Welcome everyone to my Deck Spotlight series, where we are going to explore top-tier, meta defining decks and give some left field brews a deserved glance. In this article, we’re gonna be looking at the Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion of TES:L, Ramp Scout. This deck has been atop the meta-mountain for some months now, and with the recent nerfs to Supreme Atromancer, one of this deck’s biggest enemies, Scout is in position to be the true Big Dog of the division.
Now, lets get this out of the way. Do I think this deck is overpowered? No, I don’t. At the end of the day, something has to be the best deck. Is this deck powerful? Of course it is. But in a Skyrim expansion, this is a Dragon-style deck, showing off many of the new cards in a control shell, and is the premier ramp strategy. In a world without Ramp Scout, we’d be clamoring for something to pose a threat to control decks that aren’t just other Intelligence decks, or we’d be complaining about Supreme Atromancer or in the worst-case scenario, Unstoppable Rage again. The purpose of this Deck Spotlight isn’t going to be to highlight some cool points of the deck, or show off a deck’s wide versatility, but to delve into what makes Ramp Scout powerful. This deck doesn’t just play cards, attack with creatures and win, nor does it sit back and remove opposing creatures with AoE spells and draw a bunch of cards. While I’m not going to be pointing the finger at Ramp Scout shouting, “Please nerf this its too good, I want X deck to be better”, I’m not going to be the Ramp Scout apologist. I’m going to look at what Ramp Scout offers that gives it the winning edge to start a discussion larger than what this deck does, but why it does it.
Lets take this time to look at ramp. Historically, ways to increase your resources can allow you to get a head start in your strategy. As a quick example, in Magic: The Gathering, one of the best cards in the old G/R Monsters deck was Elvish Mystic, because if you could cast your Goblin Rabblemaster ahead of schedule your opponent could die very quickly, or if your Courser of Kruphix hits the board on turn 2 the aggro opponent would have a huge problem. One of my favorite plays in M:tG is “Bolt the Bird”, when you would send your Lightning Bolt at the opponent’s Birds of Paradise on turn one, simply because you want the game to start at parity. In Elder Scrolls: Legends, all of the good ramp cards increase your magicka on Summon, rather than an ability. So this leaves your maximum magicka untouchable, and leaves your opponent unable to interact with it. The new card spoiled earlier today, Pure-Blood Elder, is a way to increase magicka over time and not stapled onto a summon effect. But in reality, this card is probably going to show up late enough in the game where giant creatures are going to be coming down left and right. As a small tangent, this card probably isn’t good enough for Scout without a summon effect, and Scout has no problem closing games at all. A 16/16 is HUGE, don’t get me wrong, but probably has a better home in Warrior than in Scout. And if Ramp Warrior makes some strange resurgance, I’m all for it.
There is one card, Garnag, Dark Adherent, that interacts with magicka in a negative sense. This card is a huge beating for control decks, some midrange decks, and especially Ramp Scout. I would love to see more cards in this vein, and while I’m not crying for a Strip Mine style card to just delete magicka, I would like to see more interaction. Maybe an action that dealt damage that increased the more magicka your opponent has. Or a creature that grows, or becomes more resilient, or gains Charge the more magicka your opponent has. Now look, I’m not a card designer or a developer, and I’m also not here to start a crusade for more cards. Making card games is really hard. But Ramp Scout has access to not one, but two resources that they can take full control of without much interaction. And with that, we’ll get into the other one now.
In card games, the discard pile always has many very powerful cards tied to it. Reanimation is always a fun and dynamic strategy, between how can you fill up your graveyard, what good reanimation cards are there, what giant monster do I want back for the reduced cost, etc. Mark Rosewater, Head Designer of Magic: The Gather, created a term called Player Psychographic, splitting the players into three groups. Each group would describe why a player plays magic and the emotional responses they had in doing their thing. Playing giant creatures/reanimation/’cheating’ creatures into play always appeals to a wide variety of players, not just the “Timmy”s of the world. In ES:L, Ramp Scout is the premier deck to take full advantage of the graveyard, and of giant creatures, namely Paarthurnax. Its “infinite” Paarthurnax engine with Soul Tear is a bit much and maybe a design oversight (I doubt it), but the issue isn’t that Paarthurnax is too strong or Soul Tear is too cheap, its that there is no discard pile interaction. We see this in Magic: The Gathering all the time with Dredge. When people don’t show up with graveyard interaction, Dredge gets to run rampant because they can access a resource that allows them to take advantage of some extremely powerful card synergies. But when you can cast Rest in Peace, it blanks their deck. Their Narcomoebas are just 1/1s, and their Prized Amalgams are just 3/3s. Right now, TES:L is missing its Rest in Peace. Hell, we’re missing a Scavenging Ooze or even a Faerie Macabre.
