Three Cards Deep: The Good, The Bad, and the EDH Ugly


Three cards:

  • One is Rad: Surprisingly awesome card you’d be just as happy to see an opponent slam down as you would to rip it off the top.
  • One is Bad: It’s a bogeyman. Take a trip to frown town with these fun suckers, whether you’re casting or being tortured by them.
  • One is Sad: Often popular inclusions, these cards aren’t actually worth a slot.

In honor of my brand new son Paix (almost two weeks old today), this week we’re looking at the Rad, the Rad, and the Rad, because seriously, everything is so awesome right now.


…OK not really.

This Rad-Bad-Sad trio is Explosive Vegetation, Boundless Realms, and Farseek, respectively. Ramping is kinda like being prolific, and I have my progeny on my mind.

First, blah blah big mana resource accumulation default strategy because combo is frowned upon blah blah. Ok great. Moving on.

Everybody talks about ramp vaguely as a kind of love to hate to love strategy. I mean, I like casting spells early and I want to jam Gratuitous Violence, Vigor, and Phthisis, in consecutive turns. But I also want to play a fun game of EDH, which means I can’t be the only one getting my jollies off.

The Rad – Explosive Vegetation

Veggies is sweet, the gold standard of fair ramp. It’s the Counterspell of “counterspells,” the Doom Blade (or maybe it should be Murder) of removal. It’s always good, there are better and worse options, and it’s not a gateway drug to breaking the game in half. Some say Cultivate is a better choice because it hits earlier, but in EDH it’s worth a mana to skip ahead two turns.

Veggies ramps, fixes mana, and looks good in a tight tank top. You’re happy casting it on turn six to fix and it helps keep you in the game providing a net bonus in terms of resource accumulation – lands in play – even on turn twelve. But it’s just a small one, not enough lands to break the game in half.

You can make the case for Skyshroud Claim, which obviously can be much better if you have a more expensive mana base. But that’s too obvious, too good, and a legitimate if.

Verdict: If you told me you ran this in every green deck, I would not roll my eyes.


The Bad – Boundless Realms

Realms is the king-maker, the enabler of the busted big-mana things that make us all sigh and complain. If jumping ahead two lands on turn four – a 50-percent gain – is good, then jumping ahead seven on turn six or seven – a 100 percent increase assuming no non-land mana sources – is ri-dic-u-lous. Capital “R” as in you’re already set to re-cast Progenitus twice after your realms go unbounded. And that’s basically the minimum entry point for its resource accumulation abilities.

I get that it’s just an enabler and a deck that’s all bears won’t bust any skulls with fourteen lands. But it mixes well with some of the other flagship cards and strategies of the format to create a redundant, unfun play experience. Yes, people should be running more fair answers to ramp (Natural Balance/Keldon Firebombers for President/VP 2014!), just like they need more graveyard hate and personality, but that’s not the point. The point is frown town and how much I hate it.

Verdict: Your realms were already fine. Pretty nice even. Don’t make them boundless.


The Sad – Farseek

One-for-one ramp. It really gets me. I have discussed this with multiple players who use them, and yes, I kvetched about Rampant Growth last time. But I keep seeing it. This week it was Farseek. It’s very weak. Its weakness may be disguised by just being one of many ramp spells in a mana advantage deck, in which case it’s part of a cumulative effect that belies the wasted cardboard. And Deep Reconnaissance and Growth Spasm are in the category as well.

Nature’s Lore is slightly better. And to the Farseek player’s credit, he was only running Nature’s Lore and Three Visits (land comes into play untapped), Farseek to get duals, and the signets. All of these are a spot better than Rampant Growth.

Here’s the thing. Every card obviously has opportunity cost, and different ramp spells advance different game plans. So if you always want four mana of three colors on turn three to windmill slam Rafiq of the Many, the two mana guys (including a bunch of other really bad ones like Edge of Autumn) do get the job done.

But predicating card selection on tempo-based needs means you have to include cards that are dead draws late, which is a higher risk in a format defined by variance and slower matches. However, less tempo-dependent ramp and fixing like Veggies is a dead draw far less of the time. If you build a strategy around less narrow goals, you have a broader range of conditions by which you can successfully execute your game plan, so you won’t end up running narrow, time-conditional spells like Farseek.

Verdict: Even when I step down from a high horse on a soap box, it still looks bad to me.


Weekly Lesson: Convincing people to target the ramp player can be difficult if s/he is crafty. Everybody knows to blow up Mirari’s Wake, but the guy who sits behind a few rocks, a middling beater or two, and the lands from having cast seven ramp spells in ten turns might fly under the radar if he’s good at the “strategy of second best.” Yet if you try too hard (perhaps because you’ve been thinking about card evaluation a lot and realize what the third ramp spell in a row means for future abilities to recover) to convince people that Rampy McRamperson is the threat, you sound whiny and people still aren’t convinced. More people need to read Cassidy’s (and Mr. P’sarticles about proper threat assessment to make this easier for me.

@ MdaveCs