Dimir Control in the New Standard – Spread the Sickness
Dimir thought of playing Standard throughout the summer is a pretty alien feeling. Usually, this is the busy time of year for me at work, and I’m swamped to the point of suffocation, but this year, it’s almost like my company’s prepared or something, which is an equally alien prospect. What this means, is that I’ve actually had a little bit of time to Magic, and given that Theros isn’t going to be popping its head up, and shaking things up until the Autumn, we’re making do with what we’ve got.
I’m a big fan of the Modern format, so I’ve been playing about a bit there, mostly with Jund and UWR, but I’ve messed around with some more off the radar* decks, but nothing worth talking about. Given that nobody’s particularly likely to want to read the millionth article on Jund/Raka in Modern, I’m left moving on when searching for content for you.
The SCG Invitational Qualifier in Cardiff is just around the corner, and while I’m not 100% I’m going to make it to that, I’m far more likely to try, given just how aggressively anti-Scottish the new PTQ schedule is, and I might make an effort where otherwise I wouldn’t. If I do end up able to go, I’d expect Jund and UWR to be the main players, with a majority of UWR, due to the UK’s predilection for UW based decks, even when they’re not particularly viable.
I’d been experimenting with various two colour control decks, as Burning Earth terrifies me when playing my beloved Esper. I’d had a decent amount of success with straight UW flash, with Restoration Angels and Runechanter’s Pikes and friends, but I was very interested in the more controlling, draw-go style of deck that going Dimir afforded.
The Deck List: Dimir Control
Then, at the World Magic Cup, Stanislav Cifka played a Dimir deck that was very similar to my own. I amalgamated the two lists, because quite frankly, his was much better than mine, and ended up here:-
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
3 Doom Blade
1 Essence Scatter
3 Forbidden Alchemy
3 Ratchet Bomb
3 Think Twice
2 Tragic Slip
2 Tribute to Hunger
2 Warped Physique
Now this deck was sweet. Any time people are trying to kill you with control decks with win conditions in the spell slot, I’m going to be looking for one that can do it with lands. The principle way to kill here is via Nephalia Drownyard, and while a post-cleanup Snapcaster Mage is technically able to go the distance, in the 30 or so matches I’ve played with this deck, I’d estimate I’ve won two games that way, which isn’t particularly impressive.
As an aside, something that I’ve been meaning to start doing is proper collection of testing data. As I’m playing principally on Magic Online, due to convenience, laziness and general hatred of leaving the house and meeting people, it’s all too easy to end up with false impressions on a deck.
I’ve been planning on starting to catalogue my games properly, with a brief, sentence or two explanation of what happened in the games, so as not to falsely colour my impressions. I’d urge you to do the same, as this seems like it’s all upside for a very minimal investment. (Cue people telling me that they’ve always done that, and that I’m an idiot for being this late to the party)
vs UWR – 2-1 – Won G1 with Drownyard after countering all spells, lost G2 to Aetherling + counters + no Needle, Won G3 with Needle on Aetherling + Curse for Assemble.
etc, you get the picture.
As is my usual style for deck tech articles, I’ll cover each area separately, as in decks like this, there’s a lot of functionally similarities between the card choices, and it saves time to cover them this way.
The Kill Spells
This is a lot of kill spells. That’s why I like this deck. Basically, as we’re Dimir, we don’t have a Wrath of God effect that Azorius would, so we’ve got to stock up on single removal spells. While our Snapcaster Mages do afford us some additional value out of our kill spells, for the most part, this is just one-for-one.
The exception is Curse of Death’s Hold. How good is that card right now? It’s a five-drop, so you can’t realistically run more than two, but jeez, this card is so sweet. The number of things that die to this is really quite impressive, not to mention the number of utility 2/2’s that’s usefulness just halved.
Ratchet Bomb does some work here. In my old, oft discussed Esper control deck, one of my main weaknesses was the card Domri Rade. Ratchet Bomb affords me outs to it, without having to include stupid creatures to attack it, or something equally dumb. The matchup is admittedly still pretty bad, but it’s not at the 10-0 pummelling I took with Esper during testing anymore, which is nice.
Far//Away suffers from the same factors as Curse of Death’s Hold, costing just a little too much to run in multiples. Cifka didn’t run this at all in his seventy five, so it’s possible that it should just be the third Tribute to Hunger, but I like the extra, quasi Wrath that Far//Away affords.
The rest of the spells should be fairly self explanatory. Most of it is just point and click removal. I like Tributes the best, due to the life gain, but any turns with flurries of kill spells should be sequenced appropriately to get the maximum amount of life gain. We’re not playing Sphinx’s Revelation, and the aggressive decks still pack quite a wallop, so we need to be sure we’re making the most of our only card in the seventy five that gains us some life.
The Counter Spells
Six counter spells is a lot too. I like countering Spells. I like it a lot. This number feels right to me. Snapcaster Mage makes it a virtual eight as well, which should be enough.
Basically, the majority of the counters are for the late game, and the things that our plethora of point and click removal can’t kill. As always, in decks like this, use the narrowest answer first, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
One trick that I really enjoyed was getting to the lategame against a UWR deck, using Rewind on his Sphinx’s Revelation for 7, keeping priority, milling him with Drownyard, resolving Rewind and untapping the Drownyard to mill him for six in one turn with the same Drownyard.
As usual though, this is primarily used to counter something and kill something else, but this little ‘trick’ is there, for those who’re looking for it.
The Card Drawing and Selection
Opportunity exists in the Sphinx’s Revelation slot, and because it’s not as good, or as necessary, we only need to run two. I’m using my Urza’s Legacy ones, because I’m a dinosaur, and those are the ones I actually own. For the most part, I prefer original printings of cards. My Mind’s Eye pictures the card as I first view it, and as I’ve been playing so long, I’ve seen most of the cards in the game in their original iterations, and as I’m a visual player, I identify the card with the picture.
Take the new art Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant from Modern Masters. While the art may or may not be an improvement on the original, to me, that’s not what those cards look like, so it just feels strange. To me, Opportunity has always been some beardy wizard looking at the Skyship Weatherlight in a Crystal Ball for some reason, not some girl with the sea in her forehead, and all other options are just wrong.
First printings guys, stop confusing me with new pictures.
Forbidden Alchemy affords us some card filtering, and is useful even when in the yard, which is relevant with the number of Rakdos’s Returns getting chucked at people these days. Five counterspells means hopefully it won’t be hitting, but it happens, and it’s nice to be able to get SOME semblance of business as usual afterwards.
Again, this wouldn’t be included in a Sphinx’s Revelation deck, but the upsides of not running it are significant enough that I’m not about to just splash for Revelation.
Augur and Snapcaster are engine cards. We know what they do, and it’s very good.
Jace, Architect of Thought is probably at the stage where he can be thought of as being one of my pet cards. I love him, possibly more than I should. He’s nutty in concert with Curse of Death’s Hold, and the constant stream of card advantage is more than pleasant, not to mention that he offers an alternative route to win the game, though admittedly that does require an ultimate.
Jace’s ultimate always reminds me of the archetypal schoolyard bully, striking a kid with his own arms, and shouting ‘why are you hitting yourself’ at him. Brilliant.
This manabase was lifted directly from Cifka’s deck, though mine was very close. I had a seventh Swamp and no Guildgate, and that was it. This manabase is designed to maximise the chances of casting spells and not just dying to Burning Earth.
This card is so obnoxious for Control decks, and if Kibler’s Gruul deck picks up in popularity, like it looks like it should, Burning Earth is no longer a card that people can afford to just say ‘And I lose to Burning Earth’ about. Either answer it or build a less greedy manabase so that it’s an annoyance rather than a game breaker.
This sideboard is all about shoring up holes. There are matches where counterspells are terrible, and you want to deal with things that have already hit the board. Good job there’s more kill spells in there. Playing against a non-creature deck? Well, good luck game one, but look at all these Planeswalkers.
One of the things that most appeals to me about Control decks is the ease of Sideboarding. I find it very easy to identify what to do with them, as it’s just so obvious. Sideboarding with Aggro decks is difficult, and I often fall into the trap of over-sideboarding and dilute my strategy too much. Something complex like Aristocrats would just be too much for me off the cuff, and at this stage in the season, a poor use of time to learn how to do properly.
A Rough Sideboarding Guide
+2 Negate, +1 Jace, +1 Tamiyo
-2 Tribute to Hunger, -2 Tragic Slip
This matchup is fine. I like the games a lot, as there’s usually a lot to them. You don’t need that many removal spells, and Planeswalkers allow you to attack on another angle. Negate’s aren’t brilliant, but you really don’t want to get Rakdos’s Returned, and I’m not really a fan of Duress for this purpose. Unsurprisingly, you’re the control deck in the matchup, so I prefer to be reactive rather than proactive.
+2 Pithing Needle, +2 Duress, +2 Negate, +1 Liliana, +1 Tamiyo, +1 Jace, +1 Drownyard
-2 Tragic Slip, -3 Doom Blade, -2 Warped Physique, -1 Far//Away, -2 Curse of Death’s Hold
I don’t think this configuration is right. You leave yourself too open to Aetherling. It’s possible I’m overboarding here, and I should leave some kill spells in, or Curse at least to combat Assemble the Legion.
+2 Needle, +2 Negate, +1 Drownyard, +1 Liliana
-2 Slip, -3 Doom Blade, -1 Far//Away
Might prove better. I’ll need to experiment a bit more.
+1 Barter in Blood, +3 Devour Flesh, +1 Liliana, +1 Curse
-3 Doom Blade, -2 Warped Physique, -1 Snapcaster
Good matchup. I like this one a lot. The volume of ‘Sac a guy’ spells we have here is plenty sufficient to combat an all in strategy like Hexproof. Snapcaster goes too, as the games are likely to be over by the time you can get any value out of him. Ratchet Bomb’s silly in this matchup.
vs Gruul Aggro
+1 Barter in Blood, +3 Devour Flesh, +1 Curse of Death’s Hold, +1 Liliana
They’re too fast for counters to matter, so just sub in the kill spells, and hope to not die to Burning Earth. Leaving a Ratchet Bomb on two counters if possible seems prudent, as you really can’t beat a Domri Rade otherwise, and keeping it on two will allow you to kill it after it’s activated once. Finger’s crossed this deck becomes popular, as I find the matchup very enjoyable, as it’s a traditional Control vs Aggro game.
vs Naya Midrange
Stay classy mtgUK,