April 07, 2015

Dragon Ramp

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Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir is just around the corner! This weekend, some of the best minds in Magic will convene in Brussels and compete to see who has the sharpest set of skills—and also who has the strongest decklist.


It's fitting, then, that this is also Dragons Week here on DailyMTG! I combed my inbox for a deck that could reach Pro Tour competition levels and also had some Dragons to fit the theme—and found an excellent intersection.


Who's ready for a little bit of ramp?





Kojima Kouji's Atarka Ramp



































The Battle Plan


There are two key phases to any ramp deck.


First, accelerate your mana! Your first few turns of the game should be spent accelerating your mana and getting your board ready.


Second, deploy big threats! Once your mana is in place, drop gigantic creatures and spells like Dragonlord Atarka and Ugin long before you would normally be able to cast them and crush your opponent.


To make this work, we need a mix of both kinds of cards. Normally, you want enough mana ramp that you can be assured to have some early—after all, if you aren't ramping right away, you're not getting ahead of your opponent quickly enough to be relevant. You should usually mulligan most 7-cards hands that don't have a way to ramp your mana on turn two.


This deck has a good core with a lot of the right cards—it's just a matter of refining it as much as possible to make sure the numbers are right, and adding in a couple missing elements. So let's get started!


Deck Breakdown


Which cards can stick around, and which just aren't going to make it up the deck on-ramp? Let's go through the deck card-by-card and find out!



This ragtag team of Elves, Plants, and Shamans form the core of your acceleration package. Jumping to four mana on turn three is extraordinarily important in this deck, and these are the culprits that get you there.


I definitely don't want to cut any of them as you really absolutely want to draw one (or more!) in your opener. And while I don't really need any more than twelve—we don't quite need to go digging into Whisperer of the Wilds yet—I would like to up Rattleclaw Mystic to four copies. Rattleclaw's morph trigger can let you boost your mana even quicker, making it a card I want four of: turn two accelerator, turn three morph Rattleclaw, turn four unmorph makes for a fourth-turn Dragonlord Atarka—many decks are going to be hard pressed to beat that.





While it doesn't accelerate you directly, this ubiquitous enchantment creature has a couple of main benefits. First of all, it improves your draws. By playing lands from the top of your library, it digs you closer to whatever nonlands lay underneath. It also helps ensure you hit your land drops. To make things even better, as you play lands you also gain life, helping you stabilize against some of the quicker decks that would aim to take you down. I definitely want to keep all four.





Polukranos is always a reliable standby for green decks. As a 5/5 for four mana with lots of upside, it's never really going to be that bad.


However, it's important to look at cards in context as well. Sure, Polukranos is fine here—but what is it doing? Is it helping build toward our end-game threats? Not really. Is it helping ramp us? No. It is good at staving off smaller creatures, making it a card you want in some matchups...but it doesn't directly further this deck's goals.


Instead, I would rather have Xenagos, the Reveler. This four-mana Planeswalker fits into the same spot on the curve, but does some things that better fit what this deck is trying to do. It can still stave off attackers by making tokens to block with…but it can also ramp you into a Dragon or Hornet Queen with its +1. And as a Planeswalker, it poses a threat your opponent has to deal with before it gets out of hand, and can't just use normal creature removal on. I'd like to swap them straight up and have three Xenagos.





When it comes to ramping into threats, Dragonlord Atarka is one of the premier options. Much like the big bad wolf, he will huff and puff and utterly blow your opponent's house down.


At seven mana, you end up with an 8/8 flying trampler, which should already be enough to close out the game in short order—and then you get to deal 5 damage divided among their creatures and Planeswalkers as well. A way ramp decks often lose is to ramp into their big threat, but then be unable to deal with all the creatures on the ground in time to kill the enemy. Dragonlord Atarka ensures that doesn't happen.


I like three copies. I want to draw a diversity of top-end threats (especially because it is legendary), and while Dragonlord Atarka is very powerful, I want some flexibility on my options. Such as…





Speaking of shutting down creatures, that's Hornet Queen's specialty! Now, the big difference between Hornet Queen and something like Dragonlord Atarka is that Hornet Queen is better at stabilizing the board but worse at outright killing them. Still, 6 power of flying deathtouch is plenty, and in this world of Dragons it's a good asset to have on your side. I like these two copies of Hornet Queen.





