Friday, 22 May 2020 09:37

Urza's Brewery: Dimir Flash (Standard)

Written by Richard Kruse
Urza's Brewery: Dimir Flash (Standard) WOTC/MAGIC UNTAPPED

Dimir Flash is a rogue archetype that’s been floating around the edges of Ikoria Standard. Today, we’re going to break down what makes the deck tick along with some optional card choices and gameplay/sideboarding tips. So if you’re looking for a new side deck to play or looking to make a splash in Standard, this is the article for you!

Dimir Flash- What Is It?

Dimir Flash is a creature based tempo deck that tries to dismantle its opponents cards by destroying, countering, and bouncing key cards while pressuring the opponent’s life total with flying threats. Most of the cards are low to the ground, but it often plays a longer game as it’s threats typically lack the straight killing power that other bombs do.

Pros:

  • Almost all of your threats and cards are played at Instant speed, allowing you lots of room to maneuver around your opponent’s gameplan.
  • The deck wins by crushing your opponent in mana efficiency. You might spend two to three mana to answer a threat from your opponent that costs four, five, or more mana. As the game goes on you become able to deploy threats while maintaining defense and keeping the board clear.
  • The deck is rather budget friendly. The competitive version will clock in at around $175 with $100 or so of it in the land base (which can be built on a budget without too much pain). You can easily build this entire deck with sideboard for around $50 and still have fun with friends, making it a great way to try out Standard if you don’t currently have a deck.

Cons:

  • The deck really lacks a good “catch up” mechanic. Most of your cards are one-for-one exchanges, so if your opponent starts drawing extra cards or recurring advantage you can quickly run out of gas and get buried. You also suffer disproportionately a slight bit when you lose the roll off to go first.
  • It also has some fairly difficult lines of play which means that you will often make play mistakes until you really master the deck. This can make picking the deck up a bit frustrating at times.
  • Teferi, Time Raveler completely shuts you down, and he’s fairly popular in the format. You do have aerial threats to kill it in combat and counter spells to prevent it from resolving, but if it sticks early you will rapidly find yourself dead in the water.

How It Works/Core Cards:

Dimir Flash is a rather new archetype, as most of its key cards were introduced in Ikoria. As the name suggests, almost all of the cards in the deck have flash or are actually Instants. Either way, you’re able to resolve your threats and cards at the most optimal times, which usually makes outplaying your opponent a breeze. All of the cards we’re going to talk about here should be automatic “four of” in any competitively focused build. The deck primarily runs off of Cunning Nightbonder, Slitherwisp, and Brineborn Cutthroat.

Nightbonder is one of the most important cards in the deck as it drives down the costs of most of our other cards while also making them uncounterable. It can be argued that Pollywog Symbiote is more useful to the deck due to its slightly better stat line and draw/discard effect when playing mutate creatures, as this deck does have somewhat of a mutate sub theme.

However, Pollywog doesn’t affect our non-flash cards (which hurts our sideboard options), it doesn’t make our flash cards uncounterable, and most importantly it requires us to play it on our turn, which makes us unable to interact with our opponents cards early on since we have limited mana. For these reasons, Nightbonder is an easy four of. She lets us cheapen our core threats and mutate options while letting us push through any counterspells our opponent has while still allowing us to keep our mana up in case we need to do an early counter instead.

Slitherwisp is probably the biggest reason to play a flash style deck currently. If it goes unanswered for even a turn, it’s likely to generate one or two extra cards while also causing a bit of damage to our opponent. And if he lasts longer than that then the game is almost certainly over as your opponent will be buried in counters and removal while you pummel them with threats. It’s essentially the boss monster for us, and an additional easy four of.

Brineborn Cutthroat is simply another brutally efficient payoff. With a resolved Nightbonder on turn two, we can play a Cutthroat on turn three and hold up mana for interaction, prospectively giving us a one mana 3/2 that will continue to grow as we play cards. Much like Slitherwisp, if even one Cutthroat goes unanswered then the game is probably over unless your opponent promptly finds an answer to remove it, which makes it an easy four of as well. It’s not uncommon to close a game out with a 7/6 or even 8/7 if you stick one of these early and ride it to victory.

In addition to playing 12 cards that directly care about flash (eight and Cutthroat, he isn’t as picky technically), we also play a dozen more creatures that provide us with some utility in the form of removal or card advantage. Brazen Borrower, Dirge Bat, and Sea-Dasher Octopus unite to provide us a good mix of options while also providing some extra threats to actually win the game.

