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Budget Magic: $88 (39 tix) Standard Combustible Ramp


Grias di wohl, Budget Magic lovers! It's that time again. A few days ago, I was browsing through Kaladesh, looking for inspiration for this week's Budget Magic, when I got stuck on Combustible Gearhulk. While the red gearhulk came in at the bottom of my gearhulk ranking, I couldn't help but think that perhaps I (and everyone else) was underrating the card. Punisher cards have a bad rap, and rightly so, since nearly all of them are bad, but perhaps Combustible Gearhulk wasn't really a punisher card. I mean, in the worst case, it's a 6/6 first strike for six mana, which is pretty powerful in its own right, but what if we could find a way to take away our opponent's choice with the enters-the-battlefield trigger? If we could find the right support cards and build the right deck, maybe we could make it so no matter what choice our opponent makes, they'll be likely to die to Combustible Gearhulk's enters-the-battlefield trigger!

We'll talk more about Combustible Ramp after the videos, but first a quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel to keep up on all of the latest and greatest.

Combustible Ramp: Deck Tech

Combustible Ramp vs. UR Spells

Combustible Ramp vs. GB Delirium

Combustible Ramp vs. UW Dynavolt

Combustible Ramp vs. RB Aggro

Combustible Ramp vs. GR Energy

The Deck

The idea of Combustible Ramp is actually pretty simple. We spend the first three or four turns ramping; then, we cast a Combustible Gearhulk, which puts our opponent into a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. If they choose to take the damage, there's a chance they just die on the spot (and even if they don't die, they could easily lose enough life that we finish them off with our creatures or a burn spell). On the other hand, if they allow us to draw three cards, there's a pretty good chance that we can use those cards to kill our opponent anyway. 

The Combo

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Combustible Gearhulk is climbing up my ranking of most underrated cards from Kaladesh. As I mentioned in the intro, punisher cards are almost never good, and Combustible Gearhulk looks a lot like a punisher card, which might be why the red gearhulk hasn't seen much play. The good news is that the body on Combustible Gearhulk is massive; as a 6/6 first strike, it can handle just about any ground creature in the format on defense, and it's extremely hard to block thanks to first strike, so even when the enters-the-battlefield trigger does absolutely nothing (for example, we mill three lands and do zero damage), we're rarely disappointed that we have a Combustible Gearhulk. However, Combustible Gearhulk is so much more than its body, so let's talk about the enters-the-battlefield trigger. 

The trick to making Combustible Gearhulk powerful is fear, and the way we can make our opponent afraid of Combustible Gearhulk is by having some really high-converted-mana-cost cards in our deck. When it comes right down to it, the average converted mana cost of our deck is almost 2.5, which means the typical Combustible Gearhulk will deal somewhere between seven and eight damage. That said, the average doesn't really matter, because even if the odds may be relatively small, in our deck, it's possible that we just 20 our opponent out of nowhere with a single trigger, which makes Combustible Gearhulk far more dangerous than the average suggests. As such, once opponents get a look at our deck, there's a good chance they'll let us draw cards with Combustible Gearhulk so they don't risk dying on the spot, and if our opponent lets us draw cards, they risk drawing us into some of our high-converted-mana-cost cards that are actually a lot cheaper than they look, and these cards are often enough to win us the game. 

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Decimator of the Provinces is the second-most-important card in our deck because it works amazingly well with our Combustible Gearhulks. If our opponent chooses to take the damage when Combustible Gearhulk enters the battlefield and we mill a Decimator of the Provinces, that's at least 10 damage, and if we mill two copies, that's the full 20 damage necessary to kill our opponent. On the other hand, if our opponent allows us to draw and we draw into a Decimator of the Provinces we can sacrifice Combustible Gearhulk to pay the emerge cost and cast Decimator of the Provinces for only three mana, while also pumping up the rest of our team and likely swinging for lethal. 

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Bedlam Reveler is another card with a high converted mana cost that's often a lot cheaper than it looks. While we don't have a ton of spells in our deck, we do have four copies of Harnessed Lightning and four Fiery Tempers to fill our graveyard and reduce the cost on Bedlam Reveler. We also have a ton of ramp in our deck, so paying six or seven mana for a Bedlam Reveler on occasion isn't really the end of the world. It's also helpful in finding our [Combustible Gearhulk]]s and Decimator of the Provinces. We have some hands where we simply cast a hand full of ramp cards and then top things off with Bedlam Reveler to refuel, which hopefully finds us our big finishers. 

