Welcome to another edition of General Medicine! This week I’m right where I belong in my comfort zone: we’re going to take a look at a deck that consists of one of my favorite color pairs, blue and black, and my favorite archetype, control. These two, combined specifically, are a mainstay in my own EDH decks. Though my own preferred Commander of choice, Wydwen, the Biting Gale isn’t present in this brew, we’ve got another approach with Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand! Let’s begin by taking a look at a few of the components in the deck’s archetype.
Some might argue that anything Dimir (blue-black) can do, Sultai (blue-black-green) can do better, and while on surface that’s perfectly true, Dimir offers some unique commanders to brew around, as well as an inherently more stable (and cheap!) mana base compared to its three-colored cousin. The top commanders in Dimir are all quite niche. We’ve got Phenax, God of Deception who mostly helms mill decks, Gisa and Geralf commanding Zombie hordes, and Lazav, Dimir Mastermind doing his very own special take on Voltron and mill strategies. Among the less popular (but still viable) choices are Dralnu, Lich Lord and Dragonlord Silumgar, each bringing a signature style to the table.
Personally, I would rank blue and black as the top two colors in the format overall, and mixing them together almost certainly creates a strong brew. Blue has all the card draw in the world, as well as the ability to deal with almost anything on the stack and most things in play, while black brings even more flexible removal to the table and, most importantly, the strongest tutors in the game.
The main thing that might make Sultai outrank Dimir in terms of sheer power is green’s ability to provide ramp. Black does ramp quite well in terms of big mana, especially late game, in the form of Cabal Coffers, Crypt Ghast, and similar cards. However, adding more colors to the mix dilutes black’s ramp. Without the compensation of cheap and powerful ramp spells in green, Dimir is left to rely on mana rocks to build up to bigger spells.
Luckily, there are plenty of good and cheap mana rocks to use. Sol Ring, Dimir Signet, Talisman of Dominance, Mind Stone, Commander’s Sphere, Darksteel Ingot, Worn Powerstone, Thought Vessel, and the less-popular but in my opinion very viable Fellwar Stone and Star Compass are all perfectly fine choices for ramping early game. It’s definitely less safe than ramping out lands, but we’ll make due with whatever we have.
In short, Dimir is a very viable color combination in the format, with a plethora of choices when it comes to commanders. A well-built Dimir deck will have ways to compete at most tables, regardless of whether the opponents are playing aggro, control, or combo.
Control decks in EDH differ from control decks in other formats due to EDH’s multiplayer nature. Some control decks might try to restrict the opponents via “stax” effects, i.e. Smokestack, Blood Moon, or Nether Void. Some might try to protect themselves via “pillowfort” strategies with Propganda, Ghostly Prison, or Norn’s Annex. Some might focus on reactivity with their many forms of removal. Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand invites us to play with the latter type. While I find this approach perfectly acceptable in EDH, it needs to be played with caution. Trading your removal spells one-for-one against enemy threats is perfectly fine in regular Magic formats, but if done in EDH, it essentially means that you’re out a card, one opponent is out a card, and the other opponents are left better off; a threat to the whole table was removed, but they didn’t have to spend any resources on it!
This also means that symmetrical removal like Fleshbag Marauder and sweepers like Damnation are a lot more important in EDH than in other formats, simply because they will hit everyone equally. Spot removal should be present in pretty much any deck, but a strategy relying on it too much will result in a pilot without resources to deal with every potential threat. Playing the table politically can mitigate this to some extent, and Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand will definitely have to be played politically.
I must confess that I was very happy when Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand, and Taigam, Ojutai Master were spoiled and included in Commander 2017. Not only do these cards depict a cool peripheral character in the Khans of Tarkir storyline, they also represent a focal point of the block itself: time travel and timeline changes. Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand represents the original unchanged timeline Taigam, and even though Taigam, Ojutai Master has made a bigger impact on this format according to EDHREC’s numbers (233 decks to a mere 98), I prefer the control-style Dimir variant of the character. Just looking at the cards makes me hearken back to a block which I was very lukewarm about when it was announced, but which won me over with the inclusion of the original fetch lands, a fantastic limited format (triple-Khans), and a fantastic world with five distinct, flavorful clans.
