Have you read the Dictates from Theros? Like actually read them? Those are some powerful lines of text and at reasonable costs for the most part. Perhaps a mana too much has kept a few of these from seeing the Constructed play they might have otherwise, but most have popped up from time to time when the conditions were right.

Dictate of Heliod was a nice player in the aggressive token decks for a while as a way to go over the top of opponent's who were just as good at going wide.

Dictate of Karametra saw some short play in decks looking to abuse Villainous Wealth as a finisher. They would naturally cast Dictate on their opponent's end step and then untap into a Villainous Wealth for nine or more which generally ended the game.

Dictate of Kruphix was occasionally played in Monoblue Devotion and if nothing else has been seriously considered for Pro Tour decks.

The issue with many of the Dictates is that they are symmetrical effects so in order to profit from them in a meaningful way, you need to be able to break that symmetry. The Villainous Wealth deck managed to do this by having access to a card that disallowed this symmetry. If you are winning the game before your opponent has access to the mana it provides, it really gave them no benefit. One of the reasons Wealth stopped seeing much play is that decks with Counterspells started seeing play which would be able to let Dictate resolve, counter the Wealth, and then punish the player with said symmetry. (Also, Wealth turned out to not be the most reliable win condition).

Dictate of the Twin Gods happened to be one of these symmetrical enchantments but I found the idea of it extremely strong. Doubling up your damage in some ways made this look like a five mana deal 10. Obviously it doesn't always play out that way, but I was intrigued. I spent some time working on various lists that were generally control shells. In essence, you would slow the game down, play mana, play Dictate, and then use what burn spells you had left to finish the opponent off.

Here is a four-color version that I spent time on about eight months ago:

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For the most part, while there have been small additions to the deck in recent sets, nothing has been worth revisiting the idea as it struggled too much against Abzan to have tournament success. Origins on the other hand does not appear to just offer small additions, but has a rather large pool of cards for us to rummage through. Here are some cards that catch my eye for this style of deck out of Origins:

Calculated Dismissal
Day's Undoing
Displacement Wave
Embermaw Hellion
Exquisite Firecraft
Foundry of the Consuls
Jace's Sanctum
Mage-Ring Network
Magmatic Insight
Molten Vortex
Psychic Rebuttal
Pyromancer's Goggles
Ravaging Blaze

That is quite the list of cards from just a single set. I even left out fringe things such as Orbs of Warding to not inflate the list too much and yet there is a lot going on here. Today, I wanted to check out what roles these cards might fill and where they are needed. From there, we will attempt to arrive at the new landscape of Dictate of the Twin Gods. From the looks of things, this should be a promising venture.

It is worth noting that Dictate is not necessarily essential to the execution of our desired strategy. In concept, it provides a ton of damage for a single card as it enhances all of your other cards. If we somehow got to the point of having such efficient burn and card draw that we didn't need a boost in burn power that brought us risk or inconsistency, we should definitely make the switch. Previously we were not even close to reaching optimal numbers so Dictate was an essential piece to the puzzle. We will explore this option a little later tough.

Dictate.dec is very much a counter-burn deck. We are looking to control the game while stockpiling enough burn spells in hand to eventually flip the switch and go for the kill. So, naturally it makes sense to look into what new burn spells we have first and these might be our biggest raw upgrades.


BURN!!!!

Exquisite Firecraft - Not much to say here except thank you! Stoke the Flames was doing a lot of heavy lifting taking out four toughness or loyalty so to get a three mana variant with upside, even at sorcery speed, is a huge win for us.

Molten Vortex - This might be the most interesting tool for us. In an ideal world, drawing one copy of this over the course of the game provides us with so much gas. At some point, lands have Diminishing Returns as you simply don't have the burn to make use of them, but this allows you to convert resources over. With Dictate down, this just ends a game. My concern comes when you draw two copies of this though, as you have quite literally drawn a dead card which undoes much of the good this provides. Tormenting Voice might be essential.

