Last updated on November 2, 2022

Rampant Growth - Illustration by Steven Belledin

Rampant Growth | Illustration by Steven Belledin

One of MTG’s main restrictions is that you can only play one land per turn. This ensures that a card with mana value 4 is played on turn 4 (in theory).

But what if you could produce more than one mana per turn, or play more than a land per turn and cheat the mana system? Today we’re going to talk about ramp, one of the main ways to get an advantage in MTG, and one of green’s main functions in the game.

Ready? Let’s get started!

What is Ramp in MTG?

Search for Tomorrow - Illustration by Randy Gallegos

Search for Tomorrow | Illustration by Randy Gallegos

The term “ramp” is dedicated to getting ahead on lands and thus earning a mana advantage. And ramp comes in many forms.

Maybe you can play an extra land from your hand. Maybe you play a spell that lets you search for a land and put it into play. Or you play a creature or artifact that produces extra mana while in play.

Today I’m going to focus on effects that give permanent mana advantage as opposed to one-shot effects. Mana advantages in the form of rituals and Treasures may come another day.

Green is the king of mana producing and mana ramp so most of the ramp spells are green. Blue usually adds mana to cast a certain type of spell, like artifacts, instants, or sorceries. Black and red focus on “rituals,” a burst of mana production from cards like Dark Ritual and Seething Song, effects that aren’t considered ramp per se.

Another trend from recent sets in red and black is to produce Treasure tokens that can be sacrificed for mana. White is catching up in the mana department by allowing you to search for lands in your deck and put them into play, often with certain restrictions.

Ramp Spells

Ramp spells are a type of card that let you play an extra land for the turn. These cards are usually sorceries but this effect is found on instants, creatures, and enchantments too.

After playing a spell like Skyshroud Claim you can search your deck for two lands and put them into play. Creatures like Quandrix Cultivator and Coiling Oracle allow you to do that as an ETB effect.

Ramp Artifacts

These are artifacts that have an activated ability to produce mana. Mind Stone is a card that costs and taps for . It’s like paying two mana to play an extra land from your hand.

Artifacts like Sol Ring that generate and cost are staples of a lot of formats, most notably Commander. Ramp artifacts are also known as mana rocks.

Mana Dorks

There are also creatures (usually elves) that have a tap ability to generate mana. Some of these, like Llanowar Elves, tap for while cards like Birds of Paradise generate one mana of any color.

Best Ramp Cards: Honorable Mentions

I know I said that I wasn’t going to cover one-shot mana effects but there are two such cards that are still worth mentioning.

Smothering Tithe

Smothering Tithe

Smothering Tithe generates one mana each time an opponent draws a card and doesn’t pay the tax. In a 4-player Commander game that means generating lots of Treasures. It’s not unusual to have 5 to 10 Treasures, which equals to 5 to 10 mana on the table.

That’s better than a lot of traditional ramp spells. This is why Tithe has become a white staple in Commander decks.

Black Lotus

Black Lotus

The rarest and most expensive card in the game, and the original mana accelerator. Look, generating three colored mana for free is no joke, and having Black Lotus in your opening hand can end the game on turn 1. Few cards have this power in Magic.

Best White Ramp Cards

Knight of the White Orchid

Knight of the White Orchid

The trick with white ramp is to play cards that catch up on lands when you have fewer lands than your opponent and then play your land for the turn. Knight of the White Orchid was a competitive staple in its days, and the first white card to have this effect.

Boreas Charger

Boreas Charger

A 2/1 flier for 3 isn’t that bad, and Boreas Charger ramps you when it dies or is blinked 

Keeper of the Accord

Keeper of the Accord

Keeper of the Accord catches up on creatures and lands, which is perfect when you’re really behind in a Commander game. It’s possible to net three soldiers and three lands between turns.

Best Blue Ramp Card

Dreamscape Artist

Dreamscape Artist

Dreamscape Artist is one of the children of Planar Chaos designers, changing which colors do what, and one of the very few blue cards that ramp. Its ability allows you to turn any card into Harrow, which is mana ramp and fixing.

Best Red Ramp Cards

Braid of Fire

Braid of Fire

Braid of Fire lets you generate more and more mana each turn. The only restriction is that it has to be used during your upkeep. Since there’s no mana burn in the game anymore so the downside is non-existent.

Koth of the Hammer

Koth of the Hammer

Koth of the Hammer is a planeswalker that lets you add more red mana to your pool if you cast a 5-mana dragon with haste before attacks. It also untaps a Mountain to hit your opponent. A great mix of ramp and aggression. 

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

One of Chandra, Torch of Defiance‘s +1 abilities adds , which is effectively ramp. This is one of the most powerful red planeswalkers that also packs some card advantage, removal, and a game-winning ultimate.

