Avacyn Restored Ramp
While playing in the Pro Tour Qualifier (PTQ) in Philadelphia last weekend, I saw quite a few interesting innovative ramp decks that are a great way to attack the current Tier 1 decks of U/w Delver and traditional R/G ramp. Unfortunately, I did not win the tournament, but ramp decks performed admirably as far as I saw.
The first interesting list I saw was Kurt Spiess’s Dungrove Elder ramp deck (in fact, he beat me Round 3 of the PTQ). While I don’t have the exact list of Kurt’s Dungrove Ramp deck, I believe it looked something like this:
"Kurt’s Dungrove Ramp"
Why is this list good against Delver?
In summary: Dungrove Elder is a very difficult threat for Delver to beat. If the Delver player doesn’t have one of his two or three Gut Shots for a turn-one mana guy, a turn-two Dungrove Elder is going to be extremely difficult for him to deal with—not to mention what will happen if Kessig Wolf Run arrives to pump him. Phantasmal Image does absolutely nothing against him (in comparison to Imaging a Thrun, the Last Troll). Sword of Feast and Famine does brick-wall him, but multiple Dungroves can get around that.
The maindeck here also emphasizes anti-Delver Equipment with three Sword of War and Peace as well as four Huntmaster of the Fells. Garruk, Primal Hunter is pretty terrible against Delver, but it is a concession to the other green decks and control decks.
Sideboarded, there are a ton of anti-ramp cards in addition to Dungrove Elder in the main (which is incidentally one of the best creatures in the mirror match). Four Beast Within, two Karn Liberated, two Acidic Slime, two Act of Aggression, and three Sword of Feast and Famine combine for a total of a whopping thirteen anti-ramp cards.
I would strongly consider this deck over the traditional R/G Glimmerpost ramp decks if you are looking to play a more aggressive build of ramp.
Another interesting ramp build that I have a list for from that PTQ was played by Luke Patterson to a 7–0–1 finish (before losing in the quarterfinals of the Top 8 to aforementioned Dungrove Elders):
"Luke Patterson’s Ramp"
Interestingly, he did defeat Kurt Spiess in the Swiss, but he lost to his compatriot playing a similar Dungrove Elder list.
The creator said about the deck:
This list seems a lot better poised to play against aggressive decks and Delver decks, but it seems somewhat weak to control decks since we do not have a real plan anywhere against those decks . . . except to hope those opponents die to Inkmoth Nexus or Thrun, the Last Troll. Potentially, you could luck-sack the control player out with Karn Liberated or Entreat the Angels in a post-board game.
However, Vapor Snag is kind of mediocre when most of that deck’s creatures are dead to Elesh Norn. I’m not sure that he actually needs Whipflare alongside the four Day of Judgment, so we could cut those slots to fit in more anti-control cards such as Garruk, Primal Hunter or even Sun Titan to go along with Ghost Quarter, Inkmoth Nexus, and Kessig Wolf Run.
I am going to outline how I am guessing the deck is built:
For Birds of Paradise, you want approximately twelve to fourteen untapped turn-one green sources. The mana requirements seem to be
The spells that I am guessing on are: four Rampant Growth and four Vapor Snag. I would assume he had four of each of Primeval Titan and Frost Titan, and probably two Consecrated Sphinx. Phyrexian Metamorph doesn’t really make sense as more than a two-of.
"Guessing at Ramp"
I have no idea of his sideboard plan—I didn’t really get to see much of the post-boarded games, but here are some potential cards you might want:
Tumble Magnet, Negate or Dissipate (against control decks), planeswalkers (Tamiyo, the Moon Sage seems pretty strong here, honestly, functioning as removal and a Tidingsesque effect in this style of ramp deck), Cavern of Souls (board into four against control decks and be able to cut down on Glimmerposts), Phantasmal Image (functions as another cheap answer to Geist of Saint Traft), and Acidic Slime.
However, I think this list is a bit overall weaker against Delver than the other two builds listed above. It's more reliant on 1-toughness guys to ramp into your Titans, whereas the lists above place more emphasis on casting actual ramp spells to get to the boom-booms. That turns Gut Shot from a somewhat dead card into an all-star against this list.
The other sometimes-overlooked advantage he had was that no one exactly knew what was in his deck, which is among the biggest benefits to playing a deck that you have built and tested yourself, while other people have to make educated guesses about your exact list (much as I am doing at the moment!)
I would certainly enjoy playing this deck, and I can’t wait to see the exact build that the designer actually played when Wizards posts the decklists on the mothership.
As usual, I appreciate any constructive criticism that you may have.