Standard recently has been pretty much the same: Delver, Delver, and more Delver. Even with the release of M13, I have seen about four or five writers all write about the same thing: U/G Delver. I get it; Quirion Dryad gets big with Ponders and Vapor Snags, while Talrand, Sky Summoner is cool with Phyrexian mana. Enough with Delver!
With that said, I will try to refrain from using that word for the rest of the article. Instead, I will talk about a deck that has pretty much flown under the radar for reasons I'm not really sure of. The deck I am referring to recently gave long-time gamer Josh Ravitz another invite to the Pro Tour and me a Top 4 split at a local 2K cash tournament.
The deck is RUG Ramp.
Let's first look at Josh's PTQ-winning decklist, which was originally designed by John Kassari before M13 was released.
Now I will post the list I used last weekend, which is M13 legal.
As you can see, M13 gave this deck some solid improvements as Farseek is superior to Sphere of the Suns and sideboard Thragtusk is better suited for the deck than Batterskull, especially with the addition of Garruk Relentless.
Another thing I noticed in Josh's list is the lack of Bonfire of the Damned. Bonfire is easily one of the most powerful cards in standard, and with the fact that this deck has four Ponders and access to tons of mana, I would say Bonfire fits perfectly.
Now that you have both lists to compare, I will talk about each card choice and other card choices I thought about but decided against for my deck.
The most important card in the deck and still one of the best creatures in Standard. Primeval Titan is what the deck is built around. With access to Farseek, Rampant Growth, and Solemn Simulacrum, Primeval Titan can come down as early as turn 4.
Don't be fooled though; this deck isn't just slam a Titan and win. When playing Primeval, there are lots of options with what lands you can get. Sometimes, you should go for double Glimmerpost to gain some life, but there are other times when you want to get a Kessig Wolf Run and Inkmoth Nexus. To be fair, though, there are games were you pretty much just win with a Primeval followed by a Temporal Mastery. Regardless, Primeval Titan doesn't need much more of an explanation about why he is in the deck, and if you like doing unfair things with him, this is a good deck for you.
The slightly weaker Titan, as I cut one and even considered playing maindeck Thragtusk over him. However, he is still a Titan and deserves a slot in the deck. He plays an important role in the deck as he is able to help make a comeback when behind or just push you way ahead in an even board state. Being able to tap down a Birthing Pod or locking down a land is nice, especially when you have already cleared a few guys out of the way with either a Bonfire or Garruk.
Frost Titan often gets boarded out against aggressive decks in favor of Thragtusks and Wurmcoil Engine since you don't want too many high-end drops in your deck. Overall, Frost Titan is important for the deck, but if your metagame is almost all creature decks such as Zombies and G/R Aggro, then I can see playing three Wurmcoil Engines in place of the Frost Titans.
Even though he is the weakest creature in the deck, Solemn Simulacrum plays a very important role. He serves as both a mana accelerator and a body that gets in the way and slows down the beats. I do sometimes board out a copy of him, since when you are boarding into Thragtusks you don't really need to ramp from four to six. Also, in the matchups were you are boarding in the Thragtusks, playing a Garruk when you hit four mana is often more important anyway.
Something else to keep in mind with Solemn Simulacrum and Rampant Growth is that unlike Farseek, you can get Forests, so on the very rare occasions where you have almost all your Islands and Mountain out of your deck you might just want to get a Forest with Solemn Simulacrum in case you draw a Farseek later on in the game.
One of the new additions from M13, Farseek is not as good as Rampant Growth, but it's better than Sphere of the Suns since it helps thin out your deck, can't get destroyed by an artifact removal spell, and doesn't run out of counters. Because of Farseek, I changed up the mana base from the original list a bit and after playing a lot with the deck, I feel the land configuration is correct.
Completing the full eight two-mana ramp spells, Rampant Growth has been a staple of ramp decks since its printing in Mirage. Ramping from two to four is a huge part of what this deck wants to do. Having access to eight two-mana ramp spells ensures we will be ramping from two to four in a majority of our games.
A powerful card that probably is best in a deck like this for a few reasons. First off, you have access to Ponder, which makes the miracle on Temporal Mastery and Bonfire of the Dammed much more likely to happen when you want it to. Also, with tons of mana and game ending threats in the form of the Titans, taking an extra turn is often game ending. When it's played early in the game off a miracle, it plays out like an Explore, which is still important to the deck.
Even though Temporal Mastery is very powerful, I tend to sideboard them out against the very aggressive decks because drawing a seven-mana card in your opening hand against Zombies is just too bad. You would rather have a card like Pillar of Flame to interact with them and halt their attack. Temporal Mastery awards for tight play, as you can steal a win out of nowhere by taking an extra turn with Primeval titan; this sometimes takes a few turns to set up, but when executed correctly it makes you look like a pro.
This card is fantastic and, if possible, even better in this deck for the same reasons I mentioned above referring to Temporal Mastery. I was really surprised when I saw the original list had Whipflare over Bonfire. Since you want to spend your turn 2 playing a ramp spell, Whipflare wouldn't really get cast until turn 3 most of the time anyway, and on turn 3 you want to cast a
In the last tournament I played with this deck, there was one game where I didn't even want to miracle a Bonfire for two, killing two of my opponent's creatures, because my line of play was Solemn Simulacrum into Primeval Titan. If that card had been a Whipflare, the effect later on in the game would have been less impactful. I ended up Bonfiring for four the turn after I played the titan, taking out all of his creatures instead of just the two it would have been if it was Whipflare.
