Green just got hit with the banhammer in Standard, which is fine as it was easily the best color to be playing. It’s been hit a few times in Commander too—cards like Primeval Titan and Sylvan Primordial have been sent on permanent vacations since the inception of the format. And yet, the color green is still incredibly well represented in the format. Let’s take a look at some stats I pulled from EDHREC:
Color Identities of Top 100 Cards, Last 2 Years
39 of them have green in their identity! That’s unreal! Of those, we have the following non-artifact ramp cards:
That’s a shocking 15 cards in the top 100 that serve to ramp your mana to some degree and are legitimately green. I suppose Coiling Oracle is a bit debatable as ramp, but it might put another land on the battlefield for you, so it counts. In a format (and here I’m not talking cEDH, but social games of Commander) where consistency is limited by the singleton restriction and aggression is limited by the facts of multiplayer Magic, generating a resource advantage—in this case, mana—is really important.
The level of redundancy that green provides in creating this resource advantage is also very important. Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach are almost the exact same card. Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic are the same card, and there are plenty of other 1-mana acceleration creatures. Rampant Growth, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Farseek are all very similar to one another as well, as are Skyshroud Claim and Explosive Vegetation. Long story short, if you want to build a green deck that ramps, there’s a pretty simple template to follow.
What if, though, you wanted to ramp hard but not play green? Or, asked another way, how do non-green decks best match up their ramp attempts against those of green decks? Well, honestly, it’s going to be tough, as the non-green ramp cards don’t really pack the same punch or have the same level of efficiency as the green ones. Regardless, let’s see what the best ways to ramp outside of green are and, in the end, whether or not we can build something we can legitimately call a non-green ramp deck.
I’ll be focusing on ramp that actually provides a somewhat permanent increase to your mana either every turn or over time rather than rituals or one-time Treasure generators, so if I leave off your favorite card that provides a single burst of mana, well, now you know why!
There are plenty of artifacts that make mana. The biggest problem with relying on those is that, unlike lands, they get destroyed pretty frequently. There are enough sweepers that clear away all artifacts that relying on Signets and the like as your sole source of ramp isn’t going to be quite as effective. That’s where the nowadays-underappreciated Darksteel Ingot comes in. It’s indestructible, which means it’s going to be tough to get rid of, and it makes any color.
I like to call these two “ramplifiers.” If you’re already getting ahead on mana, they amplify your mana advantage. Unfortunately, that puts a big target on them, so get as much value out of them as you can while they’re still on board.
Finally, cards that rival the green ramp spells! Well, in terms of effect anyway. What Burnished Hart does for 6 mana, green gets to do for 4, so efficiency is a little bit compromised. That said, you can bring these back from the graveyard and reuse them quite easily, so don’t be too crestfallen about the rate you get. Sword of the Animist‘s rate is actually one of the best—you’ll get a land every turn, so as long as you have profitable attacks or tokens you can throw away, it’s fantastic.
Doubling the mana you have available to you allows you to catch up to some of the dedicated ramp decks—just remember they have access to these cards too! Extraplanar Lens creates an interesting subgame of “who’s willing to fill their decks with snow lands” which I personally hate because it means you don’t get to play your favorite basic land art, but if that’s where you and your playgroup are at, do your thing.
In the early game, exchanging some life for a mana advantage is a pretty attractive proposition in Commander. Obviously it gets worse as time goes on, as the life becomes more relevant and the additional single point of mana declines in value.
As long as you’re a mono-color deck with a lot of permanents, you can get a lot of value out of this card, which also happens to be a newly minted Pioneer staple. Cards like Deserted Temple will give you even more power out of this engine.
These are fairly unpopular, but they do exist, so I thought I’d mention them.
If you want to use old, somewhat outmoded cards to create a Rampant Growth every turn, you can do that. It will cost you approximately a thousand mana, but you can do it. Obviously there are other cards that duplicate these effects, but these are the colorless examples.
The best of the best. Smothering Tithe either ramps you or saps your opponents’ resources, and either way, you’re generating a consistent mana advantage. It’s annoying how good this is, as it means you really have to fight with yourself to cut it from white decks.
