Last updated on February 27, 2023
Midnight Clock | Illustration by Alexander Forssberg
Is ramp good? It used to be kind of MTG gospel, but Sam Black recently got a bit of attention for being unsure.
If ramp only might be good, what counts as good? And what counts as good ramp in blue? The answer is, unsurprisingly, it depends.
What Is Blue Ramp in MTG?
Grand Architect (Scars of Mirrodin) | Illustration by Steven Belledin
Ramp in MTG is the creation of additional reusable mana resources. This usually involves creatures or artifacts that tap for mana (mana dorks and mana rocks), or spells and abilities that allow players to play more than one land per turn, often by searching up another land.
In terms of the color pie, green does this the best followed by white. Blue is steady in the middle in terms of number of ramp spells, but quite a lot of them synergize with only certain kinds of decks. Burst mana, like Dark Ritual, isn’t generally considered mana ramp because it isn’t reusable. A lot of the mana acceleration in black and red comes in these forms. Since we’re setting it aside today the all-time blue mana card, High Tide, won’t be on this list.
Blue often has cards that make certain spells cost less, like Haughty Djinn, or free, like Omniscience. Although those can feel like ramp because they provide mana advantage, those cards are generally considered different than “ramp.”
Got it? Let’s dive in and examine all 21 blue ramp spells, from the truly abysmal to the terrific.
Before we get to the good stuff, let’s take a minute to discuss Snowfall, the “cumulative upkeep lord,” according to LSV.
This card is horrendous. The ramp only pays for cumulative upkeep, which is only useful maybe if you have Mystic Remora out. There isn’t a single ramp card in any color whose restrictions on the use of the mana is as depressingly limited as this one.
Before you ask, yes, I have one of these from an Ice Age pack I cracked in 1995. And no, even back then I knew better than to play it.
#20. Qarsi Deceiver
Morph tribal lord Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer doesn’t even really play Qarsi Deceiver, so, you know, that’s gotta make this terrible, right?
#19. Benthic Explorers
Benthic Explorers was never good, but it felt good back in the ‘90s. You could block with Benthic Explorers and then tap it to cast something.
Of course, you gave your opponent mana and their stuff was likely the wrong color, but we were dreamers back then. Optimists. Plus “Benthic Explorer” was the name of the ship in The Abyss, so, you know, insider knowledge and all that.
#18. Curious Homunculus / Voracious Reader
Flipping Curious Homunculus into the prowess creature Voracious Reader is cool, but that flip loses your ramp. Ramp isn’t often useful in a spellslinger deck because cheap spells like Consider need a higher volume of colored mana when cast in bursts than a colorless source can provide.
#17. Aminatou’s Augury
Aside from the raft of free spells here, there’s one land drop worth of traditional ramp. Which you totally don’t need if you’re casting an 8-drop like Aminatou’s Augury!
This card is a banger in certain decks, but this low ranking is for it as a ramp spell.
#16. Unblinking Observer + Karfell Harbinger
Unblinking Observer and Karfell Harbinger do work if you’re heavy enough blue. They’re both probably underplayed. Foretell seems more relevant for EDH than disturb though.
#15. Volshe Tideturner
Kicker seems more relevant for EDH than foretell. Volshe Tideturner works if you’re heavy enough blue and is also probably underplayed.
#14. Soldevi Machinist
The artifacts only limit is generally fine given that Soldevi Machinist is contributing its two colorless mana to artifact decks. Not as good as the next card, but this seems a lost treasure when you’re trying to power out Portal to Phyrexia!
#13. Vodalian Arcanist
A strict upgrade to the previous card, Vodalian Arcanist has more toughness.
#12. Renowned Weaponsmith
Other than losing the potentially relevant wizard creature type, Renowned Weaponsmith is a clear upgrade to the previous card and can find some cards for you. They aren’t great, but they’re 2-drop artifacts that can synergize and get you an incidental shuffle.
Vial of Dragonfire isn’t great, but you’ll be glad to have this if you’re stalled with “copy artifact” effects on the table.
#11. Jetfire, Ingenious Scientist / Jetfire, Air Guardian
Barely qualifies as ramp, but it goes in the command zone, I guess? You aren’t thrilled about converting to Jetfire, Air Guardian, but you get an every other turn burst of three mana. Maybe more if you’re sucking counters off things like Liberator, Urza’s Battlethopter.
Color me unimpressed.
#10. Dreamscape Artist
We’ve got to give leeway to the inefficiency of Dreamscape Artist as the only Burnished Hart-style land search creature in blue. For three mana you can lose two pieces of cardboard and pull up two basic lands. They come into play untapped, but that’s still mana neutral on the turn you do this. If Cultivate asked you to discard and sac a land to put both onto the battlefield, would you do it? That’s really the question here.
This seems like a flood alleviator more than proper ramp from that perspective. Although if you wanna stock the graveyard with lands, you could do worse.
#9. Lapis Orb of Dragonkind
Three mana rocks are kind of passé, but Lapis Orb of Dragonkind can really do work in a dragons deck. Scry 2 feels a bit like drawing a card. Almost.
This isn’t really playable outside of dragons, so I guess that translates to a ranking of nine?
#8. Apprentice Wizard
You can use the three colorless for anything, which makes this classic card still occasionally worth it. Apprentice Wizard works on spells or artifacts and even creatures, which is rare for blue ramp.
#7. Sea Scryer
Maybe I just remember playing this too often back in the day, but blue ramp cards that can also get blue mana that can be used for anything is worth it in blue decks that want to do various things. Maybe no one runs flexible blue decks anymore which is why Sea Scryer seems to have been left behind?
#6. Vhal, Candlekeep Researcher
Don’t get confused by this, Vhal, Candlekeep Researcher is close to three Powerstone tokens of value. The mana, which can be buffed by buffing Vhal, can be used to power activated abilities of things like infinite combo partner Staff of Domination.
This may be the line where the ramp cards finally are good enough that you might want to include them on top of your two mana rocks in the right decks instead of cutting them because you have colorless ramp like Arcane Signet.
#5. Deranged Assistant
Deranged Assistant‘s mill is a bonus in decks like Araumi of the Dead Tide or Grolnok, the Omnivore, and being able to use the mana on anything is a step up from other blue dorks.
#4. Grand Architect
Turning other artifact creatures into functional Vodalian Arcanists is pretty good, even if Grand Architect is a bit durdly. It’s a classic infinite mana combo with Pili-Pala since it nets a mana for each colorless creature you get ramping.
#3. Moonsnare Prototype
A Springleaf Drum that can also tap artifacts for mana is good in an environment with cheap artifacts. The channel ability on Moonsnare Prototype can really provide a repeatable late game annoyance when you topdeck it and no longer need its ramp in some kind of Tameshi, Reality Architect or other artifact recursion deck.
#2. Midnight Clock
You’re usually ready to pitch a mana rock for seven cards when time’s up on the Midnight Clock. In a four-player game you get three turns with it before it sacs unless you make it go faster.
Arguably the best 3-cost mana rock in the game. #shotsfired
#1. Urza, Lord High Artificer
The best artificer in the game, occasional Modern player Urza, Lord High Artificer turns all your artifacts into mana rocks. It also does a lot of other things, but that ability alone would make this worth it as a 4-drop.
Best Blue Ramp Payoffs
These cards generally have very specific homes.
Spellslinger decks often have other ways to reduce costs of spells, like Baral, Chief of Compliance. That means that any ramp you use in the deck needs to provide colored pips since cost reducers often make colorless mana ramp unnecessary.
Do you want something like Volshe Tideturner in those decks? If you’re casting spells with higher costs like Windfall or Sublime Epiphany, maybe. If your deck is full of cards like Ponder, you can’t spare the cardboard slot for ramp.
These ramp dorks are generally designed around things like kicker or foretell that you’d likely welcome some ramp for. In those cases, have at it.
Blue ramp is often limited to artifact costs, and that’s really the sweet spot for blue. The tension point is in the affinity realm.
If your deck wants lots of cheap artifacts, either for affinity or sacrifice, you’d rather have a higher proportion of artifact mana or Treasure generators than nonartifact creatures. There are only so many mana rocks for two mana if you want to ramp into Cityscape Leveler as fast as you can, and some of these cards can really help that plan.
Urza, Lord High Artificer | Illustration by Grzegorz Rutkowski
I had my Fourth Edition Apprentice Wizard in storage for a long time, but I’ve found myself sleeving it up again with the high-powered artifacts synergies released in The Brothers’ War and its Commander decks.
None of these blue ramp spells are exactly Llanowar Elves or Rampant Growth, but as EDH speeds up it gets harder and harder to cast your big mana spells before the game is lost. The answers to that are interaction or ramp. Ramping a bit harder might fit your plan better, especially in mono-blue where bounce and counterspells are your typical interactive tools.
How about you, blue mages? Are Arcane Signet and friends enough for you, or do you dip your toes into these rampy waters? Let me know in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.
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Concerning #10 Dreamscape Artist:
1. It isn’t good, but it has to be somewhere on the list.
2. It was fun in Time Spiral draft/sealed constructed because there were cards with madness and Flashback. You thin your Limited deck, filter colors, and can even fuel those madness/flashback cards for value.
3. In Commander it is still to slow for even casual games. Three mana to activate and it has summoning sickness? Yuck. Just give me 2mv mana rocks.
4. I still keep a dreamscape artist in my collection binder for nostalgia and that fantastic art.
Running Mitotic Manipulation in a mono blue deck is ramp. Might even be worth it in a two colour deck depending on your basic lands and what your opponents have in play.
On occasion you might even hit a manarock.