Looking at the EDHREC profile of Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand, we get a bunch of cards that synchronize well with his abilities: Psychic Posessions, Uba Mask, and Omen Machine works with his static ability and has nice control upsides. Reanimation also works with this ability, and we’ll try to make use of that. His activated ability I regard mostly as a bonus. It can be used to take out a threat in a pinch, but likely it won’t be saving us since our opponents will see it coming and plan accordingly.
This week’s patient is Daniel’s brew on Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand:
Link to the deck on Deckstats: Click!
Daniel writes that the deck is built mostly using cards he has in his collection, and that he doesn’t want to spend more thant $5 per card for upgrades. This is a perfectly fine restriction. Daniel also writes that his meta is quite casual, so we don’t need to go all-in and spend big money in order to compete.
What we do have is a good basis for a control deck. Daniel has included a responsible number of lands in his deck – I think we could actually shave one or two off the list – as well as a good amount of ramp, and a decent amount of card draw and card filtering. What he’s lacking, he writes as well, is focus. The deck is too scattered and doesn’t have a coherent game plan. I’m going to try and fix this, and play some to Taigam’s strengths.
Inputting the decklist into our site yields a number of valuable inclusions for the deck, both to enhance the control elements of the build and to establish a more coherent game plan. The top results for inclusion are – as is actually quite common – lands. Command Tower, Tainted Isle, Sunken Hollow, Choked Estuary, Underground River and Temple of Deceit are all within the budgetary restriction, and Daniel could add as many of these as he could get his hands on in the place of basics. Aforementioned mana rocks like Mind Stone, Talisman of Dominance, Darksteel Ingot, and Fellwar Stone could be added, as well as general goodstuff like Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots, making Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand a bit faster on his feet.
I want to concentrate, however, on the other bits that make the deck tick, mainly card draw and card filtering, and I also want to expand upon the little reanimation strategy to make use of all the cards hitting our graveyard. Fact or Fiction and Forbidden Alchemy are straight-up good cards that synergize with the rest of our strategy and our commander, Ancient Excavation and Windfall change up our hands, and Animate Dead and Stitch Together are cheap reanimation spells for bringing back our big stuff.
Speaking of big stuff, Dimir isn’t lacking in good reanimation targets despite the fact that neither of these colors are known for their good creatures. A personal favorie of mine, Grave Titan, is outside of our budget by quite a bit, as is Consecrated Sphinx, but one can run Sire of Stagnation, Consuming Aberration, Sepulchral Primordial, Diluvian Primordial, Scourge of Fleets, Sphinx of Magosi, or any of the big bad creatures in the colors in their place!
Right now, the deck has cards like Taigam’s Scheming and Contingency Plan, which are good for filling up our graveyard with chaff for our commander, but result in card disadvantage, since they don’t replace themselves. The deck also features some suboptimal choices for the control package: Cancel, Complete Disregard, Death Rattle, Syncopate, Oblivion Strike, and Transgress the Mind are either too expensive for what they do, or just don’t do enough. There are better options available for us within our awesome colors!
The doctor recommends the following treatment to our patient:
Aside from the cards already mentioned, some of my suggestions are strict upgrades. Dismiss is a better Bone to Ash (though honestly with art that is much less heavy metal), Reality Shift does what Murder does but cheaper and more efficiently. The fact that it leaves a colorless Bear on the field is rarely a problem. Baleful Strix is hands down one of my most favorite creatures in the entire format – it’s excellent for keeping people from sneaking in attacks on you early in the game, and it even replaces itself! No Dimir control deck should be without it.
In the ‘Other Options’ section, I’ve left more suggestions that wouldn’t fit the build and a few suggestions to expand the deck if we want to build more around the commander.
Daniel’s deck, with my suggested changes, brings us to this:
Link to the deck on deckstats: Click!
I hope Daniel finds this version more streamlined and more focused. The extra creatures won’t hurt for when it’s time to close out the game, and neither will the extra ways to reanimate them. The card advantage in the deck is also objectively more powerful, so Daniel ought to find that his hand has more cards in most games, if nothing else.
Did I miss out on any cards? What cards would you consider for the deck yourself? Leave a comment below, and help Daniel with his deck!
General Medicine is a bi-weekly column where I take a look at your EDH deck, run it through our own EDHREC analysis, add some twists and turns of my own, and present your deck with an analysis for the world to see, right here on this site! Sound exciting? Want your sweet brew featured (as in, picked apart, analyzed, and written about – it’s not as scary as it might sound!) in my series?
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