Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Is Mana Ramping in Magic?
The term "ramping" refers to spells that build up your mana pool, adding additional resources to your default land-per-turn reservoir. Ramping is especially important in the longer games of commander format, letting you access your game-winning aces faster than opponents.
While green dominates the ramping market, even colors like red (known for its singular one-off spells) offer a surprising number of mana-increasing tools, helping keep pace. But with thousands of crimson spells available, which overlooked gems deserve your attention? These are the ten best mono-red mana ramps in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Vessel of Volatility
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2
Red's mana-manufacturers are often single-use, but compensate with powerful tools that put you turns ahead of your foes. Take Vessel of Volatility, which takes two mana to cast and two more to activate, but you can divide these costs over multiple turns.
Once triggered, Volaility provides an instant four red mana. Factoring in the activation price, your net gain is two, and you can convert a color resource from an artifact like "Sol Ring" into a more-useful red mana, perfect for restrictive cards like "Geosurge."
9. Runaway Steam-Kin
Steam-Kin begins as a weak 1/1 elemental, but whenever you cast a spell, he gains a +1/+1 counter (though he can't have more than three), eventually becoming an impressive 4/4. Better yet, you can remove three of his counters at any time to add three red mana to your pool, a great late-game boost to provide the final resources for towering dragons like "Utvara Hellkite."
Best in mono-red structures, Steam-Kin offers an inexpensive and reusable ramp with impressive battle potential, though you'll have to protect him as he recharges.
8. Desperate Ritual
At base price, Desperate Ritual costs two mana and grants three, giving a net increase of one. That's only decent, but the spell's instant speed and ability to convert a colorless resource justify its use.
Better still, you can splice Ritual onto other arcane spells (adding its effects to them) for the same price, essentially offering a free increase of one mana. And since Ritual itself is arcane, you can even splice it on itself! Well, in formats without singleton rules, that is.
7. Koth of the Hammer
For his price, planeswalker Koth only arrives with three loyalty, but offers two handy ramp tools for mono-red builds. His +1 effect untaps a mountain land and makes its a 4/4 creature for the turn, letting you either attack with it or simply re-tap it for an additional mana.
Even better, his -2 bestows a red mana for each mountain you control, an awesome ramp that scales well in the late-game. -5 isn't the strongest ultimate, granting an emblem that lets your mountains tap to deal one damage to any target, but it's a nice bonus on top of Koth's other excellent effects.
6. Simian Spirit Guide
Spirit Guide is a weak 2/2 with rarely-seen subtypes (ape and spirit), but you'll rarely field him—instead, you can exile him from your hand (at instant speed) to add one red mana to your pool.
A single-use ramp, sure, but combined with your turn's land, you can essentially leap one round ahead of your foes, casting spells they're not yet prepared to counter. As of this writing, only red and green employ this mechanic (green has "Elvish Spirit Guide"), making it a rare but appreciated boost.
5. Brightstone Ritual
Mono-red commander decks commonly emphasize goblins, and you'll find few better supplements to their theme than Brightstone Ritual. For a single mana at instant speed, you gain one red mana for each goblin in play—even opposing goblins count!
Combining your impish hoard with token-swarming spells like "Krenko, Mob Boss," you'll soon reap a bountiful harvest that accesses practically any card or ability.
4. Skirk Prospector
Speaking of goblins, Prospector here only needs one mana and can sacrifice any goblin you control (including himself) to add one red mana to your pool. You can utilize this ability at any time, letting you block with Prospector, then immediately sacrifice him to both guard a unit and prepare an instant.
You can also forfeit swarms of tokens for a huge increase. Compared to Brightstone Ritual, you have to sacrifice your units, but can prepare Prospector ahead of time and utilize his goblin status for other effects, making them near-equal mana tools.
3. Rite of Flame
Unlike many red mana ramps, Rite of Flame only resolves at sorcery speed, so be sure to cast it on your main phase. But spending one mana adds two to your pool, an easily-afforded net increase. You also get an extra mana for each Rite of Flame in any graveyard.
A nice tool in commander, but particularly powerful in non-singleton formats, Rite of Flame goes from useful to deadly when swarmed. If you luck out in EDH, you'll cast it after an opponent has used theirs, granting you the superior bonus.
2. Seething Song
Seething Song offers several advantages over other temporary ramps. Its instant speed suits any player's turn, and it actually grants a mana increase of two, requiring three to play but offering five. Plus, you've got two colorless slots to potentially convert, letting you fully exchange the resources from "Sol Ring," "Palladium Myr," or "Worn Powerstone" for colored mana.
Compatible with any red theme, Seething Song is a constant member of my own red decks, especially since it's surprisingly cheap, costing only a single dollar!
1. Braid of Fire
Cumulative upkeep cards are generally hard to maintain, as they require you to pay ever-increasing prices each turn. However, this rarity reverses the trend; rather than demanding a mana for each age counter, Braid adds a red one to your pool!
Remember these resources will fade before your main phase, so you'll need instant-speed cards or abilities to utilize them, but that's a negligible restriction on one of the best and cheapest continuous ramps in the entire game, let alone in red. Try proliferating Braid's age counters to further hasten its production.
Multi-Color Red Mana Ramps in Magic
Today we focused on spells tailored for any red structure, but you can access additional ramps by partnering with other colors. In particular, red/green blends provide powerful tools like "Nikya of the Old Ways," "Domri, Chaos Bringer," and "Grand Warlord Radha," furthering your resource production.
Whether paired with other factions or used exclusively, red offers more ramps than many players realize, helping it endure even in longer commander games. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of mana-creating red spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on April 10, 2020:
Which format are you playing? "Lavinia, Azorius Renegade" is out of standard rotation, but can reduce ramping effectiveness. Creature board wipes tend to work well since most rampers are creatures (although they'll destroy your own units as well).
Gruul themes are pretty aggressive, but you can win via card advantage if you survive long enough; some of my favorite control spells in MTG Arena include "Despark", "Arrester's Admonition", and "Time Wipe".
Rex H on April 10, 2020:
I just got destroyed by a gruul mana ramp deck, and I’m wondering if there are any anti-mana ramp sideboard cards I should know of. Any suggestions?
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on March 30, 2020:
Mana Flare's double-mana-from-lands effect is good but risky since it benefits opponents just as much (possibly more, since they often get the first chance to make use of it).
Tim on March 30, 2020: