With Guilds of Ravnica here, I thought I’d take a look at the blue
and black cards, despite, weirdly, there being no official
blue and black guild of Ravnica.
You know, since there is officially no House Dimir.
It’s kind of like Ravnica’s own little illegal drone assassination program;
and like an autonomous killing machine flying into contested area at over
100 miles an hour, the House Dimir can kill out of nowhere, thanks to an
extreme abuse of surveillance.
While Doom Whisperer is just a fantastic card that should appear
“straight-up” in many decks, Thoughtbound Phantasm and Dimir Spybug really let you take this whole “zero-mana activation” thing to
another level. Every activation of Doom Whisperer is another +1/+1 counter
for each of your Phantasms and Spybugs.
In a way, it’s kind of a creature-based version of this combo.
So, a Hatred?
Err, yeah, I guess, a Hatred.
Even with just one Phantasm or Spybug, every two life you pay can
potentially do one more to your opponent, so if your life total is more
than double theirs, you can go for the game outright. With two of these
creatures on the battlefield, you can convert life into damage pretty
efficiently (assuming you’re willing to risk it against instant speed
Creeping Chill isn’t just a free drain for three, it’s a free
drain for three. If you’re at twenty, normally, you’d only be able to Doom
Whisperer + Spybug someone down from nine. However, if one of the first
eighteen cards you reveal is a Creeping Chill, it’s not just opponents at
twelve that need fear. You can actually kill someone from fourteen, thanks
to the extra activations you can do.
Hit two Creeping Chills in the first 22 cards and now you’re able to kill
an opponent from eighteen(!) That’s actually not that uncommon at all
(47.9%, in general; however, if it’s the fifth turn and you haven’t seen a
Creeping Chill yet, it might be substantially more likely).
Is it crazy to not play Lazav, the Multifarious?
Could be, but I’m really interested in trying to keep this list as
mana-efficient as possible, and I’m not sure how to balance all the cards
asking mana of you. For instance, Blood Operative actually needs a fair bit
of mana to operate. Drawing extra copies is all well and good, but then we
need to cast them, and every Operative we get back is less Doom we can
Likewise, Notion Rain and Discovery both give us more cards to play, and
playing Dispersal for five is going to be a pretty attractive option
sometimes if we’ve got that kind of mana laying around.
Disinformation Campaign is yet another option for investing deceptively
large amounts of mana, long term. However, it does offer a pretty good rate
of return if you value card advantage above all else. If we want to focus
on the combo kill, we probably want to save the Disinformation Campaigns
for the sideboard (against control and removal-heavy decks); however, the
grindier we make the deck, the more Disinformation Campaign may want to
move into the maindeck.
Between Thought Erasure, Disinformation Campaign, and the Dispersal side of
Discovery, we actually have a pretty hefty quantity of discard available to
us. It’s no Thoughtseize, but Thought Erasure is good enough to show up in
some non-surveil decks, since it’s basically a Distress with the bonus
surveil 1, and that bonus is the difference between Cancel and Sinister
Speaking of Sinister Sabotage, why not play it here? Well, the nature of
dedicated surveil combo decks is one of massive card flow. Every turn, they
want to use all their mana as efficiently as possible. Leaving three up
reveals a lot of information and is horribly inefficient if you don’t use
it. What’s more, most of the cards you’d want for this strategy can’t be
played at instant speed anyway.
I was originally a little cooler on Nightveil Sprite, but thinking about it
more, the threat of getting to surveil every turn without spending mana is
pretty appealing. The evasion is also “on message,” and whatever they’re
playing to kill it, they’re usually not getting the best of it. If they had
a Shock, Shock was going to get its money, regardless.
While surveil 1 is obviously not filling your graveyard with nearly as many
Blood Operatives or Creeping Chills, it does put +1/+1 counters on your
creatures just as well. If you’re trying to maximize quantity of instances
of surveil, this is sort of an efficient way to do it. Even stuff like
Barrier of Bones deserves a closer look, thanks to just how cheap a card it
is while still doing something useful and surveilling.
Barrier of Bones’ utility as an early blocker is somewhat overshadowed by
Thought Phantasm, but you can only play four Phantasms, and I’m really into
trying to fit as many cheap cards in these decks as I can right now. For
instance, I’m actually interested in trying even cards as soft as Dazzling
Once you go down the road of something along the lines of a dredge deck,
the value of mana can go way up. Likewise, the importance of cards being
cheap can too.
While Stitcher’s Supplier doesn’t count as surveilling for Thought Phantasm
or Dimir Spybug, it does mill a lot of cards, so stuff like Narcomoeba,
Oathsworn Vampire, Blood Operative (eventually), and the undergrowth
mechanic are all fair game.
