Last updated on April 10, 2024

Gishath, Sun's Avatar - Illustration by Zack Stella

Gishath, Sun's Avatar | Illustration by Zack Stella

I’ve always been a fan of dinosaurs, from Dinosaurs the TV show to Jurassic Park, in cartoons and video games. These giant majestic beasts are always stomping around. Magic players could always play with big creatures like Verdant Force and Craw Wurm, but we had to wait until 2017 to play with actual dinosaurs.

Today I’m going to take a look at the most notable dinosaurs printed in MTG, go over some suggestions to build your dino decks, and show you a sample list that incorporates the best aspects from competitive dinosaur cards.

Ready? Let’s just dive right in!

Table of Contents show

What Are Dinosaurs in MTG?

Polyraptor - Illustration by Mark Behm

Polyraptor | Illustration by Mark Behm

Dinosaurs are a creature type in MTG. Concentrated mainly in green since it’s the color of big feral creatures, beasts, and monsters, nobody can argue that all dinosaurs should be green or green-based. There are a handful of dinosaur cards that have been printed in other colors to smooth out the color pie and offer some deckbuilding variety, mainly white and red.

The stars of the set were clearly the Pirates and the Dinosaurs. They were the two tribes that players were clamoring for that we'd never really delivered on. Yes, the Vampires were cool, but we had done so much Vampire tribal over the years that they weren't as special as the Pirates and Dinosaurs. Also, while the Warriors were okay, they were clearly the least exciting tribe mechanically.

Mark Rosewater on Ixalan’s design

Dinosaurs debuted in Ixalan as one of the main creature types for the set, and WotC made them a primary creature type in just two other sets after that: Rivals of Ixalan and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Wizards wanted to do a dinosaur world for a long time because they knew that the creature type would be cool.

Here’s how many dinosaurs have been printed in each color:

  • White: 20
  • Red: 31
  • Black: 3
  • Blue: 3
  • Green: 43
  • Multicolor: 21

With all that out of the way, let’s dive in the list of the most notable dinosaur cards printed in Magic. Most of these cards saw (or still see) Constructed play while some are the kings of kitchen table and casual play. The problem with rating a card type with high mana value is that most of them don’t make Constructed 60-card formats like Standard, Pioneer, Modern etc. very often. And old formats have more interesting options to cheat into play like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Griselbrand, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

Best White Dinosaurs

#3. Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

All of Zetalpa, Primal Dawn’s mechanics together make it effectively a 8/8 lifelink flier with indestructible. That’s beefy.

#2. Wakening Sun's Avatar

Wakening Sun's Avatar

Keep your dinosaurs, destroy every creature your opponents have. Wakening Sun's Avatar is also a 7/7.

#1. Snubhorn Sentry

Snubhorn Sentry

Snubhorn Sentry saw lots of play in white weenie decks where it was secretly a 3/3 for one mana as long as you had the City's Blessing. The deck played a lot of token makers to achieve this goal as fast as possible.

Best Blue Dinosaur

#1. Nezahal, Primal Tide

Nezahal, Primal Tide

Nezahal, Primal Tide sees a lot of play in Constructed format as a control finisher, in the sideboard against control, and in Izzet () spell-heavy decks. Drawing some cards whenever your opponent plays noncreature spells is huge, and the blinking ability means it’s tough to deal with.

Best Black Dinosaurs

#2. Tetzimoc, Primal Death

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

Putting prey counters on your opponents creatures is scary, and once a lot of them have been marked, it’s Plague Wind time when Tetzimoc, Primal Death enters the battlefield.

#1. Rotting Regisaur

Rotting Regisaur

7/6 for three mana is one of the best rates you can get on a creature, but it comes with the harsh downside of discarding a card every turn. The secret is to get the game over as soon as possible. Embercleave can transform Rotting Regisaur into a game-winning threat. Some players have called this deck Rakdos Splinter Twin referencing the 2-card winning combo.

Best Red Dinosaurs

#5. Etali, Primal Storm

Etali, Primal Storm

You get two free cards whenever Etali, Primal Storm attacks. Give it haste with Fires of Yavimaya or Rhythm of the Wild to reduce the number of times when it doesn’t impact the battlefield.

#4. Burning Sun's Avatar

Burning Sun's Avatar

Burning Sun's Avatar saw some play when it was first released as a way to kill a creature and a planeswalker when it enters the battlefield. You could easily get something like Jadelight Ranger and like Vivien Reid against a deck like Golgari ().

