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Carrie On – Drafting Ramp in Theros

I want to talk this week about my favorite archetype in Theros draft: green ramp.

I frequently draft this deck. Maybe it’s just always open or perhaps it’s just that there are so many good cards in green that, even on the occasion I was situated directly between the other two green drafters at the table, I ended up with a sweet 40-card deck that cruised to victory.

I really like ramp in Theros. Theros is a very tempo-based set so if you can accelerate your mana you can out-scale your opponent. Once they are on the back foot there aren’t enough advantage-granting cards to get them back into the game easily. If you are on the play, then ramping has you 2 turns ahead, on the draw it gets you level with your opponent, plus you got to draw an additional card. Here, I am just talking about ramping once, let’s say with a [ccProd]Voyaging Satyr[/ccProd]. But the more you ramp the more turns you get ahead. Here we come to what some people have called the [ccProd]Gilded Lotus[/ccProd] of the set: [ccProd]Karametra’s Acolyte[/ccProd].

[draft]Karametra’s Acolyte[/draft]

I found this card really hard to evaluate at first. It’s a 1/4 for 4—not exactly a great stat line. On its own it will only generate a single mana, again not great. If you have more green permanents then it does more, but if you’ve played out more cards then what do you have left to ramp too? More to the point, many curves in this set stop at 6, so it accelerates out a 6-drop one turn early, but what do you want it for afterwards? You can’t even argue a 1/4 will help defend the early game because she doesn’t hit until turn 4!

However, when I was actually convinced to play the card I discovered that it can result in some truly outrageous turns that completely turn the tide of a game in your favor. The secret to really making use of Acolyte is to have a bunch of mana sinks. Luckily, Theros provides us with lots of mana sinks, if you remember to pick them up. Monstrosity is the obvious one for green. [ccProd]Nessian Asp[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Nemesis of Mortals[/ccProd] are both excellent cards to power up quickly through the use of Acolyte. I have played out two creatures before combat and then still been able to monstrify the Asp during combat. Another somewhat hidden sink is in bestow creatures. A number of them have extremely expensive bestow costs, and for tempo considerations sometimes you need to play a blocker rather than bestow. With Acolyte, mana you can both bestow your creature and play out your blocker. Additionally, you might not even face this dilemma, as you can bestow so much earlier with an active Acolyte that you might just crush your opponent.

By using Acolyte, you become less weak to being tempo’d out of games. One of the weaknesses of the “play big dumb threats” deck is a more aggressive blue-based deck can just bounce your monster for a couple of turns so that by the time it sticks it’s too late. With Acolyte you should hopefully be able to power out more than one threat a turn, leaving you less weak to bounce spells.

Acolyte is not for every green deck, and I probably won’t play more than one just because it still irritates me to play ramp at 4. My ideal ramp deck has two 2-drop ramp creatures and a single Acolyte. That gives you a nice solid base to work from without resulting in the draws that just overload you with ramp and nothing to do with it. I guess if I got a lot of monstrosity creatures then a second Acolyte would be justifiable.

Aside from the ramp, I just love so many of the green commons in this set. The best card overall for any green deck is [ccProd]Leafcrown Dryad[/ccProd]. As I have been drafting this set this card has been moving higher and higher in my estimation until I will only pick a few uncommons and rares over it. Why is it so good? For multiple reasons: 1) it’s a 2/2 for 2 2) its bestow cost is very cheap 3) it grants reach which really helps green against its traditional weakness to fliers 4) the average green creature wears it really, really well.

That last point is where [ccProd]Leafcrown Dryad[/ccProd] really shines. The average green deck will have a couple of 3-power three-drops, what with [ccProd]Nessian Courser[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Agent of Horizons[/ccProd] available at common. When you bestow [ccProd]Leafcrown Dryad[/ccProd] onto a Courser… ta-da! Instant 5/5 on turn 4. As I have discussed multiple times in my Theros Limited articles, 5 toughness is a very important number as it negates many of the answers your opponent could have. I have won entire games just by making this set of plays. You have to respect the potential power spike that [ccProd]Leafcrown Dryad[/ccProd] can bring to a deck and for that reason, pick it, and pick it highly.

