Last updated on November 25, 2023
Huatli, Poet of Unity | Illustration by Tyler Jacobson
Like any game with continuous expansions, Magic is almost a living entity. It changes and grows, adapting and sometimes fumbling as time winds on. Despite the constant shifts, a few truths are eternal to the game we love: Dinosaurs are rad as hell, and green’s gonna smash.
Huatli, Poet of Unity is the perfect general to embody what many might consider the spirit of Commander: epic creatures crashing across the battlefield, trampling their foes underfoot as we leap ahead in mana. Naya () has always loved its monsters, and this deck gives the classic archetype a Jurassic twist.
Gishath, Sun's Avatar | Illustration by Zack Stella
Birds of Paradise
Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath
Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea
Forerunner of the Empire
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
Jetmir, Nexus of Revels
Scion of Calamity
Etali, Primal Conqueror
Ghalta and Mavren
Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant
Gishath, Sun's Avatar
Wakening Sun's Avatar
Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Boseiju, Who Endures
Cavern of Souls
Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire
Temple of the False God
Yavimaya, Cradle of Growth
This deck takes Naya ramp very seriously. You’re all about going big faster than your opponents. Today’s list is a pretty casual deck that makes your inner Timmy proud. The heavy ramp package is necessary to support your dinosaurs. Dinosaurs in Magic are predominantly large, expensive creatures, which can be slow if not supported.
The focus on dinosaurs helps make this a little more unique than your average Naya ramp deck that picks from among the best massive creatures Magic has to offer, like Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger. This uniqueness comes with a few perks, letting you leverage powerful typal effects that help push this deck over the top.
Once you’ve deployed your monstrous forces and used their typal synergies, you have powerful finishers in your colors to help push the final points of damage through. Your ramp package helps you get to this point quickly.
Being in green provides tons of support for this deck. It grants access to the ramp spells needed to make your girthy curve work and provides robust card advantage through spells that draw upwards of five or six cards. White and red primarily support you with a few powerful dinos and very welcome interactions.
Huatli, Poet of Unity helps hold the deck together by providing a bit of everything in the command zone. A 3-mana creature that finds a land is welcome in a mana-hungry deck like this, but it would be underwhelming on its own. Much of Huatli’s power lies in its flipside, Roar of the Fifth People.
Getting board presence, ramp, a tutor, and a finishing blow with double strike and trample is everything this deck could want and perfectly represents what the rest of the deck wants to do. The biggest weakness is that it’s a little slow and telegraphs the turn your big swing will come, giving your opponents time to plan. If Huatli or your board goes unanswered, your opponent is in a world of scaly, toothy pain.
Dinosaur Typal Support
First, let’s look at the typal effects supporting your biggest and best dinosaurs. These effects are the primary payoff for focusing your deck on a single creature type other than flavor.
Herald's Horn is a staple in typal decks of all types. The mana discount is especially helpful, and the occasional card advantage gives this a few advantages over something like Commander's Sphere since the ceiling is much higher.
Vanquisher's Banner bolsters your already chunky threats but is more valuable as a card advantage engine. Drawing cards is important for decks like this that want to pressure your opponents. Once you start floundering, your opponents get a chance to take advantage of your weakness.
Speaking of applying pressure, Molten Echoes is wild. Your non-legendary dinosaurs get to attack instantly, and many of your dinosaurs, legendary and otherwise, have ETBs you don’t mind doubling up on.
Sunfrill Imitator smacks hard. The trick to this creature is that it keeps its name, allowing it to become a copy of a legendary dinosaur without invoking the legend rule. Yes, I’d like to hit with two copies of Etali, Primal Sickness or Gishath, Sun's Avatar! It's a truly amazing Dinosaur commander as well.
You have quite a few dinosaurs capable of warping games by themselves, so Forerunner of the Empire is a valuable tool in your arsenal. It’s also part of an infinite combo to help close out the game and tutors for the other half of said combo for startling consistency.
Pantlaza, Sun-Favored is one of the newest dinosaurs on the block, but it offers incredible value. Discover has a lot of potential and may be stronger than cascade; at the very least, getting to choose to draw a card like Shatterskull Smashing or Overrun instead of completely whiffing or casting a spell at an inopportune time is better for this deck.
Regisaur Alpha provides this deck vital speed. It’s a fantastic card to set up haymakers like Etali, Primal Conqueror or Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant. Haste is so valuable you have Crashing Drawbridge as a backup.
