Oath of the Gatewatch Standard looks pretty similar to the way Battle for Zendikar Standard looked. Rally the Ancestors is a great deck, Atarka Red is out there, and many are battling it out with 3- and 4-color midrange decks. But the one archetype that has undergone major changes—for the better—is green ramp. Ramp is a huge presence on Magic Online, it will be a huge presence at GP Houston, and it’s the deck to beat this weekend.
First, a note on continuity: I’ve been using the term “Eldrazi Green” up to this point, including in my pre-Oath of the Gatewatch Deck to Beat article. Today, I’m using the more general term “Ramp” because there are a number of ways that big-mana green decks can be built right now. It’s also valuable to draw a firm distinction between the old Eldrazi Green decks—which were giant, unwieldy monsters—and today’s Ramp decks, which are sleeker, more efficient, more consistent, and harder to beat.
Here’s one of the builds you should be prepared to face:
GR Eldrazi Ramp
JohnnyHotSauce, 7th place in a Standard MOCS
Magic Online terror Andrew “JohnnyHotSauce” Shrout is a champion of the RG version of Ramp. It utilizes Chandra Flamecaller, Dragonlord Atarka, and Kozilek’s Return to keep the board clean until its bigger creatures are ready to dominate the game. As you’ll notice, it’s more focused on the 6-8 mana window than it is on ramping directly to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. This is a well balanced way to build the ramp deck, with a fighting chance of beating even the fastest opponents, and a lower failure rate because of the less ambitious mana requirements.
You should be prepared to face a wide variety of Ramp decks, and this is only one of them. Some will be mono-green, others will have varying splash colors. Some will be bigger, packing a generous handful of 10-drop creatures, while others will be smaller, focusing more on midgame threats. Many will utilize “colorless only” cards like Thought-Knot Seer, and I’ve even seen Reality Smasher find a home in some more aggressive builds.
What To Do
- Make them discard. Duress, Despise, and Transgress the Mind are among the best cards against Ramp. The major weakness of the strategy is that they need to draw the proper ratio of mana and action, and they’re much easier to beat when they fail to do so. Use discard spells to punch a hole in their draw, and nudge them just a little bit in the direction of one of those nonfunctional hands.
- Clock them. More specifically, find a way to clock them in a way that they can’t easily defend against. They’re prepared to beat Hordeling Outburst—they’re not prepared to beat Become Immense plus Temur Battle Rage. Other good examples include Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury, and threats that are resilient to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon’s and Chandra, Flamecaller’s minus abilities.
- Mulligan Aggressively. Ramp is weak in the early turns, and strong in the middle and late turns. You need to build an advantage early, and press it in the midgame. If you allow them to reach turns 4 and 5 on equal footing, you’re going to have a very hard time.
What Not To Do
- Don’t try to predict what your opponent may have in their deck. Throughout this whole article, I’ve tried to emphasize that Ramp decks can be built in a variety of different ways. Moreover, since there’s no “stock” deck list for players to copy, they’re going to make decisions based on their own taste. Logic like, “Ramp only plays one Ulamog, so if I counter this one, I’ll be in good shape!” is going to lead to disappointment. Try to use context clues to figure out exactly what style of deck your opponent might be playing. Better yet, just kill them before it matters!
- Be Bold! Yes, it’s a terrible feeling to have your board wiped by Ugin or Chandra. But how often will holding back one or two creatures allow you to turn a loss into a win? Most decks simply can’t beat a resolved Ugin. Period. Even if they could, you’d be trying to rebuild a decimated army exactly as the Ramp deck was hitting its stride. Use your judgment with regard to overextending into Ugin and Chandra, but be realistic. If you’re not sure what to do, err on the side of being aggressive because it’s your best hope of winning.
The Eldrazi are on the rise, and people are excited to be playing with them. Don’t show up to a Standard tournament this weekend without a plan for beating Ramp. Time will tell exactly what these decks should look like, and where their home is in the metagame. Until then, don’t be a victim of Ramp madness—be prepared to fight back!