Thursday, August 15, 2019

Making Magic in the Arena - Temur Elemental Ramp

It's no secret that ever since Risen Reef was revealed in the new Core Set 2020, players have had their eye on Elementals as a tribe. As a 1/1 that either adds a card to our hand when it comes out, it would have already been a decent card. But the fact that other Elementals, including other copies of Risen Reef, also trigger the effect again, the potential is too real to pass up.

And so, with Omnath, Locus of the Roil giving us an obvious direction to go, we'll give the Temur color combo a try with this Elemental Ramp deck.

Obviously, if we're going to call ourselves a Ramp deck, we need ways to increase our mana output. Risen Reef is an obvious way to do that, and give us some extra cards, so we're putting as many copies as we can into the deck.

Leafkin Druid is another obvious choice. No matter what stage of the game we're in, this card is almost always welcome. Not only does it provide us with mana on its own, even more if we're got a good board going already, but it's an Elemental, so it'll trigger Risen Reef when it comes in, potentially netting either another land on the board or card in hand. And although they don't trigger our Elemental friend, Llanowar Elves and Paradise Druid round out our package so that we have a high chance of getting to our 4 and 5-drops earlier than we're "supposed" to.

As for how we win, it'll usually be either through Hydroid Krasis or Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Nissa has quickly become one of the most popular Planeswalkers in Standard at the moment, and for good reason. Not only does she double the mana output of every Forest, even non-basic Forests like the shock lands we're running, but she also untaps them, turning them into 3/3s with Vigilance and Haste (but note that even though they become Elementals, they do not enter the battlefield and will not trigger Risen Reef). The combined value and versatility of both of these abilities is insane.

And as you can see in one of our games, just the threat of her -8 is enough to make a player surrender. I saw why in several matches I didn't record. Not only does in filter out a large chunk of the lands left in the deck, making it easier to draw playable cards in the late game, but it gives all of the 3/3s she created indestructible. It's not easy for an opponent to keep playing when so many creatures are swinging into them with no consequence.

In the case of Hydroid Krasis, it serves two incredible functions in this deck, and is the best or worst thing to ever happen to Simic depending on what your viewpoint is. Providing a sink for all the mana that we're creating with our creatures and Nissa, it allows us to sustain well beyond where we normally should by giving us vital, card draw and lifegain even if it eats a removal or counter spell. And if it doesn't, then it provides a massive body that will be swinging in with flying and trample. Just a few hits can turn around a completely losing game. This can be enough on its own to force opponents to surrender.

Getting to our other pieces, Omnath provides two useful functions. Its first ability gives us the reach to deal with small or large threats, depending on where we are in the game. If the opponent is at a low enough life total, we can even use it to finish them off. Since it scales to the number of Elementals in play, the lands the Nissa turns into Elementals also count for that.

The second ability is another valuable asset. Not only does it provide a valuable boost when a land comes into play, even as part of Risen Reef's ability, but late game it can also provide us a way to keep drawing cards to push through that last bit of damage. The threat of this, combined with it's stats is usually enough to make it a prime removal target, which can save our valuable pieces in the long run.

Though I don't consider it a win condition, Cavalier of Thorns is another card that can neatly wrap up the game. The 5/6 stats, combined with innate Reach, make it a powerful blocker, and an equally powerful piece to swing in with. In addition, it'll almost always hit a land with its enter the battlefield effect, and if it dies we can reclaim a card that hit the graveyard, likely a Risen Reef, Hydroid Krasis, or Nissa, which can disincentivize opponents from killing it.

Lastly, we run a few copies of Living Twister and a full set of Lava Coils. The Lava Coils provide cheap, exile based removal that can help us deal with early threats to our setup, but Living Twister is so much more than that. Not only is it an Elemental for Omnath and Risen Reef synergies, but it's activated abilities give us a way to make use of our lands in the event we get mana flooded. We can bounce lands back to our hand either to replay them for Omnath triggers, or discard them to ping something on the board, including our opponent, for a few points of damage. Against more aggressive decks, it's high toughness can make it very difficult for small creatures to get through.

Seeing the deck in action, it's impressive watching the machine come together. It doesn't always happen, but when it does it's not too hard to close out the game. So many of the cards in this deck provide so much value that an opponent can and will get frequently overwhelmed.

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