After the Pro Tour this past weekend there is a clear frontrunner for deck to beat in Standard. The nearly mono-white Boros Aggro deck dominated the Pro Tour, taking all four of the top spots. Today I'm going to share a Dimir Midrange deck that is specifically geared to beat the Boros Aggro deck while still having game against the other decks in the field.
There were two lists that I based my Dimir list – one from Kris Staples-Weyrauchand and the second is from Mark Jacobson. Here's where I ended up after making my own tweaks.
The overall gameplan is to use removal spells to hold off early pressure long enough to take over the game with more powerful spells and card advantage. That plan is basically a nightmare for Boros Aggro to compete against. The deck also has a powerful sideboard plan against decks that don't roll over to our game one plan. Let's take a closer look at how the deck operates and why each card was chosen.
3 Vraska's Contempt
2 Ritual of Soot
4 Ravenous Chupacabra
1 Golden Demise
4 Cast Down
2 Essence Scatter
Cast Down is one of the most efficient and versatile removal spells against the white aggro decks. Very few of the creatures are legendary, so it functions as Doom Blade in most cases. You'll often want to use it on Benalish Marshal mid-combat, but you can pretty much use it on anything and be fine. Even if you trade down by killing a one-drop creature, you are still trading one card for one card and slowing the game down to the point where our more powerful spells take over.
Essence Scatter is another great card against Benalish Marshal since they will cast it pre-combat to get the extra power boost for their attackers. That way you will know they don't have it if they attack first, at which point you can safely use your Cast Down on their attacker. Essence Scatter it also a great answer to Rekindling Phoenix and Aurelia out of the Boros Angels deck.
Golden Demise and Ritual of Soot are our sweepers. Golden Demise can be hit or miss, but against the white aggro decks it is usually a hit. On turn three it will clean up most or all of their creatures. Sometimes you'll have to Cast Down Ajani's Pridemate on the second turn in order for Golden Demise to wipe out the rest of their board on the third turn, but that is usually a winning line nonetheless due to the tempo taken away from them. Golden Demise can also be one-sided later in the game once we have the city's blessing.
Ritual of Soot is a more reliable sweeper but it takes an extra mana to cast and therefore requires an extra turn before we are able to deploy it. We are somewhat heavy on four mana cards in the deck, so we only run two copies. We usually have to use a removal spell or two or a removal spell and a blocker over the course of the first three turns in order to set up a devastating Ritual of Soot. One of the best lines is Cast Down into Notion Rain into Ritual of Soot. Cast Down forces them to over-commit while Notion Rain find us the Ritual of Soot or the fourth land to cast it. It is essentially the old Read the Bones into Languish combo that Thalia's Lieutenant decks could never beat.
Vraska's Contempt and Ravenous Chupacabra are the other four-mana removal spells in the deck. Vraska's Contempt is our primary answer to planeswalkers such as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. It is also our best answer to a Rekindling Phoenix that gets underneath our Essence Scatter. Being instant speed also affords us a decent amount of flexibility as to when to kill the opposing creature. As is the case with Cast Down, we'll often kill Benalish Marshal with it whenever they play the marshal pre-combat. Otherwise we kill their best attacker.
Ravenous Chupacabra serves a few purposes in the deck. The primary purpose is to clear out the opponent's best creature and then trading with another one of their creatures by blocking it in combat. So for instance you might kill an Ajani's Pridemate and then trade with a Leonin Vanguard in combat. The other purpose the doggo serves in this deck is being brought back from the graveyard via Isareth the Awakener when she attacks.
4 Thief of Sanity
2 Isareth the Awakener
2 Lazav, the Multifarious
3 Doom Whisperer
Speaking of Isareth, she works great with the doggo but also works quite well with any of the other creatures, especially given the number of cards in the deck with surveil. We can surveil creatures into the graveyard and then get them back with Isareth. Or she can get back any of the other creatures.
Lazav, the Multifarious is another card that works well with surveil since it can become a copy of whatever our best creature in the graveyard is. It is also a perfectly fine blocker on the second turn a lot of the time and it survives Golden Demise.
Thief of Sanity is the new Gonti, Lord of Luxury, except against white weenie it often simply trades with Healer's Hawk. That is ok though because the hawk is one of the more annoying creatures to deal with in the matchup since it evades our early blockers and isn't good enough to merit being targeted by a removal spell. And the times when Thief of Sanity isn't trading in combat it can quickly take over the game with its triggered ability.
Doom Whisperer is the big finisher of the deck. It is hard to attack into, hard to block and its surveil ability takes over games quickly if we have life to pay. Mark ran four copies because of how good it is, but I chose to only run three copies because of the high density of four-mana spells in the deck that will already be stuck in our hand in times when we are trying to operate on only three lands. Against the white aggro decks we don't need a fourth copy, so I cut it altogether.
4 Notion Rain
4 Thought Erasure
Notion Rain is our way of hitting our fourth land reliably by the fourth turn. Sometimes, especially on the draw against the white aggro decks, we won't have time to deploy it on the third turn. That is usually okay because that means we are casting back-to-back removal spells or blockers on the second and third turns of the game. And with 24 lands in the deck we will often naturally have four lands by turn four on the draw anyway, so it isn't a requirement to cast Notion on Rain on turn three each game. And when we get to four mana we can start casting doggos and Ritual of Soot to start taking over the game.
Thought Erasure is at its best against midrange and control decks, but it is often a sufficient turn two play against aggro by taking Benalish Marshal or History of Benalia the turn before they have a chance to cast it. The surveil ability also makes it that much more likely that we hit our third and fourth land drops.
Negate is a great way to stop History of Benalia and can sometimes be very important at stopping Pride of Conquerors. It also excels at stopping planeswalkers in other matchups.
2 Dimir Guildgate
2 Memorial to Folly
4 Watery Grave
4 Drowned Catacomb
Memorial of Folly is a way to keep the cards flowing by getting back one of our card advantage creatures in the late game if we start to flood out. We have 19 black sources and 15 blue sources. This is generally enough to cast all our spells on time, especially once we factor in all the surveil in the deck to smooth out our mana draws.
2 Unmoored Ego
Naming Teferi with this card makes it very difficult for control decks to beat us. Don't ever bring this in merely as a value card though because doing so is a trap. Only bring it in against Teferi Control decks and against another deck that is extremely reliant on a particular card.
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
This is our other answer to Teferi, and it can come in against other planeswalkers as well.
These two cards are pretty self-explanatory. In creature-light matchups where we want to board out a lot of our removal spells, these cards shine. So that is an easy swap.
1 Arguel's Blood Fast
2 Disinformation Campaign
These are the less flexible but more powerful anti-control cards. They allow us to overtake the game by generating incremental card advantage each turn.
1 Deadeye Tracker
The graveyard hate ability is useful against Golgari and in various other scenarios, and it is also powerful in slower matchups just to explore multiple times. So it can come in against decks where we want to cut more removal spells.
1 Detection Tower
This card comes in against Carnage Tyrant and Vine Mare, which are two of the harder cards in the format for us to deal with. If those cards are popular in your area I would recommend playing a second copy either main or in the sideboard. Also prioritize taking these creatures with Thought Erasure.
1 Golden Demise
1 Vraska's Contempt
1 Thoughtbound Phantasm
Some matchups we want even more removal spells, such as against white aggro. The second Golden Demise gives us four total sweepers. Vraska's Contempt gives us yet another answer to planeswalkers and bigger creatures. And Thoughtbound Phantasm provides an early blocker that keeps pace with the growing size of opposing attackers. These are the three most expendable slots in the sideboard in case you need to make space for something else, but you'll need at least a couple anti-creature cards in these slots.
If you expect a lot of the white aggro decks – which you should after this past weekend – Dimir Midrange is a strong choice. This particular build is especially geared toward making life difficult on the little white creatures. The surveil mechanic makes the deck quite consistent at finding the appropriate amount and color of mana on time and then not flooding out. I'm a little surprised Dimir did not have more success at the Pro Tour, but that is likely soon to change once people catch on to how good it as against the current top deck in the format.
Ok, now to address the Loxodon in the room. I'm sure you are wondering why Craig Wescoe just told you to play a Dimir deck to combat all the white aggro decks currently flourishing and dominating Standard. No, it is not because I have abandoned my love for white creatures but rather because I believe in loving my enemy as myself and blessing those who curse me. Dimir is my sworn enemy, but as a Selesnya mage I do not wish harm to come to the Dimir guild but instead for them to repent of their deceptive ways and to embrace the ways of unity and love for neighbor that Selesnya lives by.