July 31, 2017

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Test Drive – Standard Deck Tech - Ramunap Red

Hello all, and welcome to a new Standard Test Drive, where I take a popular deck from the Standard format and give it a Test Drive. For the past two weeks, I’ve been playing different versions of the Ramunap Red deck that most recently did very well at the Pro Tour.

Why is it called Ramunap Red? That's thanks to the powerful new land, Ramunap Ruins. I’m going to be talking about two different versions of this deck, the first being more of a Big Red version using Eldrazi, and the second being a version that doesn’t play any Eldrazi.

Here's the first version of Ramunap Red that I tested out. It plays seven Eldrazi creatures thanks to the Desert lands that produce colourless mana. This has a higher mana curve than most would associate with a Mono-Red deck, which is why it has 24 lands compared to the 20-21 lands that most Mono-Red decks in the past would play.

Before I go over some key points with this deck, here's the deck list for Ramunap Red – Eldrazi Version.

Here are some review points for this deck:

1) Make sure you keep a hand that will have action early. Ideally you want to play creatures on curve for the first three turns. In games where this happens, it becomes very hard for your opponent to recover from it.

2) Hazoret the Fervent didn’t attack as often as I would have liked. Since there are nine other cards with mana cost four or higher in the deck, often you're left with more than one card in your hand if you want to play Hazoret the Fervent on curve for turn four. Most of the time it was just better to play Thought-Knot Seer instead.

3) I found that in most post-sideboard games, I would bring in extra removal and take out either some of the Eldrazi creatures or Kari Zev, Skyship Raider. This allowed my early creatures to deal more damage and helped me win the game.

4) Desert lands will win you games, period. When your creatures are all gone, and your opponent has exhausted their initial resources to deal with them, you'll most often have time to just draw lands and finish them off with damage from Ramunap Ruins. Dunes of the Dead could probably be replaced with a better Desert card though, or perhaps just a better land in general.

5) The worst matchup for this version of the deck is Black/Green. They can get some large blockers that are hard to deal with, and will often leave your small aggressive creatures waiting on your side of the board until you can find a way to break through your opponent's wall of defense.

Final Results achieved with this deck – I played three different tournaments with this deck and ended up going a combined 8-3-1. Two of the losses were early on in playtesting when I was still trying to get a feel for the deck, when to mulligan, and such. My third loss came in my last match with this deck against Black/Green Constrictor. It is probably one of the worst matchups for this deck because of its ability to get large creatures that can block, as well as having powerful cards like Walking Ballista that are able to take out multiple threats at once.

Next, I want to talk about a Ramunap Red deck that contains no Eldrazi.

Since there's no Eldrazi, the mana curve of this deck is significantly reduced. This allows us to play 23 lands instead of 24. That might not seem like a significant difference, but getting in another spell or a creature that can deal damage is important. You might ask why you still need 23 lands in your deck if the highest casting cost spell you have in your hand is four? That's because of one card, Ramunap Ruins. Its ability can’t even be used until you have five lands and even then, getting more Desert lands lets you deal two additional damage to your opponent.

Before we talk about some points on the deck, let’s have a look at the deck list for Ramunap Red – No Eldrazi Version.

Here are some review points for this deck:

1) Getting a one-drop creature out will lead to success. The number of one-drop creatures is increased from eight to 12. This gave me a better chance to get in more damage early. Bomat Courier was very impressive as it allowed you to exchange your empty hand for three to four cards on turn four or five in most occasions. This is quite the value for a one-drop creature.

The reason I chose to have two Soul-Scar Mage and two Village Messenger instead of having four Village Messenger is due to the Mage's versatility in dealing with larger creatures. Soul-Scar Mage often allows you to kill a larger creature without also losing your own creature in combat. For example, I would attack with multiple creatures into a 3/4 Greenbelt Rampager with an Abrade in hand. If you don't have a Soul-Scar Mage on the battlefield, you could trade your own creature for Greenbelt Rampager by finishing it off post-combat with the Abrade. If you do have a Soul-Scar Mage though, it will allow you to shrink the Greenbelt Rampager down to a 0/1, meaning that your attacking creature will survive the combat.

