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[Article/Deck] No Pain, No Gain

Sneaky, manipulative, corrupt. These words all describe House Dimir. “Aggressive” and “Beat Downs” on the other hand, aren’t.

While it’s not a colour combination I’ve tested with often I believe it has a lot of potential in bringing back a deck type that has fallen out of the Standard meta. When people think of the Black/Blue guild they think “Let’s get to milling!” It’s not hard to see why that is when you have many cards such as Pilfered Plans, Psychic Strike and Mind Grind in the colours. However, I actually think there’s some room to brew a Dimir tempo/aggro deck based around Duskmantle Seer. It’s an incredibly strong card and against decks such as G/R/b Monsters, Bant Planeswalkers, B/x Control, and U/W Revelation decks clotting up the format there are plenty of nice 4+ drops to hit in for some extra damage.

Now, I have to start with the fact that I did not come up with this idea first. I was browsing the MTG subreddit and came across an article from themeadery.org by Ryan Lougheed (You can view the article HERE). Him and his buddy, Eric Haugen, built an aggro deck utilizing both Duskmantle Seer and Pain Seer aptly named “Suicide Seers”. However, even before reading the article I’ve wanted to develop a B/x based aggro deck since I enjoy the security of having hard forms of removal while still being able to beat down. Not to mention I love the card, Herald of Torment.

My first version of the deck actually included some fun mill-damage synergy between Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker and Duskmantle Guildmage. The idea was to get them both on the field and use Duskmantle Guildmage’s first ability before smacking in damage with Mirko. This would result in a minimum 6 damage if you connected (2 from Mirko, 4 from the 4 lands) with any additional milled cards you’re looking at 8+ damage easily. I even added the Pain Seer and Springleaf Drum synergy to help ramp but it was still too slow. I’ll have to try again in a more control type shell to ensure I can actually make those cards stick.

Anyways, let us get on with the main attraction shall we? Just in case you didn’t check out Ryan’s article I’ll throw his deck list up then throw my version up so I can note the major changes for you:

“Suicide Seers” by Ryan Lougheed/Eric Haugen
Creatures:
4 Rakdos Cackler
3 Tormented Hero
3 Spiteful Returned
4 Pain Seer
3 Lifebane Zombie
4 Herald of Torment
4 Duskmantle Seer

Spells
4 Thoughtseize
3 Bile Blight
1 Ultimate Price
4 Hero’s Downfall

Lands
4 Watery Grave
4 Temple of Deceit
2 Dimir Guildgate
2 Mutavault
2 Island
9 Swamp

Sideboard
3 Doom Blade
4 Duress
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
2 Devour Flesh
3 Dark Betrayal
1 Lifebane Zombie

“Duskmantle Beats” by Michael Yee
Creatures
3 Duskmantle Seer
4 Herald of Torment
4 Pain Seer
3 Spiteful Returned
3 Tormented Hero
3 Xathrid Necromancer

Spells
2 Whip of Erebos
1 Ultimate Price
2 Devour Flesh
2 Soul Ransom
4 Hero’s Downfall
2 Far // Away
4 Thoughtseize

Lands
4 Watery Grave
4 Temple of Deceit
2 Mutavault
3 Island
10 Swamp

Sideboard
1 Bile Blight
3 Dark Betrayal
2 Dispel
2 Doom Blade
4 Duress
3 Lifebane Zombie

You’ll notice right away my list is actually quite different than Ryan and Eric’s list. This is for a couple of reasons. First, it better fits my play style as I prefer to have a bit more control over the game and a tempo style aggro deck I think is a bit better in the current Standard format than a “Play out my threats, hope they kill you fast enough” type aggro deck. I feel being comfortable with the deck you’re playing is paramount and I’ve already made decks with odd ball cards such as Soul Ransom so I already know which situations it works best in and how to utilize it properly. I won’t go over all the changes in removal because they’re not as much in need of explanation whereas certain non-creature additions and creature changes are.

Let’s start off with the creatures shall we? R and E’s list include Rakdos Cackler’s and Lifebane Zombie’s in the mainboard while I’ve moved Lifebane to the sideboard and have removed Rakdos Cackler altogether. I might have to test with Lifebane in the mainboard as I realize he is quite a good threat. However, it was more of a situation where I wanted to include more non-creature spells. Rakdos Cackler was also taken out for the same reason but I also feel it just isn’t great in this deck. Red based aggro decks run less non-creature spells so it can afford to include it with the addition of things such as activating Foundry Street Denizen or be a 5/2 with Madcap Skills. In my deck Rakdos Cackler would be great if he ends up in my starting hand but it’s a card that is much less effective coming in past turn 5 and my deck looks to still be effective after then. You may be wondering why keep Tormented Hero in then? Well it’s still a 2 power for one mana creature but it can chump block later on. Also, since I`m including two bestow creatures (Herald of Torment and Spiteful Returned) it actually becomes quite relevant in our deck. Turn 4-5 is where this deck takes off and the “extort” like Heroic ability from Tormented makes a big difference. When we’re taking so much damage from our own creatures, every point of damage we can get back is just as important as every point done to our opponent.

