Stealing Everything with 《Thief of Sanity》

John Rolf


This past weekend at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, Michael Cochran, Jacob Nagro, Mark Jacobson, and I played an innovative Dimir (Blue-Black) Midrange deck featuring 《Thief of Sanity》.

Thief of Sanity

Although my tournament was cut short due to some unfortunate luck, my teammates had better ones, with Mark going 7-3 with the deck at the highest level of play and narrowly missing Top 8 losing his win and in. The deck is quite fun to play and is doing something unique in Standard. 《Thief of Sanity》 is a very powerful Magic card. Today, I will take you through a brief rundown on how the team came to the deck and will also provide a sideboard guide at the end.

Decklist and Testing Process

First, here is the list the four of us ran:

You’ll notice right away this is not your normal UB deck. The coverage mistakenly thought this was a Control deck, however; it is Midrange. The first iteration of this deck was in fact more Controlling with 4 《Disinformation Campaign》, 4 《Sinister Sabotage》, 4 《Blood Operative》 but I quickly found these lists to be far too reactive. The Control version demanded near complete Control over the board and if it relinquished any part of it the deck was doomed (no pun intended).

Doom WhispererThe Eldest Reborn

Additionally, it was having a tough time winning games. Flooding out was an issue since the deck had a lot of underpowered cards in it you would topdeck later like Discard spells and 《Dive Down》. I gained an appreciation for the power of 《Doom Whisperer》 as well as and 《The Eldest Reborn》. 《Doom Whisperer》 paired nicely with one-ofs, and 《The Eldest Reborn》 was a 3 for 1 that could handle 《Carnage Tyrant》. 《The Eldest Reborn》 is great with Discard and sweepers. A lot of my early lists were running 《Dream Eater》 but I found six mana to be way too much. Additionally, there were a lot of creatures I didn’t even want to bounce like 《Jadelight Ranger》 or 《Golgari Findbroker》.

Thief of SanityHostage Taker

For a while I was the only one on the team even remotely interested in UB. It was clear something was missing though, so I went to UB master Michael Cochran with my findings. Cochran is a long time blue player and immediately suggested a 《Thief of Sanity》/《Hostage Taker》 package to solve a lot of the problems I’d been having. I was skeptical at first, but tested it out and he was right. 《Thief》 was particularly busted (especially on the play). Even connecting once felt like it put us so far ahead of our opponents.

Dive DownThought ErasureDuress

I was adamant about increasing the 《Doom Whisperer》 count and we eventually landed on four. As it became more and more clear the creatures were the most critical part of the deck, we added two 《Dive Down》 as a way to protect them alongside 《Thought Erasure》 and 《Duress》. I continued to express concern about flood, and eventually, 《Disinformation Campaign》 found its way back into the deck. We got Jacobson and Nagro on board and they provided crucial tuning on the numbers to get the list to where we are today.

Pro Tour Result and Updated List

The PT is just one tournament though, and Standard will constantly be in flux. The deck will have to adapt. As time goes on we will have a better idea where UB and UB/x decks stand in the metagame. I am optimistic they will remain competitive though. Shota Yasooka showed us his take on UB cards at the PT as well with a red splash for 《Nicol Bolas, the Ravager》 finishing 7-3.

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager

His list seems like an excellent starting point for those looking to go a more Controlling route. 《Nicol Bolas, the Ravager》 (much like 《Hostage Taker》) is an excellent four drop that can let you be proactive, something the straight UB Control builds lack. The appeal to UB decks is clearly 《Thought Erasure》, Sweepers, and the powerful top end options you get access to. 《Ritual of Soot》 and 《Golden Demise》 are extremely high upside cards in a metagame full of White Weenie.

Whether UB is the right choice to play will depend on the particular week of Standard in question, but I’m excited to see the deck evolve. I’d caution towards giving up on the deck too early, as it is quite challenging to play correctly. Timing your 《Thief》, 《Hostage Taker》, and 《Doom Whisperer》 are of the utmost importance, and one wrong decision can cost you the entire game (source: myself). Even timing sweepers can be difficult. Don’t get too greedy on 《Golden Demise》.

