TWR: Dinos are Finally Viable

Back when Ixalan released, there was a focus on tribes in EDH. Commander 2017 released a little while prior and we saw the tribal themes that Wizards would produce themselves. Ixalan promised a focus on four major tribes, two of which were old staples and two that weren’t really a thing just yet. The cards existed, but not in great enough numbers to build a proper EDH deck around. Merfolk and Vampires were bolstered with the release of that set, while Dinosaurs and Pirates could finally be considered a tribe. I used some of the vampires that came out in my Edgar Markov vampire deck, and I’ve discussed my direction with merfolk that I wanted to take (which has changed a bit with the arrival of Rivals of Ixalan cards). Pirates are all that interesting to me, but when I pulled a foil copy of Gishath during the Ixalan prerelease I knew that I had to build a Dinosaur tribal EDH deck.

I tried. I threw something together but while there were definitely enough dinosaurs between the new set and the errata’d older cards, it just didn’t seem all that viable. I would have been using commons and uncommons like crazy, and that’s not really something that happens in EDH all that much unless you’re playing pauper. I decided that I would wait, because we knew that Rivals of Ixalan was around the corner and perhaps there would be enough *good* dinosaurs to build a proper deck. I’m glad that I waited. I haven’t quite collected all the cards I need but I’m at least 50% there. I thought I’d share what I came up with, so here it is:

RAWR

I chose to stick with Gishath as my commander, mainly because Zacama is a little more expensive and doesn’t cheat expensive dinosaurs into play the way Gishath does. Since Zacama still falls within the color identity, I’ve put him in the 99. The main goal here is to somehow make sure that you can get in for combat damage with Gishath whenever you cast him. This means either clearing the board before casting him or making sure that he has some other evasion. Trample helps, but you won’t get to go digging for as many dinos if you’re only dealing trample damage.

Dino-enabling

First and foremost, the Forerunners are amazing cards. For a small investment you get a body, a tutor for a particular tribe, and a bonus effect. In this case, we get to search up a dino and whenever we cast one while this guy is on the board, we have the option to do 1 damage to all creatures. Doesn’t sound all that great in theory, but with all of the enrage triggers I’ve packed into the deck, we’ll have a ton of awesome effects going on all the time. Another bonus: token decks will be in trouble as 1 damage just might kill off an opponent’s army. Otherwise I have the 3 human cards that synergize with dinos making them cost less to cast, 2 other humans that provide extra mana ramp, and two big spells that can pull off some nice tricks. Kindred Summons is essentially Gishath’s ability in spell form, and Rishkar’s Expertise pretty much goes in every green deck… you draw cards and get to play a 5 cmc spell for free. Easy.

Enrage triggers

These are in my opinion some of the best options for enrage targets. Each of these dinos will trigger an effect when they take damage. That means if they block, take combat damage while attacking, or are pinged with 1 damage by my Forerunner’s ability, they will cause an effect even if they die in the process. If they don’t die though, it’s free effects and there are plenty of ways to exploit these! Some will allow for counters to be distributed, some cause exile or sacrifice effects, others draw me cards or tutor up lands and one even copies itself just for the copies to make copies! So how are we focusing on making this enrage keyword work for us? I’m glad you asked!

Enrage Enablers

There are some versatile options when it comes to trying to trigger your own enrage mechanics. Some come on legs, and others in spell form, but there are various ways to go about doing this. Cards like Raging Swordtooth were obvious, as it’s ETB trigger does 1 damage to all creatures which should net you some positive results (and kill off pesky tokens). Other times it might be less effective, but using the Regisaur to ping one dino for 1 isn’t a bad option, and if the dino is big enough using Burning Sun’s Avatar to ping it for 3 is still a nice payoff. You can use Reckless Rage to kill off an enemy’s 4 toughness creature and get an enrage trigger for yourself in the process. Alternatively, you can use 1, 2, or 3 damage to all creatures spells for a similar payout though you might lose a creature or two in the process. If all else fails and you have several large creatures out, you can do a middling X cost damage spell to keep your big dinos while clearing out plenty of their board. Lastly, Pyrohemia is a blessing in disguise letting you ping away at will to make even more triggers go off. These tactics should help you to bring down your foes, but what are some of the built in win-cons?

Win Conditions

Outside of being able to outright beat someone’s face in with big dinos, or happening upon some cool combos (like Pyrohemia and Polyraptor for a ton of dinos to win the game with), these are the three big win cons that I could find. Beastmaster Ascension has the benefit of being a low cmc card that can have big implications, but if you leave it on the board that long someone will deal with it. It’s better played when you can swing with 7 creatures the turn it is played so that they all get +5/+5 and trample. If that’s not enough, then Savage Beating for its entwine cost or World at War should give you enough extra combats to win, especially if you get Gishath out and can drop even more dinos on the board while you’re at it.

That’s all for this edition of The War Report. You can see my full decklist here.

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