I hope everybody’s pre-release were exciting and action packed! Nothing feels better than merfolks killing dinosaurs and vampires sucking on pirates in Ixalan, right?
I recently got emails requesting to update some of the decks I’ve posted with new cards from Rivals. I think this was a valid request and I guess it’s also about time that I start writing spike-like decks so you guys don’t waste so much money on FNMs running jank decks that don’t win you prizes, right? Don’t worry, I will still post jank decks often because that’s why most of you guys are here!
When Ghalta, Primal Hunger was spoiled, it shook every Jank bone I had and took it as a challenge to break this card in standard. It was only natural to play Ghalta in a dinosaur tribal deck which I will feature in today’s article, but I am also brewing something not so tribal and still play Ghalta as the win condition among other things.
The biggest drawback with building a deck around Ghalta though is that it requires a stable board state filled with creatures for you to bring him down early. You also need ways to protect him or you essentially waste a perfect turn casting him, or waste the board state you tried to protect in order to cast him.
To circumvent removal and achieve enough power to cheat Ghalta into play, we can play vehicle and use a resilient creature like Rhonas to power up the vehicles and achieve the discount we need to cast Ghalta as early as turn 4. I’m using Rhonas as an ideal example because he has the highest survivability thanks to indestructible.
- T1, land
- T2, Heart of Kiran
- T3, Rhonas the Indomitable. Rhonas can crew Heart to block something or swing in for 4 damage.
- T4, crew Heart with Rhonas (now have 9 power on board). Swing in with Heart. (another 4 damage) Play Ghalta for 3, leave 1 mana up for Blossoming Defense. Opponent would be at 12.
- T5, play Nissa, Vital Force. Tick up to untap a land and turn it to a 5/5 with haste. Tick down to crew Heart of Kiran. Swing with two 5/5s, one 4/4 and a 12/12 Ghalta for a total of 26 damage not including the initial 8 damage from Heart on turns 3 and 4 if you chose to swing with it.
On the play, you might be facing a Longtusk Cub, a Whirler Virtuoso and a Bristling Hydra on the other side given both of you get to curve perfectly but technically you will have enough raw power to force your opponent to block and lose everything.
Realistic deck building assumes that we never ever live on dreamland so these situations will not happen as often as you want it to – therefore we have to build the deck that doesn’t durdle in the beginning, and does not crash and burn if the ideal pieces don’t come together, or survive long enough to assemble the ideal board state.
Let’s first look at the viability of a straight up dinosaur deck. The biggest pay-off card is Otepec Huntmaster because he makes the deck 1-turn cheaper and deprives your opponent from interacting with your creatures at sorcery speed. It also forces your opponent to decide early on if they will keep their creatures and hopefully draw removal, or miss drawing the removal and chump block anyway with you keeping up the pressure turn after turn.
We want our 4-drops to have the highest density because Otepec Huntmaster essentially skips the 3-drop curve so we will also play a complete playset of Thunderherd Migration to be more consistent, thins your deck, and at the same time rewards you for playing dinosaurs. We will play the new Raging Regisaur which can literally swing for 5, or remove a pesky 1/1 blocker out of the way to beef up our 4 drops. Viable targets include Earthshaker Khenra, Thopter and Servo tokens, Sacred Cats, Champion of Wits, Glint-sleeve Siphoner among others.
Wayward Swordtootth looks promising but I don’t think he is consistent enough for an aggressive deck. There is no draw sequence that will allow you to get Ascend by turn 4 if you want to attack with it. We will cut Wayward Swordtooth from this list.
We will also play removal spells and we have a lot of decent choices which also rewards us for playing dinosaurs. Reckless Rage is one of the better additions to our arsenal of cheap removal. Most of our creatures can survive a shock but very few will survive after getting hit for 4 damage. I like this card because it’s a cheap answer to Longtusk Cubs and Glorybringers. It also kills almost everything in Ramunap Red except Hazoret. I really like it, and the drawback is easy to mitigate in a fatties deck.
How does the deck look like now? Here you go!
4 Otepec Huntmaster
2 Rhonas, the Indomitable
4 Ripjaw Raptor
4 Raging Regisaur
3 Regisaur Alpha
3 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
1 Heart of Kiran
1 Samut, the Tested
4 Blossoming Defense
3 Savage Stomp
4 Thunderherd Migration
3 Reckless Rage
3 Sheltered Thicket
4 Rootbound Crag
2 Scavenger Grounds
3 Magma Spray
3 Deathgorge Scavenger
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
3 Thrashing Brontodon
3 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
After evaluating all the possible Planeswalkers we can use like Nissa, Chandra and Huatli, I think the deck is calling out for Samut the most. His abilities are the most applicable to our game plan which is to deal as much damage as we can in each of our turns. Though Chandra gives us card advantage and can remove a huge blocker out of the way, Samut does the same but ticks up instead of down. Giving your Ripraw Raptor or Rhonas double strike is nuts. If Samut ever sees Ghalta, that’s about game. Samut’s ultimate can also present a lethal combination of Ghalta plus Regisaur Alpha and you can swing for 15 points of damage with those two creatures alone.
On to the sideboard, I am very happy that Dinosaurs now have a complete line up that can combat most archtypes in the field today.
Deathgorge Scavenger provides great utility against graveyard based decks however, the lifegain is also quite relevant in damage races particularly for faster decks like vampires and Ramunap Red. It also prevents Search for Azcanta from flipping which is relevant in some matches.
I love this card so much because now dinosaurs have an answer to Cast Out, GPG, Pummelers, Ixalan’s Binding, Search for Azcanta, Heart of Kiran, and many more while having a 3/4 body that can swing until a visible target is found. It was a problem back in Ixalan when we had to dilute our mainboard with noncreatures to combat other decks which is pretty bad for an aggressive decks. Now we don’t need Abrade or Appetite for the Unnatural anymore.
We will play 3 copies of Magma Spray particularly against Ramunap Red because we have to respect that they can burst out of the gates very fast and die before we can even cast our first dinosaur. It also stops them from cashing in their Bomat Courier later on or we can get rid of the Earthshaker Khenra permanently. If we do win in game 1 against Ramunap, Magma Spray will help us secure game 2 much better. Don’t get me wrong, a stumbling Ramunap Red that faces a Ripjaw Raptor on turn 3 is also difficult for them so we’re not an auto-lose to this deck. Apart from Ramunap, it also allows us to somehow get rid of Scarab God after it blocks or gets stomped. Though it’s a 2-for-1, it’s the closest thing we can get to a Vraska’s Contempt in our colors. Agains Energy, Magma Spray is also useful in stoping a turn-3 Bristling Hydra, and it can also kill off a Longtusk Cub if they didn’t have Attune (or if it gets banned).
Lifecrafter’s Bestiary was evaluated against Prowling Serpopard and Carnage Tyrant as an answer to the control match-up but at the end, I think an artifact has a better chance of surviving and it provides the best mileage per turn compared to the others. Prowling Serpopard can be Essence Extraction, can be Harnessed Lightning or get hit by Vraska’s Contempt. Carnage Tyrant can be Settled to the Wreckage or Fumigated or Doomfall. Though Lifecrafter’s Bestiary can also be Shattered/Naturalized, I still think it gives us the most benefit thanks to Scry to ensure we draw our threats smoothly and draws us cards to keep our opponent reactive instead of progressing his own game.
Torch of Defiance is not a dinosaur but she is also a great answer to control decks that packs more essence scatters and removal and not expecting more Planeswalkers coming in. She helps our game plan in ramping us manually, shoots down blockers and her ultimate provides us inevitability during stalled games.
The sideboard plan is basically swapping out the creatures depending on the match up. We essentially don’t touch the spells unless they become dead cards against creature-less decks like control. Against control, we side in more creatures to outnumber their counter magic which makes perfect sense.
I like how the deck turned out, I’m sure we can still find ways to make it better. I already have a BG version of this deck which is not so tribal, I’ll share that soon. Let me know if you’re excited to get your hands on the new dinosaurs because I sure am!
Talk to you soon, keep brewing!