The Other 99: Ramp Spells in Commander

RJGiel

Welcome back to The Other 99, the series where we examine the best options for precious slots in your Commander decks. Today we'll be looking at the best ramp cards to include in your Commander decks and at the requirements they need to fulfill to shine in a world of multiplayer mayhem.

Ramping It Up

In "The Other 99" we look at deck building in Commander. Today's article is dedicated to ramp. While ramping isn't something exclusive to Commander, it certainly is at home in a format that's all about big plays and long-lasting games, making cards like Cultivate and Kodama's Reach enduring staples. This article will focus on ramp through the means of acquiring lands, whether to your hand or directly to the battlefield. I'm leaving out artifacts, creatures, and other means of generating mana, as this is another topic that deserves an article itself. Keep in mind that we're talking about casual Commander here; competitive EDH can almost be considered a different format.

Another quick note; I've decided to split the lists in this article in two, green and nongreen. Ramping is an inherently green power, but you don't have to be in green to make sure you hit your land drops or to accelerate your mana supply.

Ramp Away


rampant growth

As with most cards in Commander, there's a plethora of options available. To filter our selection, we need to set some qualifications to what makes a ramp spell good.

  • Low casting cost

This a no-brainer. Ramping is especially good in the early turns of the game. High-cost spells often have a larger impact on a game and it's the cheap cards that help you get there. While there are no official rules for ramping, I would say that we like to spend no more than the first two to four turns on ramping. This means that the perfect ramp spell would preferably cost 4 mana or less.

  • Basic land versus land type

This is an interesting part that is often overlooked by newer players, and that's understandable. Let's look at these two cards; Rampant Growth and Farseek. On first sight, these cards seem to be very similar. The main difference is that Rampant Growth can even search a basic Forest, while Farseek can find anything but a Forest. However, if we take another look at Farseek, it doesn't mention that the land you search must be a basic land. This opens the door to many dual lands, including shock lands, Battle lands, Amonkhet cycle lands, and other lands that include the basic land type. Good ramp spells don't limit us to only basic land cards, but rather let us search multicolor mana sources.

  • Untapped versus tapped; battlefield versus hand

The best ramp puts a land card into play directly and untapped, allowing us to use the extra mana immediately.

Ramp's Hall of Fame


Kodama's Reach

Green:

Let's look at what are, in my opinion, the very best green ramp spells that Commander has to offer.

  • Nature's Lore — and for the diehards, its Portal counterpart Three Visits — is everything we want. It's cheap to play, finds nonbasic lands and puts them into play untapped. The fact that it must find a Forest might seems like a restriction, but if you're playing green anyway, there are plenty of options to find, with Breeding Pool, Cinder Glade, or Murmuring Bosk as some examples.

  • Farseek, for the same reasons mentioned above. It's a bit worse than Nature's Lore but still more effective than most ramp spells, including Rampant Growth.

  • Skyshroud Claim is twice Nature's Lore for twice the mana. I mentioned that a cost of 4 should be the absolute maximum, and I believe Skyshroud Claim should be at the top of your ramp curve. If you want a card that does something similar, I suggest you take a look at Ranger's Path.

  • Wood Elves is another card that allows you to look for any kind of Forest and puts it onto the battlefield. The bonus creature can attack, block, or feed Skullclamp.

  • Sakura-Tribe Elder works amazing in decks that already care about sacrificing creatures with Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Muldrotha, Grave Titan as prime examples. But even without a commander dedicated to sacrificing, good old Steve is an excellent card that will often make the cut.

  • Cultivate and Kodama's Reach are well known cards for a reason, they are just incredibly efficient. While they don't fetch nonbasics — nor do they have lands enter untapped, unless you didn't play a land that turn — two lands for 3 mana is a rate you won't see on many other cards.

Colorless:

  • There aren't a lot of nongreen cards that directly put lands onto the battlefield, and at 4 mana, Solemn Simulacrum is on the expensive side. Its cost is the only downside, however, and the fact that it's both an artifact and a creature that replaces itself upon dying makes it usually worth running in nongreen decks.

  • I couldn't write this article without mentioning everybody's favorite deer, Burnished Hart. It's slow, clunky, and fragile, but also incredibly effective at ramping up decks that have trouble hitting land drops early. The fact that it has a cost of 3 also makes it the perfect Sun Titan target, earning itself a spot in the hall of fame for nongreen ramp.

  • While Expedition Map doesn't advance your mana on the battlefield, it's still amazing at tutoring any land without requiring the investment of a certain color.

  • Wayfarer's Bauble is a very underrated card. Paying 3 mana over two turns to get any basic into play is a good deal for nongreen decks. Play the Bauble on turn one, crack it turn two and untap turn three with 4 mana.

Runner-Ups and the Best of the Rest


Collective Voyage

The following aren't the best of the best but still viable choices that get the job done. Run these if you already use the spells mentioned above and are looking for extra ramp.

Green:

  • Tempt with Discovery is the definition of a double-edged sword and can be either ridiculously broken, or cause a huge backswing based on your playgroup and their decks. Keep in mind that this card can fetch any land, so if there's a monoblack player at the table you might need to think twice before giving them Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth plus Cabal Coffers.

  • Rampant Growth is the namesake card of ramping. It's not a very wild or interesting card, but gets the job done at a pretty effective rate.

  • Explosive Vegetation is a worse Skyshroud Claim and should only be considered for decks that have a very high average mana cost and need to ramp as much as possible before being able to do their things.

  • Hour of Promise sits at 5 mana in an uncomfortable spot where it's a bit too expensive for a ramp spell that only gets you two lands. The main advantage here is that it can instantly fetch two-card combos such as the aforementioned Cabal Coffers plus Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Kessig Wolf Run plus Inkmoth Nexus, or Thespian's Stage plus Dark Depths. But if you don't run any of these combos, Hour of Promise shouldn't be at the top of your list.

  • While you bear the risk of it getting countered for the absolute worst feeling in the world, Harrow is a pretty decent spell that can be played at instant speed and brings two lands into play untapped.

Colorless:

  • Mycosynth Wellspring is an excellent card for decks that can recycle artifacts through the means of Goblin Welder or Daretti, Scrap Savant. I'm not sure if you should play this card outside of red-based artifact decks, but it's worth mentioning the card for exactly those decks.

  • I'm not a huge fan of this card, but I know there are some decks out there that are looking for an effect such as this one, so let's talk about Journeyer's Kite. It's slow and clunky and by no means efficient. However, when you are playing your Casual Boros Tribal Angels deck, sometimes having to pay 3 mana to find a land is better than having no lands at all. I'd even go as far as saying that the Kite is so underpowered that most people will leave it untouched, making sure you hit a land every turn.

  • While casting and then equipping Sword of the Animist to a creature is by no means an easy feat, it will reward you with a (somewhat) steady stream of lands straight from the library. I'm not saying this should go into every deck, but if your focus is on equipment, which usually also means a toolbox-element, the Sword can play a vital part in your ramping capabilities.

Ramp in Specific Nongreen Colors


land tax

There are a few cards that allow you to find lands outside of green or colorless cards. While they are often nearly not as effective, it's still worth mentioning them.

White:

White is probably the second best color at ramping. With this, I don't mean to say that white is a color that provides mana acceleration, but there are a few cards that have strange abilities on them:

  • Land Tax finds lands at a rate that even green players can get jealous about. But, in typical white fashion, there's a condition that needs to be met, making Land Tax only good in situations where you are going last, or when you're not doing as well as your opponents.

  • Tithe and Gift of Estates are basically a single use Land Tax.

  • Knight of the White Orchid is probably one of the better white ramp cards. It still has the condition that opponents need to have more lands than you, but it's a 2/2 first striker that can be easily brought back by a large number of cards: Sun Titan, Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Renegade Rallier, Unearth to name a few.

  • Weathered Wayfarer is a card that looks strong on paper, but for some reason I always end up cutting it. It feels slow and clunky, though when it does work, is amazing as there is no restriction to the lands that you can search.

  • Boreal Charger, Kor Cartographer, and Oreskos Explorer aren't specifically great, but still worth to consider as options.

The upside of most these white cards is that they search for a Plains card rather than a basic land, allowing you to find shock, Battle, and other Plains such as Mistveil Plains.

Black:

While I'd personally strictly stick to artifact ramp in black decks that don't have access to green or even white, there are some nice cards that allow you to find additional Swamps:

Blue and Red:

Red being a color mostly focused on destroying lands, rather than getting them into play and blue being the color that does pretty much everything except ramping, there aren't that many spells available:

  • Dreamscape Artist is at least a very unusual card that can help thin your deck and ramp in a way that isn't very common for blue.

  • Modern Horizons brought us Alpine Guide which can find any Mountain, including nonbasics.

Ramp Away

That concludes this installment of The Other 99. What are your favorite green ramp cards? What cards do you use when you don't have access to green? As always, thanks for reading. Until next time!


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.



15 Comments

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Aranonym(20.04.2020 18:09)

Sorry to say but Land Tax, Tithe and many more of these cards arent technically ramp, because they dont put lands into play. They dont nett you any mana advantage like a Rampant Growth but instead just help you to hit your land drops so its more fixing. Personally I would say Mana Rocks/Dorks are more similar to ramp than the Fixing of Land Tax etc.

karrrl(28.02.2020 14:35)

Some more ramp for your consideration ;)
-"savor the moment" (basicaly an "explore")
- "retraced image"

TROLL(27.02.2020 16:58)

Maybe you could have mentioned all the new Basic-land-Cycling cards which are Instants, colorless and near impossible to counter ?

Schroedinger04(25.02.2020 12:28)

I personally also run Harvest Season, because it can thin out your library explosively in token based decks.

mhrouill(25.02.2020 11:01)

Lotus cobra with harrow to sorcery

Feyamius(25.02.2020 09:12)

You didn't mention the newest additions to ramp spells:
- The best green knight of Eldraine: Syr Cuitous Route, I'm sorry, Circuitous Route. It's basically a strictly better Explosive Vegetation, especially if you're on a budget and actually run guildgates.
- Omen of the Hunt is an alternative (or addition) to Kodama's Reach and Cultivate for reactive decks, like in Simic colors. Doesn't find a second land for your next landdrop, but it provides a scry sometime later.

martyq(25.02.2020 07:57)

Collective voyage does'nt fetch out any land. Only basic land. So in my opinion it's not that good, except u play something like a landfall deck, or you want to get out a high cmc-commander early, like Maelstrom Wanderer. It's like "welcome to midgame".

RJGiel
RJGiel(25.02.2020 09:10)(Edited: 13.10.2020 14:38)

Martyq thanks for noticing, I ofcourse meant "Tempt With Discovery" :)

rnuvonsyc(25.02.2020 07:39)

Well this article is a bit dissapointing. You can find those cards easily in mtg gatherer with advanced filters. Seems a waste to dedicate your writing time to. I was expecting this article to go into the meta game effects on your casual commander group by always adding ramp in your deck. Ramp is boring. Staples are boring. Including these type of cards in your deck reduces the amount of cool cards you can play. If you play ramp cards everyone else should as well or they will be left behind This way you force your whole group into making effective but meaningless decidions on what cards to play. The same goed for cards like tutors, once you start playing a multitude of those your deck becomes boring. Casual is about fun and funky decks that defeat your friends in fun and novel ways. Not by simple speed and brute force.

SirLunch-A-Lot(25.02.2020 09:28)

Problem with that is that you are much less likely to be able to cast your cool and funky cards if you don't ensure you have the mana at an appropriate time.

RJGiel
RJGiel(25.02.2020 09:43)

Hi rnuvonsyc, I think the most important thing in Commander is that there is no right or wrong, it's a casual format that you get to enjoy how you see fit. It is a totally acceptable choice that you don't enjoy ramping or playing the same cards over again, but this doesn't mean that other people are "wrong" for doing this.

Just make sure that you and your playgroup have the same expectations and guidelines, this will avoid any undesired situations and makes sure you can all enjoy the format the way you want to!

Frogling(25.02.2020 01:47)

Seems to me that this article is not adressed to the casual commander comunity. And players who prefer some slower gameplay. I read four mana are a bit high in costs for a Solemn Simulacrum and the Journeyers Kite doesnt do much. Constantly getting these extra lands from spare mana has turned a lot of games into much better or winning games. Thaumatic Compass provides an even better counterpart to it. Both cards are not that threatening so they should stay on the battlefield for a while. They drop early on two mana and can perform for three in mana screwed games. One of the best cards I could see in my starting hand in mono white, mono red, boros, rakdos or mardu.

I´am happy that Kor Cartographer was mentioned here. But some cards are missing especially for white. First of all Boreas Charger that is not limited to basic plains. It is in addition an early flyer (blocks, hits plainswalkers, attack with Sword of the animist,...), could feed into scull clamp (see above) and could be brought back with Alesha or in white with Sun Titan (see above), Teshar, Ancestor´s Apostel, Bishop of Rebirth, Custodi Soulcaller,... It reads 'leaves the battlefield' so it triggers not only for dying but even for bounce, exile or putting it into your library.

Endless Horizons is geat as well. It could be removed, yes, but most of the time there are more problematic cards on the battlefield. So you will get at least some lands from it. It is not limited to basic plains and if it stays on the battlefield it can provide you constantly with extra lands. But be carefull and consider wisely how many Plains you fetch with it. Another option for this card is an all in move in the late game if you dont want to draw any further lands. Then search for all of the plains. Imagine a Sram, senior Edificer with that. ;)

In certain Decks I would even consider Eternal Dragon as its not limited to basic plains, has self recursion and can be a body on the battlefield in the late game. It provides colour fixing in white non green decks. Skip a Landslot for it in an eg. Ur-Dragon deck gives you colour fixing and one more nonland/(spirit)dragon card. For alternative deckbuilding strategies.

A budget variant of this are all land- and basicland cycling creatures like Noble Templar.

After some wheels, mill or in long games with a little grave hate an Oblivion Sower could perform as an Boundless Realms like card in non green decks.

But for constant access to lands in non green decks the Thawing Glaciers are my favourite. If you draw a lot of cards then Terrain Generator and Walking Atlas both do a great job as well.

RJGiel
RJGiel(25.02.2020 09:45)

There's so many options in Commander, that's the beauty of it, I just wanted to highlight my favorites. Thanks for sharing your options :)

env03059(25.02.2020 00:11)

I think Oath of Lieges deserves an honorable mention. Yes, it ramps basically almost everybody, but it is free and every turn.

Frogling(25.02.2020 01:32)

Env03059Nice! I would add Sindbad here for blue based (maybe grixis - madness) decks. :D

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