These Cards Do WORK - Pramikon, Sky Rampart
(Pramikon, Sky Rampart | Art by Richard Wright)
Setting the Rules and Breaking Them All
Hi there! I’m Jeremy Rowe, AKA J Ro, the Unsummoned Skull, a former Judge, Tournament Organizer, and Pro Tour competitor. I’m also a current teacher, college professor, streamer, community leader, and content creator. In this series, we examine the big EDH questions: What makes a card good? What’s the difference between popularity and synergy? What even is that synergy thing anyways? My intention is to differentiate between high- and low-synergy cards, describe in what ways the cards work with the commander, and explain why high synergy is such a good thing. For a deck to be powerful and consistent, each card needs to do a job, and these cards do WORK!
For our ninth article, we're taking a look at a unique Jeskai commander, a giant floating Wall. This wall essentially acts as an usher, directing attackers to either their controller’s right or left, depending on what we choose. This affects the entire table, so political implications are high. With such a unique ability, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of it. Let's talk about Pramikon, Sky Rampart!
Pramikon, Sky Rampart has an excellent suite of abilities that make attacking difficult for all players, providing protection worthy of its status as a defender and Wall. Since it is setting a rule across the whole table, it would be easy to use our defender commander in a stax strategy. There was also a strategy known as “Bridge Burn” in Extended and Modern, which featured a burn player using Ensnaring Bridge as a defensive Wall while chucking burn spells at their opponent. Our commander could easily do a solid imitation of that strategy if we wanted it to. Where things get really spicy, however, is when we start looking at Pramikon as a chaotic force.
Similar to Zedruu the Greathearted’s group hug, Gaddock Teeg’s hate bears, and Phenax, God of Deception’s mill, Pramikon’s chaos is not always well-received. Some players hear that a deck is chaotic and assume that it is aimless and just looking to waste time and needlessly prolong a game. As with most statements that hurt, there’s some degree of truth there, but chaotic decks can find fun playing with rules while still advancing the board and game state in weird and wacky ways!
It is my belief that all Commander decks are midrange decks, needing the same jobs done in order to switch cleanly between offense and defense, as well as to combat a variety of threats from around the table. Pramikon, Sky Rampart is a special commander, so let’s find the right tools for these jobs!
Most decks need ramp to play high-impact spells at a time when they are still relevant. Pramikon has three different color pips in its mana cost, so it’s a bit tough to cast on time. Furthermore, we don’t necessarily want it out too early, as we want to make an informed decision regarding the direction in which players can attack. While we can build in ways to reset the direction, we still want to make a choice that factors in the board in a developed state.
For each job, I'd like to highlight a low-synergy-score card, a high-synergy-score card, and an underrated card for this commander to add more context to the qualitative data and see how each one magnifies the abilities, accentuates the strengths, and mitigates the weaknesses of our commander.
Talisman of Creativity is a generic mana rock that fixes mana, enables early plays, and continues to provide colorless mana painlessly throughout the game. 58% of Pramikon decks run it, but more because it’s a generally useful card in multicolor decks than because it is particularly useful in Pramikon. This is shown by the fact that 48% of other Jeskai decks also run it, so it's not that unique to our commander. Low synergy score, but that's just because it's so good for basically every deck, not just ours.
Scholarship Sponsor is an underrated ramp spell, emblematic of a new direction for white in Commander. Another solid ETB creature, Sponsor allows us (and the rest of the table) to instantly catch up to players who ramped aggressively, such as green decks. On Pramikon, Sky Rampart's EDHREC page, you'll see that Scholarship Sponsor has an excellent synergy score (55%), emblematic of how much more play it sees in Pramikon decks compared to other Jeskai decks. Synergy scores on EDHREC are a form of uniqueness calculation (55% of Pramikon, Sky Rampart decks play Scholarship Sponsor, and 0% of all other Jeskai decks also play it, so the difference = 55%). One of the reasons why we play a commander like Pramikon is because of the unique cards it’s able to make better and, as a result, the low monetary cost of a powerful deck like this.
The Celestus might not seem like a very efficient mana rock, as it costs three mana to make one mana of any color, but it does have another functionality. This crazy artifact gains life and loots whenever day changes to night or vice versa, so it can really mess with our opponents’ Werewolves, should they have any. As we'll soon learn, this is a deck that likes to dig for special cards and correctly timed answers, so I think this card is underrated for Pramikon! Ain’t it funny how the night moves?
In addition to being able to cast spells on time (or early enough in the game to still be relevant), decks need removal to be able to deal with the threats opposing decks present, as well as to be able to protect their own threats from opposing removal. In Pramikon’s case, spot removal needs to do something chaotic to play with politics and positioning or just create exciting moments.
Swords to Plowshares is considered by many to be a staple of white in Commander, enough that it is emblematic of what the color does. In our deck, it can either provide a life buffer if we are behind or a way to extract value out of something we are about to lose to, say, a Homeward Path.
Role Reversal is a unique way to remove a threat while creating a new one. It exchanges control of any two permanents that share a type in common, so we can easily turn an opponent’s threat into our own threat, or give a threat belonging to one player to another, either for political reasons or because the player who previously owned it would have made better use out of it than the player who's receiving it.
