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Pain and Agony in Standard

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I must love pain and agony. Why else would I spend my time working on a ub Control deck in a format where uw Azorius Control is so good? Sometimes I have to force myself to go read Dream Trawler again and then reevaluate why I am trying to make ub work. The reason is that I always want to make a sad color combination do something cool. Things fluctuate in Magic. We forget quickly that Simic was unplayable for years, and during those years I was the guy trying to make it work. When The Scarab God dominated Standard, I was trying to cast Approach of the Second Sun. It is my nature. A part of me really believes there is a perfect format out there where every color combination gets a good deck.

Agonizing Remorse

I have spent a lot more time than I think anyone should on building a playable ub deck for Theros Beyond Death Standard, and I want to share what I have learned along the way. Here is the list I finished with.


I will go over each card and provide some sideboard thoughts, but first I want to give you a big picture look at where this deck stands in the metagame. Mono-Red Aggro forces the deck to have a reasonable curve and make plays in the early game, and it also needs access to enough removal to survive a fiery onslaught. Azorius Control and Temur Reclamation are at the other end of the format, and they will win the long game nearly every time if allowed to do their thing. Simic Ramp and Jeskai Fires are sitting in the middle, producing powerful game-winning threats again and again from about turn four onward. For any deck to succeed, they need to know where they want to be in this triangle of death.

Dimir Control needs to be able to survive early and midrange aggression, disrupt inevitable endgames from uw and Temur, and still win the game itself. The position I am aiming for is to be slower than Simic Ramp and Jeskai Fires. In those matchups I want to answer all their key threats, run them out of resources, and win when it becomes convenient. Against Blue/White Control and Temur Reclamation, I need to slightly faster than they are. Dimir Control must disrupt their primary plan, then start attacking and kill them before they recover in most situations. Dream Trawler and Expansion // Explosion are much better endgames than Dimir can hope to match, so our only solution is to never let them draw these cards. Help me Unmoored Ego, you are my only hope!

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse

This card isn't the all-star we hoped for in Standard, but it can steal games and be a good catch-all if the opponent falls behind on resources. They are too slow against Mono-Red Aggro to matter much, and they line up poorly against Elspeth Conquers Death vs uw Control. Ashiok, Nightmare Muse is at their best against the midrange decks and in topdeck wars, so one copy makes sense.

Narset, Parter of Veils

This planeswalker does so much work against Simic Ramp, Temur Reclamation, Azorius Control, and Jeskai Fires that you really want some maindeck copies. While she is a trainwreck against Mono-Red Aggro, she still improves your chances of finding Cry of the Carnarium and Enter the God-Eternals.

God-Eternal Kefnet

This card is key to taking over certain matchups. Mono-Red Aggro often can't do anything about this 4/5 flier, but try not to play Kefnet in a spot where you will die to Embercleave. Once you untap with this card, you get to double-dip on the instants and sorceries you draw. Kefnet triggers on the first drawstep of each turn, so remember to use Opt, Cling to Dust, and Chemister's Insight to get Kefnet triggers on your opponent's turn. Since we play so many discard effects (Thought Erasure, Agonizing Remorse), consider casting your Opt inside your opponent's draw step. If you hit a discard effect you can take their card before you play it. The biggest and best hits for Kefnet in most matchups are Enter the God-Eternals and Thassa's Intervention.

Murderous Rider

You need a way to kill off Teferi, Time Raveler, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and Narset, Parter of Veils. While Eat to Extinction is better with Kefnet, the 4 CMC is too much in this format. I have Fabled Passage in the mana base to reshuffle a Murderous Rider who died and ended up on the bottom of the library, so you draw this more than the two copies would imply. This card does work in every matchup, but you don't want to draw too many. The 2 life cost adds up quickly.

Gadwick, the Wizened

After accomplishing a lot of one-for-one trades with removal and discard spells, this deck needs to pull ahead on cards in a hurry. That is what Gadwick, the Wizened is best at. G-Unit also teams up with Blue instants to keep pesky cards like Uro and Dream Trawler out of the red zone for a turn or two, and you often end up leaning on him to close out games. Gadwick is at his worst against aggro decks, but even there he can be a strong turn three play that demands removal.

Cling to Dust

I have come around to the idea that if your deck isn't using it's graveyard, you should find one or two Escape cards to play. I have drawn so many cards and gained so much life off of Cling to Dust it is crazy, and this card is the best way I have found to blunt the chapter 3 effect of Elspeth Conquers Death. You will love it against Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath as well. Cling to Dust has earned its spot many times over, and I don't think I would ever board it out.

Chemister's Insight

After using some hand hate and removal to get into the midgame, this deck just needs more gas, and Chemister's Insight is still a good card to provide it. I wanted Atris, Oracle of Half Truths to own this spot, but Chemister's Insight's synergy with God Eternal Kefnet and Enter the God-Eternals is too good in this build.

Thassa's Intervention

I think most of my love affair with this deck was caused by the printing of Thassa's Intervention, a counterspell you actually want to reveal with God-Eternal Kefnet. What you do with this card is very matchup dependent. If Mono-Red Aggro is beating you down, you need to counter whatever they throw at you. If you don't have another answer to a Dream Trawler against Azorius Control, you should hold Thassa's Intervention as a counterspell until you find another way to beat that card. The same thing applies to Nissa, Who Shakes the World or Fires of Invention.

Tyrant's Scorn

The deck needs an early removal spell, so I am down for an improved version of Smother. Returning Gadwick, the Wizened to your hand is nice, and the ability to at least hold off a Dream Trawler makes this card better than the alternatives.

