Ripjaw Raptor And The Dinosaur Decks

Is Ripjaw Raptor the next Courser of Kruphix or Tireless Tracker? Gerry Thompson is ready to find out! See his Dinosaur-themed decks, from straightforward Temur Energy ports to the wild Dino Reanimator!

I’ll admit, I was initially skeptical of Ixalan, but the previews
continue to make me happy. None of the tribes really appeal to me, but
thankfully there are some incredible reprints coming:

Slice in Twain is another reprint, but one that’s far less exciting. I
mean, I’ll probably put it in my sideboard at some point, but I’m not
excited about it.

Of these, Lightning Strike is the most impactful, as it ensures that
Ramunap Red stays on the map and keeps its aggressive nature. Trading
Falkenrath Gorger for Soul-Scar Mage isn’t even a bad deal.

Duress is a card I’ve wanted access to for a while and would have gone a
long way toward Aetherworks Marvel not taking over. Even if it’s giving you
a tool to fight midrange and control, Duress is going to put in some work
in the coming months (assuming those decks exist). Granted, the midrange
decks might be more creature-centric than usual thanks to the powerful
Dinosaurs rampaging around.

While similar to Duress, I imagine Spell Pierce is going to be seen far
less. It goes dead sooner and there used to be fewer decks that could use a
Spell Pierce than a Duress. Maybe that changes with Pirates and Merfolk,
but we’ll see. Both of those archetypes could end up utilizing Spell Pierce
alongside other tempo tools like Unsummon.

Opt is the card I’m least sure about how often it will show up and where.
Obviously it could slot into control decks, but I don’t know how much
better it is than playing the Hieroglyphic Illuminations they were already
playing in those spots. Time has shown us how powerful filtering cantrips
can be, though, and this time shouldn’t be any different. It’s probably
correct to play some amount of both.

The real question is whether it’s correct to play Opt in something like U/G
Merfolk, because I know that people are going to default to it. If the
Merfolk decks end up incorporating Deeproot Champion, then Opt certainly
has a place, but if they end up resembling Modern Merfolk lists, Opt won’t
cut it.

My biggest concern is that, despite previous cantrips (Brainstorm, Ponder,
Preordain) being incredibly powerful, people are going to overreact to
having a legal cantrip and always try to start their decks with four
copies, even though it might not be correct. Cantrips are great for
filtering through your deck at a small cost, but there’s a time and a
place. Seeing which decks end up using Opt effectively is going to be
interesting. I look forward to learning more about how cantrips can and
should slot into various decks.

Other than exciting reprints, Ixalan has four tribes that all look
to be well-supported, and we’re not even halfway through the set yet! So
far, the Vampires look weak, Pirates look enticing but maybe a little weak,
and the Merfolk seem like they all tell you to do different things.
Meanwhile, the Dinosaurs are straightforward, and they look awesome.

The real hero of Ixalan is going to be Ripjaw Raptor.

Midrange green decks have historically needed some sort of bridge between
their early-game and their late-game. Previous iterations, Courser of
Kruphix and Tireless Tracker, have far exceeded expectations. They were
effectively green Divinations that also happened to add to your battlefield
presence. If your draw was land-light or land-heavy, it didn’t matter;
either way, Courser and Tracker were going to help smooth your draws out.

Ripjaw Raptor is going to serve the same purpose, except it’s going to be
better than those other two cards.

Here are some combos:

Ripjaw Raptor is going to draw you a card or two per game on average, but
most of the work is going to be done by yourself. If you’re facing down an
opposing Ripjaw Raptor, you’re going to do everything in your power to not
trigger the enrage ability. I did a cursory search for additional things
that pinged creatures, but mostly came up short. Dynavolt Tower was the
closest thing to reasonable, but even that seems sketchy.

Having a 4/5 body is huge too. There are many popular cards that deal four
damage, and having it naturally ignore some of the most commonly played
removal is a wonderful trait. Not only that, but four power tends to kill
people very quickly. Is your opponent going to want to chump block this
thing? I’m guessing not, but neither option is appealing.

It’s also worth noting that Ripjaw Raptor doesn’t need any sort of combo to
be powerful. The text on the card does that by itself. However, if you find
yourself in a late-game situation with a Walking Ballista, I guarantee you
won’t be disappointed. If you wanted to, you could even try to cycle your
own damage-based removal spells on it.

Let’s look at some decklists.

It doesn’t bode well that the first place I wanted to play dinosaurs was in
the Temur Energy shell, but this probably won’t end up being the correct
home for them.

The comparison of Regisaur Alpha to Glorybringer is a fair one, and I’m
honestly not sure who wins. Glorybringer wins in the heads-up battle for
the most part, but Regisaur Alpha is so much more powerful against spot
removal. Seven power for five mana is a great rate, but I’m still unsure
who will come out on top.

You’re going to see a lot of one-of Rhonas the Indomitables in my lists,
but that’s because I think it’s powerful in Dinosaur world, both with and
against them. Walking Ballista might seem like it’s showing up in weird
places too, but it’s always been close enough to play maindeck. It just so
happens that Ripjaw Raptor tips the scales a bit. Also, if Pirates end up
being a thing, Walking Ballista is basically their nightmare.

