Ally and I battled it out once again in a head-to-head of two popular decks in Standard right now: Bant Ramp vs. Jund Sacrifice. I took Bant.

Why Play Bant Ramp?

Everywhere you look, Bant Ramp is putting up fantastic numbers. This past weekend it was 17.71% of the weekend, per Yoman5's metagame breakdown. It was three of the Top 8 in the Star City Games Championship Qualifier, is repeatedly qualifying people for their weekend events, and is a ton of what you run into on the ladder these days.

The deck can also be built in an incredible number of ways. It already struggled to fit "just" 80 cards when it was playing Yorion, Sky Nomad as its companion. Now it has to play just 60, and on top of that it picked up several new cards from the M21: Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse, Scavenging Ooze, Teferi, Master of Time and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. These are all staples, and the deck doesn't even have enough space for Cultivate as it's currently built. Old staples like Narset, Parter of Veils barely even show up in the sideboard because there just isn't enough room for all the incredible cards Bant has access to. 

Thoroughly understanding Bant and the cards it can play doesn't just pay dividends now, it's going to keep proving beneficial week after week as a way to adjust to the shifts in the metagame and cards people are playing. Even beyond this current set, it'll be useful for as long as Simic cards continue to be dominant in Standard—and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath isn't rotating for another 15 months.

The List

Magic: The Gathering TCG Deck - Bant Ramp by Nick Prince

'Bant Ramp' - constructed deck list and prices for the Magic: The Gathering Trading Card Game from TCGplayer Infinite!

Created By: Nick Prince

Event:

Rank:

Standard

Market Price: $421.75

Cards

Plains

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/242996_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {W}.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/242996/magic-adventures-in-the-forgotten-realms-plains-263

Scavenging Ooze

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.59

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215695_200w.jpg

{G}: Exile target card from a graveyard. If it was a creature card, put a +1/+1 counter on Scavenging Ooze and you gain 1 life.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/215695/magic-core-set-2021-scavenging-ooze

Devout Decree

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.03

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192525_200w.jpg

Exile target creature or planeswalker that's black or red. Scry 1. (Look at the top card of your library. You may put that card on the bottom of your library.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/192525/magic-core-set-2020-devout-decree

Island

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.05

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/235543_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {U}.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/235543/magic-strixhaven-school-of-mages-island-369

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

Color Identity:G,U

Market Price: $11.96

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/206836_200w.jpg

When Uro enters the battlefield, sacrifice it unless it escaped.
Whenever Uro enters the battlefield or attacks, you gain 3 life and draw a card, then you may put a land card from your hand onto the battlefield.
Escape—{G}{G}{U}{U}, Exile five other cards from your graveyard. (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its escape cost.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/206836/magic-theros-beyond-death-uro-titan-of-natures-wrath

Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $4.59

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/188415_200w.jpg

Whenever you tap a Forest for mana, add an additional {G}.
+1: Put three +1/+1 counters on up to one target noncreature land you control. Untap it. It becomes a 0/0 Elemental creature with vigilance and haste that's still a land.
−8: You get an emblem with "Lands you control have indestructible." Search your library for any number of Forest cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/188415/magic-war-of-the-spark-nissa-who-shakes-the-world

Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.31

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215534_200w.jpg

Whenever you draw your second card each turn, create a 2/2 green Cat creature token.
{4}{G}{G}: Until end of turn, creatures you control have base power and toughness X/X, where X is the number of cards in your hand.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/215534/magic-core-set-2021-jolrael-mwonvuli-recluse

Temple Garden

Color Identity:G,W

Market Price: $9.07

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/175203_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {G} or {W}.)
As Temple Garden enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/175203/magic-guilds-of-ravnica-temple-garden

Teferi, Time Raveler

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $20.44

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/187194_200w.jpg

Each opponent can cast spells only any time they could cast a sorcery.
+1: Until your next turn, you may cast sorcery spells as though they had flash.
−3: Return up to one target artifact, creature, or enchantment to its owner's hand. Draw a card.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/187194/magic-war-of-the-spark-teferi-time-raveler

Hallowed Fountain

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $7.91

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182831_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {W} or {U}.)
As Hallowed Fountain enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/182831/magic-ravnica-allegiance-hallowed-fountain

