Dimir Devotion

Dimir Devotion

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

dimir devotion

I just recently started getting a little fed up of the current Standard environment when low and behold: some new decks showed up! Well, the card pool not being exactly huge … we’ll just called them new takes/ variants on existing archetypes. One such deck caught my eye when I saw that it Top 8’ed a local PTQ here in Montreal. I recognized the deckbuilder/player and immediately thought the deck was very interesting and obscure enough that it was worth trying out and writing about.

Here’s the list:

Dimir Devotion

Standard Format

Creatures: 14

2 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Pack Rat

Instants: 12

3 Dimir Charm
3 Far/Away
4 Hero’s Downfall
Psychic Strike

Sorceries: 4

4 Thoughtseize

Enchantments: 4

4 Underworld Connections

Planeswalkers: 2

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Lands: 24

4 Watery Grave
4 Temple of Deceit
12 Swamp
4 Mutavault


1 Ratchet Bomb
2 Cyclonic Rift
3 Doom Blade
3 Gainsay
4 Lifebane Zombie
2 Notion Thief

When you think mono black devotion you’re probably thinking something along the lines of this. It’s pretty similar to the Dimir list : Devour Flesh is replaced by Far/Away and Doom Blade is more or less Dimir Charm now. The newer cards aren’t direct ports however, simply different ways of interacting with our opponents.

What, no more Whip?

whip of erebosWhip it! Whip it good!

While Whip of Erebos was sometimes an MVP in the more classic Monoblack build, it’s now fallen out of favor for more creatures (now running 4 Pack Rat) or more removal. It’s just not the beast it once was. Opponents got to know how to play around it, expect it and it was probably the worst card to draw in multiples without having a Pack Rat in play. Sure, it allowed you to ‘rebuy’ cards that your Azorius/Esper opponents countered or destroyed and perhaps reanimate a game-ending Gray Merchant of Asphodel, but things have changed. The lifelink ability is still good enough to maybe warrant it as a one-of somewhere in the 75 but just like Nykthos, it’s too ‘iffy’. The deck prefers consistency over random fancy cards. Don’t trade them off too hastily though, it’ll probably see play before long in some reanimator deck (I’m fairly sure of this being a thing).

The ‘Core’

The changes made are mostly in place to be better able to answer cards that are traditionally problem cards for this deck. For example:

blood baron bubbleDo you not just hate this card?

While Devour Flesh was a pretty good answer to this guy, Far/Away is just a touch better and more versatile. In the scenario where they have two creatures in play, one of them being Blood Baron of Vizkopa, you get to bounce the other guy back to their hand and get them to sacrifice their Blood Baron (since the card resolves from left to right). Another pretty nice move if you’re in a bind is to bounce Blood Baron back to their hand and then Thoughtseize it. It seldom comes up, but it’s nice to be aware of. This is true of any creature you absolutely want to get rid of when they just have too many things on board (Precinct Captain and two soldier tokens).

far awayUnsummon and Diabolic Edict all in one

You might have read the previous paragraph and wondered: how can you cast Far on a Blood Baron of Vizkopa? Isn’t the card multicolored (Blue and Black) thus making it impossible to target Blood Baron with it? Well, if you read up on the rulings found here, you will note that:

On the stack, a split spell that hasn’t been fused has only that half’s characteristics and converted mana cost. The other half is treated as though it didn’t exist.

This is pretty interesting information. Unless you’ve had this come up before, you probably weren’t fully aware of it. I’ve actually had to look it up myself in a local tournament. Unfortunately, the person casting the spell was not aware of how it worked and had cast both halves. Fortunately for them, it would have made it impossible for them to legally cast the spell with Fuse so they were allowed to take it back and receive a small warning (FNM REL, so no biggie). It also interacts with an opposing Soldier of the Pantheon, so be sure to remind your opponent that they won’t be gaining that 1 precious life point if you only cast one of the halves.

