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Wolf Run Ramp in Standard
Feature Article from Kyle Boggemes
Kyle Boggemes
11/29/2011 10:25:00 AM
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Hello everyone!

Last week there were plenty of articles (including mine) which focused on how Worlds affected the Standard environment. It would certainly not be the same after we saw a deck that was presumed to be dead (R/G Wolf Run Ramp) rise to the top. The format was filled with small creatures that were weak to red cards, but that couldn't last forever, right? My Magic Online endeavors told me otherwise as I saw mostly aggro decks that were featured at Worlds; Green White Tokens and Illusions being the most prevalent.

I tried my hand at building some various versions of ramp including Jun'ya Iyanaga's list that won Worlds to see how they would fare. A majority of my matches I played were 2-mans on Magic Online and the mirror was certainly a major player as well (big surprise).

Here is the list I camp up with to begin testing.

Wolf Run Ramp by Kyle Boggemes
Main Deck
Sideboard
1 Acidic Slime
2 Birds of Paradise
4 Inferno Titan
4 Primeval Titan
4 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
4 Viridian Emissary
Creatures [20]
1 Garruk Relentless
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
Planeswalkers [3]
3 Arc Trail
1 Devil's Play
3 Green Sun's Zenith
4 Rampant Growth
Spells [11]
4 Copperline Gorge
9 Forest (262)
4 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Mountain (259)
4 Rootbound Crag
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]


1 Acidic Slime
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Beast Within
1 Brindle Boar
3 Mayor of Avabruck
2 Slagstorm
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Tree of Redemption
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


What's so special about this list?

This deck plays out like a normal ramp deck, but has a sub-theme of winning with little points of damage here and there from Viridian Emissary and Solemn Simulacrum. I was a big fan of Viridian Emissary and he seems to be better than ever when decks are packing Slagstorm, Arc Trail, and Galvanic Blast. Does anyone want to burn out this guy? How about Solemn Simulacrum? Not exactly my cup of tea either. The damage they deal against slower decks adds up fast when you have four Fireball effects. Speaking of Fireball effects, it seems as if many of the successful ramp decks from worlds played three Kessig Wolf Runs. The colorless lands are certainly making an impact on Standard because there aren't many alternatives outside of Inkmoth Nexus and Ghost Quarter. The mana in this deck is quite good as well so adding a seventh colorless land isn't a huge deal. The addition of the third Kessig Wolf Run made me want to be more focused on winning with regular damage if the Primeval Titan plan doesn't work.

Something I immediately realized about this list was that I really wanted a second Devil's Play. It typically functions the same as a Galvanic Blast, but it can also kill Hero of Bladehold and your opponent as well. I was surprised how many games went late because my titans were killed by a Day of Judgment or Oblivion Ring and needed that extra punch of flashing back the Devil's Play.

I originally began with three Birds of Paradise, but they are pretty unimpressive at the moment due to the large amount of red decks. It can also be a sticky situation when you want to cast an early titan, but need to commit with a birds in the face of Day of Judgment.

Mayor of Avabruck seemed very strong to me on paper, but he failed to perform against control. They would typically have Day of Judgment or another kill spell for it. Mayor didn't flip very often either as both players usually had plenty of spells to cast. The advantage of flipping the mayor was not worth wasting my own turn. It was also a terrible draw in the late game and Rampant Growth was a better early game play in many cases.

Brindle Boar was much worse than Tree of Redemption because RDW had so many big creatures that needed to be blocked. Take notice I don't have any artifacts against red because they may bring in Ancient Grudge for Batterskull anyway.

Side Note:

The presence of Grixis control makes me hate Birds of Paradise even more; Olivia Voldaren should not be underestimated. She can swing for lethal pretty quickly and can also keep Inkmoth Nexus at bay. It's also difficult to kill her with burn if your opponent leaves up mana to pump so Slagstorm and Arc Trail are out of the question. It only costs seven mana to make a vampire and steal them which makes Kessig Wolf Run a risky way to utilize your resources. They can also take out your birds with a Galvanic Blast which would otherwise be useless.

Grixis is a very strong deck in this environment because creature decks are still present and can keep up with ramp. We need a slightly different build to respect Kessig Ramp.