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Market Price: $22.47

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215338_200w.jpg

+2: Ugin, the Spirit Dragon deals 3 damage to any target.
−X: Exile each permanent with mana value X or less that's one or more colors.
−10: You gain 7 life, draw seven cards, then put up to seven permanent cards from your hand onto the battlefield.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/215338/magic-core-set-2021-ugin-the-spirit-dragon

Elspeth Conquers Death

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.28

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/207052_200w.jpg

(As this Saga enters and after your draw step, add a lore counter. Sacrifice after III.)
I — Exile target permanent an opponent controls with mana value 3 or greater.
II — Noncreature spells your opponents cast cost {2} more to cast until your next turn.
III — Return target creature or planeswalker card from your graveyard to the battlefield. Put a +1/+1 counter or a loyalty counter on it.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/207052/magic-theros-beyond-death-elspeth-conquers-death

Hydroid Krasis

Color Identity:G,U

Market Price: $9.23

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182840_200w.jpg

When you cast this spell, you gain half X life and draw half X cards. Round down each time.
Flying, trample
Hydroid Krasis enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/182840/magic-ravnica-allegiance-hydroid-krasis

Aether Gust

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.25

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/192535_200w.jpg

Choose target spell or permanent that's red or green. Its owner puts it on the top or bottom of their library.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/192535/magic-core-set-2020-aether-gust

Heliod's Intervention

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $2.29

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/207075_200w.jpg

Choose one —
• Destroy X target artifacts and/or enchantments.
• Target player gains twice X life.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/207075/magic-theros-beyond-death-heliods-intervention

Forest

Color Identity:G

Market Price: $0.04

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/196478_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {G}.)

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/196478/magic-commander-2019-forest-300

Growth Spiral

Color Identity:G,U

Market Price: $0.37

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/227368_200w.jpg

Draw a card. You may put a land card from your hand onto the battlefield.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/227368/magic-commander-legends-growth-spiral

Shark Typhoon

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $10.97

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/212133_200w.jpg

Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, create an X/X blue Shark creature token with flying, where X is that spell's mana value.
Cycling {X}{1}{U} ({X}{1}{U}, Discard this card: Draw a card.)
When you cycle Shark Typhoon, create an X/X blue Shark creature token with flying.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/212133/magic-ikoria-lair-of-behemoths-shark-typhoon

Shatter the Sky

Color Identity:W

Market Price: $0.27

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/207069_200w.jpg

Each player who controls a creature with power 4 or greater draws a card. Then destroy all creatures.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/207069/magic-theros-beyond-death-shatter-the-sky

Breeding Pool

Color Identity:G,U

Market Price: $20.91

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/182842_200w.jpg

({T}: Add {G} or {U}.)
As Breeding Pool enters the battlefield, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, it enters the battlefield tapped.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/182842/magic-ravnica-allegiance-breeding-pool

Narset, Parter of Veils

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $1.26

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/188705_200w.jpg

Each opponent can't draw more than one card each turn.
−2: Look at the top four cards of your library. You may reveal a noncreature, nonland card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/188705/magic-war-of-the-spark-narset-parter-of-veils

Dovin's Veto

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $1.92

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/187186_200w.jpg

This spell can't be countered.
Counter target noncreature spell.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/187186/magic-war-of-the-spark-dovins-veto

Fabled Passage

Market Price: $4.58

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215556_200w.jpg

{T}, Sacrifice Fabled Passage: Search your library for a basic land card, put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle. Then if you control four or more lands, untap that land.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/215556/magic-core-set-2021-fabled-passage

Mystical Dispute

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $0.89

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/198683_200w.jpg

This spell costs {2} less to cast if it targets a blue spell.
Counter target spell unless its controller pays {3}.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/198683/magic-throne-of-eldraine-mystical-dispute

Teferi, Master of Time

Color Identity:U

Market Price: $8.87

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/215349_200w.jpg

You may activate loyalty abilities of Teferi, Master of Time on any player's turn any time you could cast an instant.
+1: Draw a card, then discard a card.
−3: Target creature you don't control phases out. (Treat it and anything attached to it as though they don't exist until its controller's next turn.)
−10: Take two extra turns after this one.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/215349/magic-core-set-2021-teferi-master-of-time