Best Green Ramp Cards

Harrow

Harrow

Harrow serves a few purposes. It’s mana fixing and deck thinning because you’re searching for two lands. Some decks even have synergies with lands going to the graveyard, so there’s that.

Arbor Elf

Arbor Elf

Arbor Elf gets the nod because it untaps a land, effectively producing mana. Enchant the land with Utopia Sprawl for better results.

Rampant Growth | Farseek

Rampant Growth and Farseek feature the classic 2-mana to ramp effect. This effect has been deemed too powerful for some Standard metagames.

Explore

Explore

For two mana you draw a card and play an extra land. The risk is not having extra land so you want to play extra lands to maximize Explore‘s effect.

Garruk Wildspeaker

Garruk Wildspeaker

Garruk Wildspeaker is a good green planeswalker that untaps up to two lands each turn.

Sylvan Caryatid

Sylvan Caryatid

Pro Tour champion Sylvan Caryatid is a nice mana dork that generates any color mana and also has hexproof. You can’t ‘bolt this bird. 

Nature’s Lore | Three Visits

What sets Nature’s Lore and Three Visits apart is that the land they put into play doesn’t come in tapped, which is a characteristic present on most ramp spells.

Search for Tomorrow

Search for Tomorrow

Three mana to ramp a land is expensive but Search for Tomorrow‘s suspend ability is what you want to go for anyways.

Oracle of Mul Daya

Oracle of Mul Daya

Besides letting you see the top card of your library, Oracle of Mul Daya lets you play one extra land each turn. But the 2/2 body for four is very fragile.

Azusa, Lost but Seeking

Azusa, Lost but Seeking

Azusa, Lost but Seeking lets you play two more lands each turn. A fragile body no doubt, but the ramping is serious. This is a centerpiece for a lot of combo decks that rely on playing lots of lands.

Llanowar Elves

Llanowar Elves

Llanowar Elves is a staple and classic mana dork as a 1/1 for that taps for an extra

Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise

Take Llanowar Elves and make it a 0/1 flier. That’s better, and now it taps for any colored mana. When in doubt against one of these, always Lightning Bolt the Birds of Paradise.

Cultivate | Kodama’s Reach

Another staple effect, Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach search for two lands for three mana, which helps find all the different land you need. One goes to the battlefield and the other sits in your hand for later.

Skyshroud Claim

Skyshroud Claim

Skyshroud Claim is a very popular ramp spell in Commander. It’s like Cultivate but the lands don’t come into play tapped.

Nissa’s Pilgrimage

Nissa's Pilgrimage

Nissa’s Pilgrimage is like Cultivate but it can search up to three Forests with spell mastery. Unfortunately it doesn’t fix mana like Cultivate does.

Fastbond

Fastbond

Fastbond is ramp dialed to eleven, allowing you to dump your hand into the table. Just make sure you’re drawing extra lands.

Sakura-Tribe Elder

Sakura-Tribe Elder

Sakura-Tribe Elder (or Steve, as it’s known among friends) is a very reliable creature. 1/1 for two isn’t a good rate, but it’s much better when it’s attached to a Rampant Growth effect. It can attack, block, and chump block/ramp if necessary (or in response to a removal spell or sweeper).

Noble Hierarch | Ignoble Hierarch

These two similar cards are the best mana creatures in Modern, and they do so much. From ramping to mana fixing, attacking, and buffing creatures. The preference between Noble Hierarch and Ignoble Hierarch comes down to the deck you’re playing, whether it’s a Bant () or Jund () deck.

If you want to get a better idea of the role ramp plays in Modern, this is actually discussed in Reid Duke’s course on Modern here.

Best Multicolor Ramp Cards

Binding the Old Gods

Binding the Old Gods

This saga is removal and ramp, effectively searching for any Forest in the deck. Binding the Old Gods is one of the main reasons to run Golgari () colors in Standard.

Quandrix Cultivator

Quandrix Cultivator

Quandrix Cultivator is a mini Rampant Growth effect attached to a 3/4 body for four mana, which is a good way to affect the board and recover the lost tempo from ramping.

Coiling Oracle

Coiling Oracle

When you reveal the top card Coiling Oracle either ramps you or draws you a card. The Simic () snake is very abusable in blink decks.

Growth Spiral

Growth Spiral

Growth Spiral was banned in Standard for a while because it raised the consistency of ramp decks. Working at instant speed means that you can counter a spell instead of ramping, and the worst case scenario is that you draw an extra card.

Thrasios, Triton Hero

Thrasios, Triton Hero

One of the powerhouses in Commander, Thrasios, Triton Hero does a lot of things right. It’s in very good EDH colors (), and it’s possible to play more colors thanks to the partner mechanic. And the 4-mana activated ability is better than Coiling Oracle’s ETB trigger. Sometimes you generate a lot of mana or even infinite mana and just need a mana sink (or a win condition).

