Swimming With Dolphins: Building Eldrazi Ramp (P1)

by Florian Reiter on 05 December 2015, Saturday

Florian Reiter



Hi! Most of you probably don't know me, so I guess some introductions are in order. :)


My name is Florian Reiter and I am a 28-year-old writer and editor from Munich, Germany. I have been playing tournament Magic for around six years now, and during that time I have written hundreds of strategy articles for various German Magic websites. I simply love playing Magic and writing about all its intricacies, and my recent Top 8 finish at Grand Prix Lyon finally gave me the courage to step into talks with MTG Mint Card to bring my writing to an international audience. Pretty stoked to be here!


So what can you expect in this place?


Well, I love tuning Constructed decks, analyzing metagames and figuring out draft formats, so basically I'm gonna be writing about all the typical things that are relevant to tournament players: Deck primers, tournament reports, draft theory etc.


I'm definitely not the most talented Magic player out there, but I work hard and always strive to improve. Probably one of my biggest strengths is communicating what I've learned to other people, so my goal with this column is basically to learn as much as possible about everything and then share my findings with you guys. And while I definitely won't be correct in everything I'm gonna say, I'll at least hope to be entertaining while doing so. :)




The "Dominant Force" of Standard



With that out of the way, let's talk about a beloved Standard deck that dominated the last few Standard tournaments: Eldrazi Ramp!


well, I'm (mostly) kidding, especially about the "beloved" part. Eldrazi Ramp was one of the most-hyped Standard decks leading up to Grand Prix Brussels, where it had a surprisingly quiet performance. One week later at Grand Prix Kobe, an interesting Simic version of Eldrazi Ramp reached the Top 8 in the hands of Pavel Matousek, but the talk about the deck had already died down at that point.


Still, the deck is obviously capable of some very powerful things, so I think dismissing it based on the last tournament results could turn out to be a costly mistake. I played Eldrazi Ramp at Grand Prix Brussels, and while I failed to make Day 2, I was actually not too unhappy with my deck choice.


Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger


In retrospect, it's pretty obvious that I should have played Esper Dragons or the Rally deck, but apart from me being a big dummy, I still think Ramp was a fine call. I originally considered playing Atarka Red, as its worst matchup Jeskai seemed to be on the decline, but I just couldn't get it to beat Abzan reliably. This in turn made me think that red decks would be about to have a hard time at the GP, which made playing Eldrazi Ramp a less risky proposition, considering it's a huge dog to red decks, but has fine matchups against most of the remaining format. Also, I'm not gonna pretend like the proposition of playing with Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger didn't have some appeal to me. It is a card I can strongly identify with from a flavor standpoint, after all.


So let's look at some lists, starting with the one I played in Brussels. I'm pretty sure that this is not the best version of Eldrazi Ramp, but it is a good list to demonstrate how the deck works.




Red-Green Eldrazi Ramp



Even if you've never seen the deck before, you can probably grasp what it's doing. True to its name, all Eldrazi Ramp is trying to do is put as many lands into play as possible so it can play a gigantic threat much earlier than it should be doing. The best of those threats is obviously Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, but Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Dragonlord Atarka are also capable of beating up on most opponents.


Ugin, the Spirit Dragon Dragonlord Atarka


Compared to similar ramp decks from Magic history, Eldrazi Ramp offers a shocking amount of consistency. The biggest reason for that is Sanctum of Ugin, since it allows you to tutor up a second copy of Ulamog after casting the first one – so even if your opponent is able to handle the first Ulamog, there's a backup copy waiting for them. Also in some cases, you actually need to cast a second copy of Ulamog in order to turn the game around completely.


Sylvan Scrying Sanctum of Ugin


Sylvan Scrying makes sure you always have a Sanctum of Ugin at the ready. It can also serve as a ramp spell by searching up Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, and it serves as recursion for Ugin and Dragonlord Atarka by tutoring for Haven of the Spirit Dragon, further consolidating our game plan. You also have Hedron Archive to dig for more threats if needed, and Hangarback Walker which can trigger Sanctum of Ugin in a pinch, so the deck is really not as shaky as it looks.


All in all though, even with all that technology, the deck is still not terribly consistent. For Eldrazi Ramp to work, you basically need a servicable mix of lands, acceleration, and threats. Sometimes you keep four lands plus three accelerants and simply never find a threat, sometimes you have lands and threats, but not enough acceleration to get your big guns out quickly enough, and sometimes you do have the threats and the acceleration, but not enough lands to make the acceleration actually relevant. Playing Eldrazi Ramp is a wild ride where a lot of factors lie outside your control, so always remember what you signed up for when playing this deck. (Mostly frustration, but also a lot of giggling and evil laughs.)




The Natural Curve


The current Standard format doesn't offer too many great accelerants for two and three mana, but we have some great offerings at the four-mana slot in Explosive Vegetation and Hedron Archive. For that reason, you basically always want to have a four-mana accelerator on turn three or four, since those are the cards that make your mana count really go up. A common progression in terms of mana goes like this:


Rattleclaw Mystic Explosive Vegetation


Turn 2 Rattleclaw Mystic → Turn 3 Explosive Vegetation (six mana in total) → Turn 4 Dragonlord Atarka or additional acceleration for turn 5 Ulamog


That's more of a best-case scenario, though. Another common opening is:


Sylvan Scrying Map the Wastes


Turn 2 Sylvan Scrying (for "Shrine of the Forsaken Gods) -> Turn 3 Map the Wastes (four mana in total) → Turn 4 Land, Hedron Archive into Nissa's Pilgrimage → Turn 5 Fattie


So in most cases, you either jump from two mana to four and then seven mana, or from three mana to five and then eight or nine mana. This means that six-mana cards lose a lot of value, as there rarely is a spot where you have exactly six mana at your disposal but not seven or more. Nissa's Renewal, for instance, is a great card, but casting it doesn't make a ton of sense when you could already cast a threat like Dragonlord Atarka in its stead (even if you already have Ulamog in hand). This is why I'd rather play more big things instead of a card like Nissa's Renewal, even if it seems tailor-made for this kind of deck.


There is one exception, though.


Oblivion Sower


I dismissed Oblivion Sower early on in testing, but after seeing it in action a few times, I actually think it's a sweet one. The great thing about Oblivion Sower is that it's not only reliable acceleration that should deliver you around two lands on average, it's also a servicable threat at the same time. Oblivion Sower is not the most intimidating thing you could be casting, but a 5/8 Creature is no joke either and definitely capable of winning games if unanswered. I've talked about how you need a mix of three components for this deck to work properly, and Oblivion Sower is actually two of those components rolled into one, making the deck more consistent. Also, sometimes you Sower them after you already milled them for 20 with Ulamog, and that's just sweet.


Crumble to Dust


Aaaaaand of course, there's also the combo with Crumble to Dust, which I will be elaborating upon tomorrow!


That's all for now, I'll see you tomorrow!


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