#3. Yidaro, Wandering Monster

Yidaro, Wandering Monster

Yidaro, Wandering Monster only asks to be cycled four times in a game as a piece of synergy in cycling decks. Your deck gets thinner and your Yidaro starts to cycle into other Yidaros if you cycle a bunch of cards.

Yidaro saw some play in Jeskai () Control decks as a surprise win condition, especially thanks to the synergy between it and Narset of the Ancient Way because you can discard it to Narset's abilities to hit a target for seven mana in the early-to-mid game.

#2. Rampaging Ferocidon

Rampaging Ferocidon

The only card in this list to be banned in Standard, Rampaging Ferocidon was a key card in red aggro decks out of the sideboard to prevent opponents’ lifegain in post-board matches. Wizards deemed it too big a haymaker for these decks to have a better match against the dominant mono-red Hazoret Aggro.

A 3/3 trample menace is a good rate, and preventing lifegain from the opponents is very convenient in aggro decks.

#1. Marauding Raptor

Marauding Raptor

Marauding Raptor was a key card in making the dinosaur-dedicated deck one of the best in its Standard format after the release of Core Set 2020. A 2-drop that the deck sorely needed, this Raptor makes all your dinos cheaper and trigger enrage.

Consider this curve:

All your subsequent dinosaurs trigger enrage if they have the ability, and a 4/3 trampler for two is well above curve.

Best Green Dinosaurs

#14. The Tarrasque

The Tarrasque

A flavor deception from D&D fans that wanted it to be a little more powerful and indestructible, The Tarrasque still hits hard and is almost impossible to strike down with removal.

#13. Apex Altisaur

Apex Altisaur

The fighting machine, Apex Altisaur can deal with creatures with power 9 or lower when it enters the battlefield or is dealt damage. Just make sure to break the chain for it to live since the enrage trigger doesn't force you to fight.

#12. Deathgorge Scavenger

Deathgorge Scavenger

Deathgorge Scavenger is a beater and graveyard hate that’s seen play in green midrange decks. If your dinosaur decks need some graveyard interaction, run this guy.

#11. Thrasta, Tempest's Roar

Thrasta, Tempest's Roar

A storm dinosaur is something that only could be created in a Modern Horizons set. Since Gruul’s () theme was storm, Thrasta, Tempest's Roar has cost reduction based on the number of spells cast for the turn. Cards like Manamorphose and red rituals like Seething Song are Thrasta’s best friends.

#10. Runic Armasaur

Runic Armasaur

As a 2/5 for three, Runic Armasaur blocks well and is hard to remove. It saw play in sideboards, especially against decks with land-activated abilities. Search for Azcanta did lots of work in that Standard format, as did Field of Ruin.

Runic Armasaur is bound to draw some cards in Commander whether because of fetch lands, Thrasios, Triton Hero, Azami, Lady of Scrolls… the list goes long.

#9. Polyraptor


Polyraptor was the favorite way for Magic streamers to break MTG Arena's ability to produce tokens and deal with a lot of creatures at the same time. While the combo was fun, Arena usually crashed. It became a meme to try and crash arena with Polyraptor tokens. This video shows it best:

You need Forerunner of the Empire, a way to make it indestructible, and Polyraptor. When Polyraptor hits the battlefield it’s dealt damage and makes another copy of itself, which triggers Forerunner again and produces more Polyraptor tokens.

#8. Ripjaw Raptor

Ripjaw Raptor

As a 4/5 for four that draws a card whenever it’s damaged, Ripjaw Raptor is already tough to attack into and buys you time and cards for your biggest dinos to come on board. If you’re also playing red there are a lot of ways to deal damage to your creature and draw extra cards.

Ripjaw turns your dead damage-based removal into cards. Before Marauding Raptor hit the scene, its playability was kept in check by wraths, destroy, and exile-based removal

#7. Wayward Swordtooth

Wayward Swordtooth

Wayward Swordtooth saw play in strategies that aimed to play lots of mana as fast as possible. Combined with cards like Growth Spiral and explore creatures like Jadelight Ranger, you can ramp pretty hard.

Swordtooth later becomes a 5/5 with the city's blessing. EDH ramp and dino decks are also in the market for this card.

#6. Invasion of Ikoria / Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria

Invasion of Ikoria Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria

Invasion of Ikoria transforms into a massive 8/8 dinosaur, Zilortha, Apex of Ikoria. Zilortha not only has reach but also allows your creatures to assign combat damage as if they weren't blocked, just as long as they're not human. Giving all of your creatures what is essentially better unblockable is great, and I can't think of many situations where it isn't.

