MTG Commander Deck Of The Week: Indominus Rex, Alpha

Who wants some word salad? Bennie Smith’s latest MTG Commander Deck of the Week feasts on keywords with Indominus Rex, Alpha.

Indominus Rex, Alpha
Indominus Rex, Alpha (detail), illustrated by Miro Petrov

As I mentioned Monday, 2024 is my 30-year anniversary of playing Magic!  Back in 1994, Craw Wurm was one of the scariest creatures you can play in terms of sheer size. In a world of Benalish Heroes, Grey Ogres, and Scathe Zombies, it was good to be a good ol’ vanilla 6/4 Wurm.  Of course, not even the mightiest of big green creatures stood much of a chance against the noncreature spells of the day – Swords to Plowshares, Ancestral Recall, and Terror.

Thankfully, creatures have come a long, long way in 30 years!  Though some might say things have gone too far, with the text box on some creature cards described as “word salad” – you know, the Questing Beasts and Elder Gargaroths of the modern era. Personally, I love word salad creatures and how they demand answers from opponents quickly.

Well, now we have a commander we can build a deck around that very much loves eating word salad creatures for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – Indominus Rex, Alpha!

Indominus Rex, Alpha

Keyword Salad

I think it’s interesting that Indominus Rex wants you to play a lot of these word salad creatures in your deck, but not necessarily deploy them to the battlefield. Instead, it wants to “eat” them – you want to discard some number of them to I-Rex’s enters-the-battlefield trigger to add a bunch of counters to it, and draw cards for each counter I-Rex enters the battlefield with. The keywords our Dinosaur friend looks for specifically are:

  • Flying
  • First strike
  • Double strike
  • Deathtouch
  • Hexproof
  • Haste
  • Indestructible
  • Lifelink
  • Menace
  • Reach
  • Trample
  • Vigilance

Unfortunately, the Sultai color combination does not currently have access to a creature with the double strike keyword, but we can always hold out hope for one showing up in the future, likely on some small artifact creature.

When I opened up a copy of Indominus Rex, Alpha from a Set Booster of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, I knew I had to build a Commander deck around it, and over the holiday I finally pulled the deck together and wanted to share it with you today.

Let’s dig in!

Four Keywords

Scavenged Brawler

The holy grail for this deck is Scavenged Brawler, which has a whopping four keywords that I-Rex cares about, and all of them are awesome to have on a single creature in Commander: flying, vigilance, trample, and lifelink. Having them on a 4/4 artifact creature is awesome enough, but discarding it to I-Rex to end up with a 6/6 commander with all of those abilities, plus draw four cards? Not to mention, you can even use Scavenged Brawler from the graveyard to make another of your creatures awesome!

Three Keywords

Wilson, Refined Grizzly Venomthrope Weathered Sentinels Nighthawk Scavenger Questing Beast Mirri the Cursed Elder Gargaroth End-Raze Forerunners Triplicate Titan

Ahhh, look at all the words on these beautiful creatures!  Don’t they look delicious?  I particularly love Weathered Sentinels, since I-Rex doesn’t care about the defender keyword and will happily pick up its vigilance, reach and trample ability.  Plus, it makes a mighty fine early blocker if you need it. End-Raze Forerunners does a pretty good Craterhoof Behemoth impression if you draw it late-game, but it certainly makes a bacon-flavored snack for I-Rex earlier in the game.

Two Keywords

Weeping Angel Rhonas the Indomitable Jewel Thief Ulvenwald Oddity Vorapede Froghemoth Wurmcoil Engine Carnage Tyrant Hornet Queen

Having just two keywords is fine if they’re awesome enough, and I think all of these definitely make the grade, even Jewel Thief, which can help you ramp mana with a Treasure token if you need to deploy it to the battlefield first. Remember, just discarding one of these to I-Rex will net you two fresh new cards.

Counters Matter

The Ozolith Biophagus Goldberry, River-Daughter Agent's Toolkit Master Biomancer

It’s interesting to note that I-Rex’s card draw ability counts the number of counters it has when it enters the battlefield, not specifically keyword counters, so I’m running Biophagus and Master Biomancer, which will potentially let it enter with some number of +1/+1 counters in addition to counters from discarded creatures.

If and when I-Rex meets an untimely demise, The Ozolith and Goldberry, River-Daughter can help redistribute those sweet, sweet ability (and occasional +1/+1) counters to other creatures.

