Updated: Feb 12, 2019
Focusing on the holiday season is important; exchanging gifts with loved ones, pounding down egg nog, and enjoying some much needed time off may all be on your docket, but not mine. Festivities aside, here at LandSayGo there is Magic to be played, decks to be brewed, and competitive standard lists to be broken down and reviewed.
I bring to you today "Holiday Ramp" - a Naya (red-green-white) powerhouse aimed at reliably casting several of Standards absolute best win conditions - fast. I've always had a love for decks that spend the early turns setting up for dropping big bombs that suppress our opponents desire to play the game instantaneously. Ramp had its place in the sun before rotation, often anchoring off of Approach of the Second Sun and Hour of Promise, and we still have great ramp options post-rotation, and great ways to win the game available to us.
Ramping in Magic is a fine art. When you have played the "ramp" archetype for long enough you begin to realize that you are playing Magic solitaire. You really only deviate from your plan when your opponent is presenting roadblocks, and even then the natural progression of the deck we are playing feels like a steamroller moving in a straight line. Potholes be damned.
I am very excited to bring you this list. Loosely inspired by a deck list or two I've seen from Jeff Hoogland and couple of European Grand Prix's from November and December. I felt they were missing some reliable draw-card and lockdown options that I've built in. I've also felt that the mana base was clunky despite ramp options, and that more board wipes were required. In fact, I elected to take a more aggressive approach to board control. The best ramp decks need to solitaire well, showcase passive and active answers to creature decks, and top-end practically unbeatable bombs.
Let's ring in the New Year with Holiday Cheer!
It's all about the colors, and what screams holiday cheer more than the colors red, green, and white? Also, what is ramp? Well, I'm glad you asked; it's using our early turns to tutor our lands out of our deck to the battlefield or to our hands, and effectively expedite the speed at which we are able to play our big spells, big threats, and big payoffs. Several of the current options for ramp spells aren't in the CMC slots I really want them to be, but some are, and again we are playing solitaire until we get there. Check these cards out. Circuitous Route is a card that serves a solitary purpose here (on theme), find mana sources - put them onto the battlefield. I don't think we've seen the full extent of the uses of this card, as I am still holding out for a Maze's End style card in Ravnica Allegiance.
After reviewing our list, you may be saying, "I don't think you are running enough basic lands and gates." But we are, and we need dual land support to reliably maneuver in a 3-color deck. In fact, original testing for this deck saw 12 total basics, and that number was slowly whittled down to accommodate the need for duplicitous mana. Grow from the Ashes is a card that, if you have it in hand must be cast on turn three. Do not wait to cast Grow for its Kicker cost - this is not how we play this deck. Thaumatic Compass is, by this point, an oldie but a goodie - use it to expedite shuffles and tutoring of basics to the battlefield - the transformed side gives us a Maze of Ith (Spires of Orazca). Again, our primary focus is to see ourselves successfully casting big spells, these cards are our early plays.
Ancient Treasures Nestled Snuggly
Azor's Gateway is a perfect card for our ramp deck. It is turn-by-turn filtering; we have the ability to ensure we have access to critical spells while actively setting up a big mana resource for the future. A single copy really helps us fight back in the face of control style decks - ahem, Grixis Niv-Mizzet. Sometimes we just have to out draw the "draw decks."
The Immortal Sun is a card (from a financial standpoint) that I don't think has peaked yet. As the Guilds of Ravnica block rounds out, and we have access to all Shocklands, and multicolored Planeswalker decks rooted in control begin to emerge, those of us who are not interested in the slow game (who are interested in going big or wide) will need answers to Planeswalkers that are outside of one-for-one removal options or combat.
The Immortal Sun is the most powerful card to be printed in Rivals of Ixalan. This artifact locks down Planeswalkers (a possible problem for Holiday Ramp), it is an anthem style effect (buffs all of our creatures), it is a Howling Mine, and it is a Helm of Awakening for just you! The Immortal Sun, when resolved, turns the tide in your favor - fortunately we get to six mana quickly. Treasure Map has seen all sorts of play, in all sorts of decks, with all sorts of variety in color, strategy, and game plans. We are using it for additional filtering and draw, and to correct potentially bad mana situations (which don't happen often). The treasure tokens can also activate our Arch of Orazca's Ascend trigger - hint hint.
Yuletide Board Wipes
Ramping ourselves to 12 or 14 mana quickly is fun, and important, and possible early on with our deck. You can take "ramping" too far sometimes though and we need a healthy balance of growth and destruction to ensure we are clearing a path for Santa's sleigh. Any ramp deck worth its weight in frankincense and myrrh has plans for pesky creatures and Planeswalkers. We don't want anything getting in the way of us delivering our presents on time do we? Deafening Clarion is currently seeing plenty of play; it is after all Standards current Sweltering Suns or Anger of the Gods - each block has one, and will likely have one of these 3 damage sweepers going forward. Deafening Clarion can also grant lifelink to our creatures, which in certain circumstances helps us stabilize.
