Tuesday, 19 March 2019
Rampage of the Clans .dec
Rampage of the Clans jumped out at me on recent spoilers as a very easily abused combo card. Not since Paradoxical Outcome have I seen a combo card with such potential in eternal formats. They even both have some scary things they can do in modern. Outcome has proven to be an abusive card in multiple places and so I do have some reasonable expectations for Rampage, both in and out of the cube. After my first go at a cube list for the card I am even more confidant of this outcome. My list was unrefined and utterly brutal. It could win quickly and out of nowhere. It was surprisingly hard to interact with and despite minimal interactive spells itself it seems to be able to handle most situations effectively. Being a first build and having many new toys to play with I made a number of obvious misbuilds such as ramming in a Wilderness Reclamation! Below is the list I ran with a couple of changes remedying the glaring mistakes. I expect it can still be further refined and will discuss that after;
Elixir of Immortality
Fountain of Renewal
Search for Azcanta
Sai, Master Thopterist
Oath of Jace
Rampage of the Clans
Seat of the Synod
The game plan is pretty straight forward. Make a lot of artifacts and enchantments, cast a big EoT Rampage and swing with a sufficiently lethal army of 3/3 dorks. While relying on 3/3 tokens as a win condition feels a little thin it turns out to be pretty reliable. Being instant speed they dodge a lot of the mass removal. Being so decently sized and numerous they punch through creature based defenses with ease. And coming on the back of a mass Naturalize means that any sort of cheesy defensive crap like Moat, Ensnaring Bridge and the like get blown up before you attack. Giving away a couple of 3/3s is no big deal at all. You have many more! Against aggressive decks you will tend to make a combat phase Rampage rather than an EoT one so as to mess up their board with lots of blocks. If they play around the rampage in this regard you will often have to win over two attacks but that is fine, they rarely have swingback potential after you send double figures worth of 3/3s at their face.
The deck is highly streamlined with the vast bulk made up of fuel for the Rampage. The best of these are the cheap ones that are useful or cantrip. The cantrip on entering play is preferable, with on death being preferable to the ones requiring you sacrifice them. Artifacts are a little better than enchantments for synergy as they can be recast more explosively, provide metalcraft and empower Sai. As such only the premium enchantments earned a slot. It was lovely being able to play both from a build perspective and made it feel like a whole new build experience despite significant overlap with other artifact combo decks. I suspect you could really push one type synergy and broadly forgo the other. This is certainly a heavy lean in the artifact direction but you could easily go further that way. The full lean towards enchantments would likely look a lot more like an Enchantress deck and would be slower than artifact heavier builds but rather safer.
Of the support cards the mana stuff was nice and the main area that enchantments outclass the artifacts. This is of course only because the most bonkers artifacts all need banning to allow other decks to get a look in. If you play this deck in a vintage setting with a full complement of Mox, Sol Ring, blue power and all that jazz then thins combo deck, as with most Paradoxical Outcome archetypes, gets very silly indeed. Certainly Rampage of the Clans is a much more dangerous card in a powered cube setting. The card draw enchantments also tend to outclass the artifact offerings. Being able to effectively dig, draw and ramp while also setting yourself up is a huge win and pretty hard to pass up on. Other cards in this group of draw, dig and ramp on cards of the right type include Mind Stone, Sylvan Library, Courser of Kruphix, Sensei's Divining Top, Shrine of Piercing Vision, Oath of Nissa, Exploration, Everflowing Challice and Treasure Map. Many of these I strongly considered or wanted to play but didn't quite have the other support.
