Alternative Means of Ramping in EDH
14 Feb 2021 - 5 min read
Every time an EDH deck is brewed, the question of “How much ramp do I include?” crosses the mind of the creator. Oftentimes, mana accelerants are seen as a necessary evil in the Commander format, due to the large discrepancy in how useful the cards tend to be in the early game versus the late game. The mindset that leads to this school of thought tends to be one that only considers ‘dedicated’ ramp cards when building a deck, cards such as Farseek and Explosive Vegetation , that tutor lands directly from the library to the battlefield. Outside of a Landfall-themed deck, drawing these cards in the late game can be fatal when a big payoff is needed to secure a win. What many players don’t realize is that there are ways to ensure you have the necessary ramp to land a haymaker, while not leaving so many duds when you’re topdecking. In this article I’d like to explore some unconventional ramping methods that make use of cards not traditionally thought of as able to provide mana acceleration.
Method 1: Mana Dork Tutoring
Green is the classic mana ramp color and it excels at this in ways many don’t even realize. Cards like Eladamri’s Call and Finale of Devastation are most often employed in EDH as a way of finding a win condition in the late game or tutoring out a specific answer in a toolbox deck, but does their utility need to end there? This is a strategy we also see frequently employed in Legacy Elves decks which rely on Craterhoof Behemoth to close out games. While using a tutor for the Behemoth is satisfying, part of this strategy that often flies under people’s radars is using tutor spells in the early game to get mana dorks. In the Legacy Elves example, this often comes in the form of a Dryad Arbor being tutored on turn 1 thanks to its 0 CMC, leveraging the low cost overhead of Green Sun’s Zenith . But it need not be this fancy of a process for the average player: an Elvish Mystic tutored up on turn 2 or 3 provides the same utility as a Rampant Growth searching up a forest. The important difference between these two options however, is that the tutor spell provides so much more versatility in the late game compared to a dedicated ramp card.
Method 2: Land Reanimation
This method consists of a two-step process which first involves getting land(s) into your graveyard. This could be by either milling yourself, looting effects, or the most common case of cracking a ‘fetch land’, which in this context refers to cards like Evolving Wilds and Fabled Passage as well as the more traditionally known “pay-one life” fetch lands like Bloodstained Mire . Once this has been accomplished, you can use any sort of card that puts a permanent onto the battlefield from your graveyard, such as Sun Titan . Having the card refer specifically to permanents is key for that added versatility mentioned before. If you draw one of these cards but don’t want to ramp at the moment, it’s very useful to have other options. If 6 mana is too much for you, Sevinne’s Reclamation might suit your fancy more. You can use this on turn 3 to recur a Prismatic Vista , then again on turn 5 to get the same Vista plus maybe a Wooded Foothills back, netting you a total of 3 mana in the process. Again, the beauty of these means is how you can just as easily get back your Ghostly Prison or Rhystic Study if the situation calls for it.
Method 3: Special Nonbasic Lands
In a sense, land cards that can net you 2 or more mana are a special form of mana acceleration in and of themselves. Last time you built a deck, when determining how much ramp to put into your deck, did you count your Temple of the False God in with your Nature’s Lore ? Lands like this and Ancient Tomb accelerate your total mana every turn without even needing to play a spell. Better yet, these lands can be tutored up using any means that can search for nonbasic lands. Expedition Map isn’t generally seen as a ramp spell but it is when it’s used to find a Castle Garenbrig which you in turn play and use to tap for 6 green mana as opposed to 5, it has become a ramp spell by proxy. Beyond this, a few nonbasic lands exist whose activated abilities can be used to accelerate your mana, namely Myriad Landscape , Blighted Woodland and Krosan Verge . These lands, while not providing the aforementioned versatility in the late game, serve the purpose of ramping without the need for a dedicated spell. You can play them and then activate their abilities at your leisure, netting a total of 1 extra mana per activation and thinning your deck in the process. Since both types of these special nonbasic lands serve as mana accelerants, you can afford to run less ramp spells in your main deck. This frees up space for more spells that stick to the specific strategy of your deck while still allowing you to get reliably fast mana in your games.
For the vast majority of EDH decks, mana accelerants are cards we wish we didn’t have to run. We draw them in the late game when we don’t want them and they often have nothing to do with the core strategy of our decks. Not only that but they can cause us undue stress when building our decks, since we have to sacrifice valuable slots that could be used for more interesting cards. Ramping in EDH doesn’t have to be like this though. Considering what cards can be used for mana acceleration in addition to a number of other things allows us to drastically lower the number of dedicated ramp cards that need to be included, all while keeping the decks consistent and fun to play!