How to Build Dinosaurs

Posted in How to Build on September 29, 2017

By Quinn Murphy

Quinn has been fascinated with Magic ever since Revised Edition. When he is not spending time with his lovely wife and amazing son, he's constantly brewing decks for, playing, and writing about Magic.

Before Ixalan, the total count of Dinosaurs in Magic overall was two. Now that we've arrived on Ixalan's shores, that number has increased by 38—not including the creatures that have now had Dinosaur retroactively added to their creature types! That's a big bump for a creature type, and to have it all in one set means there are plenty of options for using a creature tribe in Standard.

Ixalan's Dinosaurs range from the aggressive Raptors to the powerful Avatars. Dinosaurs can be ridden or worshipped and have a great range of both synergistic and independently powerful cards. We'll look at these characteristics in detail while also looking at some deck concepts we can build.

Every Shape, Color, Size

Ixalan's Dinosaurs come in come in the Naya colors: red, green, and white.

Red Dinosaurs are generally the lowest toughness and highest power. You'll find aggressive attackers like Nest Robbers and Rampaging Ferocidon in this color.

Green Dinosaurs are the biggest, and have some of the best abilities and power/toughness rates for cost. From the high-value Deathgorge Scavenger and Ripjaw Raptor to the nigh-impossible to stop Carnage Tyrant, green's Dinosaurs are the beefiest (but most expensive to cast) of the bunch.

White Dinosaurs tend to focus on defense capabilities such as tapping other creatures. All flying Dinosaurs are in white (though Sky Terror is part red).

You can easily build a Dinosaur deck by pairing any two colors, but there is little reason not to do three-color Dinosaur builds.

With cards like Drover of the Mighty, Channeler Initiate, Pillar of Origins, Unclaimed Territory, and Attune to Aether in Standard, it's not hard to get the mana you need to play the best Dinosaurs from each color.

Deck Concept: Naya Dinosaurs

  • Otepec Huntmaster
  • Drover of the Mighty
  • Huatli, Warrior Poet
  • Deathgorge Scavenger
  • Ripjaw Raptor
  • Gishath, Sun's Avatar
  • Carnage Tyrant

Use mana creatures to ramp into playing Ripjaw Raptor, Regisaur Alpha, and Carnage Tyrant early. Huatli, Warrior Poet and Gishath, Sun's Avatar support and sustain the assault. Savage Stomp and Pounce can trigger enrage and give you a way to clear the field.

Built to Fight

Enrage is the definitive Dinosaur ability. When certain Dinosaurs take damage, they don't take it quietly; they get mad and storm on through.

Enrage abilities trigger when a creature takes damage. This ability means that Dinosaurs are encouraged to fight in every way they can, whether through attacking and blocking during combat or using actual "fight" cards like Savage Stomp.

Direct damage triggers enrage as well. It's a great benefit to be able to fetch a land when an opponent hits a Ranging Raptors with Lightning Strike. Additionally, Ixalan makes available several direct-damage spells almost tailor-made for enraging your dinos.

Raging Swordtooth is a creature that can trigger multiple enrage abilities at once.

Rile replaces itself, gives a creature trample, and is cheap to cast, while Dual Shot and Slash of Talons present versatile options that can be used against enemy creatures as well as your own.

Ready for Ramp

With the ability to play accelerators starting from turn one, Dinosaurs are built to ramp into their larger threats. The largest Dinosaurs that you want to cast are between six and eight mana, which you can easily get to in the first few turns. Being able to consistently cast Carnage Tyrant on the fourth turn followed by more large threats can snowball pressure against your opponent.

One of the questions to ask is whether to use Dinosaur cost reduction or creatures that provide extra mana. Cost reduction has the benefit that it can be played as soon as turn one (if using Kinjalli's Caller) and scales very well when casting multiple Dinosaurs in a turn.

Using mana creatures like Channeler Initiate or Drover of the Mighty is advantageous in that you can use it to cast non-Dinosaur cards quickly as well. You might want to ramp into Chandra, Torch of Defiance, in which case Kinjalli's Caller can't help.

Deck Concept: Red-Green Dinosaurs

  • Drover of the Mighty
  • Channeler Initiate
  • Chandra, Torch of Defiance
  • Walking Ballista
  • Carnage Tyrant
  • Thundering Spineback
  • Rhonas the Indomitable

Using mana creatures, ramp into the larger creatures of the Dinosaur spectrum. Use Chandra, Torch of Defiance for even more ramp, and sink extra mana into Thundering Spineback, Rhonas the Indomitable, and Walking Ballista.

Friends of Dinosaurs

One of the coolest things about Dinosaurs is that they have many other creatures that "pair" with them as riders or worshippers.

"Riders" include cards like:

 

These cards tend to be Knights that get buffs from the presence of another Dinosaur you control on the battlefield.

"Worshippers" include card like:

 
 

Worshippers are Shamans, Clerics, or Druids who lower the cost of Dinosaurs and possibly offer another augment or ability to Dinosaurs.

Drover of the Mighty is the best of both these worlds, offering extra mana and becoming a 3/3 attacker when a Dinosaur is under your control.

Many riders and worshippers have converted mana costs in the 1–2 range. There are no Dinosaurs with a cost of one in Ixalan and only a few that cost two. You can use these cards to start an aggressive attack on the very first turn.

Deck Concept: Red-White Dinosaurs

  • Dinosaur Stampede
  • Sky Terror
  • Raptor Companion
  • Imperial Lancer
  • Tilonalli's Knight
  • Built to Smash
  • Lightning Strike

Using low-cost cards that synergize well together, start a quick assault to overwhelm the foe. Imperial Lancer and Tilonalli's Knight followed by Nest Robber or Raptor Companion can deal a lot of damage early game. A few of these creatures with a Dinosaur Stampede played can end the game before it even starts.

Dinosaurs Everywhere

Dinosaurs can be played in many different styles of decks. Whether you like big beefy dinos or swarms of Raptors, you can find something to suit your tastes. What type of Dinosaur builds excite you? Head to a store near you to begin your dino exploration at Draft Weekend, September 30–31, and discover the world of Ixalan for yourself!

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