Last updated on January 31, 2023

Hedron Crab - Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

Hedron Crab | Illustration by Jesper Ejsing

The most traditional way to win a game of Magic is to beat your opponents down to zero life points. But there are also alternative win conditions, such as cards like Approach of the Second Sun or Mortal Combat.

One of those alternatives is to “mill” your opponent. Milling emphasizes putting your opponents’ cards from the library into the graveyard, or in exile. If a player runs out of cards in their library and must draw a card, they lose the game.

This mechanic doesn’t see much play, but it’s still present in some eternal formats like Modern. It’s a strategy that be fun to pilot, with lots of secrets to unveil.

I’ve got a deck for you with just that win condition today. Let’s check it out!

The Deck

Watery Grave - Illustration by Raymond Swanland

Watery Grave | Illustration by Raymond Swanland


The Strategy

Otawara, Soaring City - Illustration by Alayna Danner

Otawara, Soaring City | Illustration by Alayna Danner

Like every mill deck, the strategy is simple: reduce your opponents’ library to zero cards before they kill you. This task may prove a bit challenging, especially in a format where the top deck is an 80-card 4-color elementals deck with Endurance as part of its primary plan.

I’ve seen this deck mill those 80-card decks twice in the same game, so rest assured that the strategy is sound.

The Creatures

Hedron Crab Ruin Crab

This deck runs eight crabs. Hedron Crab and Ruin Crab are a core part of the mill strategy. Fetch lands let you double dip on landfall triggers, and there are nine total effects that can get you more than one land on the field per turn.

The deck doesn’t need any other creatures. These little guys can block some of the most aggressive creatures in Modern like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer or Goblin Guide pretty well.

The Removal

Fatal Push

Fatal Push is a critical tool to stay alive. Aside from Murktide Regent, this spell can kill almost anything relevant, and triggering revolt is relatively easy.

Murderous Cut Baleful Mastery

Murderous Cut is useful since you’ll have cards in your own graveyard, and Baleful Mastery is also nice to have against creatures and planeswalkers.

Drown in the Loch

Drown in the Loch is a catch-all spell that can either prevent something from seeing play, or get rid of it if it’s a creature that was resolved earlier.

The Mill Package

The crabs aren’t the only spells that mill your opponents.

Fractured Sanity

Fractured Sanity is a flexible spell that can mill out your opponent for a whole bunch when you pay the total price or just a chunk by cycling it. This card has no downsides.

Tasha's Hideous Laughter

Tasha's Hideous Laughter is a high variance card: it can either mill half your opponents’ library against low curve decks, or just a handful of cards if they run Eldrazi or such. The appeal is that those cards are exiled rather than put into the graveyard. This is huge because some strategies like Izzet () Murktide benefit from putting cards into the graveyard.

Archive Trap

Archive Trap is an auto-include in any mill deck that’s played in a format that uses fetch lands so much.

Card Advantage

An essential part of this deck is milling your opponent, but you also need access to your mill cards. Card advantage is your friend.

Visions of Beyond Into the Story

Visions of Beyond and Into the Story can refill your hand for cheap to help snowball mill effects against your opponents.

Utility Cards

Some cards are useful but don’t fit into a major or supporting strategy, and Crypt Incursion and Surgical Extraction are those cards here.

Crypt Incursion

Crypt Incursion is an excellent way to keep you in the game by gaining some life. It’s sometimes lights out for strategies that involve cards like Living End.

Surgical Extraction

Surgical Extraction can shut down critical cards from your opponents’ deck. You can shut down entire strategies if you mill some of the key pieces. You might also exile one of their hate cards that got milled, which can be a game changer.

The Lands

The mana base is smooth as it can be: just the right mix of Dimir () fetch lands and shock lands. A couple lands are excellent additions to a deck that can fully exploit their potential.

Field of Ruin

Field of Ruin excels in a format where almost every deck plays nonbasic lands. It’s also a way to force your opponents to search their libraries and make your Archive Trap cheaper.

Mikokoro, Center of the Sea

Mikokoro, Center of the Sea is lovely when you need to draw your last pieces of mill from your library. Forced draw thins your opponents’ libraries, so that also helps.

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds

My favorite of the bunch is Oboro, Palace in the Clouds. This is a beautiful piece of tech for a deck that runs eight crabs.

Otawara, Soaring City

Otawara, Soaring City bounces some permanent spell that either aims to disrupt your plans or is a threat on its own. Shelldock Isle keeps the momentum going with its ability to cast spells just for one mana in the mid to late game.

