Meddling Dimir Dementia

Welcome back for the fourth installment of the Meddling Series: Gatecrash Edition! With this being Dimir Week, we'll be taking a look at that shadowy guild's Intro Pack deck and then rebuilding its central themes to make it stronger and more focused. As is custom, we'll be adhering to the two Golden Rules of Meddling. First, we won't add any rares or mythics in order to keep the deck reasonably affordable. Second, we'll only be drawing cards from Gatecrash and Magic 2013, which are the two sets already represented within the deck. This helps keep the deck relatively easy to assemble.

Midnight Recovery
Early on in Gatecrash’s design, milling was tabbed to be the Dimir guild’s signature mechanic. Although this was later abandoned in favor of cipher, the strategy is alive and well amongst the ranks of this most secretive guild. The problem with milling strategies, though, is that they tend to be very greedy, demanding the lion's share of your resources in order to be effective along a very narrow path. Nobody ever splashes a mill card. This path doesn't often overlap with more aggressive, creature-based strategies, and the weakness with these types of decks is that you field something that's a little underwhelming in either aspect that doesn't come together very well.

The Dimir Dementia deck was a lot of fun to play, but it didn't take much time to see that it, too, fell prey to the ambition to do just a little too much. It wove together three distinct strategies. Strategy one, of course, was the mill and grind engine, with “grind” being the term R&D used to describe the mill-until-you-hit-a-land mechanic. Next was a graveyard-matters mechanic, with cards that cared about whatever was in them, such as Rise from the Grave, Wight of Precinct Six, and Midnight Recovery.

The final prong of the strategy was to marry together the chocolate-and-peanut-butter dream of evasive creatures such as the Incursion Specialist and Deathcult Rogue alongside cipher cards like Shadow Slice and Last Thoughts. At its best, this would deliver overwhelming incremental card advantage that would build up to a critical mass, letting you outpace your opponent turn by turn and bringing the game to a favorable end.

That brings us to our first decision, which is the direction in which to steer the deck. There’s a clear pick-two feeling here—we can bolster the overall strength of the deck by providing it with greater concentration in two of these tactics by shedding one of them. In a previous Meddling, we built an unblockable-creature core with the Sneaky Simicdeck, so this time around, let’s instead focus on the milling and graveyard. Although grow-your-own-saboteur.dec has promise, the cards with cipher aren’t quite focused enough to command a position in the revised Dementia. The other two strategies are.

Let’s begin with the stock deck list.

Making Changes

Kraken Hatchling
To pull this off, we’re going to have to wield a ruthless scalpel since space is going to be tighter than most.

Another problem with milling is that it resolves no threats. It doesn’t kill creatures. It doesn’t stall your opponent—indeed, if your opponent is playing with flashback cards, you could even give your opponent an advantage. The sad fact is that milling doesn’t do a blessed thing . . . right up until the moment it wins.

That means we’re going to need to add a layer of defense to the deck, a way to keep ourselves upright while we grind cards off the top of the opponent’s library. We’re not overly worried about his board position, since it’s unlikely to interfere with our scheme, but we do need to throw a few speed bumps in his path.

That brings us to our first addition, the Kraken Hatchling. These were a superb fit for the Simic because of the interplay between their high toughness and evolve. We have no such synergies here, but their ability to congest the red zone is unparalleled at their cost. A trio of these may not seem like enough, but our next few additions are creatures that will be pulling double-duty.

If the primary route to victory is the library, we still want to be able to take the fight to the opponent’s life total when we have to. There will be games in which we don’t find the gas to keep the milling engine going, and we’ll need to close out our opponent the old-fashioned way. For that reason, our next addition is to round out the copies of Wight of Precinct Six to a full play set and stick in an extra Jace's Phantasm. Both of these creatures have the ability to become very large, and they are exactly what the deck needs. If the mill engine is in high gear, their fat bodies can hang back and buy you the time you need. If, instead, milling’s not going so well, you can start turning them sideways to bring a pressure of a very different sort to bear.

Vampire Nighthawk
Toward that end, we’ll also be adding a pair of Vampire Nighthawks. Here’s another creature that adds more than one element to the deck, giving us a delightful economy of space. The evasive Nighthawks can add to the damage tally when needed while also being able to keep your life total up while you mill away. Finally, their deathtouch and 3 toughness makes them superb defenders, able to trade with most anything substantial your opponent sends your way.

