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'Ramp' refers to the act of increasing a player's ability to produce mana beyond the amount they would have if they played one land per turn. This can include using spells that put additional lands into play, or playing creatures or artifacts that tap for mana.
The Importance of Increased Mana Potential
Ramp is widely considered an integral aspect of any Commander deck. Unlike other constructed formats, games of Commander may last a dozen rounds or more, especially owing to the format's multiplayer nature and increased starting life totals. Longer games often result in larger spells, so accruing additional mana advantage is often a priority to assist players in casting bigger spells more quickly. Moreover, ramp can help players avoid stumbling on mana, as missing land drops and falling behind on mana advantage may have a more negative impact on a player during the course of a lengthy game.
Types of Ramp
There are many different varieties of ramp effects, each with varying amounts of effectiveness and resilience. The following is a list of the types of ramp, organized roughly according to their resilience to removal.
- Land-based ramp: Effects that place one or more lands onto the battlefield, outside of the one land per turn. Example: Rampant Growth
- Mana production increase: Increasing the amount of mana that a land can produce. This is often seen on enchantments (Fertile Ground) or (Mirari's Wake), although there are some planeswalkers (Nissa, Who Shakes the World) and creatures (Crypt Ghast) with similar effects.
- Artifact-based ramp: Artifacts that tap for mana, either colorless (Sol Ring) or colored (Commander’s Sphere). These are normally referred to as "mana rocks".
- Mana dorks: Creatures that tap for mana, usually ones that have a low mana costs (Birds of Paradise). There are also some planeswalkers that add mana (Domri, Chaos Bringer) and other effects that can turn creatures into sources of mana (Cryptolith Rite).
- Treasure: Some cards produce Treasure tokens, an artifact token that can tap and sacrifice itself to provide a one-time boost of mana. Since these tokens can be accumulated and 'cashed in' at any time, they are often considered a form of mana ramp. Example: Smothering Tithe
Other Types of Mana Advantage
'Ramp' often refers to mana increases that provide consistent advantage across multiple turns. There are several other effects that may not fall under the umbrella of 'ramp' but which do provide meaningful mana advantage.
While not strictly ramp, other effects exist in the game that allow a player to play more spells than they normally would be able to in a given turn:
- Rituals: So named for effects like Dark Ritual, these spells provide a one-time burst of mana. Since this mana does not carry over to subsequent turns, rituals are not considered ramp, but some decks may prefer to take advantage of temporary boosts of mana rather than incremental ones. Example: Mana Geyser.
- Discount: Reducing the casting cost of a spell to less than its normal converted mana cost. This includes static discounts (e.g. Goblin Electromancer) and one-time discounts (e.g. Saheeli, the Gifted).
- Free spells: An effect that allows a player to cast a spell "without paying its mana cost" (e.g. Rishkar's Expertise).