First Draft Friday: Ramos Ascendancy!
Hello and welcome to First Draft Friday! This article series is the spiritual successor to Fresh Spice Friday, a short column I used to write for our Facebook page. This time, things are a bit different. Instead of showcasing new decks from the community, I will let you, dear reader, vote on which cards you want me to build a deck around. To facilitate this, I set up a poll at the end of this article. Each poll will feature four cards. The most popular option will be chosen for a future article, and the least popular option will be dropped from the poll. If there’s a card you would like to see on the poll, please let me know on Twitter or Discord!
The decks in this series are meant to be exactly what the title says: first drafts. If you find any of these ideas interesting, I highly encourage you to pick them up and tinker with them. The aim here is not to create the most competitive decks on an absolute scale, but rather to explore interesting cards and ideas and provide outlines for decks that can be cEDH viable with further refinements.
First off, let’s take a quick look at the poll I put up in my last article. The choices were:
Unfortunately, Phyrexian Dreadnought ended up with the least amount of votes, so it will be dropped from the poll. With 26 votes at the time of writing, this week’s winner is… Humility! Thank you all for heeding my call – we’ll be taking a look at a deck that features this card in the next First Draft Friday article.
Before we move on to the decklist, let’s take a quick look at today’s featured card: Jeskai Ascendancy.
Building around Jeskai Ascendancy in EDH comes with a set of difficult decisions. Not only do we need to find the right balance between mana dorks and non-creature spells – while Ascendancy provides us with a good amount of card selection with the loot effect, we risk running out of cards in the middle of going off if we don’t have some card-positive spells. On top of these two considerations, we also need to figure out how we’re going to close out the game.
The shell I chose for this build is one that has stood the test of time: Ad Nauseam-based Storm. While the mana base typically uses mana rocks since they can be cast and activated more easily after resolving an Ad Nauseam, I chose to focus on mana dorks since they enable Jeskai Ascendancy as a mana engine on our Storm turns. This means that our early Ad Nauseams won’t be as good, but we trade that for faster early game mana development and the additional engine. Another noteworthy difference from standard Storm decks is that Ramos Ascendancy is not weak to Null Rod effects. This is especially relevant with the recent printing of Collector Ouphe, which has made it a lot easier for decks with creature tutors to have consistent access to a strong hate piece.
Now that we have an idea of the shell we want to go for, let’s move on to closing out the game. Since this is a classic Storm shell, I chose the classic Storm outlet: Aetherflux Reservoir. One upside it has in this deck is that we can turn Ramos into Reservoir via Transmute Artifact after he’s given us . If we can’t go for Aetherflux Reservoir, we have a backup infinite combo with Jeskai Ascendancy + Retraction Helix/Banishing Knack that gives us infinite mana and infinite loots, which gives us infinite casts of a spell via Timetwister + Noxious Revival. At this point, we can use Swan Song or Assassin’s Trophy as our spell loop outlets.
Retraction Helix and Banishing Knack are cards that I feel might be underplayed in cEDH as a whole – a 1-mana non-land bounce spell feels quite strong, even if it has to be put on a creature. While this does become a bit weaker than a conventional bounce spell when we’re trying to use it to bounce a hate piece that stops us from going off, it becomes invaluable when one of our opponents tries to go for a win. When that happens, we can create a situation that’s reminiscent of the Chain of Vapor Hot Potato game by putting our Helix/Knack on someone else’s creature. By doing so, we don’t have to put one of our own creatures at risk of getting removed while still creating the desired outcome of interacting with our opponent’s win attempt.
To address the mana dork – non-creature spell balance, I chose to go a bit deeper on cheap cantrip effects than most other cEDH decks would. We’re running Opt and Sleight of Hand, which are often only seen in 1- to 2-colour or Consultation decks. I’m also trying Obsessive Search, which is a neat bit of tech from JVP High Tide – since we’re going to loot a lot on our Storm turns, it’s a small bit of card advantage where we really need it. On the mana production side of things, I’m dedicating two slots to the Jeskai Ascendancy plan: Fatestitcher and Birchlore Rangers. Fatestitcher can be looted away and Unearthed, which is a common move in the Modern Jeskai Ascendancy deck. Birchlore Rangers (special thanks to PlayEDH Comp Admin and Into the North co-host Spleenface for showing this to me!) is a way to use the mana dorks I draw into on my Storm turn. It can also make them useful after a big Ad Nauseam.
All in all, I think Jeskai Ascendancy Storm has potential. We’ve seen a recent surge in mana dork-based Storm-like decks that are fueled by cards like Intruder Alarm, and this deck functions in a similar vein. What I’m currently unsure about is mainly the Commander. I do think WUBRG colour identity is the way to go, but maybe Najeela, the Blade-Blossom‘s reliable backup wins or Golos, Tireless Pilgrim‘s activated ability is a more useful effect than Ramos, Dragon Engine‘s mana production. If any of you decide to pick this up, let me know how it goes!
Finally, please don’t forget to vote for the card you’d like to see featured in a future article! I’ve got some sweet ideas for these four, so stay tuned. The next First Draft Friday article will release on the 12th of July.