Ramp decks are kind of my thing. Ramp is the first thing I played competitively in magic, and it is currently my favorite deck to play. Somehow I’ve developed a fondness for casting huge spells or creatures. It started with opening my first few packs and since then ramp and I have had our ups and downs. Recently I’ve decided to call the ol’ gal up and see if we can reconcile our differences.
When I first started playing magic again after a long break, I went to a local store and bought one of the pre-constructed decks. At the time, Eldrazi were on the Rise (Get it? I’m hilarious…) and I picked up some terrible blue/green leveler’s deck and a bunch of packs. In my packs, I opened All is Dust , Ulamog, and Kozilek. My feeble, new-to-magic brain told me that these cards were amazing and that I had to cast them! With the help of the more experienced players, I traded away my good rares for a pile of mediocre rares. SWEET. After a thorough scamming, I ended up with a deck that looked something like this:
4 Llanowar Elves 4 Joraga Treespeaker 4 Elvish Archdruid 4 Summoning Trap 4 Everflowing Challice 2 Pelakka Wurm 2 All is dust 1 Ulamog 1 Kozilek 1 Emrakul 4 Garruk Wildspeaker X Spells I don’t remember (Momentus Fall? Some other elf?) 4 Eldrazi Temple 1 Eye of Ugin 4 Khalni Garden (How I miss those little guys.) X Forests
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That deck was amazing (note: amazing fun not amazing good). While everyone was playing Bant mythic, Jund, and Planeswalkers, I was smashing face with Eldrazi-elves. Sometimes the deck would swarm you with elves. Sometimes you would die to a giant spaghetti monster. I managed to win a couple FNMs with that terrible deck. Mainly through luck and the fact that no one knew how I was trying to kill them. After that, I began to lose more and more when people figured me out or everyone started playing Jund. I was one of those guys who thought I was cooler if I didn’t use decks off of the internet, hated Jund, and played ramp anyway. Eventually that would change because the internet became my friend when M11 was released, and I discovered Primeval Titan.
M11 Release Day
I bought $40 worth of packs, opened a bunch of cards that I didn’t care about until I opened the green titan. Yup… I needed a playset. Luckily, I opened a foil Grave titan which I promptly traded for Primeval Titans #2-3. I also got my playset of Fauna Shaman. (It’s an elf, so I needed it for my deck! Duh.)
The Eldrazi deck hung out in the background, taking the occasional tournament win. It was hard to play some times, but I stuck with it. Eventually, I moved to Atlanta and started playing at a new local shop. I got the regular treatment: New guy at the shop? Must be bad.
4 Overgrown Battlement 4 Joraga Treespeaker 4 Everflowing Challice 4 Summoning Trap 4 Primeval Titan 2 Wurmcoil Engine 3 Ulamog 1 Emrakul 2 All is Dust 6 Exchangeable cards depending on metagame 26 Lands
I managed to take down the local standard tournament three weeks in a row and collect some prize money with the list above. Then, people got wise to my plan again and I was no longer winning with those cute little spaghetti monsters. It was time for something else.
4 Lotus Cobra 2 Oracle of Mul Daya 4 Explore 3 Khalni Heart Expedition 2 Rampant Growth 3 Harrow 4 Primeval Titan 3 Inferno Titan 4 Summoning Trap/Green Sun’s Zenith 4 Lightning Bolt 4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle 4 Misty Rainforest 2 Verdant Catacombs 2 Raging Ravine 5 Forest 10 Mountain
This was the live-the-dream deck. It says to your opponent, “Look at my turn 3 titan. What are you going to do about it?” This was by far the most entertaining ramp deck to play for me. The abuse of Landfall triggers was incredibly powerful. All you needed was a Lotus Cobra, a fetch land, and a ramp spell to play a turn 3 Titan. Sometimes you could live the dream and kill your opponent on turn 4. Most games ended by turn 5 or 6.
There was one crazy game that I remember well with this deck. It was a variation that included Chandra, the Firebrand and Green Sun’s Zenith. I managed to pull off this sequence:
1) Tapped Valakut
2) Land, Overgrown Battlement
3) Land, Chandra, the Firebrand, +1 shoot a creature
4) Land, -2 Chandra, Double GSZ for 2 Overgrown Battlements, Rampant Growth
5) -2 Chandra, Double GSZ for 2 Primeval Titan getting Valakuts and mountains, cast Urabrask, the Hidden. Attack getting more lands. 64 damage.
Valakut was probably the list I spent the most time thinking about. There were a lot of ways to customize your threat and ramp packages. For a while it was the deck with the biggest target on its head and yet it still remained resilient. Then came the famous Caw-Blade. It destroyed any hopes I had of winning with Valakut again. (Though, I did play a spicy version with 4 Obstinate Baloth in the main that made connecting with a Sword of Feast and Famine really annoying for my opponent.) I began to drift away from my dear old friend… We had a quick fling after the Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor banishment, but too much had passed between us. It was never the same.
Innistrad was released, Valakut was banned in modern, and my hopes were dashed for good. Kessig Wolf Run made a big splash as the follow up ramp deck, but I simply hated playing it. Valakut was essentially a combo deck, and Wolf Run was posing as if it were equal. It just wasn’t the same, I couldn’t win just by playing a mountain anymore. I had to attack with creatures…lame. I could never get behind any of the Wolf Run decks for long.