Deathrite Shaman

Deathrite Shaman

One of the best 1-drops ever, Deathrite Shaman is very flexible. It can be cast for or , generates and fixes mana, and even deals damage to your opponent.

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath does it all. For you gain three life, draw a card, and ramp. Then it sits patiently in your graveyard.

When you cast Uro again for the escape cost you get to do that all over again, plus a 6/6 body. And each time it attacks, you get… well, you get the idea. After a few times it becomes silly, and Uro is one of the best and most resilient threats in the game.

Best Colorless Ramp Cards

Solemn Simulacrum

Solemn Simulacrum

The sad robot is a midrange staple. Solemn Simulacrum ramps as an ETB and draws when it leaves.

Everflowing Chalice

Everflowing Chalice

A mana rock that scales with the game. For two mana you generate one, but it’s not rare to see players casting Everflowing Chalice for 10+ mana.

Coalition Relic

Coalition Relic

Coalition Relic can generate you two mana that has to be used in the first main phase, or one mana during other phases. This is good for playing tap out decks.

Commander’s Sphere

Commander's Sphere

Three mana for a mana rock that nets you one mana is expensive, but at least Commander’s Sphere cashes in for a card later on. 

Mind Stone

Mind Stone

As with Commander’s Sphere, the sacrifice effect to draw a card puts Mind Stone above its peers.

Chromatic Lantern

Chromatic Lantern

This mana rock makes all your lands five colors. Chromatic Lantern is good for playing that Niv-Mizzet Reborn on turn 4.

Talisman Cycle

Talisman of Unity

This cycle of artifacts generates two mana colors and deals one damage to you each time. In formats like Commander the downside is negligible, but it isn’t in other 60-card Constructed formats.

Hedron Archive

Hedron Archive

Hedron Archive lets you generate two mana and cashes in for two cards later in the game, which is exactly what some ramp decks are looking for.

Thran Dynamo

Thran Dynamo

Thran Dynamo costs one mana more than Hedron Archive, but two cards fewer to be drawn. One card you’ll see a lot of people first-picking in Vintage Cubes and the like.

Arcane Signet

Arcane Signet

A staple in Commander, Arcane Signet adds any mana in the commander’s identity, which is generally better than the other Signets for Commander.

Ravnica Signet Cycle

Simic Signet

This cycle of mana rocks filters your mana in two colors of the guild combination. Mana rocks that cost two mana and fix colors are very powerful and flexible.

Mox Opal

Mox Opal

One of the safer Moxen, Mox Opal asks you to have metalcraft online. Once you do it’s better than any of the original Moxen. Currently banned in Modern to weaken the fastest starts from affinity decks.

Chrome Mox

Chrome Mox

Although you lose a card in the process of ramping, free guaranteed mana on turn 1 is sometimes worth the risk. Chrome Mox is also banned in Modern.

Mana Crypt

Mana Crypt

For 0 mana, you get 2? That’s nice, and the downside is to take three damage now and then. The downside isn’t negligible, and Mana Crypt being a rare card means that it isn’t so popular in EDH, unlike Sol Ring.

Unless you’re playing cutthroat competitive decks most player aren’t looking for Mana Crypt. It’s also a staple in powered Cubes.

Sol Ring

Sol Ring

A card whose popularity spiked with Commander, you get for which is perfect to play so many cards from this list, like the Talismans or Signets. The rate on Sol Ring is excellent and that’s why it’s so high on the list.

The Mox Cycle

It’s hard to argue with free ramp. Moxen are really extra lands you can play. They come with no downside, and the upside is even higher for storm decks,. Most Vintage decks play a whole bunch of these.

Best Land Ramp Cards

Myriad Landscape

Myriad Landscape

This land leaves a Harrow impression in that you’re sacrificing a land to get two more lands into play tapped. Myriad Landscape‘s effect even costs three mana total. But keep the restriction on two lands that share the same type in mind.

Cabal Coffers

Cabal Coffers

Like Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Cabal Coffers can generate a lot of black mana in a dedicated black deck. This was used to power a big Mind Twist or Drain Life in the early days of Magic.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx generates a lot of mana in a dedicated devotion deck. You’re paying two mana to generate so much more than you paid.

Cloudpost

Cloudpost

Banned in a lot of formats for a reason, Cloudpost can generate mana exponentially. Legacy’s 12-post deck plays this alongside Glimmerpost and Vesuva to cast 10- to 15-mana spells.

Eldrazi Temple

Eldrazi Temple

Eldrazi Temple generates specifically to cast Eldrazi, from Thought-Knot Seer to Reality Smasher. And why not Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger? There are lots of targets to hit.

