The Definitive Guide to Velomachus in Modern: Matchups, Sideboarding, and Future Directions

velomachus lorehold mtg art

By MrRaeb

It all started with a dumb idea a few weeks ago. I looked at a Velomachus Turns list from Manacymbal and thought: “Savor the Moment looks like a bad card. Why do they not play Temporal Mastery instead?” I tested my theory in a league on Magic Online and soon found out that my theory was flawed: Temporal Mastery does not in fact work with Velomachus. Nevertheless I was able to salvage the disaster to go 4-1.

Despite that list’s flaws (of mostly my doing) I was hooked. I gave Manacymbal’s list a try with some sideboard adjustments. Well what can I say? Velomachus has treated me very well ever since. I 5-0’d the first three leagues I played with it.

Then I gave my list a try in the Modern Challenges, where, after a disappointing first attempt (3-4), I finished 2nd, 14th, and 11th.

Gameplan: the three ways to win

In general Velomachus is a combo control deck. The plan is to interact in the early turns while deploying cheap planeswalkers, then win by taking a few or just all the extra turns around turn 4-6. 

The three main routes to victory are the following:

1.     Get a Velomachus Lorehold on board, normally with Indomitable Creativity, and hitting extra turn spells off of it. Hitting the first one is very crucial. It can help having an extra turn spell in hand already because it means you can miss on the second Velomachus trigger and still win easily.

2.      Deploy an early Wrenn and Six protect it and get an ultimate to take all the turns. Getting a Wrenn ult sounds hard but is honestly happening very often with the deck. Having an ultimate by turn “5” happens quite often with a turn 2 Wrenn, because the time walk effects give us more Wrenn upticks.

3.      Control the board and out value the opponent with your planeswalkers and Dwarven Mine tokens. Eventually kill them with burn or a Velomachus attack. This plan can be much more potent post board when we have access to more removal, planeswalkers, and Emrakul as a finisher.

The big picture: strengths and weaknesses

Strengths

You want to play against decks where your removal spells matter. The various Dragon’s Rage Channeler (DRC) decks or Hammertime are good examples.

A lot of decks have a slower goldfish than us and have a hard time interacting with one of our combos. For example, Elementals has a very hard time interacting with Wrenn and Six and is therefore very weak to Wrenn’s ultimate.

Weaknesses

The blue Cascade decks (Rhinos and Living End) are very tough matchups. They can play at instant speed, have a very fast clock and have plenty of interaction for our combos. Despite us having 4 Teferi, Time Ravelers in the main deck, these decks are Velomachus’ nightmare and are the reason for about half my match losses in my Challenge runs.

The card Blood Moon hitting the board is a loss in most situations. This is just the nature of having a mana base supporting four Dwarven Mine and four colors.

Speaking of the mana base, this is definitely a weak point of the deck during early turns or mulligans. Aggressive decks like prowess are scary just because we take a lot of damage fetching and shocking.

Discard on some of our crucial spells can be back breaking. For example, if you kept a hand that relies on a turn 2 Wrenn and Six.

Mulligans

When you are looking at an opening hand you preferably want to see an Indomitable Creativity or a turn 2 Wrenn and Six. If your hand has more than 1 of the “10 Bad Cards” (more on these below) you have to have a good reason to keep. 

Count Dwarven Mine as half a land in your opener because it does not contribute towards casting your spells that well. I mulligan a lot with this deck. Going to 5 is quite normal and sometimes going even lower can pay off. I won against Amulet with a mull to 3 once (on turn 5).

The build: my card choices for the main deck

Enough beating around the bush: let’s get to my list! This would be my current non speculative list and the one I will refer to for my card choices.

The mana base

I think my mana base is the best one out there at the moment, but it feels like there is still much room for improvement. The tensions are:

– You want only Mountains to set up Creativity on Dwarven Mine on Turn 4
– You want 4 Dwarven Mines for the fair matchups
– You want enough colored sources to cast your spells
– You want to not auto-lose to Blood Moon
– You always want a fetchland alongside Wrenn

Other lists play two Stomping Grounds partially to support Veil of Summer in the side. I think the mana is just much cleaner if you build the deck as Jeskai splash Green, so 1 Stomping Ground makes a lot of sense to me, especially because we already have 5 red only sources and Stomping Ground is basically just that for any non-Wrenn card in the deck.

Having two basics to make Prismatic Ending an out to Blood Moon feels necessary, but you rarely want to play a basic before turn 5 in most matchups. The Island adds some value in the main because we need to have double blue. I like the Plains in the sideboard because it makes our sideboard options more likely to deal with a Blood Moon and gives us freedom to tap out when it is in play.

