Tesseract #8: Green Ramp Mini-Dive
10 March 2019
10 March 2019
Tesseract #8: Green Ramp Mini-Dive
Hello internet, and welcome back to Tesseract, the series that goes hyperdimensional on cube!
Last time, in Episode 7, we spoke about humility in creation. I discussed what the purpose of being unique is, and what positives and negatives can come with it. I also discussed the importance of listening to the advice and criticism of those who know more and have more experience. I feel as though last article was one of the most important pieces I’ve ever written, so if you haven’t yet taken a look at it, I highly advise you to do so.
In this episode, I’m going to begin a small miniseries that branches off of the ideas I spoke about in the last episode - namely, taking the time to do research and listen to those who know more than you.
For each of my “Mini-Dive” episodes, I want to take a microscope to a small subsection of my cube and really get into the nitty-gritty of what makes it work or not work. Furthermore, I intend to seek the advice of the community at large as well as specific individuals I feel are very knowledgeable on the subject. Lastly, the ruleset change I implemented in the last episode means it’s time to see what new toys I can play with in all of my archetypes, and this series will provide a good avenue of going about that methodically and not all at once in a chaotic frenzy.
This first Mini-Dive is going to be on the green-based ramp archetype. So, with any further ado, let’s get into it!
Please...My Ramp Deck...He is Very Sick
So, why green ramp? The main reason I felt inspired to begin this miniseries was that my playgroup and myself were finding the “ramp” deck to be lacking in playtesting. It felt as though the Ramp decks weren’t coming together very often. And when they did, they did not perform very well.
From my personal experience, my biggest complaint about the deck was that I would get all of the pieces I needed, but that my “payoff” creatures would match up horribly against opposing creatures and spells. Any deathtouch creature effectively ruined the hopes of winning. In most cases, good removal spells in white and black or timely bounce spells in blue would spell disaster for the ramp deck. Red even has the ability to use cheap burn spells to pick off early mana dorks.
So what gives? And how can I fix the problems I’m seeing? In order to address these problems, the most logical place to begin is by really figuring out what this archetype is and what it is trying to do.
The Main Characteristics of Peasant Green Ramp
In a green-based ramp archetype, there are several important types of cards and any good deck will be looking for: Mana Dorks, Ramp Spells, Midrange Payoffs, and Large Payoffs. Obviously, a green based ramp deck is going to be mostly green, but unique effects from cards like Rampant Growth , Cultivate and Kodama's Reach , and mana rocks like the signets and Sphere of the Suns allow for the deck to splash not just one - but sometimes many other colors. This means a green-based ramp deck can pull its win conditions and support spells from multiple colors.
All this said, a ramp deck usually is trying to do one main thing: gain mana and then play heavy-costed spells. As such, many ramp decks lack interaction - especially if they are very heavy in green. Because of this, as well as the next point I am about to get into, ramp decks in Peasant and even in general tend to be very “feast or famine”. In other words, a ramp player is best suited to be looking for rare and exciting wins, and not so much consistent wins. This can, of course, be tailored to be different by the designer of the cube, but the advice I have been given is to just accept the above and move forward with that knowledge.
After all, not every archetype in your cube is going to win all the time. In fact, some of them will win rarely. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. There are many types of players out there, and some really look to find those niche archetypes they can force just to see it work “that one time.” This is something I’ve really had to keep in mind.
Peasant and Unpowered Green Ramp decks share many common archetypal characteristics, but they also have some differences in how they can win the game.
To begin, Peasant does not have access to some more iconic green cards that can really act as the lynchpin to the deck. These can include but are not limited to Tooth and Nail , Selvala's Stampede , Craterhoof Behemoth and others like the new End-Raze Forerunners , and to a small extent cards that work well alongside ramp like Natural Order . Furthermore, in our colorless section, we do not get access to real game winners like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Karn Liberated . This basically means that green ramp in peasant must win via more traditional means, which effectively boils down to playing big creatures and hoping they get there for you.
