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Did Dimir Twin Break Pioneer?

Last week, a curious deck showed up in the 5-0 Pioneer lists on Magic Online. It used Inverter of Truth and Thassa’s Oracle to deck itself and then win immediately, and had Dig Through Time, Thoughtseize, and Fatal Push as ways to interact and find the combo. It didn’t take long before everyone was jamming with the deck, and it’s the second most played deck in the Player’s Tour in Brussels. I’ve been playing with the deck quite a bit, and not only is it the real deal, it’s quite hard to play and play against. Let’s break it down.

Dimir Twin

4 Inverter of Truth
4 Thassa's Oracle
3 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
4 Thoughtseize
4 Dig Through Time
4 Fatal Push
2 Censor
1 Drown in the Loch
4 Opt
1 Hero's Downfall
2 Thought Erasure
2 Supreme Will
4 Watery Grave
2 Swamp (339)
4 Fabled Passage
1 Castle Locthwain
1 Castle Vantress
4 Drowned Catacomb
3 Fetid Pools
6 Island (335)

Sideboard
1 Damping Sphere
1 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound
1 Grafdigger's Cage
3 Mystical Dispute
1 Cast Down
2 Duress
1 The Scarab God
1 Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
2 Thief of Sanity
1 Cry of the Carnarium
1 Pack Rat

How The Combo Works

This deck has a very Splinter Twin feel to it, thanks to Inverter of Truth. What you do is cast Inverter, which exiles your deck and shuffles your graveyard into your now-empty deck. That means you’ll only have a handful of cards in your deck, at which point Thassa’s Oracle or Jace can often win you the game. You can even use Dig Through Time to exile a bunch of graveyard cards, making Inverter replace your deck with maybe 1-3 cards, which makes either blue card an instant win.

Some notes about the combo:

  • If you have zero cards in your library, it doesn’t matter if they kill Thassa’s Oracle in response (since that lowers your devotion). If you have more than zero cards, they can mess up your devotion count, but with zero the trigger always wins you the game.
  • You won’t know the order of your deck post-Inverter, but you will know the contents. If you’ve shuffled back multiple Thoughtseizes against control, you can often just wait to redraw them before going for the combo.
  • Jace + Oracle gives you a lot of devotion, so you may be able to win fast even with a lot of cards left. Activating Jace, then playing Oracle wins on a deck with eight cards, for example.
  • You can leave extra cards in the graveyard when casting Dig if you want to shuffle them back in with Inverter. Sometimes you want to set up multiple iterations of the combo as a result.
  • Casting Inverter with a huge graveyard can set up casting a second Inverter, which should let you win right away with Oracle or Jace.
  • If the opponent has graveyard hate like Rest in Peace, that means you have to combo in one turn, but it can actually speed you up as a result.

Card Choices

The deck has a number of locked slots:

4 Dig Through Time
4 Thoughtseize
4 Opt
4 Inverter of Truth
4 Thassa’s Oracle (I tried 3, but you really do want to maximize combo potential)
3 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries (this has impressed me as a card – it’s very strong)

Beside these cards, you want a mix of removal, disruption, and cycling, with a preference to cards that put more cards in the graveyard (like Fabled Passage or Sinister Sabotage). One of the really cool opportunities about this deck is that it can still get tuned a ton. These builds are approaching good, and this is what I’d play right now, but in another week we will see a lot more work done on this list compared to decks that have been refined a ton (like UW Control or Mono-Black).

I’m trying a mix of Thought Erasure, Censor, Hero’s Downfall, Supreme Will, and Drown in the Loch. Because the deck has four copies of Fatal Push, I’m wary of playing too much more removal, but I like having a way to kill opposing Jaces in the mirror (and Gideon of the Trials is becoming a popular card against this deck), so I’ve liked Hero’s Downfall. Cards like Supreme Will, Censor, and Drown are flexible, finding you more cards or acting as a counter/removal split card. You can also try Omen of the Sea, Discovery//Dispersal, and other removal out here.

Gameplan

The deck’s ultimate goal is to combo off. You can technically win with Inverter beats if you shuffle enough cards back, but that’s infrequent, and you’ll win most games off Oracle or Jace. The strength of this deck is that its early turns are a mix of hand disruption, creature removal, and counters, all of which fuel Dig. Post Dig, you can easily combo, and once you’ve ripped their hand apart you aren’t even in that much of a rush. Against decks that can’t interact, like aggro, you can race for the combo and often assemble a win on turn five or six. That doesn’t sound too impressive, but given you cast 2-3 disruption spells beforehand, it’s plenty fast.

Notes:

  • Optimizing for Dig is a huge part of this deck. Try and figure out lines that let you Dig a turn sooner, and aggressively trade cards to make that happen.
  • This deck can be controlling, but ultimately it doesn’t want to go super long. Try and combo off without wasting too much time, as your counterspells stop working in the lategame.
  • Sometimes you have to go for it without protection (like casting Inverter and passing the turn, at the mercy of whatever they draw). That’s what you signed up for, and this isn’t a deck for cowards.
  • If you can stick a Jace, you almost always win. Setting up that with Thoughtseize can pay off nicely.
  • This deck Digs like nobody’s business. I’ll often keep a 2nd Dig when you see it off Opt or Thought Erasure early, unlike when playing UW Control.
  • With Jace, sometimes you want to +1 targeting them, and sometimes yourself. There’s no hard and fast rule, but in general it’s better to target them to keep your graveyard size small.

This deck is not easy to play, but very rewarding once you’ve practiced with it. It shifts gears quickly, and can often win out of nowhere. You also have to be constantly balancing cards in graveyard/cards in deck, and deciding when and how to combo. You sometimes want to intentionally shuffle back 10+ cards to set up a win that involves re-drawing multiple cards, and sometimes you want to exile your whole graveyard so that you win faster.

