelid, and then after that I don’t really care at all.


Library Manipulation

Okay, we have a lot of different things going on here. First there are the straight Scry cards: Augury Owl, Cryptic Annelid, and Condescend. When I’m in “find the Quest” mode, anything that isn’t a Quest or another manipulation card is going to the bottom. I don’t care what it is, I don’t need it now, because it won’t help me if I don’t have a Quest on the battlefield. Once I do have one, then it’s just a simple matter of using these to keep a creature on top of the library for 3 turns in a row before the real fun starts happening. Dream Cache and Survivor of the Unseen are special, in that they also give me access to the cards in my hand for the purpose of making sure my hand and the top of my library have the proper composition. It’s important to note here that the Survivor can be activated in response to her cumulative upkeep trigger, so you can see what your turn will look like before deciding whether to pay the cost. Ancestral Knowledge was originally a stand-in for the 4th copy of Dream Cache I found out I didn’t have, but I really like it as a one-of. The ability to dig down 10 cards and see what’s going on is usually a good enough push that I only have to pay the cumulative upkeep cost for 1-2 turns before letting it go (or less, if I have monsters in my hand and stack triggers to get the last counter on the Quest before the cumulative upkeep resolves).


Eldritch Horrors from the Deep

Alright, it’s time to get serious. Inkwell Leviathan is basically the greatest Leviathan creature ever printed, so there’s no question that he’ll end up being one of the stars of the deck. Though the deck will almost never cast him except in a case of extreme emergency, his mana cost turns out to be rather important. It’s a total of 9, which means he can be tutored for with Grozoth, who also happens to be a massive Leviathan. Having a full set of each means I’m definitely going to have Inkwell Leviathans when it’s time to go to Temple. Wrexial can’t be cast at all, but the ability to access various effects out of opponents’ graveyards can come in handy sometimes. Stormtide Leviathan keeps me safe after my smaller “speed bump” creatures have run out, and allows Inkwell and Wrexial to go hog-wild with their Islandwalk. The inclusion of Polar Kraken is really to show how I wasn’t even playing around when building the deck, and that something serious is about to go down. The fact that he’s Polar Kraken will make some opponents underestimate him, and the following exchange isn’t uncommon:

Me: “Polar Kraken.”
Opponent: “What is wrong with you?”
Me: “Attack.”
Opponent: “Oh, that says 11 with trample, doesn’t it?”


Quest for Ula’s Temple

This is where the magic happens, people. Like I said before, if there isn’t one in my opening hand, my game is completely dedicated to finding one. After that, it’s just a couple more turns of minimal effort and I’m off to “Step 3: Profit” for the rest of the game. I do realize that hanging an entire deck on one card is risky, especially with such a small amount of defense for it (right now just the set of Condescend, and nothing else). However, the relative lack of enchantment removal I tend to see on a regular basis combined with the fact that I’m likely to draw into multiples helps ameliorate that risk a fair bit. If it becomes more of an issue in the future, I’ll think about adding either some Discombobulate for extra defense and manipulation or some Elixir of Immortality for recursion and life cushioning.

So there you have it! The deck is a real rush to play, especially during those tense first few turns of the game when I’m trying to set up before my opponent can really get rolling. Once I do have the completed Quest in place, the game almost always ends in a total blowout, and the sheer amount of damage I’m able to hand out every turn has allowed me to defeat up to 3 other players in the same game (hmmm… now I’m thinking about Archenemy). Be sure to leave some comments here and let me know what you think.

Have fun, guys.

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  1. July 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink


    You are the man! This deck is teh AWESUMXORZ! Thanks for quickly putting this up here.

    You are right, Polar Kraken is, as you would say, like dropping a big nasty warthog and means serious business.

    My own version is still in a 93 card pile, trying to sift out the dead parts. I’ve got a black splash because I have a pair of Nemesis of Reasons I want to get in there as well as the Wrexials. I also have the Simic Sky Swallower in there although I cannot hard cast it.

    Was the biggest obstacle for the first iteration of this deck just getting the Quest out or surviving the early game or making sure you had big’uns in your hand or what? Obviously I haven’t finished mine yet, but I feel like I’d get rolled up pretty quick by a couple of my friends’ goblins or vampires.

    • Mike
      July 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      Whether or not you should include Nemesis of Reason depends on whether you want to win the game with damage or something else. If you’re trying to win with damage, then Nemesis isn’t worth it, since his only meaningful contribution would then be a semi-combo with Wrexial. Because my deck wants to win with damage, if I were to get some copies of Sky Swallower to add in, my Wrexials would be the first cards to go.