I should also distinguish between a “ramp” archetype and a “super-ramp” archetype. These are vague terms to say the least, but the best way I have found to think of them is that “ramp” decks focus on winning with 5- and 6-cmc spells, and “super-ramp” decks tend to focus on winning with 7-, 8-, and higher-cmc spells. There is obviously some overlap to this, and as such I wouldn’t want to define these archetypes in intense detail. Certainly, a “ramp” deck could support a 7-drop or 2. But from my research and experience, adding in 8 drops or more can be a big problem if one does not have enough ramp to support them.
In unpowered cubes, there are a small number of very heavy manacosted cards that can offer to be win conditions for “super-ramp” decks. For example, Terastodon or Woodfall Primus can be devastating on Turn 3 or 4 in a “super ramp” deck, but would likely be mediocre if played on turn 5 or 6 in a regular ramp deck. Not bad, but not nearly as good. And what’s more is that Peasant cube does not have many or really ANY cards that fit the same niches that cards like Terastodon , Woodfall Primus , Primeval Titan , Ugin, the Spirit Dragon , or an entwined Tooth and Nail would.
Because of this, I have decided that my cube must move away from a focus on “super ramp”, and instead put that energy into supporting a normal “ramp” deck. While peasant does have access to some good 8+ drop creatures like Walker of the Grove , Ulamog's Crusher and Artisan of Kozilek , none of these are strong enough to win the game in the same way the above unpowered cards can. I still plan on playing some of these, and certainly the ramp deck can utilize them if they wish, but I believe I will treat all 8+ drop spells as “reanimator” targets moving forward.
So what DO I play? Let’s go into each subsection I described earlier.
I currently play with 7 mana dorks, or cards that I would consider to be as such. These include cards like Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic , as well as Devoted Druid and Drover of the Mighty . I also currently play 5 ramp spells in my cube. These include Farseek , Cultivate and Kodama's Reach , as well as Sakura-Tribe Elder and Ranging Raptors . I know those last two are iffy in regards to being “ramp spells”, but they felt closer to that than to mana dorks for the purposes of this discussion.
As for payoff cards, I consider 5 and 6 drop cards to be medium payoffs, and 7 drops to be large payoffs. While it is certainly true that ramp decks can utilize 3 and 4 drop creatures in their decks, I find that most of those cards are better suited for more aggressive or midrange archetypes. A ramp deck is better off playing more ramp spells on turn 2 and 3 so they can get to their 5 and 6 drops quicker.
For medium payoffs, I currently run 7 cards. These include cards such as Great Oak Guardian , Arborback Stomper , Ridgescale Tusker , Bitterbow Sharpshooters and a few others. And for large payoffs, I run 4: Pelakka Wurm , Penumbra Wurm , Sifter Wurm and Thundering Spineback . Lots and lots of wurms!
Now that I have gone over what a green ramp deck should consist of and what I run in my cube, we can begin to solve the problems I begin this article discussing.
Green Ramp Solutions
In researching for this article, I took a poll of the favorite ramp “payoff” cards that people cubed with. I also compared that with what the average cubes on cubetutor suggest people are playing. After doing this, I compiled these choices into a spreadsheet where I organized them based on the qualities that I felt made them good. And after doing this, I found the best unpowered ramp payoffs had 1 of 2 main qualities.
The first of these was the ability to win the game “on the spot.” Cards that were lauded for this included Ugin, the Spirit Dragon , a very early Woodfall Primus , etc. The second of these was the ability to be very resilient to removal effects via protection like with Carnage Tyrant , or by producing many creatures like with Hornet Queen , Myr Battlesphere or Avenger of Zendikar . My conclusion is that I should focus on these two characteristics when choosing my largest ramp payoff cards.
Additionally, it’s critical to a ramp deck that they are able to find enough mana generation in the form of mana dorks or ramp spells. Since many of the 1 drop elves are happy being played in other green decks, this can not always be easy. Having a critical mass of these kinds of cards is another thing I’m going to push for.
Lastly, I really just need to accept that “ramp” is not going to work all the time - even when the deck comes together. I need to focus more on the strength of my 5 and 6 drop creatures. Green midrange decks are stronger decks and that’s okay! Not every deck needs to be equal in strength.
So, with all of this knowledge gained, let’s discuss how I will be adapting my cube to fit these findings.
Drover is too low power and the dinosaur clause comes up too infrequently, especially since I’ve moved away from my dinosaur experiment before this point, and even more so with this current set of changes. I know this will upset at least one of my main cubers, so if they are reading I’m sorry! Beyond that, Joraga Treespeaker is one of the best mana dorks in peasant, and I have been dying to play with it for ages. With the rule change, now I can! I’m excited to cube with what many call the “green sol ring”.
Sifter wurm mostly has acted as a worse Pelakka Wurm . Thankfully, pelakka wurm is good enough of a card that even a worse version is still totally cubable, but in this case I find it to be redundant. Plated crusher isn’t as good as it may appear at first blush, but it’s important that I have something with hexproof to ramp into in my cube, even if it doesn’t quite mean it’s invulnerable.
Having four 7-drops doesn’t quite feel like the right number after doing research on this topic, and so I wanted to remove one of those in lieu of another good 5 or 6 drop. Nessian asp is good in midrange, and can become a huge threat later on if the mana is there and the controller wants to go for it. Reach is also quite strong in the cube right now with UW fliers being an available archetype to go for.
So, originally I was going to add Maul Splicer to the cube. I liked that I finally had legal access to it, and I wanted a 7 drop that could serve a similar role as cards like Myr Battlesphere and Hornet Queen . However, I remembered the existence of Trostani’s Summoner and realized that it is almost certainly better in my cube. Sumala Woodshaper has been mediocre at best, and I feel as though GW ramp/midrange needs a “flagpost” card to say “Hey, you. Play this kind of deck.”
I think I likely have 1 or 2 more fight cards than I need in my cube. My fiance really likes them, so sometimes that can bias my choice of including them. But I also felt like I needed one more ramp card, and search for tomorrow has been highly recommended to me in the past. I’m not certain that confrontation is the worst fight card in my cube right now. Prey Upon comes without the buff, but I also think it works better due to the greater ease of getting to play it alongside a larger creature in the same turn.
Overall, I have added in more ways to generate mana, removed redundant or weak ramp payoffs, and added in more resilient or cheaper payoffs. As mentioned before, there are really no cards in Peasant that win the game on the spot like in unpowered. I need to be okay with that and instead play to the strengths of my format. It is my belief that with the knowledge I have gained through research, as well as these changes I have made, green-based ramp decks will function as they should be intended to function!
And with that, I will leave you all for another two weeks. If you enjoyed what you’ve read, make sure to let me know either in the comments below, or you can find me on Twitter at @Spootyone. Did you learn something? Perhaps you will now take a look at your own green ramp section of your cube to make improvements just like I did! If so, I’d really love to here about it. While these articles focus on my own cube, I get great enjoyment in knowing I’ve helped someone else to improve their cube as well. I’ll speak to you again in 2 weeks.
It's not a 'strict upgrade' regarding Bitterbow and spider: spider has 3GG on it :)
March 10, 2019 4:10 p.m.
Flooremoji: Wow, you're right. Totally missed on that one. Eh...I might add in spider anyway. I still like the card more!
March 10, 2019 5:06 p.m.
First off, congratulations on having a fiance that plays Magic! It's something that many of us would be very lucky to have, so kudos to you!
Now, onto my observation,
I like Thundering Spineback very much in this archetype. I feel it acts really well as a mana sink, as well as a big fat creature. While it does leave us open to removal for a turn, I think it's lots better than the creature that is taking its place.
March 11, 2019 9:51 a.m.
IAmTheWraith: Thank you! I'm surprised how many messages I get like that. I am certainly a very lucky man :)
From my experience, thundering spineback looked better than it played. The honest truth is that most things don't survive for a turn like it needs. There is a lot of premium removal in Peasant, and when you're up against a ramp deck, you know to save that removal for what they play. I like spineback in the same way you do, but it just didn't perform (even WITH dino synergies).
channelfireball12345: Tajuru pathwarden is certainly a hell of a common. I think it ultimately depends on what I want that card in that slot to achieve. Given I am running both Sentinel Spider as well as Nessian Asp now, it might be a little overkill to have two creatures filling that "slot", and Tajuru Pathwarden may actually be a good card for that second slot. I'm going to give your suggestion some more thought, and we will both see how I feel in the future.
Thanks for the comments, everyone!