Pursuit of Knowledge – Dimir

(Dimir Guildgate | Art by Cliff Childs)

The Lights are Getting Dimir

Since our last article in the Pursuit of Knowledge series, I have been able to enter an additional 57 EDH games to our extended gameplay data. The Command Zone gameplay data originally covered 316 games. Our current extended gameplay data now covers 432 games. The extended gameplay data brings better card ranking and provides us ranking for a larger card count, including preliminary ranking for the latest two sets, Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance. In this article, we will analyze the Dimir guild using a card pool that now covers 762 spells and 156 lands. We will present the best cards in different categories and build a deck around a Dimir legendary creature using this gameplay information.

30 Dimir commanders have some representation in EDHREC’s commander deck database of 11,800 Dimir decks.

Looking at gameplay data, 17 of 74 games were won with a Dimir commander (23% win rate), which is lower than the 25% win rate that we would expect from a four-player game, all things being equal. Interestingly, one commander fared a little bit better for its small sample size: Dralnu, Lich Lord. This will be our commander for this article.


Adding Flashback to spells in our graveyard, Dralnu, Lich Lord extends the graveyard to our hand, giving us substantial card advantage. If we can fill our graveyard with good cards, there will be plenty of options at our disposal to respond to varying game situations. However, Dralnu has a big drawback. If he is dealt damage, we have to sacrifice that many permanents. We would not want a spell like Blasphemous Act to resolve with him in play.

When looking at EDHREC, we can see three main themes for Dralnu decks: Zombie Tribal, Mill, and Spellslinger, each using a slightly different card distribution. For our deck, I have decided to focus more on milling and spellslinging. Although we will keep in store a couple of combos that can help us mill our opponents for victory, this is not the main focus of this deck. Our first goal while milling cards has more to do with putting value into all graveyards, value that can be reused for our own purposes. With Dralnu, self-milling in this deck is as good as card draw.

Average Card Type Distribution

For our deck, we will implement a core control shell to keep our opponents at bay while we search for one of our primary win conditions:

We will now present a breakdown of the Dimir card pool in the following categories: ramp, card advantage/filtering, disruption, mass removal, standalone creatures, noncreature spells, and lands. We will also look at three categories more specific to our deck: mill, reanimation, and spellslinger. As we present each category, the cards selected for our deck will be marked with a shaded background in each table. The ranking in our pool will also be outlined beside each card name.


Ramp

With no access to green, we need to rely a lot more on mana rocks for ramp in Dimir. With an average CMC of 3.56, a little bit on the high side, and with a five CMC commander, ramping is important in this deck. We will reserve 12 slots from our deck to this category.

Wayfarer’s Bauble (6) Expedition Map (34) Bontu’s Monument (75) High Tide (132)
Astral Cornucopia (8) Gilded Lotus (41) Phyrexian Tower (~77) Lion’s Eye Diamond (137)
Sol Ring (10) Thought Vessel (52) Black Market (88) Sifter of Skulls (139)
Temple of the False God (~19) Everflowing Chalice (53) Ashnod’s Altar (89) Pitiless Plunderer (146)
Phyrexian Altar (24) Mox Diamond (54) Azor’s Gateway (92) Baral, Chief of Compliance (365)
Chrome Mox (28) Primal Amulet (57) Myriad Landscape (~107) Dramatic Reversal (497)
Mana Crypt (29) Shrine of the Forsaken Gods (~61) Conduit of Ruin (113) Isochron Scepter (549)
Solemn Simulacrum (31) Dowsing Dagger (67) Thaumatic Compass (119) Catalyst Stone

Primal Amulet reduces the casting cost of our instant and sorcery spells, which constitute the majority of the spells in our deck. In addition, once transformed, the Amulet provides us some ramp and can be used to copy any instant or sorcery spell we cast each turn at no extra cost.


Astral Cornucopia is the highest-ranked mana rock in our card pool. Early on, we can cast this rock for three mana to ramp for one, but later in the game, we could tap for six to double the ramp from this rock.

