Last updated on February 9, 2021
Drown in the Loch | Illustration by John Stanko
Hi all, I’m Kugane, a new writer for Draftsim and a regular top 1200 Mythic player over on MTG Arena. Some of you may already know me since I’m an official MTG Content Creator. As of today, I’m super excited to bring you regular deck techs and guides on Draftsim!
I’m starting off the series with one of my personal favorites: Dimir Rogues.
Because of all the subtle interactions, nuances, and synergies each card has with one another, I’ve chosen to write a slightly longer and in-depth guide for this particular archetype. If you like decks that requires constant thinking, planning, and strategy, Dimir Rogues is a deck that will challenge your puzzle solving skills and meta knowledge.
Since my deck techs are largely focused on getting to Mythic, particularly the top 1200, I’ll mostly focus my articles on BO1 tactics, but I’ll always include a sideboard for all the players out there that prefer BO3.
With all that out of the way, let’s get into the deck!
Merfolk Windrobber | Illustration by Colin Boyer
The History of Dimir Rogues
Mono red was top dog for a long time when it came to reeling in some easy wins in the BO1 scene. So much so that it might have become the most hated deck in Standard. Its consistent ability to hit hard and win fast was unparalleled.
With the release of Zendikar Rising, though, a previous jank-tier deck snuck its way to the top of the competitive ladder. This particular archetype even briefly dethroned the red king. While both mono red and Dimir Rogues have similar average win rates, both sitting around 60% on across all ranks, Dimir Rogues has a slight edge against grindy matchups because of its built-in control elements, in my opinion.
Eliminate | Illustration by Chris Cold
Ever since the Omnath and Lucky Clover bans (and as of the writing of this article), Dimir Flash decks (a variant of Dimir Rogues) represents 14.50% of the BO1 meta, right behind the 14.99% spot that mono red holds.
That’s not all, though; rogue decks have many forms, and alongside Dimir Flash there’s also Dimir Lurrus and Dimir Mill in the top 10. These other two decks take up yet another 7.05% of the metagame, which makes Dimir Rogues arguably the most played deck in BO1 Standard. Who would have thought that a deck with such a heavy mill undertone would be able to thrive in a metagame full of decks that love graveyards and escape effects?
Dimir decks have always been a niche archetype when it comes to aggro or tempo themes, usually being overshadowed by mono blue or mono black, but no longer! The rogues are here and, by the looks of it, they intend to stay.
Agadeem, the Undercrypt | Illustration by Dmitry Burmak
While there are many versions of Dimir Rogues out there right now, I’m gonna focus on Dimir Flash since it covers the majority of the successful builds out there. Not only that but, from personal experience, the Lurrus and full-on mill variants of the deck seem to underperform in higher ranks like Diamond and Mythic, whereas Dimir Flash holds its ground quite well.
Dimir Flash settles on a roughly 50/50 split between creatures and removal or counter spells, and the majority of the creatures are in the 1- and 2-drop slots. There’s some overlap, though; Brazen Borrower has a semi-removal spell attached to it in the form of the Petty Theft adventure instant but can also function as 3/1 flying rogue. Because of the flexible nature of the deck, Dimir Rogues are great at doing two things:
- If needed, it can spend its early mana to control the game until your opponent runs out of resources using its plethora of removal and counter spells. Since the deck runs 1- or 2-drop rogues, it’s possible to weave a few in between the control magic to start building a board. Dimir Rogues is perfect to approach a game patiently, removing and countering their way into turn 3 or 4, at which point the deck should have enough mana to start putting some serious threats on the board.
- If needed, Dimir Rogues can put a lot of early pressure on your opponent by creating threatening board states. While we’ll get into how they manage to pull that off, in short, the rogues mill your opponent with ease and synergize by having lots of cards in their graveyard to get attack bonuses and buffs for themselves or other rogues. You can basically turn into an aggro deck if you need to.
The Creature Engine
1-Drop and 2-Drop Rogues
Like I mentioned earlier, Dimir Rogues revolves around filling your opponent’s graveyard with cards in order to get buffs. The most important cards to achieve this are Thieves’ Guild Enforcer and Soaring Thought-Thief, but Merfolk Windrobber can be their little helper in times of need.
The goal is to get the Thieves’ Guild Enforcer on the battlefield early so that it can start milling your opponent. Once this 1-drop hits the field, whenever a rogue (even itself) enters the battlefield it triggers a “mill 2 cards” effect. This can be further enforced with Soaring Thought-Thief, who allows you to mill your opponent for two cards when one or more rogues attack. These two effects stack, so this creates scenarios where multiple mill triggers hit the stack at once.
