The Brains of the Operation
Sometimes, things aren’t what they seem. That deck full of mill spells? A beatdown deck. That creature I just sacrificed? It’s still on the battlefield. That deck sitting on the other side of the table? Mine.
Is it mind magic? Perhaps, but the Dimir don’t need spells to conceal the true nature of their operations. Even they don’t know what they’re accomplishing. Well, most of them don’t.
Lazav traffics in secrets, and he has answers to some questions I’ve been asking for years.
How can I build a self-mill deck that doesn’t play repetitively?
Mill somebody else.
How can I use other people’s creatures without the Mind Control effects giving me too much removal?
Don’t take them from the battlefield.
How can I use opponent’s graveyards without decking them?
Don’t focus on the milling.
I still don’t quite see how it’s all going to fit together, but luckily, I was able to haggle the price of a demonstration down to just my social security number. Show us what you’ve got, Lazav!
Pinky and the Brain
What’s Lazav, Dimir Mastermind planning? Let’s start with what we know about him:
Lazav needs creatures to go to graveyards, but he’s not picky about how they get there. Milling, removal, discard, and countermagic are the usual suspects, but Lazav’s just as content with reviving multiple opposing creatures only to sacrifice one and take its form when the time comes. The guildmaster’s hexproof also makes him a prime target for evasion-granting Equipment, but I’m worried about the lack of interaction, so let’s focus on the playing-with-other-people’s-cards angle.
Perhaps mill everyone with a Mind Grind, let Lazav take on whatever shape fits best, and then begin reanimating corpses. I’ve heard reports of people playing “noncreature spells,” so let’s prepare for those as well.
When someone sticks a big nasty into play, let it sit there until you’re ready to surprise the table by turning Lazav into the threat.
Where does all of this get you? That depends on what you’re playing against!
Getting Out of the Game
Hereafter follows the tale of events as reported by an agent I had hide in the rafters. My own memories have, of course, been erased to avoid culpability.
While the rest of the table was playing the first few lands, Edric started off with a Llanowar Elves into Elvish Archdruid before coming down himself to draw some cards. Child of Alara was having none of it and cast Selesnya Charm for a token to trade with the Archdruid before untapping and Mortifying Edric.
With that threat stymied, Glissa took off with Gilded Lotus and Kodama’s Reach while I cast Guiltfeeder and Edric constructed the Door of Destinies. Guiltfeeder attacked Edric, but after triggering for life-loss, revealed itself to have been an incognito Ninja all along!
She promptly recruited Elvish Archdruid while Glissa, the Traitor continued to explode with Thran Dynamo into Vorapede. Not to be outdone, Edric chained Quirion Ranger into Gaea’s Skyfolk and Vigean Hydropon, leaving three counters on Door of Destinies.
Child of Alara cast Life from the Loam for zero lands, then had a Violent Outburst, which cascaded into Ancestral Vision. That did little to defend against Ink-Eyes’s attack, which found a Fathom Mage freshly milled for dredge, and the Mage promptly evolved when Guiltfeeder reentered the fray. Glissa dropped a Sylvok Replica, forcing Edric to back off or lose his Door. Then, she traded the front end of Vorapede for Ink-Eyes’s regeneration shield.
Edric grinned as he drew his card. He’d had enough fooling around.
The Visionary took inspiration from an Elvish Herder to find Terastodon, and Glissa decided it was just about time to destroy the Door. Child of Alara came out to play, as did Lazav, who evolved Fathom Mage yet again, but when Edric took the turn back, Terastodon blew up three of my lands.
Child took the strange approach of casting a precombat Ruhan of the Fomori and then attacked me; I promptly traded and cleared the board. Then, left with too little mana to do much, I passed to Glissa, who restarted things with a Phyrexian Obliterator.
Edric used Gaea’s Cradle to spit out an army in the form of Heritage Druid, Elvish Hunter, Ivy Lane Denizen, and Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary and then passed the turn to Child . . . who had to leave immediately. I drew Ashes of the Fallen, but with Glissa’s Obliterator out, I opted to make a Grisly Spectacle of it first. Glissa laughed that off in a heartbeat.
I untapped and used Ashes of the Fallen to snap up Terastodon and destroy Karn, Gaea’s Cradle, and Tectonic Edge, but Glissa shrugged and cast herself alongside Thornbite Staff and Mimic Vat. That’s what we refer to as “ahead on board” ’round these parts. Edric cast a ten more creatures, including Prime Speaker Zegana, and after waiting out a turn without an untap, I finally found a fifth land.
24 damage! . . . to myself
Vorinclex went under Mimic Vat, and Glissa recovered and recast Wurmcoil Engine, leaving me with only one real option: go down to 10 life to Reanimate Terastodon. This time, Mimic Vat, Thornbite Staff, and Homeward Path were on the menu, and predictably enough, Glissa pinged Terastodon in response. Time for the big guns:
A 30/30 Consuming Aberration seemed to be a good place to start, but a Strip Mine and an Acidic Slime on Dimir Aqueduct later, I was left with only two lands. Glissa wasted no time in locking up the game either:
Who needs blockers anyway? Well, apparently Edric and I did since we both died the following turn!
Under the Surface
Okay, a game filled with land destruction might not be the best proving ground for a deck so lacking in ramp, but I hope the tale demonstrated all of the potential of playing out of others’ graveyards. Moreover, no game is going to give you a very good model for this deck since, by design, it plays differently against different opponents. Give it a spin and see how you like it—you might just find a new favorite card in someone else’s deck.