Iymrith, Desert Doom Art by Wisnu Tan

Standard Dimir Control Deck Guide

Dimir (Blue / Black) Control deck guide for the Standard format, fully updated for Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty Standard and the April 2022 ranked season.


Introduction

Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty never ceases to amaze me. I hope Streets of New Capenna makes everything continue to stay fresh just a Kamigawa does. It’s true that there’s 4 or 5 decks that are already established as tier 1 contenders; nevertheless, every single week more and more archetypes emerge and prove that almost every single archetype has an opportunity to shine and compete head to head against the best.

During the time Standard 2022 was a thing, three decks were the major contestants for the best new deck in the new Standard. Mono White, Mono Green, and Dimir Control were the central keystones in the first evolution of the rotated Standard. Nowadays Mono White keeps beating everyone thanks to cards like Luminarch Aspirant, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar. Mono Green is now a little behind in popularity, but if we look closer, once or twice every week some lists make 5-0 during the Standard Leagues on MTGO. It’s nothing to be surprised about. Esika's Chariot remains there, strong and unbanned.

What happened to Dimir? Well, it’s a curious situation. In a similar way to Mono Green, its popularity went down, but in this case it was because Dimir started evolving into Mono Black Control, a deck that soon after evolved into Orzhov Control/Midrange, but personally, the deck never stopped being good. Iymrith, desert Doom was compared to Dragonlord Ojutai during the AFR release. Soul Shatter is better than ever thanks to how good it is against cards like Goldspan Dragon, The Wandering Emperor, and many good cards like Kotose, the Silent Spider, Reckoner Bankbuster, and Kairi, the Swirling Sky that were printed as well.

In my last article I was wondering “Why is no one playing Esika's Chariot?” Today I’m asking myself, why aren’t we playing Dimir Control?

During the past week it looks like two players remembered how good Dimir can be and got strong results in the MTGO’s standard leagues:

Dimir Control by calinjam 5-0 Standard League
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 3
5 mythic
27 rare
15 uncommon
13 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (18)
4
Syncopate
$1.00
2
Negate
$0.50
2
Power Word Kill
$0.50
2
Soul Shatter
$1.98
2
Memory Deluge
$3.98
Sorceries (6)
Artifacts (4)
1
The Celestus
$1.99
60 Cards
$164.66
15 Cards
$7.59
Dimir Control by friedpetable 5-0 Standard League
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 3
7 mythic
25 rare
9 uncommon
19 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
3
Kaito Shizuki
$32.97
Instants (11)
3
Syncopate
$0.75
1
Negate
$0.25
2
Infernal Grasp
$1.58
1
Power Word Kill
$0.25
1
Siphon Insight
$0.25
1
Soul Shatter
$0.99
1
Memory Deluge
$1.99
Sorceries (8)
1
Invoke Despair
$0.49
Artifacts (5)
2
The Celestus
$3.98
Enchantments (2)
60 Cards
$298.28
15 Cards
$44.67

Both decks lists have their particularities, and curiously, even if both have roughly the same game plan, they tackle the early game with different approaches.

Calinjam, the designer of the first list, goes for three Valki, God of Lies, four Jwari Disruption, while friedpetable, the second player, goes for three Kaito Shizuki and one The Reality Chip. The differences in how both ideas work are notable. Even if both play almost the same removal and counter spells, having the chance of playing Valki during the second turn or passing with lands open while having Jwari in hand gives the possibility of being proactive or reactive depending on the situation.

On the other hand, playing reactively and trying to have a clear board to play Kaito is not a bad a idea. Especially when the card advantage that Kaito provides could win a game by itself. This planeswalker is good enough that he managed to sneak himself into the Orzhov lists. However, having played Orzhov and Esper in the past made me realize that Kaito shines when we have some early creatures.

There’s a notable difference in our game plan if we compare the deck that has to -2 Kaito to make a token the turn it comes into play versus a deck that can +1 the first turn he comes into play thanks to having a creature on the field that can attack. Don’t get me wrong, having a hard control core makes Kaito have the room it needs to start grinding our opponents out of the resources game. That said, slamming a planeswalker on turn 3, even if it protects itself just like Kaito does, is something that can be dangerous against some of the best aggro strategies most of the time.