White has effects like Land Tax that seek to even the odds on land drops, but these go one step further and put the land on the battlefield. Boreas Charger, a card I’ve literally never seen on the battlefield in anything but games with the precon that includes it (and even then I don’t remember it), catches you all the way up to someone who has done tons of ramping when it dies as long as you have sufficient Plains in your deck.
Eminently blinkable and Poddable, Kor Cartographer still costs 4 mana.
Your enchantment deck probably plays green too, so… moving on.
If you can generate a lot of blue creature tokens, you can make lots of mana, albeit with an “artifacts-only” restriction. That said, of course you want to make artifacts if you’re playing this card.
More artifacts-only mana, but this time in colors of your choosing.
This turns all your artifacts into Mox Sapphires, except it’s Urza that has the ability. Another sort of obnoxiously powerful card, except that since not all blue decks are artifact decks, you don’t get the same type of fatigue that Smothering Tithe provides.
How is this ramp? Well, it untaps your other artifacts, and if they produce mana, you’ve done it! I tend not to run this because the search effect flies in the face of what I enjoy about Commander, but if you’re a fan of those effects, this is an obvious inclusion.
Swamps matter to a lot of the black ramp cards. I mentioned Deserted Temple earlier, and I’ll mention it again now, though the Magus will need other effects to untap it. Cabal Stronghold wants basic Swamps, so don’t go thinking your Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth will make it run as smoothly with your nonbasics as the Coffers do.
I used to play this card in a Standard deck which I’m quite sure was terrible. Nonetheless it’s a bit better in a format where you can quite easily fill your graveyard with all kinds of nonsense to your own benefit via cards ranging from Stitcher’s Supplier and Buried Alive to brute-force mill cards like Traumatize and Mirror-Mad Phantasm.
Did I mention Swamps matter? These amplify the Swamp-getting you’ve done previously, so they increase the value of cards like Burnished Hart. They’re also basically Flagbearers—if someone is going to destroy a creature, it’ll be your copy of one of these.
Designed in the bad old days of mana burn, Black Market is much more powerful in the modern era with that natural limiter turned off. Grave Pact effects and other cards of mass destruction tend to play well with this one, so whether you’re just playing haymakers or building up to a big Exsanguinate, Black Market can make your first main phase very exciting.
It’s ramp only so long as you keep playing Swamps, and even then, only for so long. Let’s say you play this on turn three and sacrifice a tapped swamp to its trigger and then its second activated ability. You’ll be generating 6 mana instead of 3 that turn—a huge gain! But then you hit turn four, play a Swamp, tap it, and sac it to this—5 mana instead of 4. And you keep doing that forever—making 5 mana—even on turn 11. Obviously you won’t be sacrificing a Swamp to this every turn (unless you assemble one of my favorite janky combos: Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth + Lake of the Dead + Herald of Leshrac) but the point remains: this is ramp, temporarily.
If you’ve got Thrulls from Endrek Sahr, Snakes from Ophiomancer, or similar reliable token generation, you can use this to gain some advantage each turn. You could also just use Ashnod’s Altar or Phyrexian Altar, but you do you. Just don’t fall into the trap a friend of mine did years and years ago and get excited about using this to pay the upkeep on Breeding Pit. It’s not worth it.
Another equalizer. Treasure Nabber and its very Goblinesque flavor text make the early game Sol Ring wars… well, still bad, because this costs 3 mana, but it does let you take your opponents’ mana rocks, use them to make mana, and then, ideally, crunch them up in your Krark-Clan Ironworks or similar instead of returning them.
Forget Channel—this is where it’s at. It makes red mana, after all. Sure, the rate’s terrible, but you can just gain all that back by firing off a Comet Storm with Soulfire Grand Master in play. (I often think it’s the Commander player’s superpower to make any card good in the right circumstance. It’s just that those circumstances only occur on the white board.)
Koth is more explosive and can ramp you the turn he shows up, whereas Chandra is, weirdly, a bit more reserved but gets to add mana by ticking up. I suppose Koth does add mana by ticking up as well, as he untaps a Mountain, but two is more than one. I like Chandra better, as she gives you more cards when you have mana and more mana when you have cards.
