Command of Etiquette—Ramping Sans Green

Green is traditionally the color of ramp in Commander.  But with Prime Time banned, some of the allure of Green ramp has faded.  Prime Time was the best ramp spell in EDH, and if you wanted to go big it tied you into the Green color.  But the ban has been around for months now, and people have started to adjust to a world in which Green no longer has a monopoly on big mana.  Here are some of the other interesting ways in which you can go big in Commander.

Sol Ring and Friends

I can’t have a conversation about mana in EDH without mentioning Sol Ring.  It’s considered so essential to the format that each one of the Commander Precons contained a copy, and the stupid card is still priced at over six dollars.  Between it, Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, Grim Monolith and the three legal Moxen, there are a lot of ways to get a fast start without tying your deck to a color identity.  Unfortunately, none of these cards are particularly interesting, and few of them scale over the course of a game.   But if your idea of ramp is getting from one to four mana quickly, these are your cards.

Ashnod’s Altar

You can’t talk big mana without talking about Ashnod’s Altar.  A free sacrifice outlet alone would be worth playing, but one that also nets you mana?  It’s amazing, and shockingly affordable.  Now, it’s true that the Altar lends itself to a lot of infinite mana combos.  Some of the more common ones involve cheap token generation and cost reduction effects, like Heartstone/Training Grounds and Sliver Queen.  Others involve looping a spell over and over that’s been cheapened by a source to cost less than the two mana the Altar creates.  These can be as simple as Etherium Sculptor, Myr Retriever and Junk Diver, to as overly complicated as Mycosynth Lattice, Cloud Key, Wheel of Sun and Moon and Squadron Hawk.  To be fair, the only reason to go the latter route would be so that you could brag about having found a use for Squadron Hawk in EDH, but it’s still a way to make infinite mana, and there are a lot of ways that infinite mana can win you the game.

But!  Ashnod’s Altar does not need to create infinite mana to get meaningful ramp.  In a Ghave deck, Ashnod’s Altar lets you remove +1/+1 counters from creatures to net one mana.  In an Endrek Sahr deck, the Altar gives you both a use and a way to get rid of the thrull tokens that he creates.  And sometimes, it’s just a good way to sacrifice a Mulldrifter for extra value after you’ve drawn your cards.

The Generic Doublers

Gauntlet of Power, Caged Sun and Extraplanar Lens all work to double the mana of a mono–colored deck, and to increase the mana available to multi–colored decks running these powerful artifacts.  While not as powerful as Mana Flare, Heartbeat of Spring or even Keeper of Progenitus, as they are limited to one color of mana each, these colorless options can be added into any deck, even one that doesn’t have access to those other powerful ramp spells.  Plus, Gauntlet of Power and Caged Sun both offer anthem effects to the members of your team who share the named color, which can be nice when you’re playing it in a mono–white or mono–red deck with tribal synergies and swarm strategies.

Cabal Coffers and Other “Swamps Matter” Cards

The Coffers are one of the most brutally overpowered lands available for ramp strategies in Commander.  While you’re usually limited to playing them in a mono–black deck (although cards like Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and now Realmwright mean that it’s possible to play it in multicolor decks), the Coffers are particularly bonkers because they’re not legendary lands.  Thus, with Magus of the Coffers, Vesuva and Thespian’s Stage in the format, not only can you double the production of your Swamps, but you can double your Coffers as well.  Add in cards like Doubling Cube, and it’s easy for your mana to get out of control.  From that point it’s not too hard to win, either through something like Exsanguinate, or in the case of one of my friend’s decks, Maga, Traitor to Mortals.

But Black is also home to another type of ramp, the type that lets your swamps tap for an extra black mana each time you tap them.  These effects used to appear on cards like Bubbling Muck, giving Black a pseudo–High Tide effect, but since then it’s moved onto creatures like Crypt Ghast and Nirkana Revenant, and planeswalkers like Liliana of the Dark Realms.  Swamps matter to Black, as part of its color identity.  That there are several cards that use this color–based affiliation to provide Black with its few sources of ramp should be unsurprising.

It’s Easy to Not Play Green

So, in the end, it’s important to remember that there are big mana strategies available to decks of all colors.  Green may be “the” ramp color, but in a post Prime Time world, we all have a chance to go big.

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Comments
8 Responses to “Command of Etiquette—Ramping Sans Green”
  1. DMG says:

    It’s always amusing to me that the most broken/abusable ramp spells Wizards has printed are Colorless, Blue, Red, and Black.

    • Li Xu says:

      Well, you can’t give Timmy big Green fatties AND ways to easily play them.

      • thejlina says:

        But I want it all!!!

        I put Lotus Cobra/Sylvan Primodial/Deadeye Navigator combo into one of my EDH decks. I kinda love the idea that the limiting factor is how many forests I play in a three-color deck. I also kinda love how absolutely vile it’s going to be. I plan to make it happen once, and then rip it from my deck out of a weird mix of shame and pride.

    • Tim says:

      I love “ramping” with blue. Especially when people glare at me and say, “Really, did you have to counter that?” To which I respond, “It’s not a counterspell, it’s a blue mega ritual that requires me to counter a spell as part of it’s cost! Please don’t take offense!”

      • thejlina says:

        Hahaha, right? I didn’t even get into Palichron, which goes infinite at the drop of a hat. I also love how the “less broken” blue rituals are the ones that leave you with a relevant body when your ramping is done (either their best dude, a 5/5, a 4/4 flier, or a 1/1 flier).

      • Rich Stein says:

        Palinchron is not a ramp spell, it is a combo piece. I’m glad you left it off.

        Black has a lot of rituals. I mean, a lot of rituals. It’s really quite absurd how many rituals black has. Ad Nauseum decks are brutal but a Recycle deck could also abuse black’s ritual density somehow. Still, getting a lot of mana out of black on early turns should be pretty easy.

        When Tamiyo came out my first thought was “boy, that ultimate ability is gonna look great in EDH with Dark Ritual and Drain Life.

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