Feature Article from Seth Manfield

Taking Dimir Midrange to the First Mythic Championship

Seth Manfield

2/27/2019 11:01:00 AM

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I'm back from the first ever Mythic Championship event, and it was something special, unlike anything I have ever been a part of. I know that it's essentially a duplicate of the Pro Tour with a different name, but honestly there was a unique feeling to the event. Maybe it was the fact that the Magic Pro League has now started, or that there was a MagicFest in the exact same location. It could have been the stacked Top 8, and how exciting it was to see Autumn Burchett take down the event, as they truly played some amazing Magic.

Whatever it was, it was hard for me to exactly put my finger on, but I knew that I wanted to do as well as I possibly could. My preparation was rigorous to say the least. It started on stream, getting a chance to play just about every major deck in Standard, and then moved to getting together for in-house battles. The time invested into drafting, tuning Standard decks, and just generally playing Magic was unlike anything I have previously experienced. I wanted to put myself in a position to win the tournament, but in the end I'm happy with my 11-5 finish.

When we reached the point of testing in-house, teammates had different decks they wanted to test. This is natural—it often takes time to get other players off pet decks they are interested in playing. In my case, I showed up to the house with Dimir Midrange, as it was the deck that took me to Mythic on MTG Arena, and I was having the most success with it. It was really tough getting all the way to Mythic, and the fact that I was able to make it through Diamond with Dimir, already gave me a good idea of its power level.

At a certain point during testing teammates started to agree that Mono-Blue was the best deck in the format. It was overperforming in just about every matchup. Even against White Aggro (supposedly its worst matchup) it seemed to be doing okay. William Jensen was a major force in advocating for the deck, perfecting sideboard plans, and figuring out how to tweak the deck to make it even better. This was the Mono-Blue deck that the majority of my testing team played, and which Reid Duke used to reach the Top 4:

There are a few deviations this deck took from the stock lists, as we found a couple cards that were particularly impressive. Most of these were ways to modify and perfect the sideboard. Entrancing Melody is a card that stood out versus creature decks, and there was zero chance that the list would have less than three copies. This is probably the single most important card against White Aggro. Surge Mare is another card that stood out, and while this is a fairly stock sideboard card, most lists hadn't been playing the full playset.

Surge Mare being high impact against Red Aggro was apparent, but once we realized how good it can be against Sultai, we knew a good Mono-Blue sideboard needed plenty of Surge Mares. It is ridiculous with a Curious Obsession on it, being able to draw tons of cards, and being essentially unblockable in the right matchups. The last card we wound up with four copies of between the maindeck and sideboard was Essence Capture. Owen Turtenwald called it the blue Doom Blade. The counter it can add to your creatures is really nice.

Oftentimes, players try to fight Mono-Blue by playing creatures to get around Spell Pierce and Negate. This version of the deck actually lowers the number of Negates and diversifies its countermagic. In particular, against the Gruul Midrange decks Essence Capture proved to be very important in order to stop something like Rekindling Phoenix or Siege-Gang Commander from hitting the battlefield. Keep in mind that sometimes you don't want to put the counter on a Pteramander, as it does prevent adapt. Anyway, I felt like we came to a good list of Mono-Blue, and as a group our win percentage with it was very high.

Before the tournament began I was very impressed with Mono-Blue, and I'm not at all surprised that it was the winning archetype of the Mythic Championship. You may then be wondering: if I knew Mono-Blue was so good, how come I didn't play it? That is a perfectly reasonable question, and there are a couple reasons. The first is I wasn't sure I would play it perfectly. I did practice a good bit with the deck, and felt like I found myself in spots I wasn't navigating correctly which was frustrating. For a monocolored aggressive deck there are a lot of decisions it asks you to make, especially during the games you don't get down an early Curious Obsession.

The other major factor is that I simply really like my Dimir deck. It put up good results in the house, though it didn't get tested against everything. I did a lot of winning with it, and it's exactly the style of Magic I like to play. Furthermore, I knew that nobody else would be prepared to play against Dimir, and especially my particular version of the deck, which was an advantage.

This is what I registered for the Mythic Championship:

I wanted to find a deck that had a good Mono-Blue matchup. I was able to recall testing Dimir a few months ago, and remembered that it did have a good matchup vs. Mono-Blue then, so I figured it probably still did. I also wanted to play with Thief of Sanity and Hostage Taker. The format has been moving a bit away from spot removal, and it seemed like these cards would be perfectly positioned. I wanted to make my Thieves of Sanity and Hostage Takers as likely to stay on the battlefield as possible. This is where the maindeck discard comes in.

Thought Erasure is obvious, as it's a super strong card, and the surveil is really nice too. The maindeck copies of Duress may seem surprising, but they rarely miss completely. Oftentimes the opponent is sitting with exactly one removal spell, and if you take that away your high-powered creatures can take over. The discard essentially replaces countermagic, as you really just don't have time to cast cards like Sinister Sabotage as part of the game-one plan. There's also a Disinformation Campaign package, which means you're incentivized to tap out every turn.

