Ramunap Red runs rampant, zombie hordes ravage the landscape, in the corner a hydra is licking a power line – how can one hope to survive in such a world? I find kill spells help.
Control isn’t in the greatest spot at the moment. Holding only 13% of the meta* isn’t exactly a great show of force, and half of that is from Izzet (leveraging the power of Abrade, Sweltering Suns, Harnessed Lightning, and Hour of Devastation) and Azorious (wielding Approach of the Second Sun) control. Why then, have I assembled Dimir?
It started a long time ago, in a Standard far, far away… last year. Back in October Pro Tour Kaladesh was won by Shota Yasooka with this Grixis control list where removal, counterspells and a splash of Radiant Flames hoped to present you with a clear board for swinging to victory with Awoken Horror or Torrential Gearhulk. In January, Jim Davis placed 15th at SCG Standard Open with this U/B Control list which cut the clunky lands necessary for red, dropped Thing in the Ice and used Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to turn your opponent’s creatures against them and keep your life total high. I had bought into both of these lists (minus a Torrential Gearhulk lost in the post) and after a break from Magic to write a dissertation and go on a holiday I found myself needing something for Game Day. Enlisting the aid of Sam Peters (and my girlfriend opening a rather shiny God-Pharoah at the prerelease) we melted these two decks together, added a dash of new cards, and cooked up this.
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
4 Thing in the Ice
3 Torrential Gearhulk
1 Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
2 Essence Scatter
3 Fatal Push
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Grasp of Darkness
4 Supreme Will
1 Never // Return
4 Aether Hub
4 Choked Estuary
1 Smoldering Marsh
4 Sunken Hollow
2 Crook of Condemnation
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Lost Legacy
1 Sphinx of the Final Word
2 To the Slaughter
3 Transgress the Mind
2 Yahenni’s Expertise
Not quite the calm and calculated deck construction to herald the coming of a new deck to beat I know, but despite being birthed from some slightly too-old parents the family motto of “Kill and counter” still holds strong. While not extensive testing the list has achieved an FNM 4-0, another 2-1-1 (the draw to a slow mill deck), and 4th at a Game Day with the loss being to Ramunap red, which I’d beaten earlier in the day. While watching a Twitch stream another viewer had played a similar Dimir list with less Things and more Scarab Gods and had ~65% game winrate from nearly 200 matches, a more convincing case for a variant of Dimir.
The game plan is to not die, deprive your opponent of a board, and use your creatures and/or Bolas to win. Some decks make this easier than others.
Against aggressive decks such as Ramunap Red the mainboard is already quite strong, with Things as early blockers or if they aren’t putting on too much pressure I like to keep them same from Abrade and wait to flip them to reset the board. Kalitas mainboard lets you avoid worrying about your life total too much and as long as you don’t get overexcited removing creatures you should be able to drag out the game enough to have them topdecking while you sit on answers. Hazoret can be problematic without Grasp of Darkness and a resolved Chandra, Torch of Defiance is tough to deal with so being mindful of holding up counters for turn 4. The sideboard offers another Kalitas and two Yahenni’s Expertise which are both excellent against this and other aggro variants. Crook is a consideration against Zombies though I find Kalitas’ exiling and excessive destroying of creatures can suffice.
Temur Energy is the current king of midrange but we can certainly put up a fair fight. The main concern is a resolved Bristling Hydra for which I side in To the Slaughter. The variant I’ve mostly played against was planeswalker heavy so Transgress the Mind was excellent. The list that won GP Denver seems tough to beat but keeping up counterspells and not bothering trying to land any of your creatures until you have countermagic and they’ve hopefully got a smaller hand seems the safest route.
Control is mostly a case of both saying “Land, go” to each other until you both have more lands than you can comfortably fit on your playmat. My mentality is to allow any card draw my opponent casts unless they’re down to one or maybe two cards in hand and only fight over threats. Preboard you’re likely to have a bit too much removal but they will still have something to hit eventually, whether it be a manland or using multiple Grasps on a gearhulk. I find myself usually siding ten or so cards, with creature removal leaving in exchange for Sphinx, To the Slaughter, Dispel, Negates and other pieces depending on the matchup. Against UW you can Lost Legacy their Second Sun though be mindful of Spell Queller and leave in Grasp.
There are some changes I would like to try, and would highly recommend to anyone interested in the list. Firstly – The Scarab God. This recurring creature is safe from Abrade with an ability sure to eternalize it in my heart. Grasping a Glorybringer only to lace it with lazotep and swing back is a terribly tempting prospect. Even more enticing is recurring Torrential Gearhulk for another free spell cast. The tokens feed his own scry-drain** combo to keep the stream of counters and kills coming and even if the opponent’s creatures come to you as vanilla 4/4s they’re still good blockers or adding to your clock. Kalitas and the Scarab saviour have an odd interaction where you deprive yourself of the ability to reanimate for the convenience of immediate zombies for Scarab’s scry-drain if they are both on the field but I think this is likely a good state of affairs. One or two of these in over Thing in the Ices is where I would take the deck.
The land base would likely benefit from the inclusion of Fetid Pools in some number, though I’m wary of too many lands entering tapped as missing early counterspells can land you in a tough spot quickly. I’m unsure if perhaps one more Disallow should replace a Supreme Will for matches that tend to drag on but I’m reasonably happy for now. Naturally the sideboard should be tailored to your local meta but I have probably gone a bit overboard with triple Transgress the Mind and Lost Legacy and am considering dropping a Transgress for another Dispel or perhaps Commit // Memory.
Well, that’s the deck, if you have any suggestions please do leave a comment and I wish you good draws and minimal mulligans!
*According to mtgtop.com checked on 22/07/17
** I suppose not true drain as you don’t gain life but there’s no slang for “loss of life” that I’m aware of, or that reads as nicely.