Ramping

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Apart from our finishers, the rest of our deck is quite linear and straightforward. We have eight two-mana ramp spells that jump us to four mana on Turn 3 and then eight four-mana ramp spells that ramp us to six (or more) mana on Turn 4, which is the perfect amount of mana to start casting Combustible Gearhulks (or Decimator of the Provinces, with the help of emerge). 

At two mana, we have Servant of the Conduit and Deathcap Cultivator, which are pretty close to the same card. Servant of the Conduit is better in the early game because it can block one-powered creatures and tap for red mana when we need it to, but Deathcap Cultivator is much better in the late game because it gains deathtouch and can trade up with more expensive and more powerful creatures like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Ishkanah, Grafwidow, and Torrential Gearhulk

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Meanwhile, in the four-mana slot, we have eight more dual-purpose ramp spells. Wild Wanderer takes us from four mana to six mana—just enough to cast our first Combustible Gearhulk—while also being a really good emerge target for Decimator of the Provinces. Being four mana means that we can sacrifice it the turn after we cast it, emerge Decimator of the Provinces for only five mana, and get in a bunch of damage with the Decimator of the Provinces and our two-mana creatures. Hedron Archive, on the other hand, not only ramps us into Combustible Gearhulk but in the late game, when we have a ton of mana floating around, we can use it like a six-mana, colorless Divination to keep churning through our deck and finding more action. 

Removal

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Harnessed Lightning and Fiery Temper give us ways to interact with our opponent's early game creatures, and together they give us eight efficient ways to answer a Smuggler's Copter. While our deck doesn't really have any hard removal, this doesn't really matter because if we survive until the mid / late game when we start casting Combustible Gearhulks and Decimator of the Provinces, we can go over the top of just about any deck in Standard. Having eight instants also helps reduce the cost on our Bedlam Revelers, and we can even discard Fiery Temper to Bedlam Reveler's enters-the-battlefield trigger and cast it with madness. 

Other Stuff

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Finally, we have a couple copies of Tireless Tracker to round out the deck. While the Human Scout doesn't have any specific synergy with the rest of our deck, it gives us a three-mana play, which we would otherwise be lacking, and also helps us draw through our deck to find our big payoff cards thanks to the Clue tokens it generates. While I like Tireless Tracker a lot thanks to the card advantage it generates, she's really not essential to the deck, instead just being a good option for filling out a weak spot on our curve. 

Ultra-Budget Combustible Ramp

The ultra-budget build of Combustible Ramp keeps the same theme and focus as the version we played in the videos, but with a few changes. First, we lose Cinder Glade and get a couple more copies of Timber Gorge and two more basics. While this makes the deck slightly weaker, it shouldn't be a huge problem. We also have to trade Harnessed Lightning for Galvanic Bombardment, which makes the deck a bit worse at killing Smuggler's Copter but more efficient. Finally, we lose Tireless Tracker, which was the only expensive card that wasn't absolutely critical to our game plan. In its place, we get a couple copies of Tormenting Voice, which works well with Bedlam Reveler and offers us a way to filter through our deck to find more action. All things considered, these changes are a slight downgrade, but the ultra-budget version actually looks pretty solid, and I could imagine it winning plenty of games. 

Non-Budget Combustible Ramp

The biggest addition to the non-budget version of Combustible Ramp is three copies of Emrakul, the Promised End, which works a lot like Decimator of the Provinces. If our opponent takes the damage from Combustible Gearhulk and we mill an Emrakul, the Promised End, that's 13 damage, and potentially lethal damage if we mill two copies, or a copy of Bedlam Reveler or Decimator of the Provinces to go along with the Emrakul, the Promised End. If they let us draw Emrakul, the Promised End, we steal their turn and have a massive flier to win the game. To facilitate the addition of Emrakul, the Promised End, we add in some copies of Tormenting Voice and vary our card types (adding Vessel of Nascency, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and a Grapple with the Past) to help reduce the cost on our Eldrazi titan. To make room for these new cards, we cut down a little bit on the ramp, making the non-budget version of Combustible Ramp a sort of ramp / delirium hybrid. I'm unsure just how much better this version is than the one we played during the videos, but it seems clear that Emrakul, the Promised End is a huge addition and should work well with the game plan. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. We ended up 3-2 in our on-video matches, but there were a couple more losses to GR Energy that didn't get posted along with a win against a very strange Panharmonicon mill deck. It may just be that the Electrostatic Pummeler deck is a bad matchup (or it could also be that I simply can't be that deck, for some reason—it feels like I lose to it no matter what I play). All in all, Combustible Ramp felt pretty competitive, and the long pause after an opponent takes 18 from a Combustible Gearhulk trigger has to be my new favorite thing in all of Standard! Give it a shot; I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

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


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