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Pivoting to Dimir Control in Karlov Manor Standard


While being qualified for the next regional championship certainly isn't the worst thing in the world, it is a bit depressing that I can't play in any competitive paper Standard events in my area. Standard is by far my favorite Constructed format in Magic: The Gathering. A limited rotating card pool means decks and metagames change frequently, and that's proven to still be the case in the new three-year rotation cycle. With the format showing new trends and evolving, I'm bummed I can't try out some of the new tech that's shown up in the last few weeks.

I'm still adamant the Flores-Fusco build of Azorius Control is the "best deck," or at least the deck I'd register if Dallas was tomorrow. It's worth noting that there are some new decks in the format that require Azorius to make some tuning. Flores made a pretty sound statement after we both won our RCQs with Azorius: "it's not that the deck is the best, people just don't know how to play against it."

For a while Azorius seemed to be the clear metagame winner, as I saw RCQ winner after RCQ winner on my social media feed win with the deck as well as it showing up in numerous challenge Top 8's. Although the metagame took an abrupt change in direction when cfstoc won the Magic Con Chicago 75k by storm with their 68-card build of Slogurk Ramp (defeating my friend Isaac Sears on Azorius Control in said finals).

With this list winning the 75k, there have been a number of Aftermath Analyst decks taking the meta by storm. While I haven't seen the 68-card version in some of the more recent MTGO challenges, a similar strategy has been growing in popularity, Temur Worldsoul's Rage:

If there's one lesson that's stuck with me that I'll bring up over and over again it's to never have long standing allegiances or alliances. With the metagame changing weekly with new decks being discovered even late into Murder at Karlov Manor's release, there are other avenues to explore than just Azorius when it comes to Control decks. Let's take a look at Dimir Control!

Funny enough Dimir Control was where I first started when building Control decks for Standard back in the fall. I ultimately came to the conclusion that the White cards (Get Lost, The Wandering Emperor, Sunfall) were primed to beat some of the more aggressive strategies in the format, while also keeping Domain at bay before using two copies of Jace, the Perfected Mind to combo kill. While I shelved Dimir for some time there are a couple of reasons now that I think it's a fair contender in the current meta.

  1. It has a good Azorius Control matchup - I'd like to think if you're not playing Azorius Control that your Control deck has a good matchup against the current top dog in the format. With multiple copies of Negate and Jace maindeck you can outlast Azorius. With Sheoldred's Edict you can snag The Wandering Emperor or Restless Anchorage. The End can also do some serious damage to them, potentially taking out most of their actual threats in one fell swoop. You can save your Field of Ruins for potential Mirrexes while your Long Goodbyes deal with Restless Anchorage. Finally, you can safely navigate a counter war to resolve your Jaces by waiting until you have enough mana to pay for No More Lies, while having Negate backup for any random counters like Disruption Protocol. Worst case you can probably just out-deck them by milling them off Restless Reef attacks or thinning their deck with Deadly Cover-Ups.
  2. It has a better Jace plan - With Dimir you get more incremental mill than you would by playing Azorius Control. This can help expedite your plan to double or triple Jace your opponent by using cards like Deadly Cover-Up, Siphon Insight, and Field of Ruin to deal them "deck damage," a term I use to describe milling cards here and there. You can survive the long game against other control decks this way.
  3. Having a better Temur matchup - Since we don't have access to No More Lies, Negate is far better against Worldsoul's Rage than its Azorius counterpart. Deadly Cover-Up and The End also give you game against taking out Nissas and other combo pieces.

While Dimir has these benefits over Azorius in the current meta I would be aware of what decks you're expecting to face. For example, I don't think Dimir can ever beat Bant Toxic on the draw. With no Invoke Despair or reasonable enchantment removal it seems pretty impossible to beat a resolved Skrelv's Hive.

Mono-Red also seems incredibly difficult. While you have more flexible spot removal for Mono-Red's creatures than Azorius, you have less ways to easily deal with Urabrask's Forge. Azorius having access to March of Otherworldly Light, Farewell, and The Eternal Wanderer give it a way better matchup against Red's sideboard cards. Azorius also has more built in lifegain with Dennick, Pious Apprentice // Dennick, Pious Apparition and Knockout Blow in sideboarded games. I think it's totally reasonable to not worry about the Mono-Red matchup if you think it won't be present at whatever event you're playing at, but you do need some insurance cards against aggro. Which leads me to my next point...

The Boros Convoke matchup seems difficult for this deck. Because Boros goes so wide and also presents a diversity of threats, it seems difficult for Dimir to catch up without Temporary Lockdown. This means you do have to play some sort of cheaper wrath effect for the early game, primarily Path of Peril. Path of Peril is actually pretty decent overall, however, as it can still clean up a board of beast tokens against Domain, and it deals with early aggression from Dimir and Esper. Wiping out your Azorius opponent's 2/2 samurai tokens doesn't seem like the worst exchange either, but in that matchup you'll probably be pitching Path of Perils to The Celestus more often than not.

Chrome Host Seedshark is another nice sideboard threat that can muck up boardstates in these longer sideboarded games. Seedshark puts pressure on your aggro opponent to keep in removal spells that might be blank pieces of cardboard in sideboarded games, and it also requires your opponent to remove it the turn it comes into play. Even if you do have to wrath away your Shark, you'll at least get a follow up creature out of the deal.

I think it's imperative to have some ways to gain incremental life in these matchups to deal with cards like Urabrask's Forge and Warleader's Call. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is an easy step one, but it does get swept up by a Deadly Cover-Up. Sorin the Mirthless actually seems like a pretty sweet sideboard card to bring in in these matchups, even though it's primarily a card for the Control mirror. While not the perfect solution by any means, being able to gain incremental life in the mid-to-late game is incredibly important against decks that have haste threats and ways of attacking your life total out of combat. I'd probably want around two copies of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Sorin the Mirthless each to bring in.

While doing some research I also came across a card that might be one of the best sideboard options you can have in this current Worldsoul's Rage meta. I was looking at Jim Davis' article where he showcases playing the deck, and something hit me as I was going over his list. Can this deck actually beat a resolved The Stone Brain?

One of the ways a Control deck can lose to Temur Worldsoul's Rage is not having enough countermagic to stop both Worldsoul's Rage for a billion plus the insurance of Galvanic Iteration. Unless you have six hard counters to the four Worldsoul's Rage and two Galvanic Iteration they play on average, you're most likely not winning that fight. However, The Stone Brain gives you a leg up and completely demolishes their gameplan. They might have random threats post board, like Light up the Night, but you can severely damage Temur Worldsoul's Rage's gameplan with just a single copy of The Stone Brain.

I can see it having applications in other matchups, like taking care of your Azorius opponent's The Wandering Emperors. While this card is totally dead against Boros Convoke and the various midrange piles of the format, The Stone Brain seems like a slam dunk to combat the Aftermath Analyst decks of the format, without always having a Negate for their win con. Including this card in your sideboard seems like *ahem* no-brainer if you ask me.

Here's what I would probably bring to a RCQ this weekend:

Overall Dimir Control is an interesting way to attack the current metagame. I believe it has a solid matchup against the various Worldsoul's Rage decks and Azorius Control, while also not having the worst aggro matchup. Be mindful of what decks you plan to face and be flexible in your deck-build up until your tournament starts.

Best of luck out there!

-Roman Fusco

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