Cleansing Nova is our wrath of choice here; the 5-drop slot is generally the back breaker when it comes to wipes, and gives us some additional flexibility in being able to crush enchantments and artifacts in a pinch. We do not want to be destroying all artifacts if we can avoid it, this can have dire consequences for our game plan, and creatures are what we are after. Star of Extinction. In the holiday spirit, and right on time, we have a bright shining star guiding us to victory and prosperity. This is our big thumper. Star of Extinction even gets Azcanta the Sunken Ruin, Adanto the First Fort, and various other specialty lands. The joy this card brings to the holiday ramp deck is unrivaled. Unrivals of Ixalan. Apply liberally or as needed.
Enjoying Time Fireside with Friends
Big mana ramp decks need an outlet for the bountiful resources we are producing. More than just the higher curve needing to be met, we often need X casting cost spells to generate tremendous swings in our board state, or to produce the WIN outright.
Banefire seems like a perfectly reasonable outlet for our mana production, doesn't it? What is better than unpreventable, uncounterable damage to an opponent, planeswalker, or creature? Answer: nothing. A late game top deck of Banefire can end the match right there, on the spot. Ramp decks just love having spells like Banefire at their disposal, and I would recommend you use it wisely. Using Banefire early to mitigate a threat is just as important as waiting to cast it big later for the win. March of Multitudes is an instant speed Nightmare Before (or after) Christmas for our opponents. Wiping the board post-Multitudes is never advised, that is unless you need to, and I would also recommend trying to leverage the instant speed capabilities of this card to set up tactical alpha strikes. Trostani Discordant provides us with 5 power and 8 toughness for five mana, she provides us another anthem effect for our March of Multitudes, and if for some reason our opponent is able to steal our big (or small) creatures Trostani says No-No.
Ramping requires sacrifices to the life total; you may even find yourself losing games and getting to the sideboard against decks that can adequately pressure your life total before you are able to stabilize. Pelakka Wurm is a "rampers choice" kind of card, we get a reliable 7/7 Trampler for 7 mana and gain 7 life, we also get the added benefit of replacing the card when our opponent finds a way to kill it. Great card, perfect for our strategy here. Finally, with the big red nose, Zacama. We only run one copy of Zacama, but in most cases, one is all you need (Tenacious D). If your opponent can reliably work their way through systematic board wipes, and still handle Zacama, well...pack it up, because someone isn't in the holiday spirit.
None of our Lands are Snow-Covered
The mana base is finely-tuned here, but I wanted to make mention of Arch of Orazca. It's not hard for us to find our Ascend emblem, and once we do, we get yet another end-of-turn ability in this land that creates draw for us. I would encourage you to mulligan opening hands containing the Arch, unless the other lands in that hand provide you the green mana we need and you have ramp spells to supplement. We really want to draw into this card. Counter to the previous, it may be okay to keep Arch as a turn one play, as most of our turn two plays are artifacts, and the treasures we get from Treasure map expedite the Ascend emblem for our deck. Sitting there with mana up and have nothing to spend it on? By all means, draw a card. You decide.
Our sideboard is full of solutions, and additional one and two of's based upon our need to flex our strategy to fit the mold and solve the problems we face in meta matches:
Adanto Vanguard (two copies in sideboard) is hilarious in a deck full of "destroy all creatures" or "deal X damage to each creature" spells. It just survives, and keeps going HAM - clearly a holiday tradition. Knight of Autumn, gives us some indirect answers to minor problems and acts as early game aggro or defense if required; purely a value card here, but isn't everyone looking for the best value during the gift-giving holidays? Carnage Tyrant makes an appearance at four copies in our extra 15 cards here. It may appear that we are dropping the Pelakka Wurms for the Tyrants, but that is not the case. We are actually dropping wipes and going wider with our top end threats in this case. What would the holiday season be without a little carnage anyway?
We have additional copies of Banefire (2) and Star of Extinction (1) in our sideboard (featured above), and also the Standard white removal suite of spells. I generally go with gut feel on Ixalan's Binding (1), Seal Away (2), and Settle the Wreckage (1). My general preference is to hammer the gas pedal, not apply the brakes. You may have a different opinion, and I welcome that. To each his, or her, or its own.
Wrap It Up and Put a Bow On It...
...because this deck review is over. Happy Holidays, Happy New Year! This is J.B. wishing you all the best in good health and love until our next go-round on New Years Eve! Peace and Love. Peace and Love. Peace and Love!
Play this deck on Arena or at your next FNM - you will be glad you did!