Another interesting play is to cast both halves, the Away half on your opponent and Far on your Gray Merchant of Asphodel. It’s usually a win/win situation. If they kill your Gray Merchant in the process the Away half will still resolve because the spell had two targets. I really enjoy the fact that a card that’s basically a removal spell can now double as an extra Gray Merchant when you need to finish of your opponent, stabilize or just survive that extra turn.

Dimir Charm? What does that even do?

dimir charmLove that quote !

What? When did this become playable? Wasn’t this like an FNM promo a while back and nobody cared? Well, yes basically it was probably the most underplayed charm (along with Gruul Charm). Heck, even Simic Charm saw some play a while back (in Bant Hexproof decks). This thing was just unappealing until now.

The main problem of monoblack decks is that their 2 cost removal varies between Doom Blade, Pharika’s Cure and Ultimate Price. None of these hit Nightveil Specter. Two of the three can kill a Pack Rat,Mutvault, Burning-Tree Emissary. One of them hits Sin Collector, Rakdos Cackler, Master of Cruelties. Think of it as Dimir’s version of Last Breath (another card that is seeing much more play). Dimir Charm deals with all of these.

What about the other modes?

Being able to counter a sorcery is nice, but those are almost at an all time low these days. Supreme Verdict is something you would counter, only you can’t. Let’s take a look at other popular targets:

mizzium mortarsSay goodbye to your 4 or less Pack Rats

rakdos's return

Less played, but can be more devastating


Who doesn’t run this ?

There are a few more that I’m probably missing, such as Read the Bones, Divination, Anger of the Gods, Dreadbore and Duress. They all see some play, so it’s nice to have this option too. It catches people off guard, which is nice. Obviously, this becomes less good once people become accustomed to the deck. This is something that happened to the original monoblack deck awhile back. A lot of players learned how to sideboard against it and what to play around. The lack of mass removal also made the original deck more vulnerable to an early rush of creatures.

Isn’t there a third option?

Glad you mentioned it, then again just pretend it’s not there. Much like Breaking/Entering‘s second half, you can just skip it. There are very few times it can come in handy (much like casting Entering from under a Shelldock Isle in a mill deck to grab their giant Eldrazi creauture in response to its triggered ability). Once of those times is when your opponent absolutely needs a specific top deck or a live draw when you are going to win the following turn. You’ll play it on them and most likely end up giving them a land. You can also play the ‘mill’ mode if they decided to Scry and keep the card on top. Note however that this is probably still not that great.

Another situation would be to allow you to dig for a game-winning Gray Merchant. In conjunction with Underworld Connections, it can be like a badly assembled Sensei’s Divining Top. Not too exciting, but it’s there and I hope you never have to go there.

Ashiok, playable?

One of the main problems of this deck is that it tends to lose games that go really really long (usually versus Azorius and Esper decks). The current Standard planeswalker, Liliana of the Dark Realms is just terrible from a competitive standpoint. Go ahead and jam her in your whatever Commander or casual deck, but at all costs: don’t try to make her ‘work’ in Standard.

In comes our Dark Knight in shinning armor, sort of. I have tried various BUG builds with Ashiok in them and it never really felt that I was winning with him in play, even when I was. merged with the monoblack shell however, things become more interesting. Even if all he’s doing is something along the lines of +2 into -1 to -3 to play one of their small dudes over and over, it’s just fine. He can stem the bleeding or just completely slow down their aggro. In a monoblack ‘mirror match’ taking a ‘milled’ Nightveil Specter is downright insane.


One of the cooler features of the card is that it deals with one of the more hated deck quite well. I’m talking about Azorius control. No one can actually enjoy playing against a deck that almost literally does nothing for so many turns only to win off the back of an Elspeth, infinite recurring Sphinx’s Revelations with Elixir of Immortality or a Jace ultimate (unlikely). I don’t really enjoy playing where such a deck is ‘a thing’. Ashiok slowly grinds these decks down with his +2, almost never activating ability # 2 and then can go ultimate barring any Mutavault hits or Detention Spheres. At that point, you should be in a good position to win since they will need to rebuild their hand or you will have milled the Elixir of Immortality and their few win conditions.

