Dinosaurs have already had a great run this format by successfully sneaking into the power vacuum left by the last Forbidden & Limited List.

While other strategies saw their consistency lowered in the current format, or lost some of their best combo cards, Dinosaur players skated by with virtually no changes in their builds. Mekk-Knight invoked decks have similarly filled the space left by Thunder Dragons vacating their definitive spot at the top of the competitive scene. While Orcusts, Salamangreats, Sky Strikers, and True Draco variants are still among the game's best decks, there's a lot more room for rogue strategies likeDinosaurs to top Championship-level events.

On the subject of Dinosaurs topping Championships!... Jarred Randolph made the Top 32 at YCS Pasadena last week piloting a True King Dinosaur deck.Historically speaking, True King variants haven't been as successful asLost World Dinosaurs, or even Shaddoll variants this format. In terms ofRegional Top 8 and YCS Top 32 performances this is the first True Kingvariant that we've recorded in our Deck Database so far this format.

Randolph's build isn't shocking, but it is fairly unique among a sea of more standardized builds and opposing strategies. It's also another excellent example of why Dinosaurs are worth investing in – especially concerning pricy tech choices like Pot of Extravagance – and why ignoring the match-up is a terrible idea.

What Makes Dinosaurs So Good Anyways?
The game-changing aggressive power of Ultimate Conductor Tyranno's the maindraw for the Dinosaur theme, and players like Randolph are well aware thattheir success often hinges on how quickly they can Summon it. It's searchable by Souleating Oviraptor's effect, but you can also SpecialSummon it from the deck with Double Evolution Pill and Petiteranodon.

Randolph played one copy of each card, and he could set up both of them with Oviraptor and a little help from Overtex Qoatlus andMiscellaneousaurus. The Dinosaur early game is filled with options for reaching Ultimate Conductor Tyranno, but Summoning it straight away isn't always the ideal play.

DECKID=110294 There are a handful of great going-first options in Randolph's build outside of simply Summoning Ultimate Conductor Tyranno and relying on itsQuick Effect. Overtex Qoatlus, Dinowrestler Pankratops, and three of Randolph's Extra Deck monsters helped him control his opponent's actions early in the duel. You'll notice that Randolph wasn't playing any handtraps in his Main Deck, and that made his Turn 1 decisions so much more important as he attempted to stop his opponent from building too much of a lead.

That said, the Dinosaur deck is astonishingly good at breaking boards, soRandolph didn't need to totally stop his opponent. Forcing them into asuboptimal play would give him similar results, and if he followed up next turn with an Ultimate Conductor Tyranno he'd be perfectly positioned to wipe out his opponent's fragile lead.

Follow-up plays are a crucial part of the Dinosaur strategy as a result of how heavily weighted the deck is towards aggressive plays. That said, the deck's ability to put up a meaningful defense sets it apart from strategies like Cyber Dragons, which are even more heavily weighted towards securing OTKs. Randolph could lay up with a low-investment defense to burn through his opponent's resources, then blow out their established board on the following turn. That's a lot harder to do with Cyber Dragons because negation bodies are simply more resource intensive, and other strategies like Orcusts are too combo-intensive to mount a comeback against a singular floodgate or a well-timed hand trap in a simplified state.

Randolph's offensive pushes were well protected by his play set of Called by the Grave and Miscellaneousaurus. Both cards let him play straight through hand traps that targeted his Dinosaurs, and most importantly it meant hisOviraptor had better odds of resolving successfully. They have more utility than simply stopping hand traps: Called by the Grave is also a fantastic defensive option for sniping monsters out of the graveyard, and Miscellaneousaurus can answer Infinite Impermanence, Crackdown, andSalamangreat Rage.

Meanwhile, Main Deck tech choices like Mind Control and Dinowrestler Pankratops helped Randolph tear up even the most entrenched boards. The combination of both cards in the first game of the duel is especially devastating because they not only clear the field of monsters and backrow, but also because they help bait out negation and interruption effects. IfRandolph's opponent started firing off their negation to stop Mind Control from stealing their monster, there's a good chance they won't have the necessary tools to stop simple Oviraptor plays. Leading with a MindControl, or activating it immediately after Special Summoning Dinowrestler Pankraptops, would knock Randolph's opponent's off-balance right away and set them up for the sweeping leg kick of Ultimate Conductor Tyranno.

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All of these cards still need to be drawn, and Pot of Extravagance is easily the best draw spell in a deck that's loaded with one-of tech picks.Dinosaurs can't support Pot of Desires, so Extravagance makes the most sense for the deck since it lacks any other draw effects. Randolph added more copies of key Extra Deck monsters to reduce the chance that he'd lock himself out of an important Xyz or Synchro.

As a result we can plainly see which Extra Deck monsters were most important to him, including True King of All Calamities, Trishula, Dragonof the Ice Barrier, and Evolzar Laggia. Trishula plays into the offensive follow-up strategy we've talked about already, and both Laggia andCalamities act as a decent lay-up to bait out resources.

True Kings Set This Built Apart
If the traditional Dinosaur build seems like it lacks meaningful defensive options, don't worry – you're not alone. Most Dinosaur hybrids attempt to shore up the deck's fragility during the opponent's turn by playing ExtraDeck monsters with floodgate or interruption effects. Shaddoll hybrids useEl Shaddoll Winda, El Shaddoll Shekhinaga, and El Shaddoll Grysta to affect the pace of the game or negate actions outright while simultaneously loading the graveyard.Other Dinosaur buildsare running more Main Deck traps, and even Main Deck copies of Nibiru, thePrimal Being.

Randolph's source of defensive strength comes from True King of AllCalamities and its floodgate effect. His True King engine gave him relatively easy access to Calamities and even more opportunities to destroy the baby Dinosaurs: Babycerasaurus and Petiteranodon. The benefits of Dragonic Diagram and his True King monsters are pretty clear:all three cards can destroy the baby Dinosaurs in the hand and triggert heir effects. Dragonic Diagram's destruction replaces the destroyed cardwith a True King from the deck, and the True King's destroy monsters aspart of their Summoning effects.

Back to True King of All Calamities: the Attribute-based floodgate attached to its Quick Effect is completely devastating against single Attribute themes like Salamangreats and Orcusts, and it's a fantastic way to stop your opponent from playing the game for two turns. Of course, Calamities itself also changes the Attribute of monsters on the field, so it's still viable against decks that rely primarily on on-field activations.

Its one major weakness is that monsters that activate off the field won't have their Attribute changed by its effect, so you'll have to declare theirAttribute directly to negate them. That's easier said than done, so decks with enough hand and graveyard-activated monster effects of variousAttributes can outplay Calamities by reaching their Extra Deck. Luckily the two decks more likely to accomplish that are Salamangreats and Orcusts –and both are largely single-Attribute strategies.

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The excellent positioning of True King of All Calamities this format makes the True King engine an even better choice for Dinosaur hybrids. Again, it's not the only option: Shaddolls and pure Lost World builds are still topping Regionals, but the fact that Randolph was the only Dinosaur player in the Top 32 of this YCS – and the only one of any YCS this format – leads me to believe that it's likely the most competitive build at the moment. It certainly has the most OTK potential with a single True King at its disposal, but more importantly it has a significantly more devastating floodgate effect in its Extra Deck.

The True King engine has better synergies with the Dinosaurs than Shaddolls do, but it's hard to tell if Shaddoll variants have finished evolving. TrueKing builds have existed for years, so each build is fairly similar with little room to improve. Player skill makes a larger difference for a deck with so many possible options in the early game.

I think hybridization has helped Dinosaur builds keep opponents from correctly predicting every move. Randolph could activate a True King afterhis Oviraptor was negated to extend his plays and recover after interruption, and Shaddoll builds can suddenly activate Shaddoll Fusion orSuper Polymerization with virtually no warning. Not knowing the options in your opponent's hand makes answering an Oviraptor Summon even more challenging, and that's exactly how Randolph could start to get into his opponent's head.

Uncertainty mixed with the ever-present threat of a well-protected UltimateConductor Tyranno is keeping Dinosaurs on the fringes of the competitive scene, and just shy of being overlooked for more recent strategies.

Until next time then

-Kelly