Helping Pugnacious Hammerskull Bulldoze Through in Standard

ChrisCee December 2, 2023 4 min
Helping Pugnacious Hammerskull Bulldoze Through in Standard

“Pugnacious” and “Belligerent” are essentially synonyms, bearing the same meaning of being aggressive or threatening (hey now, don’t ask me about “Bellicose”). This is why it is unsurprising that Pugnacious Hammerskullimage and Belligerent Yearlingimage were given obligatory tribal synergies in the same set, keeping their signature adjectives true and accurate.


But… we all know that MTG deck brewers have way better ideas than just throwing our quarrelsome mallet cranium into a single cookie cutter or mold. Instead of going for the typical dinosaur tribal builds or Fight Riggingimage decks where it usually falls under, why don’t we go up, above, and beyond its weakness and make every bit of its stat an asset?


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Topiary Stomper is already meta within the decks it belongs to, so fair enough.

Even without other dinosaurs around it, Pugnacious Hammerskull still enjoys a controlled level of mobility, especially when used as a defensive wall. Unlike Topiary Stomperimage, for example, you are still free to block attacking creatures, and you are still given a single swing before its weakness kicks in.

So, aside from keeping the stun counter away, the next best thing to do with a Pugnacious Hammerskull is to make that single swing count. Or at the very least, make the very existence of the Hammerskull itself already a "winning" move for the deck. Again, we’re not going to rely on Fight Riggingimage this time like we always do with these cheap-but-large creatures. Instead, we use other cards with simpler, more reliable effects that can also support each other in the event that our raging 6/6 isn’t around.


On turn four, you have enough mana to fling the Hammerskull for 16 damage total...... if uninterrupted!

On top of the list, is Voldaren Thrillseekerimage. We’ve already seen the crazy antics that this card did during its initial release. Not only did it inspire one-fling-KO jank decks, but it has been a sort of physical wildcard in decks that likes to inflict surprise lethal on its opponents. With its Backup ability, you can either reinforce your “retaliating” wall in the absence of other dinosaurs, or go berserk, forcing a chump block and flinging 8 damage to your opponent.

In more desperate situations, you can even provide Backup on a tapped Hammerskull with a stun counter, hopefully for an uninterrupted lethal fling.


Well, it also works if you somehow need land-fixing, just don't pump the token if you need to sac it later.

Our second supporting card is The Huntsman's Redemptionimage. Yup, you heard that right. It functions mainly as your intermediary card, an additional outlet of offense, and a hand fixer, so that you can either find the Hammerskull itself, a Thrillskeer, or some other creature that you need to use. We don’t have Palani's Hatcherimage in this build unfortunately, but given the possible creatures you can target, the saga’s third effect would almost always be a huge threat to your opponent.


Still requires a rather hefty cost, so it's down to just two copies on the main deck.

The third one would be Inti, Seneschal of the Sunimage. If you want that one swing to matter, you’d most definitely want the creature to at least have trample. This legendary also doubles as a safe red draw engine, as the exiled card can still be played/cast up until your next end step.


Roaming Throne anyone? Not as useful if just for non-Tribal support I suppose.

And of course, being a Gruul deck that likes to dabble with creature modification, we have the addition of at least two copies of Halana and Alena, Partnersimage. The card curves very nicely with our two “aggressive” dinosaurs, even adding haste to recently cast ones on later turns. Combine with Voldaren Thrillseekerimage for even crazier pumping shenanigans.


Uhh... argumentative hatchling?

And last but not least, Belligerent Yearlingimage. I suppose this doesn’t require explaining already, due to the one-two-punch nature of both cards when used in a combo. Don’t forget, with the right timing, many of the perks discussed here for Hammerskull can also be applicable to this critter. Sometimes with even better effects due to its built-in trample ability.


Oh and of course, as with other dinosaur decks Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishathimage can also help to punch your way out of creature obstacles through fighting so long as you have the mana to pay.


As for the rest, you have Cenote Scoutimage for early deck fixing or a reliable one-drop 2/2. Kumano Faces Kakkazan // Etching of Kumanoimage is yet another indirect threat to the opponent’s life, while providing buffs and introducing an exiling body to the field. A singleton of Monstrous Rageimage opens a surprise trampling attack with a pump bonus. Lastly, Triumphant Chompimage provides cheap, huge damage removal, albeit at sorcery speed.


Tips and Tricks

  • First games are a pain to navigate against aggro decks, with the first three turns turning into defensive mind games unless you have a good turn curve. That being said, the default brew below should suffice for a fair few rounds in BO1.
  • If an equal trade can be done, or if a direct attack is possible, just swing the Hammerskull, unless holding the back line is a better strategy for that turn.
  • Don’t be afraid to bait out enemy removal our counterspells with the Pugnacious Hammerskull itself.
  • Maybe replace some lands with Cavern of Soulsimage instead for a more anti-blue build?
  • Don’t forget that Restless Ridgelineimage is a dinosaur when animated! Just be careful with its untapping ability, though.



Pugnacious Hammerskull can be optimized even without using too many dinosaurs, by making its first swing the "winning" move itself. You are mainly aiming for a sudden death win, finding the perfect opening to deal instant 12, 16, or 18 damage in a single turn somewhere between turn five to turn eight (not including the damage already dealt in earlier turns). Generally struggles against super removal-heavy decks (invest a max of three creatures on the field only). Can actually ride out aggro MTG decks somewhat consistently-ish, but requires more precise decision making.

Gameplay Video

(credit by Noriyuki Mori via GonTV, video is in Japanese)

Featured Cards:


Pugnacious Hammer Smash


About ChrisCee:

A witness since the time the benevolent silver planeswalker first left Dominaria, ChrisCee has since went back and forth on a number of plane-shattering incidents to oversee the current state of the Multiverse.

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