The number of shiny new toys available for ramp has shot through the roof with the release of Oath of the Gatewatch. There are a number of ways to approach these options, so I’m going to kick things off by discussing some of the best ones.
Kozilek’s Return is the best card in Oath of the Gatewatch. Its applications, however, are somewhat limited. It isn’t going to be exciting in a deck that can’t trigger the graveyard clause, although being able to sweep up all of the little red creatures at instant speed is still a potent sideboard option. To optimize Kozilek’s Return, you’d need few or no mana creatures, plenty of red mana sources (which luckily can be accomplished with a single Mountain, Wooded Foothills, or cards that search up basics), and Eldrazi creature spells with casting cost 7 or greater.
Thought-Knot Seer is a powerful enough card that it is expected to see play in Modern. A 4/4 for 4 is a solid start, and the added disruption to take away a removal spell—or just the best card an opponent has—is amazing. The Seer is strong in any aggressive Eldrazi strategy while being a reasonable inclusion in slower ramp strategies. It’s easy to see why the stats would make this a great aggro card, but the disruptive element to help force through an Ugin or another big Eldrazi makes it a card that should see play across the board.
Reality Smasher is interesting. It doesn’t feel like it belongs in ramp strategies since you don’t need the damage with so many over the top finishers, although it is an effective sideboard card. The Smasher may be the best card possible for any Eldrazi aggressive plan since it hits hard, has haste, and requires multiple cards to remove.
World Breaker has the potential to be the breakout card of the set, especially if Eldrazi Ramp becomes a staple of the format. You get the Acidic Slime ability to kill a land, artifact, or enchantment when you cast World Breaker, so it will still happen in spite of counter magic. It’s appealing that it costs only 7, can come back from the graveyard for a small and reasonable cost, and has the potential to dominate the board. This blocks just about everything, including Dragonlord Ojutai, thanks to reach. It is also the cheapest and easiest-to-cast option for the return aspect of Kozilek’s Return.
I haven’t formulated my final thoughts on Kozilek, the Great Distortion. It’s unclear whether you want any of these over Ulamogs, the Ceaseless Hunger. It is far more challenging to cast, although it shouldn’t be too big of a hurdle most of the time, but the effect is less reliably dominant in Standard. Drawing a bunch of cards is nice, but Kozilek isn’t indestructible and doesn’t necessarily end the game immediately. I can see playing 1 of these, but it’s possible that zero is the correct number, even in a dedicated ramp strategy, because of how good Ulamog is.
Spatial Contortion is a very solid removal spell that can kill Goblins, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Mantis Rider, and many more. It’s also a weaker option than Kozilek’s Return. In a deck that doesn’t want to play red mana or wants to play mana creatures, Contortion is a solid option. In an aggressive deck, Spatial Contortion will go a long way toward making your deck viable with solid removal. In a ramp strategy, I prefer the sweeper.
As far as lands go, there isn’t much to get excited about. Wastes is an option in that it can be searched by all the basic land ramp, but it is not a powerful card. Crumbling Vestige is nice for fixing mana, casting Kozilek’s Return, and then casting Kozilek later. It’s also a good land to activate and sacrifice to World Breaker. Sea Gate Wreckage is great in aggressive decks that can empty their hand, but it’s unlikely to be overly powerful in the green versions, and even less likely in a ramp deck.
Here’s a look at a mono-green Eldrazi deck:
Chris Brickey, 2nd place in a Standard Open
I dislike this deck on basically every level.
One of the reasons to love Eldrazi Ramp decks is because of how many dead cards opponents are going to have against you. Take a look at a Jeskai Black, Mardu, or even a mono-red deck. How about Esper Dragons? All of these decks are filled with cards like Fiery Impulse, Roast, and Ultimate Price, which do little to nothing against a typical Eldrazi Ramp deck, but are fantastic here. This deck leans heavily on Rattleclaw Mystic and Leaf Gilder for mana ramp, playing 4 copies of each, and they are unlikely to ever survive in a world where people are loading up on these removal spells already.
Next, Chris is shaving on the best ramp spells to actually play these creatures. I don’t have interest in cutting any copies of Nissa’s Pilgrimage or Explosive Vegetations in my ramp decks. These are the best ramp spells in Standard and the cards I’m most looking to cast Negate on in the early game when playing against Eldrazi. Nissa’s Renewal is too slow to be relevant, especially if you are shaving the good ramp spells. I do love a card like Hedron Archive, although if Kolaghan’s Command and Utter End remain heavily played, it can’t make the cut.
Thought-Knot Seer is an awesome card, but you don’t actually have a ton to ramp into. There are 6 “big” spells that cost more than 4 mana in the deck—3 Ulamogs, 1 Kozilek, and 2 Ugins. A reasonable amount of the time you will cast your ramp spells and have nothing to do. With no real way to draw more cards outside of Hedron Archives and the loan Conduit of Ruin, this could be an uphill climb, although far from a deal breaker.
Brad Nelson posted a sample list of the Ramp deck he was building and it’s much more in line with what I would like to see:
GR Eldrazi Ramp
I’m not big on main-deck Jaddi Offshoots, but it’s possible that’s just necessary. If the deck still can’t beat mono-red in game 1 with the Offshoots main, and I suspect it can’t, I would be even more inclined to move them to the sideboard.
Playing 4 copies of the good ramp spells is critical. The inclusion of Kozilek’s Return gives a weaker ramp spell like Map the Wastes far more utility in being able to search out a basic Mountain early enough in the game that it matters.
I would love to see some Reality Smashers in the sideboard, but it’s possible they aren’t needed or as strong as the other options.
The big standout is the 4 copies of World Breaker. These do so much work in so many grindy midrange or control matchups that they definitely earn their name.
In the first couple weeks of Standard, there haven’t been any outstanding successes from the GR Ramp decks. Some of that may be the high prices and card availability, and some may be the ease of building Atarka Red online and how tough of a matchup that can be for Ramp, so time will tell if the Eldrazi have what it takes.
Kitchen_Finks took the deck through a Standard League on MTGO to a 5-0 finish. His list looks like he mashed the 2 lists above together:
KITCHEN_FINKS , MTGO Standard League 5-0
It’s interesting to see the different approaches that can be taken to build this style of deck. The end result is that they are all potentially viable, as any deck that can cast spells as powerful as the Eldrazi has a great chance for future success!
How would you build Eldrazi Ramp? Do you prefer mono-color, or is Kozilek’s Return the real deal?