Updating Ramunap Red

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
8/4/2017 11:03:00 AM
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Since Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, I have been thinking about the best possible list of Ramunap Red for the current metagame. I'm not afraid to make changes to the list I played at the Pro Tour and say that there are ways to improve it. This isn't the weekend for simply playing the exact 75 of a list that made Top 8 at the Pro Tour. Today I want to share my updated list, as well as a sideboard guide.

This list is still pretty similar to the deck I made Top 8 with, but there are some key changes that help in a metagame with lots of mirrors. Once a deck has been established as the best in a format, you need to find some sort of edge in mirrors. The first big addition is the fourth Hazoret the Fervent in the main deck. Out of any card in the list, this is the one that will win the most games for you, and is a perfect curve topper. This is the best possible card in the mirror because of how incredibly difficult it is to answer, and how quickly it can close the game. The only way to answer Hazoret the Fervent is to have a Soul-Scar Mage and start throwing burn spells at the God, since -1/-1 counters are one of the few ways to remove the indestructible God.

Many lists opt to play Village Messenger instead of Soul-Scar Mage, but I have been much more impressed by Soul-Scar Mage. You don't normally want to take a turn off in order to flip a Village Messenger, and Soul-Scar Mage can block other one-drops and isn't difficult to grow with prowess. Bomat Courier and Falkenrath Gorger are still the best one-drops for game one, and I am fine only having 10 one-drops total. I have found the one-mana creatures trade off with removal or opposing cheap creatures, but the bigger plays are what will win you the most games.

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 Hazoret the Fervent
$19.17
$12.79
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Three Headed Dragon 3 $13.52
Panzercards 1 $14.00
ReptoeMonCards 1 $15.00
BlueRobotGaming 3 $15.00
BaconLotusTomato 3 $15.48
Game Day Hobbies 1 $15.60
ZephyrSprk 1 $15.76

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The two-drop slot isn't debatable out of how many copies of Kari Zev, Skyship Raider to play. I like two, as drawing multiples is a very real possibility, and Earthshaker Khenra is still the best two-drop. In fact, most of the threats in the main deck are pretty self-explanatory. The reason why I went down to only one Chandra, Torch of Defiance is that I added one Hazoret the Fervent. When adding an expensive card to the deck, it is generally best to take a different one out.

The burn suite is a bit different than what you normally see. Shock is very flexible, and good against most creature-based decks, including the mirror. Since creature decks are the most popular archetypes, I have gone up to a full playset of Shocks. In exchange, the Collective Defiance got cut. Collective Defiance is very good against decks relying on planeswalkers or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. However, game one it isn't as efficient as many of your other cards. Since going up to four Hazoret the Fervent, it makes sense to cut the clunkiest, most mana-intensive burn spell.

I feel pretty confident you want Abrade and Incendiary Flow. Before the Pro Tour, most Ramunap Red lists didn't play a full playset of Abrade, and that was wrong. This card is so important against Vehicles, and Aethersphere Harvester in particular. Even if the opponent isn't playing artifacts (which most decks are), spending two mana for three damage at instant speed is still good. As far as Incendiary Flow is concerned, I'm surprised people have been cutting it. Both the fact you can go to the opponent's face and being able to exile an opposing creature have been extremely important for me.

The mana base hasn't changed for me. Having 18 red sources with 14 being basics is pretty much mandatory. It is necessary to have at least one red source in your opening hand in order to be able to function. As for the non-basic lands, I have really liked Sea Gate Wreckage. Against control it becomes your best card. After sideboard, the ability to go up to 25 lands is well worth two sideboard slots. It makes sense to want more lands when going bigger, and I like going big in pretty much every matchup.

The idea is that most sideboard cards targeting Ramunap Red tend to be aimed at the cheap creatures in the deck. Cards like Fatal Push will be played in higher numbers against you after sideboard. The opponent will do what they can to try and not get run over, but there is more than one way to win with this deck, and you shouldn't be scared to play a late game. Reality Smasher and Glorybringer really shine as five-mana threats that can win the game on their own. Reality Smasher, in particular, is very tough to deal with.

When going bigger, you generally need to take out some smaller creatures. This works out well if the opponent is trying to fight you with Liliana, the Last Hope and you are able to board out most of the one-toughness creatures. The idea is to be one step ahead of the opponent, as Ramunap Red is capable of executing several different gameplans.

