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Primer updated 1/28/2024
UB (Dimir) Control and Reanimator are probably my favorite archetypes. My (re)introduction to MTG and Commander was during Hour of Devastation, and I quickly fell in love with The Scarab God. Despite this, I have attempted to brew The Scarab God many times over the years, but they have always felt too slow, too sorcery speed, too clunky, too tribal, or too reliant on generic, boring Dimir combos. I’d try to police the table and wind up with no cards in my hand and hated out of the game. After many years of Commander and a lot of exposure to Queen Marchesa and the Aikido playstyle, I realized how to successfully play control in a multiplayer environment. I word the deck title as Dimir Control first, and then reanimator, because it it’s heart, this is a control deck that uses reanimation for the wincon.
I’d like to start here by listing my deckbuilding rules for this deck, so you don’t wonder why I’m missing so and so card. Control makes people salty, so I prefer to avoid the salt inducing cards in the salt inducing deck so I can at least get satisfaction of a clean win.
I go further into potential infinite combos you can add if you want and more excluded cards in later sections, but just thought I’d add this right up front.
If you run over to EDHrec and punch in The Scarab God, you’re going to see a Dimir Zombie Commander. That’s not this deck and that’s not how this deck should be played. I don't care about zombies at all, except at the end of all things, when I've established my stranglehold over the table and am turning everyone's graveyards into 4/4 eternalized zombies on my side to drain them out.
Nor is this an all-in reanimator strategy. In fact, if you were looking to play a straight legacy style reanimator bomb-cheating deck, I’d encourage you to just put Rona, Herald of Invasion or Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator in the command zone. Having a two mana looter in the command zone is INSANE for that type of strategy in commander; literally just fill your deck with bombs and cheap reanimation and you're off to the races. They've printed a TON of new 2 mana looters lately and I LOVE THEM ALL. Likeness Looter, Rona, Herald of Invasion, Vohar, Vodalian Desecrator, Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel. Love them. Cultivate that perfect hand and put exactly what you want into the graveyard exactly when you want.
Anyways. This deck isn't that either. This is a control list. We try, for the most part, to play draw/go. The Scarab God’s activated ability is one of the most beautiful things we can do at instant speed, and combined with his upkeep triggered ability we have our gameplan – inevitability.
Here's a good spot to talk about playing control in Commander. Some (a lot) of people think control in Commander equates to control in 1v1. Answer every threat. Deny value. Be the fun police. These folks must not have played an RPG before. You need to control your threat. Don’t burn all your resources aggroing every player at the table and then get hated out of the game. For folks who try to play control and wind up losing most of their games this way, I suggest building/playing an Aikido deck (Queen Marchesa, for example). This type of deck will teach you politics and restraint, how and when to respond to threats, and how and when to drop your bombs. The mindset from an Aikido deck is (in my opinion) simply the perfect mindset for playing control in Commander. You save your answers for the things that MATTER. Your focus should be on protecting your key pieces (and not losing). You should (almost) never deny value or remove things for no good reason.
With control, you want to be playing draw/go. You want to hold up mana to respond to things that threaten our game state with cheap interaction and dump your mana on advantage right before your turn (which The Scarab God’s ability is unmatched for). Your opponents should honestly be terrified of attacking you or casting something against you; like the hornet’s nest, it’s just not worth the trouble.
Here’s another thing. You don’t worry about playing The Scarab God as fast as possible. He’s your finisher. He comes out when you can bring him out no problems and can cover his ass until you untap. He is your parity breaker. All players have dwindling resources and filling graveyards. You bring out The Scarab God and start pulling away. You have a fist full of instants to answer any threat, and with any spare mana at the dead last second before your turn you grow your board.
This deck is tuned for my meta. There are no infinite combos that I know of.
Easy combos to include:
The deck is about inevitability. As the game progresses, your opponents are over-extending, burning resources, board-wiping and removing. Graveyards are filling. You take your licks and bide your time but establish key pieces on the board, protect them, and accumulate answers. Eventually you start dropping the “thumb screws”, the puzzle piece components that lock together to form an un-answerable mess for your opponents (if only because you have 3 counterspells in your hand). You’ve got The Scarab God, Training Grounds, and Sphinx of the Second Sun out, a handful of interaction, and graveyards are full. You’re off to the races. Tighten the thumb screws, reanimating with The Scarab God’s ability, and drain your opponents out. There are endless examples I could throw here but the point is the deck is chock full of ways to get to this inevitable game state and close it out.
