I should probably also mention at this point that I'd taken a nap earlier in the afternoon and during that time I had a weird dream about Magic. Unfortunately the exact circumstances of the dream have been lost to the void but somehow I recall arguing profusely with another player that Dimir was the best deck in Ravnica block draft and thus completely worth forcing. The amusing part of this is that I *hated* playing Dimir in the actual format but apparently in dreamland I'm a strong advocate. The truth is I often dream about Magic because I spend so much time thinking about it but in this particular case even I found the dream to be pretty weird. Don't worry this *will* come up later.
Once again this deck was incredibly easy to build; partially because I had stopped to take a few good white cards before I knew my 2nd color and partially because the back half of all 3 packs were simply miserable for everyone in this draft. With virtually no relevant sideboard cards to speak of this is the deck I entered the tournament with:
Creatures - 15:
2x Fume Spitter
1x Leaden Myr
1x Wall of Tanglecord
1x Necrogen Scudder
2x Neurok Replica
1x Palladium Myr
1x Phyrexian Rager
1x Argent Sphinx
1x Dross Ripper
1x Carnifex Demon
Spells - 8:
1x Go for the Throat
1x Grasp of Darkness
1x Nim Deathmantle
1x Heavy Arbalest
1x Morbid Plunder
1x Quicksilver Geyser
1x Volition Reins
1x Black Sun's Zenith
Lands - 18:
Overall I feel this build is a very good version of classic limited U/B Control; an ages old deck archetype that's been good in almost every single draft format ever played. First and foremost this deck focuses on negating your opponent's creatures with a stunning array of control effects; not counting the Solilton there are 5 creatures and 11 cards total in this deck that can deal with enemy monsters in some way. Additionally the synergy level in this build is incredibly high with numerous cards filling multiple roles in a single game depending on the board state and the cards in your hand. Finally the deck has a couple of equipment based combos that can either win the game outright (Solition + Arbalest) or lock out the board indefinitely (Nim Deathmantle + Neurok Replica/Fumespitter/half the deck).
As regular "Of Limited Interest" readers know I like to describe draft decks by breaking them down into packages of cards that accomplish the same goals; a strong, tightly focused draft deck will usually make this quite easy since each card will obviously work towards a specific purpose. In the case of Dimir Dreamin' this breakdown was a little harder because so many of the cards filled multiple roles. At it's heart however the deck is basically comprised of 6 packages:
- Control - as previously mentioned this build has a whopping 11 cards total that can control your opponent's creatures. Black Sun Zenith, Go For the Throat, Volition Reins, Grasp of Darkness and the Carnifex Demon obviously top that list but cards like Quicksilver Geyser, Heavy Arbalest, Fume Spitter and Neurok Replica are just as important to this build.
- Card Draw - While not exactly "amazing" Riddlesmith, Oculus, Phyrexian Rager and to a degree Morbid Plunder all help you cycle towards a game winning bomb or more control effects which can be very important in this deck archetype.
- Chump Blockers - This deck tends to spend most of the early game on the defensive while building up it's mana base which in turn makes having good blockers important. Wall of Tanglecord and Neurok Replica are generally the best early plays but Oculus and Phyrexian Rager make decent cards to throw under the bus in a pinch.
- Graveyard Recursion - While only 2 cards both the Morbid Plunder and the Nim Deathmantle are incredibly strong in this build; allowing you to re-use the deck's many creatures with sacrifice abilities and/or recur your Sphinx/Demon when it's killing time.
- Man Acceleration - Once again while only 2 cards both of the "mana" Myr in this deck help make it significantly stronger; both by smoothing out the early mana curve and allowing the deck to reach 6-8 mana for a Demon, Vol Reins or equip costs as early as turn 4.
- Beatdown Crew - Finally of course the deck runs 5 "thumpers" to help kill off your opponent once you've established board control. These creatures range from amazing (Carnifex Demon) to very good (Argentum Sphinx, Necrogen Scudder) to passable (Soliton, Dross Ripper) but all of them are capable of putting your opponent "on the clock" against an empty board.
