This entry is part 36 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

For the most part, I’ve left my personal life out of my articles; I like to write about groups that I’ve played with, decks I’ve tried and seen others play, and about individual cards more abstractly.  Today, we’ll shift off course a bit.  For the readers who don’t know me personally, I’m a father of two girls, ages four and one at the time of this writing.  My older daughter, Maggie, can read (though, not very quickly), likes games, dinosaurs and space (especially space travel, and celestial bodies).

After a few times watching myself, my wife and friends play Magic, Maggie decided that she wanted a Magic deck of her own, and it was only natural for me to want to build her a Commander deck, themed around dinosaurs.  Young children, of course, only have the vaguest of notions concerning formats, creature subtypes and the like, so the project was as much my own desire to see her happy with one of my hobbies as it was for Maggie to have a deck she could play with.  Of course, the problems with creating a dinosaur-themed deck for a child are numerous, and we didn’t quite reach the finish line as a result.

An obvious difficulty is that there are not many dinosaurs in Magic, certainly not enough for a hundred card singleton deck.  The only creature to retain the ‘dinosaur’ it it’s oracle type-line is Old Fogey from Unhinged.  Since children don’t really care about the difference between oracle and printed text, we can also sneak Pygmy Allosaurus in to the list of actual cards with the word ‘dinosaur’ in Magic.  Beyond that, we really have to dig deep for things that could be construed to be dinosaur, or mostly dinosaur.  Allosaurus Rider strongly features a dinosaur in the card title and art.  Imperiosaur is a real hidden gem; not only does it feature a creature that strongly resembles a Tyrannosaur, it’s actually not a terrible card, given that the deck will probably have a mostly basic land mana-base.

The next step removed are creatures with the lizard subtype that are ‘probably’ dinosaurs.  Macetail Hystrodon is a good analog of a Ankylosaurus, except it probably didn’t seem very hasty in real life, and probably did not strike first either. Shivan Raptor seems like a like a raptor, as does Frenetic Raptor and Ridgetop Raptor.  Dromosaur and Brooding Saurian seem like dinosaurs, and could probably make the thematic cut.  Sadly, this is where the list ends.  The remaining dinosaur-like creatures are often fantastical, and not really suitable for a dinosaur-themed deck.  Yes, you could play Fungusaur, Magmasaur, Pygmy Pyrosaur or even Putrid Raptor, but then we’re talking about creatures that are equal parts dinosaur and mushroom, molten rock, fire, or shambling corpse.  The bottom line is that, even absent other considerations, there are simply not enough dinosaurs to go around.

With that in mind, most of these are not really suitable for the very young Magic player who is making their first foray into reading, rather than being read to.  Ideally, creatures would be vanilla, having minimal or have ‘invisible’ rules text.  By ‘invisible’ rules text, I mean cards like Imperiosaur, who may as well not have rules text in a deck that only contains basic lands as mana sources.  Minimal rules text might be like Pygmy Allosaurus, who is simply has swampwalk, while not being an actual English word has an intuitive game effect (“I walk on your swamp to bite you daddy!”).  This kind of concern makes many of the others completely unsuitable.  Frenetic Raptor has an effect on creatures of a particular type (and not just yours, your opponent’s beasts don’t block either).  Shivan Raptor, for all it’s dinosaur-esque title and art (complete with big toe claw!), is pretty rules-heavy (first strike, echo, AND haste).  Which is to say nothing of the Old Fogey, whose text is meant solely as a joke.  Even without being too picky, most of the cards here have fairly complex rules. Things like First Strike or landwalk I can get behind, but specialized rules text probably makes it unusable for the youngest kind of player.

The third problem is fairly obvious. There is no legendary creature in red/green that really fits this deck, thematically.  There is at least one elf, human, centaur, hellion, hydra, cyclops and giant in red and green with the Legendary type. But none of them are dinosaurs, or particularly lizard-like.  Even so, there are no non-legendary red/green lizards for consideration either.

The story ends here.  My daughter has only played with sixty card decks and four-of cards with vanilla ‘boring’ creatures like War Mammoths and Craw Wurms.  She usually likes to play other games, like the Dungeons and Dragons board games (Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon), or simpler children’s games.  I can’t say I’m too disappointed with her Magic education, but, if there were only more dinosaurs, we’d have something special.

