Thereís Nothing to See Here
Two guilds have completed their governance of the guildless, with the Golgari picking up some more ways to bring back the dead and the Boros gaining some new soldiers to throw into the fight. Now itís time to move on to the House Dimir. Will their veiled secrecy push new members away? Or have they had greater numbers this whole time and we simply havenít been aware of it? Itís time to delve deep into this undercity guild and find out all of the answers.
As always, weíll begin by looking at the major themes and trends that run through the guild. The first and most obvious, in my opinion, is that of the destruction of the mind. The Dimir like the play mind games; they like to get inside peopleís heads and play around and if they end up with a scrambled mess, they really donít mind (pun intended). As long as someone is suffering the agonizing fate of a lost memory or a sickening madness, the Dimir will pat themselves on the back for a job well done.
When messing with peopleís heads, the Dimir are willing to break out tactics that are less-than-subtle, but when it comes to everything else, secrecy is the key. The Dimir prefer to reveal as little of themselves as possible. No other guild tries as hard to stay under the radars of the other guilds and itís even said that many citizens of Ravnica donít know for sure whether or not the Dimir even exist. Spells and creatures whose affiliation may not be readily obvious might fit in with the Dimir for exactly this reason. Because the Dimir believe so strongly in the secrecy of their guild, images associated with them are often related to night, shadows and fog. Anything that provides cover for treachery is a welcome addition for the Dimir.
Just because the Dimir think theyíre so secret doesnít make it true. They leave a lot of obvious signs and have easily identifiable methods of getting things done. First of all, they love skeletons, perhaps more than any other guild, including the Golgari. Images of the skull and the use of bones are most commonly associated with the Dimir. When they canít get their hands on some bones, though, the Dimir like to manifest their magic in very strange ways. It can often be seen in the form of black and blue tendrils.
So at this point, we know that the Dimir arenít too fond of going out in the daylight. They like to hang out in the undercity, away from the glances of wandering eyes. But unlike the Golgari, who live in a forest of the undercity, the Dimir choose to live in the sewer. Yes. Thatís right. The sewer. Nothing turns on a Dimir operative like the smell of fresh elf turds dropping down on his head. Iíll assume that the sewer was not, in fact, the Dimirís first choice of residence, but they moved in for the sake of staying secretive. After all, itís a good bet that no oneís going to bother poking around the cityís septic system just to prove they exist.
You might be wondering what the proper attire is for traveling around in a sewer. My first guess would be some sort of scuba suit or something else to stay dry and keep the odor out. Actually, most of the Dimir prefer to wear flowing robes, usually dark blue, purple or black. The flashier guild members will incorporate skeletons into their outfit, while the more private ones wear hooded robes to cover their feces, er, faces. Since fashion isnít a chief concern for the Dimir, their clothes are often seen quite tattered. Of course, not every guild member has access to robes, so if thatís the case, theyíll just use what resources they have and wrap themselves up in the plentiful supply of toilet paper that passes through their home.
When it comes to fighting, the Dimir arenít exactly on top of their game. Their arsenal reflects as much, so you wonít find a sword, shield or rocket launcher anywhere near these guys. They prefer the subtlety of the blade. If they canít solve a problem with magic, cutting throats is highly preferred over marching into battle.
So who fills out the ranks of the House Dimir? Well, the leader of the guild is a vampire and two of the three vampires of Ravnica are card-carrying guild members, so itís safe to say that ďvampireĒ is a prominent creature type of the Dimir. They also have a handful of spirits working for them (preferably the invisible kind), a pair of flying zombies and a couple of horrors. A shapeshifter and a leviathan also make an impact on the guild, while skeletons do a lot of the grunt work. And, like every guild, House Dimir is rounded out by a bunch of humans, most of which are pasty white anorexics, to distinguish themselves from the pasty white fat guys of the Orzhov.
Well, Iíd say thatís enough information to get rolling. Letís start the categorizing!