      The toughest and most crucial part right now is still getting a Quest onto the battlefield in a timely fashion so I can start accumulating counters. If I’ve had to use a fair number of my draw and scry effects (and turns) to get to a Quest in the first place, then it becomes a lot harder to set up the win condition in time. The earlier the Quest hits the field, the easier it will be to eventually win the game, so it turns into a race to get that card, to the exclusion of all other concerns. A commenter on my Tapped Out page for the deck suggested Parallel Thoughts as a way to get cards and leave the top card of the library a creature, but I think it’s too slow for how I want the deck to operate.

  2. Andrew S.
    August 4, 2011 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    Here’s my own list for the deck:

    Lands (20)
    8 Island
    4 Halimar Depths
    4 Scalding Tarn
    4 Misty Rainforest

    Creatures (24)
    2 Sage Owl
    4 Sage of Epityr
    4 Stormtide Leviathan
    4 Augury Owl
    4 Inkwell Leviathan
    2 Simic Sky Swallower
    4 Thrummingbird

    Spells (16)
    4 Clockspinning
    4 Quest for Ula’s Temple
    4 Brainstorm
    4 Serum Powder

    I found that I needed a first-turn Quest for Ula’s Temple or the deck was really unexciting. Therefore, I used the Serum Powder to maximize my chance of drawing it. I found that I had to mulligan until I got the Quest or I stood no chance against my friends’ aggresssive decks. Sage Owl and Sage of Epityr might seem inferior to scry, but combined with the fetchlands they are solid. Brainstorm is basically Dream Cache on crack and although Thrummingbird and Clockspinning did not increase the chance to set up a Quest, they greatly sped up the deck so that when it did work it would be in time to drop a crucial Stormtide Leviathan on anywhere from turn 2 to turn 5.

    Ancestral Knowledge is something I really considered for the deck but I never knew where to fit it in.

    • Mike
      August 4, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

      I love seeing Serum Powder in a decklist, because it shows how deadly serious a person is about the mischief he plans on getting into (it’s a core feature of my brother’s Channel/Fireball deck, for example).

      The sac-lands are really good in your deck because of the much lower density of scry effects. Since cards you know you don’t want will end up close to the top, shuffling up will help you put them somewhere else. My deck wouldn’t want them as much, because after purposefully putting the cards I don’t want on the bottom, there’s no sense in moving them around and taking the risk I’ll see them again. However, because you have the sac-lands, it’s easier for you to seed a single Forest for when you need to cast the Sky Swallower in an emergency.

      The issue of being open to an aggressive deck in the early turns was why I included Condescend. If I can afford leaving 2 mana open for a turn, I can really screw up my opponent and get to scry into my deck some more.

      It’s too bad you weren’t able to find one more on-theme card that can benefit from the Thrummingbird and Clockspinning, as that would be pretty hot. After searching through Gatherer, it looks like the only non-pointless card in that respect is Shrine of Piercing Vision, which could actually be interesting.

      Nice list!

  3. Andrew Babcock
    December 15, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I finally put mine together and got to play with it last night. WOW. I never realized why Chewie hated this deck so until I dropped a turn 4 Stormtide Leviathan and let a Trench Gorger exile 18 lands on my opponent’s end step.

    I put some hawt new tech in my deck: Gomazoa. Gomazoa seemed to be a good deterrant for my opponents and was a nice wall to let me do my scrying if I needed to. THe vest part about it is that it puts itself (a creature card) on the top of my library while also setting back someone with a scary attacker. I got rid of an enchanted Darkthicket Wolf and put the gomozoa on top of my library to get my Quest’s first counter in a game that did not start well. Win win!

    • Mike
      December 15, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Wow, I keep forgetting about the fancy new cards from the Commander decks. Trench Gorger is really fantastic here. I also think it’s absolutely great that you were able to hit upon Gomazoa as a way to protect yourself and keep the deck rolling at the same time. Nice job! I’m interested in seeing the full list, if you have it handy.

    • Mike
      December 22, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Looking at your deck on Tapped Out, I was reminded that Gomazoa shuffles the library after you activate him. He’s still cool, just not as useful as he initially seemed.

      • Andrew Babcock
        December 29, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

        OHHHHH MANNN, look at the jerkyface dumbhead who couldn’t bother to READ THE FREEKIN CARD thoroughly and then posted it up on the Mana Pool for all to laugh at. LOL

        Actually, this is pretty funny cuz my buddy who played against the deck pulled Gomazoa over to read and neither one of us caught it. I think it goes to show that you’re only as smart as your play-group.

        The eternal saga hath claimed another stupid person… and it is I. xD

  4. John A.
    August 11, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    This is really cool mike, I love quest for ula’s temple, but why aren’t you playing Simic Sky Swallower, and Lorthos, the Tidemaker?

    • August 12, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      No Sky Swallower because I don’t own any, and no Lorthos because I’m nowhere close to 8 mana by the time the game is over.

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