Going into Guilds of Ravnica Limited, Dimir was the most hyped guild. The key mechanic, surveil, has an abundance of powerful build arounds and the Prerelease showcased some dominating Dimir decks. But the secret is out now about Dimir, and it's very rare for a pod not to contain multiple Dimir drafters. The card quality is high, and there are so many first pickable cards that incentivize drafting Dimir. Luckily, there's such a high density of good Dimir cards that each table can happily support two Dimir drafters.
Ryan Saxe (@rcsaxe) September 28, 2018
I want to make sure that everybody is aware of how absurd Disinformation Campaign is. If you haven't had the opportunity to play with the card, I'm sorry, and if you've had the misfortune of playing against it, I'm also sorry. It keeps the cards flowing while placing an incredibly large strain on your opponent's resources. Casting the card once is card advantage, and drafting an abundance of cards with surveil isn't a difficult feat to turn Disinformation Campaign into one of the best engines in the format.
But there's a lot more to do in Dimir than mislead your opponent with Disinformation Campaign. Let's take a look at all of the cards surrounding surveil at common and uncommon.
Note: the cards listed are ordered from left to right by order of importance to the archetype.
These are cards that usually make my surveil decks but I don't want to take unless I'm already going down that path.
These are cards that have made my deck before but are usually relegated to the sideboard.
All these cards I'm happy to first pick because they're very important for optimizing the Dimir archetype. I have excluded Whispering Snitch because I have not been happy with the card. It can be good but is a card I would rather get on the wheel and would not consider it a payoff.
These cards are all first pickable and can be very potent in Dimir. Especially Nightveil Sprite, as that card is arguably the best engine for repeatable surveil.
All three of these cards are solid, and I'm happy to have them in my deck. Both Sinister Sabotage and Thought Erasure looked mediocre at the beginning of the format but have proven to be good in any Dimir deck.
There are none. That's right, every uncommon with the surveil mechanic is above par.
As you can see, there's an abundance of high-quality cards available for this archetype. Furthermore, this is backed up by a ridiculous amount of removal. On top of removal spells with surveil like Price of Fame and Deadly Visit, Dimir has access to Dead Weight, Artful Takedown, Capture Sphere, and more. This means that the archetype has two main avenues to victory. The first is to utilize card quality combined with the card selection from the surveil mechanic to win the long game. And the other is to play a couple creatures and then cast interactive spells for the rest of the game. One of the most powerful aspects of Dimir is that good versions of this deck can play both games reliably.
Two copies of Thoughtbound Phantasm really enable this deck to function on multiple axes. The Phantasm functions as both a good early defensive play and a threat. Against the more controlling decks, it presents a ticking time bomb, where against the more aggressive decks, it's a well-sized wall. Playing creatures early on followed by interactive spells is an easy route to victory, but in the right matchup, you can aggressively trade off these creatures because this Dimir variant has very solid lategame and sources of card advantage.
The best Dimir decks, as I've mentioned above, are capable of playing both roles. Sure, you can draft a version with a minimal number of win conditions and multiple copies of Devious Cover-Up, or even Enhanced Surveillance, to make sure you don't lose to drawing your entire deck, but I've found those versions of Dimir to get better when they contain more ways to win the game. I will note that I'm a fan of what I call "Cover-Up Control", which are Dimir or Izzet decks that utilize Devious Cover-Up as a win-condition, but those are not the common variants of this archetype. Furthermore, the win conditions you have access to can really alter the texture of your deck.
While this deck only went 2-1, I do feel as though it was strong. Four copies of Nightveil Predator is an anomaly, but it's important to understand how and why something like this alters how you can build your deck. Since there's an abundance of removal in the format, games sometimes turn into a fight of who can run the other out of win conditions first. A win condition with hexproof drastically shifts this dynamic and puts the onus on the opponent to take action in order to not lose. This means I can include a density of defensive creatures and only need to put immense focus on covering the early game. So, while I think the best versions of Dimir are capable of curving out, if you can draft enough resilient threats (most of which are rares), you can have a great Dimir deck that doesn't play on this axis.
This means that when drafting Dimir, keeping track of both the quality and the quantity of your win conditions is of the utmost importance for decision making during the draft. Picks in pack 3 are often dedicated to filling the taxonomical holes your current pool has for the Dimir archetype. Does it have the requisite number of early plays to help sure-up the aggressive matchups and enable winning via curving out? Are the creatures resilient, or do you need to prioritize more threats? What's your current density of surveil cards versus surveil payoff? Do you need more interactive plays?
All these questions play an instrumental role in navigating the end of your draft. Pack 1 Pick 1, I will take Dead Weight over Watcher in the Mist, and I don't think it's particularly close. But in Pack 3, that pick is entirely dependent on what my current pool is lacking. If you draft a Dimir deck that's lacking in one of the departments I've described, your deck has a vulnerability. And that vulnerability will become more and more relevant as the game progresses. In fact, the one loss I picked up with the four Nightveil Predator deck was because there was only one card capable of removing a creature with greater than two toughness from the battlefield in Severed Strand. I couldn't compete with Beast Whisperer out of Selesnya, and they ran me over. Without that card, the games weren't playing out closely, but there was nothing I could do to fight that sheer amount of card advantage. Counterspells and hard removal like Deadly Visit would have gone a long way, but my deck didn't have access to these and lost a match because of it.
Overall, Dimir is mostly a defensive deck, but don't be afraid to assert yourself as the beatdown should your curve enable this. When Dimir curves out, the quality of removal really propels the game into your favor. While it isn't my favorite archetype, it is one of the best and you should be familiar with both drafting it and playing against it. I've won games versus Dimir by understanding that my best avenue to victory is running my opponent out of cards and countering their copy of Devious Cover-Up should they have it. Similarly, while playing with Dimir, keep in mind when you need to turn the corner, especially if your opponent is at a high life total. Games can go long, but you'll often have a higher density of spells to cast thanks to the card selection that surveil provides.
I'll leave you with arguably my best Dimir deck I've had in this format. It contains pretty much everything discussed here. A variety of cheap surveil payoffs, good removal, resilient threats, and even the Devious Cover-Up package. This deck didn't drop a game, and if you want to watch the matches and draft, I streamed them on Tuesday!