#5. Shifting Ceratops

Shifting Ceratops

Can't be countered, protection from blue, haste, and reach on the same card mean that Shifting Ceratops was a nightmare for blue flying tempo decks. Control players needed non-blue answers or win conditions to deal with Ceratops.

It even found its way into eternal formats as an anti-blue card for a time.

#4. Carnage Tyrant

Carnage Tyrant

I lost a lot of games to Carnage Tyrant as a control player. It can't be countered and hexproof meant that if you weren’t playing to the board there were basically two cards in the deck that dealt with it: The Eldest Reborn and Kaya's Wrath.

The 7/6 body closes games very fast and few creatures can stand up to the Tyrant outside of Nezahal, Primal Tide. It was a mainstay of Golgari decks in its Standard format and came out of green sideboards against control.

#3. Thrashing Brontodon

Thrashing Brontodon

A 3/4 body for three is already on rate to be playable and the Naturalize effect meant Thrashing Brontodon saw play, and not just in dinosaur decks. This card was one of Wizards’ first efforts to design more flexible cards for BO1 since you can't access a sideboard between games. This effect is more commonly printed on creatures nowadays and it’s still one of the better versions.

#2. Ghalta, Primal Hunger

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

One of the main incentives to play a lot of beefy green creatures, Ghalta, Primal Hunger saw a lot of play being accelerated by big creatures like Steel Leaf Champion. Turn 1 Llanowar Elves to turn 2 Steel Leaf Champion to turn 4 Ghalta was dreadful. It also pairs well with Fling effects if your opponent is still alive or has removal. Regisaur Alpha alone lowers Ghalta's mana value by seven.

#1. Deathmist Raptor

Deathmist Raptor

Deathmist Raptor saw a lot of play in Dragons of Tarkir Standard as a key card in morphs deck because of its interaction with Den Protector. A 3/3 deathtouch body is very solid and Deathmist returns to the battlefield whenever a creature morphs. Protector does its best Eternal Witness impersonation and all the raptors return.

Best Multicolored Dinosaurs

#10. Regisaur Alpha

Regisaur Alpha

A 4/4 and a 3/3 for five mana is a very powerful combination, but the only thing that kept Regisaur Alpha from seeing more play was that the format was hostile to it since the best decks included control with counterspells, Izzet Phoenix, and Golgari () midrange.

When Ghalta, Primal Hunger hit, the Gruul dinos deck had one more incentive to run Regisaur. Dinosaurs was one of the best decks in Standard for a while.

#9. Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt

Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt

Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt is a weird card. Players compared it to Siege Rhino on release. Snapdax’s rate is totally fine, but it hasn’t found a home. Players have tried to build some decks around it in Standard and it’s possible that it was a strong card against aggro/burn.

Unfortunately Snapdax seems to be in the wrong colors. It’s a cat, but tribal cat decks are usually mono white or Selesnya (). Since mutate is the way to go some EDH decks play Snapdax alongside basically every single mutate card, which are concentrated in blue and green. Still, the interaction between Cubwarden, Dirge Bat, and Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt is a strong one.

#8. Akim, the Soaring Wind

Akim, the Soaring Wind

A Jeskai commander printed in Commander 2020, Akim, the Soaring Wind wants to make tokens, instants and sorceries that create tokens, planeswalkers that create tokens, anthems, etc. You should include some prowess creatures too with enough noncreature spells. Monastery Mentor is interesting. Be on the lookout of ways to make tokens at instant speed too.

#7. Zilortha, Strength Incarnate a.k.a., Godzilla, King of the Monsters

Zilortha, Strength Incarnate

This reverse Doran, the Siege Tower asks you to play cards with higher power than toughness. Zilortha, Strength Incarnate is practically a 7/7 trample for five. Plus there are a lot of mechanics that care about power or specifically having 4 power on the battlefield. Or effects like Trumpet Blast.

#6. Kalamax, the Stormsire

Kalamax, the Stormsire

Kalamax, the Stormsire is the most popular Temur () commander. Kalamax pairs well with ramp effects, card draw like Fact or Fiction, and X-damage spells like Comet Storm.

#5. Gishath, Sun's Avatar

Gishath, Sun's Avatar

Gishath, Sun's Avatar is probably the best dino to build around an EDH dinosaur deck. 7/6 trample haste is huge, and you can put more big dinosaurs into play when it deals damage.

#4. Illuna, Apex of Wishes

Illuna, Apex of Wishes

Illuna, Apex of Wishes saw play in a heavy mutate deck with Auspicious Starrix. The combo is very powerful if Starrix is already mutated, and it can create a lot of card advantage. As a commander, it leads an army of mutated creatures into the battlefield or cheats big creatures into play with the help of some top of the library manipulation like Brainstorm.

