By Greg Dempsey
December 23, 2018
Guilds of Ravnica Standard has a higher ratio of viable budget decks than most standard environments. New players to Magic The Gathering Arena like to play and grind out the BO1 Constructed Event because the matches are faster and you don’t need to complete a sideboard. Magic communities across the Internet have been suggesting monocolor aggro decks, but I’m here to talk about my personal favorite budget deck: Dimir Control BO1.
I was into the Dimir cards from the moment they were spoiled in Guilds of Ravnica. Surveil is an extremely powerful mechanic, sometimes more powerful than Scry. I stick BO1 in the name because it’s a tad different than BO3 lists due to the exclusion of a sideboard. This guide is for people who want to grind out some extra gold and cards from the Constructed Event and have some fun doing it.
Control decks are very good in Standard right now, and they come in a lot of different flavors. Playing these decks in BO1 can be a problem because they’re so reactive. If you don’t have a sideboard, it’s really hard to dig for specific answers. Sometimes, you might stick Revitalize in your 60-card list and never face mono-red, or you might omit it and face it five times in a row.
Dimir is different, though. Playsets of discard spells allow you to play very reactively. Meanwhile, boardwipes mixed with Edict effects let you clean up nicely. For every permanent the deck can’t deal with, like artifacts and enchantments, bounce and discard let you empty the board and clear out any problems. This is a control deck that can beat resolved Dawn of Hope, Arguel’s Blood Fast, and Carnage Tyrant. Oh, boy does it beat Carnage Tyrant.
Arena decklists for winning events aren’t published yet because there haven’t been any large-scale MTGA exclusive tournaments. To get a baseline, let’s take a look at some 75-card lists with a mainboard and sideboard that have gone undefeated in Standard leagues on the pay-to-play client, Magic: The Gathering Online. Here’s one such list by MTGO player Scappie from results posted on December 13, 2018.
Like other control decklists, the sideboard has plenty of creatures (seven to be exact) in the sideboard for when your opponent sides out removal. The other cards are specifically for opposing aggro or control decklists (e.g., Duress for control, Fungal Infection and Blood Operative for aggro). The sideboard can be all-but ignored for playing BO1. Thief of Sanity and Murmuring Mystic are great cards, but it really opens you up to your opponent’s removal if you play on curve.
The decklists also features two Karns and one Tezzeret as win cons, with the other mythics being two Dream Eaters. Dream Eater is a necessity for the deck, but the planeswalkers are just there to tick up and not much else. There’s hardly any artifact synergy here except for those two, so we can safely cut them in favor of more answers. After all, this deck draws cards like nobody’s business. Dimir Control BO1 doesn’t need as many win cons as it does for BO3. Five of them (eight if you count The Eldest Reborn) is a little much.
With all that in mind, I’ll share my list that has gotten me several thousand gold through 7-X runs in BO1.
You can afford to be more proactive with your discard because the format is BO1, so I go for the full playset of Disinformation Campaign. That card is just too sweet to pass up.
Blink of an Eye is a less expensive copy of Dream Eater and is a catch-all problem solver if you can pair it with Thought Erasure or Disinformation Campaign. You don’t want too many because of how bad they are early on, but it is definitely worth keeping in the deck. Plus it’s a common.
Blood Operative is just a one-off, but the little assassin does quite a bit of work.
The only reason you don’t want more of him is because you almost never want to play him on curve.
Golden Demise is here for budget reasons. Another Ritual of Soot is probably better in this slot, but F2P players are likely to have a larger spread of rares due to individual pack openings. If you have three Ritual of Soots, by all means, go for it.
The Eldest Reborn also tends to win games on its own, usually through reanimated fatties or planeswalkers. You just don’t want to get a hand full of them against someone rushing you down, so you stick to three.
The Devious Cover-Ups are there to protect you against mill, either active or incidental. Repeated looping of them means you’re unlikely to lose to a control deck that’s trying to drag the game out past your card draw. Just be careful of letting them get hit with Syncopate.
The rest is pretty standard. If you’re just starting out, you can replace the Rare lands for an even split of Dimir Guildgates, and Submerged Boneyard and the deck should work just fine. You usually won’t do anything on Turn 1 or 2 anyway. Vraska’s Contempt can also be substituted for uncommon removals like Price of Fame or Deadly Visit. Search for Azcanta could be slotted for any card advantage engine you might have on-hand.
You’re not a prison deck, but you want to lock them down all the same. Thought Erasure into Disinformation Campaign over and over again will run your opponent out of cards, and you have plenty of counterspells for other problematic permanents. Trust me—loop Disinformation Campaign once or twice, watch your opponent discard cards that are key to their gameplan, and you’ll be as hooked as I am.
You can let your life total dip down a bit because you have several lifegain spells to climb it back up, as well as the ever-present Blood Operative.
Pro-tip: Putting Blood Operative into the graveyard with Surveil will trigger the ability to put him into your hand. You don’t need two Surveil triggers to dump him and get him back—one works just fine.
Dream Eater has Flash for a reason, and it makes him incredibly valuable. Never cast him on your turn if you can avoid it because he is potent in combat. Bouncing a creature and killing another with a Surveil 4 can help you load up for a big haymaker swing the next turn. Often, he’ll help you find the answer you’re looking for, be it an Eldest Reborn or a Ritual of Soot.
Dispersal, the second half of Discovery // Dispersal, is Dimir’s best-kept secret (flavor unintended).
If you can force them to have just one permanent on the battlefield, or if their most problematic one is big, Dispersal becomes amazing. It basically says “destroy target permanent” at instant speed if you can run them out of other cards. This deck makes better use of bounce effects than any other deck out there, except maybe Mono-Blue Tempo. Speaking of bounce…
This deck absolutely demolishes enchantment-based removal. Conclave Tribunal, Ixalan’s Binding, and Seal Away are not only non-threatening, they can also be your friends. Nearly all of your permanents have some sort of trigger when they enter the battlefield, so bouncing these permanents usually gives you more value than you ever expected.
If they use Ixalan’s Binding on a Disinformation Campaign with no other cards in hand, bouncing the Binding with a Blink of an Eye or a Dream Eater puts it back into their hand and forces them to discard it immediately.
If they’re forced to use Conclave Tribunal off of The Eldest Reborn, bouncing the Tribunal immediately gives you the first lore counter on it, even if it’s on their turn. If you do this at instant speed on their turn, the second lore counter will trigger on your turn, forcing them to discard the permanent you bounced.
Your Jeskai Control opponent plays Teferi on Turn 5. After they activate his +1 ability, you bounce Teferi before they get to untap their lands (at end step). On your turn, you can Thought Erasure the Teferi away, and you have countermagic mana to back it up.
Once you have drained your opponent of resources, as Dimir Control BO1 tends to do, you only have to get in five Dream Eater swings to win. The Eldest Reborn lets you win with any of the creatures you removed or discarded, letting you get the most valuable creature out of the match. Golgari has no way to deal with a Carnage Tyrant with countermagic backup, and neither does Jeskai. Boros has no way to deal with the Lyra you stole, either.
Devious Cover-Up is massively strong if it gets to loop cards like The Eldest Reborn or Dream Eater. However, if you find it underperforms for you, it doesn’t hurt to switch it out. Fungal Infection buys you a lot of time against the aggro decks in the format, Doom Whisperer is an extra win-con that you might have on hand, and Dead Weight is removal at common.
Depending on your playstyle, this might not be your main deck, but you probably have most of it in your collection already. The free weekly Guilds of Ravnica packs will give you most of the uncommons you need, and drafting helps too. The uncommons, like Sinister Sabotage and Discovery // Dispersal, have their place elsewhere, so don’t feel guilty crafting them just for our Dimir Control decklist.
Not many control decks have this kind of crazy value. Rarely is proactive discard a theme in viable control decks. That’s why I’m playing tons of Dimir while I can. Just pray to whatever Magic deity you subscribe to that your opponent isn’t running Nullhide Ferox.