Whenever a new set comes out, most people scroll through the rares and mythics to find interesting build-arounds. DMU had Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Liliana of the Veil, which were not so much a build-around, but rather an intrinsically solid threats for a lot of decks. This is where the story could have ended, but there is one common that caught the eyes of spell-slinging mages – Tolarian Terror. It’s a Death's Shadow-esque card in that it’s a massive threat which can be cheaply deployed in the later stages of the game.
One could ask what the advantage of such a shell is compared to full-on Dimir control, maybe Dimir Delver of Secrets or other colours entirely like Izzet. As far as I’m concerned, this shell strikes the perfect balance between being very interactive like control, and being able to actually close out the games like a tempo deck. The early game is focused on creature removal or discard in order to impede the opponent, and when the coast is relatively clear, drop a massive threat. If, however, the opponent does not put put a strong fight early, we can take full advantage of it by abusing our draw engine – See the Truth. Control decks can’t reliable pull ahead on turn two or three, but this deck can. Tempo decks can rarely outdraw grindy decks, but this can. Both of those qualities make this deck one of the most fun, interesting, and gameplay-complex decks I’ve played in Explorer.
On top of that, I believe playing Black is superior to Red for a few reasons. The first is that black interaction is off the charts strong – Fatal Push and Thoughtseize are playable in formats like Historic, Legacy, and Modern. On top of that, the self-mill aspect works great with Flashback and Escape and there are really good and flexible cards in black that bolster this aspect of the deck.
Personally, with a pretty good sample I’ve got a stable 60-70% win rate. The deck has been treating me well.
With that out of the way, let’s delve deeper into the individual card choices.
As per usual, if you’ve read my articles you know I like dividing this section into subparts. Let’s start off with interaction and then we’ll cover threats and others.
While it’s easily at the top of all-time removal spells, it’s a tad less so in formats without fetchlands. Your deck has to be able to turn on revolt for this card to be truly powerful, and this deck does it reliably with the help of Fabled Passage (which you could play more copies of). Your creatures die often enough that it’s another way to turn it on. Most frequently though, it’ll be Founding the Third Path that makes revolt possible when it reaches the third chapter and gets sacrificed. Unconditional removal against any one or two-drop is already when I like the card the most, but there will be threes and fours you will have to be able to kill like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, or Righteous Valkyrie.
This is our fifth and sixth Fatal Push. I do like having more than a play set of one mana removal. Cut Down could also be an option in the slot, but I’ve liked the fact that it can kill anything when kicked, including planeswalkers. However, I could see metagames when Cut Down is going to be superior such as when low-to-the-ground aggro and creature decks run rampant e.g. mono red aggro or elves.
This version is certainly more control-skewed, much to my personal preference. Two pieces of *almost* unconditional removal comes in handy. The spell of choice for me has been Power Word Kill and I haven’t yet had a situation when I wouldn’t be able to kill a creature. It’s one of the slots that could easily be a different removal spell or a different effect completely such as Spell Pierce, Make Disappear, or Opt.
One more piece of turn one interaction, but this attacks from a different angle. Discard is a way to extend our diversity of interaction. Its especially strong against hyper-focused combo decks or strategies that rely on a subset of specific cards like Greasefang or Supreme Verdict out of control. While it’ll usually be sided out against decks that put pressure on us, it’s still excellent as a game one tool thanks to its flexibility.
The card already sees play everywhere, but in this deck its particularly strong. Not only is it an evasive threat, but its trigger contributes meaningfully to what the deck does. The most surface level interaction is that you can discard spells to make Tolarian Terror cheaper, all whilst growing Shredder. It’d already be pretty good, but there is a bit more nuance going on. First, it fits perfectly curve-wise. With so many one drops, we can easily play a turn three Shredder and follow it up with a spell. On top of that, we can connive away the dead interaction pieces as sometimes we might have the ‘wrong half problem’ – draw removal against non-creature decks, draw Thoughtseize against Burn, etc. Additionally, the fact that it has a lot of toughness allows us to survive longer and, most of the time, we are favoured when the game goes long thanks to our card advantage and powerful threats. Conniving away cards with Escape or Flashback is another perk. Last but not least, connive will trigger Sheoldred, the Apocalypse which is just icing on this already super sweet cake.
