Hello! Today I want to highlight the deck I recently took to the #1 spot on the MTG Arena ladder–Simic Ramp!
Taking Simic Ramp to #1 on Arena
I’ve always enjoyed playing ramp decks, and this one is no exception. It reminds me of the old U/G Turboland deck. The exciting part here is the payoff to the ramp creatures: Hydroid Krasis, Mass Manipulation and Nissa, Who Shakes the World–sometimes as early as turn 3–are all amazing ways ways to spend lots of mana.
Last week, I played the deck to a second-place finish in the Fandom Legend tournament, losing to Shahar in the finals, who was piloting the same 75 from my last Mono-Red article. You can find the entire tournament here, and there are definitely some sweet games.
7 Island 2 Memorial to Genius 9 Forest 4 Breeding Pool 4 Hinterland Harbor 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Incubation Druid 4 Paradise Druid 4 Hydroid Krasis 4 Frilled Mystic 3 Chemister’s Insight 4 Mass Manipulation 4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 3 Entrancing Melody Sideboard 4 Negate 3 Thorn Lieutenant 3 Thrasing Brontodon 2 Carnage Tyrant 2 Pelakka Wurm 1 Entrancing Melody
What I Learned Playing the Deck
Nissa, Who Shakes the World is extremely good and it’s one of the biggest sleepers from War of the Spark. People just don’t fully realize how good she is. There aren’t a lot of decks, or even cards, that can beat a third-turn Nissa. She immediately makes a hasty, vigilance 3/3 creature, which means you can pressure planeswalkers and still use your mana post-combat. The vigilance also means she can protect herself. She starts at 6 loyalty and on top of that even has a Mana Flare ability, pairing insanely well with Hydroid Krasis and Mass Manipulation. Remember that Nissa can help you get the fourth blue mana required to cast Mass Manipulation with only three blue sources in play by floating the mana and then untapping one of them.
Nissa really does it all and it’s the best card in the deck by a large margin. It seems criminally underrated and underpriced to me, which I expect to change soon.
Growth Spiral is not a good ramp card in this deck. It is really bad if you don’t have the extra land and the deck doesn’t really need the extra card draw. You already have Hydroid Krasis, Chemister’s Insight and Mass Manipulation for card advantage. Growth Spiral makes sense in a Wilderness Reclamation deck where you play everything at instant speed and don’t want mana creatures to turn on your opponent’s otherwise-useless removal, but here the uncertainty makes it hard to play when you just don’t know what you’re getting half of the time. You absolutely need to make sure you get the ramp effect out of your card, so I’d rather play the creature. Sure, mana dorks have the downside of being vulnerable to removal, but you are already playing so many of them that you can’t avoid this anyway. And they have huge upside in pressuring planeswalkers, which seems very important in this format.
Why no Tamiyo? It’s amazing in Reclamation decks and 4c Dreadhorde because all the modes are relevant, but it does not belong here. Nexus decks use it to fuel their Search for Azcanta, get back Root Snare and find Nexus when they are going off. Similarly, milling yourself helps you set up a juicier Command the Dreadhorde and the minus ability returns the missing pieces. You can also protect it with Wildgrowth Walker and the explore creatures.
Now look at this deck. What exactly do you want here? If you are using Tamiyo for the plus ability, then you are better off just playing more Chemister’s Insight because it’s more reliable. You never really have anything in the graveyard to get back, nor do you benefit from milling yourself. You need to constantly add to your board and improve your board presence. Tamiyo doesn’t do that, doesn’t protect herself, doesn’t pressure other planeswalkers and doesn’t really generate any meaningful card advantage. Your opponent can easily ignore it, which means you’ve given up a turn. It is an excellent card for a combo deck, but not for one that’s trying to ramp. Long story short, Tamiyo is the perfect example of a “win-more” for this deck.
It’s hard to beat an early Narset. The card completely shuts off Hydroid Krasis and makes Chemister’s Insight look bad. This is another reason why I like more mana dorks–getting Narset off the battlefield early by attacking it is extremely important.
