Paul Dean, a Gold Pro who hails from Toronto, is sitting at 10-1 and is in good shape to make his first GP Top 8 here in Minneapolis this weekend. He worked with two teams for this event, Team 401 Games and Team Dex Army, the latter of which is made up of mostly Brazilian pro players. “A few of us came here, a few are in Manchester. We're all playing different decks,” explains Paul.
Paul is playing a nearly-traditional version of Red-Green Ramp with a few innovative variations. The deck was created by Team Dex Army and both Paul and Marcos Freitas piloted it at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad in Madrid back in April. “Marcos did really well with it. He went 8-2, I went 6-4. We carried the deck over from there.”
We've seen plenty of versions of Red-Green Ramp since Battle for Zendikar was released and they are mostly composed of the same shell of cards: ramp spells like Nissa's Pilgrimage and Explosive Vegetation, haymakers like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Dragonlord Atarka, and something to do during the early stages of the game like creature removal or Sylvan Advocate. Paul's version of the deck has a few interesting choices to fill these roles.
First, he's playing four copies of Endless One, something we see don't see very often in Standard ramp decks. “Endless One gives the deck consistency. Sometimes you need something to do in the early game, and sometimes you need something for the late game. Endless One fills all spots on the curve. It's actually great at all points. It triggers Sanctum of Ugin and starts your World Breaker chain. It also triggers Kozilek's Return from the graveyard. Plus, a 5/5 is pretty hard to beat,” explains Paul.
The other strange thing about Paul's list is that he's not playing Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in his main deck. “Ulamog forces you to make weird decisions. If you are at eight mana and cast something to trigger Sanctum (of Ugin), and you use Sanctum, you're never casting that Ulamog. It causes too much tension. Plus, Shrine of the Forsaken Gods only casts Ulamog, so if we cut Ulamog, we can cut Shrine, and we won't have that tension.” Paul goes on to explain that if he played Shrine of the Forsaken Gods in his deck, he would be forced to play very few red sources. “You already need ten Forest to support Nissa's Pilgrimage. If you play Shrine, you'll end up with very few red sources in your deck, which means that you can't play much red removal like Rending Volley.”
Instead of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Paul chose to play a full four copies of Dragonlord Atarka and Chandra, Flamecaller. Both of these cards can fill multiple roles and enter the battlefield much earlier than Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Two copies of World Breaker make up the top of the curve in Paul's deck.
Paul expects to face a lot of midrange decks this weekend. “I want to play against Rites, Midrange, and control. This deck is good against non-Infinite Obliteration decks. Naming World Breaker can be rough.” Paul didn't really want to play against White Humans decks this weekend. “White Weenie is like 40 percent. You either draw Kozilek's Return or you don't. The games are not close in either direction. In my match against Max (McVety), I knew I lost by turn three. He played an Always Watching and all his guys had three toughness.”
“You have to have stoicness when playing this deck against White Weenie. If you get absolutely demolished that's just how it goes.”
Paul feels that his ramp deck is incredibly consistent. “Some decks just lose to themselves in Standard. I think Ramp is a good choice this weekend.” Paul just picked up his first loss to Max McVety in Round 11 but is looking for his first GP Top 8 this weekend. “I'm Gold, but I don't have any good GP finishes. All my points are from Pro Tours. I'm hoping to change that this weekend.”