Zacama, Primal Calamity - Illustration by Yigit Koroglu

Zacama, Primal Calamity | Illustration by Yigit Koroglu

Open the door, get on the floor.
Everybody walk the dinosaur.

-Was (Not Was), 1987 (quote block)

With that out of the way, I think I can get into this deck.

Zacama, Primal Calamity isn’t the most popular dinosaur in EDH; that crown belongs to Gishath, Sun's Avatar. But for my money, Zacama can be one of the most fun ways to start your dinosaur adventure. Is this deck actually viable? Or is it just a good-stuff pile of cards? You be the judge!

Just… don’t move.

The Deck

Earthshaker Dreadmaw - Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

Earthshaker Dreadmaw | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

Commander (1)

Zacama, Primal Calamity

Planeswalker (1)

Huatli, Warrior Poet

Creature (28)

Earthshaker Dreadmaw
Etali, Primal Conqueror
Etali, Primal Storm
Ghalta and Mavren
Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant
Gishath, Sun's Avatar
Huatli, Poet of Unity / Roar of the Fifth People
Hulking Raptor
Hunting Velociraptor
Kinjalli's Caller
Kinjalli's Sunwing
Knight of the Stampede
Marauding Raptor
Otepec Huntmaster
Pantlaza, Sun-Favored
Ranging Raptors
Regal Behemoth
Regisaur Alpha
Ripjaw Raptor
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Temple Altisaur
Temur Sabertooth
Topiary Stomper
Wakening Sun's Avatar
Wayward Swordtooth
Zetalpa Primal Dawn
Zirda, the Dawnwaker

Instant (8)

Archdruid's Charm
Beast Within
Boros Charm
Generous Gift
Heroic Intervention
Path to Exile
Return of the Wildspeaker
Swords to Plowshares

Sorcery (12)

Blasphemous Act
Kodama's Reach
Last March of the Ents
Majestic Genesis
Nature's Lore
Rampant Growth
Rishkar's Expertise
Skyshroud Claim
Three Visits

Enchantment (9)

Garruk's Uprising
Mana Reflection
Mirari's Wake
Rhythm of the Wild
Smothering Tithe
Up the Beanstalk
Welcome to… / Jurassic Park
Wild Growth
Zendikar Resurgent

Artifact (6)

Arcane Signet
Lightning Greaves
Sol Ring
Swiftfoot Boots
The Great Henge
The Skullspore Nexus

Land (35)

Arid Mesa
Canopy Vista
Cinder Glade
Command Tower
Commercial District
Elegant Parlor
Evolving Wilds
Exotic Orchard
Forest x10
Gruul Turf
Jetmir's Garden
Jungle Shrine
Lush Portico
Mountain x2
Plains x3
Rootbound Crag
Sacred Foundry
Sanctum of Eternity
Selesnya Sanctuary
Stomping Ground
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Windswept Heath

This shouldn’t be a surprise, but this decklist is filled with dinosaurs. The commander can pretty much be built as a dino good stuff list, where you just toss in whichever dinosaurs you have on hand and go wild.

Given the high mana values of many of the creatures in this list, there needs to be some cost reduction humans to help offset that. There are also plenty of effects that allow you to cheat some of your creatures into play, such as Gishath, Sun's Avatar’s combat damage trigger or Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant’s ETB.

I wouldn’t call this a budget EDH deck, but I’ve limited myself to cards that I’ve either been lucky enough to pull myself (Smothering Tithe, Jurassic World cards) or cards that are under $20, aside from the mana base. Sylvan Library and The Great Henge are left out for that reason, but those cards would make this deck a lot better. I’m not against proxies, but I don’t do it myself because I like the challenge of building with what I have on hand or what I’m willing to shell out for.

The Commander: Zacama, Primal Calamity

Zacama, Primal Calamity

I have to admit, Zacama, Primal Calamity is very satisfying from a math perspective. This Naya commander costs a total of 9 mana to cast, and it has three activated abilities that each cost 3 mana. Each ability also fits the color pip that you need to pay for it: The red one burns, the green one destroys an artifact or an enchantment, and the white one gains you life.

Zacama is also a 9/9 creature with a trio of keyword abilities: vigilance, reach, and trample. So many 3’s and 9’s. As I said, satisfying.

With its last little bit of text, Zacama, Primal Calamity can untap all your lands when it enters the battlefield if you’ve cast it, which won’t be easy without a few cost reduction pieces.

Big Dinos

Any typal-focused deck needs a bunch of its creature of choice, and our commander has the perfect color identity to support a ton of big dinosaurs.

Etali, Primal Conqueror Etali, Primal Sickness

Etali, Primal Conqueror / Etali, Primal Sickness and its precursor, Etali, Primal Storm are here to give you some card theft. Etali, Primal Sickness also gives you a possible alternative win condition with the poison counters it doles out.

Speaking of elder dinosaurs, there’s three Ghalta cards in the form of Ghalta and Mavren, Ghalta, Primal Hunger, and Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant. Ghalta and Mavren doesn’t need to attack itself to give you tokens, either in big quantities or as an X/X Dinosaur. The Primal Hunger printing can be very cheap to cast in the midgame, depending on which other heavy hitters you have on board. Meanwhile, the Stampede Tyrant printing from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is great to drop on the board when you have a hand full of dinosaurs.

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn Regisaur Alpha

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn is large and in charge with its collection of combat-relevant keywords. Regisaur Alpha isn’t as huge as some of your other dinosaurs, but it’s a haste enabler that gives you two bodies at once.

Ravenous Tyrannosaurus

I like the potential of Ravenous Tyrannosaurus being a 9/9 for 6 mana. Its attack trigger also helps to clear your opponent’s board while chomping on their face with the excess damage.

Cheating in Dinos

Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant

Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant lets you bring in a bunch of dinosaur friends when it enters the battlefield, and it doesn’t even have the condition that you have to cast it from your hand or something.

Gishath, Sun's Avatar Pantlaza, Sun-Favored

Gishath, Sun's Avatar’s combat damage trigger lets you filter your library for some dinosaurs to put directly onto the battlefield. Pantlaza, Sun-Favored plays a similar role, using the discover mechanic when it and your other dinosaurs enter the battlefield. This can be a capital “P” Problem for your opponents, since you can use this to go from one Ghalta into another, if you’re lucky.

Majestic Genesis Last March of the Ents

Majestic Genesis can be used to get you a bunch of dinosaurs on the board, though it can also help you ramp or play some of your artifacts and enchantments. Last March of the Ents is at the very edge of my budget for this deck, but it’s really impactful since it can’t be countered and puts a bunch of creatures onto the battlefield.

Modal Spells

Rather than bringing them up for each thing that they do, I’ll just highlight these modal spells in one shot.

Boros Charm

Boros Charm gives you a choice between burning a player or planeswalker for 4 damage, protecting all your permanents with indestructible, and letting one of your creatures swing for big damage or survive combat with double strike.

Archdruid's Charm

Archdruid's Charm gives you some removal, some land or creature tutoring, or a bite effect. Three green pips can be a lot if you’re down on mana fixing, but that’s a silly level of flexibility for one card.

Return of the Wildspeaker

Return of the Wildspeaker is a bit more fair, giving you a choice between card advantage or giving your creatures a +3/+3 mass pump for the turn.

Removal Suite

This deck has a pretty standard removal suite for Naya colors (). Beast Within, Generous Gift, Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares all serve as spot removal, and Blasphemous Act is here as a sweeper.

Wakening Sun's Avatar

Wakening Sun's Avatar has a really impactful ETB that can clear the way for a big swing. It’ll clear away many of your cost reduction creatures, so be mindful before casting it.

Ramp and Cost Reduction

Arcane Signet Sol Ring

Given Zacama, Primal Calamity’s ETB ability, lands are more valuable to your ramp strategy than artifacts. Arcane Signet and Sol Ring are the only mana rocks that make the cut here.

You’ve got a suite of staple cards that grab you lands, such as Cultivate, Farseek, Kodama's Reach, Nature's Lore, Rampant Growth, Skyshroud Claim and Three Visits.

