Communing with Dinosaurs at Grand Prix Shizuoka
Jamin takes his last chance to prove that Green-Red dinosaurs is more than a homebrew in Standard. Learn about the difficulties he encountered while he takes you through the fifteen rounds of Grand Prix Shizuoka to see if Sarkhan's Unsealing can match the power level of Golgari Midrange.
Since I currently live in Tokyo, playing GP Shizuoka was an easy choice for me. I didn't have access to Legacy cards, so I would only get to play the Standard part of the weekend. Ever since the Pro Tour, I worked on the green-red dinosaur deck from my last article and wanted to prove the deck's playability. I made some final tweaks (notably a maindeck Maximize Velocity) and ended up on this list:
|1Memorial to Unity||1Drover of the Mighty||4Commune with Dinosaurs|
|4Mountain||4Druid of the Cowl||1Lava Coil|
|4Rootbound Crag||1Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma||1Maximize Velocity|
|1Timber Gorge||1Raging Swordtooth||2Savage Stomp|
|4Regisaur Alpha||4Thunderherd Migration|
|4Ripjaw Raptor||3Sarkhan's Unsealing|
|1Banefire||2Crushing Canopy||2Fiery Cannonade|
|1Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma||1Sentinel Totem||1Shapers' Sanctuary|
|1The Immortal Sun||2Thrashing Brontodon||2Treasure Map / Treasure Cove|
After taking an early morning train from Tokyo to Shizuoka, I arrived in time for me to pick up matching basics from the land station before the third round started.
Round 3: Golgari Midrange
The Golgari matchup is a weird one: they have the better early game featuring Wildgrowth Walker (which can easily get out of control), Llanowar Elves, and explore beaters but unfortunately they also have the better late game simply because Find/Finality buys back so much gas. This makes you depend on the midgame to set up big swing turns which you can convert into game winning damage. These swing turns are the reason Maximize Velocity and Banefire made it into the main deck, pushing your midgame over the finish line.
The first game went exactly how we drew it up: on the play, I got to deploy an unanswered Sarkhans Unsealing on turn three and follow it up with Dino after Dino to finish the game rather quickly. Unfortunately, game two saw my opponent develop their gameplan a lot faster with the help of Llanowar Elves and I lost to Vraska, Relic Seeker generating too much value. With all the marbles in play in game three, this one was going to be a nailbiter.
I'm on the play again but my opponent makes the first play with Llanowar Elves followed up by two more on his next turn. As I passed turn three after playing a Ripjaw Raptor, Carnage Tyrant comes down. With the aggro gameplan out of the window, I would now somehow need to win a grindy game, which might just happen since my opponent was low on cards and I had two Tyrants in my own hand.
The game got into a state where my opponent was empty handed with a Ravenous Chupacabra on top of their deck. Knocking the top of my deck I took my draw and slam Vivien Reid onto the battlefield. A quick +1 found a Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma and with an uncontested Planeswalker, I felt great all of the sudden. My next turn comes around, I drew a land and Vivien did too. I was getting a bit worried and rightfully so, my opponent rips Assassin's Trophy off the top of his deck, leaving the game even again. I proceeded to draw multiple lands while my opponent deployed a final Carnage Tyrant and the whole game was now pinned on one single draw step. I needed to draw Banefire or Regisaur Alpha. And draw well I did, with a clutch Banefire off the top saving the day!
Round 4: U/B Quasiduplicate
I call this deck Quasiduplicate because I'm sure it played the card, though I never actually saw one.
During game one, I had the interesting decision on turn one whether to hold Commune with Dinosaurs since I didn't know what I wanted just yet. I decided to hold onto it only to have it taken as my only noncreature card with Kitesail Freebooter. Apart from that, game one was relatively unexciting with a Sarkhan's Unsealing dominating the board state. The most interesting thing in game two was a Disdainful Stroke sitting in my opponent`s hand, unable to counter multiple Carnage Tyrants.
