March 12 2016 Saturday at 05:31 PM

Telling Time - Oath Ramp vs Oath Thopters

With all the meta shake-up approaching in April, I find it helpful to get a head start and try out some of the cards that I am confident will be in the Oath of the Gatewatch set when it finally releases in April.

Today I used my paper card collection to build Thopters and Ramp, adding popular and probable Oath cards to each, and I played five games with them, and I want to tell you about my findings.  I don’t want to go into too much debate over what will or won't be in the Duels expansion, I tried to only use cards that seem like sure things to me.  Let’s meet the decks -

Oath Gruul Ramp

2 x Oath of Nissa

3 x Jaddi Offshoot

3 x Rolling Thunder

4 x Natural Connection

1 x Nissa, Vastwood Seer

2 x Radiant Flames

1 x Kozilek's Return

3 x Explosive Vegetation

2 x Thought-Knot Seer

2 x From Beyond

2 x Outland Colossus

2 x Reality Smasher

2 x Chandra's Ignition

1 x Greenwarden of Murasa

1 x Chandra, Flamecaller

1 x Oblivion Sower

2 x Nissa's Renewal

1 x Omnath, Locus of Rage

1 x Kozilek, the Great Distortion

1 x Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

4 x Evolving Wilds

2 x Cinder Glade

2 x Rootbound Crag

2 x Wastes

1 x Swamp

4 x Mountain

8 x Forest

Gruul Ramp rose out of the Gruul Monsters shell of Origins to become the big bad guy in Battle for Zendikar.  With the replacing of Acid-Moss and the arrival of Oath, the deck needs a small rework to stay on top of the food chain.  This version uses Natural Connection, Evolving Wilds and Explosive Vegetation, along with Nissa’s Renewal, to fix up the colorless requirement for the diamond Eldrazi in the list.

Oath Izzet Thopters

1 x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

2 x Abbot of Keral Keep

3 x Runed Servitor

4 x Twin Bolt

3 x Pilgrim's Eye

3 x Thopter Engineer

3 x Vile Aggregate

3 x Chief of the Foundry

2 x Exquisite Firecraft

3 x Whirler Rogue

1 x Akoum Firebird

2 x Pia and Kiran Nalaar

2 x Thopter Spy Network

1 x Aligned Hedron Network

2 x Reality Smasher

1 x Chandra, Flamecaller

4 x Evolving Wilds

2 x Sulfur Falls

3 x Foundry of the Consuls

2 x Wandering Fumarole

6 x Mountain

6 x Island

1 x Wastes

Thopters proved itself strong enough to survive the first wave of the Eldrazi invasion when Battle for Zendikar dropped?  Can they survive the second wave?  Unlike the B4Z expansion, this time Thopters actually gets some cards it can use.  The deck still really needs some quality two-drops, and a one-drop or better removal spell would be welcome, but the deck’s core is in the quality three and four drop creatures that are hard to answer directly with blockers or removal - Thopter Engineer, Whirler Rogue, Vile Aggregate, Pia and Kiran Nalaar.  To make the Thopter deck better I am adding the Reality Smasher package on top, along with Chandra, Flamecrawler.  Diamond mana comes from Foundry of the Consuls and Wastes, which is fetchable with Pilgrim’s Eye or Evolving Wilds.

I played five games, and Ramp edged out a 3-2 victory.  All five games where pretty intense, and both decks ran smooth and felt great.  Some observations -

I am so glad that Acid-Moss is gone.  Not having to sweat my land sequencing at all times, and knowing that I can fetch up my one or two-of Wastes safely made a huge difference.  To be honest, I never missed Acid-Moss in my Ramp deck, and Explosive Vegetation being able to fetch Wastes or Mountains or the one-of Swamp for the Radiant Flames was important.

Thopters didn’t miss Perilous Myr very much.  There was never a game that came down to two life or less that Thopters could have won if Myr was on the battlefield when a sweeper happened.  Instead, the deck seemed to relish the extra power on the top end, since we swapped Myr for cards like Reality Smasher and Chandra.

Speaking of Chandra, she is in both of these decks, and she is great in both.  From the ramp side, getting to wipe the board and or cycle a hand of land and useless ramp spells was awesome.  From the Thopters side, getting to add six hastey power was awesome, and it survived a sweeper too so you didn’t overextend to the board when casting her.  Chandra is big game in both decks.

Another card doing double duty in this match was Reality Smasher.  The card is bananas!  In Thopters, it follows a board wipe or any type of would-be stabilizing play from the opponent and either ends the game on the spot or puts them way behind.  My favorite game from the Thopter side involved Ramp keeping a hand with multiple Radiant Flames.  Good against Thopters right?  Well, the Thopter deck played Vile Aggregate, Vile Aggregate, Reality Smasher, Reality Smasher, and those Radiant Flames never got cast.  It gives the Izzet deck a whole other plan of attack - going big instead of wide when wide isn’t working.  In Ramp, Reality Smasher helped turn the corner quick.  When it came down on turn four (because of Natural Connection for Wastes), the opponent had to put any aggro plans on hold.  When it was followed by a Chandra’s Ignition, well, that was that!  This card is the real deal.

Both of these decks tried out the strategy of splashing the new, most likely over-powered Eldrazi by fetching Wastes, and the strategy was consistent.  Only once did I want to cast a Thought-Knot on four and have to wait until turn five because I lacked Wastes (Vegetation took care of that).  

Adjustments I would make include taking Hedron Network out of Thopters, it never produced the blowout I was looking for.  In Network’s place I would add a Thought-Know Seer, and I would try to find room for the second copy.  I like the idea of taking the opponent’s Rolling Thunder, Chandra’s Ignition or Ramp spell on turn four, I doubt ramp could recover from that.  Aside from that small switch, I thought both decks were fantastic and would wreck any existing deck in the field because the new cards add so much power.

Obviously we don’t have much knowledge about Shadows Over Innistrad and what it could bring to the table, but the Oath cards alone look like they will bring an impact.  My greatest hope for Shadows is that it makes some new deck archetypes viable, but they will need a lot of power to compete with these Thopter and Ramp decks.

What decks should I test next?  I need ideas, leave me comments!

<3 CGB


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