Ravnica: Dimir Intrigues Review (Part 2 of 2)
Nobody likes taking a beating, even in the name of science. We might be taking liberties in calling what we do here ‘science,’ but in essence the idea is not dissimilar. We take precon decks, put them under the microscope, then introduce them into field conditions to see how they perform. In our last field test, Jimi took a savage hiding at the hands of her favourite deck archetype, the Red/White Boros. The speed of Charge of the Boros was such that her Golgari Deathcreep could scarcely begin to churn out its dredge engine, and so when asked which deck she’d like to pilot against the more contemplative Dimir Intrigues, it didn’t take her but a moment to decide. The Boros are back, and Jimi is ready for revenge. Here are the notes from our three matches.
On the play, I drop an Island and pass- as you’ll recall, the Dimir are optimised for the two- and four-drop slots. Jimi begins with a War-Torch Goblin. Back to me, I throw up an obstruction with a Dimir Infiltrator, knowing that in the early stages of the game I’ll need to field every body I can to weather the Boros storm. There are other Infiltrators in the deck, so I’ll worry about transmute options later. Priority One is survival. To underline the point, Jimi’s next play is a Boros Swiftblade. Deciding to save the bang of the Goblins for potentially choicer prey, Jimi passes without attacking.
I develop my manabase with a turn-3 Dimir Aqueduct, but have nothing to play. Jimi- perhaps a touch overcautious but still not wanting to lose the Goblin- holds off again, but expands her militia with a Boros Guildmage and Boros Recruit. This gives me a small space to breathe, however, as I bolster my defenses with a Vedalken Entrancer. But I have no answer for Jimi’s next play- Sunforger.
My turn 5 is another blank, so Jimi dutifully equips the Sunforger to her Boros Swiftblade and charges in with her 5/2 double striker. I’ll have none of that, thanks, so I put it down with a Last Gasp. At the end of Jimi’s turn I then mill her for 2 with the Vedalken Entrancer. I know that Jimi’s been attacking cautiously, which makes me begin to suspect she has a strength-in-numbers trick in her hand- there are plenty in her deck. Next turn I play a Dimir Guildmage, then activate its discard ability. Jimi pitches a Greater Forgeling. Next turn she equips the Sunforger to the Boros Recruit and swings in for 5, taking me to 15.
On turn 7 I take advantage of the Guildmage again to force another discard (a War-Torch Goblin), and pass. Back to Jimi, she swings in for another 5, and I am half-dead. At the end of her turn, I again mill for 2 with the Entrancer. Next turn anxious for a play I transmute a Dimir House Guard into a Clutch of the Undercity, then end my turn. Jimi lays down Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion, then gives her Sunforge-wielding Recruit double strike. Seeing red for the kill, Jimi misses the part about the Clutch being able to target permanents and not just creatures- I bounce the Sunforger to her hand and kill the now-feeble Recruit with my Infiltrator.
I’ve been gifted with a lot of land this game, and am able to put it to good use on turn 9 when I trigger the Guildmage’s discard ability to rip two cards from Jimi’s hand- a Lightning Helix and Rally the Righteous, leaving only the Sunfoger behind. Jimi replays her rare artifact, then ends her turn (but not before I mill for 2). With her playing from the top of her library, I’ve likely weathered the storm. Next turn I play Duskmantle, House of Shadow and tap out for an 8-point Psychic Drain. She loses both Dogpiles, which is nice, as well as a Screeching Griffin. This leaves me at a much more comfortable 18 life. At this point Jimi’s had quite enough of the Dimir Guildmage, who in truth has more than paid for himself. She Lightning Helixes him out, and is back to 20 life. She then adds a Boros Recruit, equips it with the Sunforger, and passes.
On turn 11 I play a Sewerdreg to bolster my defenses, while Jimi swings in with the Sunforge-equipped Recruit. Knowing she can give it double strike thanks to Sunhome, I opt to gang-block it with both the Sewerdreg and Dimir Infiltrator to solve the problem at once. At the end of her turn I mill her again for 3 (2 from the Entrancer, one from Duskmantle). Next turn I add another Entrancer and pass. This looks to go on- Jimi equipping one of her beaters with the Sunforge then attacking with the threat of double strike, with me offering up chumps so as not to take a hammering, but on turn 13 I land a game-changer: Szadek, Lord of Secrets.
In retrospect, Jimi probably game the Dimir the luxury of a little too much time to set up, hoping for the pretty play (a massive attack behind a backbreaking Rally the Righteous) over the correct one (clear out my defenses in a war of attrition to leave me exposed), and to be certain luck has been with me. Most of Jimi’s choicest instants (for the Sunforger’s special ability) have landed in the graveyard thanks to my relentless milling. Once Szadek comes down, she has no answer for him, and I’m able to keep the blocking up long enough for him to mill her out over the next few turns.
Now on the play, Jimi begins with a War-Torch Goblin and Boros Swiftblade before I manage my first defender- a turn-2 Dimir Infiltrator. Already damaged for 1, she compounds my injury with a turn-3 Skyknight Legionnaire and swings in. She again holds back on the Goblin, so I take 2 from the Skyknight after blocking the Swiftblade. Back to me, I play a Lurking Informant and pass.
Now turn4, she sends in the Skyknight for 2, then follows up with a Nightguard Patrol. I play a second Lurking Informant. Next turn Jimi comes at me with everything. I gang-block her Swiftblade with my Informants, forcing a one-for-one trade, but still take 5 damage on the deal. She adds another Nightguard Patrol and passes. My turn 5 is a dismal blank.
She comes in again with the team on turn 6. I block the Goblin with my remaining Informant, block a Nightguard Patrol with the Infiltrator, then snap off a Last Gasp to kill her Skyknight Legionnaire. Jimi then responds with a Rally the Righteous, letting her come out ahead in the exchange. She loses her Goblin, but I’m virtually defenseless. Back to me, I’m concerned about what’s in her hand and burn a Consult the Necrosages to get at it. A Dogpile, I’ve dodged a small bullet but not advanced my board in any way. Jimi hammers in again for 4 next turn, and I’m down to 5 life. My turn is another blank, but keeping mana open lets me hold out with my countermagic.
It comes into play on turn 8 when Jimi attempts to finish me off with another Skyknight Legionnaire. I Induce Paranoia to counter it, but of course take the expected 4 from her troops on the ground. Back to me, I Disembowel one of her Nightguard Patrols at sorcery speed, getting that out of the way so I can play a Dimir Aqueduct as a land drop. It’s all for naught, however- I have an answer to Jimi’s relentless attacks, and fall beneath the blade of her remaining Nightguard Patrol. Jimi ends at 20 life, unscratched.
On the play again, my first creature is a turn-4 Wizened Snitches. Meanwhile, Jimi’s build up with a Boros Recruit, Boros Swiftblade, Thundersong Trumpeter, and Cyclopean Snare in the same amount of time. The Trumpeter eats a Disembowel, but by the time we enter turn 5 I’m at 16 life. Still, when I drop a Belltower Sphinx on turn 5, I’ve stemmed the haemorrhaging a bit. Jimi lands a Skyknight Legionnaire and passes.
Turn 6 sees me add the mighty Dimir Guildmage to the board, while Jimi lays down a Nightguard Patrol. I compel Jimi to discard next turn with the Guildmage (she pitches a Mountain), while her turn is a blank- she gets out Sunhome, but that’s about it.
I change gears and draw a card instead with the Guildmage on turn 8 before Jimi sends in the troops. She uses the Snare to tap my Sphinx, recasts it and taps out to tap the Snitches. Her legions come pouring through the breach for 6, taking me to 10. Next turn I trigger another discard; Jimi throws away the Snare. I then follow up with a Lore Broker and pass. With my defenses now established, Jimi bides her time.
Now turn 10, I loot with my Broker to start things off, gaining a Last Gasp at the cost of a Swamp. I play a second Wizened Snitches and pass. Back to Jimi, she brings down the thunder again after playing a Flame-Kin Zealot. After picking off her Swiftblade with the Last Gasp, I block her Zealot with my Sphinx and a Snitches to kill it- though it takes the Snitches along with. Jimi’s Legionnaire gets chumped by my other Snitches, leaving her Nightguard Patrol and Boros Recruit to happily carve another 5 off my life total.
I play a turn-11 Lurking Informant, looting all the while to dig for answers. Jimi adds a Boros Recruit, looking to build up for the coup-de-grace. With no cards in hand, though, Jimi gains no benefit from my looting. A pity. Next turn I stumble into a Dimir House Guard (throwing away a perfectly serviceable- but unnecessary- Dimir Signet). Jimi’s turn is another blank.
On turn 13 I loot into a Ribbons of Night, but have to pitch another House Guard to keep it. Still, I kill off Jimi’s Skyguard with it, then go on the offensive for the first time all game with a 2-point attack from the Spinx. Next turn Jimi tries to take advantage of the opening with another Skyknight Legionnaire, but I have a Last Gasp waiting for just that contingency and it’s snuffed out. Next turn I transmute a Dimir Infiltrator into a Lore Broker- not my first choice, but alas better options had already been drawn. I swing in again for 2, then play the Broker.
But it’s not to be. Jimi comes in for the kill in successive terms with a War-Torch Goblin and Flame-Kin Zealot, which, combined with Sunhome starts mowing down my defenders. After a Lightning Helix helps take down my blocking Belltower Sphinx, I scoop.
Thoughts & Analysis
Dimir Intrigues is not a deck for everyone, but it certainly has its strengths. In general, most successful games will consist of you building a fortress to hide behind, then sniping at your opponent with either a closing creature or a steady draining of their library. It struggled somewhat against Boros, though in some ways that was a strong matchup given the relatively low power of the Boros beaters and the higher toughness of the Dimir defenders. Against a number of 3/3’s, Dimir Intrigues might well have folded a little more quickly.
But for fans of alternative win conditions- as well as the devotees of the milling strategy- the deck is a lot of fun to play. In playing these decks, one begins to see why Ravnica has the cherished place in many players hearts- these guild mechanics give each guild a very flavourful and unique twist setting it apart from the others. While radiance was somewhat weak and even felt a bit tacked-on, transmute was perfectly placed within this deck. Despite the somewhat high cost to activate the ability, it allowed for tremendous flexibility even into the late game, where you were actually happy to draw a Dimir Infiltrator because it meant you might tutor up a Last Gasp.
On the whole, Charge of the Boros seemed the stronger deck- the one win I claimed came from a feeling that Jimi was light on the reins- but in the third match I certainly felt that I had a fighting chance.
Hits: A highly innovative guild mechanic strongly supported by the card pool in the deck; emphasis on alternate win-condition (decking your opponent) refreshing and fun
Misses: Despite having few three-drops as transmute targets, would have felt much happier with a Drift of Phantasms or two; general lack of combat power may prove frustrating for some
OVERALL SCORE: 4.10/5.00