Standard Domain Ramp Deck & Sideboard Guide
12/01/2024 · 14 min read
As mentioned in one of my recent articles, Domain Ramp has increasingly been demonstrating its strength, with an ability to adapt to the meta that becomes somewhat dangerous. But why is the deck so successful in the current meta?
In this article, I'm going to share everything I know about the deck, including my opinions on each card used, comparisons between different decklists, and an updated sideboard guide for the main decks in the current meta, based on the latest decklist I used to reach the top 32 in the Magic Online Standard Qualifier.
(5 - 3)
62% in MTGO Standard Qualifier #12601790 [143 Players] — 01-Jan-2024
|4 Archangel of Wrath
|3 Atraxa, Grand Unifier
|2 Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines
|4 Topiary Stomper
|3 Herd Migration
|2 Vanquish the Horde
|4 Leyline Binding
|3 Up the Beanstalk
|3 Invasion of Zendikar
|2 The Wandering Emperor
|1 Boseiju, Who Endures
|4 Jetmir's Garden
|4 Spara's Headquarters
|4 Cavern of Souls
|4 Ziatora's Proving Ground
|2 Destroy Evil
|4 Knockout Blow
|2 Lithomantic Barrage
|1 Realmbreaker, the Invasion Tree
|2 Temporary Lockdown
|2 Tranquil Frillback
The decklist is the same one that player Willy Edel has been using in tournaments, with a focus on improving the mirror match, thanks largely to the inclusion of Elesh Norn in the main deck, which turns out to be useful against other decks as well. The deck has been quite popular among the Magic Online grinders and has even been one of the top choices for the Last Chance Qualifier, which awarded spots for the Showcase Qualifier. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of the people who managed to secure a spot, but I really liked the deck overall and went 4-2 with it in the last Standard Challenge, nearly making it into the top 8.
Main Deck Choices
Up the Beanstalk
An important source of card advantage for the deck, it keeps the momentum going when it looks like you're running out of resources: you cast Sunfall, clear the board, end up with a massive creature and even draw a card in the process. Most decks run 3 to 4 copies, and I wouldn't recommend less because it plays such a critical role in the exchange of resources. The downside is that often in mirror matches, the game can drag on for many turns, and drawing too many cards can be risky since the trigger is mandatory and the match could be decided by decking out.
It might look like a weak card, but don't be fooled. This deck can quickly get 7 lands into play, making the dinosaur a genuine threat. The Stomper -> Invasion of Zendikar curve is very strong because it allows you to attack as early as the fifth turn, turning the tide of battle and bringing another big creature into play. Having vigilance also means it can attack without issue while defending us. The Domain's ability to be aggressive owes a lot to its presence.
Invasion of Zendikar/Awakened Skyclave
Some decks have even gone up to using 4 copies, but despite the curve with Topiary Stomper bringing you closer to the deck's 7-drops, it's a card that isn't very powerful on its own, so it's not necessarily the card we want to draw into in the late game. I think that 3 to 2 is a good number for the deck.
The most important board wipe in the format. Clearing the board and making a huge creature immune to Go for the Throat is a very powerful play that the deck can make. As mentioned before, with Up the Beanstalk included in the deck, you also get to draw a card. Without a doubt, four copies.
One of the best removal options in the deck and the format. The inclusion of Triomes in the list means it often only costs 1 to cast, giving you a huge mana advantage to deal with pretty much anything in the format, from creatures to planeswalkers.
Archangel of Wrath
If the deck can hold its own against more aggressive decks, it's certainly largely due to this angel. Being able to take down one or two creatures, gain some life, and then have a creature with lifelink on the board is a move that few aggro decks can handle. But it's good in pretty much all matchups, making it a key card in the list, where 4 copies are absolutely essential.
A card that helps the deck to not miss land drops, fixes the mana while gaining a significant life in the process, or simply puts 5 tokens on the board in the late game, being one of the main threats of the deck. It's very versatile and useful at all stages of the game. In this list, the number was reduced to 3 to accommodate other cards, but I recommend 3 to 4 generally in the lists.