Isochron Scepter is not so much a ramp spell as a way to generate infinite mana. Imprinting Dramatic Reversal on Isochron Scepter with a combination of mana rocks in play that generate three or more mana, we can tap all or our mana rocks, then activate the Scepter to cast Dramatic Reversal. This will untap all of our nonland permanents, including the Scepter and the mana rocks. We can then repeat this process as many times as we wish to net infinite mana, and with the right cards in hand or in the graveyard, access to infinite mana secures us the win.

Catalyst Stone reduces the casting cost of each spell we flash back from the graveyard.


Card Advantage/Filtering

In addition to our commander’s intrinsic ability, this deck is packed with card advantage/filtering.

Demonic Tutor (1) Treasure Cruise (19) Phyrexian Reclamation (44) Cephalid Coliseum (~162)
Vampiric Tutor (2) Painful Truths (20) Syphon Mind (46) Sire of Stagnation (201)
Reliquary Tower (~3) Bident of Thassa (22) Gonti, Lord of Luxury (48) Blue Sun’s Zenith (250)
Skullclamp (4) Brainstorm (26) Sanctum of Ugin (~51) Temple of Deceit (~267)
Increasing Ambition (5) Kozilek, Butcher of Truth (35) Corpse Connoisseur (51) Notion Thief (335)
Mystical Tutor (7) Path of Ancestry (~35) Primal Amulet (57) Baral, Chief of Compliance (365)
Laboratory Maniac (12) Buried Alive (36) Ancient Excavation (61) Sphinx’s Tutelage (379)
Diabolic Intent (14) Grim Haruspex (38) Dig Through Time (76) Staff of Domination (743)
Sensei’s Divining Top (17) Dark Petition (40) Fact or Fiction (97) Mystical Teachings
Mulldrifter (18) Spellseeker (43) Mystic Confluence (102) River Kelpie

As our commander’s main ability opens our graveyard for us to cast instant and sorcery spells, we can leverage filtering a bit more to increase our chances to draw the right cards at the right time. Black and blue offer some of the best tutors and we include five of them in our deck. This gives us lots of flexibility. Exclusive to Dimir, Mystical Teachings allows us to tutor for response at instant speed.


With Dralnu, self-milling is as good as card draw. Ancient Excavation lets us draw an additional hand of cards. Although we need to send a number of cards to the graveyard, we decide which cards go where, which should allow us to play most of these cards over time.

We still include a handful of spells that provides us card advantage. Blue Sun’s Zenith can be used for pure card draw, but also, if we get access to infinite mana, it can be used to mill either ourselves, with Laboratory Maniac out, or mill our opponents. Fact or Fiction and Frantic Search, double up as both card draw and self-milling.


Disruption

As a control deck, disruption is important in this deck. We find a mixture of target removal spells and counterspells that can protect our board or disrupt our opponent.

Bojuka Bog (~2) Grave Pact (30) Hero’s Downfall (64) Mystic Confluence (102)
Strip Mine (~5) Torment of Hailfire (37) Dark Impostor (73) Dissipate (106)
Laboratory Maniac (12) Time Stretch (39) Temporal Trespass (74) Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (167)
Disallow (13) Glen Elendra Archmage (42) Shriekmaw (77) Notion Thief (335)
Scavenger Grounds (~19) Worst Fears (45) Rapid Hybridization (78) Dramatic Reversal (497)
Bident of Thassa (22) Kokusho, the Evening Star (47) Cyclonic Rift (84) Isochron Scepter (549)
Lightning Greaves (23) Scour from Existence (50) Disdainful Stroke (90) Staff of Domination (743)
Liliana of the Dark Realms (25) Temporal Mastery (62) Pact of Negation (94) Grisly Spectacle

A number of counterspells are present in this deck. Some, like Pact of Negation, are meant to safeguard our win conditions, but the others can be used to protect our commander, especially against direct damage. Lightning Greaves is also key to protect our commander. Disallow may protect our graveyard from getting exiled with cards like Bojuka Bog or Relic of Progenitus.

Imprinting a counterspell on Isochron Scepter may help us control the board in the early game.