Grixis Control by Patrick Chapin
Main Deck
Sideboard
1 Inferno Titan
3 Olivia Voldaren
2 Precursor Golem
3 Snapcaster Mage
1 Wurmcoil Engine
Creatures [10]
3 Liliana of the Veil
Planeswalkers [3]
4 Desperate Ravings
1 Devil's Play
1 Doom Blade
4 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Galvanic Blast
2 Go for the Throat
3 Mana Leak
1 Ratchet Bomb
3 Slagstorm
Spells [21]
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Copperline Gorge
4 Darkslick Shores
1 Dragonskull Summit
2 Drowned Catacomb
1 Island (253)
5 Mountain (259)
1 Shimmering Grotto
4 Sulfur Falls
3 Swamp (256)
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]


2 Ancient Grudge
2 Curse of Death's Hold
1 Dissipate
1 Flashfreeze
1 Galvanic Blast
1 Geistflame
1 Mana Leak
1 Mimic Vat
1 Negate
1 Slagstorm
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Wurmcoil Engine
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


The only cards I want in the sideboard for sure are four Flashfreeze and two Ancient Grudge. I wouldn't mind swapping out Precursor Golem because of the weakness against Slagstorm that is ever so popular at the moment. This deck is miles ahead of Solar Flare in this environment because Galvanic Blast and Slagstorm are both very strong cards.

Where were we?

Ah yes, Wolf Run Ramp!

The Arc Trails in my list were pretty good, but not great. I know I mentioned before about how you could kill your own Viridian Emissary, but that never happened; I wanted them to take damage from the elf as long as possible. Craig Wescoe's White Weenie deck doesn't really mind an Arc Trail as long as there is an Honor of the Pure in play and that says something about the card. Why play a removal spell that only does a little bit against aggro in the mid-game? I know that's only one deck, but you can use the same logic against Humans and Tempered Steel, too. Slagstorm is the card right now because it deals with fast creatures when their anthem is in play. The question about the sweeper effects is how many is too many? Sure, they are great versus beatdown, but we need to worry about the mirror as well as control.

I was doing pretty well with this deck until I ran into Jun'ya Iyanaga's list in a 2-Man. My opponent began with Sphere of the Suns, Solemn Simulacrum, and Primeval Titan. That's pretty tough to beat in the mirror because it revolves around casting titan first. I needed to play the winning list and see what I liked about it.

Wolf Run Ramp by Junya Iyanaga
Finished 1st Place at 2011 Worlds - Top 8
Main Deck
Sideboard
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Inferno Titan
4 Primeval Titan
4 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
Creatures [14]
2 Devil's Play
4 Galvanic Blast
2 Green Sun's Zenith
4 Rampant Growth
1 Shock
3 Slagstorm
4 Sphere of the Suns
Spells [20]
4 Copperline Gorge
5 Forest (262)
4 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Kessig Wolf Run
6 Mountain (259)
4 Rootbound Crag
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]


2 Ancient Grudge
4 Autumn's Veil
1 Beast Within
1 Slagstorm
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Tree of Redemption
1 Viridian Corrupter
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


I didn't change a card and began jamming in order to get a feel for the real thing. It may seem strange to say, but I love five maindeck Shocks! The card is really not as bad as you think in this format. Jun'ya really hit the nail on the head for worlds as he basically created a control ramp deck against beatdown (which was most of the field). You can get an opening hand that consists of lands, ramp, and removal which is awesome against a majority of the field. My major problem with the deck was the lack of diversity in threat costs. As you can see, the main ways to win a game all cost at least six mana (Zenith for Primeval Titan is even more). The amount of awkward draws with the deck was greater because you really need ramp to stay in the game. Another issue is when the burn spells don't matter in the matchup and you are stuck with a bunch of Shocks.

This was the perfect deck to play at the World Championships, but I need to make some modifications for today's metagame. The format has gotten much slower thanks to the acceptance of Slagstorm. Sure, many players still came at me with aggro, but the red spells made for easy games. We need to build around the rest of the decks being played such as blue control and the mirror.

Sphere of the Suns seems weak and it ended up being nothing special outside of the mirror. If you play against the mirror, be prepared for a random match. It is pretty tough to pack anti-mirror cards with the current Standard pool so the most important aspect is resolving Primeval Titan first. Extra ramp is important because it increases your redundancy of making a titan before your opponent. Viridian Emissary is my hero in every matchup except the mirror because it basically does nothing. They don't care about taking two damage and certainly wouldn't mind letting it live the entire game.

The fact that Jun'ya won Worlds with this list makes it the most popular. Burn spells are very weak against this version because it only plays a single Birds of Paradise. We need to cut down on the burn spells in order to have a realistic shot of winning a tournament.

Here is the new list based off of Jun'ya's deck with a more impressive mirror match.

