After sitting and thinking about what would be a good topic that has not been touched on, I turned to RUG Ramp. Before RUG Ramp began doing well recently, Frost Titan was all but off the map. Fringe cards that are expensive become even more fringe and have less of a chance to shine, making this largely unexplored territory. Expensive things—that would be a good topic! I write all of this from a friend’s computer, as mine ate the dust earlier this week, on a day I wrecked my car. Expensive things… great concept…. (in good spirits, I promise).
Anyway, back to the magical cards. Frost Titan caught a lot of people off guard. It had been some time since ol’ Frosty saw any play, and people forgot about him. This is much easier to do with an expensive card, because fewer decks can run it. Reduced play quickly becomes extinct play. It got me thinking though—what other expensive cards are people sleeping on? Today I wanted to go over some of the top-end that might just be tech.
Yes—I know, I know. But, the reality is, this card is left out of lists when I think it is correct to have access to it somewhere. Thragtusk is certainly a better card pound-for-pound when it comes to 5-drops, but that doesn’t mean ol’ Slimey is without use. Obviously as a Green Sun’s Zenith target it is pretty good—providing much needed versatility out of your tutor—but this also makes for a fine sideboard card.
It is not as swift or powerful as Ancient Grudge or Ray of Revelation, so if you are trying to take out a specific threat, by all means use those tools. But, if you are limited in sideboard space, Acidic Slime provides an answer to just about everything, trading a cheaper cost for versatility. Acidic Slime is also a potent weapon in the mirror, taking out valuable spell-lands, which is something only Beast Within can do as well. Beast Within is also a fine option for what it’s worth, if you cannot bring yourself to love the Slime.
Chancellor of the Tangle
I know I have mentioned this one before, and I do not want to beat a dead Chancellor, so I will keep this brief. Basically, if a ramp deck were to emerge that really wanted three mana on turn 2, this guy should see serious consideration. Casting Rampant Growth or Sphere of the Suns on turn 1 is a pretty big advantage, as that leads to a Pristine Talisman on turn 2. This does not lead to the traditional Solemn Simulacrum into Titan curve, but it does lead to 5 mana on turn 3, which translates into [card jace, memory adept]Jace[/card] or Thragtusk when they are both at their best. Plus, the mana boost this provides does not come alone. Later on, you get to cast a reasonable 6/7 Beast, even if he does look bad standing next to a Praetor or a Titan. Fringe at best though.
Alright, I had to include a totally loopy one that has all of a 1% chance at being legitimate, just because I cannot help but stop and read the card every time I am in the department for ramp technology. Of course, being a 6-drop counterspell means this is essentially unplayable in the main deck. The liability against aggressive decks is just too high—but what are its uses against opposing ramp decks, or slow combo decks?
I am specifically thinking about traditional ramp decks, and decks looking to do obnoxious things like play Rune-Scarred Demon on the cheap. Often, if you tap out against these decks for a Titan, they can either kill the 6/6 or ignore it while they go on to win. They do not expect counter-play though. If they make the first move, casting their Grave Titan or Rune-Scarred Demon, you now get to retaliate at instant speed, all while dealing with their threat before it hits play. This one seems like a very specific type of card, but maybe someone out there is brave enough to give it a go.
Jace, Memory Adept
Jace might be the most underused ‘walker that is actually very good. The issue with Jace is that he is a bit too bad against aggressive decks. He does not impact the board, and the 5 mana you spent doing nothing will likely lead to the opponent winning the race against your mill plan. But, that doesn’t mean he’s without use. I think Jace makes for an excellent sideboard card in fact, especially for these ramp decks.
Against a control deck, Jace just ends the game so quickly at little risk. In ramp, he hits particularly hard due to the game plan of the opponent. They are looking to counter your big spells, but Mana Leak is much worse against a 5-drop than a 6-drop, (or even 7-drop in the case of [card karn liberated]Karn[/card]), and few people bring in Negate against ramp. Jace can completely catch a UB control player off guard and secure you a victory in a tough matchup.
I can still remember the way I felt when Patrick Chapin cast this against me in the finals of Grand Prix Orlando. He only had a single copy in his sideboard, which I knew going into the match, but I also knew I should not be playing around it most of the time. In game 1 it was a non-factor, and then in future games he was probably more likely not to have it than have it, which made playing around it a liability from my end. Every turn I would be play around the card it would just give Chapin additional time to actually find it. So when I finally mustered up lethal damage and committed it to the board, as he cast the Forbidden Alchemy into the spell that would save him, I was none the wiser. Of course, a turn later and I had fallen well behind. Had I not top decked a few lucky cards, we most certainly would have been moving to game 3, all because of Life’s Finale.
