Ixalan Draft Archetypes Part 2: Dinosaurs, Merfolk, and Non-Tribal Archetypes

Aaron continues his breakdown of Ixalan draft archetypes by taking a look at the Dinosaur and Merfolk tribes!  Part 1 of the series can be found here.

The Dinosaur Archetypes


Red white is an aggressive dinosaur deck that wants to curve out with dinosaur matter cards such as Imperial Lancer, Tilonalli’s Knight, and Pterodon Knight.  A priority should be placed on dinosaurs which can be played early such as Nest Robber, Raptor Companion, and Territorial Hammerskull in order to enable your dinosaur matter synergies.  Due to the aggressive nature of the deck, this might also be the best home for Bonded Horncrest.  Also, while I generally do not like the card, Swashbuckling seems to fit in well with the curve of this deck and seems great on an Imperial Lancer or a Raptor Hatchling.


This will be an aggressive or midrange deck.  Cards like Dual Shot, Rile, and Raging Swordtooth can be drafted to trigger enrage cards. Ravenous Daggertooths can then gain life and Ranging Raptors can be used to ramp and color-fix.


Green-white will generally be a defensive dinosaur deck that will want to stall the game while ramping to large dinosaurs that will take over the game.  However, the presence of Imperial Lancer, Raptor Companion, and Territorial Hammerskull, and Pterodon Knight mean that it can might also slant aggressive.

Kinjalli’s Caller is a key early drop in the defensive deck as it is a high toughness early blocker who can also accelerate you to your dinosaurs.  White also has some of the best defensive dinosaurs with Looming Altisaur at common and Steadfast Armasaur at uncommon.  Green-white’s signpost uncommon Belligerent Brontodon, which makes your creatures deal damage equal to their toughness, is especially fun with the 1/7 Looming Altisaur! (Editor’s Note: a 4 mana 7/7?!)  Also, while it is harder to trigger enrage in this deck then in red-green, don’t forget that fight cards such as Pounce trigger enrage and that Atzocan Archer can poke one of your own dinosaurs in a pinch.

The Merfolk Archetype


Blue-green is an aggressive merfolk tribal deck with a +1/+1 counter theme.  The deck should look to draft a good curve with combat tricks and the tempo generating blue bounce spells such as Depths of Desire, Perilous Voyage, and Run AgroundWatertrap Weaver is especially great in this regard as a merfolk who also generates tempo.  The big payoff is River Herald’s Boon because it’s a powerful effect that non-merfolk decks won’t be interested in.

The Non-Tribal Archetypes

Black-Green Explore

This is a midrange deck built around the explore mechanic.  Key cards to be on the lookout for are Lurking Chupacabra, Shadowed Caravel, and Wildgrowth Walker.  Two rares cards that let you explore multiple times – Deadeye Tracker and Emperor’s Vanguard – are also especially valuable.  I feel like this deck will rarely come together because all of the explore cards are great and will be drafted highly by other players and because all of the payoffs are uncommon and rare.  However, it’s definitely an archetype to keep in mind if you’re able to pick up some of the enablers (especially Lurking Chupacabra) early.

Blue-White Flyers

This deck is an aggressive deck centered on an abundance of flyers and Favorable Winds.  Tribal synergies are probably less important than having a critical mass of evasion and flying creatures.  The deck will often be racing in the air so the white lifegain creatures and removal such as Bishop’s Soldier, Queen’s Commission, and Pious Interdiction are all welcome here.  I doubt this archetype will come together very often as the primary payoff appears to be Favorable Winds but it’s something to keep an eye out for.

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