First, a small disclaimer. I was looking forward to the Dinosaur heavy Veloci-Ramp-Tor deck the most out of all The Lost Caverns of Ixalan decks. Because of this, I had expectations, some might say high expectations. Would the deck live up to those expectations? Could the deck live up to them? Is it just another pre-con from a new set? I’m happy to say this deck blew away my expectations.
The Perfect Commander
When Wizards started making Commander-specific decks, many of them were hit or miss both on the deck level, and the individual commander level. Some decks were just bad, but some were decent enough if you used a different included commander. In the last year, however, vastly more pre-cons than usual are thoroughly well made and almost always want to use the default commander to maximize the deck mechanic. Pantlaza, Sun-Favored and Discover are simply too good not to use and make an insane amount of Dinosaurs for a very limited amount of mana. There have been many comparisons to Cascade for obvious reasons, but Discover is truly neither better nor worse, just different.
Discover vs Cascade
One game I Discovered into Path to Exile and there was nothing worth removing so I put it into my hand instead. Cascading into Path would have been very bad in that case, ramping an opponent for virtually negative value. Point for Discover.
Sometimes, you run into an effect like Rule of Law or Void Mirror. Gee, Cascade is really bad there, but you can just put the card into your hand with Discover. Another point to Discover.
What about creating a game ending one card combo that automatically happens because of deck creation? Cascade does that and Discover does not. So you see, that’s not really a “point” so to speak for Cascade, it’s more of an analysis that while the two mechanics look very alike, the purpose of one can be drastically different from the other. Cascade just to get two cards value off one spell is closer to Discover, and in that sense, Discover is way better. But you cannot do some of the truly degenerate things that Cascade enables with Discover. All that being said, Pantlaza works very well with Discover and getting Double Dinosaurs for one low cost is busted.
What About Fighting?
I was happy to see Wayta, Trainer Prodigy any time she showed up. Dinosaurs seldom lose fights, and the few enrage Dinosaurs that the deck includes get double value. You can generate a massive board advantage with Wayta and Bellowing Aegisaur! The thing is, having a three mana version of Ulvenwald Tracker is not that exciting with this deck. After playing with Pantlaza as the commander, Wayta just seems so underwhelming. A double Dinosaur turn three or turn four is quite normal with Pantlaza. Meanwhile you’re maybe killing an Esper Sentinel or Birds of Paradise with Wayta instead of playing your first Dinosaur? For another deck, this is a great potential commande,r but here it’s just barely in the “nice to have” zone. As is, the deck has just exactly the correct amount of Dinosaurs to make Pantlaza work and turning a couple of non-Dinos into better cards makes the deck even better. Wayta likely gets cut from a lot of versions of the deck going forward.
The Best Worst Card in the Deck
As the most valuable card in the deck, I expected Akroma’s Will to do some of the heavy lifting when it came to winning games. Turns out about 50% of the time, it is the best card in the deck. After one or two turns of extra Dinosaurs from Pantlaza, you are praying that you draw Akroma’s to maintain your board. Keeping four mana open makes the deck slow down quite a bit, but losing your entire board slows you down even more. You have to do a bit of an awkward dance, and the risk/reward of losing what you’ve built is heavily stacked against risking it. If the deck has an Achilles’ heel, it’s board wipes, and most Kindred decks are in the same boat. Here, you wished the base deck included more protection not only for your entire board, but also Pantlaza as well. That’s the area where Akroma’s is lacking.
On the game-ending side, though, Akroma’s is more than enough. Typical effects like Return of the Wildspeaker, which is in the deck, is five mana. Akroma’s is an absolute bargain at only four and gives so much value, mostly from double strike and protection, that it enables game ending levels of damage to multiple players. As a protection spell it’s very mid. As a finisher, it’s crazy powerful.
There is absolutely zero question in my mind that Ephemerate is the absolute best single card to add to Veloci-Ramp-Tor. It saves Pantlaza and gives you not one but two enters the battlefield triggers, one now one later, for the unbelievable cost of only one white mana. You’re essentially “scamming” and we all know how good that is! For around $1, you cannot go wrong with this upgrade.
