One of the first pieces of advice I got when I began commander was the following:
“In commander, the worst thing that can happen to you is to not hit your first six lands drops.”
Ok, so obviously not the actual worst thing that can happen, but still pretty unpleasant. In commander, getting lands could be the determining factor between a game where you burn out early, or last late into the game to affect the outcome.
Welcome to EDH: IMHO. A diverse haven for passionate, casual weirdos who want to create stories with their friends through a game of Commander!
Commander is the format of big, splashy plays. In order to power those plays, you’re gonna need mana, and lots of it.
I devote a lot of time, thought, and card space to mana in my commander decks. Out of 99 cards in a deck, my goal is always to run 38 mana-producing lands, along with 12 ramp spells. If the deck doesn’t include green I bump ramp spells all the way up to 14.
Most people would probably say this is too much ramp. They hate the feeling of drawing a ramp spell late into the game when they could be drawing something that makes a bigger crater. But for me personally, that is worth the risk to make sure my deck has a proper liftoff.
So I’m going to run through just about every playable ramp spell available. I’ll give each one a rating between 1-5 stars, based on how good I think it is for everyday commander usage.
I will also keep a running list of rankings, denoting how I rate each ramp spell.
To make it a little more fun, I will get a little help from a celebrity guest star in order to properly evaluate each card with just the right amount of pizazz.
For the inaugural column, only one man’s star power would suffice. Helping me to evaluate the first ramp spell is the legendary star of such television hits as Quantum Leap and Men of a Certain Age, Mr. Scott Bakula!
On this week’s column, I want to evaluate the two pieces of ramp you are most likely to see on turn one. Most of my analysis will be pretty obvious, here, but this will allow us to get used to the evaluation format a little bit. Let’s begin with the absolute last word when it comes to ramp, our friend the Sol Ring.
It’s colorless. It is played on turn one. It should, ideally, give you four mana on turn 2. Even late in the game you basically give yourself an extra mana on the turn you play it. It is run in no less than 78% of decks on tappedout.net, making it the most played card in all of commander…by a full 26% over the next most popular card.
Unless you are constraining yourself with a deck-building or price limitation that wouldn’t allow it, there really isn’t a great reason not to run this card. I have no choice but to award this card the full score of FIVE Scott Bakulas.
Moving right along: this one time, I heard someone say that there was one other piece of ramp that was better than sol ring.
They were wrong, of course, but its still quite good. Isn’t it?
Short answer: Yes, Mana Crypt is good. Like Sol Ring, it means that (worse case scenario) you have four mana on turn 2. Unlike Sol Ring, and this is where my friend’s argument has a little traction, Mana Crypt allows for three mana on turn 1. When added to anything from Cultivate to Chromatic Lantern, could certainly mean five mana on turn 2. Yes, you have to pay three life occasionally. No, that is not likely to matter before it is destroyed by a Bane of Progress.
That’s the good news. The bad news is for those who already hate drawing ramp spells late in the game. If a ramp spell is a dead draw, for you, than this might be the worst one to draw late. Sure, you can always use two more mana, but at that point you are more than a little worried that that thing might just kill you. It’s a ramp spell that you are unlikely to play at all if you’re under 20 life in commander.
Then there is the actual currency price. The converted mana cost makes it look like its free…but nothing could be further than the truth. When there are so many cool thing to buy for your deck, it is difficult to justify spending your hard-earned cash on something as boring and potentially painful as this.
Think about that for a second. This card has a legitimate reason to be preferred over SOL RING, and it still doesn’t even make the most 100 played card according to edhrec.com. Clearly the price tag and the downside are enough to put people off this card.
Don’t get me wrong: I may not think it’s better than Sol Ring, but I would definitely say it’s in the conversation. Even so, there are just enough drawbacks that I end up rating it just short of its little metal brother, with a still-impressive four-and-three-quarters Bakulas.
Thus, my running list looks like:
AkabaneRowsdower’s running Ramp Rankings!
1. Sol Ring (*****)
2. Mana Crypt (****3/4)
You might be thinking: did I just read this article just to have this idiot tell me Sol Ring is good?
Yes…I guess you did. But hey, you have to start somewhere; if we’re going to talk ramp, we’ve gotta start with the measuring stick.
I look forward to this series, as discussing the theory behind a seemingly soulless mechanical deck building issue can be of great service in creating the kinds of awesome commander games we all seek! We all love to build decks that do awesome things once we get eight mana…but all that deckbuilding means nothing without eight mana!
As they say, you can’t win the race…
…if you do that.
AkabaneRowsdower is an avidly casual player of Commander. He loves movies, Japanese pro wrestling, and Sphinx Ambassador. Every week, he uses EDH IMHO to share his rambling philosophy regarding the format he loves.