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One Thousand Years of Ramos

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Landscape with a Piping Shepherd by Claude Lorrain (1629-32).

Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire by Steven Belledin.

Commander players everywhere are working to find old decks to slot their favorite Guilds of Ravnica cards into. We’re building Undergrowth / Surveil decks, re-familiarizing ourselves with Convoke and trying to figure out how many Madness cards are worth including in a Jump-Start deck.

Me? I’m falling in love with the legendary creature I’ve probably devoted more written words to than any other creature in the game. That isn’t saying much - I’ve only been writing for a few years, but in the summer of 2017 I devoted three consecutive Commanderruminations columns to exploring what could be done with Ramos, Dragon Engine.

Ramos, Dragon Engine

I also wrote about Ramos earlier this year, but the article most worth revisiting is probably Ramos 2: Electric Boogaloo. In that piece, I walked through the basic Ramos win con that helped me win a month of our Commander League at NexGen Comics later that year. The deck wasn’t fast, but it was able to set up a winning turn that was so convoluted that I actually had opponents tell me it was fun to watch me combo off.

The card that has me coming back to Ramos is a new Mythic Rare enchantment from Guilds of Ravnica.

Thousand-Year Storm

This enchantment costs a hefty 4ur, but is worth every bit of mana we’ll be spending for it. Whenever we cast an instant or sorcery spell, we’ll copy it for each other instant and sorcery spell we’ve cast before it this turn. We may choose new targets for the copies.

That’s right. We’re building Ramos Storm.

A Few Words About Storm

Mark Rosewater, one of the more important figures in the history of Magic: The Gathering, defined a thing called the “Storm Scale”. The scale would go from 1 to 10 and would represent the likelihood that a mechanic in the game would get included in a future release. A 1 would mean the keyword or mechanic would likely be back soon - possibly in the next set. A 10 would mean that it would likely never return and if it did, it’d take a major miracle.

Storm was a 10.

Storm as a keyword was so broken that it warped the game and would never be used again.

Thank goodness we play Commander.

We can build decks with all the Storm cards we want so long as they aren’t on the Commander Rules Committee’s list of banned cards.

The way Storm works is that if you cast a card with Storm, you copy it for each other spell (of any kind) that was cast before it that turn by any player. The copies can have new targets. You only count spells that were cast, which means that if you cast Fork to copy a spell, the Fork would increase your “storm count” but the copy that Fork created would not. Copies aren’t counted, but if you copy a spell with Storm it will function just like a normal spell with Storm and will add more copies to the stack.

If you aren’t confused yet, wait - it gets worse.

While spells with Storm will put copies on the stack for each spell cast (not copied) before it that turn, it’s worth noting how Thousand-Year Storm breaks this pattern.

Normal Storm spells care about any spell cast, regardless of what type it is and regardless of who cast it.

Thousand-Year Storm only cares about instants and sorceries and only cares about spells that we cast.

This means that if we’re going to play Thousand-Year Storm and then play cards with the Storm keyword, we will have to pay close attention to which spells were instants and sorceries that we cast so we don’t accidentally inflate our Thousand-Year Storm count by including other types of spells or spells cast by our opponents.

The next thing to know about Storm is that you normally need to pay attention to three things when you “storm off”. You need to keep drawing cards. You need to keep producing mana. You also need to have a win con at the end.

In a 60-card deck you might combine a mix of rituals, cantrips and end with a spell that does damage or creates tokens, copied so many times that you can win the game against an opponent with 20 life.

In Commander we are in a singleton format, so we’re going to need to get creative. One way to do that is to find a general to lead our deck that takes care of at least one of those three basic Storm needs.

Ramos, Dragon Engine gets a +1/+1 counter for each color of each spell we cast. Once per turn we can pull five +1/+1 counters off of him to produce “Progenitus mana” (wwuubbrrgg). He is the perfect mana battery to power a storm deck.

Our plan is going to be to tutor up Thousand-Year Storm and use flicker spells with Ramos to let his mana production power us through a long series of spells, hopefully ending in a storm spell that will get copied for every instant or sorcery we’ve cast before it that turn. The flicker spells will “reset” Ramos, allowing us to pull +1/+1 counters off of him again during the same turn because he will be a “new instance” of Ramos once he has left and returned to the battlefield.

Before we launch into the deck, I should be honest with you. I have a lot of experience with Ramos but very little experience with Storm decks. I’ll do the best I can, but I expect there will be things an experienced Storm player would add in that I won’t have included.

How This Ramos is Different

My previous Ramos, Dragon Engine used creatures with Cascade to power out lots of spells. The goal would be to give Ramos infect and hit him with Chandra's Ignition. The deck had a backup plan to get out Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and either combo off or just draw a ton of cards with Curiosity, Ophidian Eye, or Tandem Lookout.

Because we want to focus on Storm in the new build, and because we’re going to care about instant and sorcery spells a lot more, the Cascade theme is out. Niv-Mizzet and his support cards are also out, though I’d understand anyone wanting to keep them. I’m running a lot of tutors, so ditching a combo might seem short-sighted, but I want to mix things up.

In place of those cards I’ll be running a mix of Storm cards, cantrips and creatures that care about casting instant and sorcery spells.

I will be keeping some things from the old list.

Remnants of Old Ramos

The borderpost cycle will stay, as will some of the creatures who help us tap to create any color of mana. The borderposts are mana rocks that can be cast for one mana if you bounce a land to your hand. Because they have two colors in their casting cost, each will put two +1/+1 counters on Ramos, making them a rare bad card that happens to be a good fit for this particular general.

I’ll also be keeping some of the “lockout” cards that will keep opponents from interfering when we try to combo off. That means Grand Abolisher, Dragonlord Dromoka, and Conqueror's Flail will all stay in. The only thing better than our own counterspell is a guarantee that no counterspells can be cast during our turn. Padeem, Consul of Innovation will also stay in, as giving Ramos hexproof will save him from targeted removal and might draw us a few cards along the way.

I’m also keeping a few Ramos staples. Transguild Courier costs four mana and will put five counters on him, allow us to immediately produce 10 mana. Winding Constrictor will put two counters on Ramos because of its colors and will speed up the rate at which he gets counters.

I’m keeping the flicker spells and effects like Cloudshift and Deadeye Navigator. They are essential if you want to pop Ramos more than once in a turn.

Last but definitely not least, I’m also keeping a bunch of the tutors, as this is a combo deck and the ability to tutor up key pieces to our puzzle is going to be very helpful. Playing a tutor mid-way through our turn when Thousand-Year Storm is already on the field is going to feel awesome.

Storm Support

We’re interested in playing lots of instant and sorcery spells so it make sense to include ways to make them cheaper.

Goblin Electromancer
Jace's Sanctum
Primal Amulet

These all cut our costs by one mana, and Primal Amulet has the added bonus of being able to turn into Primal Wellspring - a land that can copy an instant or sorcery spell.

Murmuring Mystic
Talrand, Sky Summoner
Young Pyromancer

While I’m not an old hand at Storm decks, having an early blocker and being able to get additional value each time we cast an instant or sorcery seems pretty good. Murmuring Mystic and his legendary predecessor, Talrand, Sky Summoner will produce flying token creatures each time we cast an instant or sorcery. The token creatures Young Pyromancer produces aren’t flying, but all of these creatures will serve as ways to present blockers in the early game and extra board presence when we cast instants and sorceries.

It’s possible I’m overrating the value of having token creature generators and that an optimized storm deck would drop these guys in favor of more instants and sorceries. All three of them care only about cast spells, so they won’t trigger off of copies. I don’t yet know if that’s a big enough impediment to disqualify them but for now they’re staying in.

