Welcome everyone to the Deck Spotlight series, where we are going to explore top-tier, meta defining decks and give some left field brews a deserved glance. This month will be continuing on with Ramp Warrior, utilizing the Unstoppable Rage package. Last week I said we we’re going down a more meta path, and while Ramp Warrior isn’t necessarily top-teir, it has been on the meta radar for quite some time, especially this month with the new weekly card. Now lets break this bad boy down.
When Unstoppable Rage decks first hit the scene, they were filled with fairly gimmicky cards and relied heavily on the namesake card to pull them out of bad situations. Initially deploying both Warrior and Archer lists, the back end of the original Unstoppable Rage season saw the first Ramp Warrior-ish decks. Mainly just including Hist Groves, these decks were fairly raw or inconsistent, either not being able to hit their magicka threshold or not being able to draw their Rage/Rage-able creatures. However, it has been a long time since those days. Heroes of Skyrim gave this deck something very important: resiliency.
Soul Tear and Skeletal Dragon give this deck late-game power, and make it so that if the important Rage targets are answered early they can return later for a constant stream of threats. And of coarse, Paarthurnax offers this deck another huge bomb for the later stages of the game. As I mentioned earlier, another addition to this deck has been the most recent Monthly Card, Pure-Blood Elder. She is a giant beater, and manages to play double-duty in this deck. Being both an Unstoppable Rage target and being a way to increase your magicka makes her a crucial piece to the Ramp Warrior puzzle. Now these are the auto-includes in the usual list, but next I’ll touch on my personal additions.
One of the tricky things about Unstoppable Rage decks in general is what else do you do with the deck. Do you just jam it to the brim with threats? Do you hedge for early game stuff so you have a reasonable curve? Do you wedge some Guard creatures in to better the aggro matchups? Putting Sower of Revenge aside, which should be shoved into any Warrior deck no questions asked, what additions or subtractions have I personally made that deviate from the standard list?
I decided to skim out on the usual early-game stuff like Deadly Draugr and Dragontail Savior. Not because I don’t think they’re necessary, but because of the matchups they play a role in, which I’ll hit on later. Instead, I’ve chosen Protector of the Innocent and Wind Keep Spellsword as my two-drop creatures. Wind Keep Spellsword is fairly standard, but Protector of the Innocent has Prophecy, Guard, and helps against other Control decks to curve out and apply pressure.
My initial lists of this deck included Rapid Shots and Nahagliiv to add some theoretical consistency, but they both fell flat for me. Rapid Shot didn’t do enough, and without any real burn spells that Intelligence offers or Finish Offs that Agility offers, the one damage was barely relevant. If Skaven Pyromancer would be included into this Ramp Warrior list I’d probably include the Rapid Shots again as the culmination of pings would add up to be enough then. And for Nahagliiv, I just don’t think its his time right now. Lethal creatures, Shield Breakers, creatures bigger than him, the fact that he only really stabilizes against Token decks 40% of the time, and his mortal enemy Belligerent Giant, Nahagliiv just doesn’t do it for me. In a deck like Ramp Scout I’d include him as he is a dragon, but where he is only a 7 magicka Guard with no summon effect or Unstoppable Rage synergy, I’ll pass. The 7/7 body is pretty big, and I do like how Ramp Warrior can sometimes have a midrange-y beatdown draw, but all in all I just don’t think Nahagliiv fits in here.
Dissecting matchups with Ramp Warrior can be difficult as this deck can never be counted out. You can always draw your big creature + Unstoppable Rage and combo your opponent into Oblivion. As I noted in my Ramp Scout article, Endurance control mirrors are fairly volatile in that there are three ways to get an edge: Draw your 12 magicka Dragons first, pop your Hist Grove first, or ramp faster than your opponent in the early/mid game. With these two points, the percentages for Ramp Warrior aren’t an accurate representation as to how strong the deck’s matchups are. As an example, Ramp Scout is a good matchup because you can play the Endurance control mini-game and stay on the aggressive. Your creatures are bigger than theirs with more text than just “Guard” or “Increase your maximum magicka”, you have a combo included in the midst that requires removal spells that Scout usually lacks, and you can play their infinite-Paarthurnax game just as well as them. That being said, they can still just ramp faster than you and beat you to all the important dragons and you can suddenly lose. In total, you are favored on paper, but the percentages might not reflect that.
Warrior is also usually good against other combo decks like Market Archer as you have interaction for their supports and can play a control-ish gameplan to fun police them until you get to combo yourself. Ramp Warrior is very good against non-Intelligence midrange decks, and with the absence of Intelligence midrange currently, that brings this deck up a notch in the scheme of things.
What brings this deck back down a notch is that its Aggro/Tokens matchups are really bad. So bad, in fact, that I’ve cut most of the early game stuff that tries to stay on par with them while you stabilize. To explain my philosophy, in Magic: The Gathering my favorite deck is Faeries. Now, Faeries is a fairly old deck that hasn’t had many updated, so its matchups in the current modern meta are very polarizing. Historically, Faeries worst matchup is Mono-Red Burn. So bad, that you would include 0 cards in the sideboard for the matchup, because your percentage for winning was so low, improving it by 10%-20% post-board was irrelevant. In testing for a GP, I wanted to test how bad my burn matchup really was. I went 1-23. Now, I included cards in my sideboard that incidentally helped me against Burn, but I didn’t include anything for Burn in specific.
So with Ramp Warrior, I’ll include cards like Protector of the Innocent that help the matchup by accident, but I don’t want to include something that slams Tokens in particular. While the Aggro/Tokens matchup isn’t 4.17% bad, its still very unfavorable, probably a 20%-25% win chance. In order to win verses Aggro/Tokens, you have to not die by turn 7 and Rage them into next week. If you don’t cast Unstoppable Rage, you don’t win, especially with my list. However, due to the fragility of Token’s creatures, one Rage usually does the trick, and if the creature you’re Raging happens to be a Night’s Shadow the game basically ends.
For me, Prophecy Battlemage falls under this same vein, even though the matchup is a little more forgiving. As noted earlier, Intelligence midrange decks are also good against Ramp Warrior, mainly because their removal suite lines up well against you and their finishers are much leaner then yours. Ancano basically gets to play an Unstoppable Rage on himself upon summon, and you need a whole other card to do that, for example.
Ramp Warrior is up there with my favorite decks I’ve looked at in the Deck Spotlight series. I’ve always liked Unstoppable Rage decks, and had never touched one until the initial hype died down, but once I finally played it I fell in love. As a bonus, this list also gets to play two of my other favorite cards in Skeletal Dragon and Hist Grove, so it will always have a special place in my heart. That being said, playing this deck can be pretty rough at times. Its viability can vary wildly on a day to day basis. Find lots of Midrange Archer and weirdo Scout decks, you’re feeling good. Find some Token Crusader and Midrange Assassin, you want to light your computer on fire. If one would want to queue up with this deck, I would suggest playing some games with another deck first to test out the field and swap to Ramp Warrior if it looks profitable enough. Ramp Warrior has probably the highest upside of any deck I’ve looked at, with the highest magicka capabilities, infinite-Paarthurnax engines, one-hit-kill combos and some good-old midrange beatdowns to boot. In a vacuum, that sounds awesome, except in reality reaching those heights can be difficult. But hey, that’s never deterred me before.
Next week we’ll be back with another addition, and it will be a more standard deck. And it will be a real-life meta deck, too. This has been the Deck Spotlight Series, thank you for reading~~