Sideboard Plans

The Mirror

Let's start by talking about your most important matchup when playing Ramunap Red, and that is the mirror. Here it is very important to try and identify what list the opponent is on. For instance, if you see a card like Cartouche of Zeal it should become apparent the opponent is playing a smaller version of the red deck, similar to Sam Black's. On the other hand, if you see a card like Sand Strangler after sideboard, you are likely against a list similar to PV's. However, here is how I like to board not knowing exactly what version of Ramunap Red I'm up against:

+3 Magma Spray
+2 Chandra's Defeat
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+1 Reality Smasher
+1 Glorybringer
+2 Pia Nalaar
+1 Sea Gate Wreckage
+1 Scavenger Grounds

- 4 Falkenrath Gorger
-4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
-4 Bomat Courier

After board, I have found I would rather be killing what my opponent is playing rather than having lots of small creatures. Having more removal is an easy way to make your deck better on the draw, as you are much more likely to have immediate answers for the first few plays from the opponent. This is a mirror where you very rarely win by trying to block, so having good removal allows you to get to the point where your powerful top-end cards take over the game.

Mid
Low
 Pia Nalaar
$0.42
$0.01
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The Scottish Dragon 1 $0.01
MTG Rares 10 $0.09
Briansellscards 2 $0.09
CalvinsCornerCards 1 $0.10
PIA Games 3 $0.10
Lvl Xero Games 1 $0.14
SHGaming 12 $0.14

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The biggest addition to my sideboard after the Pro Tour is having access to Pia Nalaar, which is a built-in two-for-one. Regardless of whether the opponent keeps their small creatures or goes on a more removal heavy plan, Pia Nalaar is excellent. I have opted not to play Aethersphere Harvester in the sideboard, because it doesn't work as well when boarding out lots of creatures. However, if you do see or expect the opponent to have Aethersphere Harvester, I would board in the one Release the Gremlins.

It is still important to watch what the opponent is up to after board. If they know you are on this plan of having a ton of removal they might board out all their own removal, knowing you aren't going to be aggressive anymore. That is what happened in my match against PV when he took out his Shocks and Abrades in favor of more creatures. It is possible that you want to board back in your aggressive one-drops when on the play if you expect the opponent is light on removal. Sideboarding can be a bit of a mind game here, and reading the opponent is important.

Versus Mono-Black Zombies

+2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+3 Magma Spray
+1 Reality Smasher
+1 Scavenger Grounds
+1 Sea Gate Wreckage

-4 Falkenrath Gorger
-4 Bomat Courier
-1 Abrade
-1 Hazoret the Fervent

These sideboard plans aren't intuitive, and I doubt most people are currently employing them. There is a perception that Mono-Black Zombies is a bad matchup for Ramunap Red, but I disagree. It is a matter of knowing how to sideboard, and being willing to completely shift gears. Loading up on removal while having more copies of Chandra, Torch of Defiance is where you want to be. Playing Chandra, Torch of Defiance on an empty board is better than Hazoret the Fervent, as there aren't as many answers to the planeswalker.

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Low
 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
$37.85
$27.00
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Game Insane Indiana 1 $27.32
Vintage Nerd 1 $30.39
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With this sideboard plan, the Zombies player can't afford to take out their more expensive cards like Liliana's Mastery, because otherwise Ramunap Red gets the better late game. Not having as many one-toughness creatures is nice after board, as inevitably the opponent will be boarding in Liliana, the Last Hope. Having Glorybringer as another answer to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is very important.

Versus Black-Green Constrictor

+2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+1 Sea Gate Wreckage
+1 Scavenger Grounds
+1 Release the Gremlins

-3 Falkenrath Gorger
-4 Shock

This is another matchup where the one-toughness creatures are vulnerable, though you still want to stay aggressive since their late game is pretty strong. Shock generally matches up pretty poorly against Winding Constrictor decks, so that is typically the first card out. This is the matchup I least want to face while playing Ramunap Red, but it is still close.

Versus Mardu Vehicles

+1 Scavenger Grounds
+2 Glorybringer
+3 Magma Spray
+1 Release the Gremlins
+1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

-4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
-2 Shock
-2 Falkenrath Gorger

This is a matchup that having access to lots of artifact removal really helps. Ahn-Crop Crasher isn't particularly good against Vehicles, since the creature you make not block can simply crew up a vehicle. Overall though, I still like this matchup. Magma Spray is a very versatile sideboard card that comes in against many of the top decks in the format.

Versus Control

+2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
+2 Glorybringer
+1 Reality Smasher
+2 Pia Nalaar
+1 Sea Gate Wreckage
+1 Scavenger Grounds

-4 Shock
-4 Incendiary Flow
-1 Abrade

Control is pretty bad right now because it has an incredibly tough time beating Ramunap Red. It is easy to Overload on threats after sideboarding, while taking out burn spells that aren't great. I like keeping some Abrades in as an answer to Torrential Gearhulk.

Thanks for reading, and good luck with Ramunap Red this weekend!

Seth Manfield




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