In a game without discard pile interaction, cards like Soul Tear are a cooking pot as to when they’re going to boil over. We saw this to a minor extent with support cards, and a real Support Deck hit the scene with the introduction of Cauldron Keeper. A support-based strategy was bound to become playable with time, and with more cards. Goblins is at that point now, with one or two more Goblin creatures, the deck could be a serious threat and among the best Aggro decks. Right now, Ramp Scout is the only deck that can truly take advantage of the graveyard. While I’ve seen Gravesinger reanimator decks they’re slow and clunky at best. Cards like Flesh Atronach, Black Worm Necromancer and Falkreath Defiler all have their place, and are very powerful at times, but are for the most part reasonable cards. Falkreath Defiler saw some play in the old Rage Warrior deck, and was really cool when it went off, but as a 3/3, easily removed and is smaller than most four magicka creatures. Soul Tear costs 3 magicka now because the effect is just so powerful without a way to interact with the bin. The spell could cost 5 mana, and Scout would still play it because they have so much excess mana. With both spare mana and recurrence, Soul Tear-esque effects are extremely powerful in Ramp Scout. Now, maybe the Devs hit the panic button and nerfs Scout into Oblivion (Pun intended), but I don’t think that’s necessary either. I like this deck a lot, and would hate to see it go, but some more interaction instead of hard nerfs would be ideal. With that out of the way, lets get into the nitty gritty of the deck.
Ramp Scout is a magicka powerhouse, boasting efficient cards that tops out with one of the highest magicka potentials, sometimes ending the game at 15 or more magicka. This deck is grindy, its slow and plodding, and always has an answer to any threat. Its not the hardest deck to play, but it does have a lot of resource and life management, like how low can you get your life total before stabilizing to get the most amount of cards off your Runes. Even with this, there is plenty of wiggle room between the giant Dragons, Woodland Lookout and lots of 2-for-1 potential. Ramp Scout preys on Control decks, especially those without Supreme Atromancer, and has a good shot against most Aggressive decks. Ramp Scout doesn’t have a lot of actual removal spells and has to rely on Guard creatures to muck up the board. This deck also has a lot of trouble answering “wide” threats, like General Tullius and Bone Colossus, or just a bunch of small to medium sized creatures. Supreme Atromancer was one of the best ways to combat Ramp Scout, and even though I don’t feel the nerf has killed the card (Though it was pretty bad), it isn’t as backbreaking as before because Scout has more time to set up an answer. Merric Battlemage has a great matchup verses Scout (if this deck still exists post-patch) with its Raiding Party/Merric-at-Aswala burst and burn spells to threaten a kill from nowhere.
Jumping into games with Ramp Scout, you generally want to see Willpower and Strength-based midrange/control decks or Endurance decks that skimp out on the top end. With Strength in particular, Triumphant Jarl, some Charge creatures and sometimes Blood Dragon can give them an avenue to victory, but their other cards pose less of a problem. Lower to the ground Willpower and Strength decks are far better against Scout, such as both Token Crusader and Token Mage. Aggressive Agility decks with Mournhold Traitor and Cliff Racers can be threatening, but other Agility strategies are far easier for Scout to deal with. Intelligence can be tricky, with a lot of the Intelligence decks being very strong against Ramp Scout, and others being very bad. Control Mage is favored for Scout (Especially if they don’t play with/draw their Atromancers), while something like Midrange Sorcerer is favored against Scout. In the Endurance control mirrors, there are 3 important things that will decide who wins the game: Who draws their 10+ magicka Dragons first, who pops their Hist Groves first, and who ramps the fastest in the early/mid game. If you can get ahead of the other Endurance deck on one or more of these aspects, your chance to win rises significantly.
I have been playing this deck a bunch post-patch, so I’ll share my results here. I’ve found a bunch of “What next?” Intelligence decks, attempting to come up with a way to move forward in a world without Supreme Atromancer. I’ve also found a bunch of “You know, the nerfs weren’t that bad, I can still play Atro” Intelligence decks. Against both of these strategies, I’ve only had one thought, over and over again as Ramp Scout. Boy, sure hope my opponent doesn’t slam Supreme Atromancer, that would be really bad for me. Supreme Atromancer remains as a key tool to victory against Ramp Scout, even at the increased cost. The extra turn you gain before your opponent can slam the Atromancer is huge, as with the large magicka pools Scout can cast a bunch of spells in one turn and turn the corner quickly, but the looming specter of Atromancer always remains. So, is Supreme Atromancer dead? Probably. On paper, it seems to be good against Ramp Scout alone. I still play Midrange Sorcerer a bunch, and I can easily swap to Bone Colossus instead, and can’t imagine many matchups where I absolutely must have Supreme Atromancer at that point. To get back on topic, when diving into games as Ramp Scout you have to hope your opponent just Soul Trapped their Atromancers and are playing something else. The Intelligence matchups became a lot easier, but there are still other ways to defeat Scout.
Entering the Rock-Paper-Scissors world of Ramp Scout beats Control Mage, Control Mage beats Tokens, and Tokens beats Ramp Scout, I can’t wait to see what will poke its head up from the underground and make a name for itself. Maybe an updated Control/Ramp Warrior deck will pop up, perhaps Spellsword Control can shine now. I’d love to give Orcs a try, or perhaps Prophecy Battlemage. If one things for sure, I’ll be doing things that aren’t in the strict meta. As always, you can catch me on twitter, tell me how wrong I am or fire any suggestions for next week’s Article at me. This has been the Deck Spotlight series, thank you all for reading!