Ramp is a time-honored tradition in Commander. It makes sense—the splashier, more impactful cards in a multiplayer game tend to be more expensive, so being able to cast them earlier helps. If your Commander costs a lot of mana, you will usually ramp up the number of ramp spells in your deck to help cast it on time.
There is a tradeoff, though: ramp spells take space in your deck, and the slots you use to ramp are slots you lose for other things, like good creatures, utility spells, removal, and win conditions. If you’re in the late-game and you’ve got all the mana you could possibly want, the last thing you want to rip off the top of your deck is a ramp spell.
That’s one of the reasons I think the transform cards from Ixalan block are so good: they do stuff for you before they transform into a land, so if you draw one late it’s rarely going to be a dead draw. Building a Commander deck with ramp spells can be a delicate balancing act.
Unless your Commander’s surname is “Primal Calamity.” Primal Calamity! What a fantastic name, evoking all sorts of flavor.
relating to an early stage in evolutionary development; primeval.
synonyms: original, initial, earliest, first, primitive, primeval.
an event causing great and often sudden damage or distress; a disaster.
synonyms: disaster, catastrophe, tragedy, cataclysm, adversity, tribulation, affliction, misfortune, misadventure
You can almost hear a professional wrestling announcer going through the synonyms when pumping the crowd up for the appearance of this fearsome Elder Dinosaur.
“From the deepest, darkest jungles of Ixalan, the original disaster, the first tribulation, the earliest catastrophe! Make way for Zacamaaaaaaaa, Primal Calamity!”
Yes—Zacama, Primal Calamity is our very own “Ramp Lord.” And wow, what a payoff for getting to nine mana! Getting to untap all your lands is huge, and if your lands provide you with more mana than it takes to cast Zacama, you’ll end up netting extra mana. Not only that, but Zacama gives you lots of options to use that mana: dealing damage, gaining life, or destroying artifacts and enchantments. What more could you want?
Oh, wait, there’s more: vigilance, one of the best abilities in Commander, letting your giant 9/9 play offense and defense. Reach, to help on the defense. And trample, to help on the offense. This is the kind of Commander that commands the battlefield.
Okay, let us start building our deck!
Okay, if we’re going to be Ramp Tribal, we need lots and lots of ramp spells, and since we’re green, we can roll super-deep. Krosan Verge, Myriad Landscape, and Terrain Generator give us ramp without even costing nonland slots. I’ve squeezed in a bunch of the Ixalan block transform cards, the usual ramp suspects like Rampant Growth and Cultivate, and even tapped one of my favorite cards from Standard, Hour of Promise. Near the top of the curve, we’ve got all-stars like Mirari’s Wake, Regal Behemoth, and Zendikar Resurgent, which can easily net you extra mana with Zacama’s untap ability.
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds is particularly awesome due to the design of Zacama—its nine power translates into nine mana of any combination, which is nicely divisible by three for any of Zacama’s abilities.
Protect the Queen
Okay, even though we have all the ramp, it’s probably a good idea to protect Zacama and avoid the Commander tax when we can. Sword of Light and Shadow provides protection from white removal like Swords to Plowshares and black removal like Tragic Slip. Breaking out the Glory tech, assuming it’s in the graveyard, you can give Zacama protection from any color. Conveniently, Glory’s activation cost is three as well! Sword of Feast and Famine provides protection from black removal, but even more important is that it lets you untap your lands when you connect, which could be a huge amount of Zacama activations. That’s why I’ve included Bear Umbra as well.
Of course, nothing protects quite as well as hexproof, so I’ve included a fair amount of that too. I even squeezed in Archetype of Endurance, which is usually too expensive for consideration in a lot of decks, but hey, we’re ramp tribal here.
Even the best-laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley, so if we’re going tribal ramp, it seems a good Plan B would be to recruit a bunch of land-matters spells. We’re packing landfall spells like Retreat to Kazandu and Avenger of Zendikar, powerhouse card Tireless Tracker to make oodles of Clue tokens, and one of my all-time favorite cards, Ulvenwald Hydra, which can simply be a gigantic threat.
Zacama does a good job of covering the removal bases, but we’ll want some outs in case someone plays a card like Pithing Needle to shut down Zacama’s abilities. The buyback costs for Shattering Pulse and Allay are already reasonable without considering all the crazy ramp we’ve got.
Basilisk Collar is already one of the best one-mana cards in Commander, but I can’t imagine a better creature to equip than Zacama.
I do have some room for some good stuff cards, so I’ve gone with some card selection and advantage with Skullclamp, Sylvan Library and Seasons Past. Invulnerability and Spike Weaver can help keep you from dying before Zacama gets online.
Seedborn Muse is already one of the most absurd cards in the format, but once you’re getting to untap all your mana each untap step with Zacama on the battlefield, I’m pretty sure your odds of winning go up quite a bit from that position.
