Adjusting to Ramunap Red

by Taufik Indrakesuma on 01 August 2017, Tuesday

Taufik Indrakesuma

 

Adjusting to Ramunap Red

What an amazing weekend of Pro Tour coverage, eh?

 


Congrats to Yam Wing Chun for the Top 4 finish and making Magic history with "that combat step", and to everyone else in the extended MTG Mint Card crew whose finishes got them through the Silver / Gold / Platinum / National Champion thresholds they were aiming for.

Now, straight to business. Many Indonesians in my MTG social media feeds were talking about the dominating performance of Ramunap Red, and are even murmuring about potential bans for a deck that is "clearly too strong". I, for one, am ecstatic that Mono Red is on top because that is a pretty good sign of a healthy format. When the deck you have to beat is a linear aggressive deck that attacks your life total with creatures and burn spells, that is a much simpler target to beat than "Turn 4 kill with infinite cats" or "Turn 4 kill with an indestructible 10/10".

Don't get me wrong: it's a hard deck to beat, but it's possible. Let's take a look at Yam's Top 8 decklist before learning some ways to beat it!

 




Step 1: Gain some life!

The "Level 1" step to counter a burn deck is some life gain. A quick survey of life gain effects in Standard across every color turns up some decent playables!
Mono blue and mono red don't really have anything, but that much was expected.

 

Authority of the Consuls Blessed Alliance Linvala, the Preserver


White has Authority of the Consuls, which also has a bonus of Cancelling out the haste keyword, and Blessed Alliance, which is also one of the few efficient ways to remove an attacking Hazoret, the Fervent. Linvala, the Preserver could be good enough to follow up a Fumigate, while Glory-Bound Initiate is an option for aggressive white decks that want to race Hazoret. Also, let's not forget Amonkhet Limited all-star Approach of the Second Sun and its best friend, Renewed Faith.

 

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Collective Brutality Essence Extraction Gift of Paradise Jaddi Offshoot Pulse of Murasa


Black has Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and the Modern Burn deck's least favorite card, Collective Brutality. If you're that desperate for more options, I guess Essence Extraction could do the trick. Green ramp decks have their Gift of Paradise and Nissa's Renewal, and could even go for Jaddi Offshoot, which does a decent job of blocking Falkenrath Gorger for days. Pulse of Murasa gives green midrange decks a decent chunk of life. If that's still not enough, well, Life Goes On.


There are a bunch of options in gold, like Heron's Grace Champion for G/W Humans, Sorin, Grim Nemesis in W/B control, Wayward Servant for W/B Zombies, and Dovin Baan and Cloudblazer for people who still want to play with Spell Quellers in this format. 

If you go into artifacts and colorless cards, you can find everyone's favorite forgotten artifact, Woodweaver's Puzzleknot (how the mighty have fallen!). We also have Aethersphere Harvester, PV's amazing sideboard tech for the mirror. Finally, there is Filigree Familiar for emerge shenanigans and Aetherflux Reservoir for the combo deck aficionados.



Step 2: Don't rely on one or two blockers to protect you.

 

Earthshaker Khenra Ahn-Crop Crasher Cartouche of Zeal


Several Pro Tour competitors learned the hard way that you just can't block this red deck. Between all of the haste creatures that show up for surprise damage, and the actual "can't block" effects of Earthshaker Khenra, Ahn-Crop Crasher, and Cartouche of Zeal, holding back one or two creatures on defense often amounts to absolutely nothing.

You can address this from a gameplay angle or from a deck-building angle. In your gameplay, always assume that one creature you hold back on defense won't actually be able to block next turn. This means you should either be extra defensive, holding back more than 2 guys or go for maximum aggression by turning all your creatures sideways. From a deck-building angle, if you want to interact with the red deck on the board, you'll need to go even wider than them. You know how G/W tokens decks a year ago just filled up entire feature match tables with Plant and Knight Ally tokens? That wide.



Step 3: Don't just fold to Hazoret.

 

Hazoret the Fervent


If you are planning to beat Ramunap Red, the most important thing you need is a way to keep Hazoret off the board. Again, if we want to run it color by color: White has Cast Out, Blessed Alliance, and Stasis Snare. Blue has countermagic and bounce spells/Commit. Black has Grasp of Darkness and To the Slaughter. Red has Soul-Scar Mage, Hour of Devastation, and drawing your own Hazoret to brick-wall theirs. Green has "cast ramp spells to get you to Ulamog in time to exile Hazoret".

Whatever you're doing, you need a plan to deal with a Turn 4 Hazoret.



Step 4: Don't just fold to their sideboard plan.

 

Chandra, Torch of Defiance Glorybringer


Most of the Ramunap Red decks present a Game 1 plan of "Land, hasty 1 drop, Land, double hasty 1 drop", which would prompt most opponents to reach for their Kozilek's Return or Fatal Pushes and think they're prepared for sideboard games. Then, Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer completely destroy them.

There is a clear trade-off between efficiency and flexibility when it comes to choosing the right suite of answers for your deck (Fatal Push vs. Grasp of Darkness vs. To the Slaughter, for example) but don't assume that all you need to kill are 1 toughness creatures and Hazoret. Ramunap Red decks have a variety of midrange options that make your narrow, "efficient" answers look pretty silly.



Step 5: You need to race them

Over the weekend of PT coverage, it was clear that Blue-Red Control decks weren't doing well.

 

Sunscorched Desert Ramunap Ruins


Despite being "well-matched" in theory with Magma Sprays and a ton of countermagic, that's not how it played out at all. Why? Because the Blue-Red Control deck takes forever to win. The sequence of "counter this, kill that, repeat until my opponent runs out of cards in hand" doesn't really work when a combination of 4 Sunscorched Desert and 4 Ramunap Ruins can deal the full 20 damage on their own. If you give the Ramunap Red deck enough time, it has inevitability. So, you also need to be able to race them, either by matching their speed (Zombies), going wider and bigger (B/G Constrictor), or getting a quick combo kill (ramp spells + Ulamog).

But if you can't beat 'em…

Now, I may be completely wrong about all of this. Maybe the answer is "just play Ramunap Red and learn how to navigate the mirror (by playing more Hazorets)". I know that's what I'll be doing. But, hopefully, this article helps you work out how to adjust your deck and your gameplay to survive the heat of the desert.




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