Karn is super powerful and gives you a catchall trump card. For a while during testing I wanted to play two copies of Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, but I couldn't find room since Garruk is too important and Karn is just better at dealing with threats. Not to mention the fact that with Temporal Mastery you can ultimate Karn out of nowhere.
Karn does, however, come out in the aggressive matchups since seven mana is sometimes too much versus the creature decks. It does shine against ramp and control decks, though; Josh had an extra copy in the board, and that might be necessary if those decks become more popular.
Garruk was a late addition, and I quickly became more and more impressed with him every time I cast him. With the ability to Growth or Farseek into him, you can take out their mana guy or early drop and then have him flip. In addition, being able to search out a Titan by sacrificing Solemn or tokens you've created with Garruk is a very powerful line of play.
Having access to Ponder feels like a luxury at this point, as the card is already banned in Modern. Combined with the various shuffle effects in the deck, the card selection you get off Ponder is truly amazing and helps form some very powerful draws, especially with setting up your miracles.
Now that I went over the maindeck, I will give you some thoughts about my sideboard along with a summary of how the 2K Standard tournament played out for me.
Round 1: RUG Delver
My opponent's deck was a pretty neat one to say the least, as it was an aggressive three-color Delver deck featuring Delver, Huntmaster, and Dryad along with cheap removal and counters (Vapor Snag, Pillar of Flame, and Mana Leak).
In the dark I would say this is a fine matchup for me but not great; if he flips an early Delver and manages to Mana Leak a few important spells, I could be in trouble. Also, he may have Zealous Conscripts in the sideboard, so that was something else I had to be careful about.
Game 1 I kept a hand of three lands, three Farseek, and a Rampant Growth on the draw. I figured it was a fine hand, as having a ramp spell is very important and I had four. I also thought I would just draw into something as the game went on. However, I ended the game with about fifteen lands in play as I flooded out and didn't draw enough action to stay in the game.
Games 2 and 3 played out similarly; I boarded in the Blasphemous Acts, Pillar of Flames, Silklash Spider, Thragtusk, and Wurmcoil Engine in favor of Frost Titans, Temporal Masteries, and Karn Liberated.
In both games, I ended drawing a handful of my sideboard cards and he was unable to deal with Thragtusk as it gained me too much of an advantage, both with a board presence and life total.
Round 2: B/U Zombies
My opponent was on basic B/U Zombies with nothing new from M13, so I knew how to play against the deck. After seeing he was on Zombies, I was very happy to have added the Garruks to the deck as I figured they would play an important role.
Game 1 my deck just did its thing. I was on the play with a turn 2 Rampant Growth, turn 3 Garruk. I was able to take out a Blood Artist then make a string of Wolf tokens followed up by a Titan to end the game.
Game 2 I boarded in Wurmcoil Engine, Thragtusk, and Pillar of Flame. You don't really want Blasphemous Acts because of Messenger and Blood Artist, plus I think Blasphemous Acts are better suited against decks with creatures that cost three and four mana, such as Naya. In game 2 he ended up curving me out perfectly, and I lost on his turn 5.
Round 3: Esper Control
This round I was up against my buddy Brandon, who is a control junkie, so I figured he would be on either Esper or U/B Control.
Game 1 I ended up getting a fast draw with a few ramp spells then played a Titan and Karn. He managed to answer both of them, but another Titan was sitting on top of my deck and he was out of answers.
Round 4: B/W/G Ramp
My opponent was on a similar ramp strategy just with different colors.
Game 1 we both ramped up, but since I was on the play I was just one step ahead. On turn 5, I dropped a Karn and pumped it to ten. He untapped then tapped seven (for a second I thought it was his own Karn), but it was just an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, which was removed by Karn next turn. A few turns later my opponent packed it in, and we were off to game 2.
For game 2, I Boarded in Beast Withins, Negates, and the Ancient Grudge since he didn't make the switch to Farseek and was still running Sphere of the Suns. Speaking of making the switch from Sphere to Farseek, as I mentioned above but will say again, I think Farseek is a much better card. However, if you are playing Farseek over Sphere, you have to also change your mana since having green on turn 2 is much more important. In my current list, there are only eleven green sources not counting Cavern of Souls, which I think is enough given the fact you have four Ponders to dig you deeper to find a green source if needed.
Game 2 wasn't very close thanks to a well-timed miracle Temporal Mastery followed by another one after a Titan. The matchup felt super easy as he was more tuned to be good against creature decks and wasn't really prepared for a deck like mine.
Round 5: Draw with Zombies
During this time I played a few practice games with my friend who was running Delver; we split the games 3-3 before board. The matchup is much easier if they are not running Geists, but if they are it's a bit harder. A few people suggested I run a few Phantasmal Images in the board, which is definitely something reasonable to try out.
Round 6: G/U Infect
This was a deck I had never really played against and didn't know what to expect. As it turns out, the deck is often "all in." Both games I just had the right answers to slow him down, then soon after he scooped to a Titan.
Top 8: Zombies
My Top 8 opponent was the Zombies player I drew against, and I won in three games. He boarded into Lilianas and Manabarbs, but I managed to fight through the hate thanks to Thragtusk.
At this point it was getting late, and we just decided to four-way split.
I was very happy with the list and strongly suggest you take this to your next PTQ or SCG Open Series. I wouldn't change anything with the list, but I suggest you try out the following cards for your sideboard based on the metagame you expect to see.
Thanks for reading; keep it tight.
Gernardi on Magic Online