Standard Dimir Toxic Control Deck Guide: The Most Toxic Control Deck In Standard
With the release of Phyrexia: All Will Be One, we got a ton of Toxic-oriented cards. While many players opted for aggro or combo to get their poison wins, there is a way to make poison counters your payoff in a control deck! It’s an archetype we have not seen in any format yet, so I am super excited to share the good news with you! Let’s explore this peculiar control shell.
The main idea and the deck’s selling point is that it’s a ticking time bomb. Once the opponent gets the first poison counter, it will slowly, but surely keep going up straight until it hits full ten, resulting in your victory. Thanks to that dynamic, you don’t have to commit any slots in the deck purely for win conditions as the entire deck is going to build towards that end goal. The deck is also effectively invulnerable to creature removal which directly translates into blanking a ton of cards in opposing decks, especially game one. Last but not least, the way you give poison and proliferate is spell-based which is nigh-impossible to interact with – this is why it can have this ticking bomb-esque feel to it. I have loved the deck and I can assure you that you will also enjoy poisoning opponents out with this control deck!
Table of Contents
There are three main subcategories of cards in this deck: Toxic, Proliferate, Toxic payoffs. Let’s divide the deck tech segment into such parts and delve deeper into each, one by one.
Let’s start by talking through the poisonous angle of the deck
This innocuous uncommon is the backbone of the deck. In some ways, it could belong to all three aforementioned categories. However, let’s first analyze it through the toxic lens. It’s an evasive flyer with toxic 1 and that evasion specifically is what will be crucial in this break-down. Flying will frequently ensure that you connect it with at least once—and hitting exactly once is the key part as you can start proliferating from there. Now, nobody says that after the first attack it won’t connect again, at which point it might start running away with the game. Each subsequent poison counter really meaningfully nears you to victory. With multiple Bats, you might be putting the opponent into a really awkward position in which they have to use their removal spells to get rid of them.
This is where the last line of text comes in. Whenever you proliferate, the dead Bats will be returned to hand. As the deck contains a ton of proliferation effects, you are sure to be capable of recurring those over and over again. The “expandability” of those creatures makes them very flexible in their utility—they can apply pressure in the air, kill off Planeswalkers, or be chump block fodder to allow you to stay alive.
I feel like the draws including this uncommon make it so much easier to win for all the reasons mentioned above.
This is the most certain way to give the opponent poison as it’s unaffected by combat or removal spells. Prologue to Phyresis is a great card in the deck as its floor is simply exchanging it for another card. Most draws will include Prologue as the starting point of the poison arc. If I could, I’d start each game with a single copy in hand.
All in all, it’s a pretty straightforward and simple effect that does what it’s supposed to.
On the surface, it’s a strictly worse Sheoldred's Edict. While normally Edict is better, in this particular shell, I’ve liked Vraska's Fall. This additional cost has not been a huge downside while the poison part is very relevant. It cannot be understated how important it is to give the opponent that first poison counter which can later be proliferated. Should one choose to cut it, it’d have to be replaced with cards that give poison, preferably in order not to imbalance the current ratio.
It being an edict effect rather than point removal has come up multiple times, especially against Thrun, Breaker of Silence, which I have seen plenty of on the ladder. Opponents typically like siding it in against a Dimir control deck, so having such a clean way to deal with it, whilst being up on mana on the exchange and giving poison, is everything one could hope for.
The sweet icing on the cake is that it’s a useful piece of removal against control decks thanks to it being able to remove planeswalkers.
Thanks to tri-lands, pain lands, and fast lands, one could easily attempt to make this shell Esper, Sultai, or Grixis. However, there is a strong reason to stay straight blue-black and that is Mirrex. There might be longer games where you run out of gas a bit, but Mirrex and its Phyrexian Mite tokens can get you across the finish line and deal those last points of toxic damage. It’s especially effective against decks that are also grindy, because you will eventually force the opponent to have to expend actual cards to contain those tokens.
The deck promotes games that revolve around the draw-go style, and Mirrex works great in it as well, as it enables you to have a mana sink very time the opponent passes not having played anything.
In order to get the poison count all the way up to 10, we do rely on the proliferate mechanic. Thankfully, there is a myriad of cards that have that key function built in.