The card brings that to the table though. I only like seeing this in small numbers, usually no greater than 2, because although the card is powerful, it is not reliable. That said, if this is the second sweeper you play in a game, the effect can be backbreaking—especially against opposing ramp decks that are not the most threat dense, increasing the power of the Jester’s Cap attached to this. If you are running white, you definitely have better options than this, but consider it in your Jund or BUG Ramp sideboards.
All right, I’ll admit it, this one is completely speculative. I have never played a ramp deck with blue in it to be able to try out this card, nor have I seen it being used, but I have always had a fascination with the idea of this in Constructed. Once again we are talking only about a sideboard slot or two, as this is just going to be dead against aggro. But against slower midrange decks, maybe even ramp, the four-card swing this provides on turn 4 can just win you the game.
In general, Mindculling is going to be worse than a Titan. To justify its inclusion, you need to target specific matchups. For example, if you are in the ramp mirror on the draw, it is not unheard of to spend your turn on 5 mana countering or killing your opponent’s Titan. Mindculling makes for the perfect follow-up to this, as you will likely strip them of the rest of their hand while refilling yours. You may not be adding pressure to the board, but you buy yourself a ton of time and resources in the process. Something I want to try out to know how effective it is, but it seems interesting.
If only there were a Titan that killed everything else—Oh wait! I have viewed Phyrexian Rebirth in this light for a while, and I think the comparison is apt. You might not get repeated use of an ability with each attack, but killing three to six creatures and putting a threat into play is still pretty good. Again, this is supplemental to Day of Judgment and can honestly take the place of a Titan, so do not think of it as your only creature-defense.
When you view this as a Titan though, it takes up 1-2 slots in your main and maybe a slot in your side, and dramatically increases your chances against non-Vapor Snag decks, while still being fine against the popular Unsummon. While they do get to kill your creature for 1 mana, you essentially still played Wrath of God that also made them discard a card, which is reasonable. Taking down a slew of beefed up tokens though, ones that have gotten out of range of Inferno Titan, really increases the allure of this card. I was very close to including one of these in my Junk ramp deck, but Massacre Wurm edged it out in that metagame.
Sigarda, Host of Herons
Sigarda can be a tough sell to ramp players. It requires that the player be playing white, has no immediate impact on the game when cast, and is legendary. However, once you can get past the initial checklist of “is this creature good?” this brings a lot of intangibles to the table. Consider that in Naya, this is a flying Thrun, the Last Troll that cannot eat a Tribute to Hunger. Or that against Delver, this can hold off Restoration Angel with ease while scoffing at potential Vapor Snags. Sigarda is hardly unknown to ramp players, but I do think she is underrepresented.
Of all the cards on this list, from Counterlash to Mind Culling, I think I can predict how Silklash Spider plays in ramp the least, which is saying quite a lot. On the one hand, the package he comes with is not that much of a mystery. He has a big butt, costs 5 mana, and wrecks fliers, but I he plays out differently than expected.
If you were to just play this for 5 mana against decks where it is theoretically strong, they might just Vapor Snag it and set you back a lot. However, if you wait until later, you might be able to play this and immediately kill their team. That does cost a lot of mana however, making the staged application of cast, then activate on the following turn, much more realistic. In general, I think this makes for a solid 1-of in the sideboard of decks with Green Sun’s Zenith or Birthing Pod, but I have to play with it more to understand if it should be appearing elsewhere.
Ramp lives in a world that few other archetypes get to explore. You have a much broader array of choices due to the consistency with which you reach large mana totals. This makes considering your options for a ramp deck that much more open, and makes for much more thorough examinations of the entire card pool. Sure, you can get away with running the stock options, but where is the fun in that?
As ramp continues to roll forward during the last leg of the Titans, I expect newer and more unique lists to evolve as a result. Finding small edges in underplayed cards can add a lot of value to your list while catching most opponent’s off-guard. Obviously not every expensive card that I am intrigued by will have the same effect on you though, so do some of your own investigation and see if anything calls your name. As for me, I think once my computer gets here, Mindculling is going to get a lot of extra attention.