M21 Standard: Simic Epiphany Ramp Deck and Sideboard Guide

Sublime Epiphany

Deck Analysis

Simic Ramp by cas9 – #309 Mythic – July 2020 Season

Strengths

An ideal curve for this deck is to flood the board with bodies, while ramping to massive payoffs like Hydroid Krasis or Sublime Epiphany. It’s capable of ending games rapidly with Jolrael’s second ability, due to all the creatures it generates with Jolrael tokens, animated Nissa lands, Uro, Hydroid Krasis, etc. It also doesn’t die to aggro in the way of many ramp decks that don’t have good wrath effects.

Weaknesses

The main weaknesses of the deck are opposing UGx decks running Nissa who Shakes the World, and its tendency to sometimes have slow, awkward starting hands. Resolving our Nissa, Who Shakes the World and stopping the opponent from resolving their own copy should always be a priority. The advantage that untapping with Nissa creates in this matchup is undeniable and often game ending for either side, since the deck operates at its best with a lot of mana available. If the opening hand does not have some sort of way to ramp (Growth Spiral, Uro, Visionary) or a Jolrael, it is most likely a mulligan.

Aims

Establish a board presence to pressure walkers, while defending our own and/or buying time to ramp to a payoff or a game-ending Sublime Epiphany. Playing Jolrael on turn 2 with Growth Spiral, Uro, or Teferi, Master of Time as follow-ups allows for the deck to have some explosive aggressive starts which can kill as quickly as turn 6 with Jolrael’s activated ability; the deck tends to have plenty of cards in hand to fuel it.

Card Choices

A lot of people have asked me why are we not playing cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Scavenging Ooze. I believe that these cards are too reactive and we are a proactive deck, capable of dealing a lot of damage and winning in the midgame. We have a lot of threats to play to the board and want to be maximizing the use of our mana almost every turn, so these cards didn’t fit well, at least in my experiences as I shaped the deck.

Tips

The deck’s main plan is to form a big board, while ramping to Nissa, Who Shakes the World or Sublime Epiphany, the latter of which often ends the game on the spot with its diverse selection of modes. Countering a spell has obvious applications, but countering triggered abilities has proven extremely useful and will catch a lot of opponents off-guard – a common case is in using it to prevent a Shark Token from being formed when your opponents cycle Shark Typhoon. The copying mode is great for copying Llanowar Visionary and Uro especially, since both allow for extra draw and ramp. Copying an animated Nissa land comes up a lot, and the least value is in copying a Panther token. Still, Jolrael appreciates all creatures, small and big alike, and those free 2/2s really add up.

The ideal opening hand will obviously have a good curve, but Jolrael really makes the deck work optimally. Even playing a turn behind and having to play Growth Spiral off-curve is not that big a deal, due to the value she creates. Since almost every card in our deck draws a card, it is not difficult to completely dominate the battlefield with Panther tokens if Jolrael is left unchecked even for a few turns, and drawing redundant copies can be fine as the first will often be removed early, and additional copies can be looted away with Teferi much of the time.

Holding excess lands can be crucial for the Teferi, Master of Time plus activations; being able to loot those away greatly increase our chances of finding Sublime Epiphany and other crucial answers, or additional threats. Having extra cards in hand also works in tandem with Jolrael’s second ability, which often kills opponents out of nowhere. The fact that Sublime Epiphany and the ability both cost six mana is great, in that it forces opponents into awkward lose/lose situations, where they cannot play around both.

Sideboard Guide

The sideboard has been called somewhat unorthodox, so here are some of the reasons for my choices:

Questing Beast and Shifting Ceratops are incredible at pressuring different types of decks and great in unison against others.The former is very good against Rakdos Sacrifice, due to their reliance on the Cat-Oven combo to stop aggression, and usually results in a trade or a chump block by a Mayhem Devil or Woe Strider. It also excels at dealing with planeswalkers in the Bant matchup, since it requires a full two Nissa lands or an Elspeth Conquers Death (usually after you kill a planeswalker) to stop it.

Shifting Ceratops is great against Flash and Temur Rec, since Protection from Blue and Reach are great against those decks. Temur Reclamation can be one of the more difficult matchups if you do not see any of these threats: this is because Reclamation wants the luxury of setting up its board and sculpting its hand without exhausting resources or time on what the opponent is doing, and our deck often gives them too much space.

Mass Manipulation is an amazing trump card against creature and planeswalker-heavy decks like Bant and Sultai, i.e. other Nissa decks. Nissa can be very difficult for us to deal with if we don’t already have our own out, so having a backup plan for her is important.

