Dimir 8 Shark Control Deck Guide: Have No Fear, the Omnath Killer is Here!
Our Standard Dimir Control deck guide features the best deck list for MTG Arena. You can find some general strategy advice and a breakdown of the deck’s key cards and sideboard.
Hello again everyone! So I just wrote the meta snapshot article thinking that the metagame was going to be relatively stable at least until the Standard Metagame Challenge this weekend. However, I was bamboozled by the craftiest player I know… Me.
Late last night, I was thinking about how Sultai Control had a good Omnath matchup utilizing interaction and a strong clock, but the mana was inconsistent. Then I thought back to when I tried Dimir Flash with Slitherwisp, which should have a good matchup against clunky decks, but the power level was too low. At 1 AM, it hit me. I needed to combine the best elements of both decks to create an Omnath killing machine. In that mission, I was more than successful boasting a 12-3 record on stream, notably 7-0 against Four-Color Omnath and 4-1 against traditional Sultai – which propelled me from rank 330 to 21. I had a feeling that the deck would be good against Omnath, but that was definitely better than I was expecting. Let’s take a look at the list and I’ll evaluate each card choice on the curve.
Table of Contents
Dimir “8 Shark” Control by Robert Lee – #23 Mythic – Zendikar Rising Standard
4 Essence Scatter: Standard is currently infested with extremely heavy hitting creatures like Omnath, Uro, Terror of the Peaks, Elder Gargaroth, etc. and cleanly answering them for 2 mana is extremely nice. There aren’t many times in Standard where I’d be willing to have so many Essence Scatters main, but strong non-creature spells are currently at an all time low making the opportunity cost of playing 4 very marginal.
4 Frantic Inventory: In a sense, this is part of the glue that holds the deck together. Trying to go 1 for 1 against Omnath and Uro will leave you on the losing side of that exchange, so having cards that can replace themselves and more is very important. The first copy of this card is very unexciting, but every additional copy ranges from good to absolutely insane. Don’t leave home without these.
2 Jwari Disruption: Oh Censor, how far you’ve fallen. Definitely not the most exciting card, but a tapland that can sometimes snag a spell? Definitely good enough for me. On that note, I think I’ve figured out how to evaluate these land DFCs (Dual Faced cards). My current heuristic is that 2 Land DFCs equal about one land. How did I reach that conclusion? In most of my matches where I drew 2 flip cards, generally I got to cast one and play the other as a land. Not the most empirical of decisions, but it’s been working for me. I wanted about 26 lands in my list so with these, 2 Hagra Mauling, and 24 lands, I have that requisite 26 lands I was after.
4 Heartless Act: No creatures are allowed to live when you’re playing this deck. Letting an Uro or Omnath resolve isn’t fun since they replace themselves, but answering them for 2 mana is still a nice exchange. Also, these are extremely important if you’re facing aggressive decks where they can sneak creatures in under your counterspells. 4 could be too many dependent on the meta, but I really like them right now.
2 Thassa’s Intervention: Modal cards are great in Control decks and this is no exception. Whether it’s a Quench, Cancel, Divination, or Dig Through Time, Thassa’s Intervention is nice at most points on the curve. The biggest issue with it is Mystical Dispute, but most decks don’t run copies of it main which makes this a better game 1 card. Definitely not sold on them yet, but they’ve been helpful so far.
2 Mystical Dispute: If you need any justification on why I run 2 main, I faced 8 blue decks today alone. There’s a very real chance that I should just play all 4 main (perhaps over the Interventions), until Uro is gone from Standard (which is 99% what I believe will happen on Monday). The card is incredible early and is nice for double or triple spell turns in the late game as well.
4 Neutralize: Not the best Cancel variant ever but we have to work with what we have. It’s nice that the card has cycling, although I functionally never use the cycling ability on it. You need to have your hard counters as well in this meta since, despite mostly playing creatures, 4C Omnath has backbreaking non-creature spells such as Genesis Ultimatum, Escape to the Wilds, and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.
