Memory Deluge Art by Lake Hurwitz

Bo1 + Bo3 Alchemy Dimir Control Deck Guide: Keeping Creature Decks in Check

Hello folks! Today we’ll be looking at a sweet Alchemy control deck that I’ve been working on since the inception of the format. Due to Alrund's Epiphany and Goldspan Dragon nerfs, Izzet has lost some power, especially in the closing stages of the game when the deck wants to turn the corner and take over.

Furthermore, the rise of aggressive creature decks fueled by new cards such as Inquisitor Captain and Tenacious Pup has pushed control even harder. Damage based removal is often not cutting it anymore, and taking turn 3 off to cast Expressive Iteration is becoming increasingly painful. In short: friendship ended with red, black is my new best friend.

My initial Dimir list consisted of a pretty even split between card draw, removal and countermagic, with a few top-end creatures to close out the game. This is what it looked like:

Alchemy Dimir Control v1
by DoggertQBones
Alchemy
best of 3
3 mythic
24 rare
19 uncommon
14 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (1)
Creatures (4)
Instants (28)
4
Consider
$11.96
3
Fading Hope
$2.37
2
Infernal Grasp
$1.38
2
Power Word Kill
$0.50
1
Soul Shatter
$1.49
4
Divide by Zero
$1.00
4
Absorb Energy
$0.00
4
Memory Deluge
$5.96
Sorceries (3)
Lands (24)
5
Island
$1.25
5
Swamp
$1.25
3
Field of Ruin
$0.75
4
Shipwreck Marsh
$19.96
60 Cards
$143.67
Sideboard
2
Flunk
$0.50
2
Duress
$0.50
2
Go Blank
$3.98
15 Cards
$72.99

I very quickly realized that Alchemy was too fast for what I was trying to achieve, and that fighting on the board was going to give me better results than fighting on the stack. Particularly in games on the draw against Gruul Werewolves or Mono Green Aggro, I often died to their turn 2 and turn 3 plays that I couldn’t answer in a timely manner. So I dropped some of my clunkier cards for more early game action, and after a few more tweaks I landed on a version that I am very satisfied with:

Alchemy DImir Control v2
by DoggertQBones
Alchemy
best of 3
4 mythic
27 rare
19 uncommon
10 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (25)
4
Consider
$11.96
2
Fading Hope
$1.58
3
Infernal Grasp
$2.07
2
Power Word Kill
$0.50
4
Divide by Zero
$1.00
2
Absorb Energy
$0.00
1
Hagra Mauling
$1.99
4
Memory Deluge
$5.96
Sorceries (5)
Lands (24)
3
Island
$0.75
3
Swamp
$0.75
3
Field of Ruin
$0.75
4
Shipwreck Marsh
$19.96
60 Cards
$195.52
15 Cards
$73.53

The final list is obviously heavily tuned for creature matchups, but it can still win against other control deck. This meta call was dictated by my experience on the Alchemy ladder: in my 30 matches I only faced control a total of 3 times, while the remaining 27 were all creature decks. Among those 27, the most popular were Gruul Werewolves, Mono Green Stompy, different variations of Clerics, and recently Mono Black Sacrifice. All of these decks called for more early game interaction, so I obliged.

Finally, if you want to foray into the Bo1 queues with Dimir, I would go with a slightly adjusted list for the even heavier creature meta you can expect.

Bo1 Alchemy Dimir Control
by DoggertQBones
Alchemy
best of 1
4 mythic
26 rare
20 uncommon
10 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (25)
4
Consider
$11.96
2
Fading Hope
$1.58
1
Flunk
$0.25
3
Infernal Grasp
$2.07
2
Power Word Kill
$0.50
4
Divide by Zero
$1.00
2
Absorb Energy
$0.00
1
Hagra Mauling
$1.99
3
Memory Deluge
$4.47
Sorceries (5)
Lands (24)
3
Island
$0.75
3
Swamp
$0.75
3
Field of Ruin
$0.75
4
Shipwreck Marsh
$19.96
60 Cards
$194.28
7 Cards
$2.83

CARD CHOICES

Lier, Disciple of the [card name=
Lier, Disciple of the Drowned Art by Ekaterina Burmak

Removal

The deck is packed with removal, and if I could fit in more without dropping consistency, I probably would. 

