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As I’ve already done with my other deck techs, I’m trying to discover the gems of previous Standard formats. In this one, I want to revisit the deck I’d mostly enjoyed before I stopped playing Standard – Dimir Rogues. I immensely enjoyed the versatility of the deck between the flash interactive game, aggressive tempo plays, and actually milling the opponent out. With all the pieces available, it was up to me to see whether I can make it viable in Explorer.
The biggest challenge was the fact that this deck has to play without Lurrus of the Dream-Den in Explorer, contrary to the Standard and current Historic version. While it’s not the end of the world, the lack of such a must-answer threat always available was felt. However, I believe it’s compensated by the presence of three mana-intensive creature lands which can get you across the finish line late.
This is my current list:
First, let us go over the Rogues theme of the deck. Basically, we get rewarded for a certain number of cards in the opponent’s graveyard which is paired with us milling them in order to get these rewards. The best milling machine in the deck is Ruin Crab which mills 3 cards a turn or even 6 with the use of Fabled Passage. Multiple Crabs scale extremely well too which is a bonus. In addition, it blocks small creatures very effectively which buys us a ton of time against aggressive strategies. Lastly, it’s a must-answer threat against control as the games go long enough that decking is absolutely a real threat.
For our premiere Rogues, we have Thieves' Guild Enforcer and Soaring Thought-Thief as flash threats which get stronger when the opponent has 8 or more cards in the graveyard. What’s so good about them is that they are self-contained engines that improve with mill and they help you mill. As the Enforcer gets a buff and the Thief is a lord, multiples of either can quickly make a formidable board. It also means that you’re perfectly able to end step flash in 4 to 8 damage, much to the opponent’s surprise.
Unfortunately not all of our Rogues are amazing. Merfolk Windrobber is by far the weakest creature in the deck, but it has its uses. First, it helps triggers the Enforcer and Thought-Thief which is not trivial as its on-hit trigger helps us get those last few cards in the graveyard to meet the key threshold of 8. Lastly, if top decked, it can be cashed in for a fresh new card. On a board of e.g. two Windrobbers and a single Soaring Thought-Thief, we’re basically mass-removal-proof as two of your three threats can be sacrificed for a fresh card.
As far as any innovation is concerned, I’d say my biggest contribution is Okiba Reckoner Raid. I realised that the deck functions best when it’s adopting a Legacy-like gameplan, and Okiba makes our one-drop threat count as high as 16. On top of that, it provides us with a bit of reach against opponents who think they’ve stabilised. Last but not least, against aggressive decks the Okiba lifegain, combined with a nigh-painless manabase and Ruin Crab blocking, gives us quite an edge. I’m also considering Kaito Shizuki, but haven’t pulled the trigger on that. In such a low-to-the-ground deck, every three-drop affects the curve significantly.
On top of that, the deck plays the most efficient and flexible interaction available in Explorer. I play 4 Thoughtseize and 2 Fatal Push, but I could see playing full four Pushes. On top of that, Drown in the Loch is extremely versatile and can affect the board or the stack. Brazen Borrower plays double duty as a temporary removal spell and an additional flash threat which is exactly what the deck wants. In some metagames, I’d gladly also add some Spell Pierce to the main deck.
While the deck mainly trades one for one and, in most cases, gain tempo with it’s spells, it might run out of cards in face of popular interaction pieces such as Bonecrusher Giant. To avoid that, we play a full play set of Into the Story which just buries the opponent in card advantage.
The deck will most often smoothly transition from being a beat-down deck, to an interactive control to, to a mill deck. In this game I managed to control the board and enact both the mill plan and the aggressive plan. What’s key is that my creatures have evasion and, therefore, are able to push through damage.
Here you can see a Delver-esque game where I apply pressure with creatures, whilst interacting with the opponent.
Here, a flurry of one drops dominates the game as the opponent is on a slow grindy plan. Later in that game, they were forced to chump with future Risen Reefs as my chip damage had done enough harm and their life total was in danger. Should they play a few spot removal spells, I can always refill with Into the Story.