This new DMU addition is the best late-game threat as far as I am concerned. It dominates the board as it kills anything in combat thanks to deathtouch. Its five points of toughness make it stonewall the battlefield pretty well. The lifegain trigger stabilises games very easily, especially against Red decks which can no longer burn you out without engaging in combat. Finally, it works excellent in board stalls as the opponent will keep losing life every turn. The deck is good at creating and exploiting such stalls thanks to big toughness creatures. This slot could be dedicated to some other threats like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, or Kaito Shizuki. So far though, I’ve liked Sheoldred the most.
A huge draw to playing this deck. The deck would function without it; it’d just be an interactive Dimir deck. However, the fact that on turn four you can play a 5/5 with Ward and still have mana up to interact is a game-changer. I’ve had games where I played two of them on turn three thanks to self-mill from Founding the Third Path and some other spells sprinkled in. There will be games here and there when you pay half-retail price and cast it for 3-4 mana but that happens rarely enough that it has not been an issue. The fact that it has Ward really makes it awkward for the opponent to remove it efficiently. With the removal available in the format, I’d say that they have to pay at least 4 mana to get rid of it, all while you’ve paid 1-2 for it most of the time.
A DMU uncommon that I believe to have a ton of potential in Constructed. In this deck, all three modes are relevant.
- The first chapter allows you to immediately play an interactive spell or card selection like See the Truth (more on it below).
- The second chapter mills four cards and the vast majority of the time we will target ourselves. It fuels Tolarian Terror, sets up its own third chapter, and enables other graveyard synergies like escape.
- The third chapter allows us to flashback a spell. The choice of the spell will greatly depend on the current game. We might want discard, removal, or card selection to dig deeper.
I’d say that in this deck you start off with the second or third chapter more often than in other decks. There will be games where you’ll need the mill four to enable Tolarian Terror immediately; there will also be games when you want to fit it in the curve and turn three flashback a one mana interactive spell – this line is especially relevant against decks that put a lot of pressure on us and don’t give us infinite time to set up.
There is one key interaction that warrants this card’s inclusion. On the surface level, it’s a sorcery speed Anticipate which is below the threshold of playability. However, you can play it for free off of Chapter I when you play Founding the Third Path. The real payoff though is the last line of text.
- Step 1 – Founding the Third Path reaches the third chapter
- Step 2 – You choose to flashback See the Truth
- Step 3 – Thanks to the clause on See the Truth, you straight up draw three cards.
It refuels your hand and allows to come back from losing positions. In the late game, you can play Path on the third chapter immediately, flashback Truth and draw three. These two cards work beautifully together. Don’t get tunnel-visioned onto always flashing it back! There will be particular contextual spots where you’d rather interact with the board state immediately rather than spend two mana to draw more cards. Still – it’s a powerful interaction that this deck takes advantage of.
This deck differs a bit from the first iteration I’d played. Around ten games in, I realised that the deck does what it’s supposed to, but there might be one more angle to exploit. I see around half a deck every game and the only graveyard payoffs are Tolarian Terror and chapter three on Founding the Third Path – neither of which work when they themselves are in the graveyard. I decided to add a new dimension to the deck – cards that have an effect when they are in the grave. The final make-up is a single Crawl from the Cellar as a quasi-threat, double Cling to Dust as an Opt impersonation, and Woe Strider as an actual recastable threat. I’ve liked the idea itself a lot, although there might be a better composition of such effects.
You can connive them away with Ledger Shredder or incidentally have access to them thanks to the second chapter of Founding the Third Path milling you. What I particularly like about those cards is that they are perfectly fine to be cast from hand. Their graveyard utility is a nice cherry on top.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
I will address one of the most important aspects of the match-up immediately. Be super careful with deploying your Tolarian Terror in the light of a potential Liliana of the Veil played. You really don’t want to get edicted. As there are no burn spells or haste creatures, it’s super tough to get rid of Liliana.
On top of that, it’s going to be a super grindy game. If you expect a lot of midrange decks, you can play planeswalkers in the sideboard which are tougher to kill than just creatures such as Kaito Shizuki or Ashiok, Nightmare Muse.
It’s not to say that Tolarian Terror is not a good threat – it’s arguably the best, but you need to play it out well. You can deploy it when you know their hand post-Thoughtseize or when you have multiple creatures so you’re not worried about the Liliana minus.
|+1 Graveyard Trespasser||-4 Fatal Push|
|+3 Mystical Dispute||-2 Power Word Kill|
|+2 Go Blank||-2 Cling to Dust|
|+2 Disdainful Stroke|
I really like Disdainful Stroke here which counters Shark Typhoon, The Wandering Emperor, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Yorion, Sky Nomad, Memory Deluge, and Farewell. By definition, you will gain a lot of tempo thanks to it as you spend two mana to counter a spell that’s at least four mana in cost. Mystical Dispute counters like half the deck and, again, is very tempo-positive.