Decklist

Having tested this archetype during my stream made me realize that Dimir works amazingly well against many of the best archetypes nowadays in the Standard metagame. Both lists are incredibly good and resilient but after some matches I started noticing some factors, just like the Kaito one, that made me start brainstorming about the archetype and lead me to my own variant of this deck:

Standard Dimir Control
by Bohe
Standard
Control
best of 3
8 mythic
26 rare
12 uncommon
14 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (2)
1
Mordenkainen
$2.99
Instants (18)
4
Syncopate
$1.00
2
Negate
$0.50
2
Infernal Grasp
$1.58
2
Soul Shatter
$1.98
2
Memory Deluge
$3.98
Sorceries (5)
Artifacts (4)
1
The Celestus
$1.99
Lands (24)
4
Island
$1.00
1
Mountain
$0.25
3
Swamp
$0.75
2
Field of Ruin
$0.50
4
Shipwreck Marsh
$13.96
60 Cards
$176.84
15 Cards
$19.07

After a long process of discernment, I ended with a best of both worlds list. Many of calinjam’s and friedpetable’s ideas and card choices are great, but with the tweaks I feel the archetype is better prepared in general terms for the Bo3 Standard environment.

Let’s talk about the most relevant differences and key reasoning behind my list. Valki, God of Lies is an awesome idea. Splashing red is not hard and having the opportunity to play this card in its planeswalker form during the late game means a victory most of the time. I’m always a fan of flexible cards, and in many games playing a turn two Valki could give us enough time to reach the later stages of the game without a problem. Cutting our opponent’s curve is good, but having exact info about our opponents hand is an invaluable advantage for control decks. I decided to play Valki just like calinjam did because of this.

One of the main reasons behind Desert Doom”] is its power and toughness. Being a 5/5 capable of blocking Goldspan Dragon, Legion Angel and Elite Spellbinder is priceless. If we add how difficult it is to interact with thanks to its ward ability, playing this dragon is a strong move that lets us transition from mid to later stages of the game in a firm way.

Kotose, the Silent Spider is a constant in both 5-0 lists. More and more decks are seen playing Kotose lately. Even a four Kotose UB list has been seen high in the Mythic ladder. It can give us incredible amount of value during the late game so playing just one seems like not enough. I want to draw Kotose more often, but not during the early game; that’s why I play two.

Regarding the planeswalkers, I already explained my point about Kaito Shizuki, that’s why I decided to cut it out of the list. On the other hand, keeping one copy of Lolth, Spider Queen just as friendpetable did seems very good based on how good all the abilities are no matter who we are playing against. I don’t add more copies of Lolth for two reasons. First, I decide to play Iymrith which covers our five drops. Second, I added one Mordenkainen instead. Anyone remember how good this planeswalker was during Standard 2022? It can create even bigger dog tokens than Hullbreaker Horror and it can also give us card advantage just like Lolth does.

The last creature I decide to play is a single copy of Kairi, the Swirling Sky. I think adding this dragon was an amazing idea from friedpetable. It’s really hard to remove just like Iymrith, it’s a 6/6 which is great for offense and defense, and its flexibility lets us clear the board against aggro or get two instants or sorceries from our graveyard if it does die.

The Reality Chip has seen a little play since its printing and the info it gives can help us, but I think it works best in other kinds of decks. Being a 0/4 for two mana is good against aggro, but not having many creatures to reconfigure on could hold this artifact back.

Hullbreaker Horror is now in our sideboard. This creature is amazing during the late game, but against many decks is something we don’t want to have until the latest turns of the game. Having many new ways of closing the game made me decide on this move, letting us bring this giant crab in during the games where it can shine the most.

Shadows' Verdict is another card that many have forgotte,n but is very good against Mono White, Boros, Naya Runes, and many other aggresive strategies. Friedpetable plays one and three Blood on the Snow and calinjam plays three. Having Valki, God of Lies makes our mana base something that could stumble if we decide to play snow-covered lands. Keeping three Shadows' Verdict is the right move.