4 Ashiok’s Erasure: The real sauce in the deck. Erasure has been insane for me for 2 reasons: it’s the best answer to Uro in Standard and most decks are all 4 ofs and lands. I’m not excited to have to play a 4 mana counterspell, but eating a terrifying spell for the rest of the game is so reassuring considering most games go quite long.
2 Hagra Mauling: Similar to Jwari Disruption, having taplands that can sometimes be a spell is quite nice. 4 mana Murder kind of sucks, but when attached to a land it becomes passable. Not the most exciting card, but the utility is nice.
4 Voracious Greatshark: Numbers 1-4 of the Shark Squad. As I mentioned with Essence Scatter, creatures are at an all time high in Standard, and shark eats them for lunch. Frilled Mystic this is not, but monocolored and a way better body makes Voracious Greatshark a sick option right now. You haven’t lived until your opponent is hellbent, they topdeck the Omnath, thinking it’ll get them back into the game, and you slam a Shark in their face. It’s what dreams are made of.
4 Shark Typhoon: The latter half of the Shark Squad. As I said in my Standard Tier list, Shark Typhoon is one of the best cards in Standard and certainly the best monoblue card available to you. 99% of the time you’re cycling it to get a creature to either block an early creature or a big boi to close the game out. However, you can cast the enchantment part if you find yourself with a wealth of lands and spells; it doesn’t happen often, but it has come up.
2 Castle Vantress: Started at 1, went up to 2, may want 3. Castle is so good in a top deck war as it can help find you relevant spells int he late game. The only reason I don’t naturally play 3-4 is I only have 7 Islands (9 if you include Fabled Passage) which is not a lot if I want them to be untapped most of the time. I miss Shocklands to make this easier but I think Standard is better with not as efficient mana.
4 Clearwater Pathway: Blue land is you control any black sources, black source if you don’t. But even when I don’t have a black source, I sometimes just make it a blue land, we are almost Monoblue after all.
4 Temple of Deceit: More fixing! Scrying! Medium! What more can you ask for!?
2 Fabled Passage: More fixing! Scrying! Wait. No. No scrying. Fixing!
2 Crawling Barrens: Whoever designed this card, I simultaneously love and hate you, but mostly love. This is one of the best man lands Control has ever gotten in my opinion. It’s definitely overshadowed by Celestial Colonnade and Creeping Tar Pit, but this comes into play untapped and can grow to colossal sizes. Furthermore, the only played removal spell that hits it cleanly is Hagra Mauling. Natural evasion on this would be nice, but you also play 8 Essence Scatter effects and 4 Heartless Act, keeping blockers off the board shouldn’t be too much trouble. As a note, you can activate this multiple times in the same turn to get additional counters which is extremely relevant in the late game.
7 Island, 3 Swamp: You’re mostly monoblue splashing black, and basics are nice. Not much explanation needed.
2 Bloodchief’s Thirst: Despite all our creature interaction, all those spells cost 2 mana, so 1 mana creatures could give us an issue. With 2 Bloodchief’s Thirst, keeping up with your opponent’s cheap threats shouldn’t be a problem.
3 Negate: Since we have an overabundance of creature counterspells, counterbalancing it (get it?) with Negate in the board can help in case you’re facing a predominately non-creature deck, not that many of those even exist right now. Furthermore, if your Omnath opponent has Felidar Retreat (which I don’t necessarily recommend per my Meta Snapshot, read that here if you want to learn more), Negate becomes way better against them as well.
4 Eliminate: For those pesky all creature aggressive decks, you just have to kill all their creatures until they lose or reconsider their life choices. Either way is a win if you’re a Control player.
2 Brazen Borrower: Only for use against other Shark Typhoon decks (which there aren’t many.) It’s not a perfect answer, but it’s the best we have besides Sublime Epiphany, but Sublime Epiphany is very underwhelming if you’re not cloning a creature on your side, which is why it isn’t included instead. Plus it’s a 2 mana answer versus a 6 mana one.
2 Mystical Dispute: Bring them in against the blue decks aka almost the entire meta. Use them early and often as they can get scaled out in the late game easily.