There’s no two ways about it, Brazen Borrower is an incredibly powerful card. It provides an answer to a resolved permanent that we might otherwise struggle to respond to while also providing an efficient flying threat to start hammering our opponent with. Sure, the card is a bit pricey, but even budget builds will want two or three of these. Competitive builds should always have four as the card is simply too powerful to not play four of.

Dirge Bat is another multipurpose card. At four mana, a 3/3 flash flyer can gum up the board a bit and possibly even kill a smaller creature that’s attacking. However, the real beauty is in its mutate text. Turning a cutthroat into a base 3/3 with flying while also killing your opponent's big threat has the potential of ending the game on the spot as you crack your opponent for a large chunk of damage in the air on your following turn.

In addition, you can mutate onto it with Sea-Dasher Octopus and make it into a card advantage engine while also removing an opponent’s threat.  In general, this is our big top end play and we want four to always see it on curve. Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Nightbonder will lower both its normal 2BB AND 4BB costs, making it 1BB/3BB respectively, which helps.

Sea-Dasher is our last core card, but he’s an important one. Dasher is primarily here to mutate onto other threats to start ramping up our card draw. As a rule of thumb, if you aren’t generating advantage off a Slitherwisp or this card, you’re probably in a bad spot and falling behind. As a nice perk, he also triggers the mutate effect on Dirge Bat and he only costs a single U to mutate while you have Nightbonder out. Once again, this is an easy four of for us.

The Flex Spots:

We’ve covered our six main core cards that we definitely want four of each, giving us 24 spells. From here, you can get a little bit more creative with what the rest of your interaction looks like. The last dozen or so spell slots should be sculpted around what you are expecting with your local playgroups or meta. Dimir Flash will perform at its best when you put in the time to adjust not only your sideboard but also these remaining slots to really punish popular decks.

At the end of the day, Dimir Flash is a rogue-like deck that is meant to disrupt and punish meta decks, so constantly tweeting and adjusting these cards will really improve your performance.  As there’re plenty of cards you could consider, we’re going to provide some options here that you should consider when building your main deck.

Counter Spells:

  • Aether Gust: It crushes green and red cards, which is a pretty healthy chunk of the meta as of this writing.
  • Mystical Dispute: Just like Aether Gust, but for blue. A one mana Mana Leak is pretty strong when it’s live.
  • Drown In The Loch: Although very weak in the early game, this card can quickly evolve into two mana to hard counter any spell or destroy any creature. It’s typically very weak against decks with Uro unfortunately, which is fairly popular.
  • Thassa’s Intervention: Although this spell does tend to be a bit pricy mana wise, it scales extremely well as the game goes on and it can alternatively be leveraged as card advantage, an area that Dimir Flash struggles with sometimes.
  • Quench: Early on, Quench is a two mana hard counter. But games with Dimir Flash tend to go long, and Quench can often end up as a blank piece of paper in your hand later in the game. Definitely the most high risk/high reward style of counterspell.
  • Negate/Essence Scatter: These are boring, but efficient counterspells. Almost every deck has at least some creatures and non-creatures so these will almost always be live sooner or later. There’s just no guarantee that they will have great targets.

Removal:

  • Tyrant’s Scorn: Super efficient card against low-CMC creatures, awkward against higher CMC stuff. Can also be used to bounce a mutated creature in response to enemy removal, which is pretty relevant in this deck. Doing so will put the entire stack of creatures back in your hand, allowing you to replay everything.
  • Heartless Act: It’s a powerful spell that hits most creatures in the game other than cards like Hydroid Krasis, but it’s still a highly flexible kill spell. Also outs Shifting Ceratops, which is difficult for us to otherwise answer.
  • Eat to Extinction: It’s expensive but it exiles the target, and it also hits planeswalkers. It can also trim off a bad draw, which can be almost as good as drawing a card in a deck like this.
  • Murderous Rider: The rider is a powerful card that also transforms into a threat on the ground. However, the creature half has to be played at sorcery speed which makes him a bit awkward in an otherwise 100 percent instant speed deck.