That brings us to the present. Why am I telling this lame story about my love affair with decks people hate to play against? Because, I finally found a ramp deck that feels like home! It has a combo feel to it but still gets to play giant creatures. I want to talk about the real topic of this article: Wolf Run Blue
Thanks to Reid Duke for bringing this deck’s shell to everyone’s attention:
2 Snapcaster Mage 2 Phantasmal Image 2 Solemn Simulacrum 2 Thragtusk 2 Frost Titan 4 Primeval Titan 4 Ponder 4 Rampant Growth 4 Farseek 4 Temporal Mastery 4 Bonfire of the Damned 2 Cavern of Souls 1 Inkmoth Nexus 1 Kessig Wolf Run 4 Glimmerpost 4 Copperline Gorge 4 Hinterland Harbor 5 Forest 4 Island 1 Mountain Sideboard 2 Cavern of Souls 2 Thragtusk 2 Crushing Vines 2 Beast Within 2 Combust 2 Whipflare 1 Blasphemous Act 1 Kessig Wolf Run 1 Inkmoth Nexus
This was a deck that caught my attention. It has been hard for me to jump onboard with the other wolf run variations. Dungrove, white, robots, grave titan… nothing stood out as much as this blue version. I don’t know what exactly made me want to sleeve up the deck, but I’m glad I did. It’s a blast to play and equally strong.
I’m not going to go through the deck card-for-card. You can find a better article on the card choices written by Reid Duke on Starcitygames as well as a few other websites. Instead let’s go over some highlights and speculations.
1) Ponder + Miracles
Pondering with 14 shuffle effects is incredibly powerful. Pondering with 8 miracles in your deck is even better. Pick up Temporal Mastery while it’s cheap.
2) Frost Titan
The coolest titan. Frosty has seen the least play, but is lots of fun to play. He can buy you the time you need to survive, and is a total blow-out when you can take extra turns. He also costs 3 mana to Vapor Snag. Frost titan needed a time to shine before rotation.
3) Having a good laugh at Phyrexian mana
Gut Shot, Dismember, and Mental Misstep have almost no value against this deck. Sure they can kill a Snapcaster Mage or stop your Ponder, but the impact they have is considerably less disruptive than it is to Naya Pod or Delver.
Someone asked me why I’m playing Glimmerpost at FNM. Then I gained 10 life by making land drops. I wish I had tried this with Mono Green Eldrazi. The extra time you buy is enough to make that big turn with a miracle.
5) Surprise wins
Sometimes your deck grants you free wins. All of them are miracle fueled.
All around a great card. Hard to remove. Attacks well. Makes 2 bodies. Easy to cast. I could go on but it would be redundant.
Those are some great reasons to play the deck and it sounds really great at first. So, why isn’t everyone playing it? Let’s look at the cons.
1) 3 Colors, Colorless lands
This hasn’t been a huge problem for me, really. It’ll cause you a few mulligans over the course of a tournament. The solution is to play more Sphere of the Suns, but you lose out on the card advantage of Farseek. Just keep hands with a green mana and 2 land and things usually go well from there.
2) Topdeck variance
Here, I’m referring to miracles. Yes, I said they were awesome, but sometimes you get a miracle when you aren’t praying for one. Luckily, you can sandbag them for later and hard cast them better than other decks can.
3) ITS NOT VALAKUT (or Eldrazi)
I don’t know if you noticed, but there aren’t any Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle in this deck. The coolest thing about Valakut was if you ever resolved a Primeval Titan and they dealt with it, you were still pushing lethal damage. Everything in your deck but forests became a source of damage. Even Rampant Growth! Once you got the critical mass of Valakuts and 5 mountains, it was on. Rampant growth dealt 3 to 12 damage. Even the mono green Eldrazi deck had Eye of Ugin. Your opponent couldn’t let games go long or else you would start searching up game-winning threats. With Wolf Run decks, a late game Rampant Growth or Farseek earns you no threat other than having an extra land. Ponder is your best card, don’t waste them.
If you like playing big spells or finishing games with a bang, try this deck out. I’m not sure it’s the most powerful deck out there, but it is certainly the best Wolf Run deck at the moment. I’m certainly going to keep with it, and I hope you consider giving it a go. A lot has happened between me and ramp decks, we don’t always get along, but they keep showing up in the rain with flowers asking for forgiveness, but set rotation is upon us, and there is no coming back from that…
EDIT: Magic World Cup & Team USA’s Wolf Run deck.
I asked Adam, our editor, to hold off posting this article because the Magic World Cup was taking place and I heard that Alex Binek and LSV were playing a Wolf Run deck in the Standard portion of MWC. Their list was awesome, and Alex played it incredibly well. It was simply red-green with 4 Huntmaster of the Fells, 4 Thragtusk, 7 sweepers, and the regular ramp package. I don’t see how that deck could lose to any agro list. I took it for a spin at the local shop. (This shop is particularly heavy on agro decks so I thought it would be a great deck to try.) I smashed the multiple agro decks I played against 2-0 without sideboard. The only deck I lost to was Wolf Run Blue…HAH that’ll teach me. Both lists are great. The blue version naturally trumps the RG version, but I’ve found the blue version to be a little threat light. If you can’t stick a threat, your Temporal Mastery isn’t doing much good. The RG version just plays a ton of value creatures and smashes for damage without concern for life total.