At this point, I want to make a plea to Wizards.  Magic needs more dinosaurs.  This territory isn’t uncharted, but it’s definitely unexploited.  Pygmy Allosaurus was a card in a ‘serious’ set, and originally had the dinosaur type.  You were still clearly thinking of it in onslaught block, where Legions featured a large number of ‘beasts’ that strongly resembled dinosaurs.  As late as Future Sight, you were willing to print Imperiosaur, even if you gave it the lizard subtype presumably because of the need for a consistent set of rules with a limited number of creature types (though, that didn’t seem to stop you from subsequently adding allies in Zendikar).  The truth of the matter is that, without dinosaurs, I can’t guarantee that my daughter will have much interest in Magic.  So, there needs to be dinosaurs in Magic, and they need to be (mostly) simple.  And really, we’re talking dinosaurs. If you’re worried about marketing, it’ll sell about as well as ninjas, pirates and robots.

Oh, and Wizards, if you could make some sort of legendary paleontologist in red and green, I’d be very much obliged.

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  • I make a legendary dinosaur earlier today. Ok well I had the idea for it around a year ago and just today I put it on magic set editor. I actually did that masterpiece myself using paint. It took me a whole 10ish minutes to complete. I’ll work on a good r/g dinosaur legend and hopefully Wizards will print it. Good luck.

  • Filth Eater

    I recently used Magic Set editor to create an entirely made up EDH deck. You could easily do the same to make one for your daughter. This way you can make every picture dinosaur related. Hell you can even make your own mechanics. Roar (when this creature attacks, if you roar, it gets +3/+3). Once you are done, print them out, stick them on some old commons, and bamm your done.

    • Yeah, this seems like a really good idea! I wish I had a good printer, now…

      • Filth Eater

        dont even need a good printer, i usually set up all my cards on a .PDF file, and take it to Staple business Depot and have them print it. i print it on glossy paper and it costs about 8$ for the whole deck. If you want i can hook you up with links for the programs i use and a template for making the pdfs. after that all you need is some glue and scissors.

  • Last year we made my daughter a commander deck for a Christmas present (she had just turned 6 at the time). The trick was finding more than on theme to build around. Katie really likes deathtouching creatures and often gets sad when she runs out of cards in hand, so we built her a Damia deck with lots of death touch creatures and card draw effects. We added in wolves and werewolves (some of her fav creatures), and some fairies and unicorns. By combining interests and focusing on a few effects (things that enhance her gameplay experience) we had a wide enough pool to draw from to find simple effects and build a fun deck. My husband then painted her a custom deck box to complete the gift, and it was a huge hit. So, while youre waiting for Wizards to print more dinosaurs, my suggestion to you would be to expand a bit- you said she likes space and celestial bodies right, so how about adding some cards like time reversal and ponder featuring cool spacey art, or looking for some cards that play really well for what she likes to do, and add those together with the dinosaurs and a cool legend that has a fun ability (Riku, to make more dinosaurs? Maelstrom wanderer to cascade twice?). Make something that is cool to look at and plays well, and you can have tons of fun playing commander with your little one. I found focusing on things she likes AND what would make for the best play experience should give you a wider range. Even if you’ve only got a couple dinosaurs it can still be special and awesome 🙂

  • outhouseinferno

    Two words: Triassic Egg.

    • O. M. G. I totally played with that card at the cafeteria table when I was like, 14. HOW DID I MISS THIS? GIVE THIS MAN A PRIZE!!!

  • This made my day! Moar Dinosaurs!

  • I think Wizards has all their Dinosaurs in reserve for an inevitable Mezosoic block.

  • Jeremy Owens

    While it doesn’t solve your text-on-the-card issue, you may want to consider slightly expanding your requirements. Dragons could be considered similar to dinosaurs in a lot of ways. That expands your options exponentially. Additionally, birds are closely related to dinosaurs biologically. You could play with that a bit. For instance, Shriek Raptor has a very prehistoric bird look to it. And putting yourself in white gives you Rith, The Awakener as a general.

  • Loved this article. I really enjoy your strategy and card review articles, but this one touched a chord with it’s sincerity, and the subject matter is adorable. Thank you for sharing!

  • I couldn’t agree more. Magic needs more Dinosaurs

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