Taking out Rakdos and Lifebane has allowed me to also run Xathrid Necromancer. We’re not running all humans but over half our creatures (including Mutavault) are human and since our main 1 and 2 drops are human, having the flexibility to play Xathrid on T3 instead of something like Herald of Torment is quite nice. It’s a threat that requires answering twice and removal used on Xathrid means Duskmantle Seer has that much more staying power the turn after.

As for non-creature spells the two main additions I’m running are:

I’m not a fan of risk taking. Duskmantle Seer, Thoughtseize, Watery Grave, and Pain Seer all equal out to one big risk for me. I feel the life-gain from Whip of Erebos is very important. Out of the 7 games I played last night, 3 of them I almost lost purely due to the possibility of top decking another Duskmantle Seer when I already had one out plus Pain Seer. Since you essentially get two extra draws a turn with those cards out, that means you have a greater chance of drawing into one and killing yourself. Since my deck is more effective towards mid game, being able to recoup the life loss from the Shocklands, Seers and Thoughtseize’s in the early turns meaning you can be more aggressive attacking with Pain Seer in the later turns and not worry about killing yourself right after. It’s also nice to be able to whip back a Duskmantle Seer to squeeze in that last bit of damage.

Soul Ransom is a card I’ve experimented with before. I love this card because combined with the information you get from Thoughtseize it makes a creature based matchup a joy to play. I’ll admit that it’s a poor choice of card on its own but because of Thoughtseize you get a better idea of how to utilize it properly. When Turn 4-6 is when the large threats come out such as Polukranos, World Eater, Desecration Demon, and Stormbreath Dragon, it allows you to grab one of those threats on your turn and give your opponent a difficult decision. By this point, if they’ve played something plus a land each turn they’ll be down to 3-4 cards approximately. Those cards could be a variety of things such as another fattie, a removal spell, or a Planeswalker. Sure, they may just discard right away at the end of your turn but at the price of losing most of whatever they have left in their hand plus giving you two extra draws. Since my deck runs more removal that allows for more chances of drawing into something that can kill that pesky Polukranos anyways. Now, you have to watch out since it makes combat a bit more tricky since they can discard at the end of attackers to be able to block with the captured creature but that just comes with knowing how to play the match. In the event you had enough hand disruption and them playing their hand out, they might not even have two cards to discard anyways which means you get to keep their fatty.

But let me tell you of a fun and sneaky interaction we have with Soul Ransom and Devour Flesh

Because discarding two cards is part of the activation cost for Soul Ransom, it utilizes the stack after your opponent activates it. If you have the mana up, you can Devour Flesh targeting yourself or use a different removal spell in response! This

A) Kills opponent’s creature
B) Makes them discard two
C) You draw two
D) Gain some life back if you used Devour Flesh

Much fun indeed. Be prepared for a sour faced opponent after though.

Sideboard wise the only main difference is the inclusion of Dispel instead of Erebos, God of the Dead. This is mostly due to Burn related decks making me quite afraid of playing this deck against them. Being able to save us from burn damage on top of our own damage means we have a better chance of winning. I feel with the extra hand disruption and threat from Lifebane Zombie coming from the sideboard for control matchups, Erebos isn’t needed. Also, Dispel isn’t something used often(especially in this type of deck) so it definitely has the opportunity to take our opponent off guard tapping out for a Sphinx’s Revelation with no counter magic up. There of course is an argument for Black based matchups for Gray Merchant of Asphodel/Blood Baron of Vizkopa/Obzedat, Ghost Council but I’ve yet to test against those decks.

Lastly I made some changes to the land. I added in one more Swamp and one more Island in place of the two Dimir Guildate’s R and E were running because I didn’t want the extra come-in-tapped lands. Having the mana up to play our removal then play our own threats the following turn is too important and I’ve yet to have any mana problems with the deck.

This deck is my new favourite deck (Sorry Bant Flash) and its effectiveness definitely surprised me, especially Pain See without Springleaf Drum. The best part about this deck is it’s one of the cheapest decks I’ve made! A budget version is definitely easy making changes such as Duress instead of Thoughtseize or Guildgates instead of Scry lands. If any of you guys enjoy aggro decks but want a bit more utility, this deck’s for you!

Again, thanks to Ryan Lougheed from themeadery.org along with his friend, Eric Haugen for the sweet deck idea.

I’ll be doing a deck tech/gameplay on my YT Channel so be sure to be on the lookout for that!

Talk to you guys next week.

– Michael Y.

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