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.

TWR: Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease

This weekend saw the Prerelease events for the newest Magic: The Gathering set, Rivals of Ixalan. I already had plans for most of the weekend, but was able to attend the Sunday event at 1pm. I attended at my LGS where I took part in the Ixalan prerelease as well, and just like the first time I was not disappointed. I have been very lucky with my pulls from packs over the last year or so. Not only have I pulled both an Invention and an Invocation from the past two masterpiece sets (Kaladesh block and Amonkhet block), but I’ve managed to pull some of the desirable cards from these past two Ixalan sets as well!

Unfortunately I was only able to stay at the event long enough to crack my packs, throw together a 40-card Simic Merfolk deck, and beat my first opponent 2-1. At that point I had to jet, but got a participation pack as well that also had a decent rare inside! I’m curious what would have happened had I stayed, as my roommate managed to essentially win the whole thing and earned extra packs. Regardless, it was a good time and I felt I got my money’s worth for the small $30 investment. On top of the normal chaff that is to be expected from a small pile of packs, I ended up with cards that I needed for decks that I’m constructing, and Dinosaurs are going to be amazing at this point. Once the set officially releases next week I’ll be placing an order for singles and finishing that deck off finally, along with getting some additional power for other decks.

My prerelease promo card was less exciting than last time, but it’s still a decent card. I don’t have a place for it just yet, but whenever you can use opponent’s spells against them, it’s a nice feeling. Were this card blue, I’d have a place for it but at the moment it’s going to sit until I find a use. The cards that I was excited for that I did pull were:

People were hoping that Zacama was going to be a 5-color elder dinosaur so they could utitlize the other five mono-colored elder dinosaurs, but I’m just fine with the card being Naya, and slotting right into the 99 of the Gishath deck I’m building. Not only is this card very versatile on its own, but I could use it as an alternate commander for the deck and that’s more useful to me. Zetalpa is going in the same deck, along with the Green and Red elder dinos. Amazing stuff. I managed to also pull Tetzimoc, but without being able to use black in the dino deck, that one will collect dust for a while. It’s a great card, but I can’t use it at the moment.

I pulled three of the Forerunners, but these are the only two I’ll use. The Pirate one is only good in Pirate decks, and that’s not something I intend on building, despite owning an Admiral Beckett Brass. My dino Forerunner was also a foil, so that’s a bonus and I pulled a foil Goring Ceratops which is an upgrade of sorts since I already had a non-foil version. There were some other rares that I pulled but nothing too exciting.

Overall I still managed to get my hands on some good cards, and I might be able to trade my roommate for some others that I need to finish off some of these decks. It’s a fun time, and I’m hoping to continue to go to these events as they come up. We’re also trying to use the opportunity to find some new members for our EDH group, and apparently a few people were invited from what my roommate said, so perhaps we’ll get the steady games going again. In the meantime I’m going to try and finish up the decks I’m working on to be adequately prepared when that day comes!

TWR: Looking ahead to Rivals of Ixalan

In just a couple of weeks a new Magic set will be upon us! Rivals of Ixalan is the 2nd set in the Ixalan block, which like it’s predecessors will continue with themes built upon when we first visited the plane, but also adds some new mechanics. We’ll still be focused on the Dinosaur, Pirate, Vampire and Merfolk tribes; there will still be flip cards, enrage/explore/raid, but also new mechanics like Ascend, which adds benefits to certain cards when its controller controls ten or more permanents. Rivals of Ixalan releases on January 19th, though I find it unlikely that I will be attending the pre-release this time around. However, the full set has been spoiled and I wanted to take some time to look at some of the cards I’m most anticipating, both to finally build some EDH decks around these tribes, but also cards that will be useful in other decks I’m building or have already created. Magic is constantly evolving, and I love seeing these new cards and finding interesting ways to use them! Let’s get started:

Multi-Color:

The largest chunk of cards I’m interested in are multi-colored. This tends to be the case with many sets due to the fact that most of the time multi-colored cards are better than mono-colored, but also the Planeswalkers and Legendary creatures tend to be multi as well. Here we see the two new Planeswalkers added in Ixalan in new forms, though Angrath is still in the same color pool, while Huatli is now G/W instead of R/W though he’ll still slot right into those Naya (R/W/G) decks. I was purposely holding off to finish my Dinosaur EDH deck for this set to release because I knew more dinosaur cards and support cards were coming, so after I collect these cards I’ll have a better deck for it. Many people were hoping for a 5-color Legendary dinosaur, but I’m glad they stayed with the Naya theme because I think Gishath is still a better option than Zacama, though I’m definitely still slotting the elder dino into the 99. They also threw in some Vampire and Merfolk love in the form of two more cheap lords, so the Simic (G/B) deck I’m building is getting some love, and I’ll be able to slot a few more cards into my Edgar Markov deck. Azor is going into the sphinx deck I’m building, and the lone flip card I’m really interested should slot nicely into my Cleric deck. Overall there’s some decent additions here.

White:

An elder dino, a vampire tutor on the cheap, damage prevention and exile in white. This is almost all dino deck related but some powerful utility, and that tutor is sweet for Edgar.

Blue:

Another elder dino that can’t be used in my EDH deck. I feel like Nezahal is a shoo-in for a new deck, and mono-blue is something I have yet to do. Will have to put some more thought into that one. Otherwise we have some new merfolk (I didn’t include them all here, but they were mostly basic) an enchantment that is a group hug until you get the city’s blessing, and a tricky pirate that I’m thinking will go well into my Kess deck for the extra turn synergy.

Black:

Surprisingly little black I’m really stoked for, but black wasn’t really hitting for me on this plane. I do like the trickery on this Aura and will be throwing it into Taigam because it’s on theme. The Chupacabra is a smaller and cheaper Noxious Gearhulk, which I think would be nice in Marchesa with her recursion abilities. Finally, the Twilight Prophet has a really nice extort ability if you have the city’s blessing, and it’s fairly easy to produce ten permanents in a vampire deck.

Red:

A different version of the Blood Moon, the Blood Sun gimps certain lands but doesn’t make the non-basics into moutains like its brother. I think that for added redundancy, I’m throwing the pair together in my Goblin deck. Otherwise we have a bunch of dinos that have various abilities that synergize pretty well, and a cheap dino tutor that mirrors the others in the set. The Forerunners are a nice addition, each of these four tribes getting their own tutor in colors that don’t always have the luxury.

Green:

Green is also dinosaur heavy, but there are a few good merfolk to boot. I like the color-shifted tribes, it makes building my Simic merfolk deck possible. World Shaper is neat because it mills you but then when it dies you get a big mana influx. The Ranger is also pretty neat because it explores twice, which can ramp or get you card draw, both of which are important in those colors. I think the Polyraptor can be busted, and I’m looking into the best way to do so.

Colorless:

Only a couple of artifacts really interested me, mainly The Immortal Sun, which totally fucks over Planeswalkers (Superfriends decks beware!) and I’ll be putting that in my Oloro Pillowfort build. It’s good all around because you get extra card draw, cheaper spells and +1/+1 to all of your creatures, so it literally could go into any deck that doesn’t use Planeswalkers even if you won’t be fighting them. The Silent Gravestone is a nice bit of graveyard hate that can go nearly anywhere as well, unless you are focusing your energies on the graveyard then you should probably avoid it.

Overall I’m really looking forward to the set and finishing off some of my works in progress!