Shrewd Negotiation is an underrated option because it operates similarly to Role Reversal, but it has a strong ability to trade up in value. It exchanges an artifact for either an artifact or a creature, which is particularly powerful because it doesn't specify that the artifact exchanged is an artifact card. This allows us to trade a Treasure token, say, from Smothering Tithe, for a powerful artifact or creature from an opponent. We traded less than a card for a very powerful card? Awesome!
Most decks need plans for what to do if things get out of hand, and Pramikon, Sky Rampart is no different. Pramikon does not care if the board is wide, as long as the wide board is unable to affect us. We want our opponents to fight each other, so that our cards don't have to do as much work. The difficult part is trying to maintain control of Pramikon until we have enough resources to deal with the remaining threats. The question is, can we maneuver ourselves into a winning position while opponents are slowed down?
Fatespinner is a somewhat restrictive card; it forces each player to skip either their draw step, both main phases, or their combat step. By forcing players to choose whether to develop their board, draw a card, or attack, Fatespinner invalidates multiple cards that they would get, cast, or use. Not all board wipes or mass removal needs to actually take cards off the table. As long as they're not being used to threaten us or our position, we can deal with them later.
Whims of the Fates, meanwhile, has a Synergy Score of 58%, as it is fairly unique to Pramikon decks. It removes a third of all permanents each player controls and specifically sacrifices them, which gets around abilities such as indestructible, so even boards protected by Avacyn, Angel of Hope can be decimated. It seems fate is stronger than hope, at least in this situation.
Tyrant of Discord is a way to devastate a player's board state. It only targets a single opponent, but it repeatedly forces that player to sacrifice permanents until they hit a land. This operates at random, which works with the chaotic theme, but it could take out a bunch of permanents that the player controls! The wider the board state, the more devastating the card gets. Since the player that Pramikon lets us attack is likely protected until later in the game, they are more likely to develop a wide board, which makes him a prime target for the Tyrant!
Every deck needs card draw, selection, tutoring, or advantage, to help find the pieces it needs to transition between the phases of the game. There are always going to be spells that are better early than late, or better from ahead, or better from behind. Pramikon, Sky Rampart is a commander designed to slow the game down and do a variety of things without the commander out. As a result, we want our card draw to be repeatable and to be a mana sink, which means we can put mana into the card over the course of multiple turns to draw additional cards. In other words, it's a source of continuous advantage rather than a one-shot draw effect.
Echo of Eons is a solid wheel effect that shuffles all players’ hands and graveyards into their libraries and then allows them to draw a fresh hand. Wheel effects are inherently chaotic because they take the known information from each player and forces them to come up with new plans on the fly with completely different resources. Since the Echo has Flashback, this enables us to do this multiple times, and because it's cheaper the second time, it allows us to use it and then cast multiple spells afterwards.
Shared Fate shows up with a 54% synergy score on Pramikon’s EDHREC page. It's only played in 1% of non-Pramikon Jeskai decks, making it fairly unique to this deck, and with good reason. It's an enchantment that allows players to play cards they exiled from the tops of opponents' decks face down instead of drawing their card for the turn. This not only prevents the opponent from using certain resources, but it also enables us to use those resources against opponents, or to operate outside of our color identity.
Ardent Elementalist returns an instant or sorcery card from our graveyard to our hand. While this does not add cards from our library to our hand, it does increase the numbe of cards we have access to on a given turn. This enables us to have more options than we would have otherwise, which operates as a source of card advantage, as we get to keep the body attached to the ability.
The last major job that most decks need is a way to actually close out the game. Ramping allows you to play spells out, but can be dead draws late game. Removing threats works for a while, but with three opponents, someone’s going to stick something, and games can either stall out or develop into arms races. Card draw helps, but what are you looking to actually draw? The answer is... win conditions! Pramikon is a Wall; it sits there, preventing damage for a while, but has no inherent way to win in a 1-on-1. We’re going to need some other way to finish players off.
Approach of the Second Sun is a picture-perfect payoff for the portion of our plan that stalls out the game and uses our commander in a defensive manner to prolong the game. Approach needs to be cast twice, having been put 7 cards down in the library after the initial cast. Since we specialize in prolonging the game, we can always just stall until that point. However, if we want things to be a little bit more exciting, we can always shuffle it back in and just randomly happen to find it at a later point. After all, what's more chaotic than having a way to win and not knowing where it is?
Chaos Wand is one of my favorite crazy cards to randomly throw into a deck when I don't know what else to put in. It works particularly well in a deck that is designed to be chaotic. Chaos Wand makes an opponent exile cards from the top of their library until they exile an instant or sorcery card. It's entirely possible that this card will only ever get removal spells or other utilities like card draw, but there are always going to be opponents with spicy cards to hit, and this will always be an exciting spell to resolve!
Radiate is a dangerous card to let resolve, as it copies an instant or sorcery that only targets a single permanent or player and allows it to target each other permanent or player that spell could target. When we're giving players control of a permanent with a spell like Fractured Identity, which only involves a single target, a Radiate will make the game go WILD!
Fire on High
Let's round it out with a sample Pramikon decklist! We're focusing on doing the jobs a deck needs to function, in a way that capitalizes on the commander’s unique characteristics. It’s time to embrace the chaos!
O’er the Ramparts We Watched!View on Archidekt
Hopefully, this guide helps you to evaluate cards and use the data at hand! Results may vary, as playgroups, deck choices, and the luck of the draw can impact how games go.
Which cards overperformed for you? Which cards were overrated? Join me next time as we explore which cards are dead weight, and which cards do WORK!