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 2 Oathsworn Vampire
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 2 Doom Whisperer
- 4 Blood Operative
- 4 Barrier of Bones
This build looks a little too wishy-washy to me, but there’s something
attractive to the dredge-esque method by which this deck looks to accrue
extra material from all the self-mill, dodging traditional rules of
If you just want to mill quantity, Enhanced Surveillance does a pretty good
job at that. It’s especially interesting to consider it as a
triple-multiplier on surveil 1 cards, while it’s just a double-multiplier
on surveil 2 cards. Sadly, there’s no enhancing Stitcher’s Supplier.
Stitcher’s Supplier really intrigues me, though. There are quietly dozens
of decks it could potentially help fuel, thanks to Guilds of Ravnica. For instance, if we didn’t care about “surveil”
proper, we might consider a basically mono-black Dredgevine deck:
I say basically because I think we’re likely just priced into playing
Discovery anyway, and adding some blue duals for Dispersal (plus sideboard
options) sounds totally reasonable.
It’s too bad Stitcher’s Supplier is a Zombie, instead of a Vampire. Still,
the lifegain helps enable Oathsworn Vampire and the card advantage can play
into a grinding plan.
Even without being all-in, we might get some pretty respectable value from
Mausoleum Secrets. A single Stitcher’s Supplier goes such a long way
towards turning it into Demonic Tutor.
While there’s a shortage of mono-black surveil cards, I think Whisper Agent
is just a little short of what we’d need to really be into it.
House Dimir need not be exclusively surveil-based, however. Ritual of Soot
(and let’s be honest, Watery Grave) is a valuable tool for enabling Dimir
One of the big challenges facing Dimir Control is how to actually close out
the game. Doom Whisperer and The Eldest Reborn are great cards, but they
aren’t the most airtight of victory conditions. We could play something
like Nezahal, Primal Tide, but that actually might not be as reliable as it
used to be anyway, with how much discard people have access to (we’re
obviously looking at the time before it hits the table).
Yeah, I guess we could look at Nightveil Predator; it’s just that hexproof
doesn’t seem that attractive to me in a deck with so few
creatures. Aren’t there just going to be so many people packing The Eldest
Dream Eater isn’t exactly the most resilient threat, either, but at least
it’s versatile. I’m not sure we’re getting enough body, particularly when
it comes in a 4/3 package, but it’s worth a shot. The selection might
really help push it over the finish line. For instance, it’s going to feel so good, every time we dump a jump-start card to it (or Search for
Azcanta or Sinister Sabotage).
Chemister’s Insight is no Hieroglyphic Illumination, but it does look
pretty decent to me. It’s basically a draw three, though the third card
comes in the form of a Catalog.
When you jump-start Chemister’s Insight, you’re basically drawing two cards
and discarding one card, like Catalog; though, admittedly, the discard and
draw is in a worse order and you’re paying four mana. Still, we would be
all over a four-cost draw three, and this one is at least a draw two and a
half. In many ways, it’s really the new Glimmer of Genius.
There are actually several really cool options for new sideboard cards in
Dimir, as well. Obviously, just having access to a better mix of stuff like
Dead Weight is great and all, but what about stuff like Disdainful Stroke?
Disdainful Stroke is a proven sideboard powerhouse, and in the right
formats, is maindeckable. There may not be delve cards to counter, but
there are convoke cards. Besides, there’s plenty of cards like Teferi, Hero
of Dominaria that warrant such measures.
Speaking of Teferi, Unmoored Ego is an excellent sideboard option for
attacking anyone overly reliant on him or any one specific card. We’ve seen
plenty of these kinds of cards before, and this one is especially
I doubt that the exile ability and the recursion ability will be worth the
premium we’d have to pay for Devious Cover-Up. It’s not just one mana
extra, since it’s not like we’re getting the surveil 1 of Sinister
This is a really interesting alternative victory condition. I could see it
in the sideboard, but it’d be way more appropriate for a build using lots
of cantrips and jump-start cards, stuff like Mission Briefing and Radical
Idea, for instance.
There’s gotta be something you can do to really push Drowned Secrets
alongside Psychic Corrosion. The question is, how do you survive while
doing all this dinking around?
I don’t know. Call me old-fashioned, but I still just like winning with
Teferi. Is that so wrong?
Esper may not be one of the supported color trios this time around, but
there’s enough fixing to get by on, I think. I just kind of think Teferi is
enough better than the alternatives to make some concessions for. Now, if
only Teferi was green or red…