Mana ramp is an incredibly popular thing to do in Magic, particularly in games of Commander. The term “ramping” your mana comes from one of the most iconic cards to provide this effect, Rampant Growth – any card that provides you with extra mana after having cast it can generally be described as ramping you. This is often used to include things like mana rocks, but today we’re going back to basics and only looking at cards that – just like Rampant Growth – search your library for lands and put ’em straight onto the battlefield.
Typically, the price of a Rampant Growth effect starts at two mana, is offered at three with some kind of upside, and then by the time we’re at four-mana ramp spells we’re doing all sorts of silly things. Search for Tomorrow, however, offers you a Rampant Growth for just a single mana – so long as you don’t mind having the land for a couple of turns. But then when the land arrives, unlike Rampant Growth, it’s put into play untapped! Search for Tomorrow was a Modern Scapeshift mainstay and even now is useful in EDH to get your mana engine revving on turn one.
I said that at four mana you get to do all sorts of silly things – and Mwonvuli Acid-Moss is a Rampant Growth with a Stone Rain attached to it, all for the bargain price of 2GG. This is one of my all-time favorite cards to resolve, as I spoke about in my land destruction article. It does it all – ramps your mana, disrupts their mana and chips away at the opponent’s psychological defenses. There are victories, and then there are moral victories, and casting this card is a moral victory in and of itself.
Hour of Promise is unusual for a ramp spell for a few reasons. First, it can generate blockers, which is very useful when attempting to set up for huge late-game plays – sometimes you just need a way to survive until you get there. Second, and most importantly, it allows you to fetch any lands you like. They don’t have to be basics, they don’t have to have subtypes, there are no restrictions at all. You can fetch utility lands, lands with spell-like activated abilities, whatever you like!
Gee, Bill, your mum lets you have two Rampant Growths? While there are plenty of four-mana double-Rampant Growths that fetch up two lands, Skyshroud Claim is arguably the best of them. Why? Because it doesn’t really cost four – it costs two, as you get two mana back with an immediate rebate as the lands come into play untapped. And they don’t even have to be basic Forests, either – you can snag things like shocklands with this bad boy, making it a nice little fixer as well!
Thought the entire list was going to be green sorceries, huh? Not so! Sword of the Animist is one of the few cards that offers a repeatable Rampant Growth effect, at a very reasonable rate of return. In the early stages of an EDH game, you can suit up some small idiot and get in there nice and quick, plonking lands onto the battlefield and pulling further ahead with every attack. This card rules, and I’ll usually try to find room in it for any non-green EDH deck so as to have further access to ramp.
Prime Time, baby – what a card this is. Banned in Commander, Primeval Titan has been the centerpiece of a couple of Modern decks over the years, most notably Scapeshift and Amulet Titan. And with good reason! Not only does this six-mana 6/6 trampler get in there for a stack of damage, he also provides you with a ridiculous number of lands as he does so. And not just basics – Prime Time can fetch any lands you like, leading to absurd situations with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or bouncelands and Amulet of Vigor. Plus, the flavor text is pretty funny, as well.
One of the downsides of ramp spells is that they don’t immediately impact the board. Sure, they accelerate you towards your heavy hitters, but if you’re facing off against early aggression, you run the risk of being overrun before you can get those big monsters into play. Sakura-Tribe Elder is the best of both worlds – not only a Rampant Growth, but an admirable chump-blocker as well. Block, sacrifice, soak up some early damage and ramp your mana – Sakura-Tribe Elder is a useful little snake.
My favorite Magic card of all time is still a very popular option in EDH, played in multicolored green decks as a way to both ramp and fix your mana. Farseek is, of course, best put to use in conjunction with shocklands, Triomes or even original dual lands if you’ve got ’em, and oddly for a ramp spell is largely useless in a mono-green deck. This card reminds me most fondly of Innistrad–Return to Ravnica Standard, perhaps the best Standard format of all time, and it always puts a smile on my face to cast it in Commander.
If there were an all-time leaderboard of “most damage chump-blocked” by all creatures printed in Magic, I’d wager Solemn Simulacrum would be right up there with the best of them. “What is my purpose?” asks the sad robot – your purpose is to ramp me, then die as you block a 5/5, drawing a card on your way out. Another rare non-green ramp spell that fetches lands, Solemn Simulacrum is one of the most-played cards in EDH, and with good reason. We salute you!
But when it comes to the most-played cards cards in EDH, Cultivate comes in at an astonishing number four overall, behind Sol Ring, Swords to Plowshares and Arcane Signet (Kodama’s Reach is at number nine). This card is just so, so good – fetching you two lands of any color to fix your mana, putting one on the battlefield to ramp you, and even putting an extra card in hand if you’ve got some looting nonsense to do. An early Cultivate is one of the most satisfying cards to resolve – it more or less guarantees you’re going to have a decent game and avoid mana screw, which in a game of Commander, is all you can really hope for!