A Bad Case Of The Ramps
Lately on MtGO Commander has degenerated into a race for who can ramp highest, fastest, in order to slam down the game winning card/combo first.
In order to compete you will likely want to pack enough ramp of your own. The difficulty is often choosing what ramp is right for you. Let’s take a look at some options and where they might be played.
Before I begin, I should note I cover here both Ramp and Fixing. I consider Ramp to be anything that provides more mana than you would usually have by playing a single land each turn, while fixing is not necessarily have more mana, but having the right mana necessary to cast your spells.
I’ll also add right now I play about 36 land cards in my EDH decks, plus between 5-10 spells that either ramp or fix, depending on the deck. I have no idea if that’s correct, but it’s working for me.
Green gets the best of both ramping and fixing, but not all ramp and fixing is equal. Here are some of the best:
* Oracle of Mul Daya: Splashable in any Commander deck due it’s high-velocity ramp abilities, it has some other key benefits. Firstly, it allows you to retain cards in hand while burning through land-pockets in your library. This significantly improves draws over the long term. Secondly, combined with shuffling effects and hand manipulation effects such as Jace the Mindsculptor or Sensei’s Divining Top it allows you to shuffle away cards you don’t necessarily want to have sitting either in your hand or on top of your library. And thirdly it is an Elf, a very relevant creature type in Commander, and is tutorable with Elvish Harbinger or Skyshroud Poacher.
* Azusa, Lost provides a similar benefit to the Oracle, but is unfortunately not and Elf and can’t provide the same type of card advantage by abusing the top of your deck. However, her status as a Legendary Creature makes her an ideal General in ramp decks.
* Omnath, Locus of Mana: A Rofellos substitute, his low casting cost means he can get out fast and start hoarding mana quickly. However his lack of Shroud, and the fact he only stores Green mana, relegates him to mono-green decks that can play to use him as a beat-down option, not just for mana ramp.
* Sakura Tribe Elder / Yavimaya Elder: While not Elves, these two both provide a body (great for carrying game changing equipment) and a sac ability that negates Control-Magic style effects for benefit. Yavimaya Elder is particularly powerful as the 3-for-1 effect is unparalled, however the double green cost makes him slightly less splashable. See also Viridian Emissary, who has the benefit of being an Elf, but without the sac ability benefit.
* Farhaven Elf / Hermione Granger / Borderland Ranger / Sylvan Ranger : Farhaven Elf stands well above the others as it’s ETB ability sends the land straight onto the battlefield, which Hermione does but with the additional Echo cost. Both Borderland and Sylvan send the card to hand, meaning they should be treated more like mana-fixing rather than mana-ramping.
* Primeval Titan / Centaur Rootcaster: Titan is head-and-shoulders better than Rootcaster, but usually it’s the guy you want to ramp into, not the one you want to do the ramping for you. With any sort of evasion Rootcaster is a beating that doesn’t turn the entire table instantly against you, unlike the Titan.
* Krosan Tusker: Essentially allows you to draw a land and a random card for an uncounterable 2G, which is pretty good by any standard. Only grabs basic lands though.
Green Non-Creature Spells
* Burgeoning / Exploration: The T1 green ramp drop of choice, both can easily lead to having four lands in play on T2. Burgeoning allows for some very strange interactions while Exploration is more a harder-to-kill Azusa. Both, however, are excellent.
* Cultivate / Kodama’s Reach: For most purposes the same card, like cycling Krosan Tusker they provide both ramp and card advantage, but unlike Tusker they always grab two lands and can be countered.
* Realms Uncharted: I really, really like this card. The ability to go grab Strip Mine, Wasteland, Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge and give your opponent a terrible choice can really screw over some decks, especially if you’re running Crucible of Worlds, which almost certainly are if you’re running Strip Mine, Wasteland, Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge.
* Explosive Vegetation / Journey of Discovery / Far Wanderings: Each great in their own way; Explosive Vegetation is a mana more expensive than Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach, but the lands go directly into play. Journey of Discover is great for it’s flexibility both early and late game, and flexibility is pretty powerful in Commander. Far Wanderings is much more narrow, but the cost is well worth it in any deck that abuses the graveyard (such as Commander Dredge). I probably wouldn’t play it in any archtype not planning on keeping a full graveyard.
* Mwonvuli Acid-Moss / Reap and Sow: Essentially provide you with ramp while taking care of a troublesome land on the other side of the battlefield. They won’t make you many friends, but they are pretty damn good regardless. I’d probably play Acid-Moss over Reap and Sow as there will almost always be something you want to kill on the table.
