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Ramp in Standard

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Delver may be the top deck at the moment, but that doesn’t mean other decks can’t flourish. In particular, the second best deck is Ramp. However, all the current builds suck.

What makes this list significantly different from other lists? Primeval Titan is astoundingly mediocre against Delver. Many times, when you cast Primeval Titan against Delver—or even Humans or Naya variants—opponents can mostly ignore the Titan and kill you through it. Inferno Titan is the real deal here, since it will probably kill one or two creatures and then proceed to kill the opponent. Geistflame is an upgrade from Galvanic Blast with the number of Birds of Paradise floating around, but sometimes you would rather have Galvanic Blast to kill transformed Delvers. Dawntreader Elk might be better as Viridian Emissary, but I like having the option to be able to ramp twice reliably with Green Sun's Zenith (once for Birds of Paradise and again on 4 mana to cast Zenith for 2, leaving g up to use Dawntreader Elk).

Faithless Looting actually increases the consistency of the deck since you really want to do the same thing every game (cast two ramp spells, cast a sweeper, and cast a large idiot). Looting increases the chance you draw a hand like that.

Sideboarded, we have Devil's Play as a removal spell and Fireball to go over the top against control decks. Ancient Grudge comes in against most Delver lists, although if you suspect your opponent is boarding out his Equipment, you shouldn’t even board this in. Karn and Garruk are alternate angles of attack against control decks as well. Whipflare is the fifth Slagstorm against aggressive decks. Autumn's Veil comes in against Delver, U/b, and U/w/b control. Having access to four Thrun, the Last Troll in your seventy-five is a big game. Combust deals with Hero of Bladehold and Delver of Secrets/Insectile Aberration alike. Batterskull is a life-gain creature that can’t be Phantasmal Imaged for value, and it goes very well on a Thrun, the Last Troll.

What’s the advantage of playing this build over R/G? Day of Judgment is a card that is much better against Humans and Naya. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is a huge trump against a lot of decks, although its 7-mana cost is sometimes unwieldy. The sideboard gives you access to Ray of Revelation, Gideon Jura, and Timely Reinforcements, which are all very good at doing particular jobs. More notably, we eschew Thrun, the Last Troll here, which might be wrong, but I don’t think that card is really necessary unless you expect a lot of U/b or U/w/b control.

This list eschews red entirely and instead tries to focus on Lingering Souls as a valuable card on offense and defense. Primeval Titan can search up Gavony Township and Vault of the Archangel to this end. This build also has a fair amount of spot removal that is versatile. Go for the Throat has no issues killing any creature except Tempered Steel's creatures. Oblivion Ring is a catchall. In comparison to the previous ramp lists, he only has twenty-five lands, but there is no Faithless Looting here to dig himself out of a flood. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Grave Titan, and Lingering Souls are the main attraction of this list—they are all extremely efficient cards that are annoying for Delver to deal with. Delver players really have to counter all of these, and you can possibly run them out of counters before they kill you—especially in a Game 1 scenario. His sideboard is mostly focused on being anti-control, which makes sense since the matchup against U/b and U/w/b does not seem very good, depending on how many counters the control deck runs.

If you expect a lot of Delver decks in your metagame, the R/G or B/G/W ramp decks are probably the best choices for you. If you expect a lot of Zombies, Humans, R/G, or R/G/W aggressive decks, the G/W/r ramp deck is probably the best choice.

With any of the above lists of Ramp, sequencing your spells properly is of utmost importance. You have to decide: Can I afford to play around or into Mana Leak? If so, which spell do I care least about having Mana Leaked on a particular turn?

Against Delver, you have to ask yourself: How much do I care about having this creature Vapor Snagged if I decide to activate Kessig Wolf Run or Gavony Township; or Can I afford to have an Inkmoth Nexus Gut Shotted?

Decisions like these don't come easily, so playtest vigorously!

As a side note, in your playtesting, you should remember that post-sideboard games are way more important than pre-sideboard games, so you should be playing about half and half of pre-board and post-board games. To this end, sideboarding is a very fluid dynamic and involves you understanding how your deck functions as a whole and how your opponent is likely to understand the matchup. This is why I dislike giving out sideboarding guides—I believe it is a replacement for actually understanding a matchup or deck.

Best of luck to all of you who are battling in any upcoming PTQs, SCG events, or FNMs.

As usual, I welcome any constructive criticism here or on Twitter @jkyu06.

 


P.S. If you don't want to play a ramp deck or play Delver, here's an exciting deck for you: R/G/W Birthing Pod, which I had covered previously. I saw JohnnyHotSauce (also known as Andrew Shrout in real life) playing this a lot.

Usually this type of deck struggles against Ramp decks, but with three Hero of Bladehold and two Act of Aggression boarded, the matchup seems a lot better. I question only three Huntmaster of the Fells here. (Really? One-of Oblivion Ring maindeck?)

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