MTG: Dinosaur 2: The Nitpicking

If you’ve been following my work for a long while (why), you might wonder what I think of the recent news that Ixalan will features Dinosaurs as a major tribe. I wrote about this in the past, where I came down pretty simply on the idea that Dinosaurs shouldn’t be creature type – Lizard or – Beast, and changing things would be a change for the better, mostly arguing from the perspective of the game as an educational tool.

Thanks, Wikimedia Commons!

Part of the introduction of Ixalan’s tribes, then, is that the set will feature dinosaurs as a distinct tribe, with their own visual hallmarks, their own mechanics, and notably, a unified, coherent creature type that can even be back-fit onto some older creatures that Aren’t Dinosaurs But Should Be. Maybe we’ll see Imperiosaur and Pygmy Allosaurus join the club. I’m pretty excited by this, but.

but but but.

There is still one last part of this needle to thread and we’ll do it, after the fold, because this will feature a spoooillllerrr for Ixalan. Don’t look! Avert your eyes, ye unspoiled!

Okay, so some of the controversy about the creature type is here.

For those of you not familiar with the ins and outs of cladistic nerdery, this is (probably) a Pterosaur. Pterosaurs, despite the period of (pre-)history they were from, aren’t dinosaurs, they’re just dinosaur-adjacent. You can buy a plastic packet of toy dinosaurs and there’ll probably be a pterosaur in the mix, and probably also a Dimetrodon, which was also not a dinosaur.

I made the argument that the rules should try and avoid represnting wrong information as much as posisble on cards, and this is an example of that. It’s just not correct. At the same time though, I find myself having a harder time reacting to this than I do when the term could have been ‘lizard’ or ‘lizard bird beast’ or ‘bird beast’ or maybe even just pterosaur.

I think the thing is, I’m sort of okay with it, because it’s at least in the right ballpark. It also means that in this grouping of tribal effects, of mechanical reasons, this creature belongs alongside other dinosaury creatures. If there’s a lord for these creatures, this creature is a reasonable partner to them, it doesn’t seem like it shouldn’t care about these things. This is one of those times when game rules have to lean in one direction or another.

Still, it is incorrect, if we’re talking reasonable cladistics. Anyone who tells you ‘pterosaurs are dinosaurs’ is wrong – in fact, it’s more correct to say birds are dinosaurs than it is to say pterosaurs were dinosaurs. How’s that for messed up? Yes, the common-use word dinosaur includes these, because that word isn’t scientifically defined and based as much on people’s half-remembered high school education as anything else.

I guess the thing is, this is less wrong than the alternatives, and implements better than the alternatives that are even less wrong.

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