Gishath, Sun's Avatar has been the choice as a dinosaur commander since Ixalan. Befitting the greatest of dinosaurs, it does a lot of work in the 99. Games when it connects tend to end within a few turns.
These dinosaurs are the reason you play Naya Dino Ramp. The haymakers that make your pod understand the horrors of Jurassic Park, of being stalked by something that outclasses you in size, speed, and hunger. Alongside your haymakers, some solid dinosaurs occupy the lower end of your curve.
What Belligerent Yearling lacks in size, it makes up for in spirit. And eventual size. It’s a cheap play that hits hard and pairs fantastically with your 12/12s.
Thrashing Brontodon isn’t the subtlest way to interact with artifacts and enchantments, but who needs subtlety when you can carry the biggest stick? It’s great with your ways to draw cards off your dinos for a solid two-for-one.
Topiary Stomper, Wayward Swordtooth, and Hulking Raptor help your dinosaurs get in on the ramp game. Hulking Raptor is an especially powerful new addition that helps churn out threats you can give haste to.
This deck doesn’t focus on triggering enrage, but Ripjaw Raptor still does plenty of work. It’s an oversized threat that’s hard to block because of its stats, and trading off puts you up a card or two. An opponent could always use Swords to Plowshares or a similar spell, but you have plenty more imposing threats.
Bonehoard Dracosaur has been the center of some debate, with one side seeing the most broken thing ever and others considering it too slow to do anything. While this slaughtered many a Limited player at Prerelease, it's also a fine threat for this deck; the card advantage and board presence are excellent. It might die, but there’s a reasonable chance this isn’t the scariest thing on board, and one trigger is all you need.
Scion of Calamity is excellent, just excellent. Myriad is a great mechanic in general, but especially for the kind of decks interested in this burgeoning disaster. Getting to interact with troublesome cards like Portal to Phyrexia and Sphere of Safety provides even more value.
Obtaining the monarchy is another way for this deck to see extra cards. The addition of mana ramp makes Regal Behemoth a vital include for this deck. It’s relatively easy to play this on turn 4 or 5, and it’s an imposing enough blocker to defend the crown alone.
Etali, Primal Conqueror is powerful, to the precipice of egregious. A 7-mana 7/7 trampler is incredible on rate, it’ll often cast four additional spells, and it’s an ETB, so you get immediate value. On top of all that, Etali, Primal Sickness is a finisher capable of winning on its own within a few turns.
If a 7/7 trampler for 7 is on rate, I have no idea how to comment on a 7-mana 12/12 with nothing but upside. Ghalta and Mavren doesn’t even need to survive a turn for extra value; it just needs to make it to combat.
At least Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant makes you pay for your 12/12 with a whole extra mana. And you don’t need it to survive until combat. It just needs to resolve for the value! This pairs beautifully with your big draw spells like Rishkar's Expertise as fodder and a payoff to dump creatures into play.
Apex Altisaur sweeps, quite literally. It’s not uncommon to cast this as a removal spell that trades for three or more of the best creatures on board, but sometimes it’s just a 10/10 Ravenous Chupacabra, which is plenty of value.
Ghalta, Primal Hunger will usually be a 2-mana 12/12, but it somehow feels like the tamest Ghalta iteration on this list. What do you mean this has to survive until the next combat for value??
The handful of cards here close the door once you’ve thrown the bulk of your cards on the table. You have a few classics and some newer staples coming together to demonstrate the terror of reptiles.
Huatli, Warrior Poet takes a bit of work to be a finisher. You’ll often use it to make Dinosaur tokens to build your ground forces, but the incidental life gain helps stabilize should anybody try racing your 12/12s. After upticking once or twice, it renders enough blockers mute to take out at least one player.
Taunt from the Rampart is new and powerful. Preventing all your opponents’ creatures from blocking is a recipe for lethal with this deck, but worrying about dying on the crackback and forcing your opponents to finish each other off makes this a dramatic way to take out a player or two while retaining a dominant position.
With cards like Craterhoof Behemoth and Triumph of the Hordes running amok, Overrun may seem like an odd choice of a finisher, but the classics hold up. This is often more than enough to finish the game, and I just like having an iconic Limited card killing the combo player. This one’s way easier on the wallet.
