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Posted in Reconstructed on March 19, 2013

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

If there were a Dimir, they might have a theme week. And, if they did, then I would select a deck and write about them. If that happened, I would probably choose to look at a deck that involved a mechanic theoretically called cipher, seeing how the Dimir would theoretically have a mechanic of their own.

That might be something I would do. You know, if there really was a Dimir.

Is that... a Dimir Charm I see on the inside of your cloak? You really shouldn't make it so obvious. It stood out like a herd of indriks at a Rauck-Chauv festival.

I'll let it slide, Agent—this time. I have some new information to slip to you that needs immediate delivery.

This intelligence document has been procured by operative Ghostwave, real name “Diego Lacalamita.” Let me run you through it.

Diego Lacalamita's The Unperfect Di-Mill

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The Battle Plan

This deck is comprised of a two-pronged attack.

On one hand, this deck is set up to win by reducing your opponent's library to zero. (Or “milling,” as it is commonly called.) Cards like Mind Sculpt and Dream Twist lead right into that. Control decks are going to run into some serious trouble winning in time versus the deck-depleting clock of milling—especially with Nephalia Drownyard as one of the forefront cards in the plan. The Drownyard ensures you always have gas left in the milling tank.

Mind Sculpt
Dream Twist

However, like any good Dimir agent, Diego has a second plan as well.

The problem with milling is that a lot of the time you'll only get part of the way there and then all of that hard work will be for absolutely nothing. You will have made little progress on the game and, if you can't finish off your opponent, he or she will overwhelm you with creatures. The solution? Some powerful creatures of your own!

Wight of Precinct Six, Jace's Phantasm, and Consuming Aberration are all going to be inordinately sized relative to their mana cost in a deck like this. Even if your opponent isn't in striking distance of being milled out, that's no big deal: these creatures are happy to use all of those cards you milled away as a resource to mop up the game the old-fashioned way.

The key to improving this deck is going to be making sure that the pieces in both categories are optimized and at the right ratio. With that in mind, let's dive into the deck, shall we?

Card Breakdown

What works in this deck, and what doesn't? Well, let's go over the cards in the deck individually to find out!

Jace's Phantasm

Jace's Phantasm is the typical card you might expect in this deck to bridge the gap. There's a huge differential between the power of this card when it's just a 1/1 and when it's kicked up. It can end the game extraordinarily quickly once it's online. Fortunately, in a milling deck, it's pretty easy to do just that!

Jace's Phantasm is a fairly low investment card at only a single mana that works well with what the rest of the deck is doing, plus it has evasion so it makes a good cipher target early on if we end up adding cards with cipher. I definitely want to stick with four copies.

Wight of Precinct Six

Like the Phantasm, this is another great way this deck bridges the milling-to-creature gap. Now, it's worth noting that Wight of Precinct Six is fairly bad against control decks since they don't tend to play many creatures—but that's okay. Your matchup against control decks is pretty good to start off with since they can't kill you quickly and your milling strategy is particularly powerful against them. Where you really need the help is against beatdown decks, when your milling cards can be a little slow—and that's where Wight shines.

Against a deck chock-full of more creatures than Cinnamon Toast Crunch has swirls, the Wight of Precinct Six is a great offensive and defensive mechanism. It grows to huge sizes quickly and can either buy you the time you need or get in for some big hits once the coast is clear.

While you could consider something else, such as Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, for example, in this spot, I'm pretty happy with Wight of Precinct Six. It's half the price of Lazav and doesn't need to be on the battlefield first. Although Lazav is better against control and I would usually sideboard these Wights out against control decks, they are such crucial tools against beatdown decks at two mana that I want to leave all four copies in the main deck.

Snapcaster Mage

After those two more unusual creatures, here's a face you are probably a bit more familiar with. Snapcaster Mage is fantastic for this deck.

There are a ton of cards you want to have redundancy on so you can adapt to whatever your plan is. Whether he serves as extra Mind Sculpts or buys you time against creatures by reusing your removal spells, Snapcaster Mage is doing a well-deserved job. He can even come down on turn two and carry a Paranoid Delusions (which is almost certainly being added in) if he needs to! He's so strong in this deck that I want to stick with the full four.

Duskmantle Guildmage

Duskmantle Guildmage is a tricky card to evaluate in this deck. It does attack on both angles, and when it is good it is quite good. It can also provide you with some free wins. Imagine this sequence, for example:

Turns 2–4: Cast a Duskmantle Guildmage on one of these turns.
Turn 5: Cast Jace, Memory Adept.
Turn 6: Double activate Duskmantle Guildmage's first ability. Mill your opponent ten cards with Jace. Your opponent's dead.

On the other hand, it doesn't help out a ton without support elements around it. Milling your opponent for two is nice, but for four mana it's just such a high investment—especially considering the deck already had Nephalia Drownyards to use with four mana, which is just better.

The number of Guildmages I would like is two. It can be good in conjunction with other cards in the deck, and it's a cheap creature to potentially cipher onto, but it takes specific situations to be strong. If you draw one you can set up for those situations—but if you don't, your plans don't hinge on them.

Consuming Aberration

Consuming Aberration is going to be consistently gigantic in this deck. In many games it will hit the battlefield at 10/10—or larger! And yet, this is accompanied by a seemingly odd question: Is that good enough?

As a huge creature for five mana it looks impressive—but looks can be deceiving. A lot of the time, it's just going to be better for your core strategy to lay a Jace, Memory Adept and then mill your opponent for ten cards. You only have room for so many five-mana cards, and Jace surpasses Consuming Aberration most of the time: Jace is harder to kill, you get an effect out of him right away, and that effect might improve some of your other cards on the battlefield. The grind trigger off of Consuming Aberration is much slower and pales in comparison. Jace's Phantasm and Wight of Precinct Six will do much of the work of Aberration for you at a fraction of the cost.

While there are some situations where it might be nice to have a big blocker, there's only so much room at five mana and I would rather play a full set of Jaces than the Aberration.

Undercity Informer

While the added milling provided by Undercity Informer is nice, and he can help provide the finishing blow late in the game, as a 2/3 for three with a milling ability that won't be used until it needs to be he's just a little too weak to be what this deck is looking for. There are going to be better cards for this deck than this creature.

Mind Sculpt

As one of the best mana-to-mill ratios in Standard, this is a key inclusion for this deck. It's two mana for seven cards, and then it sits in your graveyard to be Snapcastered back later. This deck wants to draw as many as it can—I'll definitely stick with four.

Mind Grind

Mind Grind reads really exciting for a milling deck—but it can be a bit deceptive. While it does create occasional big swings, on average you're going to play it for two or three and it's not going to mill as many cards as you might expect. Especially with a full set of Nephalia Drownyards already in this deck as a way to spend your extra mana on milling cards, playing four copies of an expensive milling card does not sound that exciting to me. I'd rather cut these and let my “big mill” card be Jace.

Dimir Charm

Dimir Charm is a pretty solid fit for this deck, giving it a nice range of versatility. Every mode is useful, with the last one being slightly better than usual in this deck since getting to mill your opponent for two cards is relevant. I'm going to slide down to three from four, just because I want to play some removal in this deck that goes larger than just killing 2-power creatures. However, this card is still plenty useful enough to warrant three spots.

Dream Twist

While I'm willing to run Mind Sculpt because it's such a crazy mana-to-mill ratio, Dream Twist does not impress in the same way. I don't think this is going to be better than Paranoid Delusions most of the time, and I would rather run those in a deck with this many creatures before I went to Dream Twist.

Jace, Memory Adept

As I've mentioned a couple times already, this Jace is something that really makes this deck tick. If your opponent can't deal with him, he or she is probably going to lose in just a couple turns—and even if your opponent immediately Dreadbores him, you still ended up milling away ten crucial cards in the deal.

While he is a Planeswalker, I'm okay drawing multiples. If one dies it means you're more likely to replace it with another, and if one is stuck in your hand because you have a copy on the battlefield, you're probably winning anyway because you untapped with a Jace! I'd like to bump him all the way up to four copies.


Looking in Dimir

With the core of the deck solidified and a few cards stripped out, that gives us some room to work with. What should go in those empty spots? Well, let's go through the list!

Thought Scour

Traditionally, in Standard, you use Thought Scour to target yourself to set up your Snapcaster Mages or other graveyard shenanigans. In this deck, though, it's all about targeting your opponent! For a blue mana and no card disadvantage, you empty your opponent's library of two cards. Especially when you're trying to power up an early Jace's Phantasm or Wight of Precinct Six, this adds a nice little jump-start. There's little cost to playing it, and it helps draw us into the best cards in the deck. I'm happy with the full four.