Ravaging Blaze - As far as burn spells go, the concept here is exactly what we want. We want our removal spells to also tick the opponent down and inch us closer to victory. Every copy of Searing Blaze you draw is like drawing two burn spells because you get to use your Lightning Bolt as such plus a Lava Spike. Because all of our creature removal eventually wants to go to the face, this is big. However Ravaging Blaze needs a target, making it a potential liability against control. Also, spending five mana on your Searing Blaze is not nearly as good as two. I have no concerns of achieving spell mastery, but simply due to how clunky this can be aside from that, it probably can't exceed two copies in our shell.


Mana Makes the World Burn

I have experimented with many different variations of Dictate in the past. Most recently Jeskai, Mardu, and four-color versions were being tested out, but that generally was to allow the deck to have enough gas and enough answers to problematic things. In an ideal world, the deck would be as few colors as possible, likely red/blue, to allow for smooth and consistent mana. So ideally we are either looking for new fixers here or something that really adds depth to the deck.

Foundry of the Consuls - The idea behind this would be very similar to that of Molten Vortex. We get mana out of this early and then when we are low on gas later in the game, we spend some mana and upgrade our land into a couple of 1/1 fliers. This does clash with Vortex a bit in that it is asking you to play your extra lands while Vortex wants you to hold them, in addition to being a colorless land at that. I think a deck that contains one probably doesn't want the other, so we should address this later.

Mage-Ring Network - This could potentially be the key to making everything work. Counterburn is very much a deck that wants to play draw-go while accumulating advantages over time. Typically, all we can do is play one land every turn and maybe draw some extra cards until we eventually flip the switch. Storage lands allow us to cheat the system by turning time into additional mana which we can use to speed up our final turn, or possibly just protect it better via countermagic. Also, being able to save extra lands in hand with Vortex out does make this synergize nicely there.

Pyromancer's Goggles - This qualifies as mana, but it has quite the different impact on the game. In some ways Pyromancer's Goggles fills a similar role to Dictate. It turns your burn spells into double damage, although it does so at a slower rate but with much less risk. It may be worth testing a deck with Goggles in place of Dictate. While the execution would be different, I could get behind that idea.


Odds and Ends

Jace's Sanctum - This is the kind of card that could become a no-brainer in this list very easily, but as it stands right now, I am not sure it is worth the invest. While mana can be a concern and is why we like things like Mage-Ring Network, we are not really having to spend a full card on that investment. With Sanctum, we are dropping our shields with a four mana play. If I get that four mana back plus a few scrys, I am pretty happy, but what happens during that free turn I gave my opponent, or when they cast Dromoka's Command and snag tempo right back? The risks might be worth it, but I want to steer clear of this for now.

Embermaw Hellion - Even though this does a similar thing to Dictate, I really feel like going creatureless is a huge advantage for this type of list. Five toughness gets this out of a lot of situations, but Hero's Downfall, Roast, and Ultimate Price are all still not caring.

Magmatic Insight - This has some nice synergy with Goggles by allowing you to draw four cards immediately, but I am not sure that is worth playing this over Tormenting Voice. Voice gives us outs for our awkward and clunky spells while enabling land drops early. Additionally, Molten Vortex is asking us to stockpile lands, so discarding them here isn't great unless Goggles is active.


Lists!

As I was mentioning before, there seem to be a lot of potential variations on Dictate.dec, because of Origins. Not only do we have access to new tools, but we also have a new metagame to explore and maybe find our place in. I wanted to leave you with a few Brainstorm ideas on where to take Dictate decks going forward. These are just a few ideas, but I do think there are probably five more different shells out there as well. Jace's Sanctum might be the next place to explore, for example.

For now though, I leave you with these. The third list actually has me most excited, for obvious reasons.

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Sideboards and further progress will be updated as the metagame takes shape and I am able to get more testing in. For now though, enjoy the brews and be sure to do some of your own! Thanks for reading!

--Conley Woods--