Full Force drafting is a series dedicated to forcing archetypes in draft formats. Join me every Thursday as we learn the ins and outs of the most recent Magic draft formats.
Thanks to the early release of Vintage Cube on Magic Online we’re back with a bonus episode of Full Force! This week, I’m going to go over the green ramp archetype in the Vintage Cube.
As with most archetypes, especially in cube, Green Ramp requires a lot of discretion to draft. When to take a finisher over a Llanowar Elves or Search for Tomorrow isn’t something I can answer for you easily. That being said, I can mention the best finishers and the best ramp spells to look for.
In the Vintage Cube ramp decks become prevalent not just in green, but multiple colours, thanks to all of the artifact ramp (Sol Ring, Grim Monolith, Signets, etc.). The strongest ramp cards are almost certainly *not* green in fact, but it’ll be hard to find many of them. Sol Ring is the best, easily. The Moxen are close behind. After that, you’re really looking out for Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, Ancient Tomb, and Grim Monolith. Joraga Treespeaker and Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary are the best actual green ramp cards, and all of the one mana creatures that produce mana are extremely important to pick up. Llanowar Elves looks unassuming, but it’s crucial to have a few cards like it in your ramp decks. Last, but not least, stay on the lookout for Gaea’s Cradle. The card is exceptionally powerful and you can build a deck around it. If it gets passed late, it’s a good sign the ramp deck is open.
Finishers tend to be easier to find than ramp cards in most cubes. Everyone fights over Sol Ring, but not everyone needs a Craterhoof Behemoth or Woodfall Primus. That doesn’t mean you should ignore all the finishers, but you shouldn’t take second-rate finishers over first-rate ramp cards, generally. Some finishers are certainly a cut above the rest. The best to pick up are the aforementioned Craterhoof and Primus, also Avenger of Zendikar and Terrastodon. Primus and Terrastodon are great because of the sheer number of great non-creature targets in a Vintage Cube, Craterhoof because it will win the game outright in all but the worst situations and Avenger because it can stabilize a board immediately and take over quickly after (As a quick aside, Craterhoof is on a whole other level. It’s almost certainly the clear winner). Cards like the Eldrazi and Blightsteel Colossus are good, but often too expensive even for this deck. That can change if you have ways to cheat them into play even faster, like Tooth and Nail or Channel. Without those cards though, they tend to be too slow and therefore worse than your main green fatties.
Another key piece in any ramp deck for me is cards to add to the consistency of the draws. Card draw or search is what you need here. This tends to be the Achilles heel of the ramp strategy. It’s very reliant on drawing the right cards in the right order (Ramp first, then fatties). So mitigating that as much as possible is a big bonus. Cards like Natural Order and Green Sun’s Zenith let you search for key pieces (Or cheat them out). Harmonize and Sylvan Library are both quite strong as green draw spells. I personally like to pair green with blue normally to give a level of interaction against the opponent in some counter magic, and some consistency in the form of card draw. One of the best green cards we haven’t mentioned yet, that tends to be very underrated is Oracle of Mul Daya. It’s ramp and draw in the same card, giving you a massive advantage if it stays in play.
These consistency issues do lead to the problem that I had with the deck during the videos and what I think are the main downfalls of green as an archetype. It’s not bad, but it’s not the best either. In Vintage Cube especially, the green deck can get outclassed by even bigger creatures coming out earlier thanks to cards like Tinker and Channel, and decks like Storm, Splinter Twin or other combo decks can kill you while ignoring your ramp if you’re not fast enough and you tend not to have a lot of interaction to disrupt them. The biggest downside of all this is that you’re also not heavily favoured against aggressive strategies. The quick White Weenie style decks or Mono-Red can definitely kill you in game one before you establish your board. The matchup gets a lot better post board, when you can put in a lot of midrange cards (Kitchen Finks, Thrun, the Last Troll, etc.), but playing down a game means any stumble is likely lethal.
Until next week, make your opponents green with envy and ramp-age through the competition. Vote for the next Full Force on my Twitter @IlyonMTG!