Notion Thief prevents our opponents from gaining card advantage, and if played in response to an opponent casting a big card draw spell, could allow us to draw many cards.

Staff of Domination provides us a means of repeating Dralnu’s Flashback ability. With infinite mana, the staff lets us draw our whole deck.


Mass Removal

Since we have a low creature count, to survive we will need a good number of mass removal spells.

Toxic Deluge (27) Crux of Fate (107) Devastation Tide (320) Mutilate (364)
In Garruk’s Wake (32) Languish (128) Aetherize (343) Crush of Tentacles (404)
Deathbringer Regent (81) Dread Cacodemon (143) Inundate (346) Massacre Wurm (436)
Cyclonic Rift (84) Evacuation (150) Whelming Wave (348) Damnation (441)
Necromantic Selection (100) Kindred Dominance (299) Decree of Pain (361) Vona’s Hunger

Our commander’s CMC is high enough that our mass removal spells have been picked to ensure our commander can survive most of them. This is the case at least for In Garruk’s Wake and, to some extent, Vona’s Hunger.


Vona’s Hunger does not fully clear the board, but its mana requirement is quite respectable and works at instant speed.

Evacuation should also not affect us as much as our opponents, due to our low creature count.


Core Synergy: Mill

We select mill as the first core synergy for our deck. Two different kinds of milling are present in this deck: self-milling and milling our opponents. We will discuss more about self-milling in the Reanimation section. As far as milling other opponents is concerned, our ultimate end goal could be to force one or all of our opponents to put their whole library in their graveyard, but this is a tall ordeal in a four-player commander game. However, we can build our deck to take advantage of graveyards augmented through milling with cards like Reanimate, Havengul Lich, or Wrexial, the Risen Deep.

In the table below, we list cards that mill and cards that take advantage of milling.

Laboratory Maniac (12) Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy (244) Consuming Aberration (405) Keening Stone (713)
Altar of Dementia (66) Lord of the Void (265) Rise of the Dark Realms (520) Memory Jar (715)
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (167) Jace, Memory Adept (269) Oona, Queen of the Fae (541) Altar of the Brood (723)
Search for Azcanta (170) Bonehoard (289) Geth, Lord of the Vault (579) Hedron Crab
Dread Summons (174) Crypt of Agadeem (~340) Havengul Lich (604) Psychic Corrosion
Necrotic Ooze (183) Wrexial, the Risen Deep (373) Nephalia Drownyard (~669) Grisly Spectacle
Sire of Stagnation (201) Sphinx’s Tutelage (379) Mesmeric Orb (701) Dreamborn Muse
Jace Beleren (234) Nighthowler (386) Codex Shredder (711) Mind Grind

Some of the cards in our deck convert milling into resources. Such is the case with Oona, Queen of the Fae. Oona creates tokens for each spell that we mill and for which we have correctly guessed the color. Dread Summons converts milled creature cards into Zombie tokens.

We can leverage the cards in all graveyards with spells like Rise of the Dark Realms, Geth, Lord of the Vault, Havengul Lich and Wrexial, the Risen Deep.

Consuming Aberration helps with the milling, and acts as sizable threat that can spell the end of an opponent with no creature on board if left unaddressed.

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Mind Grind provide us tools that make milling opponents a legitimate possibility. Sphinx’s Tutelage and Psychic Corrosion converts our card draw into milling. Playing Blue Sun’s Zenith with one of these enchantments on the battlefield can have a similar effect as playing a Traumatize on all of our opponents.


Core Synergy: Reanimation

This category is twofold. On the one hand, we have a desire to grow our graveyard, to get better options for Dralnu. Knowing we aim at populating our graveyard, we also plan to include cards to reuse its content, especially for cards that could not be targeted by Dralnu.

