Last updated on August 5, 2021
Drown in the Loch | Illustration by John Stanko
It’s time to go over a fresh take on one of my favorite decks, Dimir Rogues. Today we’re taking a closer look at the mill variant, which is the more competitive build. I’ll be using “Dimir Rogues” and “Dimir Mill” interchangeably for the deck, just to keep things straight.
This deck functions basically as a regular Dimir tempo rogues deck except it’s slightly more focused on milling out your opponent with Ruin Crab, along with tools to stay in the late game and pull off a deck-out victory. Dimir Rogues is a deck that’ll challenge your puzzle-solving skills and meta-knowledge. So if you like decks that require constant thinking, planning, and strategy, this is the deck for you.
This deck is viable in both BO1 and BO3. You’ll probably have a slightly better win rate when it comes to BO1 but, depending on the day’s meta flavor, you may need to move some sideboard techs into the mainboard. If you’re a BO3 player, the deck is pretty much good to go as it is.
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.
The release of Kaldheim didn’t bring any new tools to the deck, but recent bans did shake up the meta enough to push the previously inferior Mill Rogues build into relevance. The deck does exceptionally well against Temur Obosh, mono white, and the various adventure decks since they all heavily rely on card draw. It allows a simple Ruin Crab to take over the game pretty fast if left unchecked.
What? Is a Crab not a rogue? Blasphemy!
This doesn’t mean that other types of rogue decks don’t work anymore, though. The mill variant is just the top deck compare to Dimir tempo, both the regular and Lurrus versions. These used to take up a significant percentage of the metagame pre-Kaldheim, but they’re almost extinct now. The old Dimir Rogues deck is still a solid contender in BO1 Standard with a solid 58% win rate, but it’s no longer viable in BO3.
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.
Eliminate | Illustration by Chris Cold
While there are many versions of Dimir Rogues out there right now, I’m going to focus on Dimir Mill since it covers the most successful build.
Unlike Dimir Flash, which settles on a roughly 50/50 split between creatures and removal or counterspells and the majority of the creatures in the 1- and 2-drop slots, the Mill version has a much smaller creature package and instead relies more heavily on counterspells and removal. Still, Dimir Mill is great at doing three 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 its way into turn 3 or 4. The deck should have enough mana to start casting some serious card advantage spells like Into the Story and Of One Mind at this point.
- 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.
- Alternatively, it simply mills out your opponent’s deck before they have time to set up their win condition.
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 two 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.
There are plenty of combinations to get to eight cards in your opponent’s graveyard, so always ask yourself: “Can I get eight 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.
Ruin Crab is the main star of this show. This little critter wins games when left unchecked. When the Crab lands, it forces your opponent to answer it. Lots of players will ignore it until it’s too late, though. Getting those extra three-to-six cards milled when you play a land or Fabled Passage adds up pretty fast, especially if you have two of these crustaceans on the field alongside the rogue packages pulling off their own milling shenanigans.
The Control Engine
Since Rogues need to connect and synergize with each other, they need to stay alive to use all their bonuses and effects. There are lots 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 various 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.
The deck runs one copy of Mystical Dispute in the main deck. With more than 50% of the meta being blue-aligned, it usually has a target. And even in the games where it doesn’t, it becomes a 3-mana counterspell. Not optimal, but not the worst either when it comes to Standard.
Another staple spell is a hard removal that’s 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 giant creatures or planeswalkers for just three extra mana. Thirst is especially great at stopping Lotus Cobra combos early on, even though those are less common nowadays. It’s also good to stop Gruul, adventure, and mono red decks before they can combo off with card draw or a big Embercleave turn.
What do we do with all the cards we can’t counter or destroy? We steal them, of course. Lullmage’s Domination was a card that couldn’t shine in the previous meta, but it finally has a solid home with this build. You can steal almost any creature your opponent controls for a mere three mana against decks like Gruul, assuming they have eight cards in their graveyard by the time you cast the Lullmage.
You can mix and match some cards into this deck, likely taking Of One Mind‘s slots. Cards like Essence Scatter and Cling to Dust come to mind as options that would do pretty good in a deck like this. Depending on the meta, though, they might not be as useful. If you’re having problems facing graveyard-synergetic or creature-heavy decks, take those two cards out and add some better answers instead. An extra copy of Mystical Dispute could do wonders. You could even cut one Ruin Crab if you’re feeling extra adventurous.
The Draw Engine
This deck thrives on card advantage. Luckily, we’ve got one of the best draw engines out there, barring maybe the adventure decks with Edgewall Innkeeper nonsense.
First of all, we’ve got Of One Mind that can usually be cast for just one mana given our 50/50 split of human and non-human creatures. Casting Into the Story on a tapped-out opponent is another pretty fierce option. Even if this is the only card in your hand, just four mana gives you a near-full hand to start dismantling your opponent’s setup and pushing the game in your favor.
The Revival Engine
Our main revival engine is our companion cat: Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
Lurrus is a fantastic companion that can continuously bring your low-mana-value creatures back and push your opponent into complete panic mode. You usually want to wait until you’ve got enough mana to protect this legendary cat to bring it in. In some games, though, it can serve as an aggro threat if your know your opponent has no way to answer it. This companion is great against blue decks. Being able to get your Ruin Crab back after your opponent destroyed it is excellent. Especially if you save up a bunch of Fabled Passages to play and crack the moment you have two or even three Crabs on the field.
Outside of Lurrus, we have back-up revival engines built into the deck.
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. and Call of the Death-Dweller. You could even take out a few Swamps to add more Agadeem sorceries as the Undercrypt land, but that “pay 3 life” can hurt quite a bit against mono red. Either way, Agadeem is a great card. Not only can it bring back up to two rogues, but Lurrus can tag along as well for a mere five mana.
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. One copy is likely all you’ll need before it becomes a dead draw in the early game, though. The time setup is important.
The lands in this deck are straightforward, but I do need to emphasize the importance of using Fabled Passage in combo with Ruin Crab. Thanks to the landfall trigger, cracking this card means you’ll mill your opponent for six cards as early as turn 2.
Zagoth Triome can also be used as a 3-mana draw spell thanks to its cycling. You’ll usually want to play this land on your odd turns to maximize counter or removal potential during your opponent’s turn by having two, four, six mana available.
Makes sure you’ve got these three things in-hand when it comes to mulligans with this deck:
- Either a Ruin Crab or a Thieves’ Guild Enforcer;
- Two lands that provide you with both colors together;
- At least one removal spell.
Sideboarding for this deck is relatively simple and revolves around replacing copies of Of One Mind and potentially suboptimal spells like Mystical Dispute. The decks to beat are mono red, Gruul, Temur Obosh, Naya adventures, Sultai Yorion, and mono white.
The creature-based matchups are slightly luck-dependent since you need enough answers for their threats in the early game. You should generally be able to get your momentum around turn 4 and keep the board clear from there, though. Either way, you’ll want an extra copy each of Bloodchief’s Thirst, Dead Weight, and Crippling Fear to gain control in these matchups.
The extra copies of Mystical Dispute and two copies of Disdainful Stroke will come in handy against Sultai. Since this deck tends to use late-game creatures like Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider along with tokens created by Shark Typhoon, you could drop some of the hard removal in favor of just being prepared and countering those spells in the first place.
Mono Red Matchups
Mono red tends to run Phoenix of Ash and other graveyard techs, so Cling to Dust is a solid card to bring into those matchups. You’ll also gain the occasional three life to swing things in your favor.
Finally, Skyclave Apparition is an evasive threat for the mirror matchup. You generally want to take out Lullmage’s Domination since it’ll get hard-countered nine out of ten times. The Apparition gives you a recurrent threat against a deck that doesn’t want to exile your graveyard.
Sadly, playing counterspells doesn’t work well against all the Gruul and mono red decks in the meta’s current state. Having more hard removal over counterspells is just the way to go for now. This might change if we see a shift towards planeswalker decks, but we’ll have to wait and see what Strixhaven brings first.
Time to Wrap It Up
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 of your goals, 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!
Call of the Death-Dweller | Illustration by Vincent Proce