Aether Gust, Mystical Dispute, and Negate are all meant to fight the control decks and protect our threats, like Questing Beast and Shifting Ceratops, on both stack and field. Nissa untapping a Breeding Pool can be a powerful line, since it allows us to hold up Aether Gust for an opposing Nissa or Negate for an Elspeth Conquers Death or Reclamation.

Temur Reclamation

InOut
3 Aether Gust
2 Negate
3 Mystical Dispute
2 Questing Beast
3 Shifting Ceratops
2 Arboreal Grazer
4 Llanowar Visionary
4 Sublime Epiphany
2 Hydroid Krasis
1 Teferi, Master of Time

Game 1 of this match can be quite brutal, if our start is slow and we don’t manage to resolve a Nissa or stick a Jolrael to create pressure. Our deck consisting of only Blue and Green spells makes it very vulnerable to both Aether Gust and Mystical Dispute so, without our own counter-magic to ensure our threats resolve, this can lead to some very one-sided games. Temur Reclamation wants to have the luxury of being able to sculpt its hand and board state in order to enable the combo of Reclamation/Explosion, and not having a way to attack them meaningfully in the first few turns allows them to use all their resources on that primary plan. 

Post-board, our threats and protection spells increase greatly and this allows us to play a sort of “Protect the Queen” strategy: using counter-magic to protect a Shifting Ceratops or Questing Beast. Playing off-curve in order to leave one mana open for Mystical Dispute, to stop an opposing Aether Gust or Dispute, is pivotal when they leave the mana up for those. Our own Mystical Disputes and Aether Gusts can also provide crucial tempo by stopping them from ramping faster than us in the early game. Negate is great in this matchup, as it can provide a hard answer for a Wilderness Reclamation or prevent Expansion/Explosion from taking over the game.

Bant Ramp

InOut
3 Mystical Dispute
2 Questing Beast
2 Mass Manipulation
2 Arboreal Grazer
2 Sublime Epiphany
1 Teferi, Master of Time
1 Llanowar Visionary
1 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Bant can be a tough matchup, but very winnable depending on the speed of our starts – a common theme for this deck. The other deck has a lot of great generic answers for dealing with our board, but we have the advantage of 6 more ramp spells in the form of Elvish Visionary and Arboreal Grazer in game 1, so it is unlikely our opponent will have a faster start than us. Ramping ahead of schedule is the main key to deploying our threats and taking over the battlefield, and our deck does not mind a resolved Teferi, Time Raveler as much as other strategies, due to the pressure we create with Jolrael and Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Furthermore, our Hydroid Krases are typically much more potent due to our ability to ramp so quickly, and Bant has a tough time dealing with a large jellyfish outside of Shatter the Sky or a Teferi Time, Raveler -3.

Post-board we have Mass Manipulation to go far over the top of their suite of Planeswalkers. By the time we are able to cast it, both sides have usually exhausted most of their resources, greatly increasing the chances of the massive blue spell resolving, as most of the Vetos and Disputes will already have been expended. It is true that Teferi, Time Raveler can deaden our Mystical Disputes, so establishing some type of board presence is critical in fighting it or a resolved Narset, Parter of Veils. Almost all of the cards in our deck says “draw a card”, so an early Narset can prove to be incredibly detrimental to our overall gameplan. Questing Beast is incredibly useful in the early game as a result.

Mono Green Stompy

InOut
3 Aether Gust
2 Mass Manipulation
2 Teferi, Master of Time
2 Sublime Epiphany
1 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

This matchup has been extremely favorable in my games. This is thanks to all of bodies our deck can produce, which will perpetually chump block their large durdly creatures (outside of Questing Beast, which can be problematic), slowing down their aggression long enough for us to resolve an escaped Uro or large Krasis and stabilize. The current Green aggro deck is notorious for dropping large undercosted threats in the early game, but can run out of steam quickly after the initial wave of threats, so surviving long enough to deploy some of our life-gaining creatures creatures (which also draw us cards) is the best way to halt their aggression.

Game 2 gets a lot easier, due to our access to Aether Gust and Mass Manipulation. Our creatures are much smaller than theirs in the early game, but we want to buy enough time to ramp into our larger threats and use the disruption we bring in to try to cause a board stall. Mass Manipulation is incredible at breaking that parity, and will end the game on the spot once it resolves, so we just need to survive long enough.

Rakdos Sacrifice

InOut
3 Aether Gust
2 Questing Beast
2 Hydroid Krasis
1 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
1 Sublime Epiphany
1 Llanowar Visionary

I have found this matchup to be very draw dependent in Game 1; whoever has the faster start is usually greatly favored, meaning there’s a lot of play-draw variance involved. However, if we are able to get an early Jolrael to clog up the board and water down the effectiveness of Priest of the Forgotten Gods, the odds of us stabilising dramatically increase. Our deck can also gain a massive amount of life in a short time, negating the Cat/Oven drains and Mayhem Devil pings.

