New formats are exciting and this past weekend we got to see just how exciting they really are! I had been testing a ramp deck with my playtesting group and Chirayu Patel, Robert Wright, Joe Herrera, and I were jamming all the "stock" decks against this ramp deck. We played things like Abzan, Sphinx's Tutelage, Red Aggro, R/G Landfall, Esper Control, Aristocrats, Atarka Red, See the Unwritten, Jeskai Ascendancy, and Jeskai aggro. So I was ready for all those decks going into the tournament his weekend. Unfortunately, these decks weren't being played much at all.
Everybody had been brewing apparently. There were so many four-color decks and they were doing so many things. No two decks were the same, we even had a handful of Bring to Light decks that did very well. Gerry Thompson took that deck all the way to the Top 8. I really liked my deck, I loved casting Ulamog but my list was not optimal for the weekend. I only ran into a couple of aggressive nonblue decks, and those decks I handedly won. I struggled against the Dark Jeskai decks because Crackling Doom and Abzan Charm are pretty hard for me to beat and I didn't see them both getting played in the same deck.
I want to talk about my deck and my card choices for the weekend and then go into the ways the deck can change for the future. In this Standard format you can do anything, the mana is just so good. That's been proven by the Bring to Light decks that run no green mana fixing but instead just run a good manabase. Manabases are more important to get correct than the other contents of your deck, especially now. Without a good manabase, your deck won't do much of anything. Anyway, enough of that, let's get down to the deck I played!
What a beauty, right?! I thought so at least. I mean how can you hate on a five-color ramp deck playing Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger? That's right, you can't! The deck didn't start five colors; it actually started as Jund base colors and we went from there. It originally ran Rattleclaw Mystic but Radiant Flames proved to be better for the deck overall, especially since I believed the metagame would be saturated with aggro strategies. We then splashed white for Dragonlord Dromoka and to have a transformational sideboard where we go into playing a playset of Rhinos against the aggressive decks. After that we wanted to beat the mirror (never saw any ramp decks) and Dragonlord Silumgar seemed better than Sire of Stagnation, especially since Dragonlord Silumgar was also good against all the midrange decks. That's how the deck became all five colors. Haven of the Spirit Dragon also helped with all that by providing any color to help cast our dragons. Let's go into some of the card choices and some of the thought process behind them.Maindeck
Hangarback Walker: Hangarback Walker was the only possible two-drop in the deck and proved very useful against the aggro strategies. It was mediocre to pretty crappy everywhere else. Hangarback doesn't do too much against a Mantis Rider and outright just dies to Abzan Charm with no value. I didn't want to really run it but felt compelled to since it was the only two-drop and was good against the aggro decks.
Dragonlord Dromoka: This card is still underrated in my opinion. She's just so good against the aggro and control matchups. Against Abzan she is not the best but at least forces the opponent to Remove her during their turn. Against normal Jeskai she shined. Unfortunately the Jeskai decks I faced also played black and has access to Crackling Doom and Abzan Charm making her just okay.
Catacomb Sifter: This little Eldrazi is basically a Hordeling Outburst that can ramp you and allows you to scry when other creatures die. It's also good against aggro decks by at least giving you two blockers. The 2/3 body does a lot of work against aggressive strategies. Against other decks it can be a scry machine, especially with Hangarback Walker. This deck is much more about card quality instead of card quantity and the scrying ability is perfect for the deck.
Nissa's Pilgrimage: This card was alright, nothing amazing. You have to play a lot of Forests when you play this card and when you do it hurts your manabase. This time was no exception. It's also no Cultivate so it can't fix our lands. I'm looking at cutting this card honestly, it worked okay but I was very unimpressed with it.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer: The second best flipwalker. I wish I had run three of her and less or no Pilgrimage. She is basically a Borderland Ranger with some huge upside when she flips. Against aggro she just makes sure you don't miss land drops. If you can trade her with another non-Hangarback creature that is a two-for-one that I almost always take. This card was sweet and it still continues to please me.
Explosive Vegetation: Can't play anymore Hedron Archives unfortunately so we ran a couple Vegetations. They were pretty nice at times finding you missing colors and ramping you, but I was also not too excited about it. It does what it does but it's such an awful top deck. I'm looking to see if I can cut this card and pilgrimage to improve the mana base and possibly run removal, hand disruption, or Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. Jace is so absurd, and his price tag reflects that.
Hedron Archive: The best ramp spell. It's so awesome to be able to cast the Archive and then use the mana right after if we need to. Later in the game after we have enough mana sources we can just pop it to replace our "lands" with spells. It's kind of like Gush in that scenario. It's also not the worst top deck like Explosive Vegetation and Nissa's Pilgrimage can be. I think this card will see more play the more people realize how awesome it is. I can even see some control decks running one or two of these to help ramp then later pop for some cards. This card gets five stars from me.
From Beyond: Against control decks this card is just so amazing. It applies serious pressure overtime against the control decks and later in the game, when you have enough sources you can pop it to tutor for the big man himself, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and devour your opponent. On the other hand it's not that good against fast decks or decks with fliers like Mantis Rider. It does however work very well with Ugin, unlike Frontier Siege. Playing a singleton was fine but I could see cutting it or moving it to the board for the control decks.
Dragonlord Atarka: Unlike Dromoka, Atarka gets you instant value as soon as you cast it which can be very clutch at times, especially when he kills two more planeswalkers / creatures. One problem though is that he doesn't usually kill more than one thing against Abzan and that can be problematic. Especially if you've already taken damage from that Siege Rhino. I could replace this card but it would take a lot for me to do so. Its replacement would have to be something amazing.
Oblivion Sower: Sower was hit or miss, if this card had reach though it would be unstoppable. It's very good to cast after your opponent has delved a few lands away so you can really ramp and get things going. In other matches it holds the fort against everything but fliers and it's not great against aggro decks. I really like this card but I wouldn't play more than one in the future and wouldn't be sad playing zero. If ramp ever gets big or the metagame shifts I can definitely see this guy getting some serious play.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: Casting Ulamog is usually game over and if you untap with him it's just gravy. Sadly he's not that hard to Remove because everyone is running Abzan Charm or Crackling Doom. He's super sweet though and that's worth something!
Radiant Flames: This is the reason I ran no Rattleclaw Mystics. Radiant Flames is extremely good against all the aggressive strategies out there. It's also pretty good at clearing up Hangarback tokens. Sure do miss Anger of the Gods though.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: While not as good as he was prior to Battle for Zendikar, Ugin still does a lot of work. Many of the midrange decks can't beat him if you can get him to stick. The best board wipe we have access too.Sideboard
That's all the cards in the main; now let's go over some of the cards in the board.
Dragonlord Dromoka: Bring more in against aggro and control decks. She's also good against Jeskai. Those are all the decks I bring her in against.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: One of our best threats against Abzan decks. We always want to draw at least one so I like going up to three against Abzan style decks. It's also surprisingly good against the Bring to Light decks.
Utter End: Had this as a nice catch-all. Good against Sphinx's Tutelage, Abzan, and other midrange decks. Didn't want it maindeck because it's bad against Atarka Red and other aggressive decks of that style.
Dragonlord Ojutai: I thought this card would be good, but it's not here. This deck plays very defensively and Ojutai is best on offense. I wouldn't run this in my board in the future.
Crux of Fate: Ojutai should've just been the second Crux. It's nice to have access to at least two board wipes, should've played two of these. Anafenza was a pain in the rear and this is a decent way to deal with her.
Seismic Rupture: The "fifth" Pyroclasm against hyper aggressive decks. It also lets your Hangarback Walkers stay alive!
Siege Rhino: Allowed us to morph to more of an Abzan deck against aggro. It's also fine against the Jeskai decks, gaining us life and either killing them or killing that overpowered Jace.
Naturalize: I didn't know how good Jeskai Ascendancy would be or Sphinx's Tutelage so I wanted a couple ways to deal with those enchantments. It also happens to be good against Stasis Snare decks!
Mob Rule: This was my go to card for the mirror match. I think I was the only Ulamog deck there, however ramp wasn't anywhere on the map so I can see cutting this in favor of other cards.
Dragonlord Silumgar: Wanted this card for the mirror and other midrange decks. Proved to be good against Abzan but, again, didn't see other ramp decks so could shave one of these too.
Well that's all the cards, I would be giving you a new list but it would just be what I "think" is good. I'll work some more on the deck and get back to you guy and gals with a better and updated list. I want you to have the best ramp deck possible!
While I got Top 32 at the Open in Indianapolis, overall I'm not happy with my performance. I need to tighten up and play better. I also lost some very close matches over the day where my opponents would top deck a removal spell or a burn spell before succumbing to my overwhelming board state. Well I'm gonna be testing some new decks and I'll hopefully have something exciting for you next week. I have my eyes on Noyan Dar. Until then make sure to listen to my podcast with Frank, Freshly Brewed!
Thanks for tuning in.
Until next time,
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