Sideboarding

1 Damping Sphere
1 The Scarab God
1 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy/Jace, Telepath Unbound
3 Mystical Dispute
1 Cast Down
2 Duress
1 Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
2 Thief of Sanity
1 Pack Rat
1 Cry of the Carnarium

Sideboarding with this deck is tricky, but good news – it’s also very hard to sideboard¬†against.¬†Here are some broad rules before we look at matchups:

  • It’s obvious when to cut Fatal Push, and often you’ll be swapping these four out for different disruption or threats.
  • Censor tends to be bad against low-curve decks, especially on the draw.
  • Likewise, Supreme Will isn’t great unless you actively want the counter mode, which you don’t against aggro.
  • It’s ok to trim combo pieces when bringing in alternate win conditions, and it’s especially good when they have cards like Slaughter Games, Lost Legacy, or Unmoored Ego.
  • Drown in the Loch is poor against decks with Dig Through Time.

VS Mono-Black Aggro

+1 Cast Down
+1 Cry of the Carnarium
-2 Censor

If Mono-Black decks start going hard on cards like Lost Legacy, I’d recommend adding a Kalitas to your sideboard, and also bringing in Thief of Sanity and Pack Rat (cutting Supreme Wills, one Inverter, and one Thassa’s Oracle).

VS Mono-Red Aggro

+1 Cast Down
+1 Cry of the Carnarium
-2 Censor

This is mostly a race, as they can’t really stop your combo.

VS UW Control

+1 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
+2 Thief of Sanity
+1 Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
+2 Duress
+3 Mystical Dispute
-4 Fatal Push
-1 Drown in the Loch
-2 Censor
-1 Inverter of Truth
-1 Thassa’s Oracle

Against UW, you still want to win via combo but putting in a few little threats can really stretch their sideboarding. This is one of the matchups where Thief shines, especially over Pack Rat. If Gideon of the Trials becomes more popular, a second Hero’s Downfall wouldn’t be a bad idea.

VS UW Spirits

+3 Mystical Dispute
+1 Cast Down
-2 Thought Erasure
-1 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
-1 Censor

Here you want to play as much as possible at instant speed, while leaving up removal and counters for their Spell Quellers and lords. Mystical Dispute is an all-star, and gives you a big post-board boost.

VS the Mirror

Here’s where it gets tricky. There are multiple ways to side against the mirror, and it partially depends on what the opponent is doing. If they are going hard on anti-combo stuff like Unmoored Ego, you want alternate threats and to take out some of the combo, but if you go too far in that direction you risk losing to them just racing to their combo. It’s also tricky knowing when you want removal for something like Thief of Sanity or Pack Rat, as those cards do nothing against the combo (and this is why I’m considering a second Hero’s Downfall, as it kills Jace and Thief both).

+3 Mystical Dispute
+1 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
+1 The Scarab God
+2 Thief of Sanity
+1 Pack Rat
-2 Censor
-3 Fatal Push
-1 Inverter of Truth
-1 Thassa’s Oracle
-1 Drown in the Loch

This is what I’ve been trying for now, but you can massage the number of Fatal Pushes and combo pieces you want, based on what you see. I would NOT recommend siding in Duress, as it whiffs too often, and you can decline to side in Pack Rat or Scarab God if you want to focus on the combo more.

VS Niv to Light

+1 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
+1 The Scarab God
+3 Mystical Dispute
+2 Thief of Sanity
+1 Ashiok, Nightmare Muse
-4 Fatal Push
-1 Drown in the Loch
-1 Hero’s Downfall
-1 Inverter of Truth
-1 Thassa’s Oracle

Against Niv, you definitely want alternate win conditions, as they have a lot of hate to search up. Your disruption is very effective here, and you can usually win by being more efficient, even if you sometimes have to close out the game with Thief of Sanity or Scarab God instead of the combo.

Playing Against This Deck

It’s always tricky playing against combo-control hybrids like this. If you dont’ respect the combo, they often just outrace you, but if you go too hard on stopping it, they win by drawing cards and overpowering you. You want to figure out which axis to fight on, which is easier for some decks than others. Aggro decks like MonoB or MonoR will just be trying to race, and using what limited disruption they have to stop the combo. Control decks have it harder, as if they wait too long, Dig Through Time finds enough Thoughtseizes, but if you tap out for a Niv-Mizzet or Teferi you might get hit by the combo.

In general, you want to be aware of how close they are to comboing, and what your answer is to it. If they have 5+ lands, they can always Dig into combo, so tapping out is risky. If they have fewer lands, you’ll get at least one turn, and if they have a super full graveyard, you often will get multiple turns as well. You should always have a plan for what you’ll do if they just stick a Jace, as that’s one of the deck’s best plays against disruption.

Post-board, I would not recommend bringing in Rest in Peace or Leyline of the Void, and don’t go too hard on effects like Lost Legacy. Having a couple is fine, but I’ve won plenty of games without Inverters in my deck, and just today I saw Reid Duke streaming with Coax from the Blind Eternities as a backup Inverter. Gideon of the Trials seems like a great card against the deck, because it’s a way to stop the combo that also pressures them and Jace. I also like Ashiok, Dream Render, as it can really mess with the number of cards needed to go off. If they pass the turn with 4 or fewer cards, Ashiok can deck them immediately, and if they shuffle back in a lot to play around that, you can elect not to mill them.

Lastly, be aware of their transformational sideboard, so don’t go nuts taking out all your removal, lest you be overrun by Rats or Thieves.

Let me know if you have any more questions on Twitter, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Good luck!

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