Despite everything I’ve said about 7-mana 12/12s, Jetmir, Nexus of Revels is likely the strongest individual creature in the deck, or at least in the running. Your mana dorks can win a game with this cat demon around without any help from your dinosaurs. Personally, I’m happy to not be on the receiving end of a Ghalta that decides to double-tap.
Wakening Sun's Avatar sweeps away a few of your creatures, mostly the early mana dorks, but it’ll have a far more detrimental impact on your opponents as most dinosaurs don’t show up outside dedicated typal decks.
Winds of Abandon is a card I think many people underrate. It’s easy to look at it as a card that gives your opponents a huge mana advantage, and that can happen, but it’s all in how you use it. The mistake comes from using it too early; it doesn’t matter how many lands your opponents get if they’re dead on board without blockers. It’s also nice and versatile, dealing with a problematic threat early instead of wiping everything.
This deck is a little light on interaction, primarily relying on speed and power to plow through all but the most fearsome threats. Several of your finishers interact in one way or another, primarily by dealing with blockers, but you have a few other cards.
You also have a lot of ways to protect your board: Clever Concealment, Teferi's Protection, and Heroic Intervention all pitch in to keep your board safe through various wipes. It’s important because you’re so creature-focused and because your commander kind of telegraphs when you want to go in for a big swing.
The Mana Base
A solid chunk of your deck is dedicated to mana production, either as lands or mana dorks or cards that find lands. It’s a lot of mana, but this deck is capable of spending it between lots of expensive threats and card advantage from spells like The Great Henge and Up the Beanstalk.
For lands, you have an assortment of value lands to go along with the ones fixing your mana. Having so many value lands helps you to play a high land count without worrying as much about flooding out. The best of these lands is Boseiju, Who Endures and Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire; you aren’t running the red channel land because it’s incredibly underwhelming.
The modal double-faced cards from Zendikar Rising have been part of my staple list for a while. Turntimber Symbiosis, Emeria's Call, and Shatterskull Smashing all provide excellent late-game utility while ensuring you hit land drops to play early spells. Tangled Florahedron is a little less flexible but does a lot of work to smooth our opening hands.
Temple of the False God is a land that gets a lot of derision, but I’ve liked it here. It’s not amazing in the opening hand, but a deck with this many lands and ways to get extra lands in play uses it fairly well.
You have plenty of 1-mana accelerants to help get Huatli, Poet of Unity out quickly. Birds of Paradise is a staple in any green multicolor deck, and the abundance of green sources lets you land Utopia Sprawl and Wild Growth quite well.
Somberwald Sage is a little fragile, but the burst in mana is invaluable. Getting to jump from 3 to 7 mana is huge in this deck, as you have several haymakers that cost 7.
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma and Shadow in the Warp provide steep discounts to your creatures. Goreclaw is one of your most potent ramp pieces. Shadow helps to churn out creatures while adding a lot of incidental damage to the board.
The plan is simple: Demonstrate why dinosaurs fascinate the public. They’re big, strong, and fast. Which is to say, you want to ramp and deploy big dinosaurs quickly.
This deck basically can’t support a hand without at least one piece of mana acceleration; two is better. Any hand with three mana finds a fourth mana source thanks to Huatli, Poet of Unity’s ETB ability. Getting an early source of card advantage down is also fantastic.
You want to overwhelm your opponents by deploying your dinosaurs. Some recently pushed creatures like Etali, Primal Conqueror and Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant are dinosaurs which helps with this. Off your top end, many of them can win a game by themselves with a little time and interaction. If your opponent focuses on finishing off the haymakers, then your card advantage and your less significant dinos like Bonehoard Dracosaur or Pantlaza, Sun-Favored can take over the game.
Getting Huatli, Poet of Unity into play early often benefits you for finding extra lands, but flipping it into Roar of the Fifth People is rarely as pressing. You have lots of good 5-mana plays to occupy your mana.
The saga also has a weakness: It telegraphs your actions like a Bat-Signal. When you flip it, your opponents know when the big attack is coming, unlike your other finishers like Taunt from the Rampart or Wakening Sun's Avatar that come from left field. Giving them a 2- or 3-turn warning gives them time and information to dig for answers. I prefer flipping Huatli once interaction has been used on other threats, I have a protective spell like Clever Concealment, or because I want to use the tokens and mana advantage to build my board and throw down one of the other finishers, while my opponents think they have another turn.
