Top 10 Dinosaurs in Magic: The Gathering (MTG)

Updated on October 11, 2019
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

What Are Dinosaurs in Magic: The Gathering?

True to their intimidating nature, dinosaurs are a subtype of creature cards in Magic that wield incredible power/toughness ratios as often bear trample, letting them swing for pierce damage through blockers. Many also activate bonus effects when damaged, rewarding you for scraping your own monsters. These tyrants typically belong to the red, white, and green factions, and to offset their might, you'll often need to pay large sums of mana to cast them.

Still, several dinosaurs enjoy tricks to reduce their cost or cast fellow reptiles for free, and their savage abilities can shred enemy life points with just a few attacks. But with dozens of prehistoric beasts running rampant, which carnivores reign supreme? These are the 10 strongest dinosaur cards in Magic: The Gathering!

Burning Sun's Avatar
Burning Sun's Avatar

10. Burning Sun's Avatar

CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 6

Needing red's mountain lands to cast, Burning Sun hits the field for six mana as an impressive 6/6 (six power and six toughness). Even better, when he arrives, you get to inflict three damage to both your opponent (or one of their planeswalkers) and up to one target creature!

This adeptly throws a Lightning Bolt at both your adversary and one of their units. Plus, you can also purposefully aim the creature damage at one of your own dinos to activate their common "after taking damage" abilities; most of your 'saurs will possess more than enough health to survive the blast if you direct it their way. Finally, remember that Burning's abilities trigger even if he wasn't cast, meaning you can gimmick him to the field without paying his costs (we'll see how later) and still take advantage of his boons.

Verdant Sun's Avatar
Verdant Sun's Avatar

9. Verdant Sun's Avatar

CMC: 7

At 5/5, Verdant Sun is a tad weak for his seven cost, but he's an excellent candidate for your free-dino summons thanks to his amazing continuous effect. When Verdant or another creature enters the field under your control, you gain life equal to their toughness.

Thus, you're receiving a free five health with this herbivore's arrival, and he helpfully regenerates you further with all types of creatures, not just dinosaurs. Like Burning Sun, this resolves however they entered the field, meaning you'll gain life whether or not you actually cast the unit.

Nezahal, Primal Tide
Nezahal, Primal Tide

8. Nezahal, Primal Tide

CMC: 7

As a legendary unit, Nezhal adheres to the legend rule (you can only control one) and can serve as commander in EDH format. He's also a rare blue dinosaur, giving some prehistoric power even to island-dwellers, and while he's costly at seven mana, he arrives with a fierce 7/7 and several awesome abilities:

  • Nezahal can't be countered
  • You have no maximum hand size
  • Whenever an opponent casts a noncreature spell, draw a card
  • You can discard three cards to exile Nezahal and return him tapped under his owner's control at the end step

Counter immunity ironically makes Nezahal a good check against his own blue team, and infinite hand size lets you make good use of the bonus draws he provides. Discarding three cards isn't a cheap trigger, but your extra draws should give you resources to spare, and this lets you briefly banish your leviathan in response to a removal, helpfully saving his skin without needing to spend mana.

Zacama, Primal Calamity
Zacama, Primal Calamity

7. Zacama, Primal Calamity

CMC: 9

A three-headed t-rex? Yikes. Well, as a legendary unit bearing all three primary dinosaur colors, Zacama makes an excellent commander in EDH. If you cast him, he'll drain you a huge nine mana, but he joins with a whopping 9/9 stats. Despite his high cost, Zacama's a good predator to genuinely cast, as he untaps your lands when fielded this way, letting you immediately reuse your mana.

Plus, Zacama bears vigilance (letting him attack without tapping), reach (letting him block flying enemies), and trample, and he makes good use of your readied lands by offering a trio of mana abilities, each needing three mana (two colorless and one red, green, or white). The red trait deals three damage to any creature, green destroys an artifact or enchantment, and white gains you three life. Zacama's not always easy to field, but his score of lethal powers more than compensates.

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

6. Zetalpa, Primal Dawn

CMC: 8

4/8 may sound underwhelming for a creature that demands eight mana, but just look at all the traits of this giant pterodactyl! Flying lets you soar over ground blockers, trample deals pierce damage through defenders, and vigilance attacks without tapping.

Those are all great additions, but Zetalpa really shines with his rare indestructible and double strike keywords. The former makes him impervious to damage and destruction while the latter lets him deal both first-strike and regular combat damage, essentially letting him smash for eight rather than four. White doesn't contain many mana-ramp abilities, so either combo with green to afford Primal Dawn's fee or use free-creature abilities to do the work for you.

Gishath, Sun's Avatar
Gishath, Sun's Avatar

5. Gishath, Sun's Avatar

CMC: 8

Like Zacama, Gishath is a legendary tyrannosaurus rex bearing all three standard dino colors, and he's a tad cheaper at CMC 8. Gishath's effect relies on dealing combat damage to your opponent; thankfully, he bears trample, vigilance, and haste, so he can avoid summoning sickness to immediately attack (without tapping) and will bleed through with excess damage even if blocked.

Thus, it's not easy to stop his damage from landing, and whenever he inflicts some pain to your opponent's life points, Gisath reveals that many cards from the top of your deck. You can then play any dinos for free, placing the other cards on the bottom of your deck. This awesome trait summons your mighty yet taxing reptiles without their usual mana requirements, but note that it doesn't count as casting, so Zacama's entrance effect won't trigger (but Burning Sun's will).

Regal Behemoth
Regal Behemoth

4. Regal Behemoth

CMC: 6

This older print tells us Behemoth belongs to the lizard type, but thanks to the "Rivals of Ixalan" update, he's now firmly in the dino camp. A 5/5 with trample for six mana isn't a bad deal, especially when he comes with two great abilities. The first grants you monarch status, meaning you get to draw a card at your end steps, a nice card engine. The second lets you tap lands for an extra mana while you're the monarch, drastically improving your mana ramp and letting you easily play even your most expensive cards.

Now, your opponent can become the monarch by inflicting combat damage to you, but since they won't control Behemoth, they'd only receive the draw bonus, not the extra mana. Even if they seize your crown, you can steal it back again by inflicting combat damage (easy with thanks to trample). In short, Behemoth adds both draw and ramp prowess to any green build, and he's a staple of my "Omnath, Locus of Mana" commander deck.

Regisaur Alpha
Regisaur Alpha

3. Regisaur Alpha

CMC: 5

Regisaur Alpha offers yet another cool t-rex card, and since he's not legendary, you're more than welcome to field multiple copies. Alpha needs five mana, one coming from a forest and one from a mountain, and he grants your other dinosaurs (but not himself) haste, letting them tap or swing the turn they arrive.

Stacking great with this ability, he also constructs a 3/3 dinosaur token with trample, primed to battle thanks to Alpha's boost. For just five mana, you're suddenly up a 4/4 haste-bestowing titan and a speedy 3/3 with trample. Two ancient birds with one stone.

Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Ghalta, Primal Hunger

2. Ghalta, Primal Hunger

CMC: 12

Demanding 12 mana, Ghalta's among the most expensive units in the game, but he's also one of the strongest creatures, wielding an incredible 12/12 power and toughness. Like many Mesozoic dinos, this tyrannosaurus wields trample, bulldozing through blockers to land excess damage on your opponent.

More than that, Ghalta's not nearly as costly as he seems—his CMC decreases by a value of X, where X is the total power among creatures you control! This can never remove the forest symbols in his mana cost, but if you've been dutifully swarming your wield (whether with dinosaurs or other warriors), you can reduce Ghalta's cost to a measly two, an astounding bargain for such a lethal champion.

Etali, Primal Storm
Etali, Primal Storm

1. Etali, Primal Storm

CMC: 6

Legendary Etali enters for six mana, a reasonable cost among the dinosaurs, and he wields sturdy 6/6 battle stats. Plus, this spinosaurus-based monster only needs one color of mana to play, and whenever he attacks, you can exile the top card of each player's deck, then cast any nonlands you wish without paying their costs!

This amazing ability lets you wield the cards in both your and your opponent's library, and you get to pick and choose which units to cast, meaning you won't accidentally nuke out your own army with a field-wipe. To quickly resolve the ability, I like to give haste to Etali with cards like Swiftfoot Boots or Regisaur. Thankfully, despite his power and rarity, Etali costs less than five dollars (a bargain for most competitive legendaries), so definitely snag one while he's still cheap!

Which card do you prefer?

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How to Use Dinosaurs in Magic: The Gathering

Carefully consider your deck's theme when choosing which dinos to include. Can you deal damage to yourself? Go for the behemoths and supports with self-harm traits. Casting effects? You'll need to mana ramp or Etali to use them. Non-casting entrance abilities? You can gimmick your card into play without paying and still brandishing their traits.

Whatever route you opt for, dinosaurs are a fierce bunch of predators who few rival in power, and thanks to green's mana ramp and their own type support, they can hit the field sooner than you might think. Dinos received an influx of awesome support in the Ixalan set, and I hope to see more ancient reptiles in the future. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of prehistoric carnivores, vote for your favorite dinosaur and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jeremy Gill


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