Remember when you started playing Magic. Remember the decks and cards you considered powerful. Remember the lines of play you thought were skillful. Now compare those memories with your knowledge of the game today. I dare to say that we were all fools when we started playing Magic. My first contact with Magic was at the age of twelve. Most of my friends were into Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! and so was I. We didn’t care about the game we just loved to collect little artworks of our favorite shows. There was this one friend that played Magic. One day he convinced me to try it. So I invested some of my pocket money and bought a Champions of Kamigawa starter deck. My friend explained the game to me and we started playing. Back then I didn’t understand the appeal of the game. In addition there wasn’t a Magic show thus no reason to collect the cards for me.
I forgot about Magic until I was 22. In the meantime new friends came along. Some of them played a lot of Magic in the past. For some reason when they were reveling in memories they decided to start playing Magic again. Naturally it didn’t took long and they coaxed me into joining them. This time I was hooked. This time I was introduced to a fun and complex strategy game. Eventually I dived deeper into the competitive aspects of the game. I learned about decks and archetypes and began building my own creations. The archetype that allured me was ramp. If you don’t know what a ramp deck does, let me explain. The basic goal of a ramp deck is to quickly create tons of mana to cast a giant game-changing spell early. E.g. you gain advantage by playing a seven mana spell - let’s assume an expensive spell is more powerful than a cheap one - while your opponent still has to play four mana cards. This can be done by putting more than one land into play on a single turn with a card like Grow from the Ashes. Alternatively you can use mana generating creatures like Paradise Druid. Standard wasn’t a suited format for ramp at this time. It was dominated by Temur Energy. Then it got banned and Rakdos Midrange took over. Frustrated by the failures to develop a good ramp deck I ventured into Modern. Building a solid Modern deck as a new player is an impossible task. So I also failed again. I put deckbuilding aside and focused on learning the theory of the game. I read a lot about Magic and played meta decks.
Let’s jump back into the present. I’m a decent player now who was able to reach Mythic every season since Arena exists. I follow the recent progressions of Standard and try to be always up to date with the latest decks. Of course I read about and saw the UG decks utilizing control magic namely Mass Manipulation and Entrancing Melody. Also I knew about Nissa, Who Shakes the World fueling these expensive spells. Furthermore I considered these decks potentially top tier. Albeit they didn’t rise to prominence right at their inception. It took them a bit to arrive in the echelon of top decks. Now professionals like Lee Shi Tian are playing the deck in the MPL (https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/competitive-gaming/mpl-spark-split-week-4-decklists-2019-05-29). Yesterday a Fandom Legends tournament took place (https://www.mtggoldfish.com/tournament/fandom-legends-may-30-2019#paper). Players like Grzegorz Kowalski, Shahar Shenhar and Martin Juza piloted a version of the deck adding the color white. This was the time I realized something. It isn’t just a Mass Manipulation deck it is a ramp deck too. Now I’m obsessed with the deck. Finally a viable ramp deck in Standard.
4 Llanowar Elves 5 Forest 4 Incubation Druid 3 Paradise Druid 4 Growth Spiral 2 Island 4 Breeding Pool 2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty 2 Entrancing Melody 2 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves 4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 4 Hydroid Krasis 3 Mass Manipulation 3 Glacial Fortress 4 Hallowed Fountain 4 Hinterland Harbor 2 Jadelight Ranger 4 Temple Garden 2 Negate 4 Thorn Lieutenant 3 Deputy of Detention 3 Frilled Mystic 1 Lyra Dawnbringer 1 Pelakka Wurm 1 Entrancing Melody
Llanowar Elves, Paradise Druid and Incubation Druid are the ramp spells in the deck. Their main purpose is mana acceleration. Then there is Growth Spiral. It’s a card advantage spell that can also ramp. The additional land drop isn’t guaranteed so I see it as a cantrip - a spell that replaces itself by drawing a card. When it comes to Nissa, Who Shakes the World we start talking about payoffs. Reaching five mana quickly with our ramp package is rewarded by dropping Nissa. Her +1 ability turns lands into creatures. These creatures can pose as attackers when we need to pressure our opponent. But they can also be blockers when we are forced to be defensive. Another play with Nissa is to tap a land for mana, then untap it to tap it for mana again. This is especially powerful considering the passive of Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Each forest creates an additional mana. So Nissa isn’t just a payoff she is a potent ramp spell too. With the tons of mana Nissa can generate we want to play our payoffs Mass Manipulation and Hydroid Krasis. Especially Mass Manipulation is a game-winning spell. While we are ramping our opponents are usually building a board with creatures and planeswalkers. Convenient to have a spell that profits from the efforts of both players. We don’t need to build a board because we can steal our opponent’s. Usually this is enough to win the game or to make our opponent concede.
White was added to the deck to access utility spells. Shalai, Voice of Plenty protects our creatures and Nissa. In addition she can grow our small creatures into menacing attackers. Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves is a decent removal spell that leaves behind at least one blocker. The real value of adding white is hidden in the sideboard. A card like Lyra Dawnbringer is the perfect answer for Mono Red Aggro. Deputy of Detention cleans up tokens and critical permanents. Another version of the decks plays Teferi, Timer Raveler. Everyone should know about the power of this planeswalker by now. However I want to repeat. Teferi’s passive protects our spells from counter spells, his +1 ability enables us to play Mass Manipulation and Entrancing Melody at instant speed. His -3 ability can be a tempo play, bouncing back our opponent’s creatures, slowing them down and drawing a card. You can also think out of the box and gain value of this ability by bouncing your own creatures. Pick up a Frilled Mystic to regain a counter spell for example.
It feels good to talk about a strong ramp deck in Standard. I recommend trying this deck. Try out different white spells. The core of the deck is great for conducting further experiments with it. Also I think it hasn’t reached its final form. Maybe there is an URG or UBG version of the deck that is equally strong or better.