The Great Aurora Ramp – Prof Plays Fun Cards, by Craig Jones

The Great Aurora

Prof Plays Cards for Profit Fun: The Great Aurora Ramp Standard Deck Tech By Craig Jones

Thinking Ramping in Standard? You may also be interested in this article – Top 10 Magic: The Gathering cards to ramp in to post Battle for Zendikar by Liam Casserly

So, The Great Aurora hmm. This might be a little tricky.

The Great Aurora Craig Jones Magic Cartoon
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When I saw the cartoon above I did have a little chuckle. The day before I’d been playing around with some casual Standard decks and The Great Aurora had found its way into a deck that was starting to develop into something that might have a bit of potential.

(People start getting up and walking out)

Hey, wait a moment. Give me a chance here.

I used to be good… okay, very average… once. Admittedly a lot of my success came after I stopped playing my own decks and just played whatever Stuart Wright gave me, but I’m not completely terrible at this deck-building lark. I’ve built decks that have won PTQs, back when there were PTQs.

Nowadays I tend to build silly Standard decks that are more an excuse to play around with junk rares/mechanics. Occasionally something comes along that looks like it might have a little more potential.

So we come to The Great Aurora.

The Great Aurora
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You’re walking out again. Trust me, there might be something here. At the very least it’s fun to play.

The Great Aurora was in a casual deck I was playing around with that had a theme of landfall and ramping out big Eldrazi. I was using it as a generic reset for whenever the board got completely pear-shaped. It was surprisingly effective in this role. Not only that, but I found it was very easy to set up post-Aurora game states where you come out with a massive land advantage and cards like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to cripple their mana development. This reminded me of the UpheavalPsychatog/Zombie Infestation decks of the past and I thought it might be worth investigating further.

The Great Aurora is symmetrical in that it counts cards in play and hand for both players. In fact, it’s slightly worse for the casting player as The Great Aurora exiles itself, leaving the player a card down when they play it. The goal then is to break that symmetry and tip the post-Aurora board state in your favour. Cards like Nissa’s Pilgrimage, Explosive Vegetation and Nissa’s Renewal serve dual purpose here. Not only do they ramp your mana up to be able to play a 9 mana spell with ideally extra mana floating, they also increase the overall card count by putting extra lands in play.

I like Nissa’s Renewal here. Initially I thought putting 3 lands into play for six mana was a little superfluous—it’s already six mana, why the hell would you need more? Well, it turns out cards like The Great Aurora and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger need more. The 7 life is also relevant. The problem with Explosive Vegetation decks is taking turns out to ramp up lands leaves the player open to attacks from the opponent. Getting back 7 life from taking a turn out to find 3 basic lands makes it a more attractive investment. Jaddi Offshoot is also a good fit for the game plan. It’s a good blocker from turn 1 onwards and will gain enough life to buy the player time to get the big threats online.

After some tinkering and tuning I ended up with this:

Rattleclaw Mystic
Nissa’s Pilgrimage
Explosive Vegetation
Nissa’s Renewal
Jaddi Offshoot
Hangarback Walker
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
The Great Aurora
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
18 Forest
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Sanctum of Ugin
Blighted Woodland

It’s pretty much a green land ramp deck that goes all the way to Ulamog.

Ulamog can hit the table surprisingly quickly. An ideal opening sequence would run something like this:

T1: Land, Jaddi Offshoot

T2: Land, Rattleclaw Mystic

T3: Land, Explosive Vegetation

T4: Land, Nissa’s Renewal

T5: Land, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, exiling two of whatever you want to get rid of.

With this sequence the player will have 10 land in play and gained 17 life to keep them ahead of aggro beatdown. The thing is, the Ulamog on T5 isn’t the killer. 10/10 indestructible monsters aren’t all that scary in the current standard environment. It’s safe to assume that the first Ulamog will be met with commonly-played cards like tasis Field">Stasis Field, Crackling Doom and Abzan Charm.

The killer is The Great Aurora that follows up on turn 6 or 7. With the above sequence the player is up 3 cards from Explosive Vegetation and their opponent is down two cards from Ulamog. It’s also likely that the player will be able to float mana through The Great Aurora to give them a head start on casting spells afterwards.

After The Great Aurora both players will be left with some combination of land and cards in hand. The Aurora player can either look to use Ulamog to cripple their opponent’s mana and maybe even have the Eldrazi titan stick long enough to win the game. Or, failing that, ramp up mana and life with Nissa’s Renewal and look to set up an even more favourable Aurora cycle.

The goal is to set up multiple Ulamogs either by having them in hand after the Aurora, or chaining them with Sanctum of Ugin. Most decks can deal with the first Ulamog, but not two or three over successive turns with their mana base getting ravaged by each Ulamog’s exile effect.

It’s also worth reminding that Ulamog’s double exile is triggered as he’s played. That means you still get to exile a bunch of permanents even if they counter him.

As I like abusing synergy when I build the fun decks, there are plenty of little tricks with the rest of the list.

Hangarback Walker and Ugin are colourless. This means the bonus mana from Shrine of the Forsaken Gods can be used on them as well as Ulamog (and getting Ugin into play a turn earlier has been critical in some of the games I’ve played). Also don’t forget that Hangarback Walker can trigger Sanctum of Ugin if X=4.

They also both play well with The Great Aurora. A Hangarback Walker usually ups the permanent count when it gets destroyed and Ugin does a good job of decreasing the opponent’s permanent count (and keeping you alive against a swarm of critters).

The deck sounds fun, but is it any good?

Jaddi Offshoot wallpaper

It’s probably a good “something different” to play at FNMs and similar level tournaments (I’ll be playing it at Game Day this weekend). I’d be very leery of playing it at higher levels such as RPTQs and GPs. By their very nature, ramp decks do suffer from some unreliability—games where the hand gets clogged up with 8+ mana spells, or when the deck draws endless Explosive Vegetations and Nissa’s Pilgimages when you’re desperate for a business card are inevitable. The deck is also relatively threat-light. Ulamog gives some resistance to counter-magic, but Duress and Despise are still annoying, especially if backed up with an aggressive clock. And while in theory the life gain from Jaddi Offshoot and Nissa’s Renewal should be good against red, there will be plenty of games where you don’t draw either and get run over very quickly.

The sideboard is still a work in progress. It’s also where the limitations of playing a mono-coloured deck in a relatively “small” Standard become apparent.

The main changes are going to be plans for dealing with very fast red-green decks and the much slower control decks.

The Great Aurora is superfluous against the Atarka Red decks. The first Ulamog will get the job done, providing you stay alive that long. Staying alive that long is more of an issue. My original plan was to drop the curve and look to grind them out with Undergrowth Champion. Against the burn-plan red decks, it’s probably a good plan. Unfortunately, the dominant red decks of the moment have a nasty Become Immense + Temur Battle Rage combo that goes straight over the top of that. I’m thinking of adding Winds of Qal Sisma (the cheapest “Fog” around) as a counter, but unless the deck dips into another colour I don’t think there’s much you can do other than cross your fingers and hope they don’t draw the combo.

Against more controlly decks the Jaddi Offshoots aren’t as important. My plan is to go after their lands, with Reclaiming Vines joining Ulamog’s exile effect. Trying to knock an opposing deck off one of their colours might be viable with so many four- or even five-colour decks out there.

Other sideboard options I was thinking of:

Gaea’s Revenge. Uncounterable beatstick.

Void Winnower. Stop Ulamog and Ugin from opposing ramp decks.

Greenwarden of Murasa/Den Protector. Grindier matches where you need to retrieve things lost to hand disruption.

Leaf Gilder/Whisperer of the Wilds. When more speed is required.

The Great Aurora

There you go. A fun deck with massive Eldrazi and a lethal joke endgame. Something to play if you’re bored of the usual options. If I don’t get smashed too badly this weekend I might see if I can develop it further.

An obvious next step is to try branching into another colour such as red. Getting the right balance of basic lands is the main problem. As it is now, the deck regularly fetches out all 18 forests in some games. Running out of targets for the various Rampant Growth cards is a problem (possible because I tuned it as a glass cannon rather than something a little more durable). Cinder Glades coming in tapped after The Great Aurora, also a niggle.

On the other hand, adding red opens up sideboard options like Crumble to Dust and Radiant Flames. It also gives a better top-end strategy of Dragonlord Atarka versus the red decks.

I might look at these another time.

Until then it’s time to make some players super salty with The Great Aurora (and some players do get really salty when you beat them with a card like The Great Aurora )

Thinking Ramping in Standard? You may also be interested in this article – Top 10 Magic: The Gathering cards to ramp in to post Battle for Zendikar by Liam Casserly

Thanks for reading,

Prof Craig Jones

The Great Aurora Ramp - Prof Plays Fun Cards, by Craig Jones
I used to be good... okay, very average... once. Admittedly a lot of my success came after I stopped playing my own decks and just played whatever Stuart Wright gave me, but I'm not completely terrible at this deck-building lark. I've built decks that have won PTQs, back when there were PTQs.

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