Guttersnipe
Melek, Izzet Paragon
Etali, Primal Storm

Guttersnipe will do 1 damage to each opponent, making our eventual goal of killing the table that much easier if our winning turn involves casting 8-10 spells. Melek, Izzet Paragon lets us play the top card of our library if it’s an instant or sorcery and, if we do, Melek lets us copy it. I’m expecting to find out that if we’re copying a Storm spell with Melek and getting another copy with Thousand-Year Storm it won’t take much of a Storm count to make a big difference.

Our ace in the hole for this deck could easily wind up being Etali, Primal Storm. When Etali attacks each player exiles the top card of their library and we can cast them without paying their mana costs. If we’re gearing up for a big turn, we can attack with Etali and see if we can start off with an extra three or four spells added to the storm. With Thousand-Year Storm out, if we hit a couple of sorcery spells with Etali we could easily set ourselves up for a pretty crazy second main phase.

The Storm

With all this talk about storming off, it’s time to talk about which cards with Storm we’ll actually be including in the list.

Empty the Warrens
Flusterstorm
Grapeshot

While creating a bunch of goblins doesn’t often win games of Commander, there’s a point at which a token army simply can’t be ignored. In our format, Empty the Warrens is at its best in Purphoros, God of the Forge and Krenko, Mob Boss decks, but it’s a solid token producer that can position us for a win on our next turn. Flusterstorm and Grapeshot are staples in Constructed Storm decks and will also be included here. The former will help us deal with counterspells, though it will be much better late in a storm than early in a storm. In multiplayer, Grapeshot isn’t going to seem very threatening but at a low cost this is a spell that can kill an opponent if you’re able to make enough copies of it thanks to Thousand-Year Storm and other spell copying effects.

Haze of Rage
Ignite Memories
Mind's Desire

Buyback is a wonderful thing in a Storm deck and Haze of Rage not only has Storm but also has Buyback. It will pump your creatures +1/+0, which can take a meager army of Drakes and Bird Illusions and make them swing for some serious damage. That won’t help much if you’re in your second main phase, but you won’t always be storming off on the back of a good Etali combat.

Ignite Memories is an odd bit of burn that forces an opponent to reveal a card from their hand and then does damage to that player based upon the CMC of the spell they revealed. They could reveal a land, an Eldrazi Titan or anything in between, but with a high enough Storm count it could easily kill an opponent.

Mind's Desire is a fantastic storm enabler, allowing you to exile the top card of your library and cast it for free. The timing for casting those spells is “until end of turn” which means you can set up the rest of your storm pretty nicely if you flip into some juicy spells and need to order them in just the right way.

Temporal Fissure
Tendrils of Agony
Volcanic Awakening

Temporal Fissure will let you bounce permanents, which might not sound like a big deal until you realize that it doesn’t say “nonland” permanents. You might want to remove some key enchantments or artifacts, but you might just bounce so many lands that your opponents will never be able to recover and get back into the game.

Outside of tutors, we’re not running many Black spells, but Tendrils of Agony earns a well deserved place in this list. Target player loses 2 life and we gain 2 life. We’ll be unlikely to kill a whole table with Tendrils, but in the right situation it should let us do enough damage and gain enough life that it will leave us in a good position.

If bouncing lands to your opponent’s hand seems good, Volcanic Awakening is better. You’ll be destroying a land for each instance of the spell that resolves. Combine the two and you could have some landless and possibly rather salty opponents. You should also be winning.

There are a few additional spells worth mentioning. These cards don’t have “Storm” on them, but they should more than pull their weight in this list.

Epic Experiment
Mizzix's Mastery
Past in Flames

Epic Experiment will let you exile X cards from the top of your library and cast them if they are instants or sorceries with a CMC of X or less for free. Playing that for 8 with Progenitus mana from Ramos later in a storm should work out pretty nicely.

If you’re wondering how we’ll keep the storm going once we’ve dumped our hand and loaded up our graveyard, that’s where the next few spells come in. Mizzix's Mastery will let us exile an instant or sorcery from our graveyard and cast it without paying its mana cost. If we overload it, we’ll replace “target” with “each” and we’ll get to cast them all.

