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Exploring Dimir Control in Standard

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Last week we looked at a Dimir "Crime Spree" deck designed by my hero and buddy CovertGoBlue as a possible Control option for Standard.

To recap, Our Hero won a Regional Championship Qualifier with Azorius Control back in March. At the time, uw was kind of off meta. Though I've become very capable in the mirror match, I'm a little wary about going to time. Are there ways to play Three Steps Ahead that are less likely to end in unintentional draws? That's really the question we're trying to answer with all this Dimir testing.

Enter Edgar:


Edgar Magalhaes made the Top 4 of a Regional Championship earlier this month with a very different take on Dimir than CGB's. Like the deck I liked so much to start, it is another vehicle for Three Steps Ahead. While it also runs Phantom Interference... It doesn't main so many copies.

Like CGB's, Edgar's deck has a lot of Black point removal... But the variety of different one-for-ones gives the deck texture and play that can rescue some of the most important matchups in the format. Let me explain:

4 2 Cut Down

2 Long Goodbye

2 Sheoldred's Edict

The default Black point removal if you're going to go all max in Standard tends to be around Cut Down and Go for the Throat. Part of this is momentum... Those cards have been available to play in Standard for seemingly forever... And Cut Down in particular was the go-to against Mono-Red. Weirdly, even though Mono-Red not only continues to play many of the same 1/1, 1/2, and 2/2 threats AND has recently added additional 1/2 and 2/1 aspiring buffers for 1r, it is arguable that Cut Down is worse than ever. That is because Mono-Red has shifted from cards like Urabrask's Forge and Witchstalker Frenzy to tons of instants to buff all its little guys. Monstrous Rage was always at least a little bit of a thing, but the basic Mountain crowd are either leaning hard into more direct creature buffs or all the way to Shock. Both routes can save a creature with Prowess or "the Kiln Fiend ability" from a Cut Down.

Me? Just yesterday I naively tapped four of my seven mana for a Sheoldred, the Apocalypse on twenty life, assuming I had the game won against an opponent with no board. The bad guy (sorry fellow Red Deck brethren) plotted their Slickshot Show-Off and initiated the first trigger. Our Hero could have used the remaining 3 mana on Three Steps Ahead... But Cut Down, am I right?

Our Hero took straight up 20 that turn; dying with a hard counter in hand.

Anyway; point being: Cut Down, while still playable early, is worse than it has ever been. How depressing is it to trade Cut Down with, say, a Voldaren Epicure or whatever-they're-calling-a-Thraben-Inspector-these-days? A Warden of the Inner Sky? Sure! If you can get it before it, too, is covered in +1/+1 counters.

Besides just taking some of Cut Down's incumbent deck space both Long Goodbye and Sheoldred's Edict are good in their own rights.

Long Goodbye can snipe Raffine, Scheming Seer on the draw. Whatever ward! It's also a pivotal card against opposing creature lands in the late game. A common play pattern v. Azorius Control involves letting them attack you with a Restless Anchorage, just to eliminate a source of Blue mana before fighting over a removal stack. This can go either way, but you always give up the Clue. Long Goodbye doesn't care. Pew pew.

Sheoldred's Edict is quietly one of the most important cards in the deck. The Wandering Emperor is a big problem for Dimir decks in general. One of the main things that kept me from windmill slamming CGB's deck is just that it falls so far behind specifically The Wandering Emperor. Edgar's deck doesn't like that card, exactly... But it can take her out with only the loss of a single 2/2 token. Hopefully you can mop up that Samurai without too much fuss before it kills you.

In contrast to uw, Edgar's deck exploits a lot of the weird construction of Standard currently. While Cut Down is worse than ever, instant speed point removal is better than it has been on average... Which is part of the reason Cut Down still gets some action. Monstrous Rage is the big buff, but you'll see all kinds of Audacity and Demonic Ruckus in the Standard queues; meaning Dimir has many opportunities for two-for-one.

Therefore, Edgar's Dimir Control - much like CGB's deck - will sometimes crush a beatdown deck. Weirdly, it is perhaps the worst deck I've ever played against Boros Convoke. Path of Peril just isn't Temporary Lockdown, and this deck has no recourse whatsoever against Warleader's Call. Once Warleader's Call hits the battlefield it kind of doesn't matter if you're at 14 or whatever. You have to kill the opponent because literally every creature card they draw becomes a must-kill. You're taking between two and six from every Resolute Reinforcements... And that's if you have the answer. I like Edgar's solution of siding the big Black Legends. But I actually think the deck needs to lean harder into that plan. A combination of life gain and size is the only plan that I've tried that is doing anything but getting smooshed by Boros.

Urabrask's Forge is perhaps even worse than Warleader's Call. If you think that you're going to play against any Boros decks that have sideboards, maybe don't pick Dimir. There is almost no answer to Urabrask's Forge other than countering it. It will eventually kill you. It will even trample over Aclazotz at some point, which is kind of embarrassing.

All that said, this deck is great at the things it does well! Let's celebrate some of those.

1. It has the edge over Azorius, heads up.

This is important because Azorius is currently the best and most popular deck in Standard... And the most likely deck to produce unintentional draws if you yourself are on Azorius.

Part of that is because of the two main-deck copies of Jace, the Perfected Mind.

Can't Azorius just play Jace, too? Sure, I guess. But this is a great Jace deck! One of the things that shocked me testing it is just how good Jace is in this deck. You're using Jace's [+1] ability a lot to manage opposing battlefields. This is because Edgar's deck is mostly one-for-ones rather than mostly sweepers. Jace plays a kind of Icy Manipulator role that forces the opponent to walk into your narrower band of super powerful sweepers (or buys you life because they have to try to get rid of Jace).

I've used Takenuma to win a ton. Azorius can't do that with its Jaces. In fact, I once took a turn where I spent [-4], used Otawara to set up [-5], then used Takenuma to finish the job. This is really and truly a good Jace deck.

2. "Deadly" Cover-Up isn't kidding

Deadly Cover-Up can randomly just win matchups like Temur Analyst (go get your Worldsoul's Rage, gg)... But it's also usefully strategic in almost every matchup. Here are some key cards you should be grabbing:

Imodane's Recruiter is a kind of obvious one for both Boros and in some weird games Domain. If you can otherwise lock down Boros (i.e. you can Counterspell Warleader's Call and Urabrask's Forge), Recruiter is the main way they can beat you. The rest of their guys - even the card advantageous ones - don't have haste naturally so can be dealt with one-for-one.

When up against Azorius, it's more important to pin their ways to win or Three Steps Ahead. Don't be tempted by a Memory Deluge in the graveyard that is about to pop. All they're trying to find with that Deluge is Three Steps Ahead. If you steal it, they can't stop your Jace, the Perfected Mind late game.

Finally, Monstrous Rage is the card most likely to give you problems out of a Red deck that is different from their other cards. If you're low enough, every Shock, Play with Fire, or Lightning Strike can be lethal. Go for one of those? But you might just lose to one of the other variations. Same on Monastery Swiftspear, Fugitive Codebreaker, and Slickshot Show-Off. All are hasty and naturally get bigger by themselves. This leaves the Cut Down-crusher Monstrous Rage.

3. The Celestus is Great in this deck

Because main-deck life gain is so valuable. Even a little bit! And the value of filtering away "the wrong half of your deck" can't be exaggerated in long games

4. Finally, this is the best anti-Domain deck in Standard

Jace, the Perfected Mind (main deck!) has obviously slain Domain since there has been a Domain in Standard... But the addition of Restless Reef over Restless Anchorage is the chef's kiss. Domain has a lot of problems with creature lands... And this one kills them in a way that is hyper-synergistic with Jace.

Is Dimir going to be it?

Let me tell you about the time I beat double Tyrranus Rex in the same turn; one of them was with a Chrome Host Seedshark that is not in Edgar's sideboard combined with the flashy Outrageous Robbery that is, which made a 9/9 blocker. That card - Outrageous Robbery - is truly outrageous. If Dimir gets the nod over Azorius, it's because of odd angles like that one.

Not sure yet. But we're going to be Three Steps Ahead either way.

LOVE

MIKE


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