Commander (EDH) is a format full of crazy strategies and cool spells that lead to epic experiences, so it’s easy to see why the spotlight focuses on these aspects of the format. While it’s easy to forget the lands that help us, as players, generate the mana to create these experiences, their support isn’t something we should neglect in deckbuilding.
Fortunately, there are ways to draw out the support of our lands and mana more quickly, often referred to as mana ramp.
What is Mana Ramp?
Mana ramp involves finding ways to get more of your lands onto the battlefield as quickly as possible and/or creating reusable sources of mana through permanents on the battlefield. This differs from single-use methods of mana generation like Jeweled Lotus, often referred to as mana acceleration, though many players consider mana ramp to be a “permanent” version of mana acceleration.
Since green is the color most known for mana ramp in Magic, it is popular for both monocolor and multicolor decks in Commander because faster access to your mana usually increases your odds of closing out and winning a game quickly.
I’m going to cover the best monogreen mana ramp options in today’s post, omitting multicolor options that include green, so you have information on cards that can be included in any green Commander deck you want to build or tune.
These will be loosely arranged from “worst” to “best”, with the caveats that I’d personally play any of these cards and individual placements can easily be switched depending on your definition of “worst” or “best”.
4 mana is a steep asking price when it comes to mana ramp, but Skyshroud Claim still makes the cut in many of my Commander decks. First, the Forest cards it fetches come in untapped (barring other clauses), which means you can use that mana immediately – effectively reducing its net cost to 2 mana during the turn you play while ramping you by 2 lands for the rest of the game.
Second, you can search for any forest – including nonbasic ones! Dryad Arbor, Stomping Ground, Indatha Triome – these are just a few of the popular choices Skyshroud Claim can retrieve, allowing you to fix your mana or claim an extra benefit. If you’re still playing Explosive Vegetation or one of its many knockoffs over this, Skyshroud Claim is an easy upgrade that almost always delivers better value.
There have been many cards like Wood Elves since its original printing in Portal, and I’ve played cards like Yavimaya Dryad and Yavimaya Granger too, but the OG still does the job most effectively after all these years.
The primary reasons it made my list are that it can fetch any Forest – nonbasics included, puts it on the battlefield untapped, and most importantly, has this effect attached to a 1/1 body. As a creature, an effect like this opens up synergy with cards like Woodland Bellower, Sun Titan, Panharmonicon, and clones like Phantasmal Image to reuse or duplicate the effect.
On its own, this is usually a pass during my deckbuilding. In the right decks, however, cards like Wood Elves are an integral part of one or more toolboxes.
1-Mana Mana Dorks (Llanowar Elves, Boreal Druid, Arbor Elf, Birds of Paradise, etc.)
I’ll preface for any cEDH players here by acknowledging these are much more important in that environment. Ditto for 1v1 play. Games just finish faster in these environments, and the ramp that mana dorks deliver in early turns is almost always worth the risk of having these effects stapled to weak creatures.
For a traditional multiplayer experience, however, these guys just don’t deliver the same level of impact for a few reasons. For starters, without a means to give them haste, you have to wait a turn to see any benefit from a mana dork outside of chump blocking, which you aren’t going to want to do in the early game or in the face of creatures with trample.
This is often true with ramp spells, but land destruction is far less common than creature destruction, which leads into my next issue with mana dorks – fragility.
Removal is extremely prevalent for creatures in Commander, meaning an incidental Damnation or spiteful Swords to Plowshares can kill a Llanowar Elves or Birds of Paradise before their summoning sickness wears off, possibly setting you back before you get any mileage.
Finally, they’re just dead draws in the late game. At least a spell that puts lands into play is usually thinning your deck so you are improving your odds of drawing an impactful card next turn. At best, a mana dork is saving you from some combat damage in the late game, and if I wanted that, I’d be playing a card like Constant Mists instead.
Wild Growth & Utopia Sprawl
Enchantment removal tends to be much less common than creature removal in Commander, making Wild Growth and Utopia Sprawl a much more stable version of cards like Llanowar Elves in multiplayer environments.
If you play these enchantments on turn 1, you’re no worse off than you were playing mana ramp stapled to a creature. On later turns, you can play them on untapped lands and use them immediately, ensuring you see at least 1 use out of them and breaking even on your mana investment.
Utopia Sprawl is notably more restrictive than Wild Growth, requiring a Forest to enchant, but it doesn’t care whether that Forest is a basic land, so it still works with Shocklands, Triomes, and other nonbasic lands with basic land types in your multicolor decks. Both also work well with the aforementioned Arbor Elf, allowing you to net even more mana by untapping the land these Auras are attached to.
Oracle of Mul Daya
This is my last 4-mana entry on this list, and one that I slept on for years after it came out in Zendikar. Oracle of Mul Daya‘s brand of mana ramp was pretty unique for green at the time, and is arguably still best in its class today.
While revealing the top of your library isn’t always ideal for table politics, the ability to play an extra land each turn is already very powerful. Playing up to 2 lands from the top of your library is like drawing extra cards while also ramping your mana, and you can do it every single turn Oracle of Mul Daya stays in play.
While a 2/2 for 4 is extremely fragile for that rate, unlike a typical mana dork, you can use this effect immediately. Even one successful use is generally worth it, and if you have the means to shuffle your library through a fetchland like Misty Rainforest, a tutor effect like Worldly Tutor, or even another mana ramp spell like Skyshroud Claim, you can improve your odds of success dramatically.
Kodama’s Reach & Cultivate
Kodama’s Reach and Cultivate have been mainstays of the Commander format for over a decade, and with good reason. 3 mana gives you a basic land on the battlefield and a basic land for your hand to ensure you make your land drop on the turn you play one of these ramp spells or on the next turn.
You can retrieve any basic land, so whether you need Wastes for Eldrazi, a color of mana you don’t have access to in multicolored decks, or more Forests (in which case, also consider Nissa’s Pilgrimage), Kodama’s Reach and Cultivate are great cards for helping you accelerate into the midgame.
I happily played Kodama’s Reach and Cultivate for years before even considering Rampant Growth for any of my green decks. Commander was a much slower format back then, and my thought was that I needed mana ramp cards that had more long-term impact on a game expected to last for 3 hours.
One day, as I started looking for ways to make my decks run more quickly, I started trying it in my Nissa, Vastwood Seer deck. Then in Karador, Ghost Chieftain. Soon, it was finding its way into most of my green decks, and I haven’t looked back.
TL:DR: 2-mana ramp spells that put lands on the battlefield are universally strong, and playing several is always worth the space in your decks.
While I slept on Rampant Growth for a long time, I did not sleep on Sakura-Tribe Elder. I’d consider this a strictly better Rampant Growth in almost all cases – you get a 1/1 body for the same amount of mana and can sacrifice it after blocking a bigger creature to prevent some early damage and you’ll still get the basic land!
There are also a number of easy ways to reuse or duplicate this effect – Sun Titan, a kicked Rite of Replication, and Reanimate are all examples I’ve seen in games, and the impact, whether immediate or over the course of several turns, is not to be underestimated.
This is the only entry on my list that cannot be used in monogreen decks, but omitting it simply isn’t an option when discussing the best green ramp spells. While Farseek can retrieve basic lands, it will serve you much better by retrieving nonbasic lands with basic land types like Temple Garden, Bayou, or Cinder Glade – that way you’re fixing your mana while ramping.
If you’re really hard up for another Farseek effect, I’ve also had middling success with Spoils of Victory. It can also retrieve Forests, and puts your land into play untapped, but it’s well below any other entry being discussed in this post when it comes to efficiency – a critical metric when measuring mana ramp.
Nature’s Lore & Three Visits
Nature’s Lore is half of a Skyshroud Claim you can reliably play on turn 2, and thanks to Portal Three Kingdoms, we got a second version of it in Three Visits. Better still, Three Visits is actually accessible thanks to the release of Commander Legends, meaning you aren’t spending over $100 for your copies!
Virtually any green deck is improved by playing both of these cards, and since the lands they retrieve come in untapped, they’re much more welcome than many other mana ramp spells during later turns of the game.
If you’re lucky enough to own a copy of this increasingly rare card (thanks Reserved List!), Earthcraft can deliver anything from nothing to an insane amount of mana ramp for 2 mana.
