You cannot fully appreciate art until you stumble upon a piece that’s such a deep reflection of your own being, you feel more seen than you ever have in your entire life, despite having never met the artist.
For me, that’s this decklist.
Even though I have many loves in Magic, nothing makes me happier than a lean control deck. This one has a nearly painless manabase, countless sources of card advantage and velocity, and few win conditions, and it still manages to pack inevitability into the equation.
Should Anything Change?
There are few changes I’d make to this decklist.
First, cut the Castle Vantress. There are twenty lands, only eleven of which let it enter the battlefield untapped. How often will you get to activate it when your deck contains Memory Deluge, Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and Snapcaster Mage? It’s not free, even if it always enters the battlefield untapped because the deck lacks fetchlands, so Blood Moon could be annoying.
Three Memory Deluges is a lot and I’m surprised by the lack of Dress Downs. Maindeck Tourach, Dread Cantor looks out of place, but I get it. You want something that deals damage and gives you an edge against the bigger Azorius Control and Four-Color Midrange decks. Plus, it can be brutal against the Rakdos Midrange decks and recurred with Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
Having only Fatal Push and Drown in the Loch for removal felt light in Dimir decks, even with an Engineered Explosives. This deck adds Bloodchief’s Thirst, which isn’t exciting on rate, yet solves several problems.
I’m not sure I ever would’ve pulled the trigger on adding Bloodchief’s Thirsts, but I was happy to play eight one-mana removal spells in Grixis Control, so why not? It’s one of those things where the thought could cross your mind and maybe you even consider doing it yourself, but won’t ever take that leap until you see someone else doing it. It’s like they’re giving you permission.
The other instance of that is adding Memory Deluge into the low-curve Lurrus control decks. Yes, I did want a big card-drawing spell in order to keep up in attrition-based matchups. Yes, Memory Deluge was all over the place in Modern. Yet, I didn’t consider it. As soon as I saw it in another successful decklist, it seemed obvious.
Dimir or Grixis?
Even going back to Dimir is another example. Why give up everything red offers you? Since you can solve most of your problems in two colors, the real question is, why add red in the first place?
Grixis provides some powerful options at the cost of a weaker manabase, which means you can’t play four Counterspell and four Archmage’s Charm without taking a ton of damage. You also get Alpine Moon, which you can protect against Tron and use to reasonable success against Amulet. Red also provides various Shatters for Colossus Hammer.
You don’t have to play Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, although the more the metagame skews toward midrange, big mana, and control, the more appealing it becomes. Right now, your Ragavans are going to be hit or miss, which probably means they’re better left on the bench. Both have merits, but I’m voting for Dimir at the moment.
Upgrading the List
Overall, I want to add a land, a copy or two of Dress Down, and a third Inquisition of Kozilek. Another cantrip like an Opt or Thought Scour could be nice. I’ve played similar decks before and not being able to use your mana each turn, ensuring you make your land drops (especially with only twenty land), is a death sentence.
Mishra’s Bauble serves that purpose to some degree. If you already have a one-drop, Bauble is the superior cantrip. However, when you’re digging for lands, the delayed draw is a significant drawback.
The sideboard is where things get interesting. Ideally, you have something for cascade, graveyards, Burn, big mana, and blue mirrors. That’s a tall order, especially when Lurrus of the Dream-Den is eating one of our sideboard slots.
I’m tempted to remove Spreading Seas and most of the graveyard hate from the sideboard. Even though graveyard decks aren’t very popular, you’ll want something to help against decks that use their graveyards for value. Cling to Dust is versatile, mostly as Dimir’s premier lifegain spell, but it’s not as strong as Nihil Spellbomb against opposing Lurrus decks.
Spreading Seas looks good in theory, but you’ll lose to Mono-Green Tron anyway. It doesn’t help against Amulet Titan and is only marginal against Four-Color Midrange and Boros Burn. My main reason to keep Spreading Seas would be to fight Urza’s Saga, although we can fight that with Engineered Explosives and Dress Down.
Realistically, beating Amulet’s multiple Cavern of Souls would be impossible without copious amounts of Aether Gusts or Subtletys. Dress Down is a fine roadblock, but we can’t even kill Primeval Titan profitably.
The best thing about Lurrus control decks is that, with Counterspell and Archmage’s Charm, you can fully take control of a game. At this point, there are very few decks that can win once you have a wall of countermagic and have dealt with their threats. Pure control is actually well-positioned!
I prefer the versions with card drawing and cheap interaction instead of planeswalkers. Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Narset, Parter of Veils are both powerful, but only if you’re able to untap with them. They aren’t great when you’re behind, don’t help you catch up particularly well, and are worse in control mirrors. When the bulk of your deck is two- or three-mana counterspells, it’s easy to fall behind in the early game. That’s why I’d stress having cheap interaction and quick two-for-ones.
Playing planeswalkers also means giving up a companion. Losing Lurrus isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s not worth it unless you’re also gaining something significant, like Shark Typhoon for mirrors; Ashiok, Dream Render for ramp; or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for Dimir Mill. None of those are necessary at the moment, so I vote that we keep Lurrus.
My Proposed Decklist
VS Rakdos Midrange Variants
The Jund Saga variants deserve a different approach because of Urza’s Saga, but the games play out mostly the same way. They disrupt you, try to kill you, and tend to find ways to keep that pressure on. If you can remove their threats, you’ll eventually find a source of card advantage to put you over the top.
You want to shave Counterspell because it’s a poor topdeck when you’re behind. For the most part, spot removal is more versatile. None of their cards are particularly threatening, so having a Bloodchief’s Thirst is usually prefered.
VS Four-Color Midrange (Yorion)
Their particular suite of threats can make it difficult for your cards to line up appropriately. That said, they also have several dead sources of interaction themselves. After sideboarding, things get much smoother.
VS Colossus Hammer Decks
I’m somewhat concerned by Dimir’s lack of instant-speed interaction against Colossus Hammer, but it should be fine. If you wanted to get spicy, the sideboard removal spell could be a Gut Shot. Overall, this matchup can be tricky because they can go wide very quickly, which makes it easy for them to get under you.
VS Azorius Control
If you don’t let them stick a planeswalker or get attacked to death by a creature-land, you should eventually come out on top. The second Cling to Dust is reasonable, but it seems worse than the other 60.
VS Boros Burn
This matchup is about as good as it can get without having a hate card for the matchup like Collective Brutality. As long as their one-drop doesn’t deal you eight damage, they won’t be able to force enough burn spells through your counterspells. At that point, drawing a Cling to Dust is the same as winning the game. Mulligan aggressively to a discard or removal spell on the play and a removal spell on the draw.
VS Izzet Midrange
If Murktide Regent were any other threat or didn’t have built-in protection from Drown in the Loch, this matchup would be simple. As is, you have to be wary of their early threats, their hard-to-kill Murktides, and their sideboard Jace, the Mind Sculptors. Plus, they could potentially try to Blood Moon you. It’s another instance of hoping your cards line up correctly.
VS Amulet Titan
Amulet Titan is one of the worst matchups, but they still have a fail rate. Maybe they fail to find Cavern of Souls or you can beat them with Dress Down plus Noxious Grasp. It’s not easy and the slim chance of hope you have is probably going to leave you upset that you even felt like you had a shot in the first place.
I wouldn’t classify Dimir Control as the best deck in Modern. After all, it has its fair share of issues. However, most problems can be fixed and this shell has the tools to overcome most of them. If you enjoy this sort of deck, this is probably the best thing for you to be doing at the moment.