Psychic Strike? Where’s the real list?

You might have to go and read what the card does and that’s understandable. Normally it’s an O.K limited card when you’re playing a mill archetype in Ravnica block draft (or if you were playing Sealed in Gatecrash). The card has one very interesting feature.

psychic strike

Did you spot it?







That’s quite an interesting mana cost, is it not? One blue mana only? Counter anything? hmm…seems legit! The mill feature is probably not relevant most of the time, but it’s basically free. We get to play a counterspell in a deck that runs a minimum number of blue sources. Eight blue sources to be exact and that’s more than enough. We only ever really need one in play most of the time.

While Psychic Strike is nice to have, you must keep in mind that it’s a sort of ‘last ditch’ card. You want to be countering something ‘big’ like a Sphinx’s Revelation, Elspeth, Gray Merchant, Blood Baron, etc. I really like the fact that an Esper/Azorius player can’t reliably go: “End of turn Sphinx’s Revelation for a lot. What are you gonna do about it, monoblack player?”

What now?

Well, you can maybe go out and test it. I know I have, with favorable results. So far it’s been 7-0-1 (only two local tourneys) and its had some match-ups that were bad for regular monoblack. If it were to become more and more popular, the deck would generate more hate towards it and likely become less effective overall. For the time being, it does not look to very popular under its UB form as most people prefer the white splash for Blood Baron and Sin Collector.

I doubt the sideboard needs that much explanation, except that it has more counters specifically versus the blue deck (Gainsay). The Cyclonic Rifts seem pretty random but they can be used to bounce Detention Spheres back to our opponents’ hands. Following that, you can go ahead and Thoughtseize the Detention Sphere to get a Recoil or Vindicate-style effect.

In the end, the deck wins in typical monoblack fashion as usual. You’re just a little more flexible versus the hate cards and have more maindeck answers against certain cards that were harder to deal with when the deck was just all monoblack. I do of course really like that one of my original favorite sideboard cards found it’s way in there …

notion thief

Sphinx’s Revelation for how much?

Here are some words of advice from the deck’s creator:

“I really like playing against u/w you have an lots of threats and the counters are unexpected and give you an easy win, also Notion Thief is a beast against them as if they don’t answer it they cant Revelation or Divination. The match-up I hate the most is the ” mirror ” match, they have disruption and lots of removal so usually whoever gets Underworld Connections up first wins. The deck does well against aggro because of all the removal and Ashiok is a beast. Unless he gets answered,he starts to spit out blockers and the hardest threats to answer for the aggro decks are usually the cards they are playing themselves, like Reckoner.”

Theros Previews: Wave 6

previews wave 6

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

We now have a third planeswalker in the set! You heard right: three planeswalkers so far in Theros.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver


Weird in every way imaginable

As usual, I’ll do the ability play by play:

ashiok 1

A mini-mill

One of the rarer +2 loyalty planeswalkers, Ashiok’s + ability is rather unimpressive. Clearly it builds up to something. If you take it at face value, you’re basically activating a Nephalia Drownyard each turn. Meh! I supposed with enough protection he can be a win condition just based on that. You save 4 mana a turn when compared to Nephalia Drownyard. Mana that can be used to do cool stuff like play cards such as Far/Away.

nephalia drownyardNot sure how many people will actually miss this card once it rotates

The random part where Nephalia Drownyard wins out is that

A) it’s uncounterable

B) You can mill yourself to dig for flashback cards or some cards to use when you cast Snapcaster Mage

Next ability:

ashiok 2

Yeah, sorry I couldn’t get a larger picture of Ashiok

Yay! Free Ornithopters and Dryad Arbors! Or you can just grab a 4 cost creature after you’ve +2 ‘ed your opponent once. In a sense he can probably ‘protect’ himself. It’s a funny way of looking at it, but it is more or less luck-based and limited to what you have exile with Ashiok. Better practice your milling skills boys!

In order to prevent any kind of abuse, Ashiok’s + ability is limited to your opponent’s library. I haven’t really fathomed all the stupid stuff you can do if you were allowed to target your deck, but there are quite a few.

You also probably won’t be using the second ability on Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver often if your opponent is playing a control deck that runs little to no creatures. No idea how many of those are going to be floating around, but there sure are a heck of a lot of ‘Superfriends’ aka. planeswalker options.

And ultimately:

ashiok 3

Um, not quite a Jace, the Mindsculptor ultimate eh?

So how do you win with this again? Exactly. It’s somewhat cryptic. Does it fit in a ‘Turbo Fog’ style deck? Not quite sure. Still, you get to do a Wit’s End, which can’t be all too bad.

wits endClearly, Nicol Bolas can’t be wrong

I imagine that against control decks you can get him to 11 loyalty, use his ultimate and then continue grinding his library away. So on the fourth activation gets you one ultimate, then every 6th activation gets to be an ultimate (if you wish). You get to blank his has of counters, dead cards and whatever other nasty comeback cards he may be holding. Also, these cards are gone for good off to join their other exiled friends in From the Vault: Exiled. Yes, it’s a bad removed from game joke.

Speaking of Remove from Game, I want to take this moment to promote one of the coolest product I have seen as far as card protection goes.



These sleeves are awesome!

They don’t split when you shuffle them, nor do the corners break (because they’re rounded). The cards are a little tight to fit at first, but it gets easier after. I highly suggest you go purchase some and get back with your feedback so that people don’t think I’m shamelessly promoting weird card protectors. I’m not sure if they still sell them on their site, but I’m sure you can purchase them if you search hard enough.

Lightning Strike


lightining strike

Fear the Spear !

The somewhat unexpected ‘Searing Spear‘ reprint. It was looking like Magma Jet was taking over as the 2-cost burn spell and red decks were going to go for a more ‘Devotion’-based approach (with Boros Reckoners, Ash Zealot ,etc) to get Purphoros online as soon as possible.

What is left to say about this card except that you will be seeing a lot for the next 2 years of Standard. If you want to pack it in Modern, knock yourself out. Between this, Incinerate, Searing Spear and Lightning Bolt – you can mix and match as you wish.

The Same-Color Hate Cycle


Glare of Heresy


glare of heresy

I was wrong about this card’s name




I was wrong about this one as well

Dark Betrayal


dark betrayal

Strike Three!

Peak Erruption


peak erruptio

… I’m soooo out!

Yep! every single one wrong. Still, the cycle of same-color hate was fairly evident and a really interesting twist on sideboarding. I am fairly certain they will all see a great deal of play with all the multicolored cards that the Return to Ravnica block brings to the table.

Gainsay is going to be big versus Sphinx’s Revelation decks (of course) and winning counterspell wars. Other than that, It counters a few planeswalkers (even Ashiok) , Aetherling and some draw (Opportunity).

Dark Betrayal is going to hit quite a few scary creatures for really cheap, so black creatures are ‘somewhat’ riskier. Doom Blade for non-black and Dark Betrayal for the rest (like Underworld Cerberus).

Glare of Heresy is just wow! Any white permanent? Detention Sphere, Elspeth, Archangel of Thune? Nice sideboard card versus all the really annoying bomby white cards. Problem is how many can you fit in the sideboard? Also, how many is your opponent going to be siding in versus your white deck? Let’s not forget it also exiles Heliod.

Finally, Peak Erruption is a little different from its other sideboard buddies. It can effectively Stone Rain your opponent’s land and potentitally set him back a color (lets not forget Ravnica block duals already). The 3 damage is very appealing, especially at times you can two-for-one their land and planeswalker. It can become increasingly good versus decks running Chained to the Rocks if you’re into getting full value.