You’ve also got a bunch of enchantments that add or double the mana that your lands and other sources produce. Mana Reflection, Mirari's Wake, and Zendikar Resurgent affect all your lands, while Wild Growth does it for just one of them.

Smothering Tithe

Smothering Tithe is here to give you Treasure when your opponents draw cards, if they don’t pay the 2 to prevent that.

Kinjalli's Caller, Knight of the Stampede, Marauding Raptor and Otepec Huntmaster all offer flavors of direct cost reduction. The Huntmaster doubles as a haste enabler, too. Marauding Raptor can be risky because it deals damage to your other creatures as they enter, but the only creatures that are insta-killed by that are Otepec Huntmaster, Sakura-Tribe Elder (which you can sacrifice for a land before it officially dies anyway), and the vampire tokens made by Ghalta and Mavren.

Wayward Swordtooth Hulking Raptor

Wayward Swordtooth helps to ramp you by letting you play an extra land each turn. Hulking Raptor, meanwhile, gives you 2 green mana at the beginning of your precombat main phase.

Ranging Raptors Topiary Stomper

The enrage ability on your Ranging Raptors can be a reusable Rampant Growth, while Topiary Stomper gives it to you as a one-time ETB effect.

Hunting Velociraptor

Hunting Velociraptor is a little situational since you need to have already dealt combat damage to a player to use the prowl costs it gives your other dinos. Still, your cost reduction abilities work with prowl, so you can use them to reduce your dinos’ costs to just .

Zirda, the Dawnwaker

Zirda, the Dawnwaker gives you cost reduction on activated abilities, which means that any of Zacama’s abilities cost only 1 mana. Its own activated ability is useful by preventing your opponent from blocking with something that can take out your own threat, like a deathtoucher or something that’s (somehow) bigger than your dinos.

Card Advantage

Since you’ve got ways to put creatures directly from your hand onto the battlefield, you’ll want some effects to put cards there in the first place. Why not start with a simple Harmonize to draw three cards?

Earthshaker Dreadmaw Ripjaw Raptor

Earthshaker Dreadmaw also helps by drawing cards when it enters the battlefield depending on the number of dinosaurs you have out. Ripjaw Raptor gives you a card when it’s dealt damage.

Garruk's Uprising gives you a card when it enters the battlefield, as well as when your bigger creatures enter. The trample it gives everything is just the cherry on top. Up the Beanstalk is similar, although with a higher threshold and no keywords. Zendikar Resurgent also gives you cards, but with no power restrictions.


Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves, and Heroic Intervention are Commander staples, so I don’t need to say much about them here.

Sanctum of Eternity

The more unique piece of protection in the decklist is Sanctum of Eternity. It lets you bounce your commander to your hand for 2 mana, an ability you can activate at instant speed, although only on your turn. You can do this in response to spot removal to send Zacama to your hand, which lets you avoid commander tax if you cast it from the command zone. Casting it from your hand lets you untap all your lands, but you also have some ways to cheat creatures out of your hand.

Temur Sabertooth

I’m filing Temur Sabertooth under protection because you can use it to save one of your important dinosaurs from hitting the graveyard, but you can also use its activated ability to reuse an impactful ETB.

Temple Altisaur

Temple Altisaur gives you dino-specific damage prevention, which can help even your tokens survive a lot longer than they should and help to keep most of your board safe from your Blasphemous Act.

Multi- and Special-Purpose

I’m not sure how well some of these cards will do in-game. They do so much that they may be something closer to removal bait than actual utility, but making your opponents use removal on something that isn’t your commander can be useful, too.

Huatli, Poet of Unity Roar of the Fifth People

Huatli, Poet of Unity / Roar of the Fifth People is hard to categorize because it does so much if you can pull it off. The initial ETB gets you a land, while the saga side has four chapters of utility between Dinosaur tokens, turning all your dinos into mana dorks, grabbing a dinosaur from your deck, and giving your dinosaurs trample and double strike.

Huatli, Warrior Poet

You’ll be happy to have Huatli, Warrior Poet even without using the ultimate ability. Upticking this planeswalker gives you lifegain, while the neutral loyalty ability helps to widen your board. The ultimate ability is still useful, since you can use it to deal 1 damage to each creature an opponent controls to prevent them from blocking.