Now that we’ve gotten our red zone in order, we next want to turn to creatures that reinforce the milling. The first natural fit is the Duskmantle Guildmage. In addition to serving as a triggerable mill engine (albeit an expensive one), it can also serve up some damage anytime your deck does what it naturally wants to be doing. Since there’s little benefit for having multiple Guildmages in play (outwith redundancy), we’re only going to go for three of them.

We’ll also be retaining the services of the Balustrade Spy. Again, we save space by fielding creatures that advance our aims in multiple directions at once, first by grinding the opponent on the way in and then by being an evasive body on the battlefield. Though not as fierce as the Nighthawk, the evasion makes the Spy a natural target for your cipher cards. We take a similar approach with the Vedalken Entrancer. While happily serving as another defensive option with its solid 4 toughness, it’s also a repeatable mill source—and one much cheaper than the Guildmage (though not repeatable).

Finally, we’ll be keeping our Consuming Aberration. This thing is a monster, a beautiful grind engine stuck upon what can easily end up a grotesquely bloated body. Perfect! Now let’s see what’s available for a supporting noncreature suite.

Paranoid Delusions
The first thing that springs to mind is a built-for-purpose sorcery from Magic 2013: Mind Sculpt. One of Jace’s signature spells, this one puts a robust seven cards into your opponent’s graveyard for a very reasonable price. This is an automatic four-of here and will do much of the heavy lifting.

Next up is Paranoid Delusions. Although we went in a different direction than the cipher-advantage deck, these also are a perfect fit. With our evasive creatures lending a hand, it’s not at all unlikely that we can take advantage of cipher to use this multiple times, all while whittling down the opponent’s life total. We’ll take four of these as well, please.

The Dimir Keyrunes and Whispering Madness are also auto-includes. Although the deck isn’t starving for mana with a reasonable curve, a little extra doesn’t hurt when it comes to paying for the Duskmantle Guildmage’s abilities. The Keyrunes also double as unblockable bodies, and a Paranoid Delusions cast on an animated Keyrune doesn’t go away when it reverts to artifact form. Whispering Madness is a wild way to churn through an opponent’s library, and seven cards at a stitch is very strong.

Finally, although we’re not too worried about removal here, a little bit of it can go a long way toward keeping our opponent’s offense blunted while we build up our mill engine. There’s no better spell for that here than Death's Approach. It’s dirt-cheap, and it takes very little effort to become effective enough to kill nearly anything we’ll be up against.

Here’s what we end up with.

The Games

Jace's Phantasm
The Dimir had a point to prove this time around, having faced off against the mighty Boros Battalion in our Ertai's Lament matchup and come away significantly worse for wear. I was glad for the chance to see how well I could withstand the early rush, and Boros is a deck more than capable of coming alive almost right out of the gate. Would my defenses be enough to give me the time I'd need?

In a word: absolutely. The meddled version not only held its own but turned in a surprisingly dominant performance over the course of our games. In one game, I stuck a Harbor Bandit with Paranoid Delusions, swelling a Wight of Precinct Six. Another game saw an early Jace's Phantasm activate immediately behind a pair of Mind Sculpts, holding the Boros at bay long enough to being out a massive Consuming Aberration. One final game bears special mention, wherein the only source of blue mana the entire game was from a single Dimir Keyrune. The Boros flooded the board and started shredding my life total quickly. A turn-four Paranoid Delusions got the graveyard going (with no cipher target) and immediately let me cut the opposing army in half with a pair of Death's Approaches. The Consuming Aberration touched down, and when at last it had battered its way through the Boros defenders, it felled my opponent with a single, 20-point hit.

Indeed, that was another surprise of the deck: how nasty it could be behind its mill engine. I'd hoped initially that milling would be the primary victory route, but I underestimated the power it could bring to bear once the graveyard was sufficiently stocked. Most games ended with about half of the Boros library in the graveyard, and none of the test matches ended in a mill-out. Still, I'm not at all disappointed given how much fun it was to play. It was highly reminiscent of Deathfed/Grave Power decks from Innistrad block—except that the graveyard you were racing to fill was your opponent's and not your own.




Thanks for joining me today with the Dimir. As it’s one of my favorite guilds, I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on this one, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts below. Any cards you think I should have included? Any experiences of your own running a Dimir mill variant you’d like to share? Let me know!

Jay Kirkman
@ErtaisLament