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Evolving Wolf Run Ramp

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It's Monday afternoon in Charlotte, NC, and I am about to fly home from the StarCityGames Invitational. Last night, a bunch of Magic players went out bowling until 2 a.m. Good discussions were had about Planeswalker Points, what the new Pro Player Club will be like, and why Ascension is a good game. The best part was when we were about to go back to the hotel and someone in our group insisted on walking Brian Kibler back to his hotel. Well, his hotel was nowhere near ours, so when we got there, we had no idea how to get back. We stumbled back to our hotel an hour later, but not before Zack Hall tried to jump over a bench, missed, and broke his phone into a million pieces.

Overall, the tournament was run very well and good times were had by all. It was a fun event, but I missed Day 2 by a match and didn't win anything. I played W/U/r Stoneblade in Legacy and went 3–1. I chose to play Wolf Run Ramp in Standard, but my 2–2 performance made me miss out on Day 2.

I've been playing Wolf Run in Standard ever since it won the World Championships in mid-November. At first, I played Jun’ya Iyanaga's list card for card, but then I started tweaking it to be better suited for the metagame. Here's the list that won Worlds:

This list was perfect for the World Championships because it crushes all of the aggro decks. The most popular decks at Worlds were G/W Tokens and mono-Red, and this Wolf Run list is excellent against both of those. The deck struggles against the various control decks in the format, and this deck doesn't have a good plan for the mirror. I expected more control decks at the SCG Invitational, and I knew that Wolf Run would also be popular since it just won Worlds, so I would need something to give me an edge those matchups.

The first thing that had to go was all of the Shock effects. Five is just way too many. They are bad against control and the mirror, and with five, you will just draw too many at the wrong times.

Next, we need to add cards to help our problem matchups. I started by adding some Garruks to the deck, because control decks usually have a hard time dealing with him.

Next, I chose to splash Black for Memoricide because it removed problem cards such as Titans and counterspells. I figured it was the perfect card against both control and the mirror.

Since I was splashing Black anyway, I added Olivia Voldaren to the main deck. She is great against the mirror because she steals the opponent’s threats, and she's fine against aggro as well. She is a bit mana-intensive, but if you are able to untap with her, you should be able to either remove or steal any creature on the board.

I also ran Doom Blade in the sideboard. It's a cheap way to remove Titans from the board, and Devil's Play is way too mana-intensive for that job.

Here's the list I played at the Invitational:

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

1 Birds of Paradise

4 Inferno Titan

4 Primeval Titan

4 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Thrun, The Last Troll

2 Olivia Voldaren

[/Creatures]

[Planeswalkers]

2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

[/Planeswalkers]

[Spells]

3 Galvanic Blast

2 Green Sun's Zenith

3 Slagstorm

4 Rampant Growth

4 Sphere of the Suns

[/Spells]

[Lands]

1 Swamp

4 Forest

4 Mountain

1 Dragonskull Summit

1 Woodland Cemetery

3 Kessig Wolf Run

4 Copperline Gorge

4 Inkmoth Nexus

4 Rootbound Crag

[/Lands]

[Sideboard]

1 Slagstorm

2 Doom Blade

3 Memoricide

2 Thrun, the Last Troll

2 Ancient Grudge

1 Acidic Slime

1 Karn Liberated

2 Sword of Feast and Famine

1 Tree of Redemption

[/Sideboard]

[/Cardlist]

Overall, the main deck was great. I never had problems getting the right mana, and Olivia was a great addition to the deck. I beat Illusions Round 1, then beat a mirror match, then lost two matches to the mirror. So, why did I go 2–2 with both my losses going to the mirror?

The answer to that question is Memoricide.

The problem with Memoricide is that the card has no impact on the board whatsoever. If you're lucky, you can get a card out of a player's hand, but usually that's not the case. Every time I cast Memoricide, I named the Titan that was worse for me at the time. And every time, the opponent had the other Titan in his hand. I learned a very important lesson from this tournament: Don't play cards that are coin flips and require you to be lucky in order for them to be good.

Although I got very unlucky with my Memoricides, the real reason I lost was that my opponents were able to play their Titans before I was able to play mine. Although I was able to ramp very quickly, cards like Acidic Slime and Beast Within on my lands made it so my opponents always had more mana than I did.

Going forward, I am going to cut the Black splash from the deck. Although the Doom Blades and Olivia were very good, those cards are just not necessary for what the deck is trying to do.

Here's the version of Wolf Run I'd play in the future:

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

1 Acidic Slime

1 Birds of Paradise

4 Inferno Titan

4 Primeval Titan

4 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Thrun, The Last Troll

[/Creatures]

[Planeswalkers]

2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

[/Planeswalkers]

[Spells]

3 Galvanic Blast

1 Devil's Play

2 Green Sun's Zenith

3 Slagstorm

4 Rampant Growth

4 Sphere of the Suns

[/Spells]

[Lands]

5 Forest

6 Mountain

3 Kessig Wolf Run

4 Copperline Gorge

4 Inkmoth Nexus

4 Rootbound Crag

[/Lands]

[Sideboard]

1 Slagstorm

2 Thrun, the Last Troll

2 Ancient Grudge

2 Acidic Slime

1 Karn Liberated

2 Sword of Feast and Famine

2 Tree of Redemption

2 Beast Within

1 Viridian Corrupter

[/Sideboard]

[/cardlist]

Sideboarding

Here's a quick rundown of the sideboard plans:

Control decks (U/B, W/U, Solar Flare, etc.):

−3 Slagstorm

−3 Galvanic Blast

−1 Devil's Play

+2 Thrun, the Last Troll

+2 Acidic Slime

+1 Karn Liberated

+2 Sword of Feast and Famine

In this matchup, you want to cut all of your burn and play as many threats as possible. Control decks have a hard time dealing with Thrun, and if you can connect with a Sword of Feast and Famine, your opponent will have a hard time recovering. Karn is really good because it starts with such a high loyalty. Usually when you cast Karn, the opponent’s board is empty, so it starts out with 10 loyalty. Once Karn gets that high, unless the control player has an Oblivion Ring, he probably can’t kill it. The Acidic Slimes come in because they can slow down opponents’ land development and even kill an Oblivion Ring.

Mono-Red:

−2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

−1 Birds of Paradise

+2 Tree of Redemption

+1 Slagstorm

This matchup is already very good. You want to cut the slow cards like Garruk, and the Birds of Paradise dies to everything mono-Red has, so it’s not worth leaving it in to tutor for. Tree of Redemption is great against a mono-Red player—his plan is to drop you to a low enough life total to burn you out, and the Tree prevents him from doing that. Obviously, the fourth Slagstorm is great, as all of mono-Red’s creatures are small.

G/W Tokens or W/U Humans:

−2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

−1 Thrun, the Last Troll

+1 Slagstorm

+2 Acidic Slime

These two decks get lumped together because they basically do the same thing: Play a bunch of guys, then disrupt the opponent with either counterspells, planeswalkers, or Oblivion Rings. The slow cards are taken out for the mass removal and the Acidic Slimes. The Slimes are more important against the W/U Human deck because a Geist of Saint Traft with an Angelic Destiny on it is something that Wolf Run can’t beat. The Beast Withins may be better than Acidic Slime against G/W Tokens if the player runs a lot of planeswalkers. If you see Gideon Jura against either deck, you should probably side in the Beast Withins.

Illusions:

−2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

−1 Acidic Slime

+1 Slagstorm

+2 Beast Within

This matchup plays out much like the G/W Token or W/U Human deck, but the Acidic Slimes are not as good. It’s okay to leave one Slime in to tutor for if you need to kill a Moorland Haunt, but the Beast Withins are better because they kill Illusions without giving your opponent a 3/3 Beast.

Tempered Steel:

−2 Garruk, Primal Hunter

−1 Devil's Play

−1 Thrun, the Last Troll

+2 Ancient Grudge

+1 Slagstorm

+1 Viridian Corrupter

This matchup can go either way, and it’s very important to mulligan aggressively to insure your opening hand has either multiple Galvanic Blasts or a Slagstorm. The card that is the most problematic is Glint Hawk Idol because it can’t be killed by Slagstorm. If the opponent resolves a Tempered Steel and has multiple Glint Hawk Idols in play, you will probably lose, so it’s important to save removal for the Idol when possible.

Mirror:

−3 Galvanic Blast

−3 Slagstorm

−1 Thrun, the Last Troll

+2 Acidic Slime

+2 Beast Within

+1 Karn Liberated

+2 Sword of Feast and Famine

As I’ve said earlier, it’s important to keep your mirror-match opponent from playing his sixth mana source. You should also be aggressively mulliganing into hands with either at least two ramp spells and a threat or a ramp spell, a land destruction spell, and a threat. It is very likely that the player who plays the first Titan will win the game.

 


That’s the rundown of all of the matchups that you are likely to see at any given tournament. That said, I do think that Wolf Run is still a good metagame choice because the deck just crushes beatdown decks, and its other matchups are very winnable. Sometimes, you will just play a turn-four Titan, and your opponent will have no answer.

I hope this article has inspired you to try out Wolf Run Ramp at your next tournament. Good luck, and I hope you play a lot of Titans on turn four!

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