I tried Narset in this deck, but there just aren’t enough non-creature spells. I thought she would still be good for her static ability, but it turns out that’s not enough if you don’t draw any cards from it. It was not pulling its weight and felt equally as bad as Tamiyo. If you still want to include Narset, make sure you lead with Breeding Pool for your Llanowar Elves so you can play Narset on turn 2 if you draw it (unless you’re against Mono-Red, where the life points are more important than Narset).
Teferi, Time Raveler “turns off” Frilled Mystic and makes it very awkward to play reactive cards. It’s a weird dynamic, because Mystic is supposed to be one of your best cards against the planeswalker decks. Keep in mind that Teferi can also bounce the creature you steal with Entrancing Melody back to their hand.
Mono-Red isn’t nearly as bad a matchup as you may think. Sure, Goblin Chainwhirler is very rough and they can burn down your mana creatures, but if they are spending their early game doing that it means they aren’t pressuring your life total, which gives you a lot of time to develop. I went 3-2 against Mono-Red in the Fandom tournament. There are many cards you can play in your sideboard for the matchup, the best being Thrashing Brontodon and Ripjaw Raptor. Brontodon is especially important because it’s an excellent early blocker that also answers Experimental Frenzy.
I tried the deck with 27 lands and it felt like too many. I think 26 is already a lot, but a couple of Memorial to Genius helps mitigate flood. Three felt like too many and it will hurt you when you are looking for an untapped blue source to cast your Manipulation, but two felt fine. Just keep in mind that when you play Memorial on turn 1, your Hinterland Harbor will come into play tapped on turn 2, so plan accordingly if you don’t have another green source and want to resolve a mana creature.
I had high hopes for Ugin, the Ineffable, but it just doesn’t impact the board enough. Paying 6 mana for a Vindicate is a lot and the 2/2s don’t really matter unless you are playing against control. One of the things that I like about Ugin is that it’s an answer to Experimental Frenzy, but overall it’s just not worth the slot.
You don’t want to play any colorless lands. Blast Zone looks like it could add additional value, but in reality it’s going to hurt you more often than not. You need UUUU for Mass Manipulation and every Forest produces double green with Nissa in play. The only other lands I’m willing to play are Memorial to Genius.
Here’s my current list:
Simic Ramp 2.0
4 Breeding Pool 7 Island (335) 9 Forest (347) 4 Hinterland Harbor 2 Memorial to Genius 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Incubation Druid 4 Hydroid Krasis 4 Paradise Druid 4 Frilled Mystic 3 Entrancing Melody 4 Mass Manipulation 3 Chemister's Insight 4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World Sideboard 1 Entrancing Melody 2 Thorn Lieutenant 4 Negate 2 Ripjaw Raptor 4 Thrashing Brontodon 2 Pelakka Wurm
Lately I’ve been playing a Bant version of the deck. Since the the beginning of the format, I’ve wanted to put Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Teferi, Time Raveler in the same deck and I feel like this is finally the right shell for it. Teferi provides a nice tempo advantage and draws a card, but most importantly it means your opponent can’t counter your game-winning cards. It’s really annoying to have your 12-mana Mass Manipulation stopped by Dovin’s Veto.
4 Breeding Pool 4 Hinterland Harbor 1 Hallowed Fountain 4 Temple Garden 4 Glacial Fortress 4 Island 5 Forest 4 Llanowar Elves 4 Incubation Druid 4 Paradise Druid 3 Frilled Mystic 4 Hydroid Krasis 4 Mass Manipulation 3 Entrancing Melody 4 Teferi, Time Raveler 4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World Sideboard 1 Entrancing Melody 4 Negate 3 Ripjaw Raptor 4 Thrashing Brontodon 3 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves
The deck has a lot of slow, expensive cards you need to cast ahead of schedule. These are non-negotiable. As I mentioned earlier, don’t play Growth Spiral.
Eight more untouchable cards. Nissa is the best card in the deck and Hydroid isn’t far behind. It refills your hand with more cards and pairs incredibly well with Nissa and all the other ramp. The lifegain is also super relevant to make sure you get out of burn range. Don’t forget that even if your Krasis gets countered, you still get to draw and gain life.
You could reasonably trim some copies here depending on the metagame. I could easily see playing a 3-3 split, but there are so many good planeswalkers right now that I just want the full four copies. You are playing 26 lands and 12 mana dorks, so you need to make sure your deck has enough cards that can swing the game.