#3. Zacama, Primal Calamity

Zacama, Primal Calamity

There were ramp decks dedicated to casting Zacama, Primal Calamity in Standard, and it delivers. It’s designed so that its three abilities can be used when you untapped your lands.

Keep in mind that the lands won't become untapped thanks to the cast trigger even though reanimating it is a strategy. You can win the game as you see fit from there. It’s a very interesting choice for a ramp and dinos commander.

#2. Vadrok, Apex of Thunder

Vadrok, Apex of Thunder

Vadrok, Apex of Thunder‘s body is on rate for a card to see play, but it’s nothing special. Its mutate ability combined with the Treasure-making ability on Goldspan Dragon produced an annoying and almost infinite combo.

#1. Keruga, the Macrosage

Keruga, the Macrosage

Keruga, the Macrosage asks you to have cards above mana value of three as a companion, and one of the ways to cheat on this requirement in Standard was to play adventure cards. Since the mana value considered is the creature’s mana value, cards like Brazen Borrower and Bonecrusher Giant that have lower mana values can be played in a Keruga deck.

This card saw the most play before the changes to the companion mechanic. Entering the battlefield and drawing a lot of cards, Keruga was the best companion to have in a powerful superfriends deck with a lot of expensive permanents and adventure creatures. And it was still a very powerful 5-drop in slower formats like EDH after the mechanic companion was nerfed.

Best Dinosaur Payoffs

Gishath, Sun's Avatar

Whenever Gishath, Sun's Avatar attacks you can put dinosaurs straight onto the battlefield.

Kaheera, the Orphanguard

Kaheera, the Orphanguard is a dino lord! Kaheera can also be your companion if your deck has only dinosaurs.

Priest of the Wakening Sun

Priest of the Wakening Sun can give you some life and tutor the dinosaur you need.

Regisaur Alpha

Regisaur Alpha gives haste for all dinos and is just a solid creature.

Savage Stomp

Savage Stomp is a fight spell with upside.

Forerunner of the Empire

Forerunner of the Empire is a tutor for dinosaurs and a way to trigger enrage.

Temple Altisaur

Temple Altisaur prevents all damage dealt to dinosaurs but one.

Thundering Spineback

Thundering Spineback is a dinosaur lord that makes other 3/3 dinos.

Wakening Sun's Avatar

Wakening Sun's Avatar is a 7/7 that Plague Winds in a dinosaur deck.

Best Dinosaur Strategies

Dinosaurs are almost always big creatures with high mana value, mostly in Naya () colors. Here are some deck styles suitable for these colors:

  • Ramp decks: The most obvious choice. Dinosaurs want to get on the battlefield ahead of the curve. These decks are usually green or Gruul based and there’s a lot of dinosaur cards in these colors.
  • Enrage decks: When dinosaurs debuted in Ixalan, the signature mechanic uniting the tribe was enrage. Enrage is an advantageous effect triggered whenever the creature is damaged. These decks want to get in combat and fight and use effects that damage all creatures.
  • Dinosaur tribal decks: Be it a Historic, Pioneer, or EDH deck, these want all the best dinosaurs they can get, both in quantity and quality. And since dinos are expensive you want to round your deck with synergies. Changeling creatures may help because they’re also dinosaurs. You should consider cards that support generic tribal like Radiant Destiny and Vanquisher's Banner.
  • Kaheera companion decks: If all your creatures are dinosaurs, Kaheera, the Orphanguard can be your companion. Kaheera also accepts cats, nightmares, elementals, and beasts.
  • Cheat into play: There are lots of ways to put a card onto the battlefield without playing its mana cost. Unfortunately for dinosaurs almost every format has better reanimator targets with other card types.
  • Morophon EDH decks: Morophon, the Boundless supports any tribe. It can be a dinosaur lord if needed and offers cost reduction and mana fixing.

Best Cheap Dinosaurs

Atzocan Seer

Atzocan Seer ramps in the early game and gets any dino back from the graveyard in the late game.

Drover of the Mighty

Drover of the Mighty ramps and gets stronger with dinos.

Kinjalli's Caller

Kinjalli's Caller offers cheaper dinos.

Knight of the Stampede

Knight of the Stampede makes dinosaur spells cost less!

Marauding Raptor

Marauding Raptor makes creatures cheaper, gets stronger, and triggers enrage.

Otepec Huntmaster

Otepec Huntmaster makes dinos are cheaper and gives them haste.