[draft]Nylea’s Disciple[/draft]

Another lovely green common is [ccProd]Nylea’s Disciple[/ccProd]. He costs one more than [ccProd]Nessian Courser[/ccProd] for the same body, but the life gain he brings is so powerful against the aggressive heroic-based decks and they hardly want to bounce him with [ccProd]Griptide[/ccProd]. I will happily pick up many copies of this card. Additionally, as I will always be hoping to have a couple of [ccProd]Voyaging Satyr[/ccProd]s in my deck, he can come down as early as a Courser if I want him to wear a [ccProd]Leafcrown Dryad[/ccProd]—which still gives you that 5/5 on turn 4.

If you don’t need the pressure, then definitely consider holding on to that Disciple for as long as possible. It can really ruin an opponent’s game plan if they commit many spells to set up for lethal in two turns when you then suddenly gain a whole bunch of life and a blocker. This card is best in a heavy-green deck, but he’s still a fine body in an evenly-divided, two-color deck.

[draft]Artisan’s Sorrow[/draft]

One last green card I want to discuss is [ccProd]Artisan’s Sorrow[/ccProd]. This is the premium enchantment removal for the set, yet I find it really hard to pick up. I’m always going to take one of the other cards I’ve already talked about over it, but I want to have an [ccProd]Artisan’s Sorrow[/ccProd] in every green deck if I can, so I have a hard time passing one up when I see it. Why is this card so good? Well, one of the few answers to that 5/5 we created on turn 4 is to remove the enchantment. The added power of [ccProd]Artisan’s Sorrow[/ccProd] is it is one of the few way to create card advantage in Theros. Because it is instant speed you can wait for the attack then take off the aura, scry 2, and then kill off the now smaller creature with an easy block. The scry 2 really takes this card over the top. One problem ramp decks can have is drawing lands or ramp creatures once they already have their mana established. Scry in these decks allows you to filter through for those all-important action spells.

In summary, my top common and uncommon picks in green are (in no particular order):

[ccProd]Leafcrown Dryad[/ccProd], [ccProd]Voyaging Satyr[/ccProd], [ccProd]Karametra’s Acolyte[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nessian Asp[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nemesis of Mortals[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nessian Courser[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nylea’s Emissary[/ccProd], [ccProd]Artisan of Sorrows[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nylea’s Disciple[/ccProd]

The exact order depends on what I have picked so far, but ideally I want a good balance of these spells. I have some example decks coming up below. Not all are perfect, but it’ll give you a feel of the balance to strive for.

What To Pair With Green?

Well, I like basically every color except Red. Why don’t I like red? There are too many small things to do with red and very few big things. I won’t argue if I open a [ccProd]Stormbreath Dragon[/ccProd], but generally red lends itself to a smaller deck with only [ccProd]Ill-Tempered Cyclops[/ccProd] pushing the other direction.

White: White offers bestow creatures, particularly [ccProd]Hopeful Eidolon[/ccProd]. Oh, you thought my 6/5 with trample was annoying, imagine if it had lifelink! I drafted this deck online just the other day and it was insane. I picked up all the [ccProd]Hopeful Eidolon[/ccProd]s in pack 3 as they just kept coming (I assume the Heroic drafters had gone crazy or something). What with 3 of them and the 3 [ccProd]Leafcrown Dryad[/ccProd]s, I basically kept making super-creatures. If one died I just started building up the next. Decks with multiple bestow cards are very frustrating to deal with, as they always have creatures to rebuild from. I went slightly heroic with this deck, but mostly I won by bestowing things onto other things. In general, white is my least likely partner for green (with the exception of red) but this particular strategy works nicely if open.

[deck]3 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Nylea’s Presence
3 Leafcrown Dryad
1 Voyaging Satyr
1 Opaline Unicorn
1 Spear of Heliod
1 Time to Feed
1 Agent of Horizons
1 Chronicler of Heroes
1 Fabled Hero
1 Observant Alseid
1 Karametra’s Acolyte
1 Artisan’s Sorrow
2 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Silent Artisan
2 Setessan Griffin
9 Forest
8 Plains[/deck]

Blue: I talked a bit about this last week so feel free to have a look here for more detail. In short, you can use green to ramp to the bigger blue fliers of [ccProd]Prescient Chimera[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Horizon Chimera[/ccProd]. You also get access to [ccProd]Horizon Chimera[/ccProd] whose bonus ability of gaining life every time you draw a card has kept me in games I would otherwise have lost. Most importantly, and the card most likely to send me in this direction, is [ccProd]Sea God’s Revenge[/ccProd]. This card is a complete blowout when backed up with the chunky board presence that green can provide. Oh, also it has scry 1, just in case.