Round 5: Jeskai Control
The recent shift in Jeskai from Control to a tap-out deck has made the matchup a lot better simply because counterspells are so important against me. Nowadays you can simply slam threat after threat and while your opponent might counter the first, they will soon run out of counterspells.
Still, the matchup is no freebie, but this match sure felt like one: my opponent made the mistake of committing a counterspell to Druid of the Cowl (which is an easy mistake to make when you don't know my deck), so he was left without one for Sarkhan's Unsealing and from there on it was smooth sailing.
Game two was Carnage Tyrant's time to shine again. With one in my opening hand and another one off a Commune, my opponent soon had to counter Maximize Velocity not to take too much damage. The first Tyrant got answered by Settle the Wreckage but my opponent couldn't find another answer in time and died to the 7/6.
Round 6: Golgari Again
I already told you about the dynamics against Golgari. This time, setting up my swing turn involved hoping that my opponent didn't have Vivien to answer my turn five Unsealing. He didn't and died to a Carnage Tyrant wrathing their board.
Game two, my opponent stumbled on mana and I didn't. It wasn't an interesting one but who am I to turn it down?
Round 7: W/G Tokens
I haven't played this matchup as often as all the others but the gameplan is often similar to matches against Golgari. Ideally you can resolve Unsealing (as you usually do have a turn to do that, the tokens deck doesn't kill that quickly) and cast Carnage Tyrant. Only playing creatures rarely good enough since March of the Multitudes doubles their board presence. Raging Swordtooth can be a total blowout if they don't have Trostani Discordant on the board already.
In the first game, I mulliganed to six on the draw, keeping a hand with two Thunderherd Migration but without a Dinosaur. I didn't find one in the top three cards either and while I was sitting there ramping on turn three, my opponent built a massive board and ran me over.
Game two had a more interesting texture to it. My opponent didn't build a board except for a single Emmara, Soul of the Accord, which got brick-walled by a Ripjaw Raptor. When they chumped my Carnage Tyrant I got suspicious and didn't deploy a third creature. Sure enough my opponent untaps and Cleansing Nova took care of my Dinos. I untapped and refilled the board with Drover of the Mighty and a backup Carnage Tyrant, but a second Cleansing Nova blew me out of the water. While I could still reload with Regisaur Alpha, my opponent had generated too much card advantage and quickly took over.
Round 8: Mono Red Flame of Keld
Mono Red doesn't usually run The Flame of Keld anymore, but my gameplan is the same: block with a turn three Ripjaw Raptor. That's it! Very easy, right? Well, there's more to it than that of course. Runaway Steam-Kin is very scary and you have to start attacking earlier than you might think, otherwise they simply burn you out.
I was on the play in Game 1 and I led with a turn two Druid. Unfortunately, the Druid was struck by lightning and I had to spend my turn three ramping instead of playing Ripjaw. After Ripjaw stabilized the board, my opponent emptied his hand to set up for the Flame of Keld, which overpowered my defenses two turns later. Ouch, losing a game on the play with druid of the cowl on turn two is rough.
Game two went smoothly for me - turn three Ripjaw became reality this time.
Game three was what I was scared of though. My opponent didn't play anything on turn one and turn two is only a Viashino Pyromancer instead of the scary growing Elemental. I had a shot! Ripjaw found his calling as a blocker once again and stabilized the board.
My opponent eventually ends up with a freshly played Flame of Keld together with some dorky red creatures. I ended up with a Regisaur Alpha + Token and a Carnage Tyrant. It's my turn and I have access to eight mana with Carnage Tyrant and Banefire in hand.
This was a very tricky spot for me to figure out since no matter which way I played it, my opponent has blocks that leave him alive even through Banefire. The question I had was "how do I convince my opponent to block in a way so that he's dead to banefire", I was pretty sure my opponent didn't know that I had Banefire in my deck at that point.
I thought about it for a while - Magic isn't an easy game. Our table judge asked me to make a decision and I decided that casting Carnage and swinging with everything wouldn't give away that I had something in hand. My opponent blocked in a way that left him at one, ready for me to Banefire. I'm still not sure what the right play would've been as it has less to do with cards and more with my opponent's perception of the game state.
Finishing day one 7-1 was a great result and I was excited for day two!
Round 9: Big Red
When pairings for round nine were announced, my table was called as a feature match and it turns out I was playing against Kentaro Yamamoto. Big Red is probably one of the best matchups for this deck. They have no way to answer Unsealing, Ripjaw Raptor is always at least a two for one, and the only two cards you have to worry about are Rekindling Phoenix and Star of Extinction. The games we actually played were very boring though as my opponent never got going, flooded in game one and screwed in game two.
Round 10: Golgari, for the Third Time
By now, you've probably got the hang of what counts in the matchup against Golgari. Unsealing got followed up by Carnage Tyrant swung game one and game two was equally swingy with Savage Stomp letting Ripjaw Raptor kill Vivien Reid, followed up by my Vivien eating a Doom Whisperer.
Round 11: W/G Tokens
The matchup from round seven was back and it wasn't any better. Game one, my opponent didn't reveal a green source until turn four, which made me play a Ripjaw Raptor instead of an Unsealing, if I had known they were a Selesnya deck, I would've chosen differently. Game two featured the very best sideboard card against me, Citywide Bust. Killing three of my creatures without losing anything turns out to be very good. At this point I am 9-2 and need to win out to make top8.
Round 12: Naya Tokens
I honestly don't have a lot to say here as I don't really know my opponent's deck. All I know was that in game two, my opponent had multiple Divine Visitation in hand but couldn't play them due to a Vivien with a lot of loyalty. Interestingly enough, I never saw a red card, so I'm still left in the dark as to why their manabase was three colored.
Round 13: Golgari #4
Alright, I'm not going to bother that much with this.
I do want to highlight one key decision in the match: after winning game one, during game two my opponent had a hand of five cards, a Vivien on six loyalty and two blockers. I had Goreclaw in play together with multiple dinosaurs and had to make the bold choice of attacking my opponent with everything rather than fighting over Vivien. It seems like a weird play at first, but I'm convinced this is the right line to take simply because beating Vivien wouldn't win the long game, it would simply make it even longer. After some bad blocks by my opponent (he told me afterwards that he forgot how the Goreclaw trigger works) leaving him at six life, Find // Finality only left a single Regisaur Alpha (with a +1/+1 counter) on the board.
From there on, I had four more draws to find any dinosaur or Banefire, (which is around 50/50 overall as I only had ~10 dinos left) but unfortunately I lost that coinflip.
Game three my opponent executed his gameplan very well, taking care of my threats with cheaper removal, and I was left in the dust at 10-3
Round 14: Mono White
The beats didn't stop for me. Winning game one was easy as I was on the play with a Druid of the Cowl, but in games two and three, I didn't have a shot due to some mulligans and not finding Fiery Cannonade. If I were to work on this dinosaur deck for an upcoming event, I would try to find a strategy against white "go wide" decks that's better than the instant speed Pyroclasm, since many of their creatures grow out of range quickly.
The Last Round: Jeskai Control
I already talked about the tap-out versions of this deck having less game against us and it displayed during my final games of the tournament. While my opponent managed to squeeze a win out of game two by curving counterspells into Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Niv-Mizzet, Parun, I was able to dominate games one and three on the back of slamming threat after threat. Carnage Tyrant proved his worth once again and I was happy to finish the tournament. 11-4
The final standings got posted while I was on my way back to Tokyo and I was very happy to find out that my tie-breakers were good enough for 52nd place. I had secured a money finish with my own deck that I had invested quite a bit of time into. This was satisfying to say the least and while 11-4 is not the finish you want after starting 9-1, my overall record shows that this deck has what it takes to compete in the current Standard. I sincerely wish there was more Standard for me to play but the next European Standard GP hasn't even been announced yet and so I will probably retire from this deck now. I hope some of you will take this list for a spin at local events and if you do, please let me know how you did either here on Cardmarket Insight or over on my Twitter.
See you next time,
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