Game 2, we have Aether Gust for added Mayhem Devil disruption, and Questing Beast can be a lot for them to deal with if they do not have Noxious Grasp at the ready. Mayhem Devil and Priest of the Forgotten Gods are our biggest worries in this matchup, so keeping them off 2 creatures and from getting Mayhem Devil damage triggers is our game plan, while we ramp ahead and clog the board up with bodies. Blast Zone is sometimes game-ending in this matchup, if they over commit their 1 drops, so keep that in mind and try to sandbag the land in some spots, to bait them into playing their Ovens, Serrated Scorpions, or Gutterbones.

Sultai Ramp

InOut
3 Mystical Dispute
2 Questing Beast
2 Mass Manipulation
2 Arboreal Grazer
1 Teferi, Master of Time
2 Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
2 Llanowar Visionary

This matchup is a lot like Bant, in that whoever resolves their Nissa first usually wins the game. Our ability to ramp faster and gain the mana advantage is critical; this is usually easy in game 1, due to our copies of Elvish Visionary. Sultai can also take some turns off with the new addition of Cultivate, so optimizing our board while they set theirs up is paramount. Also, their discard spells are not nearly as effective against our deck as others, due to the redundancy of effects we have – if we take our first copy of an effect, we will often have a second. Their Casualties of War can get good value against a resolved Nissa and animated lands, but this usually only fuels the reanimation of Uro. 

Sultai lists can have some number of Narset in their main or sideboard, and Narset, Parter of Veils is one of the biggest enemies of our deck, so having a game plan for that card in the first few turns is something you will always want; having a board presence or counter-magic ready is crucial. Questing Beast and Mystical Dispute are very good at stopping her, as Sultai opponents will often try to resolve her as quickly as possible. For the late game, we have the trump card of Mass Manipulation, which can win the game on the spot by stealing their Nissa, Tamiyo, Narset, or Uro after they’ve exhausted their resources in dealing with our other stuff.

Mono Black Aggro

InOut
2 Mass Manipulation2 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

If we are able to curve out typically, this is a favorable matchup. As is the case in other aggro matchups, deploying Jolrael on curve is our most effective strategy when available, as the advantage from making free chump blockers while we ramp into a Krasis or Epiphany is massive. Ramping to Sublime Epiphany can be vital, as bouncing a Regisaur or creature enchanted by Demonic Embrace buys a lot of time, since only Rankle has haste in their deck. Mono Black can also run out of cards very quickly, due to Rotting Regisaur and Demonic Embrace’s discard clauses, so once we are able to stabilize with an Uro or Krasis, the board can stall in our favor greatly. Arboreal Grazer’s can also put in a lot of work, stopping their pressure in the early game and providing a chump block for a creature with Demonic Embrace.

Post-board, we get Mass Manipulation, which can bail us out of some very dire situations when the board gets clogged up or we fall too far behind. The main game plan is to try to buy as much time as possible until we are able to ramp ahead and stabilize with Uro or Krasis once again. Typically, Mono Black resolves a few threats that can be easily chumped, as Spawn of Mayhem is the only creature with natural evasion and trample. Mass Manipulation is an amazing card whenever we are able to cast it, as they will often be empty-handed and unable to recover.

Mono Red Aggro

InOut
2 Questing Beast
3 Aether Gust
2 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
2 Teferi, Master of Time
1 Sublime Epiphany

This matchup, like the other aggro matchups, is greatly dependent on how our starts line up, so keeping a slow hand is out of the question. Mono Red wants to use the first few turns of the game to maximize their use of mana and cards, so our game plan is to use any means to slow down their development and mitigate some of the pressure they apply. Arboreal Grazer is an all-star in this regard, Jolrael can stymie their initial aggression, Uro and Krasis will help stabilize and buffer our life total, and Nissa provides a steady stream of blockers once resolved, and threatens to allow us to untap and play a giant Hydroid Krasis.

Post-board, we have Aether Gust to buy time and control the tempo of the game, Sublime Epiphany can actually prove quite useful if we are able to successfully ramp to it by stopping Embercleave and bouncing Anax, and Questing Beast is a good blocker and a way to potentially pressure Tibalt, a card that can be quite annoying for our deck. This matchup can be difficult if they are able to curve out into an Embercleave, so keeping them off being able to cast that artifact is very important for as long as we can.

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ScarletAdept
17 days ago

A ramp-draw deck without Ugin is puzzling. Having 2 in my deck wins a lot of games. I think this needs either 3 Questing Beasts in main board or 2 Ugin. Sublime x4 is at least 2 too many in an aggressive meta.
I appreciated your guide vs match ups.