Oddly enough round 1 would pair me against the player who was passing into me packs 1 and 3 during the draft so I already had some idea of what I would be facing up against. I'd passed Scott some incredible red cards in pack 2 (Blast, Turn to Slag) and I had surmised that he was also playing green because I hadn't seen him pass many quality green cards all draft. He of course knew I was in black/blue based on what he'd passed so we sat down for a fairly "tactical" game of Magic. Unfortunately game 1 was a bit of a let down as both Scott and I had trouble drawing creatures and we both had more than enough removal to deal with the ones that were played. He killed my turn 2 Myr with a Blisterstick Shaman which I turn took out with a Fume Spitter and on it went. At one point the board settled out with a Wall of Tanglecord, a random 2/2 and an Ogre Resister for Scott against my Dross Ripper, Phyrexian Rager and Necrogen Scudder. I incorrectly assumed that Scott was out of removal so I cast Carnifex Demon on 6 mana and shipped the turn back only to have Scott untap, play a 2nd Mountain and cast the last card in his hand; Turn to Slag. Thankfully I had the Morbid Plunder in hand and after casting out a random blocker to ensure I wouldn't be overwhelmed on the next turn I returned the Carnifex Demon and a Fume Spitter to my hand. Scott drew a couple land and after wiping most of his board I started getting in with a 6/6 Demon and a 1/1 random body every turn until Scott conceded.
Game 2 started off better for both of us as we each cast out turn 2 mana Myr that actually survived this time and we both quickly flooded the board with 2/2 "bears". Scott eventually cast an Ogre Resister to take board control but I had been purposely casting out my weaker creatures (Rager, Riddlesmith, Oculus) because I was slow rolling a Black Sun's Zenith which I promptly cast on my next turn for 3. Scott played a land and passed the turn so I cast an Argent Sphinx which he promptly sent to the bin with a Burn the Impure (?) on my end step. After Scott drew, played another land and cast another 2/2 "bear" he passed the turn back to me with 5 mana in play and 1 card in his hand. I dropped a Necrogen Scudder and cast Morbid Plunder to return the Sphinx and the Oculus to my hand. Scott drew another land (presumably) and dropped an Alpha Tyrannax but conceded when I showed him the Volition Reins and Island in my hand. After the match my opponent revealed that his 1st pick in MBS had been Thrun, the Last Troll so the decision to pass me 2 black targeted removal spells that could not kill him suddenly made more sense.
1-0 (2-0) MVP - Tough call here as both Carnifex Demon and Volition Reins were amazing in the match; Morbid Plunder however set me up to win *both* games so I think it gets the nod here.
Unfortunately by round 2 I was already starting to feel tired and running a reasonable fever so my memory is a little fuzzy on this round. I do remember that Gilles was playing a weird control/poison hybrid with an absolute pile of amazing removal. Early in game 1 I actually assumed he was a pure Infect deck based on his early plays (Rot Wolf, Viridian Corrupter) until he cast a mid-game Oxxida Scrapmelter on me. I managed to stabilize early in the game by casting a 2 point Black Sun's Zenith but Gilles responded with a Morbid Plunder and used the Corrupter to take out my Dross Ripper. Eventually after trading removal spells for a couple turns however I drew enough land to cast out the Carnifex Demon and activate it twice on the same turn which quickly sent us to game 2.
Game 2 was an epic back and forth battle as both of our decks came out gunning early; once again Gilles flooded the board with early Infect monsters and once again I responded by dropping a 2 point Black Sun's Zenith. This time however Gilles responded taking out my Nim Deathmantle with an Oxidda Scrapmelter and I could only reply with a Palladium Myr. Gilles dropped Morbid Plunder on his next turn and started beating me down with the Scrapmelter. I missed a land drop and was forced to run out a Necrogen Scudder and an Oculus dropping further down in life. Gilles attacked again and I foolishly blocked with my Scudder thereby walking directly into an Instill Infection. Missing another land drop I drew a Dross Ripper and was finally able to trade with his Scrapmelter in combat before he cast out 2 more bodies and a Culling Dias. Suddenly very worried I drew my top card and without hesitation slammed down a land and the Carnifex Demon I'd been holding on to for the past 4 turns. To my surprise Gilles didn't have a way to kill the Demon immediately and simply swarmed at me with all of his non poison creatures, sacrificing the one I blocked fatally to his Culling Dias and putting me at 9 life. I drew a land off a dying Oculus and a land on my draw so I activated the Demon twice; killing his board and my own Palladium Myr in the process and leaving only my Demon to swing for 6. Gilles naturally top-decks Spread the Sickness and casts out a Myr Sire after sending my Demon to the bin. At this point I was pretty worried because my hand consisted of a Soliton and some land and Gilles had not yet cast the Viridian Corrupter he regrew with Morbid Plunder a bunch of turns ago. I drew a Phyrexian Rager which in turn drew me into a Go for the Throat but Gilles replied by simply flooding the board with a Painsmith and a random 3/3 body. Unfortunately I don't remember the exact sequence of the next couple turns; I played a chump blocker and drew a Grasp but was forced down to 5 life by Gilles next attack. At the end of the first attack Gilles cracked his Culling Dias for 3 cards and on the next turn cast another creature and a Morbid Plunder. I was forced to play out my Soliton, a Wall of Tanglecord and a Heavy Arbalest which Gilles killed immediately with his Corrupter. Things looked pretty bleak when Gilles forced me to trade off the Myr just to stay at 5 life and cast another creature threatening to overwhelm me with damage on the next turn. I then proceeded to rip my only out at that point; my singleton copy of Morbid Plunder. I cast it and immediately returned the Demon and the Oculus to my hand. I attacked for 3 with my Solition and openly stated "I can untap him to block so I might as well get 3 damage in here and cast out the Oculus certain that I could stay at 5 life next turn simply by blocking everything Gilles attacked with and trumping with the Demon (I had like 10 land in play at that point and so did he) on my next turn. Gilles grimly sized up the situation before casting a random artifact and using the Painsmith trigger to turn the Myr Sire into a 3/1 deathtouch monster for the turn. He proceeded to swing with the entire team and after choosing blocks I realized that I had miscalculated and was going to take a very uncomfortable 3 damage on his attack. This was of course because somehow in the 60 seconds since I had mentioned it openly I had forgotten that Soliton could untap himself, no really. Gilles didn't have the Galvanic Blast in hand so I untapped and dropped the fully loaded Carnifex Demon on the table and immediately activated it twice leaving nothing on Gilles side, a 0/4 wall and a 1/2 Soliton to keep my Demon company on my side. Gilles drew a land and snapped it into play before I attacked for 7 with the Demon and the Soliton. This put Gilles on 10 life and when he drew another land it was pretty obvious he was frustrated and still had answers left in his pile. I attacked again and after surveying the board Gilles decided to scoop at 3 life with my fatal attack on board for next turn. Unfortunately as I was scooping my cards up Gilles decided to look at the top card of his deck (which he would have drawn immediately if he had not conceded) and asked me "what life are you at?" When I said 2 he flipped an Arc Trail onto the table and my jaw almost hit the floor. I had already shuffled the Demon, Soliton, Wall and half my graveyard into my library but by all rights my opponent had me dead as a doornail if he hadn't conceded before his draw step. Gilles however assured me that he was frustrated with his own hastiness and was prepared to accept the loss; to be fair I'm a little sad to admit that I did not offer to conceded the game and head to game 3. My rationalization at the time was that I too had made a boneheaded mistake by not untapping the Soliton and blocking the Myr Sire and thus would have been able to survive the Arc Trail if I had played "right". In retrospect I really should have just conceded for a game 3 and next time I hope I have the good sense to do just that.
2-0 (4-0*) - MVP - My opponent conceding before drawing his top card in game 2. Frankly I'm still feeling a little weird about this win days later.
As it turns out the finals would also pair me against a player I had sat right next to during the draft; in this case Lucas to whom I'd shipped 3/4 of a great B/G Infect deck in packs 1 and 3. To be honest I was genuinely afraid of this match-up simply because I knew how good Lucas' deck was and my deck was potentially a little slow to handle a fast poison draw against it. After Lucas assured me that he had no intention of taking it easy on me just because I was trying to qualify for Nationals on rating we shuffled up and prepared to battle. Unfortunately Game 1 was a bit of a travesty as Lucas kept a 2 land hand which eventually became 3 but never quite reached 4. This forced him to waste all of his cheap removal on my early creatures just to maintain board parity and left him with no answers when I dropped a Soliton/Heavy Arbalest combo in the mid-late game. As if to prove to me that he wasn't taking a dive Lucas showed me his hand after the game; Flesh Eater Imp, Spread the Sickness, Blightwidow and a Melira's Keepers. Game 2 started slightly better with Lucas dumping out an early Ichorclaw Myr, Flensermite and a Bladed Pinions but I responded with both Fume Spitters and an early Argent Sphinx to take control of the board. Lucas once again got stuck on 3 mana and despite dealing with the Argent Sphinx fell way behind on the board. By the time he played his 4th mana and Flesh-Eater Imp I had more than enough removal to kill it and his Melira's Keepers were met with a Volition Reins to close out the game.
3-0 (6-0) - MVP My opponent's complete inability to draw his 4th or 5th lands in a timely manner despite playing B/G Control Infect with 17 lands and a spare mana Myr.
Well folks that's about all my fingers can handle for the moment; hopefully you've enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I have to admit that it felt good to get back on the horse and really "nail" a draft like that; I was starting to worry that lack of practice would ultimately be my undoing. Hopefully as my health gets better I can post articles more frequently but I have to be allowed to play in tournaments before I can write about them. As a side note I should mention that I'm working on a few articles for other websites at the moment; be on the lookout for updates here on my blog as to where on the interwebs you can find them once they're finished. Until next time folks always remember to force Dimir if your dreams tell you to and never forget to keep it weird.