UB Modern Mill

modern mill

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.

Modern Mill

4 Darkslick Shores
3 Island
3 Shelldock Isle
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
2 Watery Grave
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Swamp

21 Lands
4 Hedron Crab
3 Augur of Bolas

7 Creatures

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

Sideboard :
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.

hedron crab banner

At 0/2 he gets to sometimes block a mana dork too

Got MilL?

We start off with every casual player’s ‘wet dream’ card straight out of Ravnica block.

glimpse the unthinkableWould 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.

breaking entering

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.

mind funeral

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.

archive trap

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.

thought scour

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.

mesmeric orb

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.”

Staying Alive

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:

augur of bolas

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.

crypt incursion

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 MeliraPod 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).

‘Card advantage’

More commonly defined as netting extra cards, card advantage comes in other forms. In this deck, the following cards represent ‘card advantage’.

visions of beyond

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.

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.

augur of bolas

I believe we covered him already 

oboro palace

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?)

hurkylls recall

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.

More Modern?

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.


Budget Version?


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


mind sculpt

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)



glimpse the unthinkable banner

Would you believe … a Modern Mill deck?

Ranger of Crabs

ranger of crabs

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

If you often play some casual Magic or even sometimes the odd casual Modern/Legacy tournament at your local store, you have often probably tried to figure out how to make a decent or somewhat competitive mill deck for yourself or a friend. I’m not talking about the Painted Stone deck as that’s mainly just a 2-card combo deck. I mean milling them the hard way!

hedron crab banner

Feeling crabby?

The main advantage to building something like this is that it’s actually a good archetype deck to keep around and test against or play many casual games. Kind of like testing your deck’s resilience/speed versus a burn deck. It’s also really good at randomly disrupting combo decks such as Scapeshift/Valakut and Pestermite/Splinter Twin since it can actually mill enough combo pieces to the point where they cannot combo properly (more versus Valakut, since Pestermite has Kiki-Jiki and Deceiver Exarch)


Of course I didn’t just come up with this deck out of the blue. I did however feel that a lot of people currently playing Magic are not aware that it ever existed. I see them try out cards like Tome Scour, Traumatize and Glimpse the Unthinkable. I ,in vain, try to convince them that there are much better ways to mill your opponent all the while keeping permanents /blockers in play. Ways that can even result in you attacking them sometimes (no, not Consuming Aberration).

no consuming aberration

Some other time bro! 

The deck uses Hedron crab and some strategically placed Archive Traps to mill out your opponent. It also has many tutors that are mostly instant speed. It clogs the board enough for you to not get totally overrun by various aggro decks as well. Without further ado, here’s the old decklist:

Ranger of Crabs

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Ponder
2 Wargate 
4 Forest
4 Island 
1 Marsh Flats 
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Plains
1 Scalding Tarn 
4 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Verdant Catacombs
4 Archive Trap
3 Path to Exile 
1 Pitfall Trap 
4 Trapmaker’s Snare
4 Hedron Crab  
4 Knight of the Reliquary 
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Ranger of Eos 


1 Wargate
1 Gargoyle Castle
3 Negate
1 Ravenous Trap
4 Rhox War Monk
3 Wall of Reverence
1 Behemoth Sledge
1 Pithing Needle

I have fond memories playing this at my local FNM‘s and having a blast. Most of my losses would come at the hands of the then popular Jund decks that everyone was tired of facing. I kept the deck for quite some time even after it was no longer Standard legal. It was fun to try this deck out at certain random Legacy and Extended tournaments back in the day. I speak like it’s been forever, but it’s only about 2.5 years ago. It does really feel like an eternity though.

The Ins and Outs

ranger of eos big

Antoine Ruel’s invitational card back then

Much like Snapcaster Mage came to be, so did Ranger of Eos. Magic Invitational tournaments were held up until 2007 and the winner got to design their own card (with their ‘likeness’ on the art of the card as well). It’s pretty cool as it can fetch sooo many utility creatures (as well as mana dorks) and it will only get better as more cards are released (such as Deathrite Shaman not too long ago).

As most of you have undoubtedly figured out : he is going to go fetch a couple of Hedron Crabs most of the time. When he’s not doing that he can grab us a couple of chump blockers or mana accelerators (in case we want to cast a big Wargate or hardcast Archive Traps).

His 3/2 body is pretty relevant and he can pretty much trade with quite a few things in order to soak up the damage that is dealt to us. He sometimes gets to attack but that’s not really our Plan A. If he gets to take down an opposing planeswalker then he’s done way more than his fair share. Once he’s gotten the Hedron Crabs, we can now focus on a good old Zendikar mechanic – Landfall.

Just drop those lands and let your Hedron Crabs start milling away your opponent’s library. A fetch means 6 cards, usually and obviously it just doubles if you have 2 Hedron Crabs out. If your opponent does not really have much in terms of removal (usually you know this by Game 2), you can go ahead and drop Hedron Crab on turn 1 then a fetchland (yes, even Terramorphic Expanse) on Turn 2.

misty rainforest

Fetchlands have never been this exciting (aside from their price tag)

It’s a Trap !

Indeed it is. The deck runs no less than four Trapmaker’s Snare (you soooo had to go look it up eh?) This seems really scrubby, but it does a few things here:

A) It thins out our deck. 

Between this and fetches (which remove basics from our deck as well) we are left with more chance to draw our support cards.

B) It like having 8 Archive Traps in the deck.

It really is. Also, we usually cast the Trapmaker’s Snares at times when we don’t have to pay the regular cost of Archive Trap (ie: when our opponent fetches in their deck)

C) Allows us to run a few other Traps

While not too exciting, getting a Pitfall Trap and casting it versus an annoying ground beater is pretty cool. Post-sideboard we also have Ravenous Trap against decks that utilize their graveyard or run Eldrazi creatures.

pitfall trap ravenous trap

Trapmaker’s Snare is not a Trap itself as that would be rather ‘over the top’ deck thinning.

We can also ‘force’ them to search their deck with everyone’s favorite removal spell:

path to exile

Take the bait?

Of course they don’t ‘have to’, in which case you get a ‘drawback-less’ removal. Alternatively, you can use it on your own creatures if you have some Hedron Crabs out to trigger Landfall and get some bonus mill. If you hit an opposing mana dork with this and they kind of needed the mana, they really almost have no choice but to search.

The other random advantage is that a lot of decks do not run many basic lands these days. Between the low basic count and your mills, they may very well be left with one or no actual lands to fetch.

Fetch it up!

This deck has a pretty high number of tutors (even when you don’t count the fetches).

Ranger of Eos

ranger of eos

Currently sees play in some Modern ‘Soul Sisters’ builds



Any permanent, yes even a land (or preferably a fetchland)

Trapmaker’s Snare

trapmakers snare

It’s much better than it looks

Knight of the Reliquary

knight of the reliquary

Criminally underplayed in Modern

Path to Exile

path to exile90% removal/ 10% mana ramp, 100% value!

You’re probably going to be shuffling this deck quite a bit, so I’d suggest get some heavy-duty plastics. While I did not manage to find them, I recall there were these really really long lasting Ultra Pro sleeves back in the day. Mind you this was probably about 15 years ago or more. It looked as though someone cut out the Ultra Pro 9-pocket sleeves into individual sleeves. The plastics were thicker and to this day I am only missing one to be able to sleeve up a 60-card deck. I never seem to have them on hand while drafting and every time I come across them at home I curse the Ultra Pro gods.

If anyone out there would have a set to sell or even a few random sleeves, would you be kind enough to ship me them? I would offer some random store credit or something else. I searched long enough online for these and cannot even find so much as a picture. I guess I’ll post one on Carte Blanche Hobbies Facebook page eventually.

I’m not sure if you really ever sideboard in casual games, but assuming you do – you probably want the full 75 heavy duty sleeves. Having to switch sleeves when you sideboard is a total b*tch!

