Bant Ramp: The Autumn Knight in Bo1

Nissa, Who Shakes the World Art by Chris Rallis

NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA Bant Ramp!!! The first time you play with a deck can really color your perspective; in this case, I lost my first game when I decked myself against Orzhov Enchantments. Not an inspiring start. That can be the power of perception bias though; first impressions have more power than they ought to, and frequently need to be overcome. That’s what I had to do in my assessment of the very fun Bant Ramp deck archetype, which is what we’ll look at here for Best of One.

Most decklists found online are geared towards the traditional Best of Three format but we recognize that the hugely popular Bo1 format has some different needs and considerations. There are three key factors that I’ve identified in looking at a Bo1 deck vs a Bo3 deck, No sideboarding, Hand Smoothing, a different metagame. I went into depth a bit on those factors previously, so I won’t repeat myself, but you can read about them here.

Deck Background

Bant Ramp rose to prominence following DreamHack Anaheim, where Aaron Gertler (littlebeep) took his Temur Adventures deck on a booming tour through an Azorius-loaded Top 16. Temur Adventures started popping up everywhere after that, and Azorius Control couldn’t handle the deck’s ability to trigger off multiple copies of value rich spells and card advantage. How deliberate the evolution to Bant Ramp was, I can’t say, but the outcome is a deck that can be looked at as a fusion of two decks that were struggling in the metagame at the time: Simic Ramp and Azorius Control.

Bant Ramp makes up a pretty significant part of the Bo3 metagame, but it’s a much smaller part of Bo1. This is largely because control is a stronger deck in Bo3 when it has a chance to sideboard after the first game of the match. Bo1 strongly favors more aggressive decks, which are the decktypes this is going to struggle with most; an inexperienced pilot is going to struggle to get to 50% with this deck. After a week of testing, practice, and play I feel like this is a build that is better suited to the Bo1 metagame than the average Bant Ramp deck; once the build was tweaked and settled I was sitting at 54% with the deck on the ladder. The games do take longer than many of the other decks in Bo1, as you’re not likely to get many turn four or five wins. That said, it has win conditions as late in the game as you can go and is never really out of the game. I also think it’s a fun deck to pilot once you get the hang of it.

What Bant Ramp tries to do

The deck’s goal is to ramp up (surprise!) using Arboreal Grazer, Growth Spiral, and Uro to draw cards and play lands faster than your opponent, then use the early advantage to go way over the top of your opponents. Finishers come in a few forms; it could be an Escaped Uro, a Dream Trawler, a nasty Hydroid Krasis, or even just a horde of elementals from Nissa, Who Shakes the World!

Decklist and Card Choices

I’ve played a lot of variants of this deck in Bo1 while trying to find something that worked well in the format; this is the build that performed best and seemed most prepared for the format and metagame.

Teferi, Time Raveler and Nissa Who Shakes the World are huge threats for your opponent to have to deal with, so they’ll get targeted early and often. A lot of people who play Teferi immediately bounce a target; this isn’t necessarily bad, but when it’s done automatically, you can miss some opportunities. In many spots, Teferi will last much longer if you +1 him first. He’s still a powerful card sd a one-shot planeswalker that draws you a card, bounces a permanent, and gains you some life by redirecting attackers, just remember that he does have other modes too. Nissa is less likely to be killed and tends to be a more straightforward play.

Tamiyo, Collector of Tales is a one-of, but is really valuable for digging for needed cards with its +1 and feeding Uro’s Escape; being able to return any card from your graveyard is even more valuable in a deck like this one where many of the cards are able to generate multiple effects for value.

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Growth Spiral are the keys to ramping up in this deck. Growth Spiral was already a key component in Simic Ramp; the release (or Escape!) of Uro as part of Theros Beyond Death took the ramp aspect to another level by putting lifegain on top of the card draw and additional land drops, and tying it to a recurring threat. A major weakness of ramp cards is that they tend to be dead late in the game, but Uro is a great draw early or late.

Arboreal Grazer may seem like an also-ran compared to Uro and Growth Spiral, but it is the key to surviving in the aggro-heavy Bo1 world. Grazer gets you off to a fast start and gives you a sturdy blocker for the speedy little monsters so common in Bo1; its Reach ability also helps against the Mono White Devotion decks, and can chump to protect your planeswalkers from big flying threats like Sphinx of Foresight later on.

Knight of Autumn has three great modes: fantastic utility removal, a sizeable threat, or lifegain in a pinch. Together, this adds up to a card that’s almost always useful and relevant. Pulling a temple to add a second one is totally defensible. Meanwhile, Hydroid Krasis provides a huge flying trample threat coupled with virtually uncounterable card draw and lifegain.

Shatter the Sky is all but indispensable in this deck and in this metagame. I’ve seen multiple Mono Red decks sit with two creatures in play holding back cards waiting on Shatter the Sky. Meanwhile Aether Gust is also a must have in the current meta. Even against decks without red or green, you can still bounce one of the 16 green cards you might have in play yourself.

Finally, Elspeth Conquers Death is as strong a removal card as you’ll find, her exile ability is perfect for the likes of Anax, Kroxa, Uro, and any pesky Gods you may come across. Just remember that if you bring back Uro with it, you’ll get the three life, draw a card and play a land, but Uro will still sacrifice after entering the battlefield.