Now, there are other good flicker effects like Cloudshift, Teleportation Circle and Eerie Interlude and I personally will be playing all of them because I greatly enjoy triggering Pantlaza every turn and having protection for my cards when needed.
When I originally previewed the deck, I thought there would be room for more protection cards like Heroic Intervention and Boros Charm but now, after playing it several times, I think those cards are less relevant.
Number one, they don’t stop certain commonly played effects like Cyclonic Rift, Toxic Deluge or mass sacrifice effects. Eerie Interlude and Semester’s End do, though. Secondly, those provide a massive power boost from additional ETB triggers. Finally, you have ultra efficient one mana flickers against single target removal. It’s hard to argue against playing the best of both worlds.
That being said, you have to do your best to maintain a critical mass of Dinosaur cards to make Pantlaza work. Luckily there is no shortage of those to be added!
Ghalta, Primal Hunger is an unreal two mana practically every time, yet it Discovers 12. Sign me up! In nearly the same way Thrasta, Tempest’s Roar can also get to just two mana during a turn that you Discover and flicker to Discover again. Two mana Discover seven, trample, haste hexproof this turn, not bad.
You cannot go wrong with any number of other huge Dinosaurs like Ghalta and Mavren, Tyrannax Rex or Etali, Primal Conqueror. It’s important to keep your Dino count high and bigger Dinosaurs Discover far better than little ones.
Anthem Effects Boost Discover
The single best scaling anthem effect is found in Door of Destinies, which would at first thought, seem strange. Why would you want to make your already large Dinosaurs bigger? The fact is, this allows even your small Dinos to Discover into your larger ones. Furthermore, every time you blink Pantlaza, you can Discover again and add yet another charge counter if you cast a Dinosaur. This is unreal scaling. Everything you do adds another Dinosaur to the table, making all Dinos bigger. I don’t think you need lots of effects to make this worthwhile, just the best one.
The Tutor you Didn’t Think About
Sure, everyone is going to recommend Worldly Tutor to let you stack your deck for Discover triggers, and that’s nice. But Congregation at Dawn combined with blink effects lets you triple stack your deck! You can quite easily go from draw step medium size Dino into bigger Dino and then end of turn effect like Conjurer’s Closet to get a super sized Dino. Of course, this card also combos with certain game ending pieces like Polyraptor and Forerunner of the Empire. If that’s how you want to build your deck, by all means and I think Congregation is also great in that version of the deck.
What to Remove?
It feels very safe to remove most of the non-Dinosaur creatures like Ixalli’s Lorekeeper or Drover of the Mighty which are pretty bad Discover hits and only generally good on turns one and two. You can certainly remove Wayta because it’s not a deck defining card as it stands. As a counter example, at least a card like Explore always has a bit of value even late game because it ramps early and gets you to the next card late, but these little non-Dinos don’t.
Atzocan Seer, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary and Rishkar’s Expertise are all worse than a one mana flicker effect that can save you and ramp you. Flickers equal Discover triggers which equal drawing. They are ultra mana efficient compared to some of the clunkier cards in the deck, and are simply better replacements all told. Also, many of the only somewhat decent Dinosaurs can be replaced by either Changelings or straight up better Dinosaurs.
It’s really hard for anything in a Kindred deck to be better than Realmwalker at three mana, but with Discover it’s just that much better. It’s hard to keep recommending the same cards but some are the best possible fit.
Final Thoughts on Veloci-Ramp-Tor
This deck is well worth the money and I did not regret purchasing it one bit. My games were fun, even the games I lost. Making tons of huge Dinosaurs at instant speed, practically every turn is hilarious, very nearly a meme. But the deck is also powerful!
You pay six mana and sometimes get twenty power/toughness for it which is on another level for a pre-con. If you love making lots of big creatures quickly, this is the deck for you. On another note, it’s a surprisingly resilient creature based deck as well. Sure, it’s way better to have a way to address a board wipe, but as long as you can recast Pantlaza, you can rebuild fairly quickly. While the other Caverns decks do have some cool ideas and great cards, this one is by far the one that can easily appeal to the most number of players. Don’t wait 65 million years, if you can only get one of these decks this is the one I’d pick hands down.