Last updated on October 18, 2023
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
The slang 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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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
Best Blue Ramp Card
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 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 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
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 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.
Rampant Growth + Farseek
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.
Nature's Lore + Three Visits
Search for Tomorrow
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 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 is a staple and classic mana dork as a 1/1 for that taps for an extra .
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.
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 (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 Multicolored Ramp Cards
Binding the Old Gods
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
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).
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 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
The sad robot is a midrange staple. Solemn Simulacrum ramps as an ETB and draws when it leaves.
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.
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.
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 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.
Ravnica Signet Cycle
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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
Koma, Cosmos Serpent
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‘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 is a 5/5 body that produces lots of small ones. Keep ramping and playing lands to watch the plants grow.
What’s more fun than playing a big creature that destroys lands?
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Why Is it Called Ramp Anyway?
“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?
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).
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.
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