2 Blacklance Paragon: A Swift Response that gains you 3 life. In a deck with no ways to gain life the gain 3 could be super critical at the right moment. Furthermore, this is the cheapest and best answer to Garruk’s Harbinger you can get.
Notable Potential Inclusions
I have confidence in my deckbuilding, but it’s very hard to craft the perfect list. Plus with shifting metagames and different metas dependent on where you are on the ladder, you may need different cards to get the job done. Before I dive into what you could add, let me reiterate what this deck is trying to accomplish. You want to interact with your opponent to keep them off balance until you can finish them with a large threat (bonus points if it’s a flash threat). If a card in your deck isn’t doing that, it better be drawing you additional cards.
Mazemind Tome: This innocuous artifact is an extremely powerful late game card draw engine, but pretty slow and really only viable in slow mirrors and in the late game. If Control Mirrors become more popular, which was less likely a few days ago than it is now, this could definitely find it’s way into the Sideboard. I don’t think we want to be playing it in the Main unless the meta shifts significantly as the odds of it being dead in faster matchups is a bit too scary a proposition for me. However, this does provide 4 total cards at it’s absolute best at a low cost of only 2 mana per turn. Definitely don’t sleep on this card.
Jace, Mirror Mage: Unlike Gabriel Nassif’s version of Dimir Control, I opted out of running Jace. The Omnath deck simply has too many must-answer threats and tapping out can be a death sentence. However, Jace is still a powerful card and with the right meta shifts, can see his way into the deck.
Midnight Clock: Don’t laugh. Midnight Clock was actually putting in work in Rivals member Chris Botehlo’s Sultai deck, and I can see why. With a deck trying to answer everything one for one, you can eventually run out of steam. However, Midnight Clock is not just a ramper, but also functionally wins you the game once the clock strikes midnight. Going from a few cards in hand to 7-8 is likely too back breaking for any deck to come back from. I’m not sure what I’d replace to make room for this, but this is a surprisingly enticing option that could be a good inclusion at some point.
Nadir Kraken: The power level on this card is likely too low and it isn’t a flash threat, but this can make you a large board out of nowhere. It’s like a worse Legion Warboss, but in the control mirrors, this could potentially be devastating.
Sea-Dasher Octopus: A flash threat that draws you cards? Now that’s tasty. 4C Omnath has a penchant for keeping Bonecrusher in against me which makes the Octopus sad but the age old strategy of adding creatures in your control sideboard could still very well be a powerful option in the right meta.
Silundi Vision: Probably the card I got the most questions on; it’s a decent card that’s also a land, what’s not to like? Well, what are you trying to get off your Silundi Vision? A counterspell 9 times out of 10, right? Why not just play more counterspells then? I think the card has promise but I’m not a huge fan of durdle effects such as this one. Certainly could see play in the deck and I wouldn’t think worse of you for it.
Whirlwind Denial: If Clover becomes popular, you should probably not play this deck, but if you’re stubborn, play some Whirlwind Denial; it’s the cleanest answer to Adventure cards with Clover out you can realistically get.
Into the Story: If Uro didn’t make this card unplayable, one of copy could sneak it’s way into the deck.
Gadwick, the Wizened: Big Chadwick himself. I started with one copy but the endless parade of Mystical Dispute scared me off. I really think you want your expensive cards to have Flash, but the prospect of refilling your hand after exhausting your resources is super enticing. Would be shocked if he didn’t make his way back in.
Duress: Insanely good board card. If there’s a lot of non-creature decks or the mirror becomes relevant, go nuts.
Easy Prey: Better if small creature decks become more popular, benched until then.
Elspeth’s Nightmare: I love this card but I just can’t find the space to put it into my deck. Just keep an eye on it, the power level is there, just not the deck that makes this card worth playing.
Pharika’s Libation: This deck really struggles against Felidar Retreat so if that ever becomes too popular, you can use this in case they sneak it in under a Negate.
Massacre Wurm: Would need a specific meta full of Scute Swarm to make this work but boy does this card SLAP.
Erebos’s Intervention: Decent answer to Uro and a way to gain life (something this deck sorely lacks). Wouldn’t be surprised if one copy makes it somewhere into the deck.
