Eldrazi Ramp: An Archetype That May Survive the Rotation

Posted in Event Coverage on March 20, 2016

By Frank Karsten

While this weekend marks the last hurrah of the current Standard format, some players are already looking forward to exploring a brand new format. On April 8th, Shadows over Innistrad will rotate into Standard, and Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged will rotate out. When we asked several pros which current Standard decks they expected to survive the rotation, many answered that Eldrazi Ramp would stay nearly intact.

So in anticipation of the shift towards the post-Shadows world, let's take a look at the many flavors of Eldrazi Ramp that put up a good performance at Grand Prix Paris so far!

Richard Glasner's Blue-Green Eldrazi Ramp – Grand Prix Paris 2016

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This list features the usual green mana-ramp shell, and it adds Eldrazi Skyspawner and Drowner of Hope as blue creatures that can provide both time by blocking and acceleration via Eldrazi Scions.

Cards from this deck that will rotate out of Standard:

Disdainful Stroke from the sideboard is not essential and could be replaced by other countermagic. But Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is a more substantial loss. It provided a pivotal midgame swing by sweeping the board, but this powerful eight-mana option won't be legal anymore in the new Standard. As a side effect, Ugin's rotation also makes Oath of Nissa weaker.

In the green-blue color combinations, the 4 copies of Ugin could be replaced by, say, 2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and 2 Hedron Archive to go for more lumbering Eldrazi ramp strategy. Alternatively, you could swap Ugin along with some of the ramp cards for more aggressively-oriented creatures like Reality Smasher, but whether or not such a strategy is viable without Ghostfire Blade remains to be seen.

Claudio Mineri's Black-Green Eldrazi Ramp – Grand Prix Paris 2016

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This deck is similar to the previous one, except that you trade Eldrazi Skyspawner for Catacomb Sifter and don't have access to Drowner of Hope.

Cards from this deck that will rotate out of Standard:

Losing the sideboard options of Winds of Qal Sisma and Cranial Archive is not that big of an issue when Temur Battle Rage and Rally the Ancestors, respectively, also rotate out. Losing Whisperer of the Wilds is manageable because it's easily replaced by Deathcap Cultivator from Shadows over Innistrad, which might actually be an upgrade for a black-green deck.

The problem is that there is still no easy replacement for Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in this color combination. As mentioned earlier, extra copies of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger could pick up the slack, but it leaves the deck without an impactful card at the eight-mana mark.

Paul Ferret's Red-Green Eldrazi Ramp – Grand Prix Paris 2016

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This is the most common variant; Paul Ferret, currently at 10 wins and 2 losses after just beating No. 18 Martin Dang in the feature match area, was doing well with the deck in particular. An unusual aspect of his build was that he included 4 Hedron Crawler, but he had a good reason for that: "I was playing Kozilek's Return at first, but I realized that it was only good against aggro matchups. Against Control or Rally, which I expected to face more, I noticed that having a turn-two accelerant is really good, so I maximized on 8 mana dorks."

Paul Ferret, pledging his allegiance to Chandra

Cards from this deck that will rotate out of Standard:

The sideboard cards can be swapped for anything else; Rattleclaw Mystic can be replaced by Deathcap Cultivator; and Wooded Foothills can be substituted by extra basic lands.

The beauty of the red variant, especially from the perspective of the upcoming rotation, is that there are reasonable replacements for Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Red has Chandra, Flamecaller and Dragonlord Atarka as mid-game cards that can sweep an entire board of opposing creatures or planeswalkers. These cards can be played at approximately the same time as Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and have a similar effect. Alternatively, Kozilek's Return, when triggered by World Breaker, can do a reasonable Wrath of God impression as well.

But which of these cards would be best? According to Paul Ferret, "Maybe more Chandra? Kozilek's Return can also be good. It will depend on the new decks; it's hard to tell right now." Although the specifics can be fleshed out later, Red-Green Eldrazi Ramp is a powerful deck that stands to be well-positioned after the rotation!

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