Wolf Run Ramp 2.0 by Kyle Boggemes
Main Deck
Sideboard
1 Birds of Paradise
2 Inferno Titan
4 Primeval Titan
4 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Viridian Emissary
Creatures [13]
3 Garruk Relentless
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
Planeswalkers [5]
2 Beast Within
2 Devil's Play
2 Green Sun's Zenith
4 Rampant Growth
3 Slagstorm
3 Sphere of the Suns
Spells [16]
4 Copperline Gorge
7 Forest (262)
4 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Mountain (259)
4 Rootbound Crag
Lands [26]
Deck Total [60]


2 Ancient Grudge
3 Galvanic Blast
3 Memoricide
1 Slagstorm
1 Swamp (256)
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Tree of Redemption
Sideboard [15]





Click for full deck stats & notes!


I like Beast Within in the mirror because it can knock your opponent off lands in the early game and kill Primeval Titan later on. The 3/3 is hardly relevant because your titan will often win the game before that's an issue. Beast Within also destroys Hero of Bladehold and the token dies to Slagstorm. It gives you some extra game against Andrew Cuneo's UW Control deck as well by being able to destroy Karn. If there are tons of aggro decks in your area, replace Galvanic Blasts in the sideboard with the Beast Withins.

Garruk Relentless seemed like a good replacement for Galvanic Blasts because it provides another great four drop to ramp into on turn three. I moved the blasts to the sideboard and in smaller quantities because I would shock their one drop creature, but Slagstorm would have dealt with them two turns later. This felt like there were too many kill spells if that was the dilemma. It also dealt with the problem of having too many top-end threats and spread out the curve. I only added two Garruk, Primal Hunter because of the diverse mana requirements; Slagstorm is double red and he is triple green. That's usually not a problem, but we have to account for the seven colorless lands, too.

I like Green Sun's Zenith, but there are not enough targets in the deck to justify playing three. Acidic Slime could be added for a Beast Within, but it's so strong in the mirror. I also found myself rarely searching for it because I may as well wait next turn to fetch a Primeval Titan. Thrun is a good target because it can be fetched the turn before a hard-casted Primeval Titan and blocks the 3/3 Beast Token from Beast Within. I have a single Viridian Emissary over a Sphere of the Suns because I often search for it against aggro to ramp into more expensive spells.

As for the sideboard, I was really unimpressed with Autumn's Veil. It was hard enough casting the threats because of their cost, but the extra green was no walk in the park. I had an easier time against control when I just jammed a threat each turn until one stuck. Thrun was pretty good, but three was excessive. Many of the control decks can deal with him via Liliana of the Veil, Day of Judgment, and Phantasmal Image. There's nothing worse than not being able to cast a turn 6 Inferno Titan because you are tapping out against a likely Day of Judgment with Thrun in play and no extra mana to regenerate.

A new addition to the board is the splash for Memoricide. With ten ways to cast it on the third turn, it seems powerful enough in the mirror (naming Primeval Titan). Many of your ramp spells (Sphere of the Suns and Birds of Paradise) add black already so the Swamp living through a Ghost Quarter or Acidic Slime is not as important as it was in the past. It also seems like a better way to fight control than Autumn's Veil because of the mirror match application. You can name Mana Leak, Flashfreeze, or Dissipate to knock out their counters. It also removes any from the graveyard as well thus reducing the usefulness of Snapcaster Mage.

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Now that you have an idea about my thought process behind the deck, lets go over some general sideboarding strategies. This should not be used as a card for card guide, but rather which cards over perform and need to get cut in certain matchups. The numbers may change if you play against a list that goes slightly against the grain.

Blue Control (Solar Flare/Grixis/Andrew Cuneo's Blue White/Blue Black)

Beast Within can knock out a land at the end of their turn if they leave up exactly enough for a Counterspell (Mana Leak/Flashfreeze/Dissipate/Snapcaster Mage) so be aware of that interaction. The 3/3 Beast won't end up doing very much because they have a low threat density. Wait until you have nine mana to cast Primeval Titan since it will likely draw out a Mana Leak otherwise. If you have a bunch of high casting cost cards in hand, do the opposite and run them out as quickly as possible.

Solemn Simulacrum is a good beater against control because you have three Kessig Wolf Runs to pump them up for a ton of damage. Each Doom Blade that kills the sad robot won't be destroying a Primeval Titan. Don't go too overboard with this plan because it could be bad to waste an entire turn pumping up something that will likely die.

The Slagstorms are obviously very weak against blue control as are some of the ramp spells because it's bad to run out a big threat into Mana Leak. We need as many threats as possible, but still need some ramp to avoid letting them set up for too long.

In general, I would board like this.