Overall, this list isn’t particularly inspired, but it is what it is. You
can probably only go so wrong by slotting powerful creatures into the
energy shell, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see plenty of it.

Is Rhonas’s Monument crazy? It could end up being mostly better than a ramp
spell, at least if you’re focusing on the green Dinosaurs, like in the
above decklist. It certainly means you’re going to win most fights with
Savage Stomp. If Rhonas’s Monument ends up underperforming, there’s always
Gift of Paradise.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance’s +1 has never looked better. Curving Chandra
into either of the seven- or eight-mana Dinosaurs is a dream. With the lack
of early creatures, defending her might be a tad difficult. To that end, we
might need more real removal and fewer Savage Stomps. We’re kind of jumping
through hoops trying to make mana, but I think it’ll work out. Where’s
Shaman of Forgotten Ways when you need it?

At the end of the day, I can’t imagine not playing with some of the energy
cards, though. There is a clear lack of action in the three-drop slot,
which could very easily be Rogue Refiners. Maybe there’s something else
that has yet to be previewed though. Perhaps we’re supposed to be using
Captain Lannery Storm to help accelerate us?

Who knows.

Again, this is kind of boring. However, the engine of Ripjaw Raptor and
Walking Ballista is straight-up incredible. Copying last season’s shell
might not be the best idea.

If you wanted to be fancy, you could also add Rogue Refiner and/or Herald
of Secret Streams. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ruin Raider would outperform
Rogue Refiner though, which would make the blue splash less enticing.

The versions that splashed Unlicensed Disintegration look pretty good in a
field of Ripjaw Raptors, so maybe that’s worth looking into.

How much worse are Wakening Sun’s Avatar or Gishath, Sun’s Avatar than
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger? Obviously Dinosaurs are more easily dealt
with from control decks, but being two mana cheaper is a big deal when
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods isn’t involved. In a world with mostly creature
decks, I’m willing a venture a guess that the Dinosaurs will do just fine
for themselves.

The real question you’re supposed to ask yourself is, “Is this worth it?”

Sweeping the battlefield while keeping some of your creatures seems like it
should be. So does hitting your opponent for a bunch of damage and
solidifying your position with Gishath, Sun’s Avatar. Gaining a bunch of
life should give you the time you need to fully take control of the game.
Note that Wakening Sun’s Avatar is very poor in the mirror match.

So far, the big Dinosaurs look like reasonable payoffs to ramping.

Getting WWW for Wakening Sun’s Avatar might prove to be a touch difficult,
but Gift of Paradise and Hour of Promise each fix for it.

Pillar of Origins would be a delightful ramp card if we were only trying to
cast Dinosaurs. Given that we have Hour of Promise and Chandra, Torch of
Defiance, I don’t think it’s particularly useful, but I could easily be
wrong. Unclaimed Territory is basically in the same camp.

Unfortunately, playing Deserts isn’t conducive to having our Rootbound
Crags enter the battlefield untapped. You also need a certain amount of
multicolor lands to cast your spells. Getting some blockers from Hour of
Promise is probably much-needed, though, so I’ll be looking for ways to
tweak the manabase.

If our ramp deck is mostly permanents, Ajani Unyielding could be a solid
bridge between Ripjaw Raptor and your powerful eight-drops.

There may need to be some maindeck concessions toward beating Hazoret the
Fervent, but that seems like a perfectly reasonable ask.

This one is likely a stretch.

Not only are there not really enough enablers for depositing giant
Dinosaurs into the graveyard, but there is also only Liliana, Death’s
Majesty to bring them back. Still, Gishath, Sun’s Avatar makes for a fine
reanimation target, assuming your deck has enough Dinosaurs to find. Eight
is a little low, but I can’t imagine you need to hit more than one for it
to be great.

Maybe Champion of Rhonas is the secret? I think I’d rather give up than go
down that rabbit hole. At least I’m not trying to make Boneyard Parley

Bonus Non-Dinosaur-Related Decklist

Maybe I’m trying to make this archetype work too much. Captain Lannery
Storm and Lightning Strike are fantastic additions to the deck, even though
the manabase did get worse. It’s possible that you might want some Ramunap
Ruins in the manabase, but Sunscorched Desert is likely out of the

If you’re sad about Falkenrath Gorger leaving and you want a way to kill
Ripjaw Raptor, something like this should work.


Ripjaw Raptor isn’t all upside. There are still cards like Dusk // Dawn,
Cast Out, Walk the Plank, Vraska’s Contempt, Unlicensed Disintegration, and
the like that can take it out cleanly, but very few of them trade favorably
with it. I fully expect Unlicensed Disintegration to get an uptick in usage
thanks to the Treasures and Ripjaw Raptor. Still, the Dinosaur will be a
force to be reckoned with.

In case it’s not clear, Ripjaw Raptor is the card I’m most excited by from Ixalan by far.