Dimir Control Is Now The Best Control Deck In Modern

Arcum’s Astrolabe may be gone from Modern, but control won’t be forgotten! GerryT showcases his latest Dimir Control build.

Drown in the Loch, illustrated by John Stanko

Much has happened since the last time I talked about Dimir Control in Modern. The companion nerf was the most notable but we’ve also seen the release of Core Set 2021 and Conspicuous Snoop, some metagame shifts, and now the banning of Arcum’s Astrolabe. Using Lurrus of the Dream-Den as our draw engine and win condition is still a viable strategy, but I think we can do better. 

Four Shark Typhoons is a lot. It’s also the major disqualifier for using Lurrus of the Dream-Den as our companion, although most of the sideboard would invalidate it as well. Thankfully, we have a new end-game.

Frantic Inventory

Frantic Inventory is a game-changer and brings Mystic Sanctuary a step closer to being ban-worthy. Once you hit Frantic Inventory for three, fetching for Mystic Sanctuary should all but lock up the game. Thought Scour can even help deposit a Frantic Inventory into your graveyard to get the party started. 

After some tuning of mechint’s decklist, I arrived here.

This is a true “draw-go” deck. Your turns will mostly consist of playing a land and passing the turn, only casting spells in reaction to your opponent doing something or drawing some cards at the end of their turn. Even your win conditions happen at instant speed! 

With most Thought Scour / Drown in the Loch decks, your first Thought Scour will often target your opponent, and after that, you can reap the benefits of filling your own graveyard. Things are slightly different in this deck. Because of Cling to Dust and Frantic Inventory, it’s beneficial to Thought Scour yourself as often as possible, which is why I’m happy with only three Drown in the Lochs. If you don’t have a Drown in the Loch in your opening hand and it looks like the game is going to lead to your opponent putting cards in their own graveyard, you can freely Scour yourself on Turn 1.

As noted in my last article, Spell Snare is incredible. If a format gives you a reason to play more copies, you should, but this seems like a metagame where two is the correct number. Note that Eldrazi Tron is playing multiple copies of Mazemind Tome, so Spell Snare isn’t quite as poor in that matchup as it used to be.

Spell Snare Logic Knot

Logic Knot is cost-efficient but you can’t afford to draw multiples. Yes, you are fetching often and usually Thought Scouring yourself, but Snapcaster Mage, Frantic Inventory, and Cling to Dust all want to use your graveyard to some degree. Having more Mystic Sanctuary targets can be helpful too.

Cards like Archmage’s Charm allow you to have a wall of countermagic while also having utility in case something slips through the cracks. If your opponent chooses to do nothing worthwhile with their turn, you can draw two cards, getting you closer to assembling the pieces of your Frantic Inventory / Mystic Sanctuary end-game. 

Shadow of Doubt is cute and has a low opportunity cost but I’d prefer something more concrete. If Primeval Titan takes over again, I’ll happily revisit that. 

I added an Eliminate because I wanted another early removal spell but it could be something else. Getting to hit a Teferi, Time Raveler is huge but it’s a removal spell that doesn’t touch Thought-Knot Seer or Gurmag Angler. More testing is necessary but trying the new cards is important.

Shark Typhoon

Having Shark Typhoon as a win condition is about as clean as it comes. There are times when holding onto a big win condition is detrimental because you wish it was something that could interact with your opponent and stop what they’re doing. You can happily trade Shark Typhoon for something else. Making a small body could even help you stabilize. It’s nearly a perfect win condition. 

I’m not sold on the Sunken Hollow and it could very easily be a Sunken Ruins instead. That would help with casting Archmage’s Charm if you needed to fetch basic Swamp against something like Burn. It would also mean you could play multiple black spells in the mid-game despite wanting to fetch Islands early to enable Mystic Sanctuary. Sunken Ruins not being an Island itself could hurt your development quite a bit, especially with other non-Islands in the deck like Field of Ruin

Decks like these typically need specific help against Mono-Green Tron and this time is no different. A couple of Field of Ruins won’t get the job done but a wall of counterspells might unless Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger gets involved. Even then, you can counter it, eat the double Stone Rain, and move on with your life. Eventually, they will run out of gas or die to Snapcaster Mage or Shark tokens.

Damping Sphere is an option but it’s not a great one. Mono-Green Tron will often sideboard in copies of Nature’s Claim against everyone, they already have Oblivion Stone, plus the games will go long enough where they’ll be able to cast Karn Liberated the old-fashioned way. Overall, it’s not worth the slot. Thankfully, Eldrazi Tron is the most popular Tron variant at the moment and you can beat them with removal and counterspells. 

I was finally tempted to include Damnation in the sideboard to fight tribal decks, Gruul Midrange, and the like. It’s mostly training wheels but tends to get you out of tight spots. Damnation also tends to be stronger than Plague Engineer and more useful across the board.

Damnation Yixlid Jailer

Yixlid Jailer is probably the best card to fight Dredge. Nihil Spellbomb and Leyline of the Void make your Drown in the Lochs useless, so we can’t really go there. A single Surgical Extraction doesn’t do enough against Dredge, so we need something else. 

Flusterstorm wins counterspell wars, can trade with a Lightning Bolt against Burn on the cheap, and fights combo decks like Neobrand. Dispel is slightly stronger against Summoner’s Pact and Pact of Negation out of Amulet Titan but we can adjust if that becomes a problem. 

My Pithing Needle is a nod to Goblins and their Aether Vials, although answering a planeswalker on the cheap is nice against Azorius Control, Jund, and Mono-Green Tron. 

Is Dimir better than Azorius with a similar Frantic Inventory / Shark Typhoon setup? I think so. White has typically had a stranglehold on powerful Modern sideboard cards but black wins that fight at the moment. The question comes down to having Path to Exile, Supreme Verdict, and some Teferis rather than Drown in the Loch and Cling to Dust. Again, Dimir wins. 

Path to Exile and Supreme Verdict have fewer restrictions but are clunkier and have their downsides. You’re able to take care of most threats with Fatal Push, Drown in the Loch, and counterspells, so why give your opponent lands or rely on sweepers if you don’t have to?

Dimir Control is leaner. Your mana curve is lower, you have more velocity, and don’t have to rely on playing powerful sorcery-speed catch-up mechanics alongside your Cryptic Commands. Pure draw-go has its upsides. 

Part of that is because Drown in the Loch is so versatile. It’s your early-game interaction and late-game hard counterspell, which Azorius doesn’t have access to. Additionally, your Frantic Inventories are stronger because your mana curve is lower. Drawing three cards in the mid-game doesn’t do you much good if they all cost four mana.

Drown in the Loch Cling to Dust

Cling to Dust cleanly countering Snapcaster Mage is incredible but it also neuters opposing Frantic Inventories and provides its own engine later on. Unless Teferi, Time Raveler stays on the battlefield, Cling to Dust will win the pseudo-mirror matches.

With Arcum’s Astrolabe gone, you can expect to see fewer Urza, Lord High Artificer decks and fewer multicolored Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath decks. Yorion, Sky Nomad also has very little reason to exist in Modern. That’s a shame because those decks tend to be solid matchups for Dimir Control. The reasons to play Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath are drying up.

If you used to play those decks, you should give Dimir Control a try. You won’t be disappointed. 

SCG Advertisement