Librarian Lore — The Mysterious Case of the Three-Fingered Dinosaur

Librarian Lore: The Mysterious Case of the Three-Fingered Dinosaur

The appearance of the new Elder Dinosaurs and the reinforcements that arrived for the tribe in this new set only made me more determined, as a lifelong Timmy, to have my own personal Jurassic Park in my pocket. Put down your torches and pitchforks, it won’t actually be in my pocket it’ll be in a deckbox double sleeved. I am not a monster.

I, like almost all children are at some point, was obsessed with dinosaurs. My mother could tell stories of how she would pull her hair out because instead of fairy tales and bedtime stories I wanted the latest dinosaur discovery articles read to me. She would often have to stop and say “How do you pronounce that one’s name?” Then I would answer, “Oh that’s coelophysis.” Mom would give me an odd look at that point. Followed by: “How do you know how to pronounce that, you’re five?” Regardless of the anecdote, I was hooked on these great titan lizards from a very young age. The idea that something so large could have walked the earth fills a child with wonder. When we arrived on Ixilian and I saw the truly beautiful feathered inhabitants, it awoke the sleeping five-year old inside me again. If wanting to know more about the feathered reptiles and their role in the Mezoamerican culture is more your interest, Charlie Allison’s Historically Speaking has a great article on feathered serpent symbolism and the role it played in the saurian design process. Here

When selecting a dino tribal commander the choice seems obvious. He roars, he stomps, he represents the sun in its 3 forms important to the Ixialiani Sun Empire’s religion…That’s right! It’s Gishath, Sun’s Avatar

Praise the Sun!

Now we know a little bit about the Sun Empire’s religious beliefs in a threefold sun. But just to recap.

  • Kinjalli is the Wakening Sun, who created humans from clay and baked them with the sun’s warmth. It is associated with order and structure, as well as the raining season. It is the patron of the empire’s founder.
  • Tilonalli is the Burning Sun, associated with ferocity, fire, and passion. It is associated with anger and love, as well as the hot season.
  • Ixalli is the Verdant Sun, who fosters growth in all things. It is associated with fertility and community, and associated with the cold season.

Each of these aspects was given an Avatar in the first Ixilian set. Gishath represents all 3 in being. As does Zacama, the Primal Calamity. Perhaps even more directly so given his 3 heads. Gishath bears the Empire’s sigil on his chest. I don’t want to think about what happened to the guy who put that mark there.

Caught Red-Handed:

Let’s take a look at Gishath.

At first blush what kind of dinosaur would you say he is? You’d be forgiven if you said Tyrannosaurus Rex after all…

But, it was those little arms that caught my attention. Check out this sample from The Chicago Field Museum.

That’s a T-Rex hand in all its glory. Notice anything I’ll give you to the count of 3 to check the title of the article again… Yep Gishath has 3 fingers. All species of the order Tyrannosauridae have 2 fingers. “You’re looking too much into this it’s just art of a magical dinosaur!” I hear a straw man from the audience shout so I can continue to make my argument. Oh Straw Man, you’re so wrong!

Here’s another pair of dinosaurs. Charging Monstrosaur

and of course Regisaur Alpha

Notice anything? Yep. 2 fingers. Charging Monstrosaur and Regisaur Alpha are Tyrannosaurs. “I still think you’re thinking about this too much…” says the Straw Man. He might be right, if there wasn’t a dinosaur that fit the billl for Gishath’s identity to a T…Minus Rex.

A South American Time Capsule

Now, Therapods in the Cretaceous period are interesting bunch, from the semi-aquatic, to forty plus foot long roving packs of hunters,the mid to late Cretaceous saw an explosion in both size and specialization among the large terrestrial carnivores.

The sail-backed Spinosaurus in Egypt:

Spinosaurus skeleton reconstructed for Japan’s Paleontology Expo in swimming position.

To the absurdly famous Tyrannosaurs of North America:

Sue the famous T-Rex is Chicago’s Field Museum

South America was unique for several reasons. It was the only place to support the class of supermassive sauropods into the late Cretaceous. In 1987 a dinosaur by the name of Argentinosaurus was discovered. One of the most massive dinosaurs to date, he weighed in 110 tons and 130 feet from tip to tail.

He was enormous. Photo courtesy of Naturmuseum Senckenburg, Frankfurt Germany

The second thing you need to know about South America and its dinosaurs is that no major predator had been unearthed up at that point in that part of the world.That all changes in 1995 with the discovery of…

The Great Southern Lizard

Say hi to Giganotosaurus

Photo courtesy of ESPM Argentina

Giganotosaurus “The Great Southern Lizard” stalked South America was 43 feet in length and weighed in at 9 tons larger than the famous T-Rex. The titans would have never met, however as they were seperated both by continental shift and about 30 million years which really puts into perspective just how long these creatures really ruled the earth. It is easy to group these creatures as a dinosaur from the Cretaceous period or a dinosaur from the Jurassic period, but true appreciation comes from being able to grasp the scale of that time. Tyrannosaurus Rex lived closer to humans than he did Stegosaurus.

All these dinosaur facts are really interesting I hear you say. What do they have to do with Gishath? Well check out his hand. Yep. 3 fingers. Gishath isn’t based on a Tyrannosaur, he’s based on South America’s alpha predator, Giganotosaurus. This is particularly impressive given the South American theme of the plane of Ixalan and its Sun Empire.

The Smell of Blood: Embracing Your Inner Alpha Predator

The idea behind tribal synergy is a very well trod path in Commander. I don’t need to tell you that to make a dinosaur tribal deck you have to add dinosaurs. I don’t need to tell you that because Gishath costs eight mana that you need ramp effects in your deck. What I’m going to suggest is a series of cards with a similar effect. We’re going to make Gishath an alpha strike every time he swings. He’s going to come down and your enemies will feel like prey fleeing the jaws of death. How? +X /+0 Spells.

This small cadre of spells are just perfect for turning Gishath into a bloodlust fueled machine that will be an absolute nightmare for your opponents to block. Turn Gishath into a dinosaur-shaped bulldozer. He has vigilance, trample, and haste, stick him and send him into the red zone it’s what he wants anyway…Remember kids,T-Rex…I mean Giganotosaurus doesn’t want to be fed. He wants to hunt.

In our next chapter…

We set sail to the seas of Ixalan and compare The Brazen Coalition vs The Republic of Pirates


  • All card images used with permission from EDHREC
  • All dinosaur skeletal displays unless otherwise noted, are property of the museum designated as image provider.
  • Big Head and Little Arms picture “Meet the Robinsons” Property of Disney



I'm currently a student at The University of Buffalo working on a Master's in Academic Librarianship. I specialize in working with populations with disabilities and I really enjoy my job. I'm here to continue to provide fun and relevant information on your favorite commanders!