This is the easiest card to cut. It works very well with Chemister’s Insight since your opponent never knows which one you have and are often forced to play their spell into your Mystic, not wanting to lose tempo in case you only have Chemister’s Insight. The problem is that if you want to include Teferi, you have to cut the Insights, and without them the Mystics get much weaker, though they are still good if people play a lot of slow, expensive planeswalkers. If your metagame is mostly aggro, don’t be afraid to cut the Mystics altogether.
Three mana for a planeswalker that gets you a big tempo advantage, replaces itself and prevents your opponents from countering your spells is an amazing deal. I believe it’s much better than the other 3- and 4-drop options like Jadelight Ranger. Adding Teferi means cutting Chemister’s Insight, which I’m happy with. It replaces itself already and you can do some cool stuff later in the game like bounce your own Hydroid and replay it for more cards. Teferi also lets you play Mass Manipulation and Entrancing Melody at instant speed!
With Teferi comes a third color and a need to adjust the manabase. Given how popular Mono-Red is, you don’t really want to play the full 12 shocklands. It’s been scientifically proven that 9 sources in addition to 4 Paradise Druids are enough to consistently cast Teferi. And by scientifically proven, I mean that I showed my deck to Frank and he gave me the thumbs up, so it must be perfect. This also means we lose Memorial to Genius and Simic Guildgate.
Both Ripjaw Raptor and God-Eternal Kefnet are creatures with exactly the kind of stats you want against red; five toughness is key against Lava Coil and four power means that you turn the corner quickly when you want to attack. Kefnet is a better attacker, but Ripjaw Raptor draws a card when they play Goblin Chainwhirler or when you get to block a creature. Given that you board out most of the instants and sorceries against red, I think Ripjaw Raptor is the better choice.
It seems that with access to white, you could just play Dovin’s Veto instead and ensure they can’t counter back. But there is one simple reason why Negate is better: when you tap out for Nissa and you get to untap one land, Breeding Pool now taps for UG and lets you hold up Negate but not Veto. This is an incredibly strong play and comes up often.
Cards That Didn’t Make the Cut
The Explore Package
This is a ramp deck, not a midrange deck. If I wanted to play midrange, I’d probably just play Sultai. The Wildgrowth Walker package is good at protecting planeswalkers and for comboing in the Command the Dreadhorde deck, but it doesn’t really have a place here. Nissa protects itself very well and you need the mana dorks to cast your big spells in time.
There are too many decks with creatures now, and Tyrant would only really come in against Jeskai Planeswalkers and Esper Control. If those decks are popular in your local metagame, you should add some to the sideboard. I would also board it in against Mono-Red, but I’d rather have Pelakka Wurm.
Yes, it would be better against Chainwhirler than Llanowar Elves or Paradise Druid, but you need to produce UUUU in this deck. Llanowar Elves also helps you cast Teferi on turn 2, which is an enormous tempo swing against any deck.
Reactive cards aren’t at their best right now. Sabotage is good in decks like Nexus where you play everything at instant speed, but not good in a tap-out deck like this one.
Every time I play with Deputy, I’m reminded how horrible this card is against removal, which seems to be in every deck except for maybe Bant and some Azorius Aggro decks, and those can just interact with you via Teferi. It’s also horrible against decks with sweepers. Deputy is usually just worse than Teferi.
In a world of planeswalkers, The Immortal Sun seems like the perfect card to ramp into. But it also turns off your own Nissa and I don’t think this deck can function like that. Shutting off your opponent’s planeswalkers also means fewer relevant things to steal with Mass Manipulation.
A card suggested by Sam Black that does a lot of cool things–including possibly gaining 16 life against aggro or proliferating on a bunch of Nissa lands–but it’s a little too slow, especially without Tamiyo to fill up your graveyard with targets to recur.
Do not put this card into your deck. Seriously, people’s win rate would be higher if this card did not exist or if they simply weren’t allowed to sideboard it. Contrary to popular belief, this card does not improve your red matchup. Putting a land from your hand into play is only good in a few situations and other than that it’s an 0/3 Wall that isn’t worth a card. If the ramp effect is so good, why not maindeck it? The only relevant thing it does is stops Thief of Sanity from hitting you, but in that case I think Atzocan Archer is better anyway.
