Last week I wrote about How to draft Aggro decks in Cube, this week I will analyze another very popular archetype that is very friendly to beginners in the format: Green Ramp decks.
Ramp strategies apply to every Cube. They tend to be in Green and based around Llanowar Elves types of cards. Green tends to be much better in Legacy Cubes, since you don’t have access to Signets and Moxes, but it’s still a viable strategy in Vintage Cube of course.
The pictures I’ll be showing and the decks I’ll talk about will be based on my Cube, you can find the list here.
I generally don’t love drafting Green decks in Vintage Cube, but there are a bunch of cards that make the archetype go over the top and these are Opposition and Natural Order, with an honorable mention to Oko, Thief of Crowns which is one of the most powerful cards in Cube, and wants you to be ramping on turn one to accelerate it out as early as possible.
Opposition is a super strong card in a variety of archetypes but it shines in Green, since you’ll be using your elves in the early game to ramp mana, and then you will exploit them to tap your opponent’s lands every upkeep. If I get an Opposition I actively want to force Simic, but if I see that Green is closed I can try to exploit that powerful card in another shell like UW Aggro with token makers, or with Winter Orb and other combos.
Natural Order on the other hand doesn’t ask you much, just that you put Craterhoof Behemoth, Terastodon, Woodfall Primus, Worldspine Wurm or Progenitus in your deck. Once again after picking up this card I tend to prioritize getting early mana creatures to maximize the chance of a turn two or turn three Natural Order. Once you have Natural Order you have to pick tutors early too, like Mystical Tutor or Imperial Seal, normally those aren’t high picks but with this card you’ll have to make an exception.
Green decks are generally underpowered when comparing them to other Vintage Cube decks, and you need to play some sort of disruption whether it is Black for Thoughtseize and Mesmeric Fiends or Blue for countermagic. I have the general rule to never pass countermagic in Cube, especially in our Vintage Cube since there’s a very limited number of them, making the few you see very important to pick up.
As a result I tend to take Simic lands very high, since I know that whenever I’m in Green I’ll probably play Blue with it, and that the best Blue cards tend to be double blue, making it crucial to have a proper and fixed manabase to support them and drop turn one Forest into untap counter.
Whenever I play Green Ramp I want to have ten Green sources untapped to cast my Elf on turn one almost all the time, and this means that you have to have as many Simic lands as possible if you want to have roughly eight or nine Blue mana sources.
Having some anti-sweeper insurance it’s very important for Green decks. Since you’re mainly relying on cheap mana dorks to ramp your mana, and not mana rocks, you’ll be weak to Wrath of God effects, especially post-sideboard. As a result you have to pick planeswalkers, so you can keep the card advantage flowing and not be totally cold to a Wrath effect. That’s why I love to pick up some Garruks or Karns over Master of the Wild Hunt and Deranged Hermit.
A card that has pleasantly surprised me is Whisperwood Elemental, which also gives a tiny bit of protection to your team, while applying a high level of pressure.
In green decks I also love to play Swords, with Sword of Feast and Famine being my favorite one. This is actually the archetype where I love playing quipment the most, since you’ll often have random dorks laying around and they make for very good carriers of equipment that you won’t particularly care about dying, especially if you have some Garruks who spam out a bunch of tokens.
In Vintage Cube artifacts are very powerful, and almost every deck has artifacts in them, with Green Ramp usually being the only one to not have them. I highly value Reclamation Sage, Manglehorn, Gemrazer and Acidic Slime, those are two for ones that can really disrupt your opponent while keep on applying pressure.
Let’s take a look at few decks I’ve drafted recently that you can use as example of how your final Green Ramp deck should look.
This was probably one of my best Green Ramp decks, it had some outrageously powerful cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns, Opposition and Mind Twist, as well as Counterspell and Mystic Snake to make sure I wouldn’t be cold to Combo decks.
Normally I like to play around 4 or 5 mana dorks. You don’t want to flood on those, but you also don’t want to have an opening hand without them. Of course sometimes you just don’t open enough of them, but I usually have no troubles in picking them even later in the draft.
This one is a more original Green Ramp deck. I love to call these 5c Green, because you are mainly UG and then splash a bunch of powerful cards to justify all the lands that you picked so high!
I suggest you to stick to Simic the first time, but the more you Cube the more you’ll love to pick powerful cards over mediocre Green cards that you’re fairly sure will wheel in order to get both the cards you need from the pack and not let the other people get any of the good ones.
This deck is strange because I don’t have any one-mana dorks, usually as I said you want to have roughly four. What I love about this deck though is that my mana curve stops on five, despite having a huge number of ways to handle mana flood.
Finally a more easy and streamlined version of Simic Ramp, with Natural Order as the main plan and not that many ways to interact with the opponent.
The reason you want to take Tropical Island or Breeding Pool so high is because every single fetchland you’ll see afterwards that grants you either Blue or Green will provide Simic mana, which is great and will make you splash double Blue cards at ease. In these decks I featured I never had a Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary, which is a great card in a Green Ramp deck, although make sure you aren’t one of these seven Island Rofellos decks, where what is normally a very good pick might turn into a hard to cast Llanowar Elves.
That’s it for this Cube episode. I’ll be back with more archetypes soon!