I side out the majority of removal as it’s going to be dead. My interaction is going to lean heavily on discard and post-board countermagic. I keep two Bloodchief's Thirst for random tokens or to get rid of planeswalkers.
|+2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet||-4 Thoughtseize|
|+2 Ray of Enfeeblement||-1 Crawl from the Cellar|
|+2 Extinction Event||-1 See the Truth|
We try to play Dimir Control here. Post board we have a ton of interaction. Our threats block exceptionally well, especially an early Tolarian Terror. Should it come to a board stall, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse will break the symmetry by both gaining us life and making them lose life. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a beefy lifelinker, but also turns all of our removal into additional blockers.
The key to this matchup is to minimise the number of creatures on their board as they scale very quickly – each Human can grow Thalia's Lieutenantor be grown by it. Don’t keep too two-mana-spell-heavy hands, especially on the draw, as you will get heavily punished by Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.
|+2 Ray of Enfeeblement||-1 Crawl from the Cellar|
|+1 Graveyard Trespasser||-2 Bloodchief's Thirst|
|+2 Go Blank||-2 See the Truth|
|+1 Unlicensed Hearse||-1 Founding the Third Path|
The whole game will revolve around Greasefang, but luckily, I think this matchup is pretty good. To kill Greasefang, we have plenty of options like Fatal Push, Power Word Kill, and Ray of Enfeeblement. On top of that, we side in four pieces of graveyard hate in addition to our main deck Cling to Dust. While cutting Bloodchief's Thirst might not look intuitive, its sorcery speed makes it too weak for me in the matchup.
The best draws will include an early Ledger Shredder and a wall of interaction whilst chipping away with the bird. They might be playing Liliana of the Veil, so carefully look through the cards they mill over. If they do play it, it’ll inform you not to slam Tolarian Terror in the face of it.
Mono Blue Spirits
|+2 Ray of Enfeeblement||-4 Thoughtseize|
|+3 Mystical Dispute||-2 Cling to Dust|
|+2 Extinction Event||-1 Crawl from the Cellar|
Similar to Humans, we’ll be trying to keep all the creatures off the board. Their strength, however, is not synergy or big creatures, but rather their interactivity. That’s why I like killing off the early creatures so they have to decide whether to deploy another medium threat or hold up interaction.
In addition to removal, Mystical Dispute is going to be excellent as it tags their whole deck. Generally, once your creature resolves, they won’t be able to get rid of it. Try setting up a later turn when you can multispell, potentially bait out a counterspell, and deploy Tolarian Terror – it will close the game in four combat steps.
The worst hands for you include expensive sorcery-speed cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, multiple Founding the Third Path and See the Truth, etc. They can easily exploit it by being able to both play creatures and countermagic for you expensive spells.
Tips and Tricks
- When escaping cards like Woe Strider or Cling to Dust, remember not to exile instants and sorceries for your future Tolarian Terrors.
- Woe Strider‘s sacrifice ability turns on revolt for Fatal Push.
- When conniving for Ledger Shredder, count whether it’s better to ditch a good spell, but be able to play Tolarian Terror soon as you’d make the cost lower.
- When conniving for Ledger Shredder, you might want to discard a spell that you’ll soon recast with Founding the Third Path like See the Truth.
- See the Truth does not technically *draw* so it does not trigger Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
- Remember that when you flashback a spell with Founding the Third Path, you’ll exile the spell and make Tolarian Terror more expensive. Sometimes, it might be better not to cast a spell at all.
- Founding the Third Path‘s first chapter casting a spell is a nice Ledger Shredder triggering package.
- Don’t play Tolarian Terror against Black decks when you have no other creatures, you may get hit by Liliana of the Veil.
- When your opponent tries to exile your card from the graveyard, you can Cling to Dust the same card in response. It’s particularly useful when the opponent would get an additional effect out of it such as Scavenging Ooze life gain or their own Cling to Dust.
- Sheoldred, the Apocalypse discounts Takenuma, Abandoned Mire and Otawara, Soaring City.
- If you play Bloodchief's Thirst off of Founding the Third Path, you can pay the kicker cost.
- Don’t forget that Power Word Kill is not unconditional. If you play against Angels, use it on their early non-angel creatures. Another notable omission includes Mayhem Devil played in Jund Sacrifice.