Past in Flames not only lets us cast instant and sorcery spells out of our graveyard for a turn by giving them Flashback, but it also has Flashback itself. Recoup is also in our list. It is a sorcery that gives Flashback to target sorcery spell in our graveyard. We’re running two dozen sorceries, including a number of tutors and Storm cards, so we should have lots of targets.

Grinning Ignus

Grinning Ignus is another piece of “secret tech”. He’s a pet card of mine and if he’s on the battlefield he lets us return him to our hand for the cost of r. Doing so gives us 2r to do with as we please. If we choose to cast him again, that means that he basically reads “r: Increase Storm count by 1”. I’ve used him with Purphoros on the field as a way to get extra enter-the-battlefield triggers and he should do nicely to pad our Storm count in this deck.

Last But Not Least

The last point of discussion on this list is probably the most important thing in any deck - card draw. I’ve got a handful of draw spells that on their own might not seem like enough, but when you remember that we’ll often be casting them on the back of our Thousand-Year Storm, I’m hoping it will be enough.

Serum Visions
Opt
Manamorphose

Cantrips are spells that have additional text that reads “draw a card” tacked onto it. Both Serum Visions and Opt will let us sift through our deck by scrying in addition to getting a card to draw. Manamorphose will give us mana of any color and will give us a card, making it a fantastic bit of fuel to put into our storm engine.

Rishkar's Expertise
Soul's Majesty
Shamanic Revelation

These last three spells are staples in Mono-Green decks and should be really powerful if we can get even one of these copied on the stack. If we were setting up to dig any deeper it might be worth running Laboratory Maniac, but in this deck that isn’t the goal. There are dozens of easier ways to win using Lab Man and I want this deck to focus on winning with Storm so for now I’m going to hold off on using it.

The Decklist

I’ve loaded up my mana base with shocklands and those new lands from Battlebond that enter untapped if you have two or more opponents. I’ve run Ramos with a range of different land cycles, but with Guilds of Ravnica bringing back the shocks it made sense to spotlight them in this list.

One Thousand Years of Ramos | Commander | Stephen Johnson


For my first deep dive into building a Storm deck, I think this is a pretty good starting point. My best guess is that we’ll wind up dropping some creatures out and adding more card draw, counterspells and ramp. I suspect a creatureless or nearly creatureless Storm deck might be worth trying, but I do love having blockers.

Two glaring omissions from this list are Cyclonic Rift and Teferi's Protection. I consider both to be essential and used to run them in earlier Ramos builds. Normally I would also run Sol Ring, but in Ramos I generally skip it and other fast mana rocks because they don’t put counters on our commander when we cast them. If you think that’s short-sighted because I’m missing out on playing Ramos early, I can’t really argue the point. Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, and Mana Vault are fantastic, powerful cards but I just enjoy having a deck or two in my collection that don’t run Sol Ring.

Final Thoughts

The big question for this deck is whether Ramos’ ability to generate 10 mana will be enough to power us through multiple sets of spells and get us to the point where a single spell we cast will be copied so many times that we’ll be able to win the game.

While I may have made a lot of changes to my old Ramos list, there’s one spell I’m going to keep around. I’ve mentioned it before. Consider it the cherry on top of our Storm sundae.

Chandra's Ignition

If we can get Chandra's Ignition onto the stack enough times we should absolutely be able to kill the table without even resorting to my old trick of giving Ramos infect.

The amount of math and careful planning that goes into playing a deck like this cannot be understated.

The order in which you play spells will matter, and in some cases it will mean the difference between winning and losing. It’s possible that’s true for most decks, but I suspect piloting Ramos Storm is going to be more challenging than playing your average Commander deck.

If you’ve gotten this far and you are experienced with playing Storm in Commander or in other formats, I’d love to hear your feedback on this list. I’m sure there are improvements that could be made, though as of this writing I’m not yet sure what the first set of changes will be.

I’m guessing more draw and lower CMC would be the next step in refining this list, but I’d love to hear what you think.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week!