The win cons

Wrenn and Six is the best card in the deck. Playing time walks makes them an even more potent threat than they would be in other decks. They often win me the game if people are too focused on trying to deny me a Velomachus.

Wrenn and Six is the best card in the deck.

Indomitable Creativity is here to get Velomachus to combo off. Post board it can get Emrakul vs Unholy Heat decks. Overall, just a much more powerful and versatile spell than one might expect. Targeting an artifact gets you around a lot of removal and targeting multiple Dwarves plays around one removal spell. You can also target opposing problematic permanents while going for Velomachus, like Murktide Regent, Void Mirror, or Drannith Magistrate.

The extra turn package, also known as the 10 Bad Cards

These cards we do not want to see in our opener in most cases, and are the reason we mull a LOT with this deck. Most 7 card hands with 2 of those are clear mulligans.

Time Warp is the best extra turn spell we have access to. It’s the best hit off of Velomachus and enables Wrenn and Six to win by accelerating their ultimate. It is also the best spell to play with the ultimate.

Savor the Moment is a necessary evil in the deck to make Velomachus the reliable win con we want him to be. Still the card is a decent follow up to a turn 2 Wrenn and Six and can ramp us into a hard cast Velomachus. In general you should not be reluctant to use this card as a bad Explore if you have to. After all, sometimes a Dwarf on turn 3 is all you need to survive.

Velomachus is here to take turns, but 1-2 turns are normally enough to kill the opponent. As I talked about before, the first hit is crucial. We hit a time walk effect about 68% of the time on average. Still Velomachus does not only hit those cards: sometimes a Lightning Bolt or a Prismari Command is plenty.

The role players

Teferi, Time Raveler is just a powerful standalone card that protects our Creativity target from removal. This tool is especially needed in matchups that have access to Solitude. He also works well with our backup game plan of value planeswalkers.

Prismari Command is the glue that holds the deck together. It gets rid of extra lands we got with Wrenn, makes an artifact for Creativity and gets us closer to our combo. Also Command is a great interactive vs the various Urza’s Saga decks.

The Removal

Lightning Bolt or Prismatic Ending into Wrenn and Six is generally the best start you can imagine with this deck. Besides the obvious, Lightning Bolt works decently with Velomachus at killing the opponent and is sometimes the win con with a Wrenn ultimate.

Prismatic Ending might just be the new best removal spell we have in Modern. It is just that good. Even only hitting an Ending with Velo can be decent at times vs things like a Construct token or a Memnite with a Colossus Hammer on it.

Prismatic Ending might just be the new best removal spell we have in Modern.

The flex slots

These are here to complement my Sideboard plans while not being embarrassing main deck cards.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is basically here to turn all that work Wrenn does into actual gold. The +2 is very rarely a good idea because of Unholy Heat.

Spell Pierce is great tool to have access to right now. Some great targets include Colossus Hammer, Sigarda’s Aid, Expressive Iteration and the Cascade hits.

Notable omissions from the main

I feel Hard Evidence improves the matchups we are already good against (DRC decks) and does not help vs the decks we struggle against like the blue Cascade variants. Still, Hard Evidence is definitely a great tool if Monastery Swiftspear decks would become more popular again.

Remand does not feel at home in this deck. We mostly want to play at sorcery speed. Maindecking Remand would help vs the Cascade deck but would make us worse overall vs this hyper mana efficient metagame we are in.

Multiple people are currently experimenting with cutting the Velomachus extra turn package for Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and more interaction. I am intrigued but I am not sold yet. You give up a lot against decks you need to be fast against, and Wrenn and Six would no longer be the reliable win con that they are with Time Warp in the deck.

General sideboarding strategy

This is where the fun begins and where a lot of my edge came from during my Challenge runs.

Post board we have access to two different decks.

The first one is a control deck that has Creativity into Emrakul as a finisher. We accomplish this by cutting the whole extra turns package and board into interactive cards and planeswalkers.

This control plan is necessary to beat all those DRC decks running around. You cannot rely on Velomachus getting there simply because those decks play Unholy Heat alongside a bunch of other interaction. Getting to cut the whole extra turn package makes us a much more potent control deck that goes over the top of them. They simply cannot tap out because they just die to an Emrakul on board.

So if you want to change cards in my sideboard you have to keep in mind that we will want to cut 8 cards (2 Time Warps are fine to keep) vs the Unholy Heat decks.

Post board we have access to two different decks. The first one is a control deck that has Creativity into Emrakul as a finisher.