If you can curve a Thieves’ Guild Enforcer into a Soaring Thought-Thief on turn 1 and 2, you can get six cards into your opponent’s graveyard in one go. Your goal is to get eight cards into their graveyard, at which point the secondary effects of these cards are active.
While you can mill the most by playing Thought-Thief early, sometimes it’s better to play more defensively and use it as a flashy surprise blocker during your opponent’s turn instead. You’ll miss out on a bit of milling action, but it might be worth it.
Thieves’ Guild Enforcer | Illustration by Evyn Fong
There are plenty of combinations to get to eight cards in your opponent’s graveyard, so always ask yourself: “Can I get 8 cards in the opponent’s graveyard this or next turn?” The earlier you pull that off, the better.
Sometimes you get lucky though and encounter hands or top decks with multiple Thieves’ Guild Enforcers and another 1-mana rogue like Merfolk Windrobber. If so, you can have 8+ cards in your opponent’s graveyard as early as turn 2.
Play your Thieves’ Guild Enforcer and then, during your second turn, play your second Thieves’ Guild Enforcer to mill your opponent for another four because both Enforcers will trigger simultaneously. Follow this with your third rogue, pushing their graveyard to 10 cards. Your first enforcer should be ready to attack now and having a 3/2 deathtouch this early on is great. On top of that, Merfolk Windrobber can also help you draw as a reaction to a removal spell or board wipe or, in some cases, chump blocking and sacrificing in response. This helps to replace itself in terms of card advantage and may buy you a turn.
3-Drop and 4-Drop Rogues
Realistically and statistically speaking, you won’t have double or more Thieves’ Guild Enforcers in your opening hand very often. Sometimes you won’t even have just the one. You’re likely going to need to play the control game until you stabilize if that’s the case, which brings us to some great later-game rogues higher up in the curve in the 3- and 4-drop slots.
Nighthawk Scavenger and Rankle, Master of Pranks especially are both excellent aggro cards. Brazen Borrower, while a great bounce card, is slightly outclassed by the other two in terms of what it brings to the table as a creature alone, but it’s a very solid 3/1 regardless.
Nighthawk Scavenger is pretty much a flying Tarmogoyf for you Modern Magic players out there. You thought milling for synergy was great? What’s better than getting +1 attack for each card type in opponent’s graveyard?
Nighthawk Scavenger | Illustration by Heonhwa Choe
Nighthawk Scavenger usually requires an immediate answer, so don’t be too sad if it does get removed. A smart opponent will and should, because if it does stick to the table for a turn it’ll snowball out of control very quickly. Mono red especially loathes this card because of the built-in lifelink. The best part is (other than a Phoenix of Ashes blocking it) your opponent often needs to waste multiple resources to get it off the board because of its solid 3 toughness. Cards like Shock and Stomp only deal two damage each, after all, which also means less damage to your life total!
Rankle usually comes in on turn 4 unless you want to keep up some counter magic during your opponent’s turn. Rankle is yet another flying rogue with some sweet built-in effects allowing you and your opponent both to discard a card, draw a card, and lose 1 life and/or sacrifice a creature. These effects will trigger in this exact order so you can’t, for example, draw first and then discard.
Since these effects trigger for both players, you’ll need to consider what are your best options. Sometimes you’re in a weird spot where you only have good cards in hand or Rankle is your only creature. Other times you may already have some 1-drop rogues that can’t really attack anyways, at which point you can use these as sacrifice fuel. This isn’t great against decks that have a lot of 1/1 tokens or massive card draw, but when you’re up against a deck like Gruul aggro that rely on a solid strong creature to win, who can say no to trading a 1/1 Windrobber for a 4/4 Questing Beast thanks to our Master of Pranks?
The 5-Drop Rogue
You want to do more than simply pull some pranks? How about tricking your opponent into giving you their cards as well? Bringing in our final rogue, a 5-drop that can also be put into play for four mana thanks to its built-in effect, Zareth San, the Trickster.
Zareth is one of those cards that’s really bad or really good. If it wins you the game it’s able to pull of ridiculous things, while at other times its simply dead in hand. It’s a bit of a gamble, but I love this card and made it a main stay in my rogue decks.
Zareth San, the Trickster | Illustration by Zack Stella
A 4/4 body is definitely solid and when Zareth does deal combat damage, he lets you pick a permanent card from your opponent’s graveyard and put it onto the battlefield under your control. Did your Thieves’ Guild Enforcer mill Ugin the Spirit Dragon? Well, congratulations, it’s now your Spirit Dragon.