We will go further regarding our decisions behind our instant and sorceries just as our sideboard plan in our Sideboard Guide section.


Potential Inclusions / Notable Exclusions

Junji, the Midnight Sky Art by Chase Stone
Junji, the Midnight Sky Art by Chase Stone
  • If we play Kairi, the Swirling Sky, playing Junji, the Midnight Sky could be logical. Nevertheless, this dragon is 5/5 instead of 6/6 and doesn’t have ward. Yes, it’s harder to block thanks to its menace ability, but we want creatures that are harder to kill.
  • Friedpetable plays one Invoke Despair. We talked a lot about how good that card is during our last article. A singleton could be good for tournament purposes, but this card works best in dedicated builds.
  • Siphon Insight is a card that made this archetype reemerge during AFR release. The first two lists play one or two between their main and their sideboard. It’s a good card in general terms and you can play it if you like it, but I prefer to play direct answers or threats.
  • The Meathook Massacre is very good in the right situation. In this deck playing just two or three copies doesn’t seem necessary thanks to our Shadows' Verdict. We also lack the potential of killing our opponents while our creatures die if we don’t have a go-wide type of deck.
  • One Port of Karfell is in friedpetable’s list. It could be good in certain cases, but in our deck I want to minimize tapped lands as much as possible.
  • Another good planeswalker for this archetype could be Sorin the Mirthless. Playing two in our main or sideboard could be good depending on our approach against the metagame.
  • There are cards like Concealing Courtain that help black based control decks survive the early game and have a strong transition to the mid game. Having four Syncopate and four Jwari Disruption makes me want to pass with my lands untapped almost every single turn during the early game. Also, we want three mana open for Soul Shatter against many archetypes. These are my reasons for not playing the card in my final list.
  • Power Word Kill gained a lot of popularity and it can be an amazing removal in the right situation. Having a dead card in certain situations makes me cut it, but you could play a pair between your maindeck or sideboard.

Sideboard Guide

Reckoner Bankbuster Art by Steve Prescott
Reckoner Bankbuster Art by Steve Prescott

Mono White / Boros Aggro

InOut
+3 Ray of Enfeeblement-3 Reckoner Bankbuster
+2 Crippling Fear-2 Negate

Ray of Enfeeblement is an obvious choice against these archetypes. Removing almost every single one of their potential threats for one black mana gives us a lot of advantage during the early card trades. On the other hand Crippling Fear is a card that many black based tribal decks (Tribal: A deck where almost all their creatures share a creature type) use to face other aggro strategies. Here, a -3/-3 should be enough for wiping the board for just four mana; a functional Wrath of God against this deck if you ask me (except for Adeline, Resplendent Cather).

Reckoner Bankbuster doesn’t have time to shine here, and even if Negate is good against The Wandering Emperor, we have many other ways of interact with her like Hero's Downfall, Soul Shatter and our other counters that target every type of card.

Azorius / Jeskai Control

InOut
+2 Disdainful Stroke-3 Shadows' Verdict
+2 Go Blank-2 Bloodchief's Thirst
+2 Test of Talents-4 Syncopate
+3 Graveyard Trespasser-1 Valki, God of Lies
+1 Hullbreaker Horror

Taking out Syncopate could seem like a bad idea, but we are just changing those for four other functional counters that work best in these matchups.

Go Blank seems logical, but Graveyard Trespasser is a card that I kept from calinjam’s list. It’s amazing how this creature can pressure our opponents by cutting their resources at the same time thanks to its ward ability. Also, it stops any kind of Lier, Disciple of the Drowned shenanigans.

One Valki goes out because they don’t play many creatures, but stealing one during the mid game or playing Tibalt during the late is still relevant, reason behind why we keep a pair of this creature.