Ramp decks tend to be pretty tight packages, without a lot of room for excess spells. On the other hand, it's important that you don't die right away. So usually I like main-decking a little bit of removal and then sideboarding some more if you really need it. Plus, in this deck, provided your deck is firing on what it is supposed to do, all of your big threats are also removal.


I'd like to keep three removal spells around—and what I'm going to keep are the Roasts. Dealing the most damage for the least amount of mana, these keep problems like Siege Rhino or Whisperwood Elemental down. While one Claws is tempting, the number of times you burn somebody out with it in a game you weren't going to otherwise win is pretty low, and it's a much less efficient removal spell than other options.





These cards are part of the key ramp elements to this deck's explosiveness. Turn two accelerator, turn three one of these, and turn four you can drop an Atarka or Hornet Queen on your opponent. I want to up this to six total copies. But how should I do it? Which one of these two cards is better?


They each do something very similar, but have their small upsides and downsides.


Frontier Siege provides mana at the start of each main phase, meaning you could play it and another accelerator in the same turn. Additionally, if the game goes long, it is a combo with Hornet Queen on the Dragons mode, immediately killing off their creatures. However, it can also be Banishing Lighted or similar—or go away when you activate your own Ugin for -4 or more.


On the flip side, Explosive Vegetation pulls two lands out of your deck, can fix your colors, triggers Courser of Kruphix, and also shuffles your library to help find lands with a Courser in play.


It's a close call between the two of them, but you really can't afford to have your source of ramping blown up by an untimely Banishing Light, so I would give the edge to Vegetation. Four veggies, two Siege it is!





I appreciate the flexibility of this card, both ramping you and also serving as a threat late-game. The problem is that it isn't that good at either: a three-mana card that ramps for one isn't really what this deck is looking for, and the activation cost to become a Dragon, while certainly something you'll do, isn't something you are looking for in your game plan.


While it can certainly be good in some hands with Elvish Mystic, in general this card doesn't do enough for me to keep its spot.





Last, but by no means least, is Ugin. At 8 mana he's more expensive than Atarka or Hornet Queen, and that can mean an additional turn of ramping him into play. But he's certainly strong enough to end games on his own, being able to wipe the board and then kill off your opponent and their creatures in Ghostfire increments. Plus, with the new Haven of the Spirit Dragon, you can even bring him back if he dies the first time! (As can you with Atarka as well!)


Ugin, while more expensive to cast, is strong enough that I'm interested in one more copy to bring it up to 2.




With all of those changes made, that brings the decklist to:





Gavin Verhey's Dragon Ramp






















This kind of deck gets the job done. If your opponent doesn't stop your accelerating immediately, you can have access to seven mana on turn four with reasonably high consistency. At that point, it's going to be tricky for them to shut you down.


You could always take a deck like this and turn it into more of a Devotion deck—but note that as-is, this really isn't one. It features a couple Nykthos because it can get you ahead on mana sometimes, but it isn't looking to use Nykthos to power out major threats. It can do that just fine with normal ramp spells!


Have fun with this strategy! May you crush your opponents with gigantic dragons!




McArtor's Mentions


Every week in McArtor's Mentions I highlight some of the other cool decks sent in this week. Let's take a look!





Robert Bitner's Esper Super Friends




































Bill Cheng's Fire and Blood




































FROGUE'S JESKAI TEMPO




































Albert Hindarto's Mardu Muscle Flyers




































Takahiro Machida's PT Dragon




































Toyoharu Sonohara's Oh, Legendary Blade




































sekigami ryota's Atarka Burn

























Michael Jardine's Eat the World







































Exploiting For Fun and Profit


That's a look at a ramp deck with Dragons…and in two weeks, we'll cover something on the far end of the spectrum: a deck featuring exploit!


Get your deck building engines ready for Exploit Week!


Format: Standard


Restrictions: Your deck must contain at least one card with exploit.


Deadline: Monday, April 13 at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.


Submit all decklists by emailing me at reconstructeddecks@gmail.com.


Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:



12 Mountain


4 Firedrinker Satyr


3 Ash Zealot


4 Lightning Bolt



…and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)


Which exploit cards will make the cut? What excellent ideas do you have? I can't wait to find out!


In the meantime, if you have any feedback on this article at all, I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to take a look.


And also, be sure tune in to Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir this weekend! You'll want to be sure to see these titans of the game—both players and Dragons—battle it out. I can't wait to see what everybody has cooked up for this one!


I'll be back next week with a look at Modern! I can't wait to show off some of your newest concoctions. Talk with you again then!


Gavin


@GavinVerhey


GavInsight






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