Zareth even has a semi-Ninjutsu effect where you can return an unblocked rogue to the hand and put Zareth onto the field tapped and attacking. It’s already past the blocking step at this point, so you’ll know for sure that he can deal some damage unless your opponent removes him. Either way, your evasive 1/1 flyers can easily help him connect some damage and steal a permanent in most cases. With all the milling going on, you’re bound to hit something of value and, when you do, you might even see your opponent scoop out of despair.
The Control Engine
Since Rogues need to connect and synergize with each other, they need to stay alive to make use of all their bonuses and effects. There are a range of removal and control spells in Standard right now that work in perfect tandem with them. My personal favorite control spell in Dimir Rogues is Drown in the Loch, but we have a variety of spells to pick from in these slots.
Drown in the Loch allows you to choose one effect: you can either counter a spell or use it as creature removal. The trick here is that whatever you try to counter or remove needs to have a converted mana cost equal to or less than the number of cards in your opponent’s graveyard. This kind of flexibility makes Drown in the Loch amazing, especially with all the milling going on anyways.
Lofty Denial | Illustration by Manuel Castañón
Cards like Lofty Denial are good 2-mana counter spells because most of your rogues have flying. Forcing your opponent to pay four if they want to resolve their cast is rarely going to happen. Even if you don’t have any flying rogues on the board, the “counter target spell unless its controller pays 1” is actually good enough in some cases, especially early on in the game.
The final staple spell we have is a hard removal that is unfortunately a sorcery spell, but at just one black to cast, Bloodchief’s Thirst is great at removing early creatures. It stays good in the late game as well because it can snipe big creatures or planeswalkers for just three mana extra. Bloodchief’s Thirst is especially great to stop Lotus Cobra combos early on, even though those are less common nowadays.
Beating Rakdos Self-Mill
There’s currently a rise of Rakdos decks that like to self-mill, as well as other decks that use graveyard synergies. Cards like Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and Phoenix of Ash come to mind. These are sort of the enemy of rogue decks because our mill strategy tends to help these decks set up. Because of this, I’m now running three copies of Cling to Dust instead of Lofty Denials.
Sometimes, though, Cling to Dust is a bit of a dead card. Depending on the number of graveyard decks I’m encountering when I’m playing, I sometimes swap them out for a while and bring back the three Lofty Denials instead. Always keep an eye on your matchups so you can decide which tools best suit your game plan.
The Revival Engine
The last dedicated slots in the Dimir Rogues deck has to be the mass revival it has available in the form of Agadeem’s Awakening.
This is a great card. Not only can it bring back up to five rogues, Awakening can be played as a land when needed.
If you want even more recursion in the deck, though, you can also look into adding some extra copies of Call of the Death-Dweller, but at that point you might want to consider running a Lurrus Rogues deck instead. While this card may not be able to revive a Rankle or Zareth San, it can be amazing to bring two of your 1- or 2-drops or even a well-timed Scavenger back.
There are some cards I really like and played around with before, but I ended up phasing them out of the deck. They’re all very solid cards in the deck, but they each have their downfall.
In the case of Lullmage’s Domination, it’s a shame the card isn’t viable. Agadeem’s Awakening is sort of a staple and requires three black to cast, so it gets pretty hard to get to a point where you also have three blue for Domination.
It would be an auto-include if it were a modular card with a blue land on its back, but I’ve found myself in far too many situations where I’d be missing either a third blue to cast it and lose the game as a result. You could, however, reshape the deck slightly with less of a revival undertone and instead focus more on blue magic, but I personally doubt the efficiency of that in the current meta.
Time to Wrap It Up
Call of the Death-Dweller | Illustration by Vincent Proce
Dimir Rogues is a great deck. It’s very reminiscent of Dimir Ninjas in Modern and Legacy.
In the words of Lazav, leader of the Ravnica Dimir guild: “The alliances were already frayed. All we do is find the loose threads and pluck.” This is exactly what Dimir Rogues does best in my experience.
They see an opponent and immediately try to exploit their weaknesses, carefully taking away their win conditions and building a board of rogues to win the game. And if the opponent tries to play the long game for some reason? You can sometimes even snatch a win by simply milling their deck entirely.
Regardless what your goals are, if you like winning in MTG Arena by outsmarting your opponent, a healthy dose of sinister fun, and the overall flexibility the deck provides, be sure to give Dimir Rogues a try. Oh, and be sure to let us know how things are going for you over on the Draftsim discord!
If you’ve got an idea for tactics and playstyles surrounding the Dimir Lurrus and Dimir Mill decks that you wanna see, feel free to let me know in the comments down there. I’ll take your suggestions into consideration for future publications!
Malakir Mire | Illustration by Marta Nael