Entomb (3) Ancient Excavation (61) Drownyard Temple (~112) Consuming Aberration (405)
Animate Dead (9) Altar of Dementia (66) Haven of the Spirit Dragon (~114) Rise of the Dark Realms (520)
Reanimate (16) Body Double (71) Crucible of Worlds (121) Geth, Lord of the Vault (579)
Whip of Erebos (33) Nim Deathmantle (86) Academy Ruins (~148) Havengul Lich (604)
Buried Alive (36) Frantic Search (95) Cephalid Coliseum (~162) Catalyst Stone
Phyrexian Reclamation (44) Fact or Fiction (97) Windfall (207) River Kelpie
Corpse Connoisseur (51) Command Beacon (~101) Puppeteer Clique (235) Dralnu, Lich Lord
Dread Return (55) God-Pharaoh’s Gift (109) Haunted Fengraf (~301) Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand

To fill our graveyard, we bring in spells like Ancient Excavation, Fact or Fiction and Windfall. They provide the added benefit of helping us with the card draw. In addition, some cards like Hedron Crab, Oona, Queen of the Fae and Nephalia Drownyard can be used for self-milling to get more tools into our graveyard.

We include some creature reanimation cards: Reanimate, Puppeteer Clique, Haunted Fengraf, Geth, Lord of the Vault, and Havengul Lich. As we have seen in the previous section, Geth also helps us with milling.

Since we plan to play spells from the graveyard, River Kelpie brings us good card advantage.

To reanimate lands and artifacts that make their way to our graveyard, we include cards like Crucible of Worlds, Drownyard Temple, and Academy Ruins.


Core Synergy: Spellslinger

Our last core synergy revolves around spellslinging. A spellslinger creature leverages its own abilities and others present on the board to make the casting of instant or sorcery spells more attractive. Such a creature normally leads to decks with a higher count of instant and sorcery spells, which is the case for our Dralnu deck.

Dark Petition (40) Mirari (424) Sentinel Tower Thing in the Ice
Mirrorpool (~55) Jace’s Sanctum (482) Murmuring Mystic Academy Elite
Primal Amulet (57) Mnemonic Wall (556) Runechanter’s Pike Sphinx-Bone Wand
Swarm Intelligence (161) Snapcaster Mage (592) Niblis of Frost Surrakar Spellblade
Baral, Chief of Compliance (365) Mission Briefing (636) Spellweaver Volute Rise from the Tides
Wrexial, the Risen Deep (373) Docent of Perfection (667) The Mirari Conjecture Will Kenrith
Talrand, Sky Summoner (402) Archaeomancer (689) Trail of Evidence Dynavolt Tower

Putting most of our focus on milling and reanimation, we are not spending too many resources to leverage this synergy, but the ability to duplicate an instant or sorcery spell with cards like Swarm Intelligence, Primal Amulet and Mirrorpool can easily tilt the balance in our favor.

Primal Amulet and Baral, Chief of Compliance makes casting spells more affordable and Wrexial, the Risen Deep lets us play our opponents’ best spells, extending the reach of the instant and sorcery spells we can play.


Standalone Creatures

This deck does not have a strong focus on creatures, so all of our creatures support our core synergies and there is no room for standalone creatures. However, I included the list in the table below to use as a reference in case we would want to create other Dimir decks with different archetypes/synergies. Looking at this list, the Aristocrats category provides a good portion of the highest ranked spell for this color identity.

Zulaport Cutthroat (11) Grave Titan (85) Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni (142) Stuffy Doll (193)
Viscera Seer (15) Butcher of Malakir (96) Bloodline Keeper (144) Merciless Executioner (196)
Blood Artist (21) Sangromancer (105) Malakir Bloodwitch (148) Clone (218)
Carrion Feeder (59) Thrummingbird (115) Metallic Mimic (171) Chasm Skulker (252)
Falkenrath Noble (69) Deepglow Skate (124) Dark Confidant (180) Fog Bank (267)
Abhorrent Overlord (72) Pawn of Ulamog (134) Indulgent Aristocrat (187) Ogre Slumlord (274)
Gray Merchant of Asphodel (83) Sakashima the Impostor (135) Yahenni, Undying Partisan (192) Necropolis Regent (276)

Standalone Spells

Standalone spells are spells that work well alone or in concert with the commander. With three core synergies however, we are not going too deep with the standalone spells. The table below is mostly there to present spells that fall outside of our base categories and our core synergies for the deck.