The spot removal suite gives us different answers for different scenarios, and overall it comes together to get us out of sticky situations. Directly destroying creatures comes in very handy against those threats with high toughness that red struggles to answer. The general lack of dragons and angels lets us get away with a couple of Power Word Kill. Should that change, I would probably swap it for Flunk.

Out of the 75 cards in the final list, the one that has impressed me the most is Shadows' Verdict. Just about every creature deck (except for Dragons) is heavily reliant on its 1-2-3 drops, and answering them cleanly in one fell swoop is quite handy. The exile clause is also extremely relevant in a format with plenty of recursion and on-death triggers.

Countermagic

The first iteration of the deck was way too reliant on counterspells, but even if some were trimmed, they’re still heavily present in the final list. Jwari Disruption offers great utility, in particular against aggro decks that tend to play on curve. Absorb Energy turned out to be better than I initially anticipated, since playing a discounted Lier or Hullbreaker Horror can be a huge tempo swing.

The best card of the package (and possibly the best card in the whole deck) is certainly Divide by Zero. Divide is a spell that, unlike other counterspells, is never too late, as it can also act as a solid bounce effect. This, coupled with the fact that it can circumvent Lier’s static ability, as well as wish for one of our Lesson cards in the sideboard, pushes Divide by Zero a tier above the rest.

Card Draw

Consider and Memory Deluge are everything the deck wants. The former helps a lot with smoothing early game draws, and its cheap cost makes it very good in combination with Lier and Hullbreaker Horror. The latter is probably the best 4-mana-draw-2 spell ever printed, and it gives plenty of much needed consistency to the deck. The ability to dig 4 (or more) cards deep into the deck, aids us in finding the right spells at the right time.

Creatures

Lier, Disciple of the Drowned and Hullbreaker Horror are often used in control decks due to their closing potential, as well as their unmatched utility. Resolving and untapping with either one of them on the board is often game-ending, so make sure not to rush them out at the first opportunity.

Valki, God of Lies is a more unconventional choice, but I have been a big fan of the card in midrange and control lists. His ability to be an early game tempo play, or a late game win condition, makes Valki a very flexible option that can be useful both for buying time, as well as closing out the game.

Lands

Having to manage just 2 colors gives us access to plenty of utility lands.

Field of Ruin is a great way to deal with all of the creature lands running around in the format, as well as a tool to fix our own colors while possibly denying one from our opponents.

Hall of Storm Giants is an incredible tool to close out the game: together with a Hullbreaker Horror it can end the game in a single turn, and even on its own it usually gets the job done in a couple swings.


NOTABLE EXCLUSIONS / POTENTIAL INCLUSIONS

Sorin the Mirthless Art by Martina Fackova

Flunk

While the card itself is very good, it has trouble answering early game threats with high toughness. Also since Tenacious Pup can buff it’s friends, I opted for different options.

Sorin the Mirthless

Possibly a valid sideboard option, Sorin felt too slow and unimpactful in this control shell. A third Lier in its place has given far better results.

Discover the Formula

Present as a 1-of in the first iteration of the deck, Discover the Formula was very clunky and unnecessary, particularly in a format with very good draw spells.

The Celestus

A wonderful option for slower metagames, The Celestus is simply too slow in a format where you must be able to interact on each of your early turns. At 3 mana, it “competes” with Divide by Zero and Absorb Energy, which guarantee more immediate impact.

Geistchanneler

Haven’t tried it myself, but saw it in several control decks (particularly Azorius). The card comes with a very potent effect, but I’m not sure it’s what this deck really wants at the moment: there aren’t too many cards that you would be able to fully discount, and a 1/3 body doesn’t mount a particularly great defense against most threats.


SIDEBOARD GUIDE

Duress Art by Paul Scott Canavan
Duress Art by Paul Scott Canavan

Since the maindeck is heavily slanted towards creature matchups, the sideboard is mostly dedicated to other archetypes we may face.

Creature Aggro (Mono White, Mono Green, Werewolves, Clerics, Vampires, Party)

OUTIN
-1 Memory Deluge+1 The Meathook Massacre

         

As the maindeck is already built to deal with this archetype, our only change is to shave off 1 Memory Deluge in favor of another wrath effect.

Against Aggro, our goal is to keep ourselves afloat by trading 1-for-1 with spot removal and counterspells, while we work towards casting our wraths and deploying our late game haymakers. Use your lifetotal as a resource, but be careful! Remember that there’s plenty of hasty creatures out there, so don’t take unnecessary risks.