Temple of Enlightenment

Color Identity:U,W

Market Price: $0.22

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/254239_200w.jpg

Temple of Enlightenment enters the battlefield tapped.
When Temple of Enlightenment enters the battlefield, scry 1.
{T}: Add {W} or {U}.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/254239/magic-commander-innistrad-crimson-vow-temple-of-enlightenment

Temple of Plenty

Color Identity:G,W

Market Price: $0.49

ImageURL: https://tcgplayer-cdn.tcgplayer.com/product/248642_200w.jpg

Temple of Plenty enters the battlefield tapped.
When Temple of Plenty enters the battlefield, scry 1.
{T}: Add {G} or {W}.

Buy This Card! https://www.tcgplayer.com/product/248642/magic-commander-innistrad-midnight-hunt-temple-of-plenty

For reference, this is the list I have spent the most time testing. I consider it as close to stock as it gets. It's mostly an updated version of the deck that my name-twin Nick Price took to the finals of two different tournaments this weekend, from none other than the man himself. There are only sizable differences from what every other Bant list is doing. First, we cut the Triomes, which made keeping land-light hands a little awkward, for a Temple of Epiphany and a Temple of Plenty (also upping the sources of white mana, for when that's relevant) Second, we cut a Castle Vantress for a basic Forest, because the only time I ever noticed it was anything other than a basic land was when it entered play tapped at a key time.

How to Sideboard vs. Jund Sacrifice

Scavenging Ooze to mitigate the Cauldron Familiar combo, Dovin's Veto for Bolas's Citadel and Heliod's Intervention for most of Jund's deck are all fairly obvious. Devout Decree was the surprise, because it so rarely did anything that felt worthwhile that I stopped boarding them in on the play. I'd rather draw an extra card and set them back a bit of tempo with Teferi, Time Raveler than have a Devout Decree sit stranded in hand. While Witch's Oven can make it awkward, there are enough targets that don't tend to get sacrificed (Mayhem Devil, Woe Strider, the Oven itself) that it's an acceptable risk. 

Key Cards

Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse is everything Bant can want in the early game. She protects Bant's planeswalkers from chip damage, attacks decently well in the middle turns, and threatens to end the game instantly with a few other attackers unless the opponent blocks. On the other hand, even if she gets stolen with Claim the Firstborn, she doesn't do a whole lot for Jund in this matchup because it's tough for them to actually draw cards or pay to activate her ability. 

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is of course a hammer for most every occasion, but here cleaning up Trail of Crumbs and creatures like Woe Strider and Mayhem Devil is a dream come true. Just because he can -X for value does not always mean he should, however, because most of their creatures are susceptible to Ugin's +2 ability as well. The trouble in post-board games is that there's only one of him, and he can frequently be discarded if the game looks like it'll be going long.

Teferi, Master of Time quickly became one of my favorite cards in the matchup. While all of Bant's cards are good, it often needs to find very specific ones to answer problems. Digging two cards a turn does exactly that. He can also function as anti-Mayhem Devil or Woe Strider technology on key cards, making them cease to exist on Bolas's Citadel turns where scrying or the extra damage could mean the end of the game. Despite him lasting for many, many turns, I have never even had the option to ultimate him, nor did I really want it. Feel free to use the -3 when it's impressive, or to remove a blocker leading up to a Citadel turn to push more damage.

And of course, Nissa, Who Shakes the World is still here. She's high on the list of cards I can't wait to rotate, but in this deck she's everything you ever could want. Basically every board state is improved by putting Nissa into play, and she plays both offense and defense amazingly. Don't forget that activating Jolrael for any non-zero amount will boost the Nissa land's stats.

Keep or Mull?

More than anything, every Bant hand should have some sort of a plan. Typically, that means building to one of the above key cards (except Ugin the Spirit Dragon, who almost always counts as a mulliganed card when evaluating a hand). Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse into anything that cantrips is a plan. Growth Spiral into Teferi, Master of Time or Nissa, Who Shakes the World is a plan. How these hands play out will be a bit different from each other, or even just game-to-game with similar hands based on what gets drawn, but fundamentally they all give the deck options.

Be very wary of do-nothing hands. Three lands, two Teferi, Time Raveler, a Shark Typhoon and a Dovin's Veto doesn't accomplish anything—it just, maybe, draws a couple cards and hopes that things get better. It's better to visit London than it is to try and hope this works. Bant has many powerful cards to start with, so don't be afraid to mulligan to them.

The exception to the "do-nothing" rule is hands that are functionally all lands, Growth Spiral and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. The difference here is that a hand without a plan will eventually find a plan and have the lands to enact it, where hands that are all reactive or tempo are counting on drawing lands, ramp and payoffs. That the hands are fairly resilient to discard is also a plus against Jund in sideboard games, where they're planning on bringing in lots of discard to beat Bant's expensive haymakers.

Gameplay

One of the questions that's frequently useful when evaluating a game is, "Who's the Beatdown?" As odd as this sounds for a blue deck playing countermagic, large ramp payoffs and multiple planeswalkers that can't end the game quickly, I think that Bant is actually the aggro deck. 

Frankly, unless they have a draw that plays an early Woe Strider or Mayhem Devil and Bant doesn't have any sort of early blockers, Bant's life total isn't under much pressure. The planeswalkers might be, as there are many ways to get in chip damage, and you will slowly lose to Cauldron Familiar without Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. But unlike against Rakdos Sacrifice, most combinations of Jund's cards just draw more cards off Food tokens and don't end the game.

On the other hand, there is so little that Bant can do about a resolved Bolas's Citadel. Sure, there's Elspeth Conquers Death and Teferi, Time Raveler, but none of those help without untapping. Post-board, there's two Dovin's Veto, one Heliod's Intervention and, if you want them, two Mystical Dispute. With so many reactive cards, though, hands can fall prey to Duress and Agonizing Remorse. The only proactive way to stop Bolas's Citadel from being a near-guaranteed win is putting their life total low enough that they can't play many cards. 

The good news is, other than Gilded Goose, Jund doesn't tend to have much in the way of ramp. Sometimes they have Llanowar Visionary or Solemn Simulacrum, and both of those can speed things up, but Bant is the more focused mana deck. The first few turns should be dedicated to putting as much into play as possible as quickly as possible, especially Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse to get early pressure in and deal damage. The lower their life total, the fewer cards they can play off of Bolas's Citadel (hopefully).

The corollary to the game being all about Bolas's Citadel is that there are cards that make it much better: Trail of Crumbs and Woe Strider. There aren't great ways to interact with Trail of Crumbs, but bouncing it with Teferi, Time Raveler usually means they won't have time to cast it, cast Citadel, and pay for the Trail of Crumbs trigger. Woe Strider on the other hand can be bounced, Devout Decreed, Elspeth Conquers Deathed, or phased out by Teferi, Master of Time in response to Bolas's Citadel being cast. Aggressively trading with Cat tokens or lands can also get a Woe Strider off the board if need be.

All of this has led me to see some play/draw disparity in these games. On the draw, it's harder to pressure their life total through Cauldron Familiar and Woe Strider than on the play. Because of that, I prefer to have a couple Devout Decree to try and catch an early Woe Strider or Mayhem Devil and clear it off the board instead. On the play, though, Teferi, Time Raveler functions both as a tempo play and a way to draw a card and make a Cat token with Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse, which has typically been more important.

All in all, the matchup feels like Bant is probably ahead, but only by a bit. A big part of this is that game one, Jund has so many dead cards like Priest of Forgotten Gods (which rarely does anything), and Bant's bad cards are much more functional than a Squire. Post-board, however, all the discard really can hurt. Multiple games against Ally came down to a key card getting taken, or simply being down one too many cards to make Jolrael's activated ability deal enough damage to prevent Bolas's Citadel from being lethal. 

If you want to improve the matchup, I could see playing more Dovin's Veto or Heliod's Intervention. While there is some element of discard still being effective, the more cards that actually destroy a Bolas's Citadel, the more likely it is that one is in hand when the Citadel enters play. Their entire deck is sorcery speed, so against any sort of Naturalize effect they'll only get one look at the top of their library before it gets destroyed. Heliod's Intervention might be too specific, but Wilt hasn't gone anywhere, and actually works well with the rest of the deck.

If you want to learn about this matchup from the Jund perspective, be sure to check out Ally's article