Historic Simic Ramp: The Guide That Shakes the World
Who am I?
My name is Mark Gabriele, and I am an SCG Tour Grinder and avid Arena player. My absolute favorite decks in Standard are all flavors of Mono-Colored aggro decks. I have been loving grinding the ladder with Vomi’s UG Ramp deck that they won the MTG Arena Zone Historic Open with on Saturday. If you have any questions about the deck, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Twitter at @gabriele_mark!
What is Simic Ramp, and why should I play it?
Hit your land drops, play spells that let you hit more land drops, and then do unbeatable stuff with all the land drops that you hit. At this point, you’re probably pretty familiar with the basic formula; Hydroid Krasis and Nissa, who Shakes the World both became forces in Standard the moment they were printed. Just being able to play that pair is a strong incentive to play a deck, as they are two great tastes that combine especially well. Six months ago, Wizards also printed a card you might have heard of, named Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. A quick Q and A on our friend Uro:
Why did they print this card? I don’t know.
Should it have been printed? No.
Do you know a single person who hasn’t just been waiting for it to be banned since it was printed? No.
Am I making a mistake if I am trying to win and don’t play it in a format in which it is legal? Yes.
Is there a funny “Ruh Uro, Scoob!” joke I can make when escaping it? Sadly, no, though not for lack of trying on my part.
I believe that an optimized deck with the trio of Nissa, Uro, and Krasis is the best deck in Historic at the moment. The problem, of course, is finding that optimized version, but I think this list is a great step in the right direction.
I was fortunate enough to cast the latter half of Vomi’s 10-0 run in our Historic Open on Saturday, and the deck looked so cool that I loaded it up on the ladder and played some games with it the next day. I went 16-2, from 92% Mythic to #138, including wins over a couple MPL members (both were also playing UG ramp decks). I played terribly, but the deck carried me over and over again. Before we get into the specifics on why each card is good, let me show you where I’m at with the list:
Arboreal Grazer – It’s really incredible just how vast the space between Grazer’s floor (1 Mana 0/3) and its ceiling (Mox Diamond that can block with impunity) is. When I originally tried to build this deck a couple months ago, I played Llanowar elves in this spot. What I missed was that, in the context of this deck, Arboreal Grazer is significantly better. Because of cards like Uro, you very rarely run out of steam, and the game very quickly gets reduced to “Do I have the time to use all my resources?”, not “How many cards do I have access to?”. Llanowar Elves may be one fewer card expended for your fast mana, but it also provides an avenue on which opponents can interact with your mana, which is the last thing that you want. In fact, Grazer actually gives you an incidental way to interact with your aggressive opponents on early turns, which is something this deck is in the market for.
Cultivate – I feel like the past few months have been an exercise in proving that all the old cards that you fondly remember as powerful are actually bad, except ramp cards like Cultivate, Explore, and Oracle of Mul Daya, which are insane. Cultivate fills out hands that are a bit land-light very nicely, and even fixes your mana in a pinch. I usually fetch out blue sources until I have access to 3, as that’s enough to play and return Uro in the same turn, and past that I just get as many forests as I can so I can maximize Nissa.
Explore and Growth Spiral– I’m sure there’s something to be said for playing around with the numbers between these two, but I’ve personally found 4 Spiral and 2 Explore to be great. Growth Spiral requiring blue mana can theoretically come up, but you will almost definitely need to have access to blue to win anyways, and Spiral plays better against Narset, Parter of Veils (Side note: Narset is INSANE against you).
Hydroid Krasis – Just a really solid card, and good in every matchup that doesn’t involve Claim the Firstborn. A lot of its power lies in its scalability, and I’ve fired off just as many of these bad boys for X=2 to bridge the gap as I have for X=10 to win the game.
Nissa, Who Shakes the World – The first thing I did after playing a couple matches with the deck is go up from two of these to four, and I haven’t looked back. The meta right now has a TON of ramp in it, and ever since Nissa was printed, ramp mirrors have been entirely about being the first person to untap with a Nissa. The card functions as both your most powerful ramp spell AND a solid payoff in its own right (an army of 3/3s is hard to beat!). There just aren’t really any matchups where Nissa is bad, and in the most common matchup (Sultai Ramp), it’s significantly more powerful than Ugin. Keep in mind that the elementals that Nissa makes are immune to Ugin’s minus, which comes up a LOT. I very rarely board down any lower than three copies, because I just always want to play an early Nissa.
Oracle of Mul Daya – Earlier, I said that Arboreal Grazer is better than Llanowar Elves in this deck because Llanowar Elves opens up a way for your opponents to interact with your mana, which is the last thing that you want. Why, then, would we want Oracle of Mul Daya, a four mana 2/2 that dies to everything? A couple reasons:
- Because of the way that the stack interacts with lands, playing lands never actually gives your opponent priority. This means that you can play this card and immediately play a couple of lands from the top of your deck, even if your opponent has removal for it.
- Its effect is sooooooooo good. Like, it’s actually insane. Every time you play a land off the top of your deck with it, you essentially cast Explore for free. If you untap with this thing and there’s a couple lands on top of your deck, it’s very hard to lose.