Spawning Pit (49) Panharmonicon (188) Inexorable Tide (270) Batterskull (340)
Omniscience (99) Clock of Omens (203) Army of the Damned (288) Paradox Haze (345)
Eldrazi Monument (130) Helm of Kaldra (208) Copy Artifact (292) Copy Enchantment (351)
Saheeli’s Artistry (154) The Chain Veil (220) Trailblazer’s Boots (295) Mirage Mirror (360)
Lashwrithe (178) Coat of Arms (233) Bloodforged Battle-Axe (301) Contagion Clasp (376)
Mycosynth Wellspring (184) Paradox Engine (251) Inquisitor’s Flail (311) Conspiracy (392)
Rite of Replication (185) Phyrexian Processor (264) Bitterblossom (339) Blackblade Reforged (393)


One standalone spell shines in this deck: Paradox Engine. With a mana rock, some ramp spell like Catalyst Stone or Baral, Chief of Compliance and Dranu in play, Paradox Engine is the perfect enabler for our spellslinger deck. Any time we play a spell, all of our nonland permanents, including Dralnu, untap. We have designed our deck with enough card draw to make for explosive turns when the engine starts clicking. Each spell we play from our hand can be replayed with Dralnu’s ability to give Flashback to instant and sorcery spells in the graveyard. Isochron Scepter also plays well with Paradox Engine, as the Scepter untaps as soon as we cast the copy of the Imprinted spell and can be reactivated if the mana is available.


Lands

Our land base provides us with the right balance to play our blue and black spells, in addition with some ramp, and utility lands.

Command Tower (1) Scalding Tarn (9) Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth (17) Drownyard Temple (38)
Swamp (2) Bloodstained Mire (10) Halimar Depths (19) Dreadship Reef (42)
Verdant Catacombs (3) Island (11) Mirrorpool (22) Academy Ruins (44)
Polluted Delta (4) Underground River (12) City of Brass (23) Cephalid Coliseum (45)
Bojuka Bog (5) Marsh Flats (13) Flooded Strand (25) Temple of Deceit (66)
Reliquary Tower (6) Temple of the False God (14) Morphic Pool (27) Haunted Fengraf (72)
Strip Mine (7) Scavenger Grounds (15) Sunken Hollow (31) Nephalia Drownyard (138)
Watery Grave (8) Misty Rainforest (16) Myriad Landscape (34) Fetid Pools (147)

Our utility lands enhance the milling (Nephalia Drownyard and Cephalid Coliseum), reanimation (Haunted Fengraf) and spellslinging (Mirrorpool) aspects of our deck.

Some of these lands, like Haunted Fengraf, can be brought back from the graveyard with Crucible of Worlds for multiple activations. Crucible of Worlds may also target our fetch lands in the graveyard to bring more consistency to our land drop.


Putting It All Together

The Dimir color combination is well suited for control. However, in a multiplayer setting, a spellslinger may run out of ammunition. Dralnu gives us the opportunity to reuse the instant and sorcery spells we cast and makes the control aspect of this deck more sustainable. The end result is a deck that can stall our opponents’ progress while we establish our winning conditions. In the process of building this deck, we have identified key cards in various categories that have performed well in a wide variety of EDH matchups and comply with the Dimir color combination. We can make use of this information to build other Dimir decks with similar or different archetypes.

In our next article, we will see what surprises Boros has in store for us. Per reader request, we will use Adriana, Captain of the Guard as our featured commander, a commander that plays well with the strengths of Boros in the combat aspect of the game.

Have you ever been successful implementing milling as the primary win condition for an EDH deck? Which commander worked best for you in that respect? As always, I am curious to hear your feedback on the material presented in this article.

Cards up my Sleeve

Commander (1)
Creatures (16)
Artifacts (13)
Instants (19)
Sorceries (11)
Enchantments (3)
Lands (37)

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Martin has been playing Magic since Fifth Dawn. He has explored many formats over the years and his favorite one is Commander. Curious by nature, Martin enjoys deckbuilding as much as playing the game. He likes to experiment new deck archetypes, explore new synergies and learn about crazy combos.