Last updated on February 8, 2021
Maddening Cacophony | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve
Are you looking for a challenge? Not fazed by mono red aggro? Well we’ve got just the deck archetype for you! Introducing: Standard mill.
Mono blue mill provides a deep level of play, with a fun and alternative win condition that provides an extremely satisfying gameplay experience when executed correctly. You should not consider this deck for climbing your way to mythic—unless, of course, you’re a masochist—and if wildcards are scarce, perhaps there are better options for crafts. But if you’re keen to explore a wilder side of MTG Arena, then read on!
A mill deck is designed to take advantage of the loss condition “decking” oneself. Specifically:
- Rule 104.3c states: “If a player is required to draw more cards than are left in his or her library, he or she draws the remaining cards, and then loses the game the next time a player would receive priority. (This is a state-based action. See rule 704.)”
- The associated rule 704.5b states: “If a player attempted to draw a card from a library with no cards in it since the last time state-based actions were checked, he or she loses the game.”
In non-judge speak, this ordinarily means we’re building a deck that forces our opponent to either draw (take a card from the top of their library into their hand) or mill (take a card from the top of their library and place into their graveyard) their entire library over a period of turns instead of attacking their life total. This way your opponent loses the game at their next draw step by failing to have cards in their library.
Millstone | Illustration by Yeong Hao Han
Since we first visited the topic back in April, we’ve seen mill become officially immortalized as a keyword.
While mill officially becoming a keyword wasn’t the most ceremonious of events, it’s made releasing new cards easier, which Zendikar Rising brought a lot of. I personally got to live the 7-0 dream thanks to our MVP crustacean Ruin Crab, somehow drafting five copies in a single run. But we’re not here to talk about Limited today, we’re here to go over mill in Standard.
Budget BO1 Mono Blue Mill
Ruin Crab | Illustration by Simon Dominic
- Step 1: Crabs.
- Step 2: ????
- Step 3: Profit.
Clocking in at only 10 rare wildcards, the deck functions really well if you’re F2P or don’t want to dive headfirst with risky crafts since there are really only three must-haves. The deck is designed to win hard and fast, milling your opponent in the first five to six turns thanks to an extremely aggressive curve.
The Game Plan
Glacial Grasp | Illustration by Tomasz Jedruszek
Your game plan is very simple:
- Turn 1: Crab
- Turn 2: Crab if you get lucky or another incremental mill spell
- Turn 3: Teferi’s Tutelage
Any mulligan where you can play a Crab on turn 1 and Tutelage on turn 3 is a snap keep, so work backwards from there when considering your mulligans. Keeping two crabs and five lands is also fine. It’s 27 mill triggers with those cards alone, so they’ll only have 21 or 22 cards in their library left after you unleash that volley.
Your control cards are Didn’t Say Please and Glacial Grasp, which both control your opponent’s threats and have the added effect of incrementally milling your opponent. The big finisher is Maddening Cacophony. This’ll get you halfway there on its own, but there are plenty of explosive turns with fetch lands and multiple Crabs doing work.
- Be mindful of when you use your fetch lands.
- Untapped lands aren’t too much of a big deal if it means you get an extra six cards milled from playing them early before threats are removed.
- Don’t be scared to block.
- Count the turn clock, not your life total.
- Think about what your outs are to speed up the turn clock.
Even More Budget Cuts
Let’s look at a few cuts that can further assist the wildcard budget.
Four Fabled Passages
You can replace two of these with Evolving Wilds as the list only runs two of them. Hopefully you’ve cracked a few in either Eldraine or M21. Or, like a lot of us, you have eight copies. Yay #kappa.
One Castle Vantress
An Island will do fine in place.
Two Vantress Gargoyles
These can be replaced with additional Zulaport Duelists or Overwhelmed Apprentices. The Gargoyles are our primary protection from getting hosed by rogue decks or big beaters. They also serve as our own alternate win-con and/or removal bait instead of the precious Crab.
Three Maddening Cacophonys
This card is really solid in the deck. If you absolutely cannot afford a single rare wildcard, I’d recommend running additional draw spells to trigger with Tutelage instead.
BO3 Dimir Rogue Control Mill
Teferi’s Tutelage | Illustration by Ilse Gort
This deck is a variant of the more aggressive Dimir Rogues lists you see running about on the ladder, leaning into the mill effects over fighting with creatures. The game plan is pretty simple: look to catch your opponent off-guard game 1 with considerably more mill effects than expected and then adjust to a more controlling style game 2 if you’re facing a deck which doesn’t mind a full graveyard. In particular, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath and Elspeth Conquers death.
Our mill engines are Ruin Crab, Teferi’s Tutelage, and the rogue package, so we’re not exactly thin on threats. Finding the right balance and committing in the right sequence can prove challenging, though. Sea Gate Stormcaller and Maddening Cacophony can mill 75% of a deck for six to eight mana.
Zareth San, the Trickster | Illustration by Zack Stella
Our sideboard lets us be very transformational in our approaches to games 2 and 3, with big threats like Zareth San, the Trickster, Nighthawk Scavenger, and Lochmere Serpent. The seven counterspells let us play hard control where needed and Confounding Conundrum lets us take advantage of greedy
Omnath-bases mana bases by stopping their ramp dead in its tracks.
- Solid Game Plan
- Transformational sideboard
- Big combo turns
- Difficult to assess the future popularity of Yorion decks
- May be a strictly weaker dimir control deck
- Weak/unoptimized mana base
Most of the difficulties in optimizing this deck over the coming months will be centered around the mana base and what spell-lands we should/shouldn’t be running. The overall shifts in the meta after the B&R will be reasonably difficult to assess.
Confounding Conundrum | Illustration by Bryan Sola
Mono Red Aggro
Having tools to remove their early curve is super important, and don’t be shy with your blocks on Ruin Crab. You’re definitely the slower deck, so don’t feel like you have to go all-in unless you’re positive you can get there.
Yorion and U/W Control
Your Crabs are going to have a hard time getting the work done. Consider freeing them up for control elements. This is going to be a long game, so be careful of overcommitting to the board and try to get to a situation where you’re playing a top-deck war or have card advantage. Your control tools will help you out until you can get your combo off.
It’s hard to say how our deck will fair against the newer iterations of this after B&R. Getting lucky, paying attention to how much of each color is milled from your opponent’s land base, and bring in Confounding Conundrum to help combat ramp will help us.
These decks are very value-centric but can often be a touch greedy with draw effects. Their biggest haymakers will bring you closer to victory with cards like Edgewall Innkeeper getting them closer to our wincon, provided you can weather the storm of threats they’ll unleash on you. You can improve the matchup by dodging Embercleave if you’re lucky or countering it if you’re good.
Grind time. Slow and steady wins the race. This is going to be a tough matchup any way you look at it. Their deck was tier 1 before rotation and not much has changed since. A well-timed Maddening Cacophony is your best bet at securing a win.
Relic Golem | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov
Milled to Death
With the state of Standard right after the rotation and B&R announcements impacting the format quite a bit, it’s difficult to say what the mature Zendikar meta will develop into right now.
When I last wrote about this deck, I was pretty skeptical if a mill archetype was going to ever be viable in a 60-card Standard format, but I can say now that It’s definitely not hyperbole to suspect mill decks may in fact manage to sit comfortably in tier 1.5, a much higher spot than we’ve seen in years!
Wishing you all the best in your efforts to remove libraries, no matter the format!