Jurassic Park

Welcome to . . . / Jurassic Park can also give you a Dinosaur token, and its other two chapters can handle some of your opponents’ threats. The legendary land on the flip side gives your dead dinosaurs escape and gives you a metric ton of mana.

Kinjalli's Sunwing

Kinjalli's Sunwing helps slow your opponents down to your level by making their creatures enter the battlefield tapped.

Rhythm of the Wild

Rhythm of the Wild makes your creature spells uncounterable, and riot means they’re either bigger or hasted. Yikes.

The Skullspore Nexus

The Skullspore Nexus can be huge for you. It should be easy to reduce its cost to , and it replaces any non-token dinosaurs you have that die. Its activated ability can also make Zacama swing for nearly full commander damage on its own, even before you add double strike or the +1/+1 from Mirari's Wake.

The Mana Base

I always put idealized, money-is-no-object mana bases in deck guides because I trust you to adjust them to your means. If you proxy your lands, you now know which ones you need. If you don’t, you know where you can make some of your first budget cuts.

The surveil lands from Murders at Karlov Manor (Commercial District, Elegant Parlor, and Lush Portico) may enter tapped, but they offer you some deck filtering when they enter. They’ll help you avoid having too many non-lands in hand in the early game while helping you avoid mana flood in the late game.

Aside from that, you’ve got an assortment of shock lands (Sacred Foundry, Stomping Ground, and Temple Garden), slow lands (Canopy Vista, Cinder Glade), check lands (Rootbound Crag, Sunpetal Grove), fetch lands (Arid Mesa, Evolving Wilds, Windswept Heath), and bounce lands (Gruul Turf, Selesnya Sanctuary) to give you some color fixing.

A pair of tri-lands (Jetmir's Garden, Jungle Shrine) are also here to provide you color fixing, alongside the mandatory Command Tower and Exotic Orchard.

Sanctum of Eternity

Sanctum of Eternity provides colorless mana, but it’s mostly here as a way to return your commander to your hand as a form of protection.

The Strategy

Due to how many high-cost creatures you have, this deck can be a bit slower to get going. But that’s okay: Between Zacama, Primal Calamity’s lifegain ability and Huatli, Warrior Poet’s +1 loyalty ability, you’ll have a few ways to get back any life lost during those earlier set-up turns.

You don’t want to stall out early, so you’ll want an opening hand that’s flush with lands and ramp. It’s also good to have cost reduction or card advantage in there, since the former works like ramp for you and the latter helps to refill your hand.

I don’t want you to rely on any one card to show up in your opening hand or your draws, but your Rhythm of the Wild and haste enablers are going to be important to make sure you get value. You don’t want to spend a bunch of mana on a creature that’s countered or spend mana and a turn on a creature that’s removed before summoning sickness is gone.

Commander damage is one of the primary win conditions of this deck. With Zacama, Primal Calamity and a pair of anthems on the board, you just need to prevent an opponent from blocking and give your commander double strike to knock them out. Huatli, Warrior Poet’s ultimate can prevent specific creatures from blocking, while a well-timed Blasphemous Act can clear the board entirely.

You don’t need your commander to close out the game, though. Etali, Primal Sickness gives you the poison wincon. Last March of the Ents can give you a ton of creatures, which pairs nicely with the haste enablers you have for one big, multi-directional swing. Wakening Sun's Avatar can also clear the board of non-dinos and open up big attacks

Combos and Interactions

There aren’t really any direct combos in this deck, but it’s important to keep sequencing in mind. If you have the mana for it, putting creatures into your hand before you cast something like Last March of the Ents makes it that much more potent. Same goes for using Temur Sabertooth’s activated ability to reuse an impactful ETB ability.

Pantlaza, Sun-Favored is really good to have on board before using Last March and any of your other ways to cheat multiple dinosaurs onto the board. It doesn’t make any kind of infinite loop since your artifacts, enchantments, non-dinosaurs, and other spells won’t trigger Pantlaza, but it’s a key piece to getting a bunch of creatures onto the battlefield more cheaply.