I wish I could give insight in regards to spots like these, but they are all extremely contextual. Luckily, cards like 《Duress》 and 《Thought Erasure》 make your life easier when you have a chance to see what your opponent is holding. Other times you will have a 《Dive Down》 and have some insurance there. If you are looking for tips on play, check out some of Mark’s feature matches from the PT. I was constantly impressed by his play.

Chemister's InsightRitual of SootSpell Pierce

As far as updates on the deck, I recommend adding x1 《Chemister's Insight》 to address the flood issue I mentioned earlier, as well as the third 《Ritual of Soot》 into the main deck since the Top 8 of the PT featured 6 White Weenie decks. I would also like to experiment with 《Spell Pierce》 over 《Dive Down》 if White Weenie and Red decks continue to be popular. 《Spell Pierce》 serves the same role as 《Dive Down》 much of the time, while also being able to Counter the format defining 《History of Benalia》 and 《Experimental Frenzy》. One noticeable downside this swap has is against 《Ravenous Chupacabra》 and games that go very long, so proceed cautiously.

Below is the list I’ll be starting with going forward as well as a sideboard guide for it. Have fun killing your opponents with their own cards!

Sideboard Guide

White Weenie Splash Red / White Weenie (even – slightly favored)

Against White Weenie and Splash Red


Thief of Sanity Thief of Sanity Thief of Sanity Thief of Sanity
Dive Down Dive Down The Eldest Reborn Disinformation Campaign


Negate Negate Moment of Craving Moment of Craving
Golden Demise Blink of an Eye Duress Fungal Infection
Fungal InfectionGolden DemiseRitual of Soot

《Fungal Infection》 and sweepers are your best cards. Aggressively dig to your sweepers with your 《Discovery》 as they are devastating for the opponent. Don’t be afraid to cast a an early 《Hostage Taker》 on something even as small as a Knight Token if they are pressuring you or holding back some of their creatures to play around 《Ritual》/《Demise》, as it puts them in tough spots. Eventually they will have to commit.

You may also want to deploy 《Hostage》 if want to stop a 《Legion's Landing》 from flipping. The card we are most worried about is 《Experimental Frenzy》, so try to close the game as quickly as you can once you gain Control.

Mono-Red (favored)

Against Mono-Red


Thief of Sanity Thief of Sanity Thief of Sanity Thief of Sanity
Ritual of Soot Ritual of Soot Ritual of Soot
Dive Down Dive Down The Eldest Reborn


Negate Negate Moment of Craving Moment of Craving
Duress Duress Blink of an Eye
Golden Demise Disinformation Campaign Fungal Infection
Doom WhispererExperimental FrenzyHostage TakerTreasure Map

This matchup is quite easy. 《Doom Whisperer》 is by far your best card. You can win by 1 for 1ing/sweeping them and the turn they play 《Experimental Frenzy》 jamming a 《Doom Whisperer》. The card is extremely difficult for them to remove without expending a lot of their resources and giving you time to take over the game.

In matches with 《Frenzy》 don’t discount the small window of time they give you to 《Dispersal》 it to their hand and make them Discard it. If you miss this window, dig for a 《Blink of an Eye》 to put it back in their hand and then make them Discard/Counter it. Note, both of these plans are inferior to just racing with Doom. If they try to 《Treasure Map》 you show them the power of 《Hostage Taker》. Otherwise just use it on their creatures.