Decklist: Dinosaurs in Pioneer

Ghalta, Primal Hunger - Illustration by Chase Stone

Ghalta, Primal Hunger | Illustration by Chase Stone

Here’s a deck for the Pioneer format that abuses synergies between dinosaurs like Ghalta, Primal Hunger, Marauding Raptor, Ripjaw Raptor, and Regisaur Alpha. There’s also other creatures that benefit from big threats like Rhonas the Indomitable eight 1-mana dorks in Elvish Mystic and Llanowar Elves.

Domri, Anarch of Bolas gives +1/+0, ramp, and sometimes haste to your creatures. Reckless Rage is an awesome removal spell in this deck because it also triggers your creatures’ enrage.

Are Dinosaurs Good?

There are certainly very good cards printed with the dinosaur subtype and there are ways to build a deck that benefit from this type of card, like dinosaur tribal. There’s also enough support to build dinosaur tribal decks in different color combinations, and dinosaur commanders are very popular.

Of the three main “psychographic profiles” (Timmy, Johnny, and Spike), dinosaurs are definitely Timmy-style cards. So if your style is playing big beefy trample creatures, go dinos!

Which MTG Sets Have Dinosaurs?

The first set to have dinosaurs was the Ixalan block. Dinosaurs were concentrated in green, white, and red in Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan. Core Set 2021 brought dinosaurs back shortly after in black for the first time.

Dinos became a very popular card type. They were brought back in Ikoria: Lair of the Behemoths since it made sense in that set as a card type.

Here’s the list of sets that dinosaurs appeared in, and how many were in each set:

Fun fact: Colossal Dreadmaw was reprinted in so many sets since its debut that it became a meme. Like, every set from now on will have Colossal Dreadmaw, and every big green common card with trample is usually compared to it. Dreadmaw has been printed in Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Masters 25, Core Set 2019, Mystery Booster, and Core Set 2021. Phantasmal Dreadmaw from Modern Horizons 2 is a riff on its popularity.

What Legendary Dinosaurs Are There?

What’s the Best Elder Dinosaur?

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

The most played dinosaurs in Standard play was Ghalta, Primal Hunger in green stompy decks.

Nezahal, Primal Tide

Nezahal, Primal Tide

Nezahal, Primal Tide saw some play as a win condition in control decks and out of the sideboard in the control mirror.

Elder Dinos

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn Etali, Primal Storm

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn and Etali, Primal Storm were most played in Limited and Commander.

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

Tetzimoc, Primal Death was considered the best bomb rare of its Limited format, and very frustrating to play against.

Zacama, Primal Calamity

Zacama, Primal Calamity

Last but not least, Zacama, Primal Calamity is very powerful if you can cast it for nine mana in three different colors. Zacama sees play in EDH decks as the commander, and all of these dinos see play in tribal dinosaur EDH decks like Gishath, Sun's Avatar.

What Was the Dinosaur Errata?

After the release of the Ixalan block and  dinosaurs’ first introduction, it made sense that former creatures that were dinosaur-like but had other creature types like beast or lizard were errata'd to be dinosaurs. It was more of an aesthetic change because the cards that changed type were mostly old and irrelevant, except Deathmist Raptor.

This errata allowed me to put Deathmist Raptor in the list of best dinosaur cards. It was originally printed as a lizard beast but is now a dinosaur beast.

We've had a lot of morphology in our Lizards and Beasts, so we had to draw some lines. We also had to establish rules to respect Onslaught's Beast-tribal themes:

– If you were ever printed as a Dinosaur, you're a Dinosaur!

– If you were printed a Lizard and you're really a Dinosaur, you're no longer a Lizard. You keep your other creature types, if any, and gain Dinosaurosity.

– If you were ever printed as a Beast, you're still a Beast—but you may also be a Dinosaur. This is due to Beast tribal in Onslaught block.

Eli Shiffrin on Ixalan Oracle changes

Wrap Up

The Tarrasque - Illustration by Filip Burburan

The Tarrasque | Illustration by Filip Burburan

I hope you enjoyed this list of the best dinosaur cards. WotC did a great job of portraying these big monsters, and any big stompy monster can be a dinosaur in the planes where it makes sense. Colossal Dreadmaw is also bound to return as one of the good green commons for Limited.

What’s your favorite ancient beast? Do you have any good stories surrounding a good dino deck or combo? Let us know if the comments down below.

That’s all from me for today. Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands!

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1 Comment

  • Avatar
    Mark June 16, 2022 1:27 am

    I love the article! Just want to add the first dinosaur creature type appeared in Ice Age with Pygmy Allosaurus, which had “summon dinosaur” on the type line.

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