The game of Magic is incredibly diverse-from the amount of zones cards can be placed in, to the types of cards, and the strategies that place cards from one zone to another. One of those strategies is “milling”-putting cards directly from your opponent’s deck into their graveyard. The name comes from that of the card Millstone, one of the first cards with the ability. With around 200 cards that could aid you in winning the game, this alternate win condition has the support needed to take the gold.
This strategy is difficult to utilize in its entirety, however the results can alter the game tremendously. Through the denial of resources and the unique specific strategy, mill is a viable method. However, beware-its power is great, and not the most well received!
The Denial of Resources
Mill typically appears in the colors blue and black (though it does make an appearance with green!)-control, denial and having the majority of interaction with graveyards. Blue is best known for its ability to counter cards coming into play. Milling, therefore, could be seen as a form of “advanced countering”-stopping a spell before it’s even cast, by denying the card itself from its owner’s hand. While both blue and black seem to prefer responding to threats, in this special case there is already an advanced plan on how to handle them.
The Advanced Strategy
In most formats, everyone starts at 20 life; Tiny Leaders is 25, Pauper Commander is 30, and EDH/Commander is 40. When you primarily play mill, however, the numbers skyrocket. 20 becomes 60, 25 becomes 49, and 30/40 become 99-the amount of cards in your opponent’s library. Mill works best en masse-cards like Archive Trap, Consuming Aberration, Increasing Confusion, and Mind Grind are amazing. While those big spells are hitting, smaller mill cards that chip away pieces such as Dreamborn Muse, Grindclock, Curse of the Bloody Tome, and Memory Erosion will quickly make an opponent’s graveyard taller than their deck.
The Uphill Battle
Combat becomes tricky, as some creatures need to deal combat damage in order to deal the real damage you want. Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker, for example, has a devastating mill ability-if it connects with your opponent’s life. Granted, blue and black have plenty of evasion built into the colors, yet putting those in may end up convoluting the strategy. Cards like Elixir of Immortality or any of the three Eldrazi Titans (Ulamog, Emrakul, and Kozilek) can completely reset the alternate life total. These factors definitely play a part in the lower visibility of mill as a strategy compared to others.
Mill is absolutely an advanced strategy-more so in a multiplayer format. Similar to Poison/Infect, once the overall plan is realized, players take preventative measures to ensure they don’t fall victim, simultaneously painting a target on the would-be miller’s head. If someone does get milled out, chances are they will be the next player to go.
From the opposite side of the table, being a player targeted for a slow, mill-ful death is agonizing and typically demoralizing for the amount of fun you can have in the game (unless your deck revolves around having stuff in the graveyard-then you’re about to have a blast!). The low amount of interaction that can occur when a mill player gets what they need early enough to prevent someone else from playing also tends to leave opponents feeling unsatisfied.
Keeing Stone artwork by Jung Park
The Last Card
Mill requires patience, and a mutual understanding by the rest of the players that, while an effective strategy, may not be as enjoyable for the opponents. As a strategy, it’s not the most competitive-combat in mill is lackluster at best, and life totals for the strategy can be triple of what they normally are. Multiple players also increase the amount of difficulty several times over. Relying on it as the only plan of attack can and will get you killed off, which requires diluting the amount of mill played in order to survive long enough to move the millstone. Both difficult and dangerous, mill is an option only for those up to the task. It’s certainly not for those new to the game-to play or play against!-so play with caution when it comes to mill, commanders.
This was originally posted on Tumblr by CommanDollar