Almost everyone loves Dinosaurs, Raptors most of all. So what happens when a Raptor leads your Commander deck? Veloci-Ramp-Tor is the answer. Let’s take a look at what this new pre-con brings to the table.
What’s better than one Dinosaur? It’s not a trick question as the obvious answer is two Dinosaurs! Pantlaza, Sun-Favored is easily going to turn the first Dinosaur you play each turn into a second Dinosaur. The very interesting thing about Discover, rather than Cascade, is that you can choose to put the card into your hand instead. So, if you happen to hit a removal spell when you don’t want to use, you simply don’t! Meanwhile, the other interesting thing about Pantlaza is how it interacts with a card like Wayward Swordtooth. See, while Swordtooth only costs three mana it has toughness of five, so it discovers for five! Most of your Dinosaurs are better at discovering than cascading and that is obviously intentional. So yes, Pantlaza definitely ramps your board state tremendously and it likely turns every one of the more than 30 Dinosaurs in the deck into two. This is bonkers because Pantlaza is only five mana.Wayta, Trainer Prodigy is certainly an interesting alternate commander, but it’s much more of a “win more” card than a massive enabler like Pantlaza. The fight effect and double enrage trigger are both excellent, but there are very few Dinos with keyword Enrage in the stock deck. Modifying the deck forward and adding in more Enrage abilities would certainly make for a stronger case to using Wayta, but as is, Pantlaza is just cooler and stronger.
Nifty new Cards for all Decks
While this is short of being an instant typal staple card, it’s pretty close to one. There is a large trend of making three mana rocks that have compelling abilities and Progenitor’s Icon is good. Being able to play your deck at instant speed is never a bad thing, and you can play around board wipes and sorcery speed removal most of the time. It also allows you to beat control by allowing you to cast while they are tapped out on anyone’s turn instead of just your own.
Card Draw in Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs have always had a bit of a struggle with card draw. Veloci-Ramp-Tor solves this in multiple ways. Not only does it have Commander staple cards like Return of the Wildspeaker, but it also includes the excellent Curious Altisaur. Props to Wizards for the name since Curiosity is the effect of this Dino. It’s incredibly powerful in this deck because it has five toughness so, when paired with Pantlaza, you are discovering five for only four mana. It protects, it attacks with Vigilance, it ramps and it draws cards. This is a perfect card for this deck. There is also Earthshaker Dreadmaw, but it’s a bit awkward because it only draws cards for other Dinosaurs you control. Better than nothing but way more “win more” than the Altisaur here.
Putting all your Eggs in one Basket
Magic has a rich history with interesting eggs. Triassic Egg took a bit but then cheated out a huge monster while Rukh Egg generated 4/4 tokens when sacrificed. It’s well established that Dinosaurs laid eggs and this one has an interesting mechanic. A throwback to Atla Palani, Nest Tender who generated eggs that eventually became Dinosaurs, the literal Dinosaur Egg grows larger with Evolve triggers and then, effectively, “hatches” when it dies, discovering something else.
It is a bit of a weird miss that Atla made eggs that had defender but this egg can attack. Yes, weird, but you want it to die to get value. Then again, there is something funny about potentially growing the egg so big it becomes a credible threat and you know someone is going to equip Field-Tested Frying Pan and make a joke about attacking with Jurassic breakfast.
Maybe not one Basket
An interesting take on many other abilities, for example, unearth. From the Rubble gets back your best Dinosaur at the end of turn while adding a finality counter to it. If that Dinosaur would die, it gets exiled instead because of that finality counter. Cue cards like Nesting Grounds, Fain the Broker, Hex Parasite or Power Conduit to completely remove that downside while also getting an upside, and you have a card with excellent potential. But in Veloci-Ramp-Tor as is? This gets back your best Dinosaurs until they are absolutely removed and it’s good enough here even if both high mana cost and slow. Still, not as good as some kind of board wipe prevention which the deck very much lacking except for one card.
For a deck that is all about cheating in big monsters, you also have Sunfrill Imitator at only three mana. It’s easy to cast and a 3/3 is a big enough body that it can stick around a while. It only has to stick around long enough to attack once you have a bigger Dino on the field, because then the Imitator becomes a copy of that big Dinosaur and not until end of turn. That’s right, it’s a copy until you turn it into something else, and it retains the ability.
This is very cool because you can get lots of value out of this. First, if you copy something with an attack trigger, you can attack and put that trigger on the stack while also putting the copy ability on the stack. So you turn into something even better but also get an “extra” attack trigger. At three mana, this is a bargain for this deck.
