Velomachus Lorehold is just so cool that I want to show the Elder Dragon some love early on in Strixhaven preview season. You’ll undoubtedly get more measured analysis of staples from other folks, but I’m always happy to be here and put some nonsense on your radar.
Velomachus basically begs to be cheated onto the battlefield, whether through reanimation or, as featured today, Polymorph-like effects like Transmogrify. Velomachus is a large threat that recoups a massive amount of the initial investment by dealing a bunch of damage and being a sizable defender. It also has a notable triggered ability:
This ability asks potentially a handful of things from you:
- You need instants and sorceries in your deck, ideally costing five or less.
- In a perfect world, you want to either repeatedly protect Velomachus, get extra combat steps, or take extra turns.
- Velomachus scales off its power. It is possible to go harder with the ceiling of its ability by increasing the Elder Dragon’s power.
- Finally, you probably want hard-casting Velomachus as a backup plan.
The Transmogrify plan demands token producers in your deck and you naturally become more susceptible to spot removal and a bevy of other pieces of interaction. The question is whether the juice is worth the squeeze. In Standard, I’m not so sure, but Velomachus’s potential in Historic is off the charts, not only from the generally larger card pool but the power of Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive cards.
Hold that thought a moment. Let’s start with Standard.
As a quick note, I’ll be including some light suggestions for The Raven’s Warning in these upcoming decks. The Saga is an excellent supplement to the strategy, giving you some additional redundancy on your combo as well as providing a token, but I’m not confident you want a ton of copies and its “tutor” mode is awkward enough that you may not want to invest in a ton of scaffolding to get yourself out of every situation. Of course, you can go wild with Best-of-One.
There are three somewhat disparate strategies jammed together here:
- Jeskai tokens: a bunch of ways to go wide and naturally pressure an opponent.
- Transmogrify Control: using Velomachus as a way to get card advantage, sweep the battlefield with Storm’s Wrath, and pressure the opponent’s life total in conjunction with the aforementioned tokens.
- Alrund’s Epiphany combo.
Alrund’s Epiphany in a vacuum is one of the strongest cards in Kaldheim and taking extra turns with Velomachus has to be one of the most powerful interactions with the card, representing tons of additional damage and a card advantage snowball. Is cheating Velomachus’s restriction by increasing its power worth it? It might just be.
The Royal Scions and Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis both contribute to the tokens gameplan. The Royal Scions triggers Improbable Alliance every turn, while Elspeth naturally produces tokens, and both planeswalkers critically get Velomachus up to seven power. If Velomachus hits an Alrund’s Epiphany, that will often just end the game on the spot with seven damage the turn you cast an Epiphany, followed by nine damage the following turn with the contribution from the Birds. The Royal Scions also naturally play well with Alrund’s Epiphany with its fast ultimate.
In many ways I suspect this deck to play out more aggressively than it might look at first glance. You have a lot of ways to get on the battlefield early and try to force the opponent into a squeeze: deal with my growing battlefield and have a shields-down moment where it’s time to pounce with Transmogrify, or get beaten down by the wide elements.
Admittedly, there are a lot of required moving parts here. The question is, what’s the overall sacrifice in card quality for these additional angles in your controlling combo deck? It’s hard to say, but the answer could very well be “not that much.” Even just naturally, curving Alrund’s Epiphany into Velomachus is nothing to scoff at; it’s a ton of pressure that can easily clean up opposing battlefields by hitting a removal spell.
There’s also of course the rest of Strixhaven to consider. Lorehold Command was one of my last cuts for this deck today, but of course there’s a lot to like there between it making a token itself and being a healthy defensive option with its Lightning Helix mode. While the ability is in some ways restrictive between capping cost and requiring an instant or sorcery, there very well could be additional attractive options for Velomachus in the rest of Strixhaven.
Before we get to my Historic decklist, it’s worthwhile to just take a moment and talk about the impact of Strixhaven’s Mystical Archive bonus sheet.
There’s just so much here to unpack. I suspect you’ll be getting a ton of content from SCG creators about new decks to try and additional strategies to explore. With the likes of Mind’s Desire, Faithless Looting, Tainted Pact, Time Warp, Brainstorm, and Inquisition of Kozilek entering the arena (heh) alongside many other staple effects and potential build-arounds, Historic will not be the same.
I use that as a preface to note that I think the deck I’m presenting to you with Velomachus both looks extremely strong and I truly have no idea what its level of competitiveness will be. We are entering an era for Historic where the shake-up far exceeds anything we’ve seen before, including Muxus, Goblin Grandee from Jumpstart or Thoughtseize from Amonkhet Remastered.
It’s about to get really wild.
The gameplan is to get the Elder Dragon onto the battlefield on Turn 4, hit a Time Warp, and then do it again and again until your opponent dies, with Mizzix’s Mastery offering additional redundancy once there is a copy of the extra-turn spell in your graveyard.
Brainstorm is nicely supported by The Birth of Meletis and Transmogrify, meaning this deck is actually poised to be one of the stronger decks for actually leveraging the ceiling on Brainstorm, as it is fairly difficult to come across shuffle pseudo-shuffle effects in Historic.
Memory Lapse is about to mana screw a new generation of players. It is incredibly powerful when you’re working towards something proactive, and we could easily want the full four copies. Electrolyze rounds out the Mystical Archive cards present in the maindeck, while a copy of Teferi’s Protection makes sense to me as a target for The Raven’s Warning.
Between Mizzix’s Mastery and Time Warp, any amount of pressure coming from Shark Typhoon alone could be enough to quickly close games, giving me the impression that this deck has a lot of potential. You could even go a lot harder on the burn route with more copies of Electrolyze and Lightning Helix, evoking a bit of an old-school Modern Jeskai Control vibe.
For now though, we’re still including more answers to Grafdigger’s Cage with more copies of Abrade and a singleton Prismari Command. The powerful hate card unfortunately does splash damage our strategy, shutting down both Transmogrify and Velomachus’s attack trigger.
Velomachus + Time Warp is messed up, but ultimately the question is, what else has gotten an incredible shot in the arm due to Strixhaven’s unprecedented impact on Historic?
I’ve actively explored one unfair angle of Velomachus, but Reanimator is also an option, and the ability to get so much back the turn you cast the Elder Dragon means that this type of strategy has more legs than usual with cards that won’t stay dead forever.
There are four more Elder Dragons in the set, a cycle of Commands, and a host of other awesome tropes and gold cards. I continue to get excited about Strixhaven, and there are plenty more awesome cards to check out as preview season unfolds and the writers here break down their applications in every format.