Intellectual Offering — Gishath, Sun's Avatar
Welcome back to Intellectual Offering. This week I’m excited to let my inner Timmy ROAR and talk a little about Gishath, Sun’s Avatar. In case you haven’t had a chance to drink this beauty in here it is in all it’s glory:
That thing is HUGE. Ok so it’s not Titanosaur huge:
But I mean a 7/6, with trample, and haste, and I don’t even know what the vigilance is for, presumably so you unleash your inner carnivore on offense and defense, eating up attackers as opponents try futilely to kill you before they themselves are devoured. So obviously, Gishath decks are going to be tribal I mean, did you see that line?
Yeah. That means it’ll be all dinosaurs, all day long. By now we've all seen the spoilers, and I have to say they're not as bad as they could have been. We aren’t talking Sun Titans here boys and girls, although Burning Sun's Avatar is doing its best Inferno Titan impression. No, for the most part they're expensive ground-pounders with some flair. To start things off I'd like to take a second to go over my decisions on which dinosaurs get the nod versus which are already prehistory. Then I’d like to examine the things we didn't get on a dino body and see what things we can use that aren’t sauropods, theropods, and ornithopods (oh my!) to fill in those gaps.
Dinosaurs are Meh, so-so, ick.
When WotC announced they'd be printing dinosaur as a creature type the immediate concern was that we would have another werewolf scenario; with dinosaur being a new type there wouldn't be a backlog of them to help fill in the gaps in decks not covered by the limited number they could squeeze into the set. Then an announcement was made that there would be some older creatures joining the dinosaur ranks and people (mostly speculator scum) clutched their Allosaurus Riders and Regal Behemoths in anticipation. Sadly that was not to be. For those unaware, here is the list of creatures who received the coveted update to dinosaur (from this article):
Of that list the only ones I personally think are worth even considering are Deathmist Raptor, Pygmy Allosaurus, Imperiosaur, and Ridgetop Raptor for their mana-effeciency and stats, and Fungusaur and Magmasaur for their potential to work well with the enrage mechanic. That's a total of six old dinosaurs we've got to start on. This deck won't be shy in including the best of the dino-immitators in Chameleon Colossus, Taurean Mauler, and Mirror Entity as they're all dinosaurs now and also happen to be pretty decent in beat down oriented decks. With all that in mind we can talk a little about the dinosaurs in Ixalan that are in the deck.
For the most part my goal was to manage the curve as best I can. I tried to cut out the 4 to 8 mana dinosaurs that wouldn't have a large impact on the game outside of their big bodies. This means that while Ancient Brontodon may be the largest vanilla creature ever printed (and the largest common to boot) it really doesn't cut it in the world of EDH. We did get a great number of low-curve dinosaurs that I'm very excited for such as: Deathgore Scavanger which is dino-based graveyard hate. It may be slow, but it'll save us having to run additional dedicated hate for graveyards, and can you really blame it, look how small those arms are, a dinosaur can only clean up so much garbage with arms that tiny! Kinjalli's Sunwing is a fantastic way to keep chump-blockers out of our path and Rampaging Ferocidon punishes token-based strategies that would otherwise threaten to fossilize us in our tracks. We even get dinosaur-based ramp in the for of Ranging Raptors and card advantage with Ripjaw Raptor. Honestly with the printing of Qasali Slingers in C17 I was surprised we didn't see a similar card for dinosaurs in Ixalan, but the best part is, we have a whole other set to go before we leave the plane, so there are more dinos yet to come!
You Bet Jurassic Can(not)
With the dinos covered it's time to turn to the meat of the deck. Since Gishath does nothing but smash face and make more dinosaurs, and because no dinosaurs in Ixalan are super effective at protecting the rest of our brood, this is the first pit I'd like to fill. To fix this problem we turn to the most recent in our minds of tribal-assist cards are those of the Commander 2017 set. I mentioned in my last article that I really like the card Kindred Boon for decks that ramp into big creatures, but aren’t trying to reanimate them. This is very much one of those decks. Boon saves our best fatties from wraths, and any incoming meteorites trying to make them go extinct. Sticking to the theme of protecting our vulnerable vertebrates from extinction, Asceticism fills an almost identical role to Kindred Boon while being better passive protection. Similarly Steely Resolve is basically lightning greaves for all our creatures, it may not give them haste, but we can work on that later.