After the support cards that ramp, dig and draw we just have those that are suitably themed. This is just the mildly useful cheap stuff. A lot helps fix out mana and lets us play lots of Forests for Utopia Sprawl and Cryptic in the same deck. A couple put things in our bin back into our deck which is a big deal given how much we rely on Rampage to win games. Some of the support options simply put multiple artifacts into play thus empowering the Rampage. Some are defensive like Propaganda and Spellbomb. There are a wide range of cards you can cram into these slots depending on what you want to sure up, what issues you don't want to face and for those you expect to face. You have specific disruption in Pithing Needle, lifegain in Zuran Orb, some general but risky removal in Engineered Explosives, general defense with Gleaming Barrier and Servo Schematic as well as more X+1 in 1 cheap cards. Even Spellbook has some merits! There are also just some more two drop artifacts and enchantments that draw cards when they come into play if you want to pad out that side of the deck.
There are not many non-land, non-artifact/enchantment (producing) cards in the deck and they all serve a pretty clear role. Rampage is the win condition and Mystical Tutor finds it or the Cryptic Command which is your generic answer card, Fog and Counterspell. Paradoxical Outcome is the only other I ran and it is just too much raw power to not run! It doesn't assist the combo in any real manner and it generally slows the deck down a bit when used but it is such a vast one sided card draw spell that it feels like a must. You get to double dip on all your EtB card draw effects as well as getting some mild protection against removal. Outcome doesn't generate mana in this deck and we don't care about storm although it will sometimes help out Sai, our final card in this group. Although not a Naturalize target himself he does produce artifact tokens. As such Sai doubles up the value of artifacts going into a Rampage and facilitates going off with less resources. The sac outlet is relevant allowing you to dig into action and trigger things like Ichor Wellspring. Sai offers impressive defensive board control and he is your backup win condition should your Rampage get exiled away. As with most artifact decks in cube, Sai is basically your best card. The golden pig of the deck to quote The Commander's Quarters! Sai is so good I considered Efficient Construction but in contrast to Sai the Construction does not live up to its name.
Other non-artifcat/enchantment cards I considered running are all the usual suspects. Preordain and other cheap card quality to setup the combo. Arcane Denial to protect and force it through. Thoughtcast to cheaply refill on gas and other cards in these groups that do that sort of thing. A bit more disruption certainly wouldn't go amiss in this list. The other direction I nearly went in was a creature based one which would have had a more midrange feel about it. Mostly it was wanting to play Oath of Nissa that was pushing me in that direction! Midrange combo decks are not the greatest matchup in most cases although probably a lot more fun to play against. The sorts of card I would have added in would include Glint Nest Crane, Courser of Kruphix, Hangarback Walker, Tireless Tracker, Shardless Agent, and Springleaf Drum. All quite good cards with decent on theme elements. Broadly they would slow you down but increase your safety against aggressive decks with their defense and give you a bit more game against control due to a broader range of potential win conditions.
There are plenty of cuts you can make to this list with so many just being filler. You are not going to miss that Prophetic Prism or Abundant Growth much. Both are nice and pretty decent in the deck but they are not essential. I would need a lot more testing to know roughly how much you hurt the deck or help it at all the different ratios of support cards added or taken away. There will be an optimal number and it is probably lower than what I palyed but not by much. Obviously in goldfishing the optimal number is basically as many as you can with zero interactive or protective cards but that is not what we are making our deck for! If you are not expecting aggression the Propaganda can become a cheaper card with positive returns. Fountain of Renewal is very minor in what it does for this list and is an easy cut. Oath of Jace is a bit pricey and might just be better as things like Serum Visions. Spreading Sea is fairly low key as well. I feel like these enchants are getting a bad appraisal due to my deck leaning on the artifact side of things. They were all good, it just feels like they could have been better.
It would seem as if there are many directions to take this deck, the creature heavy build I just mentioned. The enchantment heavy and the artifact heavy of which the latter is most like this build. I also think you can combine this plan into a Sram / Puresteel equipment based deck. Even just splashing for the Rampage sounds pretty strong. That deck is already a very powerful aggro/combo deck so adding in yet another powerful on theme way to win sounds great. Below is a link to a minibreakdown of that archetype;
I look forward to seeing what other people come up with in other formats for Rampage uses. I suspect I will find a few more in cube beyond those considered in this essay. As I might have mentioned, this deck and the namesake of it seems very powerful!
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