The other deck we have access to is the one we played in game 1 with some sideboard adjustments. In general we want to keep in the Velomachus extra turn plan against the following:

  1. Decks we have to race with the combo (e.g. Amulet Titan)
  2. Decks which can answer an on board Emrakul (e.g. Solitude, Living End, or Teferi, Time Raveler)
  3. Decks which can easily kill us after passing with an Emrakul on board (e.g. Hammertime)

My card choices for the sideboard

The fair package

Celestial Purge is here to be a catchall card vs the various threats from the various DRC decks. Purge is our main answer to a Blood Moon. I like this card because it is just a good card in general vs the Moon decks. That way we never get stuck on answers for Moon, especially against Rakdos which can pick apart our hand.

Timely Reinforcements is a card that adds a lot of value in one sideboard slot. I like to board it in vs most midrange-centric DRC builds just to gain some extra bodies. Having bodies to threaten a game ending Indomitable Creativity or just to attack is something this deck wants. We are also weak to aggressive decks like Prowess or Burn just based on our mana base, so the life gain helps a lot there.

Flusterstorm is here mainly for the Cascade decks but also plays an important role vs the DRC decks by sniping Expressive Iteration, protecting Wrenn from discard, or even protecting the combo from a removal spell. Especially something like a Kolaghan’s Command on a Treasure we targeted with Indomitable Creativity is vulnerable to a Flusterstorm.

The card advantage / finishers

I touched on Emrakul, the Aeons Torn enough already. Just beware that Emrakul is not always the end all be all. For example, the new Grixis Lurrus control lists run a few Seal of Removal.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is just a great fit for the deck. Nahiri, the Harbinger is partially here as a hedge to Blood Moon. Also having an immediate board impact that is card advantage is nice to have in many spots.

In general I feel down on the planeswalkers and would advise rethinking what we want to play in those card advantage slots. It felt to me that they just don’t gain enough card advantage vs all those Unholy Heat Kolaghans’ Command decks. I will present some alternatives in the possible inclusions category below.

Specific Tools

Alpine Moon is a great answer to Urza’s Saga. I like to have access to two of them because Saga is normally their best hope to grind us out of interaction.

Plains makes Prismatic ending a semi-realistic answer to Blood Moon and allows us to play Celestial Purge and Nahiri under a Moon. I normally bring it in for the Mountain.

Notable Omissions

Wear/Tear is definitely good vs Hammer and other Saga decks. But we already have a great 3 mana card for them in Prismari Command. Therefore I prefer the cheaper alternative in Alpine Moon.

I do not want to trade down with Aether Gust and that’s what we would do a lot in the current format. The card is basically only good vs Crashing Footfalls and some madmen still playing Amulet. If they were somehow in my board I would board them in for potential Blood Moons but I think Purge is the much better card for that role.

I don’t think Veil of Summer is what this deck wants. Yes it’s great vs discard and counters, but our sideboard slots are too precious to waste on this utility card that we would need to stretch our mana base for. I think Flusterstorm is about as good in this role while also helping us improve one of our worst matchups in cascade. Also most removal is not black anymore so Veil of Summer does not help protecting our Creativity targets.

Mystical Dispute is in a similar spot to Veil. Yes it can deal with a Murktide Regent, but that’s not a card we are particularly scared of. We have plenty of answers in Teferi, Time Raveler and Indomitable Creativity. Also our finisher of choice Emrakul does not care about little Murky.

Possible Inclusions

Test of Talents is a hammer to beat the cascade decks, at least in theory. I played it in my list last Saturday but never played vs Cascade. The problem is that it does not have many uses besides Cascade.

For the card advantage / threat slot I have a lot of things I want to try out. These are mostly cards that dodge Kolaghan’s Command and Unholy Heat:

The only one I already played that might be a good inclusion is Shark Typhoon. The problem is that most of the time you will have to make a medium sized creature with it. That’s fine and all but a 2 for 1 is not going to cut it vs the K-Command, Snapcaster Mage, Expressive Iteration deck.

Speaking of Expressive Iteration, this card could just be the solution for the sideboard. I am unsure how well that card would work in our post board control build given that our only proactive plays are Wrenn, Teferi, and Indomitable Creativity and that we are not as hungry for lands with 4 Wrenns in our deck.

Search for Azcanta could even earn a main deck slot. The main downsides are being weak to graveyard hate, being slow at gaining actual advantage, and adding to our weakness to Blood Moon.

Felidar Retreat is a great threat with Wrenn and Six but only starts producing value on turn 5. It also does not do much if we are being attacked by a DRC.

Moderation could be a great game plan once we cut Velomachus for Emrakul. It could be pretty great with Time Warp still in our deck.

Trade Routes does a lot our deck wants from this slot. It gets rid of extra lands and lets us get more Dwarves. I fear the card is a bit too weak overall to warrant an inclusion.