Sacrifice (Mono Black, Orzhov, Rakdos)

OUTIN
-3 Infernal Grasp+3 Duress
-2 Fading Hope+2 Go Blank
-1 Hagra Mauling+1 The Meathook Massacre

Spot removal is suboptimal, as Deadly Dispute and other tools drafted from Cursebound Witch’s spell book can blank it, and the threat presented by the single creatures is generally minimal.

The most dangerous cards (Sanguine Brushstroke and The Meathook Massacre) can be discarded via Duress, and Go Blank helps us generate card advantage while also nuking their graveyard.

The Meathook Massacre can easily clear the board, as well as negate a lot of the damage dealt by their own Meathooks and Blood Artists.

Shadows' Verdict is the best card in the matchup, as exiling creatures prevents all of the on-death triggers caused by Meathook, Blood Artist, Eyetwitch, Cursebound Witch and more.

Dragons (Mono Red, Rakdos)

OUTIN
-3 Shadows' Verdict+2 Disdainful Stroke
-2 Power Word Kill+1 The Meathook Massacre
+2 Go Blank

Shadows’ Verdict”] and Power Word Kill become blank cardboard in the face of 4 mana dragons. They get replaced by counterspells, more removal and discard.

Try to kill or counter any early game Fearsome Whelp, but don’t waste too many resources on them. The big threats come down from turn 3 onwards, so while taking out the enablers is important, taking care of the payoffs is much more relevant.

Control (Azorius, Izzet, Jeskai, Dimir)

OUTIN
-3 Shadows' Verdict+3 Duress
-3 Infernal Grasp+2 Disdainful Stroke
-2 Fading Hope+2 Go Blank
-1 Lier, Disciple of the Drowned+2 Malevolent Hermit

We take out most of our removal in favor of counterspells and discard. We also shave off a single Lier, as it can often be a very clunky card in these matchups.

Make land drops and BE PATIENT. Don’t rush your plays, don’t run into Jwari Disruptions and make your cards count. We’re unfavored in game 1 due to our configuration, but sideboard counterspells and discard can turn the matchup in our favor.

Midrange (Orzhov, Rakdos, Jund)

OUTIN
-3 Shadows' Verdict+2 Disdainful Stroke
-2 Fading Hope+1 The Meathook Massacre
+2 Go Blank

This section in particular is more subject to personal preference and should be taken with a grain of salt.

If we run into a midrange deck packed with 3-drops (Reckless Stormseeker and Graveyard Trespasser), we may want to keep our Shadows' Verdict in favor of Disdainful Stroke. In the same vein, if we run into a build with several noncreature spells, we will want to bring in Duress in the place of some removal.

Overall, midrange decks play high-quality cards in exchange for a slower gameplan. This plays right into our strengths, as managing a few big threats is often easier than several small ones.

Make your counterspells count and keep your removal for the relevant creatures.

Due to generally pretty expensive spells, Hullbreaker Horror can easily take over the game and bounce their board every turn, since they often won’t be able to deploy multiple threats at the same time. Keep your instants at the ready, if possible.


TIPS AND TRICKS

Valki, God of Lies Art by Yongjae Choi
Valki, God of Lies Art by Yongjae Choi
  • You can transform Valki at instant speed, which can often act as a combat trick when attacking or blocking.
  • When exiling a two-faced creature (e.g. Tovolar, Dire Overlord or Henrika Domnathi), Valki will only be able to transform itself into the front of the card. Even if it meets the requirements to flip, it won’t.
  • With Lier on the battlefield and Memory Deluge in your graveyard, you can choose whether you want to cast it for 4 (thanks to Lier) or for 7 (thanks to flashback).
  • Don’t rush your Hullbreaker Horror! Before casting it, try to hold up any of your instants to make full use of its triggered ability.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Overall, the deck has felt very solid, and with a 14-5 record it has propelled me straight into high Mythic. The configuration of the deck is being dictated by a creature-heavy meta, where interaction becomes mandatory in the very first turns. If things were to change, so would the deck, but its spot in the meta seems pretty solid in these very early days.

How would you improve the deck? Which one of the new Alchemy cards has impressed you the most?

Let us know in the comments below!

See you on the ladder.

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Reto

Red mage since the early 2000's, Reto loves aggro and midrange, with the occasional sprinkle of combo here and there. After taking a long break from competitive, Arena has reignited his spark as he tries to find the next big thing in Historic. For suggestions or just a quick chat, feel free to reach him on Twitter.

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