Your interaction primarily focuses on spot removal or removing blockers for finishers. This deck counts on its creatures being the biggest and coming out the fastest to maintain pressure and rip through blockers. The removal's here to deal with threats that exist outside that ideal board state. You also have plenty of artifact and enchantment interaction to deal with things like Ghostly Prison that impede your dinos.
Deploying the finishers is often easy. They’re relatively cheap and come down before your opponents know what hit them. It’s best to avoid blowing cards like Overrun or Taunt from the Rampart to deal damage; these often remove at least one player from the game. A hunter’s patience serves you best for these cards, lurking in the ferns until the perfect moment to strike arrives.
Combos and Interactions
Your deck has two powerful interactions to examine, one of which can become an infinite combo to win the game.
You need both creatures in play and for the Imitator to be able to attack.
When you attack with the Imitator, both creatures trigger. You want to stack the triggers, so the Imitator becomes a copy of Ghalta and Mavren (again, not triggering the legend rule because Imitator retains its original name), and then Ghalta’s trigger resolves. It sees that you control a 12/12 and makes another 12/12 dinosaur.
This two-card mini-combo dominates a game with little effort and can be set up with Forerunner of the Empire or Fierce Empath. You can do this trick with Belligerent Yearling if you control it the turn Ghalta and Mavren comes into play.
This token triggers the Forerunner again, letting you deal one damage to each creature and make two additional Polyraptors. You can do this once more before Forerunner of the Empire dies, ultimately ending with each creature taking 3 damage and eight Polyraptors ready to take on the world.
If you throw in Heroic Intervention, you go infinite. Because the Forerunner gets indestructible, it won’t die of damage. You can continue making Polyraptors forever; while some will die, they grow exponentially, so you’ll always have more, and your other creatures already have indestructible anyway. This would normally create an endless loop, but Forerunner has a “may” ability, so you can stop the combo when you're ready.
Even without the infinite, the combination of Forerunner of the Empire and Polyraptor is one of your strongest interactions because the Forerunner can find its other half to have a massive impact on the board.
Rule 0 Violations Check
This is a fantastic casual deck. You’re playing right into the spirit of the format without cEDH staples or broken combos. You can go infinite, but each piece does enough alone that you can agree not to combo if the table you’re playing at dislikes that. You’re doing strong things that are easily interacted with, and you’re unlikely to win at the drop of a hat without building your board, so this should work at any casual table. The only card that may push that is Etali, Primal Conqueror; the combination of an infect win and tons of spells doesn’t fit every pod’s idea of a casual deck.
Let’s check out some ways to bring the price down. First and foremost, the mana base is the best place to cut costs. You’re using fetches, shocks, and a triome, all of which have cheaper, ETB-tapped options.
The value lands, like the channel lands and MDFCs, can simply be swapped for the basics of the appropriate type. I’d keep the MDFCs as lands; hitting land drops is super important, and they were added to this deck with the intent of being lands that are sometimes spells rather than the other way around.
Bonehoard Dracosaur and Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant are demanding high preorder prices at the time of writing. You can replace them with other value dinosaurs, like Verdant Sun's Avatar and Annoyed Altisaur; that said, these, in particular, strike me as cards whose prices will crater a few weeks after release.
Huatli, Poet of Unity is tied pretty strongly to dinosaurs, but there’s still room to tweak the list. One change you could make would be to up the power of this deck. While it’s pretty casual, you could boost the power by a level or two by including a bit of fast mana like Mana Vault and Ancient Tomb while deepening the interactive pool with stax pieces like Drannith Magistrate and Collector Ouphe.
If you wanted to leave typal behind entirely, Huatli could likely work as a token commander. Roar of the Fifth People creating two tokens and making a burst of mana is something token decks could capitalize on. You’d lose value from the final two modes, but some dinosaurs work with tokens, and we’ve examined the weaknesses of the final chapter already.
Sunfrill Imitator | Illustration by Brian Valeza
There’s nothing like slamming dinosaurs around the pod like a child playing with their toys, enacting Jurassic battles ended by a Star of Extinction. This deck captures that gleeful destruction in a robust package.
It’s also a great deck to play with newer players; Naya Ramp gets to the heart of what makes Commander a beloved format, and the play patterns are exciting and simple enough to draw in new players.
What’s your favorite dinosaur in Magic? Which commander from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan are you having the most fun with? Let me know in the comments below or on the Draftsim Twitter!
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