As always, Iím going to start with the easy ones. The mechanic for Last Gasp could fit in any black guild, but the art is easily identified. The pale, skeletal perpetrator is obviously an agent of the Dimir, sucking the life out of some hapless Golgari elf.
With their penchant for working the mind and acting under the cover of night, Dream Leash fits right in with the Dimirís philosophy. While the Simic use their gooey blobs to control others and the Azorius use their rules, the Dimir will move in quietly while their enemies sleep and brainwash them into becoming followers. Additionally, the art reveals a Dimir mage, casting the spell on a Niv-Mizzet look-alike and the flavor text mentions tendrils, one of the stronger images of the guild.
Of course, if you really want to control your opponent, why stop at permanents? The Dimir have the strongest ability to control and affect the minds of their enemies and the mind is often interpreted through a playerís hand or library. In the case of Muse Vessel, the Dimir can hop right into their opponentsí brains and play their spells as if they owned them. On top of that, the strong presence of black and blue in the art, suggests a further affiliation with the guild of lies.
Itís time to begin the sewer series. A number of unguilded cards clearly depict creatures hanging out in the sewer-home of House Dimir. The Gharial is the first of these, with the best view of city water flowing from a sewer pipe in the background. On top of that, his islandwalking skills (despite the fact that there arenít really any islands in Ravnica) give him the very Dimir-like ability of sneaking around underground and chomping any victims that live too close to the water.
In case the name wasnít obvious enough, the Sewerdregs live in the sewer. Much like their islandwalking friends above, these evasive creatures can sneak around under the city and pop out of sewage grates for some surprise attacks. Also, the ability to keep cards out of the graveyard is one thing you wonít see the Golgari or Rakdos taking advantage of. That leaves only the Orzhov and Dimir and itís a sure bet that the Orzhovís holier-than-thou attitude tells them to avoid the penniless creatures of the sewers.
Another sewer dweller, this spirit isnít afraid to swim in the same waters as the gharials. In addition to being pictured in a very sewage-like environment, this enigmatic lady can be sacrificed to drop cards off an opponentís library Ė an ability most commonly and effectively used by the Dimir.
The two guilded creatures with fear have their allegiances split between the Dimir and the Rakdos. Both of these guilds, more than the other black guilds, use fear to advance their causes. Now combine this with the mention of the undercity, which is most commonly used on Dimir cards and it becomes quite obvious that the shadowy figure lurking under the bridge is truly an agent of the Dimir.
Finally, we wrap up our sewer series with the Drowned Rusalka. We can all see by the picture that she likes swimming in the Ravnican waterways, but that doesnít tell us much aside from a probable explanation as to why she drowned. Well, like the rest of the rusalkas, the drowned oneís cost of sacrificing creatures automatically gives her a hint of blackness. On top of that, her discard and draw ability combines the intersection of the two colorsí staple functions.
As a creature type, bats are almost exclusively a part of the Orzhov. However, skeletons and vampires both have the strongest leaning towards Dimir. When the two ideas conflict, the big guy wins. For now, the Dimir can pull a couple of bats into their ranks.
Out of the creature types strongly affiliated with the Dimir, Vedalken was not among them. However, I firmly believe that there are some Vedalken working for the Dimir. As Iíve stated before, taking cards out of the library is a mechanic linked strongest to the Dimir and thatís what this guy does.
Letís not stop there. Another Vedalken that sets himself up as a prime candidate for Dimir-hood is the Vedalken plotter. His mechanic isnít particularly drawn towards any guild, but his flavor text shows that he is selfish in nature. Scamming others for personal gain is a clear sign of a black affiliation. On top of that, the small group of Vedalken pictured in the art seem to enjoy living in the shadows and would fit perfectly in the Dimir undercity.
Speaking of unfair deals, this guy is the king of them all. Another blue creature with clearly black undertones, the spawnbrokerís primary goal is his own profit. Whether heís trading a Bronze Bombshell for an Experiment Kraj or swapping an Imaginary Pet with Burning-Tree Shaman, the spawnbroker guarantees that heíll always benefit the most.