Sideboarding Guide

Let’s be honest, my list is already outdated so there will be no card for card guide. I will just talk about the popular decks and my plans against them.

Hammertime is by far our best matchup among top tier decks. I like to keep the Velomachus angle vs them because outside of a couple Path to Exiles they are very weak to it. Spell pierce is nice here and Timely Reinforcements is fine. Teferi is likely our weakest card, although it’s not bad to leave in some to protect from Path to Exile and bounce Urza’s Sagas or it’s tokens.

Izzet Murktide is in my experience a good matchup. Take out the entire Velomachus angle and bring in the fair cards including all the Flusterstorms. I like to use Flusterstorms on Expressive Iterations a lot in this matchup, and sometimes even on cantrips. 

In general, try to keep them on a low land count and pounce with Indomitable Creativity as soon as you spot a weakness. They are not prepared for us just targeting a Treasure token with Creativity, so getting one with Prismari Command is quite important to dodge removal altogether. Don’t be afraid to just -3 a resolved Teferi, Time Raveler if you need the card from it and expect them to have an Unholy Heat.

Hammertime is by far our best matchup among top tier decks.

Rakdos Midrange is a similar beast to Izzet. I like Flusterstorm here for different reasons but I would just play 2. We want it mostly to protect a turn 1 Wrenn from discard and protect an Indomitable Creativity target from K-Command. Having about 2 Time Warps is fine here just as free cantrips after turn 5 that also make Wrenn and Six a much bigger threat.

Grixis Control is a tougher matchup than Izzet or Rakdos. We still want to play Emrakul over Velomachus, but Seal of Removal and K-Command are problematic cards for our Emrakul plan. In general I think trying to cheese them with an early Emrakul might just be our best way to win. Having non-planeswalker engine cards would definitely help here.

Crashing Footfalls (Rhinos) and Living End might be our worst matchups. Our best bet is to somehow counter all their cascade spells or cheese them with a Velomachus. Both scenarios seem very tall orders to accomplish.

Elementals is a weird matchup. Wrenn and Teferi are our best cards by far. They struggle to pressure early planeswalkers and we want to abuse their weakness. In general we either win with a Wrenn ultimate, or Creativity for Velomachus with a Teferi on the board. This whole matchup revolves around Solitude, so having a Teferi in play is key before going for it.

Mill is the only matchup I would keep both the Velomachus package in as well as board in the Emrakul. The reason is that they actively want to exile the Emrakul from our deck, and that would remove our only wincon. Resolving a Teferi is very important here because it denies them a window to use Surgical Extraction on the Emrakul once they hit it.

More content on Velomachus

I went over all the matches I played during my Finals run in great detail with Ekeross. At the start I quickly go over my list and in the end I discuss my differences from Manacymbal’s list.

For the early history of the deck, Manacymbal has a great writeup on this very website:

You can also check out Manacymbal (https://www.twitch.tv/manacymbal) and Zan Syed (https://www.twitch.tv/zansyed) on Twitch as they both work on their next evolutions on the Creativity shell.

Closing words

I felt a bit let down by Velomachus recently and even played something else for last Sunday’s events. It felt to me that the plan of getting an Emrakul in play vs the fair decks was not realistic anymore in a sea of Kolaghan’s Commands.

The results of the Sunday PTQ proved me wrong and two Creativity decks made top 8.

So, fueled, by new hope I am excited to try out these versions sometime this week:

Well writing this was a lot of fun but also quite a lot of work! 

If you enjoyed my little write up give me a follow on Twitter (@MrRaeb) and Twitch (twitch.tv/MrRaeb).

My plan is to stream the aforementioned lists this Friday.

Have a great time everyone and remember to take all the turns!

David aka MrRaeb discovered Magic from his Boy Scout friends during Mirrodin and used to play mostly just during Scout camps. Since Theros he found an outlet for brewing in Magic Online. Some of his most famous brews include Platinum Pact for Glory and Sultai Ninjas. Nowadays David is trying to attack the Modern metagame by brewing his own lists or working on existing shells with his own approach to deck building. He found some success with this approach making several Top 8’s in Magic Online tournaments during the last two years, including a Showcase Top 8 with his own Sultai Urza creation.

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MrRaeb

David aka MrRaeb discovered Magic from his Boy Scout friends during Mirrodin and used to play mostly just during Scout camps. Since Theros he found an outlet for brewing in Magic Online. Some of his most famous brews include Platinum Pact for Glory and Sultai Ninjas. Nowadays David is trying to attack the modern metagame by brewing his own lists or work on existing shells with his own approach to deck building. He found some success with this approach making several top 8's in online tournaments during the last two years including a Showcase top 8 with his own Sultai Urza creation.