When I was young I always wondered why Gauntlets of Chaos were so much worse than the single Gauntlet of Might. After all, there were two Gauntlets of Chaos and just one Gauntlet of Might! I usually wondered this while playing Gauntlet for the NES while wearing my Power Glove. Okay, that’s a lie. I had Gauntlet for the Genesis and no Power Glove, and I still don’t own a copy of Gauntlet of Might.
Oh, content about this card? Is that what we do in articles? I already talked about Gauntlet of Power, didn’t I? That’s where this gauntlet’s dark legacy really lives on.
Seen most often alongside Sliver Queen, Krenko, Mob Boss, and notifications from my smart watch about my elevated heart rate, Mana Echoes is probably responsible for some amount of fun somewhere. I just haven’t seen it.
Multicolor Non-Green Ramp
Tolarian Academy banned? No problem. Get some Treasure tokens the turn you play this, and since you’re probably already an artifact deck, transform it on the same turn. You just don’t get to grab this with Expedition Map or Crop Rotation like you would with the Academy, and it costs 4 mana.
Okay, so based on what we’ve seen so far, we’re not going to be out-ramping green decks any time soon. So how do we build a legitimate ramp deck without green and still retain our nomenclature-related integrity? Well, I think the answer is artifacts. Not just the mana-generating ones, though: I’m talking about a deck helmed by Saheeli, the Gifted.
If you’re in need of artifacts, she can make some, and if you’ve got a critical mass, she effectively makes mana. So, we’ll need to put some X-spells in our deck to discount, create some tokens, and use the lessons we’ve learned in this article to builds something that really qualifies. At this point, I think you know ramp well enough to judge: have I built a ramp deck? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @RagingLevine, and I’ll see you again soon!
Commander: Saheeli, the Gifted
8 Island 4 Mountain 1 Academy Ruins 1 Ancient Tomb 1 Cascade Bluffs 1 Command Tower 1 Darksteel Citadel 1 Fabled Passage 1 Fiery Islet 1 Forge of Heroes 1 Ghost Quarter 1 Great Furnace 1 Inventors' Fair 1 Izzet Boilerworks 1 Karn's Bastion 1 Reliquary Tower 1 Sanctum of Eternity 1 Scalding Tarn 1 Scavenger Grounds 1 Seat of the Synod 1 Spirebluff Canal 1 Steam Vents 1 Strip Mine 1 Sulfur Falls 1 Temple of Epiphany 1 Blightsteel Colossus 1 Darksteel Juggernaut 1 Dockside Extortionist 1 Duplicant 1 Emry, Lurker of the Loch 1 Etherium Sculptor 1 Foundry Inspector 1 Goblin Welder 1 Hangarback Walker 1 Inkwell Leviathan 1 Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain 1 Loyal Apprentice 1 Myr Battlesphere 1 Padeem, Consul of Innovation 1 Sai, Master Thopterist 1 Sharding Sphinx 1 Shimmer Dragon - Brawl Deck Exclusive 1 Solemn Simulacrum 1 Soul of New Phyrexia 1 Steel Hellkite 1 Stonecoil Serpent 1 Thopter Engineer 1 Treasure Nabber 1 Urza, Lord High Artificer 1 Walking Ballista 1 Wurmcoil Engine 1 All Is Dust 1 Arcane Signet - Brawl Deck Exclusive 1 Blasphemous Act 1 Blinkmoth Urn 1 Blue Sun's Zenith 1 Comet Storm 1 Daretti, Scrap Savant 1 Darksteel Forge 1 Darksteel Ingot 1 Dreamstone Hedron 1 Everflowing Chalice 1 Expansion//Explosion 1 Gilded Lotus 1 Hedron Archive 1 Izzet Signet 1 Mass Manipulation 1 Mind Stone 1 Mirrorworks 1 Oblivion Stone 1 One with the Machine 1 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer 1 Saheeli's Artistry 1 Saheeli's Directive 1 Sol Ring 1 Spine of Ish Sah 1 Storm the Vault/Vault of Catlacan 1 Talisman of Creativity 1 Tezzeret, Artifice Master 1 Thirst for Knowledge 1 Thopter Spy Network 1 Thought Vessel 1 Thran Dynamo 1 Tormod's Crypt 1 Ugin, the Ineffable 1 Unwinding Clock 1 Vandalblast 1 Wayfarer's Bauble 1 Worn Powerstone