* Shard Convergence: Only really useful in decks with 5-colour Generals, it is the ultimate mana fixer, allowing you do grab five dual-lands of any specification. If you’re playing Slivers or Five Colour Control it’s a must-have. If you’re playing three or less colours, give it a miss. At four colours it’s ok, because you can still grab five lands by intelligently choosing which half of various dual lands to get.
* Heartbeat of Spring / Venereal Bloom / Mirari’s Wake / Mana Reflection: The mana-ramp enchantments differ in cost depending on whether the effect is symmetrical or one sided. Clearly the extra white mana for Mirari’s Wake is worth it if you can play it, otherwise Mana Reflection is usually the way to go. Heartbeat of Springs sees a lot of play in Group Hug decks due to the crazy game states it encourages.
* Into the North: Gets Dark Depths. ‘Nuff said.
White doesn’t get a lot of ramp, per se, but it has a heck of a lot of mana fixing for a colour that isn’t green. Here are some of the best.
* Land Tax: Basically a recurring Ancestral Recall on for Basic Lands, It’s best in mono-White decks. I’ve tried it in non-mono-white decks but it never works out how you want it due to the low number of basics you run, and Land Tax only grabs basic lands. However if you’re playing mono-white it’s an auto-include.
* Weathered Wayfarer: This guy is, simply put, amazing, as he can grab any land. Maze of Ith. Strip Mine. Temple of the False God. Whatever. He’s the best mana-fixing White has to offer. He’s pretty vulnerable however, so don’t expect him to last more than a few turns.
* Gift of Estates / Tithe: A fantastic card for multiplayer and perfect for floating 6 mana, casting, then following up with Armageddon. The fact it allows you to grab the original duals is icing on the cake and makes it easily splashable in non-mono decks.
* Safewright Quest: Allows you to grab dual-land cards for 1 mana. An okay card in Green that’s great in White.
* Oath of Lieges: A much trickier card than it looks, I’d be happier running it in a Group Hug deck or alongside a deck running mana advantage through Artifacts, thereby preventing my opponents from gaining from its benefits. The fact it only tutors for basics makes it a little disappointing.
* Eternal Dragon: An excellent mana-fixing card that just happens to have a 5/5 recurring flying dragon upside. A must for any mono-white deck as it’s relevant both early and late game.
* Knight of the White Orchid / Kor Cartographer: The only two white dudes with ETB effects that get a land into play, neither are that great in the long run. White Weenie has never been a powerhouse in Commander, but you never know.
* Endless Horizons: It’s an option. Probably a terrible one if your opponent is playing a great deal of enchantment removal, but equally fine if your opponent is mono-black and will have a hard time dealing with it. I’ve not seen it being played, but the side-bonus of never drawing into a land again when you don’t want to is just waiting to be abused.
* Absorb Vis: It’s not great, but might win a corner-case game by itself every so often. However it can grab what you need when you need it, so it’s not terrible in a mono-black deck.
* Demonic Tutor / Imperial Seal / Grim Tutor / Vampiric Tutor: Yes, they can all go fetch a land. People forget that but it just happens to be true. Moreover, they can go fetch Cabal Coffers, which almost any mono-black deck wants to do.
* Twisted Abomination / Jhessian Zombies / Igneous Pouncer: Twister Abomination is in a different league to the other Swampcyclers, as it comes with a regenerating body you might actually want to play. Both Abomonination and Jhessian are zombies, however, so they could play well together in some sort of U/B Zombie theme deck.
Red is a great deal better at destroying lands than playing them. That said, there are a couple of cards to consider.
* Fiery Fall: It doesn’t burn face, which is something Red likes to do, but it can remove most 5-mana-or-less creatures. Hey, you take what you can get.
* Chartooth Cougar / Igneous Pouncer / Valley Rannet: The Mountaincycling creatures. Not much better than Fiery Fall, really, and only Chartooth Cougar is playable in a mono-red deck.
* Exploding Borders (R/G): Note the green mana – you’re not playing this in a mono-red deck. However in some sort of Wort the Raid Mother deck it can provide some killer turns by abusing Conspire.
* Warp World: Like Primeval Titan you usually want to be ramping to this card, not using it to ramp. However in the right deck it can provide considerable mana advantage, especially combined with cards such as Ulasht, the Hate Seed.
Blue is in pretty short supply of mana-ramping spells, and generally relies on artifacts to get the job done. There’s really only one spell that matters:
* High Tide: If you’re playing this you’re probably combo-ing out anyway. Otherwise you’re getting a one-off mana doubling effect that might just get you out of a jam by drawing twice as many cards from that Mind Spring or hitting that Time Stretch just at the right time to get you out of a jam.
* Trinket Mage: Allows you to go grab the artifact lands from Mirrodin. I’ve used him to fix my colours many times and although you feel bad not grabbing Sol Ring or Divining Top, sometimes you just want to turn on your Black Tutors or your General. As you’re already running Trinket Mage in every Blue deck anyway, why not run a couple of Artifact Lands as well?
There are many colourless options that allow the non-green colours to compete on-par with Green (and are the reason why Green should pack a metric tonne of Artifact removal). Here are the best.
* Sol Ring: Allows you to hit four mana on Turn 2 with zero problems. The best non-green ramp spell available, and almost certainly the best mana-ramp spell available to green as well. An auto-include in any Commander deck.
* Mana Crypt / Mana Vault / Grim Monolith: Very popular on MtGO right now, a combination of any of these allow for some very broken T2 plays (Sundering Titan, anyone?). With Voltaic Key or Power Artifact the downsides are rarely downsides, and can actually be turned into infinite mana combinations (eg. Power Artifact + Grim Monolith).
* Extraplanar Lens: Best in mono-colour decks and often abused in Mono-Blue or Black, who want it most, it runs best if backed by Snow Lands as your opponents can’t get a symetrical effect. Generally better than Gauntlet of Power which only works for Basic Lands, it’s only downside is the need to Imprint it, which can you leave open to a sudden Sinkhole or Krosan Grip if played too early.
* Felwar Stone / Ravnica Signets: Having the advantage of both providing fixing and ramp, these are an auto-include in most decks. 1v1 I’d go with the Signets over the Stone as they’re always on-colour despite the activation cost, but in Multiplayer the Felwar Stone is almost certainly the stronger card.
* Darksteel Ingot: At three mana it may seem expensive (especially compared to Sol Ring and Mana Crypt/Vault), it has the advantage of both providing colored mana and surviving wrath effects. I don’t usually run it, but there are many that do.
Colourless Land Fixing
* Expedition Map / Armiliary Sphere / Horizon Spellbomb / Wanderer’s Twig / Wayfarer’s Bauble: There’s a wide range of land fetching effects here. Expedition Map allows you to grab any land in your deck, which makes it the most powerful effect available. Armiliary sphere provdes minor card advantage, as does Horizon Spellbomb in Green, although most other ramp spells in Green are better. Wayfarer’s Bauble is preferable over Wanderer’s Twig as the land comes directly into play.
* Journeyer’s Kite: For winning long, drawn-out attrition wars, there are few better cards for thinning your deck and ensuring Ramp Happens. It can fit in any deck and loves decks that are ramping anyway, as it can be resource hungry. In multiplayer it’s not a frightening as Mind’s Eye, or scary as Oracle of Mul Daya, but it is a powerful workhorse that’s not to be underestimated. I’m not sure I’d play it in 1v1 Commander, however.
* Pilgrim’s Eye: It’s an ETB effect on a 1/1 flyer, which means it’s more than likely to be abusable in the right deck.
* Thawing Glaciers: A multi-player card only, it makes you think you’re ramping when you’re really fixing and ensuring you hit that land drop each turn. The more basic lands you play the better it gets, but due to it’s relative slowness it’s more a multiplayer card than a 1v1 card.
* Terrain Generator: A ramp card that requires some thinking about how to support it before you throw it in your deck. The “from your hand” clause means it’s not as good with Crucible of Worlds as you’d like to think, and the “basic land card” clause means your expensive duals get a frowny face as you have nothing to slip into play. However you can still tap it for mana, which is a bonus, and never goes astray in a Memnarch deck.
* Temple of the False Gods: The 5-land clause is not much of a hinderance as it counts itself towards that threshold, and hitting six mana first is a big deal in Commander as most of the most broken effect occur once you get to six. I’d play it in just about any Commander deck.
* Ancient Tomb: An excellent card in 1v1, it loses some shine in Multiplayer as the life-loss effects do add up. But if you can play Ancient Tomb, Mana Crypt, Sol Ring T1 in 1v1 then you’ve probably won the game. Or asking to get blown out of the water through colour screw. But that’s the format.
* Cabal Coffers: Fantastic in any mono-black deck, it also combos with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, which is allowable in any colour deck on MtGO Commander, so you can run it in your mono-white deck for laughs.
* Gaea’s Cradle: Another card abusable in an Elf or Ulash deck, it’s perfect to ensure you hit that Genesis Wave mana. Just remember to tap it before you sac those Eldrazi tokens.