October 24, 2017

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Brewing with Ixalan - Believe in Dinosaurs

It's time, once again, for us to take a minute to talk about something real. I'm talking about the daily Struggle // Survive that is being a member of the Dinosaur hype train as a Standard player.

Sure, we've got Carnage Tyrant, but in a Standard environment that seems to be a rock-paper-scissors match between Ramunap Red, Temur Energy, and UB Control. Sure, Burning Sun's Avatar and Verdant Sun's Avatar see play in a few fringe ramp lists, but all in all it seems to be that the general consensus is that Dinosaurs just don't have the stuff to play on the same level as the bigger kids. That revelation put those of us on the hype train in some dire straights.

Enter Manuel De La Orden, who finished 7th at the 2017 Spain Nationals Weekend this past week with a Dinosaur tribal deck, complete with Unclaimed Territory.

'That's a statistical outlier!' Decry the nay-sayers, 'any deck can win with the right pilot and the right luck.'

'Maybe,' I respond. 'But isn't that what they said about Abzan tokens at first?' In my head a punchy 80's sound track kicks in. I raise my hands into the air and make pew pew sounds as I fire magical beam pistols (a.k.a. finger guns) into the air and moonwalk out of the room. It doesn't usually go down this way, but as a Dinosaur hype train member I sometimes need a little excitement in my life. Plus my wife won't let me shoot them in the house, and I'm really stoked about having a Reason // Believe in Dinosaurs for Standard again.

'He didn't use even use either of those cards.' Say those same Naysayers from before, 'and again, if you look at the numbers of all of the Nationals even-' I use my magical beam pistols to disintegrate teleport them back to the dimension of metaphorical writing constructs, and proceed onward.

With just 13 support spells and 38 creatures in the Dinosaur Subtype, the first issue with playing Dinosaur Tribal right now is that there just aren't a lot of choices when it comes to what to use for building a solid deck. Once we get to Rivals of Ixalan it's easy to guess that the tribe will get stronger with more support. It may get even go on to receive further support in the not-too-distant Core Set Wizards has Foretold, but that's only if Bolas doesn't cause a Star of Extinction to wrap the up the tribe in a tidy (and conveniently rotation-friendly) package.

Let's not try not think about what Bolas would choose, hype train members. Let's look at Eduardo's list instead.

Planeswalkers (1)
Creatures (24)
Spells (12)
Land (23)
4 Sheltered Thicket
3 Unclaimed Territory
4 Rootbound Crag
3 Botanical Sanctum
2 Spirebluff Canal
Sideboard (15)
3 Essence Scatter
2 Magma Spray
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Vance's Blasting Cannons
2 Fiery Cannonade

As you'd expect, Eduardo's list uses the cream of the lizard crop, and is looking to outcurve and outvalue his opponents with a steady stream of prehistoric power. It begins with the mandatory four copies of Commune with Dinosaurs, then continues on to Drover of the Mighty and Otepec Huntmaster on the two drop slot.

Drover of the Mighty helps ensure access to blue mana in a pinch, and Otepec Huntmaster basically turns the curve-topping Carnage Tyrant into what is functionally a Gaea's Revenge. Man, that was card was good times.

Edurado's secret tech mainboard was limited to a single copy of Nissa, Steward of Elements, but the blue splash allowed him to have both Essence Scatter and Negate in the sideboard, which are cards not typically associated with Dinosaur lists for one glaring reason - there are no blue Dinosaurs.

I want to believe that Rivals of Ixalan will include a Merfolk alliance with the Sun Empire that leads to a 4/4 blue plesiosaur bomb with some killer abilities, but I digress.

Nissa, Steward of Elements works wonders in this list. Sure, she gets eaten by Vraska's Contempt, but that's one less removal spell pointed at a big ol' Dinosaur.

Her +2 is simple; Scry 2. In a deck that has a lot of fatties at the top end of the curve, smoothing out draws can be really key to getting anywhere that isn't dead.


This is the real reason to play Nissa in this deck. Once you hit six loyalty, which is extremely easy to do given that Nissa can come down with one Loyalty on turn three and immediately go to three, this ability basically ends up reading: 'Ramp, Get a free Dino, or draw a removal spell.' Aside from Disallow, this ability can let you get a dinosaur into play free from the threat of counter magic, and that can be a very big deal in certain matchups.


While you shouldn't expect to be animating lands and attacking your opponent with them (This ain't Zendikar after all), it's nice to know you have a last resort should you find yourself on the receiving end of Fumigate or Settle the Wreckage one too many times.

Moving on to the Dinosaurs themselves, we have a wonderfully dangerous curve that starts with Deathgorge Scavenger, otherwise known as Scavenging Oozeasaurus. In a Standard format where graveyard hate and life gain can both be very relevant in certain matchups, being able to do either option for free each time it attacks and when it enters the battlefield makes this guy a very efficient tool.

Next up we have Ripjaw Raptor, a card that needs no additional praise from this guy, followed by Regisaur Alpha and Carnage Tyrant. All the efficient beasty beats you'd expect from a Dinosaur list.

Removal wise, Miguel ran two copies of Savage Stomp and Abrade respectively, as well as a playset of Lightning Strike. Because of the aggressive nature of the deck, not to mention the overall lack of God-Pharaoh's Gift and Vehicles decks in Standard these past few weeks, Lightning Strike is almost strictly better than Abrade here. It helps close out games, and takes out Planeswalkers.

Savage Stomp is a highly efficient removal spell in a list with this many Dinosaurs, and a Stomp from a Carnage Tyrant kills just about everything in Standard that isn't Metalwork Colossus or Conqueror's Galleon.

It's a great list, and one that is obviously capable of putting up results. But it's just not enough for me. I need more.

I believe in Dinosaurs.

I believe in Harvey Dent.

I believe in

The difference between this list and Manuel's are few, but they are significant. An increase in the number of blue spells in the main board means an increase in the number of blue sources, up to 10 from Manuel's five. Combined with Drover of the Mighty, this should give us plenty of mana to easily cast our blue spells without worrying about missing the crucial double green for Ripjaw Raptor and Carnage Tyrant.

Reason // Believe is basically an extra copy of Nissa, Steward of Elements. Speaking of extra copies of Nissa, we also have an extra copy of Nissa. Don't make me say 'value town', because I will. Her scrying ability, plus the scry we gain from Reason, will help make sure that can stack our deck appropriately through out the game. If you can scry in just the right way, you can set up a Believe that will get a Gishath, Sun's Avatar on the battlefield as soon as turn four. That's a pretty decent speed, and if big momma Rex gets through you can expect to have your board state go from zero to full.

The only other card added to this list is Struggle // Survive, which gives us a scaling removal spell in the form of Struggle and a way to recycle our graveyard and reset the deck with Survive. This can be especially relevant against opponents running The Scarab God, so much so that I Opted for an extra copy in the sideboard.

As for the rest of the Sideboard, we've got some specific answers to specific matchups. Abrade deals with Gearhulks and God-Pharaoh's Gift, Rampaging Ferocidon makes short work of Token strategies, and Negate and a fourth Carnage Tyrant can help you push through control match ups. In case of extra grindy matches, Nissa, Vital Force can help bring back key cards or provide extra damage by animating lands, while a pair of Glimmer of Genius gives you extra Scry and draw power.

That about wraps it up for this edition of Brewing with Ixalan. Do you believe in Dinosaurs too? Let me know what you think in the comment section below!