Deck Tech: R/G Ramp with Simon Nielsen

Posted in Event Coverage on August 13, 2016

By Frank Karsten

"It's the best Emrakul deck," Simon Nielsen said when I approached him about his deck choice for the weekend. "I couldn't beat it with the Jund Delirium deck that I played in Sydney, so I switched over."

The Player

Simon Nielsen is a 22-year old linguistics student from "soon to be Copenhagen." His previous Magic accomplishments include a World Magic Cup victory as a member of the Danish team in 2014 and a Top 8 at Grand Prix Brussels 2015. He is also known for his stream (twitch.tv/redbuttontie), for his love of red, button-decorated ties, and his prowess at brewing funky decks.

Last weekend at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, he finished in the Top 16, securing enough pro points for Gold level. This meant a qualification for all Pro Tours in the 2016-2017 season for him, as well as 3 byes at any Grand Prix. Walking around the event hall in Round 3 for the first time in his life, he looked content, even though he saw a lot of Bant Company and U/R Alchemist at the top tables—not the most favorable metagame for his deck choice.

The Deck


This weekend, Nielsen registered a R/G Ramp deck inspired by the one that Reid Duke piloted to a Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon.

Simon Nielsen's R/G Ramp – Grand Prix Rimini 2016

Download Arena Decklist

"The deck is an Emrakul deck," Nielsen said. "Its goal is to play ramp spells (Hedron Archive and Nissa's Pilgrimage) and cantrips (Vessel of Nascency, Gather the Pack, and Grapple with the Past) to fill up your yard and to make Emrakul cheaper. So the deck has two ways for working towards Emrakul. There is also Kozilek's Return, but instead of an emerge package to trigger it, the deck has World Breaker, which doesn't require setup and is therefore harder to stop."

"It's the best Emrakul deck because it ramps quickly, it has 4 Traverse to get to Emrakul easily, and it has many threats to withstand discard or other disruption," he continued. "I couldn't beat it with Jund Delirium. Emrakul mirrors often come down to topdecks, and Green-Red topdecks so well because it has all these cantrips and threats. It's also the fastest at casting Emrakul. Finally, Green-Red has access to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in the sideboard, which is a great card for Emrakul mirrors because it's indestructible and clocks them quickly. To justify the one-of Ulamog, you need mana ramp and Traverse the Ulvenwald, and this deck has both."

So what changes did he make to Reid Duke's list?

"I cut Sylvan Advocate for Fiery Impulse because the one Advocate was so random," Nielsen answered. "I also cut Dragonlord Atarka for Ulvenwald Hydra to make the deck sleeker and to become better positioned versus Bant Company. Hydra was over-performing because it bridges to late game."

"We also changed the mana base. Drownyard Temple recursion rarely came up, so we added Geier Reach Sanitarium and Wastes instead. The Sanitarium, which can be found with Ulvenwald Hydra, allows you to pitch excess Forests from Nissa's Pilgrimage. Even better, if you have enough mana available, you can activate it during an Emrakul turn and force your opponent to discard their best card!"

"Wastes helps support Thought-Knot Seer from the sideboard, which is a card we added to improve against U/R Burn and Emrakul decks. You can search for it with Traverse the Ulvenwald on turn 1."

The other cards he added (Orbs of Warding, Natural State, and Pulse of Murasa) were mainly to improve further against the deck with Fevered Visions and Thermo-Alchemist. There's also Den Protector, which goes quite well with Pulse of Murasa. To make room, Nielsen cut 1 Rending Volley, 1 Roast, 1 Kozilek's Return, 1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer, and 1 Shaman of Forgotten Ways from Duke's original list.

Positioning, Matchups, and Sideboarding

According to Nielsen, playing an Emrakul deck is one of the most solid things to be doing in the format. Because R/G Ramp is the best at that, it is good against other Emrakul or delirium decks. Moreover, "B/W Control is a good matchup because you do more powerful things and they have a lot of removal that doesn't do anything."

To achieve those favorable matchups, others must get worse. "Bant Company is only 50-50," Nielsen said. "Jund delirium has a much better matchup versus Bant, but it's worse against other decks in the metagame. That's why I made the switch."

Another poor matchup, despite his sideboard tweaks, is U/R Alchemist. "That deck may be poor against Bant Company, but it's super well positioned versus Emrakul decks. Even then, I can ramp into Orbs of Warding or a quick threat. I think other Emrakul decks may be even worse against them."

Sideboarding against the main strategies usually is pretty straightforward, with spot removal coming out against slow decks and cheap spells being brought in against more aggressive decks. The only possibly non-intuitive thing is that Tireless Tracker should be brought in versus Bant Company. "You need a powerful threat that forces them to react," Nielsen explained.

Tips and Tricks

When I asked Nielsen for any interesting plays that we might not see right away picking up this deck, his main recommendation was to look out for opportunities to get more card types into the graveyard.

To illustrate, he gave two examples. First, imagine eight lands and Hedron Crawler on the battlefield, with sorcery and land as the only card types in the graveyard. That's not enough to cast Emrakul. But there is a way to do it: tap all your permanents for mana, kill Hedron Crawler with Fiery Impulse, and achieve 5 card types with 8 mana in your pool!

In the second situation, Nielsen described how, after a turn-one Fiery Impulse, he decided to chump-block a 1/2 Thraben Inspector with Hedron Crawler. That was on turn two! The reason for his play was that Nielsen was planning to go Nissa's Pilgrimage on turn 3 and Ishkanah, Grafwidow on turn 4, and he wanted to be guaranteed delirium before his opponent could disrupt his plans with Reflector Mage.

With crazy options like that, this deck is not only powerful, but it's a blast to play as well.

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