Card drawing is typically a blue ability, so when it shows up on a black card, my first inclination is to say that it ties the two colors together. The flavor around it also favors the Dimir, since it implies an intense secrecy required for doing business away from unwanted spectators. Although the art doesnít clearly show any Dimir guild members, it doesnít show any members of the other black guilds, either, allowing the Dimir to claim this card on all its other merits.
If one guild is based on lies, itís House Dimir. Although the more prevalent theme of the guild is secrecy, it is a well-established fact that lying is a great way to maintain secrets. Lore Broker fits right in, dealing in lies to keep other guilds in the dark.
Darkness is one of the most effective tools used by the Dimir to both maintain their secrecy and fight their enemies. The flavor text reveals an underlying possibility of madness that might be caused by enveloping someone in darkness. Finally, the art shows a Boros soldier surrounded shadowy, tendril-like hands Ė the sort of manifestation of magic that would be utilized by the Dimir.
Why turn one creatureís world into darkness when you can affect everybody instead? Nightcreep makes the entire city just the way the Dimir like it Ė dark. By bringing out the most dreadful things that the night has to offer, they can even inspire some to prefer madness over the things they are seeing.
Surveilling Sprite and Wizened Snitches
The two unguilded faeries clearly work in similar ways. Theyíre both rogues used for spying and if thereís one guild that uses spies, itís the Dimir. The act of subterfuge allows them to gain information on their enemies without revealing anything about themselves. Perhaps the rogue status of these faeries implies that they arenít even aware of who they work for, but isnít that just the way the Dimir would want things?
Of course, not everyone can be as small and agile as a faerie. For that, this magemark grants the power to get behind enemy lines much more easily than the average creature. The quote from Szadek and the characterís preference for the blade help this card fit perfectly among the other Dimir spells.
Itís time to get back to the Dimirís penchant for messing with their victimís heads. Thoughtpicker Witchís ability is basically a watered-down version of everyoneís favorite Ravnican brain surgeon and although her methods may seem a bit too overt to be Dimir, itís important to remember that the suffering of the victim can sometimes trump the need for subtlety.
Thereís nothing less subtle than blowing someoneís entire memory right out of their head, but everything about this card screams to be a part of the Dimir. Discard is strongest among the Dimir and the flavor text quote by Szadek implies an intense connection with Glimpse the Unthinkable. Although the mechanics differ, the implication that images can be used to destroy a personís mind is too strong a relation to think that this card belongs anywhere else.
One of my favorite two-card cycles, the skeins show an intense mental battle between two wizards. The important part of identifying the guild affiliation is to realize that the most easily visible character on each card does not represent to caster of the spell. In the case of Delirium Skeins, the caster is the wizard on the far right, not the one on the left. To get a better look at this wizard, take a look at the counterpart card, Visions Skeins. On the art for Visions Skeins, the wizard seems to have a striking similarity to the Dimir Guildmage. Coupled with a discard-based mechanic and flavor text that mentions fog and madness, this skein clearly falls on the side of the Dimir.
This is yet another discard-related card, although it benefits from the effect instead of bringing it on. The horror creature type fits with the Dimir, as does the flavor text quote taken from an asylum inmate. However, at this point the nocturnus could reasonably be placed with the Rakdos, as well. But looking at the art, we see the cloud of black tendrils associated almost exclusively with the Dimir, which seals the deal.
Seal of Doom
Speaking of sealing the deal, when it comes to eliminating the opposition, the Dimir know how to get it done. Although they werenít around when the seals debuted in Nemesis, nowadays the Dimir make a solid claim at the black seal. As quoted by Szadek on the card, the Dimir have a fondness for completely dissolving their enemies, so as to not leave any clues of wrongdoing. Seal of Doom is the perfect tool for just that, giving the Dimir another weapon to control Ravnica without notice.
