Dinosaurs at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica
Guilds of Ravnica marked Jamin's first Pro Tour. Read all about the weird idea that turned into the deck he submitted and an updated list to crush Standard with.
People say your first Pro Tour is the most exciting one. While the tournament itself wasn't a great experience (multiple upsets by Wizards like cutting T-Shirts and pro player cards), the week before was an amazing one, filled with testing among most of the greatest German players.
You can read more about our testing in Toffel's article, but I am here today to tell you all about my final deck choice, which was a rather weird one.
A Radical Idea
You have to submit your decklist for the Pro Tour on Wednesday evening and on Tuesday morning, most of our team was on their path to play Green-Black midrange. The deck had great overall matchups against most of the field and incredible flexibility in deckbuilding. We were trying to build a deck that could beat the mirror, when Marc Tobiasch came up and asked, “Has anyone tried building a deck with this card yet?” while holding up a Sarkhan's Unsealing.
Fringe homebrews are dangerous. Most players cannot resist the thought of winning a tournament with their own brew and have ended up playing a bad deck this way at least once. With that in mind, I quickly sat down with Marc to build a ramp deck utilizing the newly found enchantment while the rest of our group didn't want to spend valuable time on what would most likely end up as a non-option. While looking for four power creatures it quickly became obvious that we needed some dinosaurs to trigger the Unsealing. Our first build looked something like this:
|12Forest||4Carnage Tyrant||4Commune with Dinosaurs|
|4Mountain||2Deathgorge Scavenger||4Lava Coil|
|4Rootbound Crag||2Druid of the Cowl||4Thunderherd Migration|
|1Timber Gorge||4Llanowar Elves||4Sarkhan's Unsealing|
At the time, our sideboard was a mess and not very useful, but we only wanted to get a feeling for the deck. And boy did we get a feeling, immediately snapping up a 4-1 in the competitive Standard League on Magic Online. While 4-1 doesn't tell us anything about the actual strength of the deck in a competitive metagame, it showed us that the deck had power to it, so we invested more time refining the list. First card to go was Deathgorge Scavenger, which simply didn't fit into a defensive ramp gameplan.
Talking about defense, Druid of the Cowl is unironically one of the strongest creatures in Standard. The 1/3 statline lines up so well against everything aggro decks are doing, it feels dirty deploying it on turn two. Another important improvement I never would have considered was pointed out by Marc after another league: Llanowar Elves is a bad card in this deck. This seems like such a strange conclusion to get to when you're playing a ramp deck, but it's true: for one, both mono red and U/R phoenix run four Shock and red takes it even further with Goblin Chainwhirler. In a proactive synergy driven gameplan, letting your opponent trade resources this cheaply is your downfall. Secondly, this deck doesn't do anything with three mana on turn two. There are no three mana power-plays we can do, except maybe deploying Thrashing Brontodon. Llanowar Elves simply don't fit the curve.
Alright, now we know that Druid of the Cowl and Thunderherd Migration are both crucial in this deck, what about the rest? First, I will give you the list that I'm currently playing and afterwards we will go through each of the cards.
|14Forest||4Carnage Tyrant||4Commune with Dinosaurs|
|4Mountain||2Drover of the Mighty||1Lava Coil|
|4Rootbound Crag||4Druid of the Cowl||4Thunderherd Migration|
|1Timber Gorge||1Raging Swordtooth||3Savage Stomp|
|4Regisaur Alpha||3Sarkhan's Unsealing|
|2Banefire||2Fiery Cannonade||1Fight with Fire|
|2Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma||1Plummet||1Sarkhan's Unsealing|
|1The Immortal Sun||1Thrashing Brontodon||2Treasure Map / Treasure Cove|
The Remaining 52 cards
With Druid and Thunderherd Migration set in stone, we've made it to turn three and got four mana available to us, great! What now? Let me tell you, our four mana cards are some of the strongest plays we have access to. Sarkhan's Unsealing and Ripjaw Raptor serve very different purposes but are equally powerful. The enchantment poses an incredible threat to any slow deck, turning a Carnage Tyrant into an uncounterable board-swing while the 4/5 Raptor with Enrage is a brick wall against aggro. If mono red wants to get past our dinosaur, they have to spend at least two cards, which then lets us draw cards for free as well. Also Goblin Chainwhirler's trigger suddenly becomes very pleasant. White Weenie has up to four Conclave's Tribunal available which is certainly annoying but apart from that, they can't attack into our 4/5 either.
The rest of the Dinosaur package is made up of a playset of Regisaur Alpha and Carnage Tyrant, along with some amount of Thrashing Brontodon as blockers against aggro and one Territorial Allosaurus and Raging Swordtooth.
Carnage Tyrant is THE Standard defining card, originally only played by B/G, but now adapted by us. Every slow matchup in Standard somehow revolves around the 7/6 Hexproof which is why Control decks adjusted to play more Settle the Wreckage, Detection Tower, or Deafening Clarion with Expansion/Explosion. Having four of these monsters together with four Commune with Dinosaurs gives us a lot of punch.
Regisaur Alpha is the weakest of our dinosaurs but still deserves the inclusion as he gets us two blockers against aggro while also making Carnage Tyrant an even bigger threat by granting Haste.
As for the one-offs, Raging Swordtooth will often kill multiple White Weenie creatures and Territorial Allosaurus is simply a fifth 4-mana blocker against aggro. One-offs are fine in this deck as you do have some ability to find them with Commune with Dinosaurs.
This deck is weak to fliers. We're a slow ramp deck so we cannot race and relying on Sarkhan's Unsealing to remove threats is too slow against Enigma Drake. To fix this we have around four to six slots for removal. Any more and you will run into issues with not having enough ramp/payoff during games. These slots are very much up to a metagame call. Facing Rekindling Phoenix, Arclight Phoenix and Crackling Drake, we decided on multiple Lava Coils. Doom Whisperer, Lyra Dawnbringer and Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice are equally threatening but require you to play more Savage Stomps. In my experience, some split between the two is ideal but the exact number is up to you and the metagame you want to beat.
One more card I want to mention is Drover of the Mighty. To me it is the next best mana source after our original eight. While it suffers the early game problem against Shock, it at least doesn't die to Chainwhirler. Having more than eight ramp spells seems important to me and so my lists currently vary between one and two Drovers.
Being on the play is incredibly important for this deck and changes how whole matchups play out. Because of that it is impossible for me to provide a perfect sideboarding guide, so instead I'll leave you with some general explanations, leaving the exact postboard configuration up to you.
- Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma was a last second addition but it worked out beautifully. Against any non-red deck, it's great at creating swingy turns and at its worst, your opponent has to spend four mana to kill it because Cast Down can't target it.
- Thrashing Brontodon is a nice blocker against aggro, especially when on the draw.
- Fiery Cannonade used to be game over for white wheenies but they have adapted since, grading it down to a “nice to have” spell that also triggers your Ripjaw Raptor.
- Banefire is an obvious include against control but also make sure to bring in at least one against mono red on the draw to kill Runaway Steam-kin before it runs away with the game.
- Plummet is a catch all against fliers, while Vivien Reid also comes in against control, where she shines alongside Treasure Map.
- The last two cards, Fight with Fire and the fourth Sarkhan's Unsealing are flex slots which are geared towards control right now but feel free to try new cards. While I have spent a significant amount of time working on this deck, I have not yet arrived at what I would consider a perfect sideboard.
I went 1-3 in Standard at the Pro Tour, which was very disappointing, but not representative of this decks power level. I got fairly unfortunate from die-rolls (which I wouldn't mention if they weren't so important here) to draws and am still convinced that this deck has what it takes to compete in Standard. My next chance to prove this deck's power level will be at GP Shizuoka at the end of the month so watch out for me there!
In the meantime, if you want to give this deck a go at a PPTQ or some other event you want to win and have questions, don't hesitate to leave me a message either in the comments or on Twitter and I'll come back to you as soon as possible.
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