Tips and Interactions

Modern is a problematic format where testing new decks or brews can be tricky. Here are some tips and tricks from my experience to help you to maximize this deck’s potential:

  • I was surprised by the sideboard. You usually swap cards for others that are probably not very good in specific matches. This deck’s mill core is almost untouchable, so you tend to add a couple of cards that improve your matches.
  • It’s usually good to lead with a turn 1 crab because your opponent could have difficulty dealing with it. If you face a deck with multiple removal spells, you may want to wait a turn until you have a land drop to follow the crab.
  • Hate cards like Endurance are good to immediately remove from your opponent’s graveyard with Extirpate. You can also do it with Surgical Extraction, but it might get tricky since they can cast it for free.
  • You run a mix of mill, removals, and counters, so don’t tap out and try to play your mill spells at instant speed. This might seem intuitive, but it’s important to be able to answer the threats that immediately kill you, like Colossus Hammer or Murktide Regent, rather than the ones that are mostly just annoying.

Sideboard Guide

Burn Matchups

Burn is a match where you’re up against their direct damage package. The crabs do an excellent job at blocking and keeping you in good health against most of their creatures. One card you may want to remove as soon as possible is Eidolon of the Great Revel because it’s a static way to damage you if left unchecked.

Surgical Extraction is key when you can guess the card they may have in hand, and it can save you multiple life points in the end. Post-board you should replace them with Extirpate.



4-Color Elementals Matchups

This is a tough match that you need to know how to maneuver from start to finish. On paper you’re already on the back foot because they start with 20 more cards than the average deck. They run a way to shuffle their Endurance, which you have Surgical Extraction for.

Luckily the deck itself is slow, and you can answer most of their lethal treats with either Fatal Push or Drown in the Loch. Post-sideboard you want to aim to slow them down even more by adding more land destroy effects and replacing your medium removal for better removal.



Izzet Murktide Matchups

The Murktide match is very fast, so you need to keep yourself healthy and answer threats like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Murktide Regent. They also run some ways to disrupt your plays with counterspells. The best way to approach these decks is to kill their early threats and mill them as fast as you can by playing around counters as much as you can. Don’t neglect your Archive Trap!

Post-board you can slow down. If you manage to resolve Ensnaring Bridge, opponents may not be able to kill you, especially if you Extirpate their only way to deal with the bridge.



Yawgmoth Matchups

Yawgmoth is a midrange deck that aims to assemble their combo with its signature card Yawgmoth, Thran Physician along with their undying creatures. Surgical Extraction and Extirpate are key cards against this deck as you need to exile their undying creatures when they hit the graveyard and with their ability on the stack.

Aside from that, just mill them like you do everyone, but be aware that most lists also run Endurance.



Azorius Hammer Matchups

Azorius () Hammer will try to assemble their combo. You can either aim to counter their Colossus Hammer or just buy time by killing their hammered creatures while you mill them.

Post-board your board wipes will be vital in slowing them down.



Living End Matchups

This match is polarizing because whoever is in the play may seem to have the advantage. If you know you’re playing against them, try to keep or mulligan into hands with Drown in the Loch or Crypt Incursion.

You can also aim to mill their Living End and exile it with your Surgical Extraction, but you shouldn’t rely on that strategy alone. Still, it’s a way to win that may come up occasionally.

Fatal Push is a dead card, so you should cut it post board and bring in your graveyard hate in the form of Soul-Guide Lantern.



How to Beat Dimir Mill

Beating this deck is like facing burn because you’ll feel like you’re running on a clock against it. The best way to kill them is to be fast and don’t let the crabs stay on the battlefield for long. You can always kill them with the trigger of cracking a fetch on the stack so they don’t mill you more than you need if they resolve.

An excellent sideboard card against this deck is Leyline of Sanctity since most of the mill package targets opponents. Another way to face this deck is to use hand disruption like Thoughtseize to slow the mill deck down and apply pressure to it with creatures.

Other Cards to Try

Ashiok, Dream Render

Ashiok, Dream Render

Three mana can be a bit expensive, but Ashiok, Dream Render’s ability to shut down some decks is huge. It’ll either make them unable to search their library or exile their graveyard. If your opponents don’t answer it, they’ll lose a considerable chunk of their library.

Glimpse the Unthinkable

Glimpse the Unthinkable

This cheap and on-color mill spell could be used instead of some of your most reactive ones.

Mesmeric Orb + Teferi’s Tutelage

Mesmeric Orb Teferi's Tutelage

Mesmeric Orb and Teferi's Tutelage have a similar role by passively milling your opponents throughout the game. I don’t like them much because they tend to be too slow for the format, but they could see play in some cases like some control decks.

Wrap Up

Teferi's Tutelage

Teferi's Tutelage | Illustration by Ilse Gort

Modern is a format where every strategy has its place. Mill can surprisingly have a terrific match-up against most of the field, but you need to do a lot of reps to get in sync with the tempo of the deck.

What do you think? Did you like the deck? Are there any changes that you’d make to it? Let me know in the comments or on the official Draftsim Twitter.

As always, it was a pleasure writing a deck guide for you. I’ll see you next time with more spicy decks to try!

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