After a maxed-out 500 entrants and nine rounds of swiss, I walked away from the convention center with 44th place and my nationals invite. (Due to the field size and maxing out our venue, top cut was the top 48.)
Similar to Keebsters' prior tournament report, we'll start this off with the build, go into the theory behind it, walk through matchups, and then highlight why the deck was effective and what changes I'd make going forward.
Build and Theory
This is the decklist I turned in to pilot for the regional.
A couple of card choices might immediately catch your attention.
- Where's Overtex Qoatlus and Double Evolution Pill?
- What the hell is Survival's End and why are you playing that?
Let's address both those questions by looking at the build theory. Dinos have a whole lot going for them.
- Souleating Oviraptor and Miscellaneousarus are incredible play starters, leading up to a group of incredibly powerful bosses like Ultimate Conductor Tyranno, Evolzar Laggia, Evolzar Dolkka, and the rest of the Rank 4 toolbox.
- Lost World, their field spell, acts both as a chain-blocking tool for Oviraptor and a general debuff for your opponent. It also puts a token on your opponents' field as an attack/destruction target for Oviraptor and other Dinos, as well as a kind of natural stun against Sky Striker spells.
- Dinos excel at going second. UCT can break monster boards with raw attack power alone.
However...they've got their share of struggles as well.
- Babycerasaurus, Petiteranadon, Giant Rex, and Overtex are simultaneously incredibly powerful and, usually, horrible to draw.
- Dinos also tend to struggle if they can't get to a successful Oviraptor, which is the deck's main starter.
- As a primarily go-second deck, Dinos usually suffer going first. Their most optimal opening gives a maximum of three disruptions, though.
- A particular pain point, Dinos are vulnerable to a slew of anti-archetype floodgates like There Can Be Only One and Zombie World.
So, to win with Dinos, you've got to work hard to figure out how to limit weaknesses without limiting strengths.
Now let's talk shop. Overtex and Double Evolution Pill are absent because I wanted to minimize the possibility of bricking. I never want to see Pill in my opening hand, and the low non-Dino monster count made it less effective to play going second. Also, I didn't want to draw Overtex at all; I can count on one hand the number of times I've summoned Overtex by its own effect since I first picked it up in early 2018. To avoid these drawbacks, I omitted both entirely.
For the next bit, you'll need some insight into the meta. No, not the overarching meta, the mid-to-upper Midwest USA meta. Here, there's a pretty high concentration of control and stun decks. Subterror, True Draco, Altergeist, and Striker are all over the place and tend to be players' fallback decks once they get bored or the meta gets stale. Because of that I anticipated—correctly, as you'll later see—I'd be seeing a lot of control decks I'd need to hack through to get into the top cut. Hence, the three Cosmic Cyclones that are in the main.
That leads us to Foolish Burial Goods and Survival's End. Two things you should know about Survival's End: both effects can be used in the same turn, and neither effect is once per turn.
On the field, Survival's End serves as a way to generate advantages while reducing opposing advantage. Usually, that means popping (or attempting to pop, and then saving with Lost World) a Lost World token. Sometimes though, it means denying a Sky Striker Mecha - Hornet Drones token, or any tokens at all. In the GY is where Survival’s End becomes a whole different beast entirely. Its effect is spell speed 2 (that is, a quick effect) and says you can destroy a Dinosaur on your side of the field and a card your opponent controls.
Targeting Babycerasaurus or Petiteranodon, Survival’s End becomes simultaneously a play starter and disruption. What this means is that with Survival’s End in the GY, drawing your babies is no longer a brick. Targeting Dinowrestler Pankratops, Survival’s End becomes a 2-for-1 special; because your Dino target doesn’t need to be destroyed to destroy an opponent’s card, you can chain Pankratops to Survival’s End’s effect and effectively pop two cards when you would’ve been popping one.
At the end of the day, I built the deck under two guiding principles: maximize consistency and maximize utility.
Formatted as "matchup (match record) (tournament record)". Keep note of how many stun and control decks I faced.
Round 1: HERO (2-1) (1-0)
I started off the day against HERO. Both Dino and HERO are go-second decks, but my Dino build proved to be the better of the two in terms of flexibility for going first, and for putting disruption on the board. My opponent was able to push through me in game 2 because I hadn’t opened well, but games 1 and 3, I threw too many wrenches into his setup plays and was able to punch through for wins with UCT (sealed with Gagaga Cowboy, in game 1).
Round 2: Pacifis (2-0) (2-0)
Remember how I ran three Cosmic Cyclones? I opened all three and was going second. My opponent set up Pacifis, the Phantasm City with two backrow and a Megalosmasher X on field. Megalosmasher – a level 4 Dinosaur. In standby, I Cycloned his Pacifis and when I activated Pot of Extravagance at the start of MP1, he chained...Metaverse. I drew two cards and Cycloned the second Pacifis. After activating Lost World, I summoned Oviraptor to search Miscellaneousarus, giving him a token in the process. I pitched Misc for effect then used Ovi’s second effect, destroying Megalosmasher to bring Misc back. Game 1 ended pretty quick after that.
Game 2, he went first again and set three with Megalosmasher. I baited a Solemn Judgment with Evenly Matched, banished his There Can Be Only One when he activated it against Ovi, and the match closed out from there.
Round 3: Thunder (1-2) (2-1)
Thunder’s usually a pretty straightforward matchup for Dinos...except when you only have searchers in hand. Game 1 was a handful of searchers against a Thunder Dragon Colossus. Despite going through two Extravagances, I never hit Oviraptor or UCT. Game 2, on the other hand, I saw both of those things, and double Colossus doesn’t mean much to UCT. Game 3 was one of the few true bricks I had all day, unfortunately. I opened Nibiru, the Primal Being, double Misc, Artifact Lancea, and I believe Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring. I got the Nibiru off, but without drawing into a different Dino, I was stuck. It be like that sometimes.
Round 4: Danger! Zombies (2-0) (3-1)
He started game 1 by activating Zombie World, which immediately put me a little on edge. Zombie World is not a fun card for Dinos to deal with. Through some Danger activations, he was able to put Doomking Balerdroch into the GY to start his next turn, but I hit it with D.D. Crow during the standby phase. I believe I outed Zombie World with Cyclone and went off; he scooped the following turn.
Game 2 I opened fairly subpar, having to set Petiteranodon with Infinite Impermanence and Survival’s End set. He Mind Controlled Petit and off a set of unlucky Danger activations, had to pass on his turn on Danger!? Jackalope? and Knightmare Phoenix, which had blind popped Survival’s End. I summoned Babycerasaurus, popped it and his backrow with Survival’s End, and comboed off into Dolkka and Pankratops. He scooped after draw phase.
Round 5: Sky Striker True Draco (1-2) (3-2)
Game 1 was a pretty solid win for me. I accumulated a lot of advantage with Petiteranodon and Survival’s End while shutting down the few advantage-generating cards my opponent had opened. Game 2, he turned the tables, generating pretty heavy advantage turn one that I was never able to fully hack back through. Because of how long game 2 took, game 3 was decided in time by Sky Striker Ace - Kaina gaining him 200LP.
At this point, I got nervous. X-2 could (and did) top, but it would mean me winning my next four matches.
Round 6: True Draco (2-0) (4-2)
This matchup, which is usually one of Dino’s more difficult ones, ended up being a 2-0 that lasted approximately 15 minutes. I won both games in the exact same way, with Dino’s most disgusting damage combo. Starting hand: Lost World, Oviraptor, UCT (or ways to get to all three).
- Summon Oviraptor with Lost World on the field, chain blocking Oviraptor with Lost World’s token generation to send Giant Rex to the GY.
- Use Ovi’s second effect to attempt to pop the Lost World token. Protect the token by destroying Petiteranodon or Babycerasaurus from the deck.
- Special summon Miscellaneousaurus with whichever baby you used.
- Overlay Misc and Ovi for Number 60: Dugares the Timeless.
- Special summon UCT under Dugares by banishing the baby and Giant Rex.
- Giant Rex special summons itself.
- Use Dugares’ effect to double UCT’s attack to 7000.
- Link Dugares and Giant Rex into Pentestag over UCT.
- UCT now has piercing. Attack over the token for 7000LP damage, and kill whatever else while you’re at it.
Round 7: Sky Striker (2-0) (5-2)
Game 1 started with both of us bricking, but I bricked a little less. I ended up getting in 2000LP damage off of Babycerasaurus before he set what I read as a hand trap – he didn’t want to get poked to death by Baby. I passed and he summoned Crow, linking Crow and the once-set Ash Blossom for Knightmare Phoenix, giving him a little room to play before passing back to me.
Thankfully, I drew a way to Oviraptor with Lost World in hand to start fighting back. After a little back and forth, he ended on Sky Striker Ace - Kagari and passed to me. I dropped Giant Rex and two UCTs I’d been sitting on since turn one. After beating through Kagari with Rex, he made Kaina off Sky Striker Ace - Raye and stopped one of my UCTs from attacking. I beat over it with the other UCT and then went into Superdreadnought Rail Cannon Gustav Max for 2000LP burn and game. Game 2, I honestly don’t recall much, just that I hit through for a win much quicker than game 1.
Round 8: Sky Striker True Draco (1-1) (5-2-1)
This match started with the longest game 1 I played all day: 33 minutes. Towards the end, my opponent had only five cards left in his deck, and I figured with a massive GY and 10 cards banished off Pot of Desires, he had no targets left for the Sky Striker Mobilize - Engage! he had in hand. Unfortunately, he did have one target left...Sky Striker Mecha - Shark Cannon. He banished the lone Miscellaneousaurus that was in my GY, which next turn would’ve gotten me to the win.
So, we went into game 2—me taking a risk going second—with five minutes left on the clock. My opponent did what I expected he’d do, which is try to rack up as many spare LP with Kaina as possible. Thing is, when you rack up less than 800LP with Kaina and end on a non-interactive board, you lose to Cowboy.
Round 9: Tenyi (2-0) (6-2-1)
There was a massive amount of pressure going into round 9 knowing I couldn’t lose if I wanted the chance to top. Naturally, I lost the dice roll (I only won three all day) and watched my opponent activate Flawless Perfection of the Tenyi.
A few things immediately went through my head:
- Tenyi made it to round 9 at X-2??
- Tenyi made it to round 9 at X-2! Hell yeah!
- I know Tenyi like the back of my hand. Time to smash it.
Even though the Tenyi effects are—by and large—pretty good, none of them are good for disruption. He ended on Flawless Perfection, Berserker of the Tenyi, and a set backrow, which I popped with Survival’s End to reveal Fists of the Unrivaled Tenyi. So now he had two Berserkers and nothing to protect them. I ran them both over with UCT and ended on Abyss Dweller with UCT. After activating Dweller in response to the draw, I closed game 1 out shortly.
Game 2 is a game I would’ve lost if I hadn’t opened Lost World and Oviraptor. He made me go first, and I ended on Lost World with Abyss Dweller to force him to play only with the Tenyis’ in-hand effects. He went full combo (since Vessel for the Dragon Cycle is an absurdly good card), ending on Mare Mare, Draco Masters of the Tenyi, Berserker, Flawless Perfection, and a set spell/trap.
However, Lost World reduced his final damage output by 1500LP and Dweller shut off his Tenyi Spirit - Ashuna in the GY that he’d used to summon Shaman of the Tenyi, leaving me at 1900LP. I went into my draw phase knowing that if I didn’t win this turn, I’d lose the game. My hand was Babycerasaurus, Lost World, and Miscellaneousaurus, with Giant Rex and Oviraptor in the GY and another Lost World on board.
I drew Foolish Burial Goods.
My brain went immediately from “I don’t got this” to “I f***ing got this”. I sent Survival’s End to the GY with FBG, and he chained his set card: Skill Drain. He was at 7000LP. That’s kill range. I pitched Miscellaneousaurus for effect, summoned Baby (also summoning a Lost World token), and popped Baby and Skill Drain with Survival’s End. I then summoned Oviraptor off Baby, searching UCT. UCT got special summoned under the open EMZ by banishing Giant Rex and the Ovi in grave, which brought Giant Rex back to the field.
Then, I banished Misc and Baby from the GY to summon Petiteranadon from deck. UCT popped Petit to set Mare Mare and special summon another Misc from deck. Reading at this point that I was fully in the clear to complete the combo, I made Dugares with Misc and Giant Rex, doubled UCT’s attack, and then linked Dugares and Ovi into Pentestag above UCT. 7000LP piercing to the Lost World token to win the game and the match.
Regarding card picks, the least valuable card of the day was probably D.D. Crow. Skull Meister overall would’ve been a more meaningful card to play based on what I faced. Black Luster Soldier - Soldier of Chaos was never made the entire day because in the matchup I would’ve made it (Sky Striker True Draco), it was banished off my first Pot of Extravagance both times, and I never had the necessary material on board to make it anyway. That said, Soldier of Chaos is staying in the extra for its value in that kind of matchup. In the side, I never brought in System Down due to never facing Orcust. Nibiru also only came in versus HERO and Thunder.
Regarding theory and gameplay, I couldn’t be more pleased with my field predictions and how the guiding build principles (gracious assisted by players from my locals and the reddit Dino Discord) shaped the final build. Survival’s End was, without question, the unpredicted secret weapon of the day. It provided both immense utility and phenomenal play-starting potential. Building the deck to be more resilient to control decks ended up carrying me through over half my matchups. Focusing on consistency allowed me to win seven of nine game 1's and 15 of 21 total games.
My biggest takeaway of the regional, personally, was the power of subverting expectations and thinking out of the box. Every player I faced carried a lot of predispositions about Dinos that I was able to completely turn on their heads over the course of the day. Opponents who thought they were putting me in a pinch by forcing me to go first usually found out the hard way that was an equally bad idea. Letting Foolish Burial Goods go through on every single activation because “what is that going to do for Dinos?” turned into explosive Survival’s End plays that ended games. Players kept anticipating Double Evolution Pills that never dropped, while not noticing setups towards burn finishes with Gustav Max and Cowboy because “Dino doesn’t play that”.
The Chicago Regional was a fantastic experience. Exhausting and stressful, but enjoyable and fantastic. My opponents were super cordial and fun to play against, and the company of my fellow locals players between matches helped keep the mood light. The invite was the icing on the cake.