Thursday 13 August 2015
Green based ramp decks are one of the most common archetypes in cube play. They are easy to draft with lots of redundancy in picks. They offer lots of power and fun while being one of the simpler decks to play. There are lots of crossover with ramp decks and elves decks and while I have featured elf decks and even mono green control sillyness I don't think I have ever done an example of a down the middle top tier ramp deck. Elf decks have some tribal synergies and focus almost all of their mana ramp in elf form. The more control you are along the spectrum the more you trade in creature ramp cards for ones that put lands into play so as to be more resiliant to Wrath effects. Ramp is somewhere in the middle allowing you to play the best of both worlds in ramp effects. It is trying to win through overwhelming power rather than pure speed or any sort of control. You can go very quickly indeed but only when not disrupted.
The worst thing about ramp decks is the lack of control you have over things. If you do not kill people with your initial onslaught of ramped power then you are in for a long game with pretty awful top deck odds. Getting the ratio's right is the hardest thing about the deck, too much top end and you won't cast it and will be mulliganing all the time. Too much ramp and you won't have the threats to take advantage of the mana boost nor will you cope well against too much removal. While the big fat haymakers are lots of fun they are the threats you can afford least of. You are better off having a spread of things that are useful in your deck in other ways while also being decent threats. This list I have here is exactly that, it is quite light at the very top however it has a lot of dangerous cards throughout the deck that will allow you to win fairly comfortably even if you never see/resolve anything costing six or more.
Sakura Tribe Elder
Courser of Kruphix
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Oracle of Mul Daya
Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury
Chancellor of the Tangle
Kessig Wolf Run
Temple of Abandon
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
I think this list is actually a little off by being very slightly too ramp heavy. That is certainly the better side to err on but still, I might cut one of Elvish Mystic, Nature's Lore, Tribe Elder or Roffellos. You will notice this deck only has six forests and so the legendary two drop elf is not the powerhouse he normally is. The trade off for this is that you get all sorts of useful and juicy red lands that give you huge game against control decks. An elf deck needs to play dodge the Wrath and race control decks while this ramp deck can just play sensibly and be fine in the long game. Man lands and Wolf Run are a lot more dangerous a lot more quickly in this deck than in most others because you have so much mana to dump into them. As a side note, Inkmoth Nexus is another luxury land you can run and steal games with but I prefer to be more consistent and forgo the poison. I am not sure what I would add to this list once I had cut the cheap ramp spell. Thragtusk is a good mid level value thing to flop out and gives you a lot more game against the red decks but it is very clunky. Natural Order is another strong contender, it gives you some utility and a lot more burst but is risky against blue mages and the card disadvantage isn't something you want to encourage. Removal options in the form of Ugin or Karn are nice too as they give you a lot more game against irksome creatures and some planeswalkers. Sadly they take up valuable top end slots and are not the sort of thing you can just swap in for a ramp card. Both Hornet Queen and Avenger of Zendikar offer incredible board presence and a solid threat. They are common in these lists but have been cut from this one in favour of more 4 and 5 drop cards.
Dragonlord Atarka is the only red card in the deck and one of only four ways in the deck in which you spend your red mana as red mana. You don't need Atarka but it is very good and it isn't making your deck any less consistent while offering flying and removal and lots of value for mana. Sure, you could play a Hornet Queen, go wild and try and Worldspine Wurm people or even play it a bit safe and opt for a colourless bomb like Wurmcoil, Ugin or Karn. You want four six mana plus threats and Titan and Craterhoof are lock ins. Chancellor doubles up giving some early boost and is a surprisingly good body but is more cuttable than Atarka.
Nissa is mostly just a cheap, powerful, and annoying threat but is semi useful as another ramping card. Freyalise is more utility than threat although she can win the game on her own given enough time. I like to cram in a lot of walkers to this kind of deck because they do so much for you. All of them cover you against mass removal this reducing one of your biggest weaknesses. All of them also generate value over time which and card advantage is another weakness of the deck so they cover you there too. Then they are usually threats so can allow you to be more streamlined and they do there own unique things too! I try and avoid overlapping the types of walkers, five mana Garruk is amazing and I will occasionally play both but it is really painful when you get both as this deck is not one full of options.
Between the top end game winners and the cheap ramp spells there are a selection of value cards. Courser, Yavimaya Elder, Den Protector, and Sylvan Library. These fulfil a similar sort of role to the planeswalkers at a point on the mana curve where you don't have options on good planewalkers to do those sort of things. Broadly these cards offer card advantage or quality combined with a bit of board presence. This helps with your ramp lands as well as giving you much better combat dorks than the mana producers should you need them. They are your equivalent cards to Remand, Brainstorm and Fire / Ice that you find in control decks.
The real power of the deck is in the lands. They do all sorts for you, card quality and advantage, ramping, threats and so forth. You can go far deeper than this list does. You can play things to tutor up lands other than Titan and run Grove of the Burnwillows engine or trade in another forest for the annoying Pendlehaven. You have lots and lots of options but I think this list demonstrates the most powerful ones on offer without damaging the consistency too much. Wastelands and Rishaden Port are not really needed, you out mana people pretty hard all ready and cannot afford to have any more non-green lands. Wolf-Run is the reason to be red, Nykthos is a bit too powerful to turn down but is more cuttable. Flamekin Village is pushing it a little. Cradel and Gruul Turf are pretty awkward turn one as well! This list will give you hands that pretty much lose if you get your cheap ramp dork killed. This list doesn't mulligan brilliantly either. On the flip side this deck will also give you lots of hands that give you enough mana to have cast anything in your deck by turn three and just stomp all over people with powerful stuff.