For the last couple of weeks at FNM, I've been running a 66-ish card deck full of all sorts of mill cards. Mind Sculpt , Thought Scour , Increasing Confusion , and so on. It did very poorly, but that's OK; that's pretty much what I expected. It did win a few games, though, and those wins, along with those other losses, told me a lot of what I was doing wrong.
Back in Zendikar block, I played another mill deck, and it was rather effective, because effective cards existed. Things like Mind Funeral (please print this in Gatecrash for Dimir!), Traumatize , Archive Trap , and other cards that would cause the opponent to mill huge piles of cards at a time. It was basically red deck wins, mill style.
Right now, however, mill effects are comparitively lackluster. We have Mind Sculpt , a 7-for-2, Dream Twist , a 6-for-3, and Thought Scour , a 2-for-1 cantrip. Those are pretty sorry ratios. And each requires one entire card.
Solitaire deck-tests frequently had me milling 45-ish cards by an average of turn 9. However, that's extremely problematic when the deck is also making a weak effort to not get its face melted off by whatever other deck whose win condition is making the other player's life hit 0.
So if I can't make my deck fast, I decided to try the opposite: make my opponent's deck slow. To that end, this deck has a totally different strategy that a certain image macro would approve of: Counter ALL the spells!
4 Nephalia Drownyard
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Fog Bank
4 Hover Barrier
Other spells: 30
4 Essence Scatter
3 Jace, Memory Adept
3 Sands of Delirium
4 Curse of the Bloody Tome
4 Psychic Spiral
4 Tormod's Crypt
3 Jace's Phantasm
Honestly, I found that one-shot mill spells like Mind Sculpt were just a waste of deck space. This deck still wants to mill, but it's going about it by using abilities that can be activated (or in one card's case, triggered) over and over again. Sure, seven cards at once seems like a lot more than two cards per turn, but in practice, those two cards per turn really add up.
I also found that most, if not all, of my game wins were due to keeping my opponent locked down for long enough to grind out their deck. Usually, this lockdown came from either keeping a powerful blocker ( Fog Bank ) around to match their big gun, or from countering any threatening spell they cast.
As a result, this has become the new focus of my mill deck. This deck will do nothing but drop land for the first few turns, holding counterspells for key spells the opponent tries to cast. It will almost never pass turn without enough mana open to cast whatever counters are in its hand.
Once the first few turns are over and enough mana is available, it will start putting out its recurring mill options. Curse and Sands will both ensure an eventual victory once they hit the field, and Jace will promote a quick one.
The sideboard, like most, is geared towards answering other problem decks. Psychic Spiral is great if I'm going up against another mill deck. Tormod's Crypt should solve problems caused by putting cards in the graveyard. Problems like scavengers, flashback spells, and the like. Sleep should help buy time against exceptionally fast decks, and Jace's Phantasm can provide me with an alternative win condition should I require it.
I think your best bet is to play more of a controlling deck, using mill Jace as your win con. Maybe splash white for Terminus , Detention Sphere , and Martial Law . Put in some Azorius Charm , a couple Sphinx's Revelation , maybe even a couple Temporal Mastery .
It's going to be a very grindy game, but with so many decks using Thragtusk to draw things out, milling someone out with Jace isn't too bad of a plan.
Have you thought about Codex Shredder .
I mention it because it's repeatable and cheap. It also can bring something back from the grave if absolutely necessary. Just a thought. I think it's cool. I like it better than the Delirium card. It doesn't require mana to mill and comes out quicker and can help you leave mana open for control.
I've been play testing a mono blue version
2 x tamiyo, the moon sage
2 x jace, memory adept
2 x increasing confusion
2 x cyclonic rift
4 x cancel
3 x think twice
2 x downsize
2 x blustersquall
4 x doorkeeper
4 x fog bank
4 x hover barrier
4 x augur of bolas
3 x clone
22 x island
so far it's making thragtusk decks have fits, but anything with burn just goes right over the top on me. My next iteration will drop the clones to the sideboard, add in 2 evolving wilds and an elixir of immortality.
You should think about adding a pair of Undead Alchemist . The tokens created whenever a creature ends up in the graveyard are usefull for chump blocking, forcing you opponent to tap their creatures to block them, or just more mill/tokens if they are not blocked.
I managed to drop one of these against a life gain deck. Got a token and equipped Trepanation Blade to it. The blades milled for 7, the token did 9 damage and I ended up with 5 more tokens. Won the game a few turns later with the opposition on 35 life.
I'm definitely liking the interaction between alchemist + jace. With the number of creatures in the meta game it gets silly fast. I'm thinking green for acceleration might be the way to go. Thinning feels important here since we don't have access to very much raw raw power Like back in the turbo fog days.
I have to mention that I have only been playing mtg for a month so I am probably way off base here.
My budget deck was trying to combo Scrapskin Drake + Trepenation Blade + Undead Alchemist , but I gave up on it because trying to get all three out and still play control was too expensive.
Jace is a much better proposition because he is more economic and you get a guarranteed 10 cards milled per turn.
I agree that acceleration is key because you ideally want to drop Jace turn 3 and still be able to counter. Farseek will get you the islands you need, but for the same cost you get the same effect by playing Arbor Elf or Avacyn's Pilgrim alongside Abundant Growth , and have extra bodies for blocking. Axebane Guardian and Dawntreader Elk just seem too expensive to me.
I would drop the Curse of the Bloody Tome 's for this because one dropped turn 3 will take 23 turns to mill the opponent out and you dont have enough counter spells for that long.
This is what I run when I run mill
4 axebane guardian
4 fog bank
4 gatecreeper vine
4 tree of redemption
4 increasing confusion
4 mind sculpt
3 dream twist
3 jace, memory adept
4 hinterland harbor
4 evolving wilds
door to nothingness
I've won a few FNM's against a wide variety of aggro with all the defenders.
The toughest matchup tends to be the RWU control deck which is where I bring in lots of counters cutting dream twists and jace since he becomes a 5 mana kill jace spell.
Against Frites you really just tend to try and mill them before they kill you with angel of serenity since thats the only constant card in the deck that seems to cause problems since it exiles fog bank and others
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