As I prepared for Grand Prix Montreal and Denver these past two weeks, I got to draft tons of Guilds of Ravnica, and boy do I love it. I’ve been disliking the Magic gameplay of the past few years, and this set made me realize why. I hate when games snowball out of control and you feel like you can’t make a comeback if you stumble in the first few turns of the game.
GRN Limited is a blast from the past where you win by gaining small advantages but are never a clear favorite to win the game. It particularly feels that way because the power level of the cards is lower, but not to the point where you always feel like your deck is bad. To me, that’s the perfect balance.
An example of that is mentor. While it does snowball in a way, it eventually stops, and then if you want to continue mentoring you need external help, which has deck building costs and creates inconsistency. This gives decks that were on the draw or stumbled a chance to catch up.
If you have drafted Dimir, you probably relate even more to what I’m saying. You feel like you’re always a bit ahead or never too far behind, but closing games proves to be the hardest part and your opponent can always make a comeback if you don’t manage your resources carefully. (Except when you have a Nightveil Predator, which again, has hexproof, ruining games of Magic. Hopefully R&D learns one day that they are only a few hexproof cards away from creating the best sets.)
Playing Dimir is a treat if you’re into long, meticulous game play. Having surveil on half your cards creates a strange new way of building a deck. Instead of building your deck with as much consistency possible by playing look-a-like cards that follow the same game plan throughout the curve, like you would when playing Boros, you actually want to build your deck like a toolbox.
When drafting Boros, you care about curving aggressive cards and follow one simple rule: you want the best creature at every stage of the game. The best 1-drop, the best 2-drop, the best 3-drop, and so forth. Throw in a few tricks and removal, and you’ve got yourself a deck.
When drafting Dimir, yes, curve is still important, but because most of your cards surveil, you’d rather mix and match the role of each cards. Instead of having five defensive 4-drops, you should try and get three defensive and two aggressive 4-drops. That way, depending on how the game shapes up, you can try and dig for the ones that best fit the ongoing game plan. The same goes for the rest of the curve. Of course, a card that can do both is even better.
You want to get the most unique effects possible because you’re likely to be able to find each of them throughout the game (it’s not unusual to see more than 75% of your cards in a single game). Counterspells are a great example of that. You don’t want more than one or two, but the one or two you’ll have will be great because they’ll be the best draws once you get to the late game.
Dimir is, in my opinion, the best archetype in Guilds of Ravnica Limited. That’s because the average deck you end up with is never bad. Blue is the deepest color in the format and black has tons of cards that are all completely fine to play in Dimir.
Boros and Izzet both have very high ceilings, however, and I would consider the best version of those decks to be slightly better than the best version of Dimir.
We all know what a busted Dimir deck looks like—it’s a bunch of Dimir Spybug, Thoughtbound Phantasm, Disinformation Campaign, Nightveil Sprite, and various surveil cards. I’m not going to tell you how to build your deck when you have those cards—that’s pretty self-explanatory.
Instead, let’s get into the “average” Dimir deck I’m talking about.
Did you notice that all of these cards are commons? This may seem like an underpowered deck, but trust me—I’ve been doing very well with similarly underwhelming-looking Dimir builds and that’s what made me realize how great the guild was.
I added exactly one uncommon, Citywatch Sphinx, but it can be replaced with any kind of win condition: Murmuring Mystic, Nightveil Predator, a splashed bomb, a rare—even a second Watcher in the Mist will do it. Most cards are entirely replaceable. That’s why I only included a single copy of each card. There are still a handful of other cards I would not mind playing.
Out of the cards I did not include, here is how you can best utilize them.
While staying Dimir, you can build a version of the deck that uses Golgari’s black cards. You’ll often be heavy on black cards as opposed to blue here, but you can still make great use of some blue cards because surveil fits well into the plan of filling your graveyard, and cards like Muse Drake and Murmuring Mystic go well with Severed Strands and Plaguecrafter.
The same way you can use cards meant for Golgari, Izzet has its fair share of cards you can play in Dimir. I particularly like the aggressive builds of Dimir because they use Artful Takedown so well. It’s an amazing card, but in Dimir it’s often played defensively. Here you can almost always use it offensively, where it’s better.
Again, surveil works nicely with jump-start too! Notion Rain is great and I even got to play Creeping Chill in my Dimir Aggro deck the other day. Admittedly it was my 23rd card, but it worked okay with all the surveil I had and casting it was not the worst—it’s a sorcery and I needed a higher spell count for my Piston-Fist Cyclops.
I hope you have as much fun drafting Guilds of Ravnica as I have and if you have other Dimir variants you would like to share, comment below!