Last updated on May 13, 2023
Gishath, Sun's Avatar (Secret Lair) | Illustration by Timba Smits
If you’re a fan of giant, stomping creatures and prehistoric beasts, you don’t want to miss this! Dinosaurs have roared their way into the game, and with them, some mighty legendary commanders can lead your Jurassic army to victory.
I’ve got all the dinosaur commanders and am ready to discuss their playability, payoffs, and much more. Buckle up and get ready for some dino-sized excitement!
What Are Dinosaur Commanders in MTG?
Akim, the Soaring Wind | Illustration by Filip Burburan
This is somewhat obvious, but dinosaur commanders are legendary creatures with the dinosaur type on them. Honorable mention to the newly introduced Invasion of Ikoria / Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria with the backside legendary dinosaur while the front side is just a regular enchantment. For that reason, it’s off this list.
These dinosaurs can be unique because some synergize with others of the same species while others like to play by their own rules and don’t need many other companions. Still, if they’re legendary and dinosaurs, that’s good for me!
#20. The Tarrasque
My problem with The Tarrasque is that it’s supposed to be one of the best creatures in D&D, and yet, its abilities are pretty mediocre by Magic standards. To put it into perspective, a 1/1 deathtouch creature can handle it because The Tarrasque doesn’t even have trample. Because of that, it’s only logical to say that this dinosaur is probably not the best commander to build a deck around unless you want some deckbuilding challenge.
#19. Tetzimoc, Primal Death
This is another commander that doesn’t do anything if it’s in the command zone. In fact, Tetzimoc, Primal Death is the only card in Magic history that can put prey counters on permanents, so chances are that if you aren’t running it in your main deck, having it in the command zone is pretty much the same as having any other commander instead.
#18. Zilortha, Strength Incarnate
Zilortha, Strength Incarnate can be a key component in decks that focus on combat-based strategies, like aggro or midrange decks that use creatures with power greater than their toughness like Yargle and Multani. It’s not the best, but it enables a different play pattern than other commanders on the list.
#17. Yidaro, Wandering Monster
As a commander, Yidaro, Wandering Monster isn’t as great because you can cycle it from the command zone, but it’s a very neat addition as a part of the deck because it’s a free cantrip that can’t be countered. If you cycle it enough times, you can play it for free.
#16. Akim, the Soaring Wind
This Jeskai commander has everything I wish for in a token commander. Akim, the Soaring Wind is straightforward to build around, and you can aim to flood the board in no time with cards like Young Pyromancer, Monastery Mentor, and Third Path Iconoclast.
The best part is that all those tokens will have double strike at some point to close the game in the blink of an eye.
#15. Ghalta, Primal Hunger
I’ve seen this creature be cast as early as turn 3 or 4, and I can imagine some play patterns allow you to cast it way sooner. Because of this and many other reasons involving it giving it haste and commander damage, Ghalta, Primal Hunger is a massive and fearsome creature that embodies the primal fury of nature.
It’s a formidable force on the battlefield if unanswered or in early board states.
#14. Ghalta and Mavren
It feels like some pairs of legendary creatures are better than their former selves, Ghalta and Mavren is exception because it combines the abilities of both legendary creatures. But Ghalta and Mavren is a great duo and excellent addition to any token commander deck that shares its colors.
For a 12/12, seven mana is somewhat cheap for green decks.
#13. Illuna, Apex of Wishes
I love Illuna, Apex of Wishes because it basically reads “cascade” for permanents, or at least something fairly similar. I’d love to put this into a Voltron-style deck, but Temur has the best payoffs for mutated creatures that go pretty well with this commander.
#12. Kalamax, the Stormsire
Kalamax, the Stormsire smells like combo commander. But I think there are better ones that do the same job, like Riku of Two Reflections.
Still, this dinosaur is cheaper and has a decent body that can engage in combat, so I can see it overperforming in spellslinger decks or decks that run a fair number of combat tricks.
#11. Kogla and Yidaro
I love the team-ups from this new set. Can you imagine an ape and a turtle fighting alongside otherwise? Surely the Phyrexians didn’t see that coming.
As far as the card goes it’s a strong commander on its own, but sadly, its second effect can’t be used because it requires it to be in your hand. Still, if you manage to put it in the command zone, you can opt not to put it in the command zone.
#10. Vadrok, Apex of Thunder
This commander is unique in the sense that it can “upgrade” some creatures when it mutates onto them. It’s cheap and seems like it has a thing for noncreature spells, so I can see it in Jeskai combo decks that require using its abilities to generate card advantage.
For what it’s worth, Vadrok, Apex of Thunder is my new favorite dinosaur because it dealt with Lukka, Bound to Ruin.
#9. Nezahal, Primal Tide
As a commander, Nezahal, Primal Tide is a card that can be built around quickly because you just need to resolve multiple-power mana artifacts like Sol Ring or Mana Vault to cast it early. From there you can draw almost your entire library and win the game.
Outside the Commander realm, it’s been a decent sideboard card in blue-white control decks in both Pioneer and Historic.
#8. Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt
Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt is another mutate commander that doesn’t require a build-around because it can mutate into any other nonhuman creature. I see it primarily doing well in hexproof creatures and enchantments in a pseudo-Voltron shell.
After all, double strike is a pretty good ability to put into something that protects itself.
#7. Etali, Primal Storm
It requires some protection and build-around, but if you manage to attack with Etali, Primal Storm, you can easily outvalue your opponents quickly. Of course, this is more of a hit-or-miss approach.
Still, if you pair its ability with cards like Sensei's Divining Top, Paradox Engine, or Rings of Brighthearth, the game will turn in your favor very quickly, narrowing down the variance effect from Etali.
#6. Etali, Primal Conqueror / Etali, Primal Sickness
Etali, Primal Conqueror has a very similar ability to its counterpart Etali, Primal Storm, but what sets this one apart from the former is that you can use it as a Gruul commander thanks to its dual color identity.
This opens the door to more strategies because green is one of the best colors for access to both ramp and more fatties to cheat out with Etali.
#5. Thrasta, Tempest’s Roar
Thrasta, Tempest's Roar is best known for its appearance in storm decks in Modern. It also sees a fair amount of play in Commander due to its storm potential, but mono-green isn’t the best shell for it because it lacks the rituals that other colors have access to, like red or black.
#4. Keruga, the Macrosage
Playing cards with only three or more mana value can be somewhat hard to do, but in some cases, I’ve seen decks like the ones using Fires of Invention and adventure cards like Bonecrusher Giant to have some early play. I haven’t seen Keruga much outside of Pioneer and Explorer, but it would be interesting to have a Commander deck around it or use it as a commander.
#3. Zacama, Primal Calamity
This is a solid addition to decks focusing on giant creatures and ramp strategies. Cards that generate additional mana, like Mana Reflection, Mirari's Wake, and Nyxbloom Ancient, can help accelerate your mana production and enable you to cast this powerful monster and other devastating ones like Avenger of Zendikar.
#2. Zetalpa, Primal Dawn
In Commander, Zetalpa, Primal Dawn is often used as a powerful finisher in decks that focus on white or white-based strategies. It can serve as a potent win condition, capable of delivering substantial damage to opponents and planeswalkers alike.
Some common strategies and cards that are often paired with Zetalpa in Commander decks include Voltron or stax-themed decks. I’ve seen it as part of a Soulflayer combo to cheat a miniature version of it way earlier in some constructed formats like Pioneer.
#1. Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
If you want to build a dinosaur tribal Commander deck, you can’t go wrong with Gishath, Sun's Avatar. If it hits, your opponents are in big trouble. They’ll have to deal with a massive army of fellow dinosaurs sooner rather than later.
Best Dinosaur Commander Payoffs
As you may have seen, most of these dinosaur commanders are alphas and don’t play well with other creatures. That doesn’t mean you can use one as the king and just add the others as a regular part of the deck, and because of that, here are some of the best payoffs for running a dinosaur tribal deck.
If Commune with Spirits exists for enchantments, Commune with Dinosaurs is the dinosaur counterpart. I like it a lot because it’s a way to pseudo-tutor for your giant creatures in the latter portions of the game and fix your mana at the very beginning for cheap.
Seven power for five mana is already outstanding on its own, but giving haste to other dinosaurs sets Regisaur Alpha apart.
Forerunner of the Empire acts as a minimal version of Goblin Recruiter for your dinosaurs. Its base power and toughness aren’t amazing, but it does the job. If you have ways to draw a card, you can do crazy combos depending on the dinosaur you put on top.
Things that prevent damage are annoying, but it’s not irritating when they prevent your creatures from dying from damage. In other words, a great addition to your dinosaur decks.
A one-sided Day of Judgment is what Wakening Sun's Avatar brings to the table to any deck centered around dinosaur. It may be a bit overpriced, but its effect is greatly worth it.
Yup, there’s a planeswalker protector of dinosaur rights! Huatli, Dinosaur Knight is a powerhouse on its own, and it can serve to pump your already giant creatures into even more aggressive ones. Its second ability can take care of your opponent’s threats without engaging in combat with your dinosaurs, and its ultimate is basically overrun for dinosaurs. Without a doubt, a great addition to any dinosaur-themed deck.
Etali, Primal Conqueror | Illustration by Ryan Pancoast
And there you have it! These are all the legendary dinosaur commanders in Magic. From the raw power of Gishath, Sun's Avatar to the versatile versatility of Zacama, Primal Calamity, these commanders offer thrilling gameplay experiences for dinosaur and MTG enthusiasts.
What was your favorite dino commander? Do you already have any of these built as a commander? Let us know in the comments below, or over on the official Draftsim Discord.
Take care, and I’ll catch you in the next one!
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Etali, Primal Conquerer is incorrectly listed as a “Rakdos commander” instead of Gruul.