Drown in the Loch: Once (not if) Uro is gone, extremely solid 1-2 of. In the late game it’s Counterspell and Terminate. Can’t ask for more.
Zareth San, the Trickster: Why you gotta do Zareth dirty, Uro? This card can be a beast if you counter a strong permanent and then take it for yourself. Not as good as Fallen Shinobi, but having Flash and the fact it can even be compared to Fallen Shinobi is huge for the playability of the card. This can be a great one of threat to help close the game out when you’ve used up a lot of your interaction. However, the second an Uro player sees this, they can exile all their juicy targets. Soon, Zareth. Soon.
Lochmere Serpent: DON’T LAUGH. This Limited All Star was insanely close to being a 1 of in the deck. It’s a Flash threat, can draw additional cards, can be unblockable, blocks Uro well, and if they counter it, you can easily recur it and potentially eat Uro as well. This card could be the truth and a braver soul than me should find out.
Extinction Event: I originally excluded this since I don’t want to tap out generally and there weren’t enough creature decks to make this worthwhile, but if creatures get an uptick, this could get the nod over some Eliminates. Again, I don’t like tapping out with this style of deck but this is still a powerful effect.
These are the cards that you may be curious about why I’m not playing them or cards I considered but wasn’t convinced by.
Opt: I hate durdly spells and this doesn’t do anything better than Frantic Inventory does most of the time.
So Tiny: A 1 mana answer to small creatures can be nice at instant speed, but Bloodchief’s Thirst is likely just better for now.
Confounding Conundrum: Stopping Ramp isn’t particularly important, or even that effective in my experience. It certainly can be nice, but I rather have more counterspells.
Omen of the Sea: Better than the first copy of Frantic Inventory, worse than any additional copy.
Sea Gate Restoration: I caught a lot of flack for cutting Sea Gate Restoration from my deck with viewers citing it has functionally no opportunity cost. I respectfully disagree on that notion. In a deck with no life gain, paying 3 life can be the difference between life and death. In multiple games against 4C Omnath, despite them not being particularly good at getting in chip damage, I’ve gone anywhere from 1-4 life from random beaters like Lotus Cobra and Bonecrusher Giant. If you ever find the chance to cast this for 7 mana and have it be relevant (drawing more than 2-3 cards) then that’s great, I just don’t think it’s coming up often enough. Also, I know it can be a tapland as well, but in your counterspell deck you really want as few taplands as you can manage.
Cling to Dust: Another spicy piece of technology from Gabriel Nassif’s version, this card is great against Uro, nice if you need a smidgen of life, and not bad if you have literally nothing else to do with your mana. I found the card was too low power for my taste and honestly, once Uro is gone, there will be very little reason to run this. Furthermore, I can’t imagine ever exiling Frantic Inventory from my yard making Escaping Cling even more difficult.
Murderous Rider: Similar to Sea Gate Restoration, that 2 life isn’t free, and I don’t believe the 2/3 body is relevant enough. Furthermore, the only double black spell in my deck is also a black land, so casting this could actually be tricky.
Eat to Extinction: Better Hagra Mauling and a nice answer to Uro, but it’s also not a land. I’ll pass.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
I’m not the biggest fan of definitive sideboard guides as they can placate your ability for on the fly decision making, but knowing how I approach each matchup is obviously extremely helpful.
Four-Color Omnath (Felidar Retreat)
|+3 Negate||-1 Hagra Mauling|
|+2 Mystical Dispute||-2 Heartless Act|
|-1 Jwari Disruption|
|-1 Thassa’s Intervention|
You need to keep Felidar Retreat off the board and I’ve scooped games when my opponents resolved it on turn 3-4. If it’s played way later in the game though, it’s not particularly threatening. Counter all their stuff and kill them.
Four-Color Omnath (Terror of the Peaks)
|+2 Negate||-1 Heartless Act|
|+2 Mystical Dispute||-2 Jwari Disruption|
|-1 Thassa’s Intervention|
Having more removal here is important as Terror of the Peaks can be a scary threat as well. Also in general, I don’t want to go below 24 lands and 2 DFC land cards, but you can shave a Mauling if you want to keep in a Disruption, especially on the play where Disruption is more enticing.
|+2 Brazen Borrower||-2 Essence Scatter|
|+2 Mystical Dispute||-1 Hagra Mauling|
|-1 Heartless Act|
A great game one matchup since most of their deck is removal and we don’t supply them with great targets for that removal. Aim to make a bigger shark than them and don’t let Uro hit the board. It gets more dicey in the post board but Crawling Barrens is a huge MVP here as their only answer to it is Hagra Mauling.
|+4 Eliminate||-3 Essence Scatter|
|+3 Negate||-2 Hagra Mauling|
|-2 Mystical Dispute|
This matchup is a huge problem as Lucky Clover is just so hard to outvalue over any period of time. Furthermore, Edgewall Innkeeper can be a huge problem as well, so we go up on spot removal as we need an excess of ways to kill him when he gets under the counterspells. Bloodchief’s Thirst is a nice answer to him, but Eliminate kills almost every creature in the deck for 2 mana instead of Thirst killing Edgewall Innkeeper and Fae of Wishes for 1, and everything else for 4.
|+4 Eliminate||-4 Ashiok’s Erasure|
|+2 Bloodchief’s Thirst||-2 Mystical Dispute|
|+2 Blacklance Paragon||-2 Thassa’s Intervention|
You need to lean down on the expensive spells and bulk up on kill spells. I have yet to face any of these matchups, but with 4 Essence Scatter, 12 removal spells, and 4 Voracious Greatshark, I feel like they shouldn’t be that hard to beat, barring an amazing draw from the opponent or you stumbling. If they’re Rogues for example, you can keep in the Mystical Dispute and board out Jwari Disruption as they have a wealth of cheap plays, and if for whatever reason you need additional cuts, you can cut the 4 Frantic Inventory in a pinch.
Mirror and Control Decks
|+3 Negate||-4 Essence Scatter|
|+3 Brazen Borrower||-2 Heartless Act|
|+2 Mystical Dispute||-1 Voracious Greatshark|
Without knowing the specifics of each deck, this would be my general board plan. You need to keep some removal for opposing Shark Typhoons. Be patient with your interaction, hit your land drops, and try to force your opponent to do things first. Control mirrors are generally won by whoever acts second.
General Tips and Guidelines
- Using your Frantic Inventory is generally more important than investing in Crawling Barrens, but less important than using Thassa’s Intervention or Castles Vantress.
- Try to use your hard counterspells last, this may seem obvious but even in the sake of mana efficiency or double spelling, control lives and dies by having the right piece of interaction at the right time.
- I mentioned it before, but Crawling Barrens can be activated and buffed multiple times a turn.
- Use your Mystical Dispute early and often, they get scaled out easily in the late game.
- Try to Ashiok’s Erasure cards you’re confident are 4 ofs in your opponents deck, especially Uro.
- Thassa’s Intervention is more often a draw spell than a counterspell.
- In the early game, developing lands is more important than having an excess of spells. Try to play your land DFCs early if you need to.
- Try not to Shark Typhoon for less than a 2/2 Shark if you can help it, but if you’re missing lands, doing it for 1, or even 0 is fine. The games you are most likely to lose are the ones you are missing lands
- Be very careful with sequencing your untapped and tap lands. Having the right mana open is critical and you have to be very conscious on what your opponent could do on their next turn. Don’t be like me and play a tapland turn 2 with Jwari Disruption in hand and my opponent casts a turn 3 Felidar Retreat. Never hit the Concede Button faster.
- Voracious Greatshark can sometimes be a 5 mana 5/4 flash. It’s a legal play, I swear.
- Sometimes letting your opponent resolve an Uro/Omnath and then killing it with Heartless Act is better than Essence Scattering it. It doesn’t happen often but it’s something to keep in mind. This is generally the case with Uro and you want to deploy your Voracious Greatshark soon.
Now that about wraps up everything I could reasonably say about the deck and you can also see me playing the deck at DoggertQBones on Twitch. Good luck and have fun farming Uro decks!
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