Ravnica Allegiance is here, and with it the remaining five guilds we did not see in Guilds of Ravnica: Gruul, Azorius, Orzhov, Simic, and Rakdos. Everyone is excited for Standard with all the new cards, however Standard also holds a secret.
A dark secret.
Four of the five Guilds of Ravnica guilds have made serious marks on Constructed play. Golgari has been the king of midrange decks, with a little help from Ixalan's explore mechanic. Izzet decks, from Arclight Phoenix all the way up to Niv-Mizzet, Parun have been everywhere. Selesyna Tokens was a week one darling, and Boros won the freaking Pro Tour.
However, one guild has been notoriously absent - the guild of secrets, lies, and deception. It has lain in the shadows, dormant and hidden as it was meant to be. That veil is about to be lifted, as the truth is revealed:
The greatest trick Dimir ever pulled was convincing the world it didn't exist.
With the introduction of Hydroid Krasis into the format, everything has changed. Hydroid Krasis in midrange, Hydroid Krasis in tokens, Hydroid Krasis in Gates, Hydroid Krasis in Nexus of Fate decks... Standard is a Hydroid Krasis world and all we can do is try to adapt to it.
Hydroid Krasis is so successful because all usual methods of interaction fail against it. Direct removal has never been good against creatures with powerful enters the battlefield abilities, but the usual answer to them, counterspells, are rendered ineffective due to the cast trigger. Hydroid Krasis doesn't really have any deckbuilding restrictions; you just need lands and time, which the various value creatures and removal spells are good at creating. There's no way to restrict mana in Standard, no Rishadan Port or Wasteland, no Tangle Wire or Manabarbs, which means that if your opponent can cast Hydroid Krasis they will be able to.
Yet with Standard in need, the most secretive guild is ready to emerge from the shadows to take on this new threat.
Dimir is here.
The three marquee Dimir cards, Thought Erasure, Hostage Taker, and Thief of Sanity, have been mostly quiet so far in their tenure in Standard. They've seen very light play here and there, but for the most part have been an afterthought. It's almost like they were sleeper agents, installed by the Dimir to lay low until they were needed.
That time has come.
Each Dimir card is uniquely powerful against the Hydroid Krasis menace, providing ways to answer it that go beyond the typical, with the first being one of the only clean answers to Hydroid Krasis in the format.
With no way to limit anyone's mana in Standard, Thought Erasure ends up being one of the few clean answers to Hydroid Krasis available. Taking it before your opponent can cast it is the only way to stop all aspects of Hydroid Krasis, and if your opponent is leaning hard on Krasis it can be a backbreaking play. You can't stop a Hydroid Krasis coming off the top of their deck in the midgame, but a Thought Erasure after a Hydroid Krasis has been cast also does a fantastic job making sure they can't chain them.
The further good news is that Thought Erasure is actually a good Magic card!
It hasn't seen much play because there hasn't really been a home for it, but we aren't reaching here for some super fringe card to answer the Hydroid Krasis menace. Something like Divest is far too narrow to see consistent Standard play in maindecks, but Thought Erasure does a great job against all but the most aggressive decks in the format to trade one for one with their best threat and set up your future plans. It's also excellent against all manner of Nexus of Fate decks.
Decks like Esper Control have already started adopting Thought Erasure, and we're starting to see widespread adoption elsewhere. Week one Standard was all about the fear, and subsequent failure, of Mono-Red Aggro. Week two was all about the confirmation of Hydroid Krasis as one of the best cards in the format. Week three will be about good answers to Hydroid Krasis, with Thought Erasure being one of the best.
Speaking of great cards without a home, while Hostage Taker was a week one Standard winner in the hands of Andrew Jessup's Sultai Energy deck, its popularity has waned heavily since then. Ravenous Chupacabra took most of the wind out of Hostage Taker's sails, providing a guaranteed kill in favor of a high risk/high reward theft. With removal spells flying everywhere, the tempo loss of having your Hostage Taker killed before you could play the hostage was often seen as too much.
However, now things have changed. There are less removal spells floating around, as well as more must-kill creatures, and many of the creatures you can take will at least get severely inconvenienced. If you take their 4/6 Wildgrowth Walker, even if they kill your Hostage Taker to get it back it still comes back as a 1/3. The same is true for adapted creatures, as well as tokens or creatures given boosts by Venerated Loxodon.
Hostage Taker is another fairly clean answer to Hydroid Krasis. They get to draw the cards, sure, but you put them in a spot where they have to kill Hostage Taker immediately otherwise you get to cast Hydroid Krasis too! Being able to play their Hydroid Krasis is backbreaking card advantage, and in the worst case scenario of them killing your Hostage Taker and getting back their Hydroid Krasis... it comes back as a 0/0 creature that dies instantly.
While less of a great direct answer to Hydroid Krasis than our previous two cards, Thief of Sanity is fantastic against the types of decks that Hydroid Krasis is encouraging. I've been a huge fan of Thief of Sanity since it was first printed, but there just never was a real home for it. One Thief of Sanity hit is usually all it takes to get a game snowballing in your favor, say nothing of what it's like to take super high quality cards like Hydroid Krasis from your opponents.
With all manners of Hydroid Krasis, Control, and Nexus of Fates decks populating a metagame that is increasingly hostile toward Red aggro decks, cards like Shock are seeing less and less play. With decks lighter on removal, Thief of Sanity has time to shine. Thief of Sanity is also amazing against the various Nexus of Fate decks that don't really run any removal at all, focusing more on gaining life and taking a few hits before they set up their infinite turns.
Furthermore, Thief of Sanity has improved greatly because of how well it plays with the other Dimir cards and how impressive they have been - a rising Dimir tide lifts all ships. Curving Thought Erasure into Thief of Sanity helps clear the way, while every removal spell they use on Thief of Sanity is one less they have for Hostage Taker.
Okay, So The Secret Is Out!
The question of course, is what do we do with this information?
Whoever finds the answer is likely to do very well at SCG Dallas/Forth Worth (or whatever event they are playing) this weekend. There have been a few attempts at using these Dimir cards so far, with one of the more telling ones being OcMcNamara's 5-0 list from a Magic Online League.
Dimir Midrange | Allegiance Standard | OafMcNamara, 5-0 Magic Online League
- Creatures (18)
- 2 Lazav, the Multifarious
- 4 Doom Whisperer
- 4 Hostage Taker
- 4 Orzhov Enforcer
- 4 Thief of Sanity
- Sorceries (4)
- 4 Thought Erasure
I will say right out that I think this deck is pretty bad. It contains many of the usual problems that Dimir decks have historically had as well as some new ones - Trying to play Sinister Sabotage in a deck of primarily sorcery speed threats, the general poor position of Doom Whisperer as a threat in the format, the unexciting Lazav, the Multifarious, and the unexciting-in-most-matchups Orzhov Enforcer.
However, I've posted this list not to poke fun at it but to show that it succeeded despite these issues, most likely because of how awesome and well positioned the big three Dimir cards are.
There are many options with where to take the Dimir trio, whether it's straight Dimir or more likely a splash for another color. It's also likely they could just join the enemy and splash Hydroid Krasis as well, alongside many of the usual Golgari good cards.
Either way, finding the best Thought Erasure deck is the next step in this constantly evolving Standard format. Every week has been a new and exciting step in the story, and figuring out what the chapter's main idea is going to be before playing it is a huge advantage.
They may have been a secret, but they are no longer. Dimir is here!