Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Why Ugin Is Monstrous in Standard MTG
Of all cards feared in standard format as of this writing, planeswalker Ugin probably takes the cake. His one downside is an enormous casting cost of eight mana, so he's expensive, but accepts any mana types, enters with seven loyalty, and wields a devastating -X that exiles all colored permanents of cost X or less!
This hits hard, getting rid of not just creatures, but colored artifacts, enchantments, and even other planeswalkers, and since they're exiled, they can't be recovered from the graveyard. With +2, Ugin can refill loyalty while hitting something for three damage, and his -10 is just the cherry on top, drawing several cards while giving life and free spells.
To get Ugin out quickly, players are ramping with cards like "Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath" or "Cultivate" (extra lands per turn) and "Nissa, Who Shakes the World" (forests provide double mana). So, how can your deck defend itself? Here are ten great ways to counter Ugin in MTG standard format!
10. Dirge Bat
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 4 (6 with mutate)
Black has some neat tricks for hassling planeswalkers ("Price of Betrayal" and "The Elderspell"), but these aren't great against planeswalker-lacking decks. Instead, consider Dirge Bat, who can destroy both creatures and planeswalkers
Like other mutate cards, you can cast Dirge as a regular creature. But if you instead mutate him onto a non-human (or mutate onto him), you get to destroy an opposing creature/planeswalker. And thanks to his flash trait, you can do this on your opponent's turn, although if you do it in response to Ugin's -X (you won't have priority beforehand), it'll still trigger after Bat destroys him. Still, trading against him is more than a good deal.
Bonus points if you have the Godzilla Battra style for Dirge.
9. Crystalline Giant
Ugin's -X only works on colored permanents, making artifact creatures like Crystalline Giant a great defense. Giant's a self-upgrading beatstick, randomly gaining one of these counters he doesn't have yet at the start of your combat: flying, first strike, deathtouch, hexproof, lifelink, menace, reach, trample, vigilance, and +1/+1.
Getting either hexproof or +1/+1 also makes Giant immune to Ugin's +2 (which deals three damage), and with enough time, he'll get the fearsome first strike + deathtouch combo.
8. The Ozolith
Ozolith is cheap, colorless, and not a creature, so none of Ugin's removals work on it. Whenever your creature leaves the battlefield, Ozolith gains its counters, and at the start of your combat, you can move the counters from Ozolith to another creature.
This helps quickly redistribute power from lost warriors, but the real kicker is that Ozolith gains the counters no matter how your creatures left the field. Death triggers it, but so does getting bounced or (especially relevant against Ugin) exiled.
7. Fae of Wishes/Granted
Fae here has lots of synergy, bearing both the faerie and wizard subtypes and working well in adventure-based decks. Speaking of which, it's her adventure component, Granted, that really works trounces Ugin, adding a non-creature card from your sideboard to your hand; grab a removal or counterspell to defeat him.
From there, you can cast Fae as a 1/4 with flying, a solid blocker to stave off aggro. She can also discard two cards and pay two mana to go back to your hand, ready to tutor another spell by recasting Granted.
6. Karn, the Great Creator
Karn's a great colorless planeswalker who bears an impressive five loyalty. His passive effect prevents foes from activating abilities of artifacts, and his colorless status makes him immune to Ugin's board wipe. +1 animates an artifact, making it an artifact creature with power and toughness equal to its CMC until your next turn, helping give warriors to swing at Ugin.
But -2 is the treat, tutoring an artifact from your sideboard. This could be Ozolith, Giant, or some of our upcoming anti-Ugin relics.
Note: Karn will cycle out of rotation before today's other cards, so enjoy him while he lasts.
5. Agonizing Remorse
Black's new staple hand-attacker, Agonizing Remorse lets you see an opponent's and exile any non-land from it. Sure, you lose a life, but the ability to get any non-creature into exile works wonders against Ugin and Uro. Glimpsing their hand also helps you predict their strategy and react accordingly.
4. Elspeth Conquers Death
This saga has color and could thus theoretically be hit by Ugin, but that's unlikely considering Death's first effect exiles any non-land of cost three or more, as great against Ugin/Uro as other high-cost threats. Plus, Death's second trigger makes opposing non-creatures cost two more mana until your next turn, which makes it harder to cast Ugin.
Finally, Death's last effect returns a creature or planeswalker from your graveyard into play with a bonus +1/+1 or loyalty counter, which demonstrates why it's so opponent not to leave graveyards unchecked.
3. Negate/Tale's End
One of the best ways to combat Ugin is trade a counterspell on him. Try Negate, which works on any non-creature, or Tale's End, which hits any legendary or activated/triggered ability. "Rewind" also does the trick, countering any spell for four while also letting you untap four lands.
A final option is "Disdainful Stroke", which counters anything of cost four or more. All four of these also work on Nissa, which can prevent foes from ramping into Ugin in the first place. Recommended for any blue deck, these are also some of today's cheapest cards, costing less than a single dollar!
CMC: 1 (2 to equip)
Shadowspear is cheap and colorless, easy to cast and safe from Ugin. Equip it to a creature for two to give them +1/+1, trample, and lifelink. That's some nice variety, and trample helps hit through blockers to reach Ugin.
Shadowspear also has extra synergy with popular standards cards like "Lurrus of the Dream Den" (who can recover it from your graveyard" and "Fervent Champion" (who can equip it for free).
1. Stonecoil Serpent
Serpent was already an amazing card, and he's only gotten better as an anti-Ugin countermeasure. You pay X mana, giving him X +1/+1 counters, meaning he'll adapt to fit your current mana supply. Additionally, he has both reach and trample, and since he's colorless, Ugin's board wipe won't him.
Serpent also has protection from multicolor, which limits the number of opposing blocker options. He works great in any deck, but is particularly lethal in mutate, proliferate, or artifact builds.
Competitive Standard Decks in Magic
Not every build utilizes Ugin, but a fair number do, so having checks against him will propel you to victory whether you're playing with physical cards or digitally on MTG Arena. Remember to include answers to other themes, like "Extinction Event" against aggro and graveyard hate against Lurrus. But for now, vote for your favorite Ugin-destroyer and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2020 Jeremy Gill