All in all, arguably the most difficult part of piloting the deck is assessing the role – trading off creatures in blocks or racing, countering a removal spell or holding it up for their threat. There is a lot of delicate decisions to make here.
From my experience, the biggest shortcoming of the deck is its mana base. While merging it with Pioneer won’t make it any better, we can hope for a Darkslick Shores reprint in a Standard legal set. When that happens, the deck will get a serious boost in consistency.
We have to get through a wall of removal and discard which is not impossible. Into the Story is key as a refill mechanic as they will get some two for ones with cards like Bonecrusher Giant and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker which will out-grind us long term.
Post board I side in Weathered Runestone as we’re really afraid of Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger that we actually help mill into the graveyard. You’ll find yourself playing a very attrition-based game where every attack and every card is crucial. Creature lands will come in handy as I usually find myself winning when I can get cheap damage in with the fliers.
This is a good matchup. We can navigate the game our own way thanks to countermagic, flash threats, and efficient spells in general. Ruin Crab will be a must-answer long term. Make sure to put them in a spot where they have to tap out so that you can resolve an Into the Story.
Mono Red Aggro
In this matchup we will try to assume a control role. We side in a plethora of removal spells and cut Thoughtseize due to it dealing 2 damage to us while Merfolk Windrobber is otherwise the least impactful card in the deck.
Don’t walk into Goblin Chainwhirler! Last, but not least, don’t keep clunky hands. Make sure to have one or two one-drops in hand otherwise, you’ll die with spells in hand.
Mono Blue Spirits
We’re again playing as the control role. Using Soaring Thought-Thief as an Ambush Viper is going to be very useful considering how small all their creatures are. The best spot would be to entice them to overextend and land our Languish.
I trim an Into the Story as they’re heavy on countermagic and we don’t want to get blown out by cheap permission.
Game one might be tough due to us helping them put key cards into the graveyard. Triple Runestone from the sideboard should be good enough though. If you don’t keep a hand with one, however, make sure you’ve got interaction such as Drown in the Loch, Thoughtseize or a Fatal Push to not let them combo early.
The best draw would include pressure on the first two turns such as Thieves’ Guild Enforcer into Soaring Thought-Thief and then hold up interaction.
Tips and Tricks
- With multiple Thieves' Guild Enforcers each Rogue triggers for each Enforcer.
- Remember that Into the Story requires 7 cards, not the usual 8.
- You can block with an active Merfolk Windrobber and sacrifice to draw a card, fogging damage in the process.
- Keep your Fabled Passage uncracked later in the game in case you top deck Ruin Crab.
- When you crack your Fabled Passage with Ruin Crab on the battlefield, the opponent can respond with a removal spell and you won’t get the second trigger. Make sure to time it properly e.g. wait with the crack until their upkeep.
- Your milling effects mess up opposing Scry.
- Remember that Drown in the Loch checks the number of cards upon resolution. If the opponent exiles their own graveyard in response, it won’t do anything unless you’re killing a token or countering a 0 cost spell.
- Precombat you can play Soaring Thought-Thief so that the other attacking creatures trigger the mill.
- Always count the number of cards in the opposing graveyard. If, for example, a Soaring Thought-Thief trigger makes it 8, the creatures will get the buff pre-blocks. Likewise, if the number is 7, you can kill an opposing threat to make it 8 and, therefore, get the buff mid-combat.
- Once Into the Story is on the stack, the opponent cannot make their graveyard smaller and make you pay 3 more.
- Both Brazen Borrower and flipped Okiba Reckoner Raid are Rogues.
- In response to Okiba’s flip, you can play Thieves’ Guild Enforcer so that the flip causes the Enforcer to trigger. You’ll need to set a stop to make this possible though as Arena will skip right through the trigger otherwise
- Okiba’s flip triggers Revolt and as does Fabled Passage.
- When choosing graveyard hate cards, try not to play the ones which exile opposing graveyard. That would defeat the purpose of getting the 8 cards. I personally go for Weathered Runestone.