Rule 0 Discussion

The first card I look to for the Rule 0 conversation is Etali, Primal Conqueror / Etali, Primal Sickness. Those poison counters on the flip side are no joke, although there aren’t a lot of ways to quickly flip this dinosaur over unless you have a lot of open mana and all your cost reducers on the field. Still, poison can be an automatic veto for some playgroups, and this Etali may be getting stale to some players (hey, I get it, I used to complain when my ex-roommate was playing only Mii characters in Super Smash Bros.).

Budget Options

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention going for proxies of the higher-priced cards in this decklist. I don’t think that dinosaurs will ever lose popularity, so I don’t expect the good cards in this list will drop in price.

If you’d rather play with actual product, you can start by trimming in the mana base. Any dual land that you don’t have can be replaced by a version that enters tapped and generates the same colors, though I’d still focus on those with basic land types so that they’re fetchable. Think Guildgates instead of surveil lands, for example, and Terramorphic Expanse and Cabaretti Courtyard to replace other fetches. As a typal deck, you can also use Path of Ancestry to cut the price.

You can also save some cash by replacing most of the expensive, legendary dinosaurs with your favorite non-legends. I didn’t use Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath, but it can slot into a budget version of this deck as well.

I included some Jurassic World Collection cards in Hunting Velociraptor, Ravenous Tyrannosaurus, and Welcome to … / Jurassic Park because I just happened to have pulled them in my boosters and bundles from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, but you can leave them out if you weren’t so lucky. Regal Behemoth can add to your mana pool without hitting your wallet too hard, while Runic Armasaur can add to your card advantage.

Aside from that, Monologue Tax can be a cheaper option than Smothering Tithe. Caged Sun has the same mana value as Mana Reflection, although you’re limited to adding mana of a specific color rather than doubling the mana production of any permanent that you tap. Last March of the Ents runs right up against my personal budget limit for this deck, but it’s another card you may want to trim.

If money is no object (or you’re proxying nearly the full deck), you can also improve it by swapping in Sylvan Library and The Great Henge. The Henge can be especially good here, since you’ve got lots of high-powered creatures that will let you cast it for .

Other Builds

One alternate build for your Zacama, Primal Calamity deck is to build it with Kaheera, the Orphanguard as your companion. You’ll have to trim anything that isn’t a dinosaur, cat, beast, elemental, or nightmare, which means saying goodbye to your cost-reducing humans, Huatli, Poet of Unity, and Sakura-Tribe Elder. However, it can give you an even more focused dinosaur deck if you decide to go that route.

Since Zacama’s ETB focuses on untapping your lands, you could go that route. Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Augur of Autumn, Ramunap Excavator, and landfall abilities can get you started in that vein.

If you want to lean on flavor, you can find ways to include all the on-color Jurassic World cards. Dino DNA, Savage Order, Life Finds a Way and Owen Grady, Raptor Trainer can all slot in, although they’ll make the price skyrocket while making it less focused and efficient. Swooping Pteranodon isn’t really worth it unless you have many other flying dinosaurs, though.

Staying in flavor town, you can replace the spot removal with bite and fight spells along the lines of Fall of the Hammer, and even focus on creatures with those kinds of abilities. Given the mana you can generate with Jurassic Park, Setessan Tactics and its strive cost might do some good work for you.

Commanding Conclusion

Ghalta and Mavren - Illustration by Zezhou Chen

Ghalta and Mavren | Illustration by Zezhou Chen

Zacama, Primal Calamity is a very popular dinosaur commander, and it’s easy to see why. By touching green, red, and white, it lets you play almost any big threatening dinosaur that you want, so there can be a Zacama build for nearly any budget. It’ll probably be a while before our next visit to Ixalan gives us a bunch of new dinos to, uh, scale up our builds, so why not take advantage and put together a stompy list before the meta shifts?

Which dinosaurs do you run in your Zacama, Primal Calamity build? Which ones did I include that you’d swap out for something else? Let me know in the comments below, or give us a shout over on the Draftsim Discord.

Until next time… boom boom, acka-lacka boom boom!

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