Table of Contents
After the Standard bans, Black still stands strong as a colour with cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Cut Down at its disposal. Since now there is no unquestionable reason to play red, some players eschew it and go with a different colour combination.
Today, I want to delve into a Dimir take on a Black-based strategy. I think Blue brings a lot to the table, mainly in the form of flash threats and countermagic. Between counters, discard, and removal, there is nothing that cannot be interacted with.
The first planeswalker we will take a look at is Kaito Shizuki. As with most three-mana walkers, it can really warp the game around itself if deployed early.
The first key thing about it is that it phases out on the turn it entered. It means that whether you plus or minus it, it’s safe from opposing creatures attacking it down. It’s a huge boon, as you can feel unobligated to have created a board presence that would protect it.
The plus ability is a simple draw discard that provides card filtering. Even though you’re not up on cards, you’re up on card quality. You can ditch excess lands in a pinch. If you meet the condition though, you get to straight up draw a card, generating card advantage.
The minus ability makes an unblockable Ninja that complements the condition stated in the first ability. It’s far from formidable on rate but it does put a bit of pressure, can kill of walkers, and, as stated earlier, turns on the plus ability.
The ultimate is similar to most ultimates in that it will most likely result in you winning the game. I wouldn’t concern myself with this ability too much, since you’re not going to be able to pull it off most games. Still, a static Phyrexian Arena that can turn into Bitterblossom if needed is great.
To continue down the three-mana walker route, we have Liliana of the Veil. She turns the game into a low-resource battle due to its plus ability that strips both players of cards. You’re fine keeping the game that way since you are the one with the planeswalker.
On top of that, the minus keeps the board in check nicely and doesn’t care what the threat’s size is. It can be Sheoldred, the Apocalypse or Zurgo and Ojutai. It does get worse against decks with multiple tokens or small creatures but you just side it out against those strategies.
Liliana of the Veil is not easy to play. You have to know whether to plus or minus, and even then decide which cards you ought to discard to it. Creating the ultimate piles is far from easy as well. Crucially, there will be turns when you should do nothing with Lily – neither plus nor minus. It will usually come up when you absolutely need to keep the cards in hand and the opponent has no creatures.
This is one of my favourite blue cards in the format which I think is a huge sleeper. Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim is much less of a value planeswalker but rather an aggressive one. While its theme is card drawing, the best use for it in my opinion is making those 2/2 Spirit tokens.
Even though they are 2/2s at first, they grow exponentially very fast. Between the draw step, 0 ability of Teferi, Faerie Mastermind, or Kaito Shizuki plus, there are so many ways to draw cards. Those tokens grow very fast out of Cut Down or Play with Fire range, and they beat down hard.
Importantly, the opponent feels heavily compelled to get rid of the tokens since they grow but they cannot leave you with Teferi himself so suddenly they need to answer multiple permanents.
Teferi puts great pressure on the opponent and that’s what we want to do – make it as awkward and inconvenient as possible.
Our most efficient flash threat. Faerie Mastermind can be deployed any time as an instant would which makes it really tricky for the opponent since they can never know when it could come down. While it will frequently be deployed on the end step or in combat as a surprise blocker, there are more uses for the card.
Its passive allows you to draw a card when the opponent draws their second card. Since the draw step counts as one, you can make it work as soon as the opponent plays a cantrip like Consider, connives, or cycles. There are multiple effects that would trigger Faerie Mastermind and it can always be flashed in response. This all makes it both a threat and a card advantage engine.
A 3/2 for two mana is a nice early-game beater that immediately puts pressure on the opponent. Crucially though, it gives you a lot of staying power. It can be Blitzed into play with haste which is not an effect you’d expect from a blue-black deck. On top of that, you can play it from the graveyard which makes it super annoying to deal with if you don’t actually exile it so cards like Play with Fire, Strangle, or Cut Down don’t cut it (pun intended).
When Blitzed, it allows you to draw a card which further puts you ahead. What’s key is that you can keep Blitzing it and then drawing cards, essentially burying the opponent in card advantage and pressuring them.
The best black card in the format. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse changes the dynamic of the whole game, making it all about herself. The longer the game goes from the moment she’s played, the more uncomfortable it gets for the opponent, since you pressure them statically while gaining life and stabilising.
