Commander Deep Dive: Gishath, Sun's Avatar
Updated: Nov 18, 2020
“Welcome To Jurassic Park.” - John Hammond
As a Magic player, I have enjoyed many types of decks and loved many others. Until this point in my tenure of playing this wonderful game, I never became drawn to a deck solely for the creature type. Like I said, until now.
This deck is a blast for me to play and was so much fun to build. Many factors contribute to my love of this deck. As a child, all I wanted was to become a Paleontologist. We all go through many things in our lives and we take different paths. I did not end up becoming a Paleontologist; but I have continued to carry my passion for Dinosaurs and fossils and discovery.
So why Gishath, Sun’s Avatar and not Zacama, Primal Calamity? Simple, Gishath is about Dinosaurs and Zacama is about...well, Zacama. You don’t need that many more creatures to support Zacama, Primal Calamity, but you can play Zacam in your Gishath deck.
“Dinosaurs and man, two species separated by 65 million years of evolution, have just been suddenly thrown back into the mix together. How can we possibly have the slightest idea what to expect?” – Dr. Alan Grant
Before we get into the Dinosaur goodness of this deck, let us take a look at the non-Dinosaur creatures that I have included in my deck. Unsurprisingly, these creatures will either have something to do with the Dinos or are generally powerful in their own right.
Mainly we have multiple creatures that accelerates our mana production or reduces the cost of our Dinosaurs. These cards are Atzocan Seer, Drover of the Mighty, Kinjalli’s Caller, Knight of the Stampede and Otepec Huntmaster; most of which also have some sort of extra power in certain scenarios of a given game. Drover of the Mighty gets a power and toughness boost when there is a Dinosaur present on the battlefield and Atzocan Seer allows you to sacrifice it to return a Dinosaur card from your graveyard to your hand.
Forerunner of the Empire is a much more powerful and important non-Dino creature. Forerunner turns your Dinosaur suite into a one-shot toolbox of sorts. Many of the Dinosaurs I play in this deck have the mechanic Enrage which triggers whenever the creature is dealt damage. Part of Forerunner’s rules text is “Whenever a Dinosaur enters the battlefield under your control, you may have Forerunner of the Empire deal 1 damage to each creature.” This makes triggering our Enrage creatures multiple times trivial. Forerunner of the Empire is also part of the only “infinite” combo in this deck. The combo of Polyraptor plus Forerunner of the Empire is one that has been known since before the release of Rivals of Ixalan. Resulting in a large number of Polyraptors and, most likely, nothing else on the battlefield.
“Life Finds A Way.” - Dr. Ian Malcolm
Sir Richard Owen coined name Dinosaur in 1841 to describe the fossils of extinct reptiles. He coined the word by combining the Greek words “deinos”, which means terrible, and “sauros”, which means lizard. Are all of our dinosaurs terrible beasts to find yourself setting across from? I wouldn’t say that; there are many smaller utility Dinosaurs that are employed in this deck.
These are just a few of the utility creatures that I have included in my Gishath deck. These are self-explanatory. Bellowing Aegisaur is for when we need to go wide to push through the rest of the damage needed to win. Deathgorge Scavenger is our own personal version of graveyard hate, slow and restricted as it may be. Kinjalli’s Sunwing is a very important tool to slow down our opponents board progression and speed. Ripjaw Raptor is one of the most powerful Dinosaurs that was printed in the Ixalan block. The Raptor and Runic Armasaur serve a similar role by giving us the much needed card draw that the Naya (white, red, green) colors can be lacking. Ranging Raptors serves a vital role to my game plan. Dinosaurs are big, so we need to ramp. That is exactly what Ranging Raptors does.
“Your Scientists Were So Preoccupied With Whether Or Not They Could, They Didn’t Stop To Think If They Should.” - Dr. Ian Malcolm
I spoke of ramping in the section above and that is where I’m going to start here.
Thunderherd Migration is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ramp spells that I have in this list. There are an array of different spells, but they all do a variation on the same thing; search my library for either one or two lands, basic or otherwise. For the sake of being thorough, I’ll list them; Circuitous Route, Cultivate, Explosive Vegetation, Farseek, Kodama's Reach, Rampant Growth, Skyshroud Claim, and the aforementioned Thunderherd Migration. Yeah, that’s a lot of ramp spells, but I would like to get to the threshold of mana to cast Gishath as early as possible.
The instants and sorceries are just the beginning, I also have the three on-color signets (Boros, Gruul, Selesnya) and The Great Henge as mana producing artifacts. The Great Henge is a powerhouse in and of itself; card advantage, ramp and lifegain all in a nice tidy package. Most of our creatures are Dinosaur-sized, so it will also be cheap to cast. Last, but certainly not least, I have the powerful enchantment Mirari’s Wake. Getting this card onto the battlefield in the early game kicks the game and our game plan into overdrive. Mirari’s Wake doubles the mana production from the lands in the deck and is a general anthem for my side of the board. An example of the power contained in this single enchantment is a game I played where I cast Mirari’s Wake on turn five and on turn six cast Circuitous Route and Gishath, Sun’s Avatar.
“You Didn’t Ask For Reality; You Asked For More Teeth!” - Dr. Henry Wu
Finally we arrive at what you’re all been waiting for, the Dinos. The group pictured above are just a sampling of the big beasties that I have at my disposal. Apex Altisaur has been the best of the best throughout my testing with this current build. Altisau has an Enrage trigger that goes hand-in-hand with it’s enter the battlefield (ETB) ability; when Apex Altisaur ETB it can fight another target creature you don’t control, thus triggering Enrage and fighting again. Combine Apex Altisaur with Boros Charm or Heroic Intervention and it can clear out all of the opponents creatures.
Of course I have included the three on-color Elder Dinosaurs; Ghalta, Primal Hunger in green, Etali, Primal Storm in red and Zetalpa, Primal Dawn in white. The Elder Dinosaurs from Rivals of Ixalan definitely hit the mark on every level. Each of the creatures are powerful and iconic in serving their status and name. All three of these creatures can win a game by itself and that’s not something that is very common to have in multiples such as this.
Ixalan hasn’t been the only Plane where Dinosaurs walk; we received new toys from Ikoria Lair of Behemoths. Who would’ve guessed that a set about monsters would contain versions of the greatest lizards to walk our own world? Quartzwood Crasher is an interesting take on token production. It creates a X/X Dinosaur Beast token where X is the amount of damage dealt by your creatures with Trample.
As with the Elder Dinosaurs, I have also included the Avatars from Ixalan. Burning Sun’s Avatar and Wakening Sun’s Avatar are both different forms of removal, the former also granting a little reach. Verdant Sun’s Avatar allows you to gain large chunks of life whenever creatures ETB on my side.
Lastly, some Dinosaurs that add interesting aspects to the deck. Goring Ceratops, Silverclad Ferocidon and Thundering Spineback are a few of my favorites. Again, they’re all pretty self-explanatory; Ceratops grants my creatures Double Strike when it attacks, Ferocidon has one of the most potentially powerful Enrage trigger that causes opponents to sacrifice a permanent whenever it is dealt damage. Thundering Spineback is the only traditional “lord” that the Dinosaur tribe has access to and it also is an army-in-a-can (able to produce tokens at a cost), of course it is an auto-inclusion.
“Dinosaurs eat man…woman inherits the earth.” - Dr. Ellie Sattler
I only play a single planeswalker in my deck and this section is all for her. There are two other versions of this planeswalker, but this is the version that serves us best. She does everything that we want. Huatli, Warrior Poet makes Dinosaur tokens, gains us some life and performs a dual role with the -X ability. In a pinch we can use it to trigger our Enrage creatures, and when needed we can prevent any number of creatures from blocking if we deal damage to them with that same ability. I imagine this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Huatli either, so who knows what future versions may bring to the deck.
“We needed something scary and easy to pronounce. You should hear a four-year-old try to say ‘Archaeornithomimus’.” - Claire Dearing
“You should hear you try to say it.” - Owen Grady
Commander Legends is just around the corner, alas there aren’t many significant upgrades for Gishath. Annoyed Altisaur is the sole new Dinosaur so naturally it is under consideration for inclusion in my future builds. It is also the first Dinosaur with the Cascade mechanic, which sees it’s return in the set. Other cards that are on my shortlist of additions are Akroma’s Will, Apex Devastator, Court of Ire, Court of Bounty and Jeska, Thrice Reborn.
At the risk of being hyperbolic, Akroma’s Will is a white version of Cyclonic Rift or Craterhoof Behemoth. What I’m saying is it can potentially end the game upon being cast. The Courts give us the opportunity to use the Monarch mechanic and have powerful abilities if we remain the Monarch for any length of time. Apex Devastator, while not a Dinosaur, is one ridiculously powerful creature. Between all of the ramp that this deck has, we can be Cascading much earlier than expected. Finally, we have the first Jeska planeswalker card. Jeska, Thrice Reborn can triple the damage dealt by a single creature. If that creature is Gishath, well, seven multiplied by three is twenty one; the exact amount of commander damage required to eliminate an opponent.
“If I don't make it back... remember that you're the one that made me come here.” - Owen Grady
I hope that you continue to enjoy these deep dives into the decks that I have built. There are plenty more on the way after Commander Legends releases and I can get some testing in. Enjoy this game that we love and take care of yourselves and each other.
Good luck, I hope you lose!