- Most people side out a lot of removal against you, so it gets even better postboard in a lot of matchups.
- It fills a couple niche holes against Sultai, because it’s one of your only ways to pressure a Narset early, it can “draw” cards through a Narset static, and it dodges Eliminate.
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales – I shaved down to one copy of Tamiyo, simply because the deck isn’t that great at protecting it and it’s not really ramp or a payoff, but it’s still been solid. Its static puts in WORK against Rakdos Pyromancer, and it’s great at helping to fuel Uros. It’s also pretty good in grindy matchups, just because it’s an extra copy of your best cards if you have time, and it’s extra looks at Nissa and Ulamog, depending on where the game state is at.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon – Ugin has historically been a huge part of ramp decks’ plans against aggro: you just survive until you can cast Ugin, and win the game. The tools given to creature decks recently have made it a bit more complicated: Muxus and Bolas’ Citadel often end the game the turn they resolve, Collected Company can be cast at instant speed and kill Ugin after a minus, and Spirits/Mono Blue/UW Auras all play cheap countermagic. Despite all of this, Ugin is still your best tool for decisively ending the game against creature decks, while having game in other matchups as well. Not killing Nissa’s elemental lands makes Ugin a lot worse in Ramp mirrors, so you can usually shave a copy or two there.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger – This is a really fantastic card to have access to in the current meta. Ulamog is fantastic in any matchup if you can cast it, but the way that other ramp decks are constructed right now doesn’t really allow them to play any outs to it once resolved. As long as you can survive long enough to attack with it a couple times, you’ve won. The nature of the Historic Ramp mirror is that they’re rarely over quickly, because both decks are better at not losing than they are at actually winning. This affords you a lot of time to find and cast Ulamog, which gives you inevitability as long as you don’t draw it early enough to be interacted with by discard. If you think that your opponent also has access to Ulamog and they don’t have discard, hold it as long as you can. The second person to act wins Ulamog fights, because the second one exiles the first.
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath: unprint plz
Castle Garenbrig: I shaved down to one copy, because it can come into play tapped sometimes, and the extra mana honestly didn’t come up that often for me. When it did come up, it was often the difference between a 9/9 or a 10/10 Hydroid Krasis or similar, which isn’t that important because either one should end the game.
Ipnu Rivulet: This is what I cut the Castle Garenbrig for, and it’s been excellent. Firstly, it’s an untapped blue source. The deck only played 13, so it was already in the market for untapped blue lands. Secondly, the deck isn’t actually fantastic at filling its graveyard, so having the Rivulet more or less singlehandedly fuel an Uro escape has been incredible. Another land you could play in this spot is Castle Vantress, which I think is totally reasonable, but the deck only plays six islands, so you have to treat it more like a tapped land than an untapped land.
Blast Zone – I haven’t actually activated it much because your mana is just usually better spent elsewhere, but it’s such a good card that I can’t imagine that the deck doesn’t want a copy. I would hesitate to add any more, as the deck is really hungry for colored sources, especially when flashing back Uro.
Arch of Orazca – Another “this deck never truly runs out of gas” card. You’re pretty good at getting permanents on the board so the City’s Blessing isn’t that hard, and you activate it fairly often. I’ve been really happy with it.
Elder Gargaroth – People are starting to come around to the fact that this card is super good. It allows you to kind of shift your gameplan postboard against Aggro from trying to resolve 8 and 10-mana cards to only needing to resolve a five mana one. I usually use the “Make a 3/3” part of the card because it’s just the most powerful option (0 mana 3/3 > 0 mana draw a card > 0 mana gain 3 life), but it’s entirely contextual. If you’re in a game state where you need exactly Ugin to get you out of it, then drawing a card is better, and if you’re at 1 against burn, gaining life is better. I really only board this in in matchups where removing it will be a struggle. If the opponent can just Heartless Act it or something similar, it’s not worth it.
Grafdigger’s Cage – One of the best sideboard cards in the format right now. It shuts down Muxus, most of Bolas’s Citadel, Collected Company, and half of the Rakdos Pyromancer deck. If you’re going to board it in, I would advise boarding out at least two Uros.
Shifting Ceratops – Professional Teferi Hunter for hire, and also does a good job shutting down Spirits and Mono Blue. One of the highest-leverage choices for your sideboard, so I think it’s worth inclusion. Like Gargaroth, I don’t really bring it in in matchups where it can be dealt with easily by things like Heartless Act.
Voracious Hydra – Just an incredible hammer against aggro decks. Always be on the lookout for situations where you can double the counters, rather than defaulting to the fight ability (I turned five’d Mono Red today!). Also be wary of how you play this card against Soul-Scar Mage. When you fight a creature and your opponent has a Soul-Scar Mage on board, your Hydra gets -1/-1 counters equal to the power of the creature it fought. Your opponent can also burn your hydra with either the “fight” or “double counters” trigger on the stack, to reduce their potency.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: My current sideboard plan against Sultai Ramp is to swap out one Ugin for one Ulamog, and nothing else. I am 1-5 preboard against Sultai Ramp, and 10-1 postboard.
Thanks so much for reading!