This is a strictly better Anticipate. Those effects are great in control deck as they provide you with that much needed card selection to find the missing lands or appropriate piece of interaction against whatever the opponent is doing. Preferably, on turn two you would lead on Prologue to Phyresis rather than Augury in order not to ‘waste’ proliferate, but if you don’t have the third land drop, it’s better to ensure that you hit one rather than sandbag Augury.
This card is unbelievable later in the game when you have 6+ lands as you can choose which tools you want for that spot and tick up the poison count. You may find yourself in situations when you basically chain Auguries, increasing the toxicity one at a time.
Try to remember which cards you’ve bottomed throughout the game as it’s key to keep track of e.g. how many Vraska, Betrayal's Sting you can actually draw or whether you have Vraska's Fall as an out against Thrun.
A pretty simple removal piece whose goal is to get rid of a creature and enable proliferation. -4/-4 will tag most if not all the early threats that you are going to be presented with. Still, it has its limitations especially late in the game and is sorcery speed, that’s why I play just two copies.
This is one of the flex slots in the deck. I like Reject Imperfection as I’ve felt like I want more counterspells. Two copies have been pretty good, but I could see going down to 0 or even up to 4, based on the meta and personal preference.
Being an unconditional Counterspell gives you an insurance policy in case something were to go awry. More often than not, it will meet the proliferate condition at which point it’s a Cancel with some nice upside that fits the overall plan.
This card has a lot of stuff happening but, mark my words, it’s tailor-made for this deck. Let’s start with the most frequently used ability – the zero. Drawing a card is usually pretty standard among walkers in contemporary design so that’s nothing to write home about. What’s actually key is, predictably, proliferate. Thanks to the wording of the ability, you can proliferate both the poison countes and the loyalty on Vraska which is a great 2-for-1 deal. On top of that, Vraska works great with any subsequently played proliferate spells as, again, you will uptick the toxicity and counters on the walker.
Her -2 as removal has come up numerous times. It’s fine to play her as a multi-use Murder to stabilise.
I have not yet had a chance to ultimate, as most of the time, the opponent lost before it became relevant. In practice, the texture of the game would have to be really weird for the ultimate to come up. I’d stick to the zero and -2 abilities for now.
Whether to play it compleated or not is highly contextual. My rule of thumb is that I want to play her as soon as I can so I will happily slam her on turn five and pay two life, and on any later turn pay the full retail. However, there may be spots where you want to play her and hold up Spell Pierce or Bring the Ending, so you’d have to adjust for that.
From among the three cards presented below, the first one is a true toxic payoff and the other two are sort of incidentally payoffish. Nonetheless, let’s get to it.
In the first iteration of the deck, I didn’t include Distorted Curiosity as I was unsure whether I will be able to consistently hit Corrupted and whether such an effect was at all needed. After half a dozen games I immediately noticed two things:
- Giving opponents poison is the easiest thing in the world, hence Corrupted is on all the time
- I run out of gas very easily
I went back to the drawing board and added four Curiosity and I haven’t looked back since. The card is insane, and if I could, I’d play six copies. It turns out that a single mana for two cards is an excellent deal. I tend to hold it off until the discount kicks in before I play it. It’s an excellent way to pull ahead on cards without the need to tap out.
To be completely frank, this card could not have the Corrupted effect and I’d still play it. It gets rid of any early threat and the exile clause is not irrelevant. It has come up against Yotian Frontliner which couldn’t come back with unearth, Dennick, Pious Apprentice which couldn’t get disturbed, or Guardian of New Benalia rendering its protection ability useless.
The card does have the additional text though which makes it the best removal spell in the format for this deck. For two mana, you can exile Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Ao, the Dawn Sky, or Serra Paragon. You are up on mana and deny all the die effects.
To top it all off, it is instant speed which provides excellent timing flexibility.
Quench has never looked so good. Very early in the game, it does the best Mana Leak impersonation it can. However, as the game progresses, Quench-like cards decline in quality by a substantial margin. Nevertheless, Bring the Ending is not affected by that dynamic as from turn five-ish forward, you will have met the condition and turned it into actual Counterspell with an even easier casting cost.
In Standard, there are a lot of must-answer cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Serra Paragon, or Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Against all of those, it’s a tempo-positive exchange for you as the opponent had to commit all the mana and their turn for you to thwart it with your two-mana interaction spell.