Other cards I’m not playing because I don’t think they are good enough include Vivien Reid, Biogenic Ooze, Kasmina and River’s Rebuke. Some cards that I do think could be good and am excited to try in the sideboard are Growth-Chamber Guardian and Shalai, Voice of Plenty.
Tip and Tricks
- Incubation Druid taps for 3 mana of one color. That means you can‘t cast Frilled Mystic with just a Druid and one land untapped. In this case, it’s often correct to tap the Druid before tapping your lands if you don’t need the blocker, but keep in mind that it could also easily give away that you have the Mystic–why else would you not rather attack?
- Trostani Discordant is very bad for you, because they will just get all their creatures back. Maybe for the mirror? Oh, wait.
- Frilled Mystic works very well with Incubation Druid, allowing you to holdup the Mystic but then dump mana to adapt if you don’t need to counter a spell. Five toughness also puts the Druid out of burn and Deafening Clarion range.
- Nissa can’t put counters on a land you already turned into a creature, but it lets you tap the land for mana first and then untap it.
- Don’t be afraid to leave in some Mass Manipulation against aggro in your deck after sideboard. Your deck is 26 lands and 12 mana creatures. You can’t trade cards 1-for-1 with your opponent and expect to come out ahead when two-thirds of your draws are mana sources. You need big cards to swing the game and turn the corner quickly.
- Some people have suggested adding black for Enter the God-Eternals and Hostage Taker to fight red and other aggro decks. If I am going to splash then I want something better, and adding white means I get Teferi. Tolsimir is also excellent at beating aggro, giving you a huge board presence, gaining life and killing one of their creatures.
- The metagame shifts quickly, so don’t be afraid to change things up. Cards like Frilled Mystic are good against midrange and control decks, but not against aggro. If your local metagame is full of Goblin Chainwhirlers and Deafening Clarions, maybe a deck with 12 mana creatures is not where you want to be.
- Savjz has been playing a different version of Simic Ramp with Nexus of Fate, Tamiyo and Hadana’s Climb lately, which you can find here. Two more interesting takes on this style of deck are this version with Finale of Devastation and End-Raze Forerunners and this “Mono-Green Tron” deck with Karn, the Great Creator and an artifact toolbox in the sideboard. All of these decks have one thing in common: 4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World.
I don’t have as many games as I would like with the deck, so take this guide with a grain of salt.
I cut Thorn Lieutenant from the sideboard because there seem to be enough two-drops, but if it feels like you are making your curve too high you can put a few of them back in. I’m not 100% sure Llanowar Elves is worse than Paradise Druid as both die to Goblin Chainwhirler, but Druid has hexproof so it can’t be killed by cards like Fanatical Firebrand before you get to use it at least once.
I don’t think you want to board in Brontodons and Ripjaw Raptors just because they survive Deafening Clarion, because that’s not the game you want to play.
Sideboarding here very much depends on what version they are playing. If they have a bunch of small stuff like Zhur-Taa Goblin and Goblin Chainwhirler then you could even bring in Thrashing Brontodon, but don’t do it if their creatures are 4/4s or bigger like Growth-Chamber Guardian or Nullhide Ferox.
I’m not really sure if Teferi is better than Brondoton and Ripjaw Raptor, but it is pretty good at bouncing tokens from History of Benalia, so it can’t be that bad.
This matchup completely depends on their build. If they have both Hero of Precinct One and Thief of Sanity, I’d bring in Tolsimir and the fourth Entrancing Melody. If they have more spells and planeswalkers then bring in Negate, but make sure you don’t have too many counters and don’t get blown out by little Teferi. Honestly, I’m not sure the correct way to board in the dark here, but I do know you don’t want Ripjaw Raptors and Thrashing Brontodons and too much countermagic.
The best card in the mirror is Nissa, so I would want some number of Negates instead of Frilled Mystics. You don’t want to have too many counterspells, especially if they also play Teferi.
I‘ll be trying to figure out the correct sideboarding over the next few days, and you can catch me on my stream at twitch.tv/MartinJuza starting at 9AM CET/Midnight PST 5 days a week. I‘ll be streaming the Fandom Tournament with this list on Thursday, starting at 8PM CET/11am PST
Thanks for reading!