Peel From Reality
Just in case a black creature gets in the way of the Seal of Doom, the Dimir make sure all their bases are covered. Peel From Reality might not kill anyone, but it will get them out of the way for a bit. Like the Seal, the primary evidence of the Dimir affiliation lies in the flavor text, which specifically links the card to the guild. However, the prominent use of blue, black and purple in the art has the same undertones found on other Dimir cards.
The hunted creatures are in a strange situation. On the one hand, if they belong to a guild, then why are they being hunted? On the other hand, most of them have characteristics that clearly place them into a guild. Seeing how my entire goal in this was to place every card in a guild, I have to favor the latter point. In the case of hunted horror, his creature type fits in with the Rakdos, Golgari and Dimir. Iíll eliminate the Golgari since heís being hunted by a couple of green creatures. That leaves us with either the Rakdos or the Dimir. I tend to think his weirdness factor is greater than his scariness factor, which favors the Dimir, but isnít enough to conclude anything. So instead I just looked at the creatures that hunt him. Since theyíre green and since greenís enemy colors are black and blue, I have to give the nod to the Dimir. And yes, in case you were wondering, I am going to use this same logic on all the hunted creatures.
Cerulean Sphinx and Belltower Sphinx
The only guilded Sphinx belongs to the Azorius, but in my opinion, sheís the only one. The other two Sphinxes are Dimir all the way. The Cerulean Sphinx has an ability and a flavor text that imply she values her secrecy more than anything else. A creature more secretive than Szadek himself? Sounds like Dimir to me. The Belltower Sphinx makes it in on ability alone. The milling ability is always templated using the words, ďlibrary into his or her graveyard.Ē A quick Gatherer search shows that five out of eight of these cards are designated for the Dimir. The other two, I already covered in this article. That means this guy is the last to join the fray.
Leyline of the Void
Out of the black guilds, neither the Golgari nor the Rakdos are too keen on removing cards from the game. They prefer to get them in the graveyard so they can bring them back at a later time. The Orzhov also like to get creatures in the graveyard, especially the haunted kind. If theyíre removed from the game, the haunting will never trigger. That leaves only the Dimir, who will be sure to make full use of this cardís ability. Glimpse the Unthinkable and Consult the Necrosages suddenly nullify the possibility of a dredging. Finally, the flavor text mentions treachery, which is one skill at which the Dimir are adept.
Aetherplasm, Halcyon Glaze and Vertigo Spawn
There are three illusions in Ravnica and none of them has a guild. So I asked myself, ďSelf, if I were an illusion, which guild would I belong to?Ē And my self replied, ďLeave me alone. I donít like you.Ē So I actually had to go ahead and put some thought into it. Illusions are sort of here, sort of not here, types of creatures. Sometimes theyíre capable of changing their shape to blend in. Other times, theyíre just really hard to see. Perhaps theyíre just figments of a personís imagination. All these things make me suspect that the trio of Ravnican illusions are members of the Dimir. Maybe they were conceived by the Izzet or the Simic, but their abilities of subterfuge, trickery and transubstantiation all lie within the limits of House Dimir.
A blue card with flavor text about getting stabbed in the back? Thatís enough for me to classify it as a blue/black wannabe.
Nothing in the art on this card implies any status within the Dimir and that threw me off at first. But the mechanic is just screaming to be included in this guild. Take a long, hard look at Twisted Justice and tell me that has nothing to do with a Psychic Possession.
And that just about wraps things up for the Dimir. Pulling in a whopping 34 new cards, the Dimir have certainly done well for themselves considering no one is supposed to know about them. Let me tell you, it was an exhausting exercise trying to get all these cards in place. Maybe down the road, Iíll spot a few mistakes, but for now, Iíll leave the choices as they stand. Next week, weíll see how the Selesnyans do, attempting to increase their already countless numbers.
References and other Helpful Websites:
Pretty Sneaky Sis by Mark Rosewater
Secrets of the Secret Guild by Aaron Forsythe
Life in the Big City by Rei Nakazawa
Urban Flavor by Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar