A New World Of Dinosaurs

GP Top 8er Ari Lax originally popularized the “Dinosaur” draft deck in Scars-only draft and provides an update to the archetype with New Phyrexia. He breaks it down for you by pack and teaches you how to value your picks.

I really wish I could write a tournament report about either of the major events I just went to, but realistically I have nothing that makes a good
report from them.

At Indianapolis I had the best Standard deck by a mile in W/U/R Twinblade, but Mike Jacob already has that article on lock. I’ll just leave it at the
deck being on the level of Thepths, only it’s relatively easy to play. I was the only person to lose matches with it to people not named Edgar Flores,
and we won over 75% of our matches with the deck. The only thing I differ in opinion with Mike on is that he likes the Swords still, while Brian DeMars
and I just always wanted two Batterskulls. I might consider a Sword of Feast and Famine, as it’s actually good against the Fauna Shaman decks, but
against Caw-Blade, I can never imagine wanting a Sword of War and Peace over the second Batterskull.

This all said, I can only hope this section is irrelevant within the week. Stoneforge Mystic is about as bad as Skullclamp right now. There really
isn’t a reason every deck shouldn’t just play it and Batterskulls.

I unfortunately stuck with Storm for the Legacy portion. While still insane in normal events, it was not good for the Invitational metagame, which
looked to be around 80% Force of Will decks. You are still a solid favorite against those decks, but doing any better than 5-2 in seven rounds against
them is a massive grind. The deck is still insane for more varied metagames, but if you’re going to battle Force of Wills every round, it’s probably
time to look at lighting people on fire or something else more Pat Sullivan’s style.

As for the Pro Tour, I tricked myself into playing an R/G Rock deck somehow, even though I’ve been laughing at people for playing garbage midrange
decks like that since before I hit puberty. I went 4-6, but my last round opponent Sam Pardee was nice enough to scoop me into the extra Pro Point.
Some R/G deck was probably decent, but it needed to be much more aggressive than the one I had and was likely closer to the burn-heavy Mono-Red deck
just splashing Beast Within. Lesson learned: the obvious best deck is often that for a reason.

The format I felt I actually learned about was Limited. I went into the Pro Tour after just breaking a 0-16 streak in games in team drafts and decided
I was just going to watch Mike Jacob MODO draft for days. After seeing him play fifteen-land specials draft after draft and win despite getting
flooded, I decided that aggro was pretty reasonable. The only problem with it was that the card Suture Priest is considerably worse in real life when
you can just randomly forget the trigger.

Instead of relying on my ability to constantly count, line up tricks, and remember triggers in all sorts of new scenarios, I decided to go with the
other strategy I knew was good at winning: Dinosaurs. While it isn’t quite the same as the days where you had three packs of Molder Beast, the general
idea of living until you cast five- to seven-drops for the rest of the game is still there.

The primary change in the deck from Scars draft is that combat tricks are now very mediocre in the deck. Mostly because of Phyrexian mana lowering life
totals and increasing average creature size, the format has become a lot more about board presence. You want every card in your deck to be a
board-affecting two-for-one or a removal spell, but not necessarily completely in the literal sense. Alpha Tyrranax is a perfectly fine two-for-one
that usually requires them to trade two creatures for it in combat, and Moriok Reaver is a reasonable removal spell, as it basically trades for any of
the small creatures that you would otherwise have to burn real removal on to stay alive.

The other change is that the deck no longer has to be green. Between things like Hexplate Golem, Phyrexian Hulk, Corrupted Harvester, and Flameborn
Viron, you can fill the required finisher slots without things like Molder Beast. The two color combinations I’ve had the best luck with are U/B and
G/B, often splashing red.

The only colors I wouldn’t want as a main color are red and white. Red is actually good but has no cards that actually draw you to it as a main color,
as all the removal is splashable, and all the early bodies suck at fighting or are artifacts anyway, while white simply has no late-game incentives at
common. Both are fine splashes, with red supplying its typical removal while white has Arrest, Divine Offering, Revoke Existence, and Remember the
Fallen as solid choices that often go later than expected.

As far as main colors, I am actually in black more often that the other two, as it has the critical mass of removal the other colors don’t. I’m not
actually sure a G/U/x list could realistically have enough removal to always have an answer to their opponent’s problem creatures and artifacts.

After that, green is probably better than blue for three reasons. First of all, the green creatures are better, from blockers like Cystbearer and
Blightwidow to fatties like Fangren Marauder. Second, being green gives you more Shatter effects for not only random artifact creatures but Equipment
that otherwise prevent you from making the profitable trades with their creatures the deck relies upon. Finally, a lot of the blue cards are just
bounce spells or things like Vivisection that provide you either card advantage or board presence and not both, whereas the green spells almost all are
board-position-related as that’s almost all the color does.