Creatures:

  • Spectral Sailor: A lot of players familiar with flash decks will wonder why the sailor is down here in the flex spots. The issue with Sailor in this deck is primarily how difficult he is to cast on turn one. We have a fairly heavy black requirement thanks to Slitherwisp, so it will be hard to cleanly have an untapped blue source on one with a follow up untapped black source on two and three. It’s not that this card isn’t good, it’s just a matter of consistently playing him early that’s the issue. Some people will swear by the sailor, and those folks should include as many copies as they like. He provides a cheap aerial threat and a mana dump for more cards, both things that are useful in this deck, no two ways about it.
  • Lochmere Serpent: This bad boy is a really potent piece of top end. A six mana 7/7 with flash is already going to catch a lot of people by surprise in combat, and he can easily close a game out by becoming unblockable or drag you ahead by converting Swamps into fresh cards and life. The only thing awkward about him is his steep mana cost. He comes in at the same cost as a mutated Dirge Bat, and most of the time that’s a bit more valuable to us. Still, if you want a little more top end, this is the card for you.
  • Hunted Nightmare: A three mana 4/5 with menace seems extraordinarily efficient, and it is. However, there’s one major downside in that it gives one of your opponent’s creatures deathtouch, which somewhat defeats the point of this card . Luckily, Dimir Flash is very effective at keeping the board clear or removing a threat once it’s on the table, in turn mitigating a lot of this thing’s main downside. It's definitely a lurker option your opponent won’t see coming.
  • Pouncing Shoreshark: Who doesn’t love a shark with arms? A five mana flash 4/3 isn’t too great, but his mutate effect to pump our otherwise mediocre creatures up to a respectable stat line is noteworthy. Mutating him onto a Dirge Bat for three or four mana to bounce a creature and then kill another creature or planeswalker is a huge, often ending tempo swing as well. It’s a little clunky, but definitely potent.

Tying It Together/Sample Deck List

There’s a lot to unpack here, but the main two things you want to worry about are a healthy inclusion of counters along with selections that work together as a deck. You could build a version of this deck meant to run people out of the game with four Spectral Sailor, four Quench, and four Hunted Nightmare. Or you could optimize for the long game and run four Thassa’s Intervention, four Pouncing Shoreshark, and four Lochmere Beast. The exact iteration is up to you and should at least partially reflect your local meta. If everyone is on Temur Reclamation, for example, Aether Gust can really put in some work.

For our sample deck list we’re going to look at a fairly middle of the road approach designed to have a decent fighting chance no matter what we see across the table along with some general gameplay tips.

Standard Dimir Flash ($153)

Creatures (26)

4 Brineborn Cutthroat

4 Cunning Nightbonder

4 Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft   

4 Sea-Dasher Octopus

4 Slitherwisp

4 Dirge Bat

2 Pouncing Shoreshark

 

Spells (10)

2 Drown in the Loch

2 Essence Scatter

2 Negate

4 Thassa's Intervention

Lands (24)

1 Castle Locthwain

4 Fabled Passage

7 Island

6 Swamp

2 Temple of Deceit

4 Watery Grave

 

BUY THE DECK HERE

This build has lots of options to stay in the game if it goes long thanks to Thassa’s Intervention and Drown In The Loch. For the more aggressive matchups early on, Negate and Essence Scatter give a little extra early game interaction that also scales nicely as the game goes on if necessary. Finally, a couple copies of Shoreshark give us a little more beef along with extra ways to trigger Dirge Bat.

There’s a few things to keep in mind when playing Dimir Flash to really make the deck tick. First, it can be  better to let a threat resolve than it is to counter it, especially if it doesn’t have a nasty enter the battlefield trigger. Sometimes, you have more bounce effects in hand than counters. In a situation like that, save your counterspell for when you need it and just use the bounce effect instead.

Alternatively, even if your opponent plays some large threat like a Questing Beast, letting it resolve and losing some life so you can cultivate your own board or get some more cards is more important than the four life. Ultimately, your life is a resource and you will need to get comfortable spending as part of playing Dimir Flash. If you try and stop every single card they play, you’ll quickly run out of interaction and be wide open against their bigger threats or combos.

Sometimes, playing your Dirge Bat (or Shoreshark, if included) as an extra body is way more valuable than mutating them. An extra threat on turn five might make you cause lethal damage on turn seven, and if your opponent is behind on board it might be more useful to cultivate your own further rather than wipe his clear. Although it’s far more rare, there are even situations where just playing the Sea-Dasher Octopus is the right line instead of mutating. The extra body might eat a token or something similar, or it simply ramps your damage up higher than mutating would.

Finally, and probably most importantly, the fact all the cards you play have flash doesn’t mean you have to play every card on your opponent’s end step. Sometimes it’s better to forgo taking advantage of flash on your own turn so you can safely resolve a card while your opponent is tapped down, or a mutate on your own turn might clear out a creature on your opponent’s board so you kill their planeswalker in combat. Of course, you will usually want to leverage flash to your advantage. Just don’t be afraid to play cards on your own turn if it’s advantageous to you.

Sideboarding:

Sideboarding is a delicate art form and two different lists for Dimir Flash will have different sideboards that are both “right” for each respective deck. The long and short of it is that there’s no real substitute for sideboarding besides putting in the matches against decks that you are worried about and making small adjustments as you go.

That being said, there are some cards that should be on your mind when constructing your sideboards. For starters, any card that we talked about in our flex cards can easily land as a sideboard card. Quench and Hunted Nightmare are great sideboard cards against more aggressive decks as an example, generally speaking.

Moreover, obviously you can sideboard cards that are generically good against certain decks like Disdainful Stroke or Epic Downfall, but there are a few cards worth considering that may not immediately come to mind. These are presented in no particular order, and are simply a handful of additional options that you can experiment with.

Ashiok’s Erasure is more-or-less a blue version of Ixalan’s Binding. The card can often be a brick since it won’t affect cards in play, but it’s also less punishing when answered as it returns the card underneath to the opponent’s hand instead of just putting it back in play. Where Erasure gets attractive is in conjunction with Nightbonder or Slitherwisp, as both of these cards interact with any card that has flash, not just creatures. A three mana Ixalan’s Binding that draws a card and deals one damage to my opponent? Deal. Great choice against combo decks like Jeskai Fires.

Remember when every mono-blue flash deck was running a bunch of copies of Dive Down? Starlit Mantle is sometimes a weaker Dive Down and sometimes it’s Dive Down with a shot of adrenaline. Baseline, this card isn’t attractive but (just like Ashiok’s Erasure) it synergizes with our “flash matters” cards. Definitely a sneaky tech card, and frankly it’s not out of the question to main board a couple copies if you wanted.

As with the previous two options, Blacklance Paragon directly interacts with our various “flash matters” cards. Even when these aren’t online, the paragon still serves as a solid combat trick since it can deathtouch/lifelink itself to remove an incoming threat while gaining you three life. Your opponent can try and remove it in response, but you have lots of answers for that. Also of note is the fact that Blacklance Paragon is mono-black. You 100% need at least two to three copies of Heartless Act or Epic Downdall  if you don’t want to sideboard it. If you don’t, then Shifting Ceratops will wrap you up and bury you as your only out is to kill them first or mutate a Dirge Bat.

Out of all the cards on this list, Stonecoil Serpent is the most high risk/high reward. Bant Ramp is a very powerful and popular deck, and a simple one mana Stonecoil that you later mutate onto can shut down about 60-75% of their interaction with you, and you can counter the rest. A few of these and four Nightbonder will put most control decks in a fit. The key here is the “protection from multi-colored” ability. It doesn’t affect us at all and it protects this piece of statuary from a lot of our most hard to answer threats. And, since his stats come from +1/+1 counters, they also shield the monster we mutate onto this from Heartless Act. It’s definitely cheeky, but worth considering as extra outs against UWX decks.

Finally, there’s no two ways about it. Our matchup against Cat Oven decks are atrocious. We chip our opponent out usually instead of landing big swings which the cat will heavily mitigate, and we have no way to stop or interact with their combo realistically. Glimpse allows us to exile the cat and recuperate some life along the way. We can also flash it back to remove a second cat or draw a card. Alternatively you can sideboard Sorcerous Spyglass which is stronger against strictly RB versions, but much weaker against RBG versions since they will possibly have a way to kill your Spyglass. Cling To Dust also puts Gyruda combo in its tracks by exiling the target in response to the Gyruda target while it’s on the stack.

In Conclusion...

Dimir Flash is a highly adjustable and affordable deck that will be around for quite some time since many of its components come from Ikoria. Although it’s not exactly a meta deck, it can easily be tailored to handle meta decks and still have respectable win percentages. It also offers an unusually large degree of customization, as roughly a third of the spells are cleanly up to player preference.

All in all, if you’re looking to try out Standard but don’t want to spend a lot of money or you’re looking for a second deck, Dimir Flash is an excellent option worth exploring. It provides a variety of moments that make you feel brilliant as a player as you frustrate and out-maneuver your opponent while pressuring them out of the game.