Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Making Magic in the Arena - Dimir Rogues

It's that time of year again. The Ravnica sets, including War of the Spark, and Core Set 2020 are out, and Zendikar Rising is now in. That's right: Standard Rotation has occurred. And though many powerful spells have left, still many more remain.

Having said that, it's also time to beginning experimenting with new decks for this bold new frontier. And while I'm not convinced it's the most powerful deck in the rotation with four-color Omnath out in the wilds, seeing a viable Rogue tribal deck coming together, and in my favorite two-color combination, how I could possibly play anything else.

That's right. It's time to play Dimir Rogues!

There are several different formulas for the deck, but all of them utilize two key pieces: Thieves' Guild Enforcer and Soaring Thought-Thief. Both of these cards have a ton of traits in common.

  • Both cards have Flash, which allows us to play them on our opponent's turn and hold up mana.
  • Both have effects which mill cards off the top of our opponent's deck
  • Both have bonuses that activate once we reach a threshold of our opponent having eight or more cards in their graveyard.

From what I've seen, the deck takes those two as a skeleton, and can go in one of two different directions. The first utilizes the triggers from both cards to keep an opponent's graveyard full with at least 8 cards, and rush them down with a small army of rogues. You'll see cheap one-drops like the Merfolk Windrobbers and Zulaport Duelists in the deck I played in these lists, because they aim to move quickly. And though I didn't run any copies of it, it would make sense to run Nighthawk Scavenger is this style of rogue deck because it becomes a powerhouse extremely quickly.

The other version leans more into the flash ability, turning into something akin to the Simic/Sultai Flash decks people who have been here for a while might be familiar with. They use cards like Slitherwisp and Cunning Nightbonder to both accrue resources from and protect our instant-speed plays. And now that Teferi, Time Raveler is gone, we no longer need to worry about losing access to our ability to play at instant speed.

Either way, cards like Brazen Borrower and Drown in the Loch have quickly become cards that are non-negotiable, as both formulas are different types of tempo decks that need bounce spells and counter magic to keep our opponent off balance while we sweep in with our own tactics. In fact, cheap removal like Eliminate also forms another aspect of the deck's backbone no matter how it's built. We can also use cards like Jwari Disruption and Hagra Mauling in these slots to shore up our land drops, but I am unsure how effective that will ultimately be.

Lastly, the question exists as to whether or not Zareth San, the Trickster earns a slot of two in the deck. It's a difficult quandary, which depends on how the meta shakes out as time marches on. In some of the games we played, it turned the tide in such a major way that our opponent had no choice but to surrender to us. On the other hand, we does little when our opponent isn't committing to the board and we aren't hitting many useful permanents in our mill strategy. That said, he does still have flash, which allows us to choose when would be the best time to cast him. Additionally, he has an effect similar to ninjutsu which allow us to place him on board so long as one of our forces aren't blocked.

But again, no matter how you build it, and there are several ways to do so, it's a fun deck that combines flavor and effectiveness. And as a start to post-rotation meta, it's exciting to see a deck like this doing well, even if it might not make the cut once the meta solidifies.

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