Almost There: Temur Dinosaurs

Posted in How to Build on January 26, 2018

By Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Paulo has been playing Magic since he was eight years old. At fifteen, he ventured outside of Brazil for his first international tournament, and he's been globetrotting as a professional player ever since.

With the release of Rivals of Ixalan and the latest batch of Standard bans, tribal decks finally have the room to grow in Standard. One interesting tribal build that performed well but didn't quite get there is the one Sean Joyce piloted to a 7th-place finish at last weekend's Standard Classic: Temur Dinosaurs.

Sean Joyce's Temur Dinosaurs

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This is a more top-heavy take on Dinosaurs, focused on not dying early and winning the mid-to-late game. It has three main differences from other common Dinosaur builds that make it noteworthy.

First, it has four main-deck copies of Sweltering Suns. Whereas other builds might have cards like Otepec Huntmaster to create more aggressive draws, Sean has Sweltering Suns to make sure he doesn't die to his opponent's aggressive draws instead. In a world where people are trying to play with Merfolk and Vampires, two tribes that attempt to flood the board with small creatures and then complement them with lords, the ability to clear everything for only three mana is very powerful.

Playing four copies of Sweltering Suns in your deck makes you worse against other slower decks, but that's where Sean's second modification comes in—the addition of blue. White sweepers like Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage are the bane of Red-Green Dinosaurs, and splashing for counterspells and cheap planeswalkers is an elegant solution to this problem. Admiral's Order is particularly nice, since it will always counter Settle the Wreckage for one mana. Between Drover of the Mighty, Thunderherd Migration, Commune with Dinosaurs, and all the dual lands, the cost of splashing blue is low. In the current Standard metagame, I think tuning your deck to beat aggro and then sideboarding in answers to control is the correct approach.

The one thing I would change about the deck is that I would take this philosophy even further and move the Nissas to the sideboard. In a field of control, I think Nissa can be a good main-deck card, but from what I've seen so far, I'd say the metagame is more skewed toward aggro. Mardu, Vampires, Merfolk, and all variations of red aggressive decks are quite common, and Nissa is a liability against them. I would rather tune my deck to beat aggro Game 1 and then dedicate my sideboard to beating control, rather than trying to do half-and-half.

The final difference between this deck and other Dinosaur builds is that it contains four copies of Ghalta, Primal Hunger. When it's in play, Ghalta's power cannot be overstated. It attacks through anything, is virtually impossible to kill with any sort of damage spell (including Harnessed Lightning), and wins the game in two hits. If you're paying five or six mana for it, that's a steal. The issue is making sure that you are paying five or six mana for it consistently.

The best card to power up Ghalta is Regisaur Alpha. If you play Regisaur Alpha on turn five, you can untap on turn six and immediately follow it up with a hasty 12/12, even if you don't have a sixth land. Then you can attack for 19, which is usually lethal because you attacked for 3 the previous turn. Another common sequence is turn-two Drover of the Mighty, turn-three Ripjaw Raptor, turn-four Ghalta, which also lets you win on turn five.

That said, I think four copies of the card is too many, because the more Ghaltas you have, the less likely you are to be able to cast them. As an example, if you have seven mana and two Ghaltas, you cast nothing, whereas if you have seven mana, a 5/5, and a Ghalta, you can actually cast both. It's a card that really punishes you for drawing multiples. Given that you also have Commune with Dinosaurs to find them, I think two copies is enough.

Instead of Nissa and two Ghaltas, I'd try to fit in more removal and some copies of Ranging Raptors. Ranging Raptors is an excellent defensive creature, and it helps you ramp to your bigger spells without having to worry that it dies to Sweltering Suns. It's also an excellent target for Reckless Rage, which I'm adding a fourth copy of to help deal with Glorybringer and Heart of Kiran. Finally, it helps you cast Ghalta just by being in play; Ripjaw Raptor alone makes Ghalta cost eight, which is a lot, but Ripjaw Raptor plus Ranging Raptors means it costs six, which is much more manageable.

This is what my build would look like:

PVDDR's Temur Dinosaurs

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