Let’s take a pack-by-pack look at what the typical Dinosaur deck now looks like:

New Phyrexia:

The most important part of this set is you should be open to at least one new color going out of it. Part of what makes the Dinosaur deck so good is
that you can easily add a third color for any bombs you might open. You’re naturally going to want a high mana count anyway for your spells, meaning
that not only are fixers like Horizon Spell naturally better as they help you get to the six or seven lands you need, but you are fine with just
running 18 lands to support a splash. Regardless, the plan you should always be on is just try to stay open until signals start to show up around
fifth-seventh pick once all the splashable removal and Phyrexian mana cards dry up. Regardless of what you want to draft, the first few picks go pretty
much the same.

Early on, you should obviously be looking for the premier removal spells: Grim Affliction, Volt Charge, and Pith Driller. In general Pith Driller is
the strongest of these to first pick, as it’s the most open, but the others are really good too.

After that there are the top Phyrexian mana creatures: Porcelain Legionnaire, Spined Thopter, and Thundering Tanadon. Legionnaire is by far the best,
but if you think you are in Dinosaurs, the other two are interchangeable. In a vacuum Tanadon is probably better, but I’ve liked it less and less, as
it too often just gets Shattered and costs you a bunch of mana and life. Thopter is pretty average in terms of what the deck is trying to do, but you
often come up a bit short on answers to fliers, and he trades perfectly fine for a Glint Hawk Idol or Leonin Skyhunter. Thopter is also a better early
pick, as most of the other good decks are really aggro.

Around picks 3-4, the other cards are likely to be gone at which point you want to pick up the worse removal. If for some reason you think you are for
sure Dinosaurs, you can take these ahead of the Phyrexian guys other than Legionnaire. The best of these is Blind Zealot, which would be higher if it
were splashable. Intimidate looks like it should suck in an artifact block, but it’s really easy to just chain another removal spell on their blocker
into hitting them with it. If this isn’t possible, it probably means they are holding a bunch of guys back.

After that, the others are mostly interchangeable. Parasitic Implant is a lot better than that initial hate on it suggested, even if you do basically
have to take another hit from the creature, and it can be removed. It still kills anything, which is really important in this format. Geth’s Verdict is
a lot better than people say as well. It obviously won’t kill most specific things you actually want to, but if you’re just looking to clear the board
to get to the endgame (or, in other decks, to clear the way for attackers), it’s great.

Leeching Bite is the probably the best trick you can have, as it kills all the random one-toughness beaters people play. Spire Monitor is easily
splashable and a needed answer to fliers, as well as a premier threat in the blue-based decks. Artillerize is a lot worse in this deck, as you usually
decisively win games and don’t need to upgrade your small guys to trade with big ones, but again it kills almost everything, which is clutch. It’s a
much better early card in the dark, and often you just incidentally had it because you took it before you ended up with all the monsters.

The white removal isn’t actually good in this deck. Blinding Souleater is very mediocre on defense without white mana, and Forced Worship still lets
their guys double block your Dinosaurs. Glissa’s Scorn is fine, but I never get it, as everyone else values it significantly higher than they should.
Artifact removal isn’t a huge issue compared to actually clearing an attacker in this new format, even though Shatters do kill more creatures.

Beyond that, the set is mostly random creatures. If you’re looking for signals as to what colors are open, Death-Hood Cobra and Leeching Bite are the
obvious green ones; Remember the Fallen and Suture Priest are the white ones; late removal spells are the black ones; very late Psychic Barriers are
the blue one; and there isn’t really a good red one. Typically, the road to Dinosaurs is paved by fifth-pick Parasitic Implants and eighth-pick
Death-Hood Cobras.

After you move into Dinos, there really are only a couple monsters in this set. One of the good reasons to be green is that Maul Splicer and Rotted
Hystrix are actually acceptable to good, and both come around extremely late. Beyond that, it’s Phyrexian Hulks for days.

Two last cards to note are Mutagenic Growth and Prismatic Talisman. The former is pretty mediocre, as even though it’s free, it’s very conditional. The
latter is actually pretty good. Never has a Braidwood Cup been so good. There’s a lot of burn you’re trying to get out of range of, and the mana is
very relevant in this deck.

Notable Uncommons other than the obvious bombs:

Reaper of Sheoldred – Talk about a brick wall. You often have a few incidental infect creatures that block well, and Toxic Nim is a legitimate monster
if you aren’t in green, so you can pretty easily kill them. Even if you don’t, this guy can easily do the full ten on his own.

Beast Within – This card isn’t actually as good as you first think. It kills a bomb or opposing Dinosaur, but it doesn’t do anything else. It’s not
unreasonable if you get it late and have a couple Wellsprings, and things to turn it into a Plumeveil, but it isn’t worth an early pick.

Brutalizer Exarch – Unreal. Kills Equipment or finds your best Dinosaur.

Triumph of the Hordes – Really shines in this deck. It’s easy to get to ten when you are starting with fives and adding one as opposed to twos and

Alloy Myr – A sizable body to fight with, mana fixing, and acceleration to six. I would not regret first picking this.

Necropouncer – A good-sized attacker or blocker that upgrades all of your other dinosaurs to ridiculous levels. Another very high pick.

Mirrodin Besieged:

Moving out of pack one, you should be filling out your deck with what you need. If you need monsters, take those. Removal, take that. Same with early
drops. This will be less about pick orders and more about what is and isn’t good.

This pack is the main reason you don’t want to be in blue. There isn’t actually anything good past Oculus as an average two-drop. The counters are
conditional or clunky; Serum Raker is a terrible creature as a sole finisher or blocker, especially when all of your lands are relevant. Vivisection is
a complete brick of a turn when you are curving out, leaving you with really just Spire Serpent as a fighter.

White is similarly mediocre in Dinosaurs. All you really have is Divine Offering as another removal spell.

Black isn’t that deep, but the cards it does have are very good. Spread the Sickness is one of the few obvious first picks over almost everything else;
Virulent Wound kills a lot of the early guys you care about like Porcelain Legionnaire or Spined Thopter; and Phyrexian Rager is a two-for-one and an
early “removal” spell. The last card is the best common two-for-one in the format: Morbid Plunder. The card has previously been underrated,
but now people seem to have caught on. Rebuying your best two creatures, which in this deck were probably two-for-ones anyways, is game sealing. Beyond
that the quality rapidly drops off. I might sometimes play Scourge Servant, but realistically Sea Snidd is as Sea Snidd does.

Red actually has a reasonable number of playables. Beyond the obvious removal spells, it has some backup monsters in Ogre Resistor and Gnathosaur. If
you’re still waffling around for colors, it’s easy to drift into red as these guys come around super late.

Green really shines in this pack for a high-end deck. It has the second best common in Fangren Marauder, which is basically unbeatable now that poison
has become barely one deck per table. Rot Wolf does a great Phyrexian Rager impression, and Viridian Emissary is great beats and blocks. You also get
two cards that really close up the green weakness to fliers in Pistus Strike and Blightwidow. I often go into pack two lacking a color with a bunch of
removal and random guys and come out in green. Tangle Hulk is also pretty good at grinding down blockers if you can regenerate it, whereas if you
aren’t green the three toughness is a liability.

The one thing is that this set is generally light on removal and fixing. Those cards should be prioritized in the other sets, whereas random bodies to
fill out the curve come in this pack.

Finally, there is never anything wrong with a 5/7. Hexplate Golem may be the worst Dinosaur, but he is still a Dinosaur.

Moving to the uncommons, two colors change drastically from the commons. Green gets a bunch more large bodies, and that’s it. Quilled Slagwurm is a bit
awkward, as you are usually three colors or heavy in double colors of a second, making the triple green a bit difficult even at seven mana.

Blue, on the other hand, gets insane bombs in Vedalken Anatomist and Corrupted Conscience. What this usually means is that if you open or get passed
well, you’ll end up in heavy blue, but if you open good black cards or average packs, you’ll end up in green. Of course, you could always splash what
you get, as again the actual good blue card from pack one was Spire Monitor, and Anatomist is perfectly fine off only a couple sources.

Scars of Mirrodin:

Looking back, it feels weird to think that playable decks were ever made out of this deck only. So many cards are basically unplayable. If you get more
than five solid playables, it was a lucky draft.

As for the key cards, each color has very few.

White basically has Arrest and Revoke Existence on the splash. There’s a bunch of awkwardly costed aggressive cards, but that’s the reward that deck
gets for going in early on worse cards.

Blue has a bunch of metalcraft garbage and unplayables. Sky-Eel School and Scrapdiver Serpent are both really good finishers though, so if you are
blue, it’s probably best to aim for the random bodies in earlier packs (even though this pack has some of the best).

Black has good removal. Obviously Grasp of Darkness is unreal, and Instill Infection fits the two-for-one line, but Fume Spitter is really good. It
soaks up full combats for just one mana on top of killing all of the 2/1 evasive creatures and 3/1 idiots. The last “removal” spell is
Moriok Reaver. This guy just blocks down everything while dodging all the ping and -1/-1 counter removal. He obviously doesn’t look exciting, but he
always makes the cut.

In red, all of the removal is perfectly splashable, even Turn to Slag, as it’s such a late drop. You obviously can’t play it off of 2-3 Mountains, but
just a couple more, and you can splash it and a few other spells.

Green has the most playables, but again they are just random bodies and are much worse than the ones in the other sets. Nothing with reach, no
two-for-ones. Molder Beast also gets a lot worse. The card was significantly better in multiples, where the extra trample bodies allowed for extreme
reach. Untamed Might also gets much worse, as you have less trample creatures to turn it into a sure Blaze, on top of the general issues with pump
spells not unconditionally bettering your board state. Sylvok Replica is integral to the deck, as you need some answers to Control Magics or even

As for the artifacts, slam Horizon Spellbombs. It’s one of two real fixers in the format and a two-for-one. Myr, on the other hand, are now miserable.
They never fight anything, and you can’t afford the card disadvantage. One or two at most should make the cut, and I’m always fine with passing them
for another playable.

Moving to the uncommons, the only card that really changes value with the new set is Acid Web Spider. It goes from really good to absolutely
unbeatable. Dinosaurs has three major weaknesses in the current format: a bunch of fliers, equipment to cold your trades, and Control Magics. Acid Web
Spider crushes the first two, unless your opponent blows the third on it instead of one of your giant monsters that trumps it. Beyond that, Embersmith
gets marginally better with the Phyrexian creatures to trigger it, but that is it. Oxidda Scrapmelter, Arc Trail, and Skinrender are all still sick;
nothing is new in the world.

From this, it’s pretty easy to see how I usually end up in Jund colors or Grixis. Green and black are generally the deepest colors in terms of broad
playables, and red has the best splash cards. Blue sometimes has enough of the insane cards to make it a solid base, but it generally falls short. And
white just sucks if you are going for value.

To give you an idea of what you are looking for, here is a 100% made-up list. I’ve tried to build it so the removal counts and curve are idealized,
with only the typical number of playables from each pack. Only commons have been included, but it should be easy to understand where uncommons fit in
as most are very similar effects to what is here if not just straight upgrades. The same applies to splashes, where removal spells just sub in for
similar ones you didn’t pick up or simply worse cards when you magically have an excess.

1 Fume Spitter
1 Viridian Emissary
1 Death-Hood Cobra
1 Moriok Reaver
1 Sylvok Replica
1 Phyrexian Rager
1 Blightwidow
1 Tangle Mantis
1 Tangle Hulk
1 Rotting Hystrix
1 Molder Beast
1 Thundering Tanadon
1 Fangren Marauder
1 Alpha Tyrranax
2 Maul Splicer

1 Glissa’s Scorn
1 Morbid Plunder
1 Spread the Sickness
1 Geth’s Verdict
1 Leeching Bite
1 Parasitic Implant
1 Mycosynth Wellspring

8 Swamp
9 Forest

The second Maul Splicer is there as usually you will get some rare or uncommon monster to fit the high-end slot. The general idea is you will have a
ton of playables from pack one, a solid amount from pack two, and a few from pack three. Pack one is most of your removal; pack two is most of your
bodies and is almost all green; and pack three shores up a few holes in the removal suite as well as providing the last couple finishers.

The amount of pack one removal might seem unrealistic, but those cards always go around in the mid picks because of how highly people take Phyrexian
mana guys. The spread here is close to ideal. You have three early removal in Geth’s Verdict, Leeching Bite, and Fume Spitter, two unconditional
removal in Parasitic Implant and Spread the Sickness, and two answers to artifacts in Sylvok Replica and Glissa’s Scorn, one of which is a Disenchant.
If anything, the more unrealistic part of this list is getting all three of Morbid Plunder, Fangren Marauder, and Spread the Sickness from pack two.
That all said, this would be a solid 2-1 deck as is, possibly better if the W/U deck at the table is light on two-power fliers when playing against

As for play strategy, the best part of the deck is that it’s easy. You just play your cards up the curve and save your removal for the cards that don’t
interact profitably with your creatures. If you flood out, you don’t need to work to extract max value out of your cards as they already do that. Cards
like Quicksilver Geyser can be problematic, but you just need to keep control of the board so that you don’t let them kill you with it. There’s usually
a brief window where tempo cards are relevant before you just get to replay your spells immediately or are too far ahead for them to matter. As for
saving removal, the two things that matter are bombs and excess fliers. Beyond that, just cast the spells you have mana for and things work out.

Finally, just draw first. Always draw first in this format. There isn’t a good way to fight out of mana screw or flood due to games in this format
going long and there not being a lot of extreme synergies or card draw, so the extra card is huge in avoiding both. Similarly, mulligans are a huge
issue, and the extra card lets you keep more hands. I’ve seen decks that want to play, but I have yet to play one. Even when you think you want to
play, choose to draw.

One thing to note: this probably isn’t the best deck if you need a 3-0. It’s pretty easy to get two with a good Dino deck, and you can sometimes spike
the third, but the deck is simply a consistent forty. If you absolutely need the 3-0, you might want to get gutsy during the draft and try to get
something broken.

Until next time, have fun durdling into some six-drops. Remember, there are actual dinosaurs on the cards, and you probably want those ones.