The only card that is not on theme is Spell Pierce. I really like this card in a format where people throw Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Reckoner Bankbuster, and Planeswalkers left and right. It’s a massive tempo-swing. This is also a relative flex slot that could be changed to your liking but personally I’ve found it very useful. It tends to catch most people off guard.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
|+2 Negate||-3 Vraska's Fall|
|+4 Duress||-2 Drown in Ichor|
|+2 Phyrexian Arena||-1 Prologue to Phyresis|
|-2 Reject Imperfection|
We are heavily favoured game one due to the abundance of removal they play such as Cut Down, Abrade, Infernal Grasp, Go for the Throat, etc. Post-board I add Negate and Duress to deal with the only cards we are actually afraid of such as Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Reckoner Bankbuster, or Invoke Despair. Spell Pierce and Bring the Ending are excellent at answering those threats as well.
I also add Phyrexian Arena to grind and trade cards. Eventually, we should come out on top as they have no way of stopping the poison ticking up.
Mono White Midrange
|+3 Drag to the Bottom||-3 Vraska's Fall|
|+2 Reckoner Bankbuster||-2 Reject Imperfection|
|+2 Phyrexian Arena||-2 Drown in Ichor|
Another midrange deck on the list, but this one is way more creature-oriented. Cards we are most afraid of are indeed creatures and specifically The Wandering Emperor While Vraska's Fall is good at answering The Wandering Emperor, Serra Paragon, and Ao, the Dawn Sky, but it’s awful when there is Spirited Companion or Ambitious Farmhand on the battlefield.
I side in mass removal in Drag to the Bottom and grindy elements as the game will drag on. If they have their slower draws with multiple Lay Down Arms and Spirited Companions, they will be in trouble against our toxic personality.
|+3 Drag to the Bottom||-2 Reject Imperfection|
|+2 Cut Down||-2 Spell Pierce|
|-1 Vraska, Betrayal's Sting|
A very tax-like creature deck. We want to kill everything on sight. We have no luxury to wait until we can poison them out. We assume a full-on control role and get rid of everything we see. Drag to the Bottom is excellent at that role. Voidwing Hybrid‘s main purpose is to chump opposing creatures for days, and if you have a spot when it can actually trade with an opposing creature, take it in a heartbeat.
Mono Blue Tempo
|+2 Phyrexian Arena||-2 Reject Imperfection|
Phyrexian Arena can be a hit or miss, depending on how many Spell Pierces you see. You might opt out of it if you see a lot of those. The point though is that Mono Blue cannot really remove it and it gives you a steady flow of cards.
Their threats are scary, but both Vraska's Fall and Anoint with Affliction get the job done very well. Remember Vraska's Fall is blanked by Slip Out the Back, but you still give them poison.
I don’t side in Cut Down as it only tags Delver of Secrets (if they even play it), but not the really scary threats.
Mono Red Aggro
A classic control versus aggro matchup. They will try to race us and we need to stay alive. Voidwing Hybrid is going to excel at blocking in combat and stemming early bleeding. Vraska, Betrayal's Sting is okay as being a machine to keep changing their threats into Treasures but the fact that the zero ability loses you life and the card itself is expensive makes me not want it in my deck.
Don’t tunnel vision into trying to win via poison. Prioritise staying alive and try to win incidentally along the way.
Tips and Tricks
- You can kill your own creature with Drown in Ichor just to get proliferate.
- If the creature you’re trying to kill with Drown in Ichor gets removed with a different effect, Drown will fizzle and you won’t get proliferate.
- If you kill your own Voidwing Hybrid with Drown in Ichor, you won’t get that same Hybrid back as you’re technically proliferating with it still on the field.
- Even if there are no counters to be proliferated, if a card says ‘proliferate’, you will get back Voidwing Hybrid from the graveyard.
- A single proliferate effect will return all the copies of Voidwing Hybrid from the graveyard.
- If the opponent has two poison counters, on your main phase you can proliferate it up to 3 with a two mana spell and then cast Distorted Curiosity. It will, in total make you mana neutral on the exchange. However, it may be risky to do if it makes you tap out and you should be holding up interaction.
- Sometimes it is correct to play Distorted Curiosity just as Divination.
- With Vraska's Fall, the opponent is the one making the choice of whether a walker or a creature is sacrificed.
- In some games, you will have to forget about the poison angle because you haven’t drawn any toxic cards and just play a normal control game. There is no need to panic as the deck does not win short games anyways.
- Vraska, Betrayal's Sting could force a draw if you are at 1 life and the opponent is at 9 poison. I have actually had a situation like that happen to me.
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