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Brewer's Minute: Ramp Math

Hey, everyone! It's time for another Brewer's Minute. Last week for our Brewer's Minute, we talked about going beyond the basics of curve and thinking about how the mana cost of the cards in our deck are related to the overall plan of our deck. In some ways, this week's Brewer's Minute is an extension of that discussion, but with an eye on a very specific archetype: ramp. If you follow the various video series on the YouTube channel or the stream, you know that one of the decks I've been playing lately in Standard is UG Ramp. One of the most common questions people have asked about the deck is why we are playing the specific ramp spells in the deck over other options. The answer is simple: ramp math. So today, we are going to take some time to talk about the math of building a ramp deck and how the non-ramp cards in a deck have a huge impact on what ramp spells you should be playing.

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Ramp Math

When it comes to building a ramp deck, one of the most common techniques is to just look for ramp cards that seem powerful in a vacuum, toss them into the deck, and hope that everything works out. Unfortunately, this is a very inefficient way of building a deck. The power of a ramp spell in a specific deck is almost solely dependent on the cards you are trying to ramp into and the overall plan of your deck. For an example of this, let's take an in-depth look at the UG Ramp deck posted above.

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The plan of UG Ramp is actually fairly straightforward. We are looking to play a two-drop mana producer like Naga Vitalist or Ulvenwald Captive on Turn 2. This will give us enough mana to cast our four-mana ramp spell—Hedron Archive—on Turn 3, which in turn will give us enough mana to cast our six-mana ramp—Nissa's Renewal—on Turn 3, leaving us in a position where we untap with 10 mana on Turn 5. While this might seem random, these numbers are actually very intentional—when it comes to building a ramp deck, we are really counting two things: the number of mana we can produce and the turn on which we can produce that mana.

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For the UG Ramp deck, 10 mana on Turn 5 is the magical number. This gives us access to either an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or an awoken Part the Waterveil (on an untapped land, so we can immediately attack). Our suite of ramp spells is designed to give us 10 mana on Turn 5 as consistently as possible. In essence, we are counting from one to two to four to six to 10. On the other hand, if our finishers cost 11 mana or nine mana, it would have a significant impact on our ramp math and potentially change the ramp spell we wanted to play in the deck.

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Maybe the most common question about the UG Ramp deck is: why not Spring // Mind? In a vacuum, the aftermath ramp spell seems more powerful than a lot of our other options, since it not only gives us an extra land but also the ability to draw a couple of extra cards in the late game. The problem is, Spring // Mind simply doesn't line up with the rest of our numbers. Instead of going from two mana on Turn 2 to four mana on Turn 3, Spring // Mind puts us from three mana on Turn 3 to five mana on Turn 4, and our deck doesn't really have anything to do with five mana. 

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Now, I should make it clear—it's not that going from two to four to six to 10 is the correct way to build a ramp deck; it's that using these numbers and this ramp is the correct way to build UG Ramp because of the mana costs in our deck. If, instead, we were trying to get to five mana for Metallurgic Summonings and then seven mana for Karn Liberated or World Breaker, three-mana ramp spells like Cultivator's Caravan and Spring // Mind would be a more efficient way to go about it, compared to some of the ramp from the UG Ramp deck. 

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Like usual, the point of all this isn't to tell you the right way to build a ramp deck; rather, it's to reinforce the idea that there isn't one right way to build a ramp deck. Next time you sit down to build a ramp deck, don't just toss in whatever ramp cards feel powerful in a vacuum; instead, take the time to do the math. What amount of mana are you trying to get to on Turns 2, 3, 4, and 5? What ramp cards do you need to play to reach this goal consistently and resiliently? How much mana do your finishers cost? Do the ramp spells you play help you cast your finishers as quickly as possible, or do they leave you a mana short, costing you an entire turn? 


In sum, be intentional with your ramp, rather than haphazard. The right ramp spells for your ramp deck depend mostly on the other cards in your deck. Practice thinking it through, doing the ramp math, and finding the ramp cards that best help you achieve your goals. You'll have more success playing ramp spells that are less powerful in a vacuum but fit your curve better than playing more powerful ramp spells that don't fit the mana costs in your deck.

As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

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