[deck]2 Sedge Scorpion
3 Voyaging Satyr
1 Vaporkin
2 Omenspeaker
1 Fleecemane Lion
1 Nylea’s Presence
1 Nylea’s Emissary
2 Horizon Chimera
2 Griptide
2 Artisan’s Sorrow
2 Prescient Chimera
1 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Vulpine Goliath
1 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Sea God’s Revenge
2 Plains
8 Forest
7 Island[/deck]

Note: this draft didn’t go exactly how I would like it to, as you can see I don’t have those sweet 3/3s for 3 or [ccProd]Leafcrown Dryad[/ccProd], but the [ccProd]Horizon Chimera[/ccProd]s and bounce spells powered me to a comfortable 2-1 finish.

Black: I like green/black a lot. It was my favorite at the start of the set, though now it competes equally with green/blue. Black gives you a bunch of removal and allows you to build a slower, more attrition-based deck in a tempo-based set. I really like [ccProd]Erebos’s Emissary[/ccProd] and it works nicely with [ccProd]Pharika’s Mender[/ccProd]. Looping Menders is a favorite pastime of mine and is a good use a [ccProd]Karametra’s Acolyte[/ccProd] mana. You also gain access to [ccProd]Cavern Lampad[/ccProd], which has a hefty bestow cost but can grant evasion to whichever color of creature is most appropriate for the matchup.

Another card I like playing in GB is [ccProd]Scholar of Atheros[/ccProd]. Splashing a 1/4 into a deck certainly looks odd, but it’s the activated ability of Scholar that I want access to, and that wants as many black sources as you can get your hands on. This, plus a bunch of Swamps and a [ccProd]Karametra’s Acolyte[/ccProd] makes for an almost unbeatable board position. I will write a whole article about the power of [ccProd]Scholar of Atheros[/ccProd] soon, as I think it’s a thoroughly under-played card that I adore. Splashing white can also give you [ccProd]Divine Verdict[/ccProd] and the occasional [ccProd]Hopeful Eidolon[/ccProd] (yes, it is worth splashing).

[deck]1 Sedge Scorpion
1 Thoughtseize
1 Returned Phalanx
2 Voyaging Satyr
2 Pharika’s Cure
1 Opaline Unicorn
2 Time to Feed
1 Reverent Hunter
1 Nessian Courser
1 Nighthowler
1 Scholar of Atheros
1 Karametra’s Acolyte
2 Insatiable Harpy
1 Nylea’s Emissary
1 Nessian Asp
2 Pharika’s Mender
1 Arbor Colossus
1 Nemesis of Mortals
2 Plains
8 Forest
7 Swamp[/deck]

I’d like to have gone more into each color pair, but really they are each worth an article alone. In short, GW equals bestow/heroic, GU equals fliers/bounce, GB equals attrition/recursion.

Green is such a deep color in Theros that it can support many good decks at the table. This makes it more important to prioritize the picks you need, as there will likely be multiple good cards for you in each pack. I have seen people take all the ramp and have nothing to ramp to or take all the meat and have no ramp. You have to get the balance right.

Before I wrap this up I do want to mention two last things. 1) While generally I advocate running 18 lands in Theros I realized a while back that in the ramp deck you only need 17 as you are running a bunch of half-lands and it’s very easy to flood otherwise. 2) Because of [ccProd]Voyaging Satyr[/ccProd] you can be a little greedy with your splashes. I won a draft with this little beauty, check out that splash! Until next week, feel free to say hi @onionpixie on Twitter.

[deck]1 Sedge Scorpion
1 Traveller’s Amulet
1 Nylea’s Presence
2 Voyaging Satyr
1 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Leafcrown Dryad
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Nessian Courser
1 Reverent Hunter
2 Time to Feed
1 Nylea’s Emissary
1 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Cavern Lampard
1 Pheres-Band Centaurs
1 Pharika’s Mender
1 Nessian Asp
1 Prognostic Sphinx
1 Lash of the Whip
2 Vulpine Goliath
2 Island
8 Forest
7 Swamp[/deck]

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