10, Mar, 24

Strange MTG Eldrazi Ramp Deck Makes Surprise Appearance in Hostile Environment!

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Article at a Glance

Since Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor, Pioneer has been dominated by a few specific strategies. First and foremost, we have Rakdos Vampires. The new hotness that emerged at the Pro Tour has proven itself to be much more than just a flash in the pan. The combination of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Vein Ripper has been putting up staggering numbers in tournaments over the past couple weeks.

Meanwhile, Izzet Phoenix and Abzan Amalia continue to crush the competition. With a ban announcement looming, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a card like Treasure Cruise finally get the axe. Beyond these three decks, Lotus Field combo and Azorius control still put up strong performances here and there, and other strategies like Niv to Light continue to linger.

Since Rakdos Vampires’ emergence as a top deck, though, the metagame has become a bit less diverse. Most tournaments have simply featured the same smattering of decks, with tons of tier one strategies near the top. Luckily, for players that are looking for something fresh and unique, you may be in luck. This weekend, one player took it upon themselves to register an intriguing Gruul ramp brew in Saturday’s Magic Online Pioneer Challenge. Given its decent performance, this deck is now the talk of the town. Let’s take a closer look at what this archetype is trying to accomplish.

Ramp Elements

Arboreal Grazer

At its core, this is a basic ramp strategy. Nearly half the deck is comprised of Lands, and a large percentage of the other cards help you get Lands into play quickly. Likely the best ramp enabler this deck has to offer is Arboreal Grazer. Arboreal Grazer isn’t the scariest card, but it fulfills its role perfectly here. Rather than relying on [tooltip]Llanowar Elves[/tooltips] and Elvish Mystic to help ramp you, this deck uses Arboreal Grazer and Azusa’s Many Journeys as ways to play extra Lands each turn.

As powerful as mana dorks can be, they are vulnerable to removal. Given the high density of Lands this deck plays, it makes sense to utilize cards that let you dump your Lands into play in short order. Not to mention, both Grazer and Azusa’s Many Journeys (once transformed) are quite capable blockers, helping to stave off early pressure from the opponent.

Radha, Heart of Keld also plays well with such a high density of Lands, making it more likely you will get to play Lands off the top of your library. Importantly, all of these cards have enough toughness to survive Kozilek’s Return, which this deck uses to help keep aggressive decks at bay.

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Ramp Payoffs

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

All in all, the vast majority of cards in this deck focus on building up your mana. As such, it takes some pretty powerful top-end cards to ultimately pull you ahead. No card does this better than Escape to the Wilds. Escape to the Wilds is a premier card advantage spell that even lets you hit an additional Land drop the turn you play it. This card’s presence helps make up for the fact that some of your ramp enablers, like Grazer, are inherently weak on their own.

Escape to the Wilds also helps dig towards your relatively small number of game-breaking bombs. Between Reach, seven toughness, and its recursive nature, World Breaker is the ultimate threat. It pairs perfectly with Kozilek’s Return in your graveyard, helping you sweep the board when necessary. Cavern of Souls plays nicely here, too, both making World Breaker unable to be countered and providing colorless mana to help you return it from your graveyard to your hand.

Finally, World Breaker is the perfect mana cost to trigger Sanctum of Ugin. When you cast World Breaker, you can sacrifice Sanctum of Ugin to search for Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. If World Breaker can’t end the game by itself, these cards can certainly slam the door shut.

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Interesting Alternatives

Case of the Locked Hothouse

This deck definitely has some powerful things going on, but there are some interesting omissions that could help make the deck a bit stronger and more consistent. First and foremost, one card that players were quick to bring up that seems like a terrific inclusion is Case of the Locked Hothouse. Case of the Locked Hothouse seemingly helps with everything this deck is trying to do.

In a deck with 28 Lands, it’s not difficult to take advantage of being able to play extra Land drops over the course of multiple turns. Alongside Grazer and Azusa’s Many Journeys, it’s not hard to play this card ahead of schedule and also get to seven Lands in play ahead of schedule. Once Solved, this case becomes a card advantage machine, letting you churn through your deck and dig towards your primary payoffs.

Notably, this card is competing with Boseiju Reaches Skyward in the four-drop slot, but Case of the Locked Hothouse has a much higher ceiling. It also acts as a great follow up to Radha, letting you take advantage of Land clumps from the top of your deck.

Beyond Case of the Locked Hothouse, it would be nice to see a slightly higher mix of utility Lands. Lands like Arch of Orazca and extra copies of Sanctum of Ugin may make it a bit easier to close games, especially in matchups where one copy of World Breaker isn’t the end all be all.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Damping Sphere

In its current iteration, this deck does have some vulnerabilities that are clearly being addressed with specific sideboard cards. For instance, a full playset of Damping Sphere in the sideboard highlights how poor the Lotus Field combo matchup is in game one. This deck does not pressure the opponent quickly at all and lacks necessary interaction to keep the Lotus Field player off balance.

In a similar sense, Pick Your Poison is needed in the sideboard to help beat Vein Ripper out of Vampires. Given that these two decks are quite popular, it’s unclear if this deck is necessarily the best positioned right now. Fortunately, there are some strengths this archetype has that could give it an edge going forward, especially with a ban announcement right around the corner.

Where ramp decks like this tend to shine is in midrange matchups. Escape to the Wilds and World Breaker let you go pretty far over the top of anything a classic Rakdos midrange deck can do. At the same time, World Breaker can be quite difficult for Azorius control to deal with. Outside of The Wandering Emperor, most removal spells won’t cut it since you can always bring World Breaker back and recast it. If you ever get to cast Emrakul, the game is likely over.

Even against aggressive decks like Boros Convoke, though, Kozilek’s Return can work wonders and completely swing a game in your favor. So, while some of the top tier decks and various combo strategies can be a bit problematic, this deck can at least put up a fighting chance against a reasonable portion of the metagame. If you’re looking for a fresh new deck to bring to your local game store, consider giving this deck a whirl.

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