The maindeck is geared toward beating creature-based strategies. I did lose to Esper Control at the Mythic Championship due to control being problematic in game one with this build. Overall though, I ended 7-3, and was happy with my choice to play this. I will go over some of the top strategies and how to sideboard against them.

Sultai

IN:
1 Disinformation Campaign
2 Negate
1 Sinister Sabotage
1 The Eldest Reborn
1 Vraska's Contempt
1 Karn, Scion of Urza

Out:
3 Doom Whisperer
1 Cry of the Carnarium
1 Moment of Craving
1 Cast Down
1 Duress

Sultai is probably your closest matchup. You're hoping to steal game one with an aggressive Thief of Sanity draw that they don't have an answer for. Post-board it gets tricky, because your choices depend on how the opponent is sideboarding. I've had players take out lots of creatures in favor of Duress and Negate, and I've also had players board in more creatures like their own Thief of Sanity and Kraul Harpooners. This is my default plan as of right now, though it can fluctuate a bit.

Mono-Blue Aggro

This is one of your best matchups, and I ended up going 3-1 against it at the Mythic Championship. The key is all of your cards are really good against the deck. The cheap removal stops you from getting run over by Curious Obsession, the hand disruption can take away their countermagic, and it is extremely difficult for them to deal with your threats once they're on the battlefield. Fungal Infection is an all-star here, as getting their one-drops off the battlefield is pretty important, and Mono-Blue Aggro isn't generally built to play a long game.

IN:
1 Duress
1 Fungal Infection
1 Ritual of Soot
1 Moment of Craving

OUT:
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 The Eldest Reborn
1 Disinformation Campaign
1 Discovery // Dispersal

W/U Aggro

This is another matchup where I believe Dimir is heavily favored. Thief of Sanity and Hostage Taker are great, and generally you can take away a Conclave Tribunal before casting one. I added Cry of the Carnarium to the deck to have an even better matchup here, so your high density of removal means it is tough to just get run over. I beat White Aggro both times I played it in the Mythic Championship.

IN:
1 Cry of the Carnarium
1 Ritual of Soot
1 Vraska's Contempt
1 Fungal Infection
1 Moment of Craving

Out:
1 The Eldest Reborn
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 Duress
1 Disinformation Campaign
1 Doom Whisperer

Esper Control

This is an unfavorable matchup because you are behind game one. Your removal spells essentially don't do anything, whereas the opponents' removal kill off your creatures, which are your main way of winning. I have gotten lucky and played a discard spell into Thief of Sanity to win game one, but it's rare. After sideboard the matchup is much better for you, with the most annoying card being Search for Azcanta. If you are able to get the Disinformation Campaign plan going you can Demolish their hand.

IN:
1 Duress
1 Field of Ruin
1 Disinformation Campaign
1 The Eldest Reborn
1 Vraska's Contempt
2 Negate
1 Spell Pierce
1 Sinister Sabotage
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Karn, Scion of Urza

OUT:
1 Moment of Craving
1 Cry of the Carnarium
2 Fungal Infection
3 Hostage Taker
4 Cast Down

If I'm on the draw, I sometimes leave in a couple Cast Down if I suspect Thief of Sanity. Some Esper players have brought them in against me, but it's difficult to predict, so on the play I would rather have the four-mana removal. You can side out a land when bringing in the Field of Ruin if there is another spell you really want—I generally cut a Swamp.

U/G Nexus

This matchup is pretty rough. Thief of Sanity is great though, so you really do have to rely on that and discard to win. There are a lot of cards that are low impact, or do nothing game one in the form of removal. However, Doom Whisperer is a great way of finding exactly what you need if it enters play and you start setting up your draws. After sideboard, things do get significantly better as expected.

IN:
1 Duress
1 Field of Ruin
1 Disinformation Campaign
2 Negate
1 Spell Pierce
1 Sinister Sabotage
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Karn, Scion of Urza

OUT:
1 Moment of Craving
1 Cry of the Carnarium
2 Fungal Infection
2 Hostage Taker
2 Cast Down
1 Vraska's Contempt

Red Aggro

When looking at the Dimir deck you might expect it to be bad versus Red Aggro, but it's actually okay. You do want to try to stop Experimental Frenzy from entering play so you don't get run over by an early onslaught, but once you get a Doom Whisperer down the game ends pretty quickly, and a little lifegain alongside discard can keep you from dying.

IN:
1 Duress
1 Negate
1 Spell Pierce
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 Fungal Infection
1 Field of Ruin
1 Moment of Craving
1 Vraska's Contempt

OUT:
4 Thief of Sanity
3 Hostage Taker
1 The Eldest Reborn

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield