by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos
While Modern is a very ‘diverse’ format at the moment, there is one archetype that is not really represented: Mill. While it has never really been a super effective competitive deck, people will always give it a try. This version of mill is more focused on the actual mill spells versus infinite Hedron Crab interactions. It’s packing most of the cards you would expect it to play, except Traumatize.
Go home Traumatize, you suck!
The thing is that the card never actually mills a set amount and it costs five mana. At most it’s going to mill 24 cards (60-7 opener and 5 turns of draws). At worst it’s just going to fail at winning you the game on its own. Archive Trap gets the bonus of being potentially free and an instant as well as milling a fixed amount. Opponent has 12 cards left in their deck? You win! Traumatize? Ugh,,,wait 6 more turns? Really?
I guess I’ll reveal the list before continuing with card choices.
4 Darkslick Shores
3 Shelldock Isle
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
2 Watery Grave
1 Scalding Tarn
4 Hedron Crab
3 Augur of Bolas
4 Archive Trap
4 Visions of Beyond
4 Mind Funeral
4 Glimpse the Unthinkable
4 Crypt Incursion
4 Thought Scour
3 Breaking / Entering
2 Surgical Extraction
3 Mesmeric Orb
32 Other Spells
2 Echoing Truth
2 Engineered Explosives
2 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Slaughter Pact
I’m guessing most of you need to look some of these cards up. Don’t worry, it’s perfect normal. Most of these cards never saw much serious play and some never even saw casual play (I’m looking at you Crypt Incursion). 26 of the cards in the deck mill libraries, that’s including Hedron Crab. You also have the fetchlands for your Hedron Crab to maximize his utility.
At 0/2 he gets to sometimes block a mana dork too
We start off with every casual player’s ‘wet dream’ card straight out of Ravnica block.
Would you believe that it finally became playable?
I remember how many people placed this card on a pedestal the day it came out. It was worth money and people gladly trade something like 2 Ravnica dual lands per Glimpse the Unthinkable. Many years passed since and up until a few months ago you could obtain this card for a twenty dollar bill. It’s gone up slightly since and is just getting increasingly tougher to find. The fact that it was not reprinted in Modern Masters might have something to do with it, but it was not really a Modern card to begin with. It’s probably the best turn 2 play the deck can make so you should not hesitate in saying :
“Mill you for 10?”.
You only really need to mill about 45+ cards in most games, so this thing is very good in that proportion. It’s like a burn spell that cost 2 and did 4-5 points of damage.
Please ignore the Rakdos half to the right …
Your’re getting a slightly underpowered Glimpse the Unthinkable at one twentieth of the price. It’s quite a good deal, I assure you! Actually it’s just necessary more then anything else. It’s also the reason we run three. I was going to indicate that the card cannot get Inquizition of Kozilek‘ed but that would be wrong. It counts as having all possible costs, so Inquisition would still hit it.
Quite the illustration on this eh?
Somewhere in between Glimpse and Breaking we have this card. If you’re really unlucky you will only get to mill the for 4 cards. That would also imply that he/she was really unlucky as well and you just did them a favour. Then there’s the extreme scenario of a near 20-card mill. Between your opponent using his fetchlands and other search effects, the deck is slowly thinning. If you can gauge the number of lands left in your opponent’s deck then you can litterally know how any are left in his deck. This is one of the greatest advantage of running Mind Funeral. The card is a beast and the extra advantage it has (unless you play Dredge decks) is that it cannot be redirected back at you.
Old school libraries were not the quiet and safe places we know now
Potentially a turn 0 play if your opponent just casually plays their fetch and cracks it on their opening turn. You let them search, cast their one mana spell and BAM! mill them for 13 cards for free. Of course, you can always have more than one copy of this card in hand. That’s a free Traumatize on Turn 0/1! You definitely want to get this played for free on an unsuspecting opponent. If you cast any of your mill spells before you get to cast this card, your opponent will be very weary of it and try to play around it by not searching. Still, at 5 mana, Archive Trap is still a good card. The only times I’ve been sad to have it in hand is versus the odd Gaddock Teeg.
Every little bit counts!
It may seem rather trivial, but the 2 card mill on Thought Scour has been very relevant. It’s a Turn 1 card that replaces itself and it contributes to milling your opponent. If your opponent searched his deck for a card to and put it on top of his deck then that’s even better (maybe on a Flamekin Harbinger). It’s not great or super fancy but trust me: it’s just fine. You may even want to play a Watery Grave untapped on your first turn just to get to play it on Turn 1. You dig one card deeper and contribute towards Visions of Beyond‘s “Ancestral Recall” ability.
One of my favorite cards that has not yet seen a reprint
This card is deceptively good. It looks like it won’t mill them much and that could not be further from the truth. The little orb is actually good against some more aggressive decks or ones that put quite some permanents in play. The ‘drawback’ in negligible and the effect obviously stacks if you have more than one copy out. It’s been an MVP in a lot of my games especially versus Birthing Pod decks. The quote is pretty cute too.
” A step in one direction is two steps away from another.”
With almost no creatures in the deck, you can expect to get attacked often. Of course the deck packs some cards that allow you to last that extra turn to still mill your opponent. Let’s examine these under-apriciated support cards:
My favorite “non-tribal” Merfolk
Augur of Bolas saw quite a bit of Standard play but it’s no longer a legal card. You can still harness his power in the Modern format however, a format where he is perfectly legal. Augur‘s advantage is that you can cast him on turn 2 to stave off a lot of aggro while digging 3 cards into your library and hit an instant/sorcery for value (29 cards, basically 50% of the deck). Of course the value changes after you draw your starting handsize based on the number of instants/sorceries in your hand. I would love to show you the mathematical theories behind it, but I’m not willing to invest that much time into it.
If you really need to hit your third land drop, you probably don’t want to cast this on the second turn. You run the high risk of revealing 2-3 lands and even if you netted a card it will feel like a bad play. You want to be getting as many lands as possible early on in order to trigger your crab (preferably fetchlands). If you run into a deck running Goblin Guide however, please ignore this bit of unnecessary advice.
Quite possibly one of the ugliest looking cards of the Modern era
This card is not exactly what it appears to be. It’s not there to gain you life, it’s more a way to combat cards like this one:
Big daddy Eldrazi himself
Yes, there are a couple of decks that run some Eldrazis. This deck would otherwise fold to them without a way of exiling the graveyard. A card like Tormod’s Crypt would be a waste of space. This card’s upside is pretty ridiculous in a format that contains more creatures than it did before. I have gained upwards of 40 life with it, buying me quite a few turns if I’m drawing dead and looking to survive long enough until I get more of the mill cards in my hand.
It’s also a decent answer to the Melira–Pod infinite combo, reanimator decks and Goryo’s Vengeance targeting Emrakul or Griselbrand. You also have Surgical Extraction for that, but more on that later. You just need to keep the extra 3 mana open if you anticipate your opponent flipping over an Eldrazi or the random Gaea’s Blessing (you never know what those crazy kids will be siding in these days).
More commonly defined as netting extra cards, card advantage comes in other forms. In this deck, the following cards represent ‘card advantage’.
Do I need to draw you a picture?
Visions of Beyond is not a card you want to be casting early. You want to ‘mise’ this thing as long as possible. You won’t always be drawing awesome cards off the top of your deck but this card is a good guarantee that you will be getting more mill cards if you’ve milled them for at least 20 in a game. It’s also very easy to confuse the conditions of this card with the ones on Shelldock Isle.
It’s weird to see this card without a Doomsday
This is where you want your Archive Traps to end up, right under Shelldock Isle. If things go somewhat as planned then this land will get you that extra mill card you need to win. It’s technically an extra card since the conditions for playing it should not be hard to fulfil. You may also want a Crypt Incursion under this. You can then do something like Mind Funeral and activate this card in response to them shuffling their whole deck back in with Emrakul. It doesn’t require having an extra three mana available either.
I believe we covered him already
Might as well be an Island right? So wrong!
You’ve probably already figured out that this card is there simply for Hedron Crab. It basically becomes an uncounterable mill spell, getting you a guaranteed land drop per turn. I’m not saying it’s nuts but you have to admit it’s miles ahead of a Basic Island in this deck. It can potentially also serve as discard fodder to a Mind Wrench so you don’t have to discard a relevant card.
What to side in?
Leyline of the Void is in there in order to combat whatever reanimator deck you encounter. It is also extra insurance versus the Eldrazi shuffle back your graveyard triggers. Other bonus include combating Tarmogoyf, Soul Sisters (if it still runs Proclamation of Rebirth, which I doubt they do) and maybe the odd Dredge/Dredgevine deck that might surface.
It’s fairly easy to know when yo side in the rest of the stuff, but you generally don’t side in much. Slaughter Pacts are good versus Gaddock Teeg and probably decent versus Pod or Kiki-Jiki decks. Engineered Explosives is there as a sort of all-purpose answer to other hate cards that need to stay in play (Meddling Mage?)
Hard to believe this old card is Modern legal
Hurkyll’s Recall is there versus affinity as a way to slow them down a bit (especially if they are going to waste mana for that turn to equip or ‘flash equip’ a Cranial Plating). It doesn’t seem that awesome but like I said before, you need those extra turns of survival to edge them out.
Inquisition of Kozilek is a card that I often find myself siding just to slow down early aggro or just to make sure I get a counter out of their hand so that my mill spell will go through. Finally, Echoing Truth buys you a turn versus things like the Pestermite/Splinter Twin combo deck or possibly more if you get to successfully bounce the Splinter Twin target before it resolves. There’s also the fact that with the amount of mill action you can basically make them lose their combo pieces altogether.
I guess it all depends on what other interesting Modern stuff pops up. I’m not a big fan of the already established decks right now but anything that looks remotely real is definitely something I’d be interested in writing about. If any of you readers a decklist or any ideas, please let me know.
If you want to try this deck and don’t quite have the more expensive cards you can sub them out at the expense of slowing the deck down a bit.
Fetchlands > Terramorphic Expanse and Evolving Wilds
Glimpse the Unthinkable > Mind Sculpt and a 4th Breaking/Entering
A much much cheaper alternative
The other cards are fairly inexpensive and most of the other lands you will probably already own (such as fetches and duals) if you pay Modern. The only really bad matchup I have run into is Infect decks because they can beat you faster and cards that gain you like like Crypt Incursion end up doing nothing against them. It’s also not the easiest deck to hate on. This deck is also a little soft to Leyline of Sanctity, so you might want to side in some cards against that (Echoing Truth and Engineered Explosives)
Would you believe … a Modern Mill deck?