Naya Runes

InOut
+2 Go Blank-3 Reckoner Bankbuster
+2 Crippling Fear-1 Negate

Go Blank could seem weird here but we have two main reasons for sideboarding this card during this match. First, exchanging 2 for 1 against them is amazing and this is other way of doing it, but secondly and more importantly, their graveyard is more relevant than we think. I lost many times facing a Kami of Transience that came back from the graveyard also, Runeforge Champion can get relevant runes like Rune of Speed (that they tend to play just one or two copies of) from the graveyard.

Crippling Fear is better against go-wide decks instead of go-tall ones likes runes, nevertheless, being able to wipe their board on turn four while they are still building their creatures is extremely good and most of the time Generous Visitor, Jukai Naturalist, and many of their creatures are going to die if we find this card early enough.

Orzhov / Esper Midrange

InOut
+2 Test of Talents-4 Syncopate
+2 Go Blank

Playing Shadows' Verdict against these archetypes is better than it seems. It removes Eyetwitch, Shambling Ghast, Malevolent Hermit, Spirited Companion, or any other small creature. Regardless of if they play these cards or not, Verdict exiles Kaito Shizuki and any populated board generated by Wedding Announcement and/or The Restoration of Eiganjo.

Test of Talents is amazingly good and has many good targets like Invoke of Despair, a card that gained a lot of popularity later, Rite of Oblivion, or even Deadly Dispute.

Rakdos Anvil

InOut
+2 Go Blank-2 Soul Shatter
+3 Graveyard Trespasser-4 Syncopate
+2 Crippling Fear-1 Reckoner Bankbuster

Graveyard Trespasser is bigger than almost any of their creatures and making them discard a card when they try to kill it with Voltage Surge gives us the upper hand in the resources battle.

Go Blank is good because, just like our match against Naya, exchanging 2 for 1 whenever possible becomes extremely convenient. Soul Shatter is not that good against them because they put a lot of bodies on the board very quickly. If they bring Sorin the Mirthless, we still have many answers like Hero's Downfall or any of our counters.

Crippling Fear is an effective Wrath of God / Damnation against them.


Tips and Tricks

Syncopate Art by Marta Nael
Syncopate Art by Marta Nael
  • I started playing one Soul Shatter in the last weeks because of how good it is against The Wanderer Emperor. Now we have two in this deck. Make sure to wait for the proper moment because this removal is a central piece in our plan against the white planeswalker. Same goes for Goldspan Dragon, Hall of Storm Giant, etc.
  • The day and night cycle is irrelevant most of the time, but against certain decks The Celestus could be a central piece in our deck. The best example can be against Brutal Cathar. We probably don’t want to turn this creature, but in a few situations, it could save us from lethal damage and give us one more turn.
  • Pathway advice; Like I always say, save pathways for the late game every time you can afford to do so. Misschoosing a color is the down side to these lands most of the time.
  • Don’t be afraid to use your life as a resource. This is key advice while playing Magic, but it becomes even more relevant while playing control.
  • Use your removal carefully. We have a very good selection of removal, but that doesn’t mean that you have to kill every single creature on sight. Being careful with this lets us have removal for later instances when big threats can exert pressure.

Final Notes

Two 5-0 in the last week means that this deck is prepared for facing the metagame. Many good blue and black cards are at our disposal. Sticking to playing just UW, Izzet or Jeskai won’t allow us to see other game approaches that can sometimes be better against certain decks, or even just allow us to play more comfortably.

It’s true that playing control has some fundamentals, but it’s definitely not the same playing Azorius as playing Dimir. I invite you to play this archetype and see how good it is in the actual meta. Surely it will give a surprise more than once to any of you.

Please let me know on my social media (link below) what you think about it. Until the next time, dear readers, thanks for being here on MTGA Zone and enjoying our columns. We do our best to give you the best Magic: The Gathering Arena content every single day.

And remember! Smile once every single day. 🙂

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Bohe

A full time MTG content creator. Started playing Magic in 99’ with the release of Urza’s Destiny, 3 times Grand Prix attendant (1 as a player ending #78 and 2 as a judge). Mexican, lover of coffee, Korean culture, languages and ex-LoL coach.
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