I really love Knight of the Reliquary in general and I feel that she is practically the glue that holds this deck together. She’s usually rather big the turn you cast her and she keeps the whole crab mill thing going every turn. You can often even get to attack with her and win that way. The current Modern metagame somehow does not allow for her to see much play and this reflects on her market price. I would pick up my playset now since the card can only really go up in value. I like both artworks of this card personally.

knight of the reliquary dd

This is clearly the version that attacks more

We have only 4 Forests and 2 Plains in the above list, but feel free to add some Temple Gardens, Hallowed Fountains or Breeding Pools to it. You can keep some basics since you run some Terramorphic Expanses and you need to remember that the Ravnica dual lands were not Standard-legal at the time. As long as you can playtest a few games and it seems that you can cast things properly while keeping the fetch/land ratio more or less the same then you’re doing it right.

Modern deck?

Well, not quite. It’s not exactly legal.

That’s a shame, but it doesn’t take much to make it legal. Can you spot the intruder? The random elephant in the room? It’s probably tricky, since it’s not really elephant-sized, it’s actually quite a small, innocent-looking card:


…Aaaand I now just notice that there is a guy’s face in the background of this card 

How can we remedy this problem if we truly want to play this in our local modern tournaments? Simple: do what the rest of the modern deck are doing.

Run either Serum Visions or Sleight of Hand. They are both Modern’s Brainstorms – a way to dig for card quality while maintaining card parity. The funny thing is that in this deck you are probably not sad to see lands at all. Sometimes leaving something on top with Scry won’t even matter if you’re going to fetch for a land anyways, so don’t waste much time there. Actually, try not to take too much time searching in general as it is probably going to be unpleasant for your opponents. It might not matter much if you don’t know them personally, but it’s somewhat of a consideration when playing versus your friends. This is the main reason why I advocate a tutor-free Commander format (but that will be addressed further in a future article).

Learning when to block

This is a tougher one for newer players, but you get better at it over time. While this deck does not offer much in terms of combat, you might want to block only when absolutely necessary. Sure, it might seem nice to soak up 4 damage randomly with a Birds of Paradise early game but it’s probably a terrible idea. Unless you blocked an infect creature or a creature that has a very powerful ‘when this creature deals combat damage’ effect, you probably didn’t do much. The Birds also represents more mana for when you get the cast Wargate later on or need to hard cast an Archive Trap.

If you absolutely need to add defensive measures in the main deck without sacrificing the core of the deck, you may want to check out the Bant-colored manlands from Worldwake. You can tutor them up with Knight of the Reliquary, but keep in mind however, that they don’t pay too nicely with fetches.

celestial colonnade

The biggest of the two

Celestial Colonnade allows us to even further go on offense when we can. It does required 5 other mana to activate and I don’t know how often that’s going to happen.

stirring wildwood

The red headed stepchild of the Worldwake manlands cycle

While you don’t really want to run any lands that come into play tapped more than you need to (Terramorphic Expanse), Stirring Wildwood is easier on the mana and offers a very reasonably-sized body. I would test the deck out with one copy of it and see how it does.

Sadly, none of these can come into play ready to block for us. Even assuming you fetch them with Knight of the Reliquary, you are going to be unable to block with them right away. The lands were available in Standard at the time and the deck did not run them since they were deemed too slow, but you may want to remember that Bloodbraid Elf was legal in that format. If it cascaded into a Blightning we were in big trouble. Maelstrom Pulse meant we could run the risk of losing all out Hedron Crabs to one card as well.

Thankfully, Bloodbraid Elf suffers the same problem as Ponder does in Modern : It’s banned

Modern competitive Mill ?

While the deck is very cute and synergetic, I am pretty sure it’s not a Tier 1 deck in the current Modern metagame. I have been playing a mill deck that is more Tier 2 in Modern and I’ll be writing about it soon. I don’t think I can write this stuff fast enough to make it ‘Mill Week’ on Carteblanchehobbies, but maybe ‘Mill Month?”

glimpse the unthinkable banner