2) Being able to remove opposing creatures from combat allowed me to get in more damage with my creatures. To facilitate this, the number of removal spells increases from six to 10 in the deck. Each type of removal spell worked well in the deck. Often, if I didn’t have a two-drop creature in hand, I would either use my turn two to kill a creature with Incendiary Flow, or leave up mana at the end of my opponent’s turn to use Abrade or Shock to kill a potential blocker. This allowed me to swing freely with an Ahn-Crop Crasher on turn three without having to exert it.

Having six spells that can deal direct damage to my opponent won me multiple games. Running Shock instead of Magma Spray is the correct decision in most games. That extra little reach to deal those last points of damage is key. Collective Defiance became a key removal spell in the deck as it allowed me to deal with problematic four toughness creatures, while also getting in for three additional damage to the face.

3) Deciding between making your opponent's creatures not be able to block and killing them with removal is key to your success. There are certain creatures that cause more problems than others and must be dealt with using removal. Cards like Cryptbreaker and Heart of Kiran, which get around the “not being able to block” part of cards like Ahn-Crop Crasher, are important to deal with using removal. There are other creatures like Longtusk Cub, where it's more important to remove them rather than let them potentially get so big that they're out of removal range. When it comes to creatures without any on the battlefield abilities, you'll most often let your opponents keep them, but choose to not let them block.

4) Your goal is to get Hazoret the Fervent on the battlefield and attacking as quickly as possible. Playing empty handed might seem dangerous, but there are very limited ways for decks to deal with a 5/4 Indestructible, Haste creature on turn four or five. You sometimes must plan what you want to do from turn one so that you can make sure you're able to attack on curve with Hazoret the Fervent. This often meant that I would use Incendiary Flow or Shock to deal damage directly to my opponent just to get the cards out of my hand.

5) Desert lands will still win you games, period. I was able to deal 11 damage and kill an opponent just with my lands one game, so make sure to keep that in mind when figuring out how to deal those last points of damage. There are times when you'll want to keep Hazoret the Fervent back on defense so that you can just deal them two damage every turn with your lands.

6) Sideboard Guide – If you're playing against larger creature decks like Emerge, Temur Energy or Green/Black Constrictor, you'll want to bring in Kari Zev’s Expertise in. This will allow you to remove their large blocker from combat and get in for extra damage. If you're playing against White/Blue Monument or Mono-Black Zombies, you will want to bring in the Sweltering Suns, as they are decks that want to go wide and fill the battlefield with creatures. Chandra’s Defeat is a great card to bring in against the mirror match, or against Temur Energy decks.

A neat interaction is that Chandra’s Defeat or Chandra, Torch of Defiance plus Soul-Scar Mage equals you being able to take down an opposing Hazoret the Fervent. If you're playing Green/Black, cards like Glorybringer and Collective Defiance allow you to take care of their larger creatures. Magma Spray is a very important sideboard card to bring in against decks like Mono-Black Zombies, White/Blue Monument, God-Pharaoh, and Mardu Vehicles.

Final Results achieved with this deck – I recently won a multi-format tournament (Standard and Draft), in which I went undefeated in the Standard format and playoffs (6-0) using this deck. I played against six different decks, but never got to try it against the mirror. I'd be interested to see how it would fair, and I believe that there are some key sideboard cards that could be added or taken away to enhance it against a mirror matchup.

I would favour the non-Eldrazi version of the deck because of the power it gives to Hazoret the Fervent. Having the extra one-drop creatures and removal spells also makes the deck more versatile in the early game, and allows you to deal with more situations than its Eldrazi counterpart.

Thanks all for going through this journey with me on the Test Drive. Hope this helps you navigate your way through Ramunap Red and realize that although it might seem like a straight forward deck, there are still lots of decisions when it comes to game play and deck building that you must consider to be successful with this deck.