Thanks to its raw size, it can take most creatures in combat making it both a threatening blocker and attacker. Deathtouch contributes to its power in that it can trade even with those bigger creatures.
Due to being such a game-warper, it has to be played in 3-4 copies. Despite being legendary, if one of them sticks, you’re not that worried about drawing multiples.
This is Cryptic Command of Standard. It’s a flash creature, so it naturally has applications similar to Faerie Mastermind like ambushing combat. However, it has two key abilities as it enters the battlefield.
When it enters the battlefield you can counter something on the stack, or kill a planeswalker or creature. While the downside is that the controller of that spell or permanent draws a card, you make up for it in flexibility. If you have Ertai Resurrected in hand, you know you will be able to answer whatever is thrown at you which is super convenient.
If you’re pressuring the opponent with Tenacious Underdog and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, countering a spell is more important than them drawing a card, as you want to get them dead as soon as possible. As a cherry on top, they’d lose life due to Sheoldred, the Apocalypse which is a very nice touch.
The best and most efficient removal in the format. It kills every one or two drop in the format with a few threes and fours that can also be tagged. It is especially great on the draw when you get to kill their two-drop like Bloodtithe Harvester, untap and play your own, essentially negating their tempo advantage of being on the play.
Go for the Throat has a different role to Cut Down. It is not meant as an early piece of removal but rather a hard piece of interaction to deal with bigger threats like Serra Paragon or Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. Since there aren’t many artifact creatures played, it’s application is as close to Terminate as it can get.
We don’t want to be too susceptible to powerful spells like planeswalkers or battles, so we run a bunch of countermagic. Go for the Throat or Cut Down cannot get rid of opposing Liliana of the Veil or Chandra, Hope's Beacon and this is where Make Disappear shines.
While it will mostly play out as a worse Mana Leak, you have ways to turn on casualty 1, namely by sacrificing tokens made by either Kaito Shizuki or Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim. You can sac other creatures but most of the time you’d want to keep them on the field. If possible, you want to avoid Casualty-ing Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
The only battle in the deck. Invasion of Amonkhet is a split between Mind Rot and Divination since you draw just one but the opponent also discards one. It’s a nice source of card advantage that can be flipped into a 4/4 whose main job is to copy Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and virtually multiply the number of them that you have access to.
Best of One
The Best of One version is more heavy on interaction, since I expect more aggressive strategies.
The deck’s maindeck contains 24 rares and 10 mythic rares. While the interaction suite is budget, all the threats are unfortunately budget unfriendly.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
In the midrange battles we increase our threat density and prepare better to fight on the stack. Playing Negate or Make Disappear on a 4+ mana planeswalker is exactly what we want to do.
Try to squeeze all the value from your cards so make Kaito Shizuki draw a card, try to use Faerie Mastermind’s passive etc.
The last player with cards at their disposal will be the last player standing.
Against creatures, we want as much removal as possible. We cut the conditional effects like Make Disappear. You don’t want a situation when you play a counter on a one-drop. Here I tend to use my creatures as blockers much more often than I would for attacking. You want your life total pretty high. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is a great card to stabilise, since it will provide you a bunch of life every single turn.
Classic swap of removal for countermagic and discard. We want to be more efficient than they are. Counter their expensive planeswalker with your cheap permission so that you can play more spells than they can. If you allow control to pull ahead it might be tough to come back, especially if they’ve drawn a ton of cards. Again – efficiency is the name of the game.
Tips and Tricks
- Sometimes you might want to attack with a creature into a good block from the opponent just to meet the condition of Kaito Shizuki‘s plus ability.
- When you ultimate Liliana of the Veil, remember that the opponent can float mana in response.
- If you are empty-handed and plus Liliana, the opponent can bounce it in response to make you discard it.
- The opponent can animate a vehicle or manland in response to Liliana -2 to sacrifice that newly animated creature.
- If you activate Faerie Mastermind on the opponent’s turn, they can kill it in response to deny you the card draw from the passive.
- You can kill your own creature or counter your own spell with Ertai Resurrected to draw a fresh card.