Mishra’s Workshop

Mishra's Workshop

Mishra’s Workshop generates mana all by itself which is huge, but it can only be spent to cast artifacts. But there are still lots of expensive ones waiting to be cast.

Urza Tron Cycle

Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Power Plant, and Urza’s Mine assemble to generate seven mana total. Every powerful card that costs , like Karn Liberated, can come down as early as turn 3.

Gaea’s Cradle

Gaea's Cradle

As with Tolarian Academy, the potential is there to generate a lot of mana with Gaea’s Cradle, mainly in decks with lots of cheap elves that already generate mana by themselves. But most artifacts in Tolarian Academy decks are free and green creatures cost at least one mana.

Tolarian Academy

Tolarian Academy

Tolarian Academy is busted with lots of cheap artifacts, and it’s not rare for a deck to generate five to six mana from this land alone. This was one of the first cards in MTG history to dominate tournaments and receive the “ban hammer.”

Best Ramp Payoffs

Esika’s Chariot

Esika's Chariot

Cast Esika’s Chariot ahead of the curve in a Standard deck, get a lot of tokens and a good vehicle that snowballs the game.

Koma, Cosmos Serpent

Koma, Cosmos Serpent

It’s very difficult to stop Koma, Cosmos Serpent with decks that don’t have a lot of wrath or exile effects. Aggro and midrange opponents cry when Koma is cast ahead of the curve

Mirari’s Wake

Mirari's Wake

Moar mana.

There’s also the +1/+1 effect that Mirari’s Wake gives to all your creatures. 

Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Nissa, Who Shakes the World‘s Standard was somewhat defined by the decks that could cast it ahead of the curve, usually on turn 4 but not rarely on 3. From there it dominates.

Avenger of Zendikar

Avenger of Zendikar

Avenger of Zendikar is a 5/5 body that produces lots of small ones. Keep ramping and playing lands to watch the plants grow.

Sundering Titan

What’s more fun than playing a big creature that destroys lands?

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

An indestructible body that takes over the game in two attacks is already powerful, but setting your opponents back two permanents (even lands) with Ulamog, Ceaseless Hunger seals the deal.

Why is it Called Ramp Anyway?

Rampant Growth

“Ramp” is lingo that comes from the card Rampant Growth. This card allows you to search your deck for a land and put it into play. The act of playing more than one land each turn became synonymous with “ramp” because of the card, and soon after it became synonymous with all forms of mana acceleration.

What Qualifies as a Ramp Deck?

A ramp deck is a deck that bases its gameplay around playing cards ahead of curve, or playing expensive spells with mana value 7+. The scope of a ramp deck varies greatly. You might be playing a ramp deck that aims to play a 4-drop on turn 3, or a 6- or 7-drop on turn 5. But more often than not the decks have specific synergies, like assembling one of the three Urza lands or lands like Mishra’s Workshop and Tolarian Academy that can produce insane amounts of mana in artifact decks.

The land count for ramp decks is high (26+) and the goal is to increase the possibility of playing a threat ahead of curve. Mana sinks and card draw are very desirable because the risk that the deck has is to run out of gas (too much mana, too few spells to cast).

How Much Mana Ramp is Too Much?

Llanowar Elves - Illustration by Chris Rahn

Llanowar Elves | Illustration by Chris Rahn

If ramp was the best strategy it would be broken, so there are advantages and disadvantages to playing ramp. Whenever you spend resources to ramp, be it casting Cultivate, Everflowing Chalice, or Llanowar Elves, your opponents are progressing their game and affecting the board. As a ramp player you expect to recover that tempo by casting powerful spells to put you back in the game. The problem comes when you draw all threats and no ramp spells, or vice-versa.

So ramp decks usually want some interaction like lifegain, Fog effects, or sweepers to survive the early assault. The problem comes when you have seven lands in play, are being attacked at low life, and draw Cultivate for the turn.

That’s why a lot of successful ramp decks have ramp that also affect the board, using ETB creatures and a lot of card draw to stabilize. That’s also why cards like Mind Stone and Commander’s Sphere are good, because you use them for ramp when needed and card draw when the ramp isn’t needed. And let’s not even start on Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath that does it all (ramp, lifegain, card draw, and being a 6/6).

Wrap Up

Growth Spiral - Illustration by Seb McKinnon

Growth Spiral | Illustration by Seb McKinnon

Ramp is one of the most common strategies for a (mainly green) deck to shine. Every color has access to ramp in the form of artifacts and mana rocks. It’s a strategy that will always be viable, sometimes less, sometimes more.

A lot of these ramp cards are staples in various formats, from Standard to Modern to Commander. As long as you keep playing Magic you’ll bump into these very often. Feel free to leave a comment below or in join the discussion in Draftsim’s official Discord.

I hope you have a great day. Keep playing lands, and keep playing MTG!

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