Here is the full list including the lands:
- 1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
- 1 Spike Weaver
- 1 Glory
- 1 Anger
- 1 Seedborn Muse
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 1 Farhaven Elf
- 1 Emeria Angel
- 1 Rampaging Baloths
- 1 Avenger of Zendikar
- 1 Archetype of Endurance
- 1 Courser of Kruphix
- 1 Emeria Shepherd
- 1 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Ulvenwald Hydra
- 1 Regal Behemoth
- 1 Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
- 1 Ramunap Excavator
- 1 Golden Guardian
- 9 Forest
- 4 Plains
- 4 Mountain
- 1 Yavimaya Hollow
- 1 Terrain Generator
- 1 Krosan Verge
- 1 Miren, the Moaning Well
- 1 Sacred Foundry
- 1 Temple Garden
- 1 Stomping Ground
- 1 Jungle Shrine
- 1 Naya Panorama
- 1 Rootbound Crag
- 1 Sunpetal Grove
- 1 Command Tower
- 1 Kessig Wolf Run
- 1 Cavern of Souls
- 1 Myriad Landscape
- 1 Cinder Glade
- 1 Canopy Vista
- 1 Sheltered Thicket
- 1 Scattered Groves
- 1 Scavenger Grounds
- 1 Shefet Dunes
- 1 Ramunap Ruins
- 1 Endless Sands
- 1 Arch of Orazca
- 1 Wrath of God
- 1 Swords to Plowshares
- 1 Sylvan Library
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Rampant Growth
- 1 Kodama's Reach
- 1 Mirari's Wake
- 1 Sword of Light and Shadow
- 1 Skullclamp
- 1 Explosive Vegetation
- 1 Invulnerability
- 1 Shattering Pulse
- 1 Allay
- 1 Rout
- 1 Farseek
- 1 Privileged Position
- 1 Path to Exile
- 1 Khalni Heart Expedition
- 1 Basilisk Collar
- 1 Bear Umbra
- 1 Cultivate
- 1 Asceticism
- 1 Sword of Feast and Famine
- 1 Swiftfoot Boots
- 1 Darksteel Mutation
- 1 Zendikar's Roil
- 1 Retreat to Kazandu
- 1 Retreat to Emeria
- 1 Verdant Confluence
- 1 Zendikar Resurgent
- 1 Seasons Past
- 1 Heroic Intervention
- 1 Hour of Promise
- 1 Treasure Map
- 1 Conqueror's Galleon
- 1 Growing Rites of Itlimoc
- 1 Legion's Landing
- 1 Dowsing Dagger
- 1 Azor's Gateway
What do you think? How would you go about building this deck differently?
For more Commander perspective on Rivals of Ixalan, make sure to check out Sheldon Menery’s do over of Prime Speaker Zegana featuring some cool Merfolk from Ixalan block. And if you ever feel that Commander decks are filled out with too many expensive cards, Mark Nestico brought out the budget guns in Ballin’ on a Budget.
Last but not least… did you hear about the Commander Celebration going on at SCG CON June 8-10? I’ll be there, along with Sheldon and Jonathan, Stephen, Justin, and Jeremy from Commander VS. If you’re within driving distance of Roanoke, Virginia, come down for a fantastic fun weekend and play Commander with us! I am super-stoked and hope to see a lot of you there!
New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
Commander Primer Part 1
(Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
Commander Primer Part 2
(Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
Commander Primer Part 3
(Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
Commander Starter Kits 1
(kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 2
(kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
Commander Starter Kits 3
(kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
Commander write-ups I’ve done
(and links to decklists):
• Zurgo Bellstriker (Bellstriking Like a Boss)
• Dragonlord Ojutai (Troll Shroud)
• Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (Dragons, Megamorphs, and Dragons)
• Dromoka, the Eternal (One Flying Bolster Basket)
• Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest (Tempests and Teapots)
• Tasigur, the Golden Fang (Hatching Evil Sultai Plots)
• Scion of the Ur-Dragon (Dragon Triggers for Everyone)
• Nahiri, The Lithomancer (Lithomancing for Fun and Profit)
• Titania, Protector of Argoth (Titania’s Land and Elemental Exchange)
• Reaper King (All About VILLAINOUS WEALTH)
• Feldon of the Third Path (She Will Come Back to Me)
• Sidisi, Brood Tyrant (Calling Up Ghouls with Sidisi)
• Zurgo Helmsmasher (Two Times the Smashing)
• Anafenza, the Foremost (Anafenza and Your Restless Dead)
• Narset, Enlightened Master (The New Voltron Overlord)
• Surrak Dragonclaw (The Art of Punching Bears)
• Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient (Ghost in the Machines)
• Jalira, Master Polymorphist (JaliraPOW!)
• Yisan, the Wanderer Bard (All-in Yisan)
• Selvala, Explorer Returned (Everyone Draws Lots!)
• Grenzo, Dungeon Warden (Cleaning Out the Cellar)
• Karona, False God (God Pack)
• Karador, Ghost Chieftain (Shadowborn Apostles & Demons)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm (Mean Roon)
• Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
• Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
• Derevi, Empyrial Tactician (Tribal Birds)
• Gahiji, Honored One (Enchantment Ga-hijinks)
• Nicol Bolas (Kicking it Old School)
• Oloro, Ageless Ascetic (Life Gain)
• Polukranos, World Eater (Monstrous!)
• Reaper King (Taking Advantage of the new Legend Rules)
• Roon of the Hidden Realm ( Strolling Through Value Town)
• Shattergang Brothers (Breaking Boards)
• Sliver Overlord (Featuring the new M14 Slivers!)
• Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)