Circu, Dimir Lobotomist; art by Cyril Van Der Haegen
Dimir is the blue-black guild of the ten guilds of Ravnica. It seeks the blue ideal of perfect information while using the black means of subterfuge, thievery, and general willingness to get its hands dirty. It is strongly associated with undead and psychic energy. It most notably uses psychic vampires, along with an assortment of skeletons, horrors, and rogues. Your challenge this week is to design a card for the Dimir guild. It can be any card type (With the exception of legendary, since that is reserved for the guild leaders themselves.) and must be blue and/or black.
Dimir has no shortage of tricks in its arsenal, but of those tricks it is fondest of milling the opponent. “Milling” is common slang for putting the top cards of a player’s library into the graveyard, based on the original card to mill called Millstone. The most straightforward of these effects are cards like Glimpse the Unthinkable which mill a set number of cards, though Dimir also uses a special form of milling which instead of being a set number mills until it hits a land, for example Destroy the Evidence. This change makes milling a little more random and exciting, and makes it less of a hassle to track the number of cards in a player’s library and count out cards while milling, and also gives a little more variety in cards which mill. Dimir particularly likes to attach milling to other effects.
An example is Pilfered Plans. It both mills a player and draws cards at a reasonable cost. Here, having mill as an added effect allows Dimir to reach the necessary amount of mill cards for limited while also being able to play cards that actually do things normally. Milling can also be used to randomly determine the effects of a spell. For example, Coerced Confession mills a player, and then draws cards based on the number of creature cards.
Two Simple Tricks & A Tricky One
Some other signature tricks of Dimir include theft, disruption, and sabotage.
Theft is simple enough. Take something the opponent has and make it yours. This can either be directly gaining control of a creature, as with Soul Ransom, or it can reduce the opponent’s resources and increase the Dimir’s resources, like with Pilfered Plans or Psychic Drain.
Disruption is also simple enough. It's the principle of delaying the opponent’s plan long enough to win. Dimir is in the two colors best at disruption, so it has no end to options here. Destroying creatures, countering spells, returning permanents to hand, and tapping permanents are all possible.
Sabotage is slightly trickier, and it uses creatures with abilities that trigger from dealing combat damage to the opponent. The reason why it’s trickier is because there are more moving parts. You could design the creature itself, a card which gives a sabotage ability to a creature, or a card which helps creatures deal combat damage. The last option in Dimir would most likely mean evasion in the form of flying or making a creature unblockable.
For sabotage cards, some things to keep in mind are
- The abilities should matter after damage
- The abilities should matter when they’re repeated
- The abilities need to be balanced around being repeatable.
So some abilities, such as returning lands to hand or destroying creatures, might end up too oppressive in limited since if a creature connects once the opponent can never reasonably recover.
Finally, an underused trick Dimir has is using cards from the graveyard. For the guild best at milling the opponent, it has relatively few ways to use that besides the all or nothing strategy of milling the opponent to no cards. Having some other ways to interact with the graveyard would help make milling more interesting, as well as fitting the flavor of the Dimir as undead psychic thieves.
Some examples of how Dimir has used the graveyard include Dimir Doppelganger which can steal creature cards from the opponent’s graveyard, and Consuming Aberration which uses the opponent’s graveyard as a way to grow larger over time. There are a lot of possibilities here, both in directly using cards from graveyards like Dimir Doppelganger does, or using the number of cards in graveyards to grow over time like Consuming Aberration does.
Tools of the Trade
Let's go over a couple mechanics in Dimir that are worth diving into.
Dimir’s first mechanic is transmute, an ability which allows players to pay a cost and discard a card to find a card with the same converted mana cost. The upside to designing with this ability is that it’s so flexible it could go on any card. The downside to designing with this ability is that it’s so flexible it could go on any card. However, the cards which make the best use of transmute are cards which are only situationally useful, so players can feel free to transmute them when they’re not useful and cast them when they are.
As for designing cards to help support transmute, the same idea goes with any card working well with it. In particular though, any card which cares about the graveyard can get some extra use when players use transmute cards to fill their graveyard. For example, Empty the Catacombs is usually not very good, but players who fill their graveyard by transmuting away creature cards can get all of those transmuted cards back while also keeping the cards they transmuted for.
One final small note: All monocolor cards with transmute have a transmute cost of 1UU if the card is blue, or 1BB if the card is black; all multicolor cards with transmute have a transmute cost of 1UB.
Dimir’s second mechanic is cipher. It's an ability which encodes an instant or sorcery onto a creature and copies that card whenever the creature deals combat damage to an opponent. Cipher cards are much trickier to design, as they need to be sorcery speed effects, and they also need to be relevant after combat and ideally are effects which grow in use when they’re repeated. Realistically, designing a card with cipher is one of the hardest things you could do for this challenge, as most of the interesting options have already been printed.
As for cards which support cipher, the simplest option is a creature with some way of dealing combat damage to the opponent. This could be an evasion ability, but Dimir also has access to creatures which punish blocking, like Slate Street Ruffian. These types of creatures are particularly interesting because, unlike with evasion, they leave the amount of choices available for blocking the same but change the value of those options.
My card this week is designed to allow Dimir to use all of the cards it is milling and transmuting away. So, it uses a simple design to profit from filling a graveyard. It's casting all of the nonland cards from that graveyard. Which is of course very powerful, so to both limit its power and make it feel more like the riddle that is Dimir, it allows the opponent to choose which graveyard, which also fits the Dimir particularly well as it can fill both its own graveyard with transmute cards and the opponent’s graveyard with normal mill cards.
Well, I hope I have fit the spirit of Dimir well enough, and that I have helped inspire some new designs from all of you. As like with last week, since I am a potential finalist in the Great Designer Search 3, I will not be looking at submissions myself this week. So, to everyone, good luck with the contest, and may the sneakiest card win.