Mill

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‘Mill’ is a Magic deck archetype that seeks to defeat opponents by eliminating the cards in their libraries, rather than by reducing life totals to 0. It does this by ‘milling’ cards (putting the top cards of a library into its owner’s graveyard). Then, when opponents attempt to draw a card from an empty library, that player loses the game. The archetype derives its name from the first card to feature this ability, Millstone. The keyword "Mill" was fully codified with the release of Core Set 2021 on cards such as Teferi's Tutelage and Thieves' Guild Enforcer.

Mill is almost exclusively found in blue and black.

Popular Cards & Commanders

Popular mill cards include:

Common mill commanders include:

Strategy

Because a mill player must eliminate 300 cards from enemy libraries, rather than eliminating 120 life points from enemy life totals, mill decks can operate more slowly than other archetypes. Mill decks often feature elements of control decks, keeping themselves well-defended as they eliminate cards from enemy libraries.

Reanimation

Because mill decks fill the graveyards so easily, some players may elect to add reanimator effects to the mill strategies. Cards such as Rise of the Dark Realms or Memory Plunder can allow a mill player to make use of their opponents’ graveyards to have a powerful impact on the battlefield.
Along these lines, mill players may also employ cards such as Consuming Aberration, which grows much larger as enemy graveyards fill up, which allows the mill player to change their tactics and deal lethal damage if the need arises.

Exile

Conversely, mill players may choose to exile enemy graveyards as quickly as possible, to ensure that their opponents are unable to make use of any resources that have been milled. Cards like Ashiok, Dream Render or Oona, Queen of the Fae may be used to exile cards from enemy libraries, rather than filling their graveyards.

Propensity for Combo

Some cards in a mill deck may lead to combos that can immediately remove a player’s entire library in a single turn. Examples include:
  • Bruvac the Grandiloquent + Traumatize, which will mill all cards (or all but one card) from an opponent’s library.
  • Helm of Obedience + Leyline of the Void. Helm will mill a player until its condition is met, but Leyline will put those cards into exile, rather than the graveyard. This combination will therefore put all cards from its target’s library into exile.
  • Mindcrank + Duskmantle Guildmage. Whenever an opponent loses life, Mindcrank will mill them that many cards. Whenever they mill cards, the Guildmage will make them lose life. This combination can infinitely reduce an opponent’s life total or their library, whichever comes first.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Mill decks do not often care about combat damage or about lifegain. Enemy players with cards that gain lots of life or that can prevent combat damage will find themselves with nearly-useless cards when against a mill deck.
  • Mill decks have the ability to perform combos that eliminate a player’s entire library in a single turn, which can defeat unwary opponents from seemingly out of nowhere.

Weaknesses

  • In one-on-one games of Magic, a mill player only has to worry about eliminating 60 cards from their singular opponent’s library. In games of Commander, with 100-card decks and multiple opponents, a mill player must eliminate upwards of 300 cards from enemy libraries before their strategy will allow them to win the game. The inherent rules of the EDH format make mill a much harder struggle than other formats.
  • Many other deck archetypes make use of their own graveyard and will be happy to have their cards milled. Reanimator decks, for example, will see a mill player as an asset, rather than a threat, because the mill player will help them fill their graveyard. Mill decks must be extremely careful against these players, lest they accidentally assist their opponents’ strategies.
  • Mill decks are also, in many cases, all alone. While most other players will seek to win the game by reducing enemy life totals to 0, mill players are likely to be the only player at the table who attempts to deck out their opposition. While combat-based decks can build off of the life loss produced by other players (for example, Player A dealing 15 damage to Player B, and Player C dealing the remaining 25 damage to Player B), mill players are not usually able to work in tandem with any other player, since they are approaching victory on completely different axes.
  • There are popular cards in Commander that can reset player’s graveyards by shuffling them back into their libraries. Milling a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, for example, will reset all the work a mill player has done, and set them back to square one, possibly even preventing them from ever being able to mill out that library at all.

Compatible Sub-themes

Pillowfort

The biggest weakness of dedicated mill is that you may not be contributing creatures to the board to hold back your opponents. If this is a weakness it can often be remedied with some Pillowfort effects to negate your opponent's advantage
Example Cards:Dawnstrider, Propaganda, No Mercy

Self-Mill

If you are running Symmetrical mill effects to target all your opponents' libraries at once, why not also get rewarded for filling Your Graveyard?
Example Cards:Crawling Sensation, Guiltfeeder,

Reanimator

Since you are putting cards in people's graveyard, why not use that as an opening to drag their creature cards directly onto the battlefield? This also gives you another angle to be able to protect certain key components (at least those that are creatures)

Wheels

If you are running Symmetrical mill effects to target all your opponents' libraries at once, why not consider having those cards go via their hand first? wheel spells allow you to exchange cards you don't need right now for cards you may want later while also emptying your opponent's libraries and disrupting their hand


References: