Please don't hate me.
I know that last week I talked about how Four-Color Rally is just the best deck and that I was going to jam it and keep playing it for as long as it's legal. I went into reasons of how the deck can be resilient to the hate cards in the format, and how amazing the tempo game plan is with Reflector Mage and Collected Company. I still think that Rally is a very good deck, but sometimes you just have to follow your heart.
For those of you who have the
misfortune of following me on social media, you may have seen me talk about how much fun I was having at my local PPTQ. You also may have noticed that I wasn't posting about how I was always hitting with Collected Company or always having Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on turn 2.
They were more along these lines:
Got to Chandra 0 discarding 5, drawing 6, pitching a Kozileks Return, into shrine for 10 and Ulamog and really make my opponent sad— chris vanmeter (@Chris_VanMeter) February 20, 2016
World Breaker is a very unfair Magic card. Also, Chandra, Flamecaller is miles better than I thought it would be in this ramp deck.— chris vanmeter (@Chris_VanMeter) February 20, 2016
While I was working learning the ins and outs of Four-Color Rally, I kept running into these G/R Eldrazi Ramp decks and they just kept demolishing me. They would cut me off of white sources so that I could never actually cast Rally the Ancestors. I didn't really have any interaction for them, so getting to a point where World Breaker; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger could take over the game was trivial.
After having enough, I decided to pick the deck up and play a few games with it, and I never looked back. Sadly it was a little late in the week, so I didn't get to reach out to the current Ramp players and talk strategy, but here is what I ended up registering for the PPTQ.
I learned quite a bit over the course of my practice and actually playing in the event, and I plan on continuing to work on the deck. I feel like a lot of things worked very well and I really liked some aspects of the list, but there were some things that I was not too happy with, or that I feel like I just did plain wrong.
For starters, I was overly impressed with Chandra, Flamecaller and completely disappointed with Dragonlord Atarka. In fact, I found myself wanting to take out Dragonlord Atarka in basically every match, which is a tough thing for me to handle since I love me some Atarka. Chandra, on the other hand, was completely insane. I used her 0 ability many more times than I ever expected, and it played perfectly in this deck. With Kozilek's Return and World Breaker, discarding cards is never really a bad thing. I found that, getting into the mid- and late-game, I would always have some superfluous ramp spells in my hand, or even some extra lands from earlier Nissa's Pilgrimages, and I was constantly using Chandra's 0 ability to discard four or five cards and get basically an entire new hand.
An important thing that I noticed while I was playing this weekend, and is something that plays perfectly into why I love Chandra so much but was unimpressed with Dragonlord Atarka, is that it felt very much like an X/3 format in terms of creature toughness. This is great for Chandra, Flamecaller, since we are often going to deploy her onto the battlefield and use her -X ability (X=3), wipe the battlefield clear, and still leave her for the next turn. When the majority of creatures that we're going to be up against are effectively X/3's, Dragonlord Atarka is likely a one for one and then dies to a Murderous Cut, or even gets bounced by a Reflector Mage.
I found that, in almost every match, I was sideboarding out the Dragonlord Atarka and bringing in the third copy of Chandra, Flamecaller from the sideboard, which likely means that we should just be starting three Chandra and cutting the Dragonlords.
In addition to this, I also wasn't a huge fan of having so many Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. With Chandra, Flamecaller helping to play creature cleanup and World Breaker giving us a land destruction chain, I think that the second Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger just wasn't needed in the main. It's one of the best cards in the mirror, so I don't mind having access to a second one in the sideboard, but with the four copies of Sanctum of Ugin to help find our Ulamog, I don't think we need more than one in the main.
I've seen lists go back and forth between having mana accelerant creatures like Rattleclaw Mystic, Leaf Gilder, and Hedron Crawler, or another option. Sylvan Advocate and Elvish Visionary are the likely candidates if you want to go that route, but I found that I was actually pretty happy with the mana creatures, especially Rattleclaw Mystic, and it's primarily because of this interaction:
Rattleclaw Mystic is essentially Reflector Mage-proof. Since morphs don't have a name, if the opponent decides to Reflector Mage your face-down Rattleclaw Mystic back to your hand, you can just replay it, either as a morph or face-up. Likewise, if they bounce your face-up Rattleclaw Mystic back to your hand, you can just replay it as a morph on the next turn. This came up multiple times, and it was pretty important in allowing me to stay at parity while being on the draw against Four-Color Rally.
Other standouts were Oath of Nissa and World Breaker. Oath of Nissa is essentially a land drop in the early game if we need it, or we can save it for a turn where we will have an extra mana and know just what it is that we're looking for. It also makes me feel comfortable playing only three copies of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and not feeling the need to go up to four copies of Chandra, Flamecaller.
Oath of Nissa also has additional text outside of the makeshift Ponder effect. I was able to use Oath of Nissa multiple times over the course of testing and the PPTQ to cast Chandra, Flamecaller without any red mana on the battlefield. It even took my unobservant opponents by surprise a few times!
Without anything like Blighted Woodland and only having two copies of Hedron Archive, I had a lot of turns where I just did nothing. I want to fit at least one copy of Blighted Woodland into the deck, but I don't know if we can really afford to go higher than eight true colorless lands and I was overly impressed with both Shrine of the Forsaken Gods and Sanctum of Ugin.
As for the sideboard, there are a handful of spots that are almost necessary, like the Jaddi Offshoot and some number of Roasts. I liked having access to the fourth copy of Kozilek's Return, but I also want to have a fifth sweeper. Monastery Mentor is an insane card against us, so I think that I want something like Radiant Flames as a fifth sweeper.
I never really got to utilize the Void Winnower or the Crumble to Dust, as they are primarily for the mirror, but everything else in the sideboard got some use out of it. Plummet was sweet and I want access to another copy, as R/B Dragons is still a thing.
Here is where I currently am:
Here is a breakdown of what decks I like the different sideboard cards against:
As a known quantity, these are primarily for R/B Dragons, but they can also be effective against any Dragon-style deck, especially if they happen to have Mantis Rider also. We aren't really doing much blocking to begin with, and since Roast doesn't hit flying creatures and is sorcery-speed, I like having an instant-speed answer to threats like Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury.
These are primarily for Atarka Red-style decks, but I also like them against Monastery Mentor. Prowess can be rough, since these spells are generally only doing two damage unless we are getting the graveyard interaction out of Kozilek's Return, but aggressive decks and decks that go wide are some of our toughest matchups.
This is another card to combat Atarka Red or other aggressive decks. It's also quite nice that the Offshoot survives our two-damage sweepers, since it is an 0/3. I've experimented a few times with bringing in some of these against Four-Color Rally, as their best way to beat us usually involves getting in enough damage and drains with Zulaport Cutthroat that they can eke us out as we start to take over and destroy their lands. I haven't decided if I like it or not, as I have gotten mixed results.
Siege Rhino is the primary target, but it's also convenient that it kills Anafenza, the Foremost. Just stemming the bleeding until we can get into the late-game against Abzan is the goal, since the backside of Kozilek's Return kills everything in their deck and they are very hard-pressed to beat a resolved Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. I have also brought a few of these in on the draw against Jace decks, since Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is one of the few ways for our opponents to generate a significant advantage against the Ramp deck.
This card is primarily for the mirror, since Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is generally the most important card in the matchup. I don't really like it against Four-Color Rally, as a Rally for three costs five mana, and both Sidisi's Faithful and Reflector Mage cost odd amounts of mana. This card might be switchable to something else for the mirror, like Thought-Knot Seer, but I still like it for now.
Much like Void Winnower, we definitely want another Ulamog for the mirror. Four-Color Rally is also a matchup where Ulamog shines. I also don't mind having an extra copy against control decks, since the on-cast trigger is very nice.
I've been happy with Kozilek against the control decks, primarily Esper Dragons / Mentor and Jeskai Black. It's not a slam dunk, but most of the time, if you get to cast Kozilek, the game will end shortly thereafter.
I like having the fourth copy of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in the sideboard to bring in against the Abzan decks and Four-Color Rally. Even though they are likely to have something like Nantuko Husk to prevent us from actually exiling everything, Ugin is a win condition and a battlefield wipe all in one, and we can even ultimate Ugin if we need to gain life to get out of range of being drained, if that's ever a possibility.
I'm not going to get to battle with this deck over the weekend because I will be at #SCGPHILLY bringing you coverage all weekend long with Andy Boswell, but for anyone who happens to head down to Houston for the Grand Prix or battle in any PPTQs, I definitely recommend G/R Eldrazi Ramp. Chandra, Flamecaller is insane, just as I thought she was, and moving away from Dragonlord Atarka for another Chandra and a Hedron Archive just feels perfect.
I've seen the light and I embrace the Eldrazi. They are stomping Modern right now and will likely have a showing this weekend in Legacy (I know, right?!), so why not also battle with them in Standard? I Tweeted over the weekend that casting World Breaker felt a lot like Acidic Slime all over again, and I gotta say, it is a really good feeling!