Graveyards Matter

Oversold Cemetery Likeness Looter Obsessive Stitcher Urborg Scavengers Beacon of Unrest Ever After

Since I’m playing black, and my commander naturally puts good to great creatures in the graveyard, I wanted to include a dash of reanimation with Beacon of Unrest and Ever After. Obsessive Stitcher can even cash in to bring back something awesome. And since this isn’t a traditional reanimator strategy where I’m putting gigantic creatures with huge casting costs into the graveyard and cheating them onto the battlefield, Likeness Looter’s ability to copy a good creature in the graveyard is perfectly reasonable.

Oversold Cemetery is an old-school favorite I played a lot in tournaments way back in the day, and I love finally having a good Commander deck to slot it in.  Getting back one or two of the creatures you pitched to I-Rex and then just casting them is exactly the grindy good time I’m looking for.

And how about Urborg Scavengers, doing its best “little buddy” impression of I-Rex by chowing down on those tasty word salad creatures in the graveyard?

Card Draw

Bonders' Enclave Night's Whisper Read the Bones Painful Truths Harmonize Mulldrifter Rishkar's Expertise

Even though my commander has built-in card draw, I still wanted to play some ways to help ensure a stocked hand by the time I cast I-Rex. There are nineteen word salad creatures in the deck; I definitely don’t want variance to leave me with nothing to pitch when I cast my commander, insofar as I can help it.


Haywire Mite Nature's Claim Bitter Triumph Feed the Swarm Golgari Charm Return to Nature Reality Shift Toxic Deluge Culling Ritual Mandate of Abaddon

The Sultai color combination offers lots of great removal options, and I’m playing a fair number of them. Culling Ritual seems like a fantastic way to sweep away the early advantages opponents may have sped to the battlefield, and likely yielding enough mana to deploy my commander the same turn.  Mandate of Abaddon seems like a fine removal spell when it’s very likely my commander – which starts off as a 6/6 and might get +1/+1 counters – could be one of the largest things around.

And I love the modal nature of Golgari Charm, which is usually taking down pesky enchantments like Rhystic Study and Smothering Tithe, but can also mow down a bunch of one-toughness tokens, or regenerate your entire team from a destroy effect. 


Tyrite Sanctum Witch's Clinic Shadowspear Nihil Spellbomb Siren Stormtamer Arcane Denial Fierce Guardianship

I recently decommissioned a Commander deck that had one of my few prized copies of Fierce Guardianship. I was thrilled to add it to this deck, where it can serve to protect my beloved commander from an untimely demise. The lifelink keyword is a little sparse amongst the creatures we have access to, so I made room for Witch’s Clinic and Shadowspear for the deck. And I simply love Shadowspear’s activated ability to turn off indestructible and hexproof from my opponents’ permanents if needed.

Mana Ramp

Blighted Woodland Sol Ring Twists and Turns Sylvan Caryatid Growth Spiral Farseek Nature's Lore Sakura-Tribe Elder Kodama's Reach Skyshroud Claim

Twists and Turns is one of my favorite new green spells for creature-heavy decks; I think too many people get hung up thinking it’s only for explore decks, not realizing that even if Twists and Turns is the only explore card in the deck, you can still get lots of value from its explore ability, and then its transform ability into an incredible utility land. Try it in your green creature decks. You won’t be disappointed!

Words of Warning

One thing I’d like to mention: you need to be very aware of the power level of the Commander pod you’re playing in while piloting this deck. Indominus Rex can hit the battlefield and be very large and scary, and if you discard creatures to make it both hexproof and indestructible it can be virtually unstoppable in a lower-power pod.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to maximize your discards to I-Rex; if your pod will struggle to deal with a fully tricked-out Dinosaur, then hold back and just cast the creature you have with either indestructible or hexproof, and allow the window of opportunity for opponents to interact with your commander, especially if it’s early in the game. This deck can give you that flexibility to adjust your gameplay to maximize the fun.

The Deck

Okay, here’s the full decklist!

Indominus Rex, Alpha
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 01-05-2024
Magic Card Back

Here are the deck stats from our friends at Archidekt:

So, what must-have cards might I have missed including here?  What are your favorite “too expensive to activate” cards?

Talk to Me

Do me a solid and follow me on Twitter!  I run polls and start conversations about Commander all the time, so get in on the fun!  You can also find my LinkTree on my profile page there with links to all my content.

I’d also love it if you followed my Twitch channel TheCompleteCommander, where I do Commander, Brawl, and sometimes other Magic-related streams when I can.  If you can’t join me live, the videos are available on demand for a few weeks on Twitch, but I also upload them to my YouTube channel.  You can also find the lists for my paper decks over on Archidekt if you want to dig into how I put together my own decks and brews.  

And lastly, I just want to say: let us love each other and stay healthy and happy. 

Visit my Decklist Database to see my decklists and the articles where they appeared!