Lost Caverns of Ixalan preconstructed decklists have been revealed and with it comes another round of my precon upgrades. We’re going to do a thorough analysis of each deck, highlighting its goals and how well it accomplishes them, check out its deckbuilding fundamentals, identify its strongest and weakest cards, then use all that information to create an optimized $50 upgrade path!
You can find my other precon upgrades here:
Veloci-Ramp-Tor is a White / Red / Green Dinosaur deck that looks to ramp out huge Dinosaurs and then swing in for game-ending damage! We spend the first turns ramping with cards like Ixalli’s Lorekeeper and Otepec Huntmaster, then start dropping dinosaurs to smash face with like Regisaur Alpha and Zacama, Primal Calamity!
So if you’re a big Timmy that loves Dinosaurs, then Veloci-Ramp-Tor is the deck for you!
The Precon List
Before we talk upgrades, let’s take a look at the stock list to see what we’re working with:
Despite being incredibly popular, Dinosaurs are a relatively new creature type in Magic with them only being a supported type with the original Ixalan block so the card pool is smaller compared to other popular types. That said, even back in original Ixalan block Dinosaurs were incredibly impressive, so I can’t wait to see what another Dinosaur-focused set can do for the archetype!
For this precon I count 35 dinosaurs and an additional 12 cards that care about dinosaurs either directly (Atzocan Seer) or indirectly (Path of Ancestry). The deck has a very minor Enrage subtheme, which used to be a main mechanic for Dinosaurs back in original Ixalan that they mostly moved away from in this set: I count only 12 cards that support the Enrage theme, either being enrage triggers like Ranging Raptors or payoffs like Wayta, Trainer Prodigy.
So basically the deck is just about Dinosaurs, though there’s a bit of an Enrage subtheme too.
Choosing Our Commander
There are 3 potential commanders for the stock precon, but only two of them — Pantlaza, Sun-Favored and Wayta, Trainer Prodigy — make sense in the command zone. Zacama, Primal Calamity is also an option but makes for a poor Dinosaur commander as you’d much rather build a Big Ramp deck focused on abusing Zacama’s activated abilities. So between the two best options you gotta choose what flavor of Dino deck you want:
- Pantlaza, Sun-Favored is the face commander for a reason: it’s a simple, straightforward value engine for your Dinosaur deck. Pantlaza just wants you to cast your commander and then cast dinosaurs, triggering discover to generate tons of passive card & mana advantage. It’s the perfect Dinosaur commander for beginners because it’s basically impossible to play it wrong and provides the most consistent value. Plus discover is just a fun mechanic! If you really want to get optimized you can start adding a Blink package for Pantlaza with cards like Teleportation Circle and Ephemerate so you can discover way more mana efficiently, but even ignoring that you’re still going to be happy with Pantlaza in the command zone.
- Wayta, Trainer Prodigy isn’t a Dinosaur nor does she directly mention Dinosaurs in her card text, but nonetheless she was literally made to be the commander of a Dinosaur Enrage deck, an “Enrageharmonicon” if you will. Enrage is one of my favorite mechanics and made me fall in love with Dinosaurs, giving them a unique personality instead of just being “Dragons but without wings.” I’m a bit bummed that enrage didn’t show up heavily in this set, but I’m over the moon with Wayta’s design: at just 3 mana she doubles the value of all your enrage triggers, AND she can trigger your enrage stuff for one mana, AAAAND she can act as repeatable removal having your bigger creatures fight opposing one for 3 mana?! Card is SO GOOD!
If a new player is looking to upgrade Veloci-Ramp-Tor then Pantlaza, Sun-Favored is the obvious best choice of commander: it’s extremely easy to pilot and discover is a crowd-pleaser.
As a huge Enrage fanboy though, I gotta switch to Wayta, Trainer Prodigy here: Wayta is EXACTLY what I wanted in an Enrage Dinosaur leader and I think she’s quite powerful to boot! Apologies if you’re not a fellow Enrage-enjoyer, but I hope I can convert you!
Analyzing the Precon & Identifying Weaknesses
Now that we’ve glanced at the stock list and settled on our commander, let’s take a closer look at the deck itself to identify what parts benefit the most from upgrades.
