Commanding Respect: Circu, Dimir Lobotomist
Welcome to our new article series about underplayed and underestimated commanders, Commanding Respect!
Everyone loves an underdog story. No one is surprised when someone shows up with Tier 1 commander, smashes face or combos off for the win. What if we do not want to win that way, don’t have access to those commanders, or have a limited budget? Let’s be original! I’m into using cards that all your opponents are going to say “What does that card do again?”
Today we are going to look at Circu, Dimir Lobotomist. At first glance, Circu isn’t looking too hot. We can only exile two cards at best, from one person’s Library. We have three opponents. That isn’t going to end well for us. That is exactly what we are hoping our opponents will think anyway. But EDH is filled with “staple” cards; We hit Counterspell, Toxic Deluge, even things like Cultivate, no opponent can cast them, not just the player we exiled it off of. Even when we are not hitting staples, we can hit cards we don’t want put in a graveyard to later be reanimated or brought back. We get them gone for good! His ability targets libraries as well, so any pesky “You have Hexproof” cards don’t bother us in the least.
Gatecrash gave us an awesome mechanic for triggering Circu every turn: Cipher. We get to put a spell on a creature, and whenever it deals damage, CAST it again. For example: Paranoid Delusion. Meets our requirement for being both blue and black, is cheap to cast, and we can cast it again every attack step. Whispering Madness gives us a chance to refill our hand, and throw some goodies our opponents have into their graveyard. Stolen Identity is a little costly, but will allow us to copy our opponents’ big nasty threats, creatures or artifacts. If we are hurting for mana, copying our opponents mana rocks or our own every turn is pretty decent. Call of the Nightwing gives us some flying blockers to keep us safe, while our cipher creatures get through. The big bad boy is Undercity Plague. Making an opponent discard and sacrifice a permeant is no fun for anyone.
A big downside is we have to actually do combat damage. Often, even in early turns, someone is going to be able to block our creatures. If our creature dies, our cipher cards are gone for good. Luckily, we get lots of deathtouch, unblockable, and hexproof creatures. A great example for us is Invisible Stalker. This little guy will make your opponents want to board wipe on just his own once he is suited up. Shadowmage Infiltrator gives us an extra card, plus whatever we have tossed on them. If we want to give things that “almost unblockable” Lu Xun, Scholar General and Sun Quan, Lord of Wu have horsemanship, and give other creatures horsemanship, which unless we are up against horsemanship tribal, we should be pretty safe. Deathcult Rogue offers us this same advantage being unblockable except by Rogues. If we are still having problems getting through, we can use politics. Most of our guys are small, so we can use this to our advantage if we can sweet talk someone to letting us hit him.
We only have so many cipher cards; To keep this exile/mill train going we need ELDRAZI! Not our big titans, but our little minions with Ingest. Fathom Feeder is a prime example, he won’t trigger Circu, but he will do Circu’s ability for us. Someone going to block our 1/1 deathtouch with their big fatty? Doubt it. Plus now we have a nice mana sink if we need it. Benthic Infiltrator is cheap and unblockable. It is a prime cipher target, and keeps the exile rolling. Dimir Doppelganger will serve us nicely on any targets our mill hits, but the exile misses. Here is where we have our secret weapon: Raven Guild Master. Now in a 100 card format, exiling 3 to 4 cards at a time isn’t getting us to far too fast. The Guild Master is about to really smash someone hard. He’s not quite Ulamog, The Ceaseless Hunger, but he’s 1/3 the mana requirement. Ten cards in EXILE in early turns are going to be brutal, and combined with Circu doing his thing, we should be looking at fifteen per turn.
How are we going to find all these cards? These all sound great till we can’t get what we want. We’re going for originality, so Diabolic Tutor and the like are off the table. How about Diabolic Visions and Impulse; we don’t get to tutor, but we can find cards off the top of our deck, or chuck them to the bottom. A lot of the time nothing beats good ol’ fashioned card draw. Pilfered Plans lets us mill two, exile two, and draw two all for three mana. What a steal. We have Whispering Madness as one of our cipher cards, and can also run Windfall and Dark deal. Dimir Machinations keeps with our exile all your stuff and can help us find our critical three drops. Clutch of the Undercity and Drift of the Phantasms fall under this same category.
Having so many key cards, and things we do not want to lose, we definitely need to make sure we have a good protection package. We want most creatures as cipher targets, and not blockers. Curse of Swine exiles our opponents creatures. Perplex serves us double duty, as it can be transmuted or makes for a great counterspell. Hinder and Memory Lapse are great counters. Anything that “puts a card on top” of a library is ideal for us to run. We now aren’t just exiling randomly, but able to remove threats specifically. We have to run a few staples, like Crawlspace and Propaganda to keep us from getting totally over run. One of the colors the most prevalent in EDH, and most likely to be a problem for us is green. We can quickly shut them down with Flooded Woodlands. Even with all those ramp cards, sacrificing a land whenever a creature attacks is sure to give your opponent pause.
Our cards are on the table, and we are exiling threats. We need a finisher though. No red means we only get one combat step per turn. We really need to be hitting multiple times or casting lots of spells at better rate. Well the thing we do have is equipment. Fireshrieker and Grappling Hook are going to our unblockable spell machines doublestrike! That means we can cast any of our cipher cards twice! If we get this on Raven Guild Master we are going full ham. Another card from the recently released Hour of Devastation is Swarm Intelligence. This is a whopper at seven mana, which for most people is their turn. For us though, our spells are just lying in wait on our creatures. If we have our doublestrike equipment, that is four cipher spells off one attack. With all our triggers, we can use something like Brain Freeze to finish off that final opponent who might still have some cards left in their library. If you have managed to keep some flyers from Call of the Nightwing we can tap them to cast Memory Sluice.
Circu, Dimir Lobotomist is a fantastic general who doesn’t see enough love. We can generate a lot of value while playing a different style of game. If you are interested in this bizarre style, Circu is the deck for you.