First, the downside: Earthcraft does nothing on its own. You need creatures and at least 1 basic land for it to function. While both are readily available in many green Commander decks, if a board wipe comes down or you haven’t established a board position yet, you aren’t going to feel good about seeing it on the battlefield.
On the upside, If you already have creatures in play when you play Earthcraft, you can start using it immediately. Since Earthcraft is tapping the creatures, mana dorks can become useful the turn they are played. If you generate a bunch of token creatures with a commander like Rhys the Redeemed or a lot of cheap, efficient creatures, each can tap to untap a basic land, ramping your mana at unreasonable speed.
Since Commander’s life total starts at 40, leaving yourself with lower defenses in early turns is often completely viable to rush out big plays that your opponents simply won’t be equipped to deal with. I have personally gotten some silly amounts of mana using morph creatures in my Kadena, Slinking Sorcerer deck.
Oh, and you can also generate infinite creatures with cards like Squirrel Nest at instant speed. A ramp spell that is also a win condition – early Magic sets were pretty busted.
Burgeoning is one of the scariest turn 1 plays a green deck can put down. Normally, you can play up to 1 land from your hand on your turn. Burgeoning potentially allows you to do this on every turn. In a 4 player pod, you could be starting your second turn with up to 5 mana (or more if you’re playing lands like Ancient Tomb).
Naturally, you need to have that many lands in your hand in order to take full advantage of this effect, and if you’ve put that many lands into play, you aren’t going to have very many cards to take advantage of them without drawing some more.
This will be easiest to do in other colors, as cards like Windfall, Wheel of Fortune, and Promise of Power are well suited to raw card draw, but if you can set up an early Return of the Wildspeaker or Rishkar’s Expertise, monogreen decks can easily take care of this “drawback” too.
You can play 2 lands per turn instead of 1. Exploration is simple, lets you take immediate initiative on your turn with the extra lands you’re playing, and can be used from the first turn of the game.
This opens up some fun avenues of play with cards like Crucible of Worlds and Ramunap Excavator – bonus points if you’re using cards like Evolving Wilds or Verdant Catacombs to repeatedly take advantage of Exploration to play lands right out of your deck.
How Much Mana Ramp Do I Need in Commander?
Now that we’ve covered the best green mana ramp cards, you’re probably wondering how many of them you should be playing in your deck. This answer is going to vary depending on your deck’s strategies and composition.
I personally play a minimum of 6 cards and a rough maximum of 10, with the caveat that commanders like Lord Windgrace are going to require more than commanders like Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy. This number also does not account for mana rocks like Sol Ring or Mana Crypt, which I usually lump in with my land count when deckbuilding.
Priority goes to all 2-mana ramp cards like Three Visits and Sakura-Tribe Elder, as cards that play from your deck tend to help you pace your gameplay and improve your odds of drawing more powerful cards in the late game. After that, I consider Kodama’s Reach and Cultivate, and finally any remaining on this list that work well within the deck’s theme and strategies.
If my hand has a lot of turnover, Exploration and Burgeoning both have more potential. If I’m playing a lot of tutors and other mana ramp spells, Oracle of Mul Daya has potential. Lots of creatures and at least a few basic lands? Let’s take Earthcraft for a spin.
My parting advice is to remember that your priorities may vary depending upon the power level of your playgroup’s decks, your budget, and your personal playstyle, so don’t be afraid to adjust as appropriate.
If you’re playing in a cEDH pod, you’re going to want to load up on 1-mana dorks like Llanowar Elves or Birds of Paradise and skip the 2 and 3-mana spells instead of following my earlier methods. If your playgroup’s games skew longer and tend toward big, splashy spells and effects, maybe give Skyshroud Claim a second look.
Just know your deck and your audience, do a little playtesting, and you’ll find the right cards in no time.
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Braden is a founder of Assorted Meeples and has been a gamer & writer with a vivid imagination all his life. Don’t believe us? Check out his excitement when meeting Goosebumps author R.L. Stine as a kid! An avid Magic: The Gathering spellslinger for over 15 years, you can always convince him to shuffle up for a game (or three!) of Commander.