Fleecemane Lion


fleecemane lion

Part Watchwolf, part WTF?

The Watchwolf comparison is rather unfair, because that’s what this card is in the worst case scenario. Once Monstrous, good luck doing anything to it. There are not many ‘edict’ (sacrifice a creature) effects left in Standard, save Devour flesh. Why is it that Cats are always better than Hounds in Magic: the Gathering ?

Before you start thinking that it’s a shoe-in for some kind of Hexproof deck – don’t forget that most of that deck is rotating ( Geist of Saint Traft, Spectral Flight, Invisible Stalker). It might make it in some kind of Bant midrange deck since you can have it survive your own Supreme Verdicts. Either way, the way this set is looking Supreme Verdict is not going to be much of an answer to anything anymore.

geist of saint traft invisible stalker

You have less than a month to enjoy these cards in Standard

At the very least you have a rather hard to remove planeswalker protector. You can also make an opposing removal spell whiff since you can activate Monstrous at instant speed. Keep in mind that it can always be responded to, so try to activate it when your opponent is low on cards in hand or tapped out at the end of his turn.

Kragma Warcaller


kragma warcaller

Angry Angry Minotaurs

Black is not a color that comes to mind when thinking of minotaurs, we have been more accustomed to seeing them in Red and sometimes White. I guess those terrible Black Minotaurs in M14 were there to prepare us for the horrors to come. This Rakdos minotaur is very much superior to his M14 counterparts (not that it’s hard to beat). Essentially, he’s a 4/3 haster himself the turn he comes down. It’s too early to say if he makes the cute in a Standard Minotaur tribal deck, but I’m betting on ‘No’.

Arbor Colossus



Pretty much confirmation enough that the M12 titans are not returning

If you ever wanted to try out the big creature Green deck or Green/White deck now is probably as good a time as any. This guy is very good for his mana cost. We know that being in the color of mana ramp you will have no problem casting him 1-2 turns ahead of time. Monstrous means beating your opponent down for 9 and potentially taking down some annoying flyer like Archangel of Thune or the Stormbreath Dragon.

Having Reach even without being Mosntrous means you won’t see many opposing creatures swinging back at you with this guy in play. It’s a great piece of cardboard, one that will surely make more than a few people ‘green with envy’.

Prophet of Kruphix


prophet of kruphix

Seedborn Muse just ‘Evolved’

In the beginning, there was this card:


Seems fair … unexciting

It didn’t quite catch on because there was not much of an upside to it, so they created this:

seedborn muse

It became everyone’s favorite Commander card (after Sol Ring and Sensei’s Divining Top)

Then there were some variants :

murkfiend liege

Also a Commander favorite

then they decided to bring it back to Standard in an updated form:

prophet of kruphix

Prepare to have some multiplayer fun

I’m not entirely sure as to how effective this card will be in Standard what with it not having Flash itself. Still, there are some nice possibilities here. If you land it on your turn 5 with a tapped out opponent, you can simply Flash in a Prime Speaker Zegana (probably not the most efficient play) whenever to draw up some cards before it’s your turn again. You can also try for a Progenitor Mimic and copy a Prophet of Kruphix so that you can double up on the untap effect each time it’s your opponent’s untap step.

Again, you can probably do a few nice tricks here and there but it’s all a matter of our dear Prophet staying alive long enough. Your patience and proper timing may very well be rewarded in the proper deck. Everyone and anyone playing some Simic or Bant Commander/EDH deck will be hunting down the foils, try to keep that in mind if you happen to open a shiny copy of this card.

It’s a nice twist on last Standard format’s ‘enter the battlefield’ gimmick. Now you have to try to keep creatures and other permanents in play before you get to reap the rewards. I think it will make for a somewhat slower format and a much more enjoyable one at that.

Still more to come ..


Keep checking back here to catch a glimpse of more Theros Preview cards. See you tomorrow!



theros preorder