Inevitably though, our epoch will end when someone finds a way to put us in the ground. Fortunately for us, this is the Magic multiverse, and where there are dinosaurs, there’s also ways to bring them back to life.
No, not science, nobody cares about that. I’m talking literal magic, and my personal favorite in decks like this is Marshal’s Anthem. This is essentially a six mana Resurrection that sticks around giving our team a little help once it’s done its job. But the hidden side is, with all the ramping our deck plans to do to cast the huge fatties, we’ll have more than enough mana late-game to kick this many, many times. In a similar vein, one recursion style spell that we can use that works very nicely with Gishath’s ability is Noxious Revival. Responding to the trigger by snapping up a dinosaur is a perfect way to ensure we keep gassed up. The deck as a whole is a little light on recursion. If you're finding that your meta has no trouble caging up your dinos rodeo-style then perhaps consider adding a card like Rally the Ancestors to help restock in the late game. I left this out of this version of the deck since I don't have what I feel like the correct number of haste enablers would be to properly fuel a one-time dinosaur alpha-strike.
Since most dinosaurs are very expensive to cast we're going to want to maximize the impact our dinos do have when we land them, especially since their keyword ability enrage, which I'll talk about in more depth later, only works when they're on the battlefield and we've had a chance to cast other spells or interact with them in some other way. With that in mind I've included Warstorm Surge and Aura Shards to essentially tack on enters the battlefield abilities to all of our dinosaurs. Surge helps act as removal to clear the way of troublesome chump blockers, while Shards helps clean up and enchantments holding us back (say for example the Ghostly Prison that the Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis player has out).
Jurassic Times Call for Jurassic Measures
In order to fully capitalize on Gishath’s ability we need to include a number of ways to manipulate the top of our deck. Scroll Rack becomes free draws since we can just put back dinosaurs mid-combat, and re-”draw” them when we connect. Cream of the Crop plays a similar role except that it’ll only let us keep one card at a time. Still, one guaranteed dinosaur, plus a chance at others is better than complete randomness. Cards like Worldly Tutor and the insanely powerful Congregation at Dawn let us find key dinosaurs and put them onto the top of the deck. The last time Congregation was this effective was grabbing elephants in the stone age (otherwise known as Ravnica standard). There are a couple notable exclusions here in the form of Sensei’s Divining Top and Mirri’s Guile. These aren’t bad, but generally we’ll be going deeper than three cards with Gishath’s ability. They’re more comparable to Cream of the Crop but don’t allow us to clear the deck if we aren’t currently hitting with Gishath. Finally, while we’re on the subject of manipulating the top of the deck, this is the perfect place for some Lurking Predators.
Speaking of maximizing abilities, most of the dinosaurs have the enrage keyword ability, which is code for “when this creature is dealt damage do _________” where that blank is filled with good things for us. In light of that it’s actually beneficial for this deck to be dealing a reasonable amount of damage to its own creatures, but not too much that we kill them, not all dinosaurs are armored tanks, some are fragile! In this vein I’ve opted to include Volcanic Fallout, a staple in Standard around the time of the faeries decks, this is a perfect way to clean the board of tiny chump blockers while giving us enrage triggers. Breath of Darigaaz serves a similar purpose that can also scale into the late game as necessary. The best card for this though is Aether Flash which gives us a free enrage trigger just for casting our critters. Secret tech here is normally scalding garbage card Desert which lets us ping our dinosaurs while they’re attacking if our opponent’s aren’t being helpful and blocking. If you weren't as strict as I am on the only having dinosaurs in a tribal dinosaurs deck Ulvenwald Tracker is one of the best possible cards for this deck as it lets you repeatedly trigger enrage on your terms while also acting as repeatable removal.
With that let’s check out the deck:
Got a Bone to Pick With Me?
As tribal decks go, I’m generally a purist so I’ve excluded the tribal support creatures that WotC was nice enough to include in the set, in place of more (better) dinosaurs. They tend to just gum up the works, especially when your deck is built around optimizing an ability like Gishath’s that really cares about the type line. There was a lot I really wanted to try and cram in here like more ways to trigger enrage (Pyroclasm being a notable exception), but in the end I chose to take the first version of this deck to the maximum level of dino action that I was comfortable with.
I’m excited to stomp, rip, and generally terrorize some opponents with this deck. Is anyone else hyped for dinosaurs? Are you mad that they’re not also beasts? What’re your thoughts, leave them in the comments below. Until next time!