Most of the tips have been outlined above. The absolute most important things I can say here:
Let's talk about the reanimation cards I picked and why I picked them.
Reanimate: Staple. Hits any graveyard and costs a single black mana.
And now for the rest:
Ertai Resurrected, and Overcharged Amalgam: I’m huge on countering activated abilities. Save your ass from a Bojuka Bog at the very least or stop someone from winning the game with some busted trigger. These cards are just generally useful (Ertai and Amalgam can be hit from the graveyard at instant speed by The Scarab God) and you’re nearly always trying to leave 4 mana up at end-game anyways to activate The Scarab God’s ability, so we don’t feel bad about the cost.
Confounding Riddle / You Find the Villains’ Lair: 3CMC might be a tough pill to swallow for some metas. In my opinion The Scarab God is basically “Hold 4 Mana Up.dec” and modal, useful 3CMC counterspells are worth running, or at least testing.
Sphinx of the Second Sun: This card was made for The Scarab God, there’s no way around it. Doubles your upkeep trigger, untaps for your draw/go plan, and draws a card to boot. If you land and protect this with The Scarab God out you nearly always win the game.
Fast Mana - Feel free to power the deck up. Would allow greater consistency to combo with Hullbreaker Horror
cEDH quality UB combos - I'm not interested in running these. Feel free. I wanted to stay on theme with reanimator.
Expel From Orazca, Meteor Golem, (anything else that can hit enchantments/artifacts): Dimir is starved for removal. What we are most worried about here is graveyard hate. There are two types, static and triggered. Triggered effects are going to happen, folks are going to get a Bojuka Bog in or activate their Tormod's Crypt. That's fine. Graveyard hate has gotten incredibly potent over the past several years, just look at Dauthi Voidwalker. We run Disallow, Ertai Resurrected, and Overcharged Amalgam to (hopefully) deal with a backbreaking graveyard exile trigger, but for the most part this is why we selectively place things in our graveyards nowadays through looting, conniving, and entombing instead of greedily milling. So, we are most concerned with static effects. Creature based static effects don't really concern us because we can blow those out of the water easily. It's the artifact and enchantment based static graveyard hate we're most afraid of, and specifically meta cards are Grafdigger's Cage, Ground Seal, Rest in Peace, and Leyline of the Void. Now we get into our local metas. I nearly never see these cards in my playgroup (your mileage may vary), and there's only 4 cards here total I'm terrified of. We're now in a situation where someone is playing these cards, has them in hand, and can resolve them against my counterspells. 3 of the 4 are <= 2CMC, and can be easily dealt with with Blast Zone, which I run. Otherwise, I am hoping to get my Cyclonic Rift or Venser, Shaper Savant to bounce it and counter it on recast. Theoretically, if I was seeing these cards pop up constantly in my meta I would add Karn's Silex and Filigree Silex next, as these can wipe those low CMC static graveyard threats as easily as Blast Zone, and if I needed to continue to make swaps, would start looking at adding more bounce spells such as Expel from Orazca (Although I'd be looking at Geistwave which can function as a pseudo cantripping protection / put an ETB creature back in your hand and also Commit // Memory, since we are usually always trying to hold up 4 mana for a TSG activation and Commit is extremely versatile).
Notion Thief and Opposition Agent: Simply a meta call here, TBH. These cards can win games. In my playgroup, I try to balance playing control with the fun my friends are having, and they generally hate these types of effects. Also, I try to always play with an Aikido mindset, and for this reason Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Hullbreaker Horror are actually on the chopping block for me - These types of cards that put a blanket aggro out there immediately turn the entire board against you and I'm not looking for that type of aggro until end game.
Sower of Temptation: I think Sower is a good card - it's a great target for The Scarab God. It can steal a creature, eat removal, and then get reanimated to steal something again. It's also costed nicely at 4CMC, so you don't feel bad hardcasting it. However, I also feel like it's a huge target for removal, since the stolen creature is returned to its owner when Sower dies, thus incentivizing your opponent to remove it. If I am limited on deckslots (and I am), I would rather run Agent of Treachery (and I do). Much more difficult to hardcast at 7CMC but we are relying on looting/entombing to get it into the graveyard to cheat the cost reanimating. Agent permanently steals anything on the battlefield. Your opponent is no longer incentivized to remove it.
Stubborn Denial: Probably a great in a deck full of 4/4 reanimated creatures and a 5/5 commander. I think I'd rather use An Offer You Can't Refuse as it's not as conditional as Stubborn Denial and can hit artifacts unlike Swan Song (if we're worried about artifact graveyard hate). For the most part I'm only worried about removal / board wipes / winning a counter war.
Whispering Madness, Windfall: Personal choice here. In Blue I simply prefer filtering cards into the graveyard. I'm trying to cultivate my hand with this deck and the card advantage / selection choices I've made. I (usually) don't want to just throw it away and then redraw it. That said these cards are a slam dunk / potential wincon with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse floating around in the deck.
Mesmeric Orb: Personal choice here. I feel like incidental graveyard hate is so pervasive nowadays (Dauthi Voidwalker for example) that I really try to avoid the greedy mill gameplan and instead rely on loot / surveil / connive / entomb to put things I want in the bin when I want. I also absolutely HATE the feeling of milling away some important spell or piece (granted this deck has ways to recur artifacts, instants/sorceries, and creatures). Example: Turn 2 play the Orb, turn 3 untap... and mill away your Rhystic Study. OOF. Like I said, I simply prefer cultivating my hand and graveyard through looting and entombing. I also feel like Mesmeric Orb has the potential to aggro the table. Additionally, if you are playing against another graveyard deck, you're potentially helping them. This might be another personal philosophy thing, but I rarely care about other folk’s reanimation targets. I'll still use TSGs ability at instant speed to break someone's reanimator combo of course, and if there's an absolute bomb in a graveyard, I'll try to grab it, but my gameplan is not milling and aggroing everyone at the table hoping to reanimate something juicy. It's to play a draw/go Control deck with an Aikido mindset, laying low, getting my pieces in place, and popping up as an unanswerable archenemy to close out the game.
Victimize: The upside is fantastic. The downside is something I experienced running this in Gale, and it's why I don't run it in low creature count decks anymore. I cast this card as a desperate move to reanimate some bombs with only Gale out. I planned to sacrifice my Gale. In response to the cast someone Path'ed Gale. Victimize fizzles since now I have no creature to sacrifice. In a low creature count deck, this card feels win-more – You have enough bodies to safely resolve this spell getting even MORE bodies. Otherwise, you struggle to cast it. It's in my Extus / Blood Avatar deck - slam dunk there.
Please check the Revision tab for change history - I keep comments on each revision.
This deck appears to be legal in EDH / Commander.
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|February 9, 2024
|February 9, 2024
|January 27, 2024
Accidentally hit Save on 16. This one might be temporary but saving a 100 card deck. Tuning passes for my meta (no free spells, removing anything from edhrec saltiest 100)
|January 26, 2024
|August 4, 2023
|July 26, 2023
|May 18, 2023
Large update, the gist is many swaps to shift focus onto instants/sorceries/creatures and less on enchantments.
|May 5, 2023
|April 28, 2023
|April 28, 2023
Lots of swaps due to (partial) MOM card delivery and PlayEDH deck check feedback (more ramp).
|April 7, 2023
|March 28, 2023
|March 16, 2023
Cleanup for Primer submission. Brainstorm, Feed the Swarm, Gruesome Realization, Snapcaster Mage, and Tainted Indulgence all felt low impact. Cut them. Additionally cut Massacre Wurm, which I feel works better in a meta with lots of token decks, or in a deck that can sac loop it.Replaced Lethal Scheme with Deadly Rollick. Replaced Mystical Tutor with Demonic Tutor. Replaced Swan Song with Overcharged Amalgam. Added in some more higher impact feeling spells - Ancient Excavation, Cryptbreaker, Leyline of Anticipation, Oriq Loremage, and Propaganda. Also added in some more ramp (Dimir Signet and Talisman of Dominance).
|March 14, 2023
|March 1, 2023
|January 13, 2023
Portal to Phyrexia has become one of my favorite cards ever. We also (surprisingly) have many ways to cheat it out in a Dimir reanimator shell. Scholar of the Lost Trove can hit it. Swapped in Bolas's Citadel, which can play it off the top, along with any of our other reanimator bombs (Scholar can hit this too!). Swapped in Beacon of Unrest, which can recur a creature or artifact, and recycles back into our deck.
|January 3, 2023