When building the mana base for this deck, 29 land seems to be the sweet spot for most builds in Bo3. Unsurprisingly, I took this down a little bit for Bo1, but one thing I noticed is that a lot of the builds use just one island, or just one plains. This is a choice I’m not comfortable with personally; when playing with fetchlands like Fabled Passage, I believe you should always have enough basics of each color to be able to generate enough colored mana to cast the most expensive spell of each color. What that means is that if you have a build where the most green mana you’ll need is three green, then make sure you have at least three forests. Early on in my testing I had one match against RDW where I needed to cast the Shatter the Sky I had in hand, but I only had one white mana available. Fortunately I had just drawn Fabled Passage, problem solved, right? Nope. The one white I had available was from the one basic Plains in the deck; there wasn’t another Plains for me to grab. My initial build had used a mix of other builds from other players and I hadn’t adjusted this aspect of the mana base. This may not come up much, but it never should have been an issue because I should have built for it.

What I left out and why

war-061-narset-parter-of-veils

Narset, Parter of Veils is a common inclusion in this deck in Best of Three, but in this build there wasn’t a ton of space for it. You could pull a Grazer for it if you really feel a need for it, but with the density of RDW in the format, three Grazers over two is kind of where you need to be to survive the early onslaught of damage. A temple land is another possible pull, but 27 land is as low as I’m personally comfortable going with this deck.

Narset also only has 20 cards it can hit on with its ability in this build, so even when she’s in the deck, her chance of providing value is notably lower than in other control builds.

Mulligans

Look for three or four lands in your opening hand and some ramp. If you don’t have any ramp in your opening hand, strongly consider ditching for a look at another. Ideally a Grazer and Uro will start you off fast enough that turn three you’ll be dropping your fifth land and possibly a Nissa, at a stage in the game where many decks just can’t beat her.

Matchups

Aggro – Not Favored

Bant Ramp does a bit better against Gruul Aggro as the deck is slower and more vulnerable to Shatter the Sky, but RDW is a real struggle for the deck. RDW is the unquestioned top deck in Bo1 and is arguably the worst matchup for Bant Ramp. RDW is going to go at you hard. By the time you can play Shatter the Sky, RDW will probably have Anax, Hardened in the Forge in play. If you cast Shatter anyway, they’ll get a card and somewhere between one Satyr and one horde of Satyrs. A smart RDW player will follow up that cast with Torbran or Embercleave, and very possibly the end of the game. Some RDW players will drop a couple threats and once they realize what they are playing against, hold the rest of the threats until you’ve cast Shatter the Sky. Elspeth Conquers Death should be saved for Anax or possibly Torbran. Aether Gust and Teferi as well, but count on Teferi dying pretty fast. Getting out Arboreal Grazer turn one can make a big difference in this matchup. Against Gruul, watch out for The Great Henge, it can fuel Gruul to bury you in no time.

Sacrifice – Not Favored

Rakdos Sacrifice is the second best deck in the format and is another deck that Bant Ramp struggles against. Between this deck and RDW, it’s pretty clear to see why Bant Ramp is not a top tier deck in the Bo1 mode. Knight of Autumn should always target Witch’s Oven. If you can keep the deck without an Oven, you might be okay, but Woe Strider provides additional sacrifice fuel as well as a sacrifice outlet. Shatter the Sky can clear the board, but Rakdos Sacrifice can still get a lot of value out of the dying creatures. Midnight Reaper provides a ton of card advantage and Mayhem Devil will pick off Planeswalkers and animated lands faster than you’ll be comfortable; it’s also one of the few targets you’ll find for Aether Gust. Dream Trawler is your best card in this matchup and your best bet for getting over their defenses and keeping you alive.

Fires of Invention – Favored

Of the top three decks in the Bo1 format, this is the best matchup for Ramp. Bant moves faster and can get its biggest threats out more quickly. Deafening Clarion can be pretty devastating against the animated lands so don’t commit too heavily to that tactic, or you’ll lose not just creatures but a chunk of your mana base. Dream Trawler and Hydroid Krasis are going to be your best friends in this matchup, for the extra value they’ll bring and their ability to stand against or go over Cavalier of Flames and Kenrith. Keeping Fires of Invention off the field is huge in beating this deck.

Temur Adventures – Favored

This is a great matchup for this deck, but proficiency with the deck by both pilots can swing it either way. Temur can ramp up fast, but Bant puts it to shame in that category. Watch out for Clover and Innkeeper; keep those off the board at all costs. Dream Trawler and Hydroid Krasis are creatures that Temur is going to struggle to answer. Timing your Shatter the Sky is going to be important; if you can manage it, drop it on your opponent’s turn under Teferi.

Mono White Devotion – Favored

Just like the aggro decks, this can be a really tough matchup. However, unlike RDW, MWD is incredibly vulnerable to Shatter the Sky. Aether Gust is going to look like discard bait in this matchup, but don’t forget it can also return Nissa to the top of your library, or Knight of Autumn  for additional enchantment or artifact removal. Getting Arboreal Grazer early is going to be really helpful both in blocking their fliers and gaining a mana advantage early, and Teferi’s ability to reset Ajani’s Pridemate or clear an enchanted creature can set back what they’re building towards in a major way. This is a matchup I really like.

Esper Control – Not Favored

This is a matchup that slightly favors Esper, but can come down to which deck goes first. Esper’s Hand and graveyard hate can really mess with everything that Bant is trying to do; meanwhile, Shatter the Sky doesn’t have many targets other than Dream Trawler, which they don’t usually run many of. Esper can really mess with your groove with an early Thought Erasure. Knight of Autumn will be your big target with Aether Gust, as Doom Foretold is even more disruptive than Erasure is. Watch out for Elspeth’s Nightmare taking out your whole graveyard as well. There are still a lot of different variations on this deck, so be prepared for anything from blink tactics with Thassa to deck and graveyard hate with Ashiok.

Red5ive

Red5ive

Brendan Dillon is an old school mono-artifact dude with a penchant for overthinking the little things.

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