As I often explain in my Budget Commander articles, every time I build a rough draft of a deck, I make sure I have a certain ratio of mana, interaction, card advantage, etc. This gives me a reference point to compare to the deck and see which areas may need improvement. My general ratio is:
- 50 mana; lands and ramp, usually a 37–13 split
- 10 card draw; cards that net you 2+ cards in hand
- 8 targeted removal; split between creature / artifact / enchantment removal and countermagic
- 3 board wipes; creature-light decks might want one more, creature-heavy decks might want one less
- 2 graveyard recursion
- 2 flexible tutors; higher budgets I recommend more tutors
- 1 graveyard hate; since you need to keep Graveyard decks honest
- 1 finisher; something that can win games the turn you cast it without too much setup
That’s always my starting point, which is then tweaked to suit the individual deck’s strategy and further tweaked with playtesting. I always find it immensely useful to figure out some quick ways to improve the deck in question.
Let’s see what the rough ratios are for Explorers of the Deep and how it compares. I count:
- 57 mana; 39 lands and Pantlaza, Sun-Favored, Ixalli’s Lorekeeper, Drover of the Mighty, Marauding Raptor, Otepec Huntmaster, Atzocan Seer, Ranging Raptors, Topiary Stomper, Wayward Swordtooth, Farseek, Rampant Growth, Thunderherd Migration, Cultivate, Migration Path, Sol Ring, Arcane Signet, Progenitor’s Icon, Regal Behemoth
- 11 card draw; Pantlaza, Sun-Favored, Runic Armasaur, Curious Altisaur, Ripjaw Raptor, Earthshaker Dreadmaw, Etali, Primal Storm, Regal Behemoth, Return of the Wildspeaker, Rishkar’s Expertise, Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, Descendants’ Path
- 10 targeted removal; Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath, Thrashing Brontodon, Wayta, Trainer Prodigy, Bronzebeak Foragers, Wrathful Raptors, Apex Altisaur, Zacama, Primal Calamity, Path to Exile, Generous Gift, Savage Stomp
- 2 board wipes; Wakening Sun’s Avatar, Fiery Confluence, Chandra’s Ignition
- 2 graveyard recursion; From the Rubble, Atzocan Seer
- 0 flexible tutors;
- 1 graveyard hate; Deathgorge Scavenger
The ratios look great here! There’s a lot of mana but that makes sense considering how top-heavy our curve is. Lots of draw, interaction, great stuff!
Disclaimer: Card prices are volatile and may be different at the time you read this article.
I’m swapping out Pantlaza, Sun-Favored for Wayta, Trainer Prodigy in the command zone, keeping Dinosaurs as our main theme but increasing our focus on the Enrage subtheme. Moving from Pantlaza to Wayta means we’re giving up consistent mana advantage + card advantage in the command zone for consistent creature removal, so I’m adjusting by adding more ramp + draw and cutting down on targeted creature removal in the 99.
We’re adding most of the remaining great enrage dinosaurs, like Silverclad Ferocidons, and a bunch of the best enrage triggers like Pyrohemia and Domri Rade for more fighting! Plus we’ve also added Roaming Throne which counts as a dinosaur for synergies and allows us to double or even triple up on enrage triggers if Wayta is on the field!
We’re also adding a bunch of the best remaining dinosaurs, like Kogla and Yidaro, and the best remaining Dinosaur payoffs like Forerunner of the Empire which tutors the best dino and also triggers enrage super efficiently!
Wayta $50 Upgrades
With Wayta now at the helm we’ve leaned super hard on Enrage Dinosaurs, with tons of ways to trigger enrage (fighting and pinging) and then doubling up on enrage value with Wayta — or tripling with Roaming Throne!
It’s wild that Dinosaurs have so many great cards despite being a relatively recent creature type; I couldn’t fit them all in the $50 budget!
The most important dinosaur upgrades for Wayta would probably be Polyraptor (which can go infinite / draw the game) and Gishath, Sun’s Avatar. Then I’d probably grab Dinosaurs on a Spaceship and Hunting Velociraptor.
After that I’d work on improving the lands, focusing on mana-fixing lands that enter untapped since this is a 3C deck and our commander requires all 3 colors.
2 Down, 2 To Go!
I hope you enjoyed this in-depth guide Dinosaurs with Wayta on the helm! I genuinely love this commander and it’s my most hyped one out of the bunch so it was a real joy brainstorming this one.
We’ve got Vampires and Pirates next. I might shorten the articles because feedback seems that people skip most of the analysis part and just want the upgrades, or give up and close the article because it’s too much. Next article will have the upgrades at the very beginning and the analysis after and we’ll see how that goes! Thanks for reading!