Paranoid Delusions

A lot of the time, Paranoid Delusions is going to be two mana to mill six cards, since you cast it and then can immediately attack. While that's still worse than Mind Sculpt, the ability of Paranoid Delusions to repeat over and over means it can quickly convert to nine, twelve, or more cards over time. Curving a turn-one Jace's Phantasm into a turn-two Paranoid Delusions is fantastic—and if you have another Delusions to follow it up the next turn, that's going to put a very quick clock on your opponent!

I'm interested in playing three. They can create blowout draws with early creatures and are good early on, but at the same time you want to cast them when you have a creature ready to attack, so they are a bit situational. I'd start with three, and then adjust from there depending on what decks you continue to face.

As mentioned earlier, a quick creature draw can be a problem for a deck like this. I wanted access to a smattering of removal to help curb those draws and ensure I could get this deck's creatures through. With the creatures in Standard being so varied and Snapcaster Mage in this deck, I wanted to spread out the kinds of removal spells.

While originally I considered Liliana of the Veil because of how strong this deck is at parity, thanks to the super-powerful Nephalia Drownyard, she's best against control decks but a pretty weak removal spell against beatdown. If your local metagame is really heavily slanted toward control, I would consider main-decking two or three Lilianas.

With all of those changes, that brings the decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Den of Secrets

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Depending on your metagame, you can modify this shell. You can play more removal spells against beatdown decks and more cards like Liliana of the Veil; Lazav, Dimir Mastermind; Duress; and Psychic Strike against control decks. If Reanimator is popular, even main-decking a couple copies of Grafdigger's Cage isn't crazy. Your control matchup is already pretty good to start with, though, so I caution you against moving this deck too much to focusing on fighting off those decks.

A lot of people have been asking for milling decks recently, and so I'm glad Dimir Week presented a great opportunity to talk about one! Try bringing it to FNM and have fun with it! It's always fun to try and winning in a different way than usual for once.

Honorable Mentions

There were plenty of great Dimir submissions that weren't featured above—if you're looking for a take on the Dimir guild, take a glance at these!

Shota Sugawara's Cipher Grower

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Tony Camper's Crypt Ghast Blast

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Robert Doane-Solomon's Cipher Slicer

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Kent Mayson's Mill Yourself Zombie

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Devin Carter's Delves into Duskmantle

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Joseph Kuzmanovski's Zombitude

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Kazuaki Yamamoto's Immortal Sacritude

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Richard Lawrence's Draw-Go

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Anonymous's Take a BoW

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Takahashi Kazuyasu'S Thief

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Adam Cotner's Skaabs!

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Masashi Uemura's Trespass on Nivmagus

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ReConstructed Anniversary!

After this week, there's only one guild left to review: Orzhov. And that's coming up next week! Soon we'll be all the way through the Gatecrash guilds, and it'll be time to look at Dragon's Maze!

But wait! There's going to be one week between Orzhov Week and the beginning of Dragon's Maze previews. That week is not only ReConstructed's fifty-second article (making it its year anniversary), but it's also just a few days after my birthday. So, for a change of pace, let's do something a little different.

Some of you might be familiar with the idea of a Topical Blend article. It was an idea that first showed up on this website back in 2005, pioneered by Mark Rosewater. Since then, a few authors have done their own. (Including one of my most popular articles in my time before I worked at Wizards and was a writer, written back in 2010—check it out.

If you're not familiar, it works like this: I give you a list of Magic-centric topics and a list of non-Magic topics. You all vote on which you like the most. I take the two highest vote-getters and write an article that somehow includes and interweaves both of them.

And, of course, since this is a deck-building column, naturally all of the Magic topics will relate to strategy and deck building.

Ready to vote? Here are your topics!

Magic Topics Bad Deckbuilding HabitsBuilding Beatdown DecksBuilding Control DecksChoosing a Deck for a TournamentFighting the MetagameImproving Decks through PlaytestingManabasesMaking Decks with Cards from a New SetMy Favorite Decks of All TimeSideboarding
Non-Magic Topics Adventures around the WorldCreative WritingDealing with LosingDoctor WhoFavorite Movie/TV ScenesInternet MemesMy ChildhoodMy MomMy Non-Magic FriendsTimes I've Come Closest to Dying


Have fun voting!

If you have any comments on the deck—or even just thoughts on the topical blend idea—feel free to either post in the forums or send me a tweet. It's always great to hear from you!

I'll be back next week with a take on our last guild: Orzhov! Talk with you then!



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