Atraxa, Grand Unifier
The best creature in the format, unparalleled when it comes to card advantage, with very relevant abilities making it hard to remove and hard to overcome in combat. Resolving one is generally a game over, because even if the opponent deals with it, the cards it provides (including the possibility of another Atraxa) depending on the state of the game, create a situation they can’t come back from. Although it's important for the list, it is a 7-drop that you don’t want to see at the beginning of the game, which is why we don't need 4 copies.
These cards are the foundation of the deck, varying in number from one list to another. Now I'm going to talk a bit about the cards that are not very common, but that were chosen for this specific list.
The Wandering Emperor
It is present in some sideboard, but I like to have an alternative plan in the main deck. Although it's not the best card in the mirror match, it's good against decks like Rakdos and Golgari midrange, surprising and killing some cards that are not so easy to deal with, such as Sheoldred, Glissa, and Trumpeting Carnosaur. It's still an interesting alternative win condition against control decks.
Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines
One of the best cards to have in the mirror. Turning off the opponent's deck while doubling your enter the battlefield effects puts you in a very advantageous position, where they are forced to kill it somehow and it's usually only with sweepers. It has its usefulness in other matches as well, but as Domain has been one of the main decks, its use in the main deck makes a lot of sense. But being more of a meta call, if many ramps are not expected, I don't see much reason to have it in the main deck.
Vanquish the Horde
Lists often use 6 sweepers in the main deck, with Depopulate being the most common use, but Vanquish the Horde is better if you consider Up the Beanstalk because it's a sweeper that, like Sunfall, gives you a card in the process. There are a few other applications, such as not giving a draw against an opponent who has a multicolored creature in play (Glissa, Dennick, Raffine, Atraxa), and usually, the fact that it might cost more mana doesn't hinder the deck much, but there's an upside: it can cost 2 or 3 mana, depending on the number of creatures on the field, helping you in situations like, for example, being able to more easily pay the casualty cost of a Make Disappear.
One of the interesting aspects of Domain is the ability to use basically any type of sideboard: from counters, sweepers to creatures, adapting according to the expected meta and having responses for what is most appropriate. I will talk about the choices of this specific list.
It may not be the best deck in the format, but Monored is a deck that needs to be respected and some can't be faster than the deck's ability to stabilize the game. Answering any creature for just one mana and still gaining life puts the deck in a much more comfortable situation post-sideboard, giving you time to play your best cards. The clause of costing 1 mana against red creatures makes the card not very versatile against other decks, but it can have interesting applications, such as killing a Haughty Djinn, but I don't highly recommend it.
One of the best sideboard cards of the format. It deals with multiple types of permanents and destroys most of the relevant cards from the mirror. It could be Get Lost instead, but for this deck that values card advantage so much, being able to give 2 extra turns (2 explorations for land) can be very relevant negatively.
Despite Sunfall playing a good role as a sweeper, it can be quite slow in certain situations, and Lockdown can help with that, dealing with small permanents when necessary without having to reach turn 5 for that. It's good against aggro decks in general and against decks like GW Enchanties, which generate many tokens. However, if you don't expect many aggro decks in general, you can cut it without a problem.
Important in the mirror and against control decks in general. The mirror plan often involves casting a specific spell, like Jace or Realmbreaker, and it ends up being good to have some kind of response. The long game with Negate also favors you, for example, being able to cast one of the bomb spells with backup counter for the opponent's counter or some kind of response.
Good card against white and blue decks in general, but best of all is to answer Raffine for just one mana. It has interesting applications in killing Soldiers creatures as well, and, if by chance you encounter any monoblue out there, it will be there to kill Djinn and Tolarian Terror without much trouble.
Versatility is the word here. If you need a card to destroy artifacts and enchantments, gain life against aggro decks, or combat some sort of Reanimator that is in your way, it's a good card. Being able to do all 3 abilities makes it even better.
Realmbreaker, the Invasion Tree
I admit I don't really like it much, but it's an interesting idea when it comes to mirror match cards. Winning by mill is a very real possibility in this match, but I confess I don't know if it's the best option among others like Jace and Cut Your Losses.