Golgari (unfavored)

Against Golgari


Hostage Taker Hostage Taker
Doom Whisperer Doom Whisperer
Golden Demise


Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke
The Eldest Reborn The Eldest Reborn
Fungal Infection
Disinformation CampaignDiscovery // DispersalThe Eldest RebornDetection Tower

By far your hardest matchup. 《Carnage Tyrant》, 《Memorial to Folly》, 《Vivien Reid》, and 《Find // Finality》 are all extremely annoying. Particularly 《Memorial to Folly》 and Find as they undo a lot of the work you do against their creatures. The big question in boarding this matchup is how many 《Disinformation Campaign》 you want against them. Sometimes the card is great, other times not so much. Save 《Discovery // Dispersal》 and 《The Eldest Reborn》 if you can for 《Carnage Tyrant》 and look to set it up after a sweeper.

《Hostage Taker》 is better on the play than the draw. 《Dive Down》 is key with 《Hostage》 and 《Thief》. Be cautious with your 《Hostage Taker》, ideally use them when you can cast the creature in the same turn. Dig for that 《Detection Tower》 it can really change the entire game. Your best path to victory is an early 《Thief of Sanity》. Make them have the answer, the upside is too high to not run it out if you don’t have the 《Dive Down》 or Discard.

Selesnya (unfavored)

A lot will depend on their particular version, but here is a soft guide:

Against Selesnya


Dive Down Dive Down
Cast Down Cast Down
Chemister's Insight Doom Whisperer
Ritual of Soot Golden Demise


Duress Duress
Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke
The Eldest Reborn The Eldest Reborn
Disinformation Campaign Blink of an Eye
Thief of SanityTrostani DiscordantHostage Taker

There are so many flavors of GW out there it can be really frusturating to board against. Watch out for 《Trostani Discordant》 however as it is insane against 《Thief of Sanity》 and 《Hostage Taker》. Note that it does not get them tokens back if you manage to cast one of their 《History of Benalia》 or 《Trostani Discordant》.

Jeskai (favored)

Against Jeskai


Hostage Taker Hostage Taker Hostage Taker Fungal Infection
Ritual of Soot Ritual of Soot Ritual of Soot Golden Demise
Cast Down Cast Down


Negate Negate Duress Duress
Disinformation Campaign Disinformation Campaign Disdainful Stroke Disdainful Stroke
The Eldest Reborn The Eldest Reborn
NegateDuressDisdainful Stroke

This is a great matchup, especially post-board. You will overwhelm them with Discard and Counters. If they try something or you suspect them of trying something like 《Legion Warboss》 the value of 《Hostage Taker》 goes up. It also goes up if they are on the 《Azor's Gateway》 version as you can reset/steal it. Keep this in mind when boarding. Never keep in more than 2 《Hostage Taker》 though.

Izzet Drakes (even)

Against Izzet Drakes


Thief of Sanity Thief of Sanity Thief of Sanity Thief of Sanity
Ritual of Soot Ritual of Soot Ritual of Soot Fungal Infection


Negate Negate Duress Duress
The Eldest Reborn The Eldest Reborn Disinformation Campaign Disinformation Campaign
Hostage TakerNiv-Mizzet, ParunRal, Izzet ViceroyThe Eldest Reborn

You are Control in this matchup. Don’t be afraid to strip their 《Tormenting Voice》 or 《Chart a Course》 it can leave them with some really bad hands. 《Thief》 is low impact so it comes out. We just want to be interacting with their hand and Countering their threats and draw spells.

Sometimes they try to go big against you post-board with 《Niv-Mizzet, Parun》 and 《Ral, Izzet Viceroy》 which is just a disaster against our 《The Eldest Reborn》 and 《Hostage Taker》.


Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions. I’m excited to see UB fight for a place in this meta. Standard is more diverse than it has been in a very long time, so get out there and play some Magic!


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John Rolf John Rolf is a pro player from United States. In the 2017-2018 season, He top8ed in Pro Tour Ixalan with his favorite 《Hazoret the Fervent》. Furthermore, he constantly left the good results in GPs and PTs, he finally reached Platinum Level from Bronze Level season starting and accomplished his first world championship appearance. With Brandon Ayers who is the teammate and best friend in the same town, he joined Hareruya Pros in the 2018-2019 season. Read more articles by John Rolf