Since the open beta of Magic Arena started, I jumped on the bandwagon and started playing it. It’s a bit frustrating so far, because I have a limited card pool. Grinding is in order. Since my physical games are usually either draft or commander, this is a way for me to get into standard constructed.
The deck I’ll aim to collect is a Dimir Surveil deck. I like the amount of card selection and draw, and the more grindy control elements. The idea is to win with Thoughtbound Phantasm or the very evasive Dimir Spybug. These can grow quickly while you surveil and increase your card quality. This is suplemented by Disinformation Campaign for extra draw and disruption.
~ Dimir Sinister Surveilance ~
2 Darkblade Agent
2 Dimir Informant
4 Dimir Spybug
2 Nightveil Sprite
2 Thief of Sanity
4 Thoughtbound Phantasm
4 Cast Down
3 Discovery // Dispersal
2 Notion Rain
2 Price of Fame
4 Sinister Sabotage
2 Thought Erasure
3 Disinformation Campaign
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Watery Grave
So let’s go over the cards:
Darkblade Agent – With all the Surveil, it should have deathtouch most of the time, or at least representing it. The agent also draws extra cards, when he is not trading up with other creatures.
Dimir Informant – The informant surveils and is a reasonable blocker, invalidating most of the smaller ground creatures.
Dimir Spybug – This is one of the centerpieces of the deck: A creature with double evasion (flying and menace) that quickly grows into a significant threat. With some removal on the side to deal with a second flyer and it is basically an unblockable creature that gets big, fast.
Thief of Sanity – This competes with Darkblade Agent for the card advantage engine, but the Thief is always “on” when it comes to card advantage. So far, when I played this in Arena, I was pleased with it. Not only does it turn the weapons of your opponent against them, it gives information in what they are doing and mills them. It also helps against other Surveil cards by disrupting the top of their decks after they set these up.
Thoughtbound Phantasm – Like the Spybug, this is a creature that keeps growing. As a 2/2 for it comes down early, and it’s cheaper than most removal aimed at it, so tempo wise it’s great. As a 2/2 that soon gets bigger, it often invalidates anything attacking on the ground. Once it’s big enough to be able to attack it should sweep the floor with most things, especially with some removal as backup, and force opponents on the defensive.
Cast Down – Some cheap removal to deal with troublesome creatures.
Discovery // Dispersal – Either a cantripping surveil card, or an extra removal card when the opponent is hellbent. It can potentially deal with non-creatures in the right situation.
Notion Rain – Card selection and card draw. It’s good, but I’m on the fence if Mission Briefing might be better, because that’s an instant and it can help recast my removal and counters, and has a lower CMC. I think Briefing is overhyped a little when it was spoiled, and I love it for my Shu Yun deck, but it’s still a good card. Either is worth testing. Cutting Notion rain would mean missing out on some sweet art, though.
Sinister Sabotage – Once I have someone hellbent and unable to handle the board, this stops them getting out of a bad situation, while advancing my plans. It’s a counterspell that sets up my draws and grows my creatures.
Syncopate – I wanted to run more counters, and my pick has been two Syncopates. It does have some competition and it may change to suit whatever problematic things I’ll encounter. This may be too much of a dead card later on in the game. Does Unwind fit the bill better?
If we’re using Syncopate, we might as well choose the Dimir art!
Thought Erasure – Getting information is key, and this shows me what my opponent is up to and also mess with their plans.
Disinformation Campaign – My main source of card advantage and hand destruction. It’s arguably bad in multiples, but since I’m surveiling a lot, I can send duplicates to the ‘yard.
There are still some cards I’m concidering:
Etrata, the Silencer is repeated removal and an alternate wincondition. With all the deck manipulation going on, it’s not inconcievable I get her back a couple of times.
Lazav, the Multifarious could give me some graveyard synergies I’m lacking right now. It’s fun to think about how he can turn into a Dimir Spybug, grow a little, then turn into a Thief of Sanity when he bypassed blockers. It’s also very cute, and probably not practical.
Whispering Snitch – This one feels mostly like a sideboard card against very aggresive decks, helping to stabilize against an early onslaught. The life drain is fine, and may keep me out of range of red decks, but I don’t think this card is generally good enough.
Mephitic Vapors – I’m also in the market for some mass removal, And while the Vapors is technically that, it seems too low impact to actually have an effect. I see a lot of rushing 1/1’s, but generally it’s too unreliable. I do like what Find // Finality has to offer but that means splashing somehow.
Drowned Secrets – This is a heavy deck, and on the controling side, so games tend to go long. I can repeatedly play Disinformation Campaign. The Thiefs of Sanity also mill. Drowned Secrets might be a good sideboard option against other surveil decks. I don’t think the appeal is good enough to mainboard it though. Also, there are some cards that get played when milled (Narcomoeba, Creeping Chill) that adds some risk to mill strategies.
Enhanced Surveillance – I don’t think this is what I want out of a surveil matters card. Sure, it’s nice to have extra card selection, but it doesn’t do much else. I can see this in a Devious Cover-Up deck, with the additional reshuffeling and ultimately milling opponents out. While we use a similar control strategy, I think we need more substance.
Talking about Creeping Chill, it’s a concideration for a free spell to help stabilize and regain some life, mostly for free. It doesn’t actually impact the board, but with all the surveil going on it’s likely to be a free effect that doesn’t even cost a card.
The land count is somewhat low, but the big amount of card selection should make up for that. I can add Dimir Locket, since the lockets work better than expected, and it’s more card advantage. Going shields down for a turn seems problematic, though. And Disinformation Campaign is more than enough card draw all by itself.
While the deck is mostly uncommons, I’m not nearly there on Arena. I have a vaguely similar Dimir deck that I want to tweak towards this model, and it’s already very fun to play. Especially Thief of Sanity has been a lot of fun.