Certainly Path to Exile is a solid removal card and it is in the deck. However, Bronzebeak Foragers is a Dinosaur based version and it does quite a bit of work. Sure, it costs more mana but it hits up to three targets, and not just creatures. Furthermore, if you have the mana, you can put the exiled card into their graveyard so it won’t come back if they deal with the Foragers. For that effort, you get a little bit of life gain which is always nice. Finally, it’s a Dinosaur! So, of course, it works with your commander. All in all a good card that earns its spot for only four mana.
Naturalize? We don’t need Naturalize
Why destroy just one artifact or enchantment when you can potentially destroy three? The Scion of Calamity allows you to do just that by having both myriad and a combat damage trigger from old school EDH favorite Trygon Predator. A 5/5 body is relatively large, so it comes down to a choice of chump block or lose your artifact or enchantment. In a multiplayer game, though, it’s unlikely that everyone will always have blockers, so you’re going to be able to chip away at their permanents each and every turn. These types of effects are always better on a big Dino body, and the myriad effect automatically turns on Mosswort Bridge as just one synergistic example of many in this deck.
The Latest Wrath Card
Call me a traditionalist, but I think they should have called this “Wrath of Raptors” as a reference to WoG because this can easily clear the board or the entire game. Boros Reckoner was heavily played in Standard in its day. Spiteful Sliver is equally powerful in Sliver decks. Wrathful Red Dragon does the same for Dragon decks. Wrathful Raptors, though, are clearly better because they have Trample and they don’t fly, so you force interaction easier. When you combine this with a damage effect as part of an Enrage build, or have Wayta, Trainer Prodigy there’s little chance you aren’t winning on the spot. Funnily enough, this card was built to NOT interact with Polyraptor.
It is a literal Raptor, why is Polyraptor not in the deck? Sure, “easy” infinite combos. Right. But they just added extra turn cards in Commander Masters and Doctor Who pre-cons. Not including Sliver Hive in a Sliver deck is a pretty bad move, but not including Polyraptor in a Dinosaur based, enrage sub-theme deck that has Raptor in its name is worse in my opinion. Also, it would be the perfect time to reprint this rather unusually expensive, niche card. Yes, it got a reprint in the Special Guests slot, but c’mon.
While the deck is comprised of mostly Dinosaurs, there are a few non-Dinos mixed in. Arguably the best one? Forerunner of the Empire is both a tutor and Enrage enabler and will obviously be added into close to 100% of modified Veloci-Ramp-Tor decks, so why is not in here? Maybe Wizards has balance concerns with the level of power of pre-cons, but they are continually increasing in power and it would not be too much to include Forerunner.
While it does include an excellent and valuable reprint in Akroma’s Will it’s a bit tough to celebrate the inclusion of this particular card. Akroma’s offers game ending power if you control your commander on the offensive side. But Dinosaurs are usually pretty powerful and don’t need that much help when it comes to offense. It’s the defensive side that is lacking.
When you need something to protect your commander or not lose your board, two mana for Heroic Intervention is significantly easier than needing to keep up four mana for Akroma’s Will. It feels like this card was selected purely to fill a “valuable reprint” slot rather than a deck slot. They should have reprinted Polyraptor here and put in Heroic Intervention or Boros Charm which I’m sure many, many players will include once this deck is released.
Some Numbers, Reprint List and Looking Ahead
This deck has the most expensive cards and highest mana curve of all the Lost Caverns pre-cons. It compensates for this fact by also running the most lands at 39. The problem is, your commander doesn’t really care about land or mana to work. In this case, I feel like the land base itself probably could be significantly altered more so than the other decks. When you run cards like Descendants’ Path, it’s simply more important to have a cheap drop in play that helps you cheat out your next one.
Furthermore, there are some interesting ideas to explore because of this. Let’s say I have a 5/5 Dinosaur enter the battlefield. With the Pantlaza trigger on the stack, I respond with a Giant Growth. Now my Dino is an 8/8! So when the trigger resolves, I can discover eight instead of five. This leads to a bunch of cool ideas for the deck going forward. The end result, however, is that you cheat out big cards, so, why so many lands? I can already think of many silly combos involving Sigarda’s Aid and Colossus Hammer among other equipment and those cards only cost one.
While there are nonbos like Wakening Sun’s Avatar that is only a one sided wipe if you cast it from your hand alongside the relatively weak board protection, it’s still an interesting take on a non-mana based ramping strategy. There is a lot of potential to craft a ridiculous Dino deck built around Pantlaza and it does it in an entirely new way, as long as you consider discover different enough than cascade.
As far as this Raptor, though, it’s decidedly the most clever attempt yet to make a deck like this function.