Matchups & Sideboard guide
The deck is well configured for this match and Cavern of Souls helps a lot against the counter strategy of the deck. Sheoldred and Raffine are the main threats, capable of winning the game on their own, but the inclusion of The Wandering Emperor in the main deck helps against those creatures. The key is not to miss land drops and not let any threats get out of control. An Archangel of Wrath already helps to stabilize, having a good body and helping in the air races. If you can maintain a good amount of life, an Atraxa protected from counters by the cavern should be enough to take the match. Post-sideboard, we need some more specific removals and Destroy Evil destroys everything we need. But Esper also has the ability to change its game plan depending on the opponent, probably it will be more aggressive, so keep that in mind when playing against it.
Another match where the main deck is well-configured, especially due to the presence of The Wandering Emperor. Builds with Liliana of the Veil in the main deck are a bit harder to handle because she consumes a lot of our resources if we don't have Leyline to respond immediately. Generally speaking, the creatures are not too problematic, and a Herd Migration putting several creatures on the board often is enough to carry the game. Post-sideboard we become a bit more exposed to the grind plan with many counters, and a negative factor is the absence of Obstinate Baloth, which is one of the best answers to Liliana. Overall, as long as we manage to make land drops and with some form of interaction, or even Up the Beanstalk providing us resources, we shouldn't have too many problems in this match.
With the presence of Cavern of Souls, we now have a more favorable matchup. Nevertheless, we must be cautious because builds with Tishana Tidebinder are worse for our deck, making many of our cards useless. The best card is Archangel of Wrath, which can kill creatures and has a very relevant presence on the board. Post-sideboard, we need more removals and to lower the curve, to better combat the opponent's early game. I also like to bring in Tranquil Frillback, since the abilities to gain life and destroy enchantments are relevant, as the opponent's plan usually involves a lot of card advantage with the help of Tocasia’s Welcome and Wedding Announcement.
Game one might be a bit more complicated, especially if it's on play and comes with the curve of dreams. We need some sort of interaction and let the Archangel of Wrath stabilize the board. If there are a lot of creatures in play, Vanquish the Horde could become more relevant. Having The Wandering Emperor in the main deck gives us a chance to turn the game around at a key moment. Post-sideboard the match gets much smoother, with 4 Knockout Blows, you will hardly have many problems.
Worse than Esper, despite the absence of Raffine, it has more counters, discards, and interactions with our cards. Gix is a real card advantage machine with the flyers, the presence of Faerie Mastermind makes Up the Beanstalk worse, and it also has Tishana to nullify most of our cards. But it's another match where The Wandering Emperor shines, serving as an alternative kill condition and making some attacks with key creatures worse. Post-side we don’t have many interesting cards, but Destroy Evil hits some cards like Sheoldred and Preacher of the Schism, in addition to Barrage dealing with creatures and Kaito coming from the side.
Similar to a match against Golgari, but some creatures are more dangerous and aggressive, like Inti and Archfiend of Dross. It is a deck that is much more aggro than midrange, and being a deck that discards and generates card advantage with its creatures, it becomes a bit more complicated to handle than Golgari, but I still believe it is favorable. Being an aggro deck without counters, Sunfall and Vanquish the Horde offer a necessary breather and the presence of the Wandering Emperor helps against more aggressive boards. Post-sideboard is another match where we have to be careful with Liliana, but apart from that, we shouldn't worry too much, as we have much more resources and cards that dominate the board.
It continues to be a very grindy game, but finally, the presence of Elesh Norn in the main deck, almost completely shutting down the opponent's deck and doubling your value plays. Be careful not to lose through deck-out, as that happens quite easily, especially in post-sideboard games where players opt for cards that benefit from this plan. Ours involves Realmbreaker, which behaves similarly to Jace, the Perfected Mind, but cannot be attacked and still gives you a mana advantage while you activate it.
Regardless of the metagame, Domain Ramp remains one of the most powerful decks in Standard. The decklists vary from one to another, but it's interesting to note how it has maintained a solid base, making it one of the best decks in the format. With cards that dominate the board and a great ability to generate resources, along with cards that reset the board and that hardly ever run out of steam in the late game, it will probably continue to be my choice for the upcoming tournaments.
See you next time!