-3 Slagstorm -2 Sphere of the Suns -1 Mountain
+1 Swamp +2 Memoricide +2 Sword of Feast and Famine +1 Thrun, the Last Troll

I take out some Sphere of the Suns because Rampant Growth thins out your deck. Viridian Emissary and Birds of Paradise stay in to have more creatures to equip with Sword of Feast and Famine. There is no correct answer for what to Memoricide, but it is most likely a counter.

Illusions

My advice is to play the exact opposite against this deck as you do for blue control. This means play into their Mana Leaks because that's their only counter. I say this because their deck is much faster and they can win while you are sitting around assembling nine mana. The Vapor Snag is also pretty rough for this deck; you may think there is time to slow roll a creature, but the bounce will Time Walk you twice. Remember your Kessig Wolf Run can target their Phantasmal Image and Phantasmal Bear for 0 and destroy it (same with Devil's Play). Most of the new lists play three maindeck gutshot so don't expect your Birds of Paradise to live long.

Your maindeck cards are pretty solid against them, but Beast Within is the weakest. Slagstorm and Galvanic Blast are the best sideboard cards because it buys you more time to win with a titan. The Slagstorm can go up in value for the late game because it wipes away all of the tokens from Moorland Haunt. Thrun can survive Slagstorm and blocks most of their creatures. Be aware he dies to their four Phantasmal Images, but being immune to Dismember, Vapor Snag, and Mana Leak make up for that.

In general, I would sideboard like this.

+1 Thrun, the Last Troll +1 Slagstorm +3 Galvanic Blast
-2 Beast Within -1 Birds of Paradise -1 Green Sun's Zenith -1 Solemn Simulacrum

Solemn doesn't block the same creatures as Thrun so that's a good replacement. Birds of Paradise gets the axe since it dies to Gut Shot if they still have it as well as your own Slagstorms. Green Sun's Zenith loses utility when you board out the only one drop green creature and is thus a more expensive card.

The Mirror

The arms race to Primeval Titan is how I would describe this matchup. Beast Within is best saved for Primeval Titan because it's the end boss. Play your ramp spells before anything else because a turn 4 titan usually seals the deal. You should be a favorite in the mirror because Galvanic Blast was replaced for Beast Within. Slagstorm is bad as is Viridian Emissary for the mirror, but everything else is fine.

-3 Slagstorm -1 Viridian Emissary
+1 Swamp +3 Memoricide

Thrun seems like an alright card for the mirror, but you would much rather cast Memoricide first. Before you know it, the time to play Primeval Titan comes and it's trapped in your hand. I wanted to limit the amount of four drops in the deck for this reason, but add it if you have extra removal in the miandeck. I would try to slowroll the Swamp until the last second so they don't know their Titans are getting removed from the game; it could alter their decision of playing Solemn or Garruk on turn three.

Green White Tokens

This matchup is pretty straightforward - kill their guys and play bigger spells. Their high end involves Elspeth, Hero of Bladehold, and Geist-Honored Monk. Beast Within should be saved for Oblivion Ring, Elspeth Tirel, and Hero of Bladehold. Slagstorm is your best friend as it kills their mana dorks as well as their three drops (Blade Splicer and Mirran Crusader). Mirran Crusader needs to be dealt with quicker in this version because it skimps on the red removal. You can hold them off with Inkmoth Nexus and Solemn Simulacrum, but don't stall too long.

+1 Slagstorm +3 Galvanic Blast
-1 Birds of Paradise -1 Green Sun's Zenith -2 Sphere of the Suns

The same logic applies here as we remove Birds of Paradise to make room for the additional Slagstorm. Extra removal spells means the game will go longer and less need for ramp such as Sphere of the Suns. The zenith gets replaced since the spell loses utility because you wouldn't want to search for Birds on turn 2 anyway with a Slagstorm in hand.

Tempered Steel

This is just another aggro deck so treat it just like Tokens, but you want to make room for Ancient Grudge this time.

-1 Beast Within -1 Birds of Paradise -1 Green Sun's Zenith -1 Thrun, the Last Troll -2 Sphere of the Suns
+2 Ancient Grudge +1 Slagstorm +3 Galvanic Blast

Don't Ancient Grudge their Mox Opal because the Channelfireball list plays four; they will most likely thank you and replace it.

Conclusion

The metagame consists mainly of the top 8 decks from Worlds so be make sure to look over the five lists. Ramp is well-positioned at this time with some slight modifications because creatures are still out in full force. Give this deck a spin and tell me what you think in the forums.

Thanks for reading!

Kyle



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