Opt

On its own, Opt is a pretty mediocre card, but the synergies with Gadwick, the Wizened and God Eternal Kefnet put it over the top in this deck.

Cry of the Carnarium

I like having a surprising out to aggro decks that spam 1-drops in Game 1. This card also hits Cauldron Familiar wherever it is thanks to its weird text box. I would be much more into multiple copies of Cry of the Carnarium if it weren't for Anex, Hardened in the Forge. That card should have two toughness for balancing reasons alone!

Unmoored Ego

This is one of the most misunderstood cards in Magic. Casual-to-average competitive players tend to overvalue this card, while high-level players tend to dismiss it completely. I ran four-of this card for about 10 games just to get an idea of what I would name and how often it would matter in current Standard, and it turns out that Unmoored Ego is the perfect card in some spots that are otherwise very hopeless. Temur Reclamation is much more beatable without Expansion // Explosion in their deck, and Azorius Control is a very sad control deck if you get their Dream Trawlers. Surrounding Unmoored Ego with discard effects helps ensure it can resolve, and having Narset to help you find it matters a lot. I have been very happy to have a maindeck copy because nobody expects it Game 1 and it gives hope to some hopeless matchups. Post board, it becomes a big part of your plan.

Agonizing Remorse

Being able to exile Escape cards if the opponent has an empty hand is a big plus. Agonizing Remorse is great, but Thought Erasure is the glue that holds Dimir Control together, so the new card is the one that gets trimmed in this case.

Enter the God-Eternals

This card is your best hope against Mono-Red Aggro, and it is often crucial at swinging the midrange matchups. Whether it is killing Nissa lands or shooting down Sphinx of Foresight, there are usually targets in Standard of Enter the God-Eternals. Even Azorius Control has 0/4 Wall tokens thanks to Birth of Meletis. Your default play should be to target yourself with the mill effect because you have Chemister's Insight and Cling to Dust in your deck. If your opponent scryed to the top recently that could change your mind, but be weary of their Escape cards as well.

Thought Erasure

Thought Erasure

We don't have to talk about this card and how it fits into the deck strategically, so I will just say that Thought Erasure is the heartbeat of Dimir mages in Standard and will be until it rotates. Us creepy manipulative thieving scheming ub mages love you Thought Erasure, never change and never leave us!

The Lands

Fabled Passage
Castle Vantress
Castle Locthwain

Both Castle Vantress and Castle Locthwain have their places in this deck, as both help set-up a great Kefnet turn. You need one or both in control standoffs to keep your deck functioning in the late-game, so four Castles feels good. I have been burned too many times by having a tapped land on turns four, five, or six where I needed to keep up with this insane format. Because of this, and the four Castles, I like having two Temples and four copies of Fabled Passage. I understand the love for scry lands, but I have scars that won't heal so I keep my distance for the playset of taplands.

Sideboard Guide for the Big Five

Mono-Red Aggro

Embercleave

In:

Out:

Less card advantage. You may want to cut Agonizing Remorse for Duress and/or Negate, but that depends on if they run Phoenix of Ash and if they trim Embercleave post-board. Kill stuff, stay alive, cast Enter the God-Eternals. Epic Downfall is crucial against Anax, Hardened in the Forge and can also matter against Phoenix of Ash.

Jeskai Fires

Fires of Invention

In:

Out:

Epic Downfall is great against Cavaliers, and it replaces Enter the God-Eternals to kill more things. Noxious Grasp helps against Teferi, Time Raveler and Kenrith, Returned King, but don't go overboard on it unless you see other good targets. If they have Dream Trawlers you may need to keep Unmoored Ego to have a shot, but please don't be that player who names Fires of Invention with Unmoored Ego. Fires of Invention is a great enabler, but what beats you are the threats. Unmoored Ego can be good against Fae of Wishes if you are against that version of Fires.

Simic Ramp

Nissa, Who Shakes the World

In:

Out:

Negate and Duress may be Game 3 substitutions after you see how they sideboard, because if they bring in 4 Mystical Disputes then Duress is great, Negate is not. I think Mystical Dispute is a great card when you are forcing through early plays, but that is the same role my discard effects are serving while also playing around Mystical Dispute themselves by not being Blue. That is why I don't have Mystical Dispute in my sideboard. Epic Downfall handles Cavalier of Thorns and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, while Noxious Grasp covers Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Hydroid Krasis. Narset, Parter of Veils is great against Krasis and Uro while keeping the good cards coming.

Temur Reclamation

Expansion // Explosion

In:

Out:

Noxious Grasp should come in if you suspect or see Nightpack Ambusher, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and/or Hydroid Krasis. Tyrant's Scorn can be replaced, but it is nice against Brazen Borrower and Uro. Unmoored Ego usually needs to hit Explosion, then you don't have to worry about Wilderness Reclamation resolving. Get a Narset down and protect it.

Azorius Control

Dream Trawler

In:

Out:

You have to resolve a Narset, Parter of Veils, find Unmoored Ego, get rid of their Dream Trawlers, and keep Teferi, Time Raveler from shutting down your counterspells (that is what Noxious Grasp is for). Elspeth Conquers Death should be the next card you name after Dream Trawler with Unmoored Ego. It is a tough matchup, but if you can keep a Narset and resolve an Ego you should be favored, and you have all the discard effects to keep Azorius Control off balance.

Dimir Control is a fun deck for ladder, Standard events, and Friday Night Magic. If you have more competitive aspirations, I can't recommend the deck for that, as the power level of the other Standard guilds is insane right now. Ashiok will be waiting to see what the next set brings. Next time Elspeth, next time!

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