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By: Gardevi, Lee McLeod
Oct 25 2011 7:53am
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In Round 2 of an FNM a couple of Fridays ago, I was playing against Pro Tour Kyoto competitor and nice guy Bryan Mabie. I was playing a class U/B removal-with-fliers deck and he was playing U/B mill. We split the first two games, each of us winning one, and I was pretty nervous going into the third game (well, as nervous as you can be playing against a friend at FNM). He had at least 4 Curse of the Bloody Tomes, 3 Dream Twists, a Nephalia Drownyard, and a galoot of high-toughness guys with which to rebel my forces. I eventually prevail thanks to good sideboarding and an island-light draw from Bryan. Curious that milling your opponent was a viable draft archetype, I asked:


Me: "Mill? What was your first pick, Drownyard?"
Bryan: "Actually, Curse of the Bloody Tome."

Wow.

So I decided that I'd try the Mill archetype out. I'm not crazy enough to first pick a Bloody Tome (yet), but I've drafted Mill a couple of times since to moderate success. This article is meant to show possible options and act as a guide to introducing you to drafting Mill in triple Innistrad draft. 

Strengths

The best card in the mill deck is, unsurprisingly, Curse of the Bloody Tome. Curse is your main engine, a sure and steady progression to victory. 2 cards a turn may not seem like much - it's the same damage rate as the unplayable Curse of the Pierced Heart. But unlike Curse of the Pierced Heart, your win condition can't usually combine with creatures to kill them faster. Oh, and you could also give your opponent their flashback spells.

However... unlike any deck with Curse of the Pierced Heart, where you can kill their creatures and they are left with an awful enchantment, all of the mill cards are immune to classic creature removal. 

This means Bloody Tome, Ghoulcaller's Bell, and Dream Twist are essentially uninteractable. They cannot stop you from killing them by killing your creatures (indeed, it may help you if you have Selhoff Occultist out). They can only race you while looking at a bunch of Armored Skaabs that their Dead Weights and Brimstone Volleys don't kill.


Cards
 

 


 


Curse of the Bloody Tome is undeniably the best no matter what type of mill deck you're drafting. Though it does cost three mana for no impact on the board, it provides the most steady source of "damage" for your deck and the cards add up quickly - especially with multiples enchanting your opponent. In addition, tutoring out a Curse of the Bloody Tome with a Bitterheart Witch is pretty cool - you get to kill their creature while getting a free curse that kills them. 

Dream Twist and Ghoulcaller's Bell both vie for second best depending on what type of mill deck you are drafting. If you go into U/R for more of a Burning Vengeance/flashback removal suite, you're definitely going to want to prioritize Dream Twist because of it's ability to flashback for a Shock. Dream Twist works about equivalent to three turns of a single Bloody Tome, for the same three mana. However, you'll most likely be flashing it back from your graveyard without casting it from your hand first thanks to Armored Skaab and Ghoulcaller's Bell, making it worse over time than the Ghoulcaller's Bell. Ghoulcaller's Bell is much better in the more attrition-based U/B deck, because the games tend to be more grindy than if you have a Burning Vengeance Engine going, and you also mill more cards than you would with the average Dream Twist. Yes, it's more painful a topdeck than Dream Twist, but Dream Twist is the only good topdeck in a mill deck - you need to take control of the game before you need to be topdecking to win the game. 

Selhoff Occultist can go without saying that it's good - it's a creature, so it can block and stop your opponent from kill you. However, you don't often kill creatures, so the mill effect happens much less likely than you'd think. 

Blue Red vs Blue Black

The two main flavors of mill are U/R and U/B. 


U/R relies on flashbacking spells that you mill off of Ghoulcaller's Bell or Armored Skaab to gain incremental advantage - Thinking Twice into your mill spells, Geistflame-ing or Rolling Tembloring their creatures, and hopefully each of these cards Shock off of Burning Vengeance - though it isn't necessary. One of the better cards in this deck is Desperate Ravings - even better than Think Twice! It digs you much deeper, and the discard at random isn't a big deal when you play so many flashback spells. Harvest Pyre - a card I consider pretty mediocre in most decks - is pretty insane in a mill deck powered by Ghoulcaller's Bell. 


U/B gets to play one of my favorite combos in Innistrad limited - Ghoulraiser chains. Multiple Ghoulraisers make it hard for your opponent to get through if another Ghoulraiser is in your graveyard as the only zombie. Spending your entire turn to cast a chump blocker isn't so bad when your Curse of the Bloody Tome is slowly killing them without devoting mana to it. Also, zombies that die - whether they be Ghoulraisers or zombie tokens from Moan of the Unhallowed - are useful in triggering Selhoff Occultist more frequently The U/B deck plays significantly more creatures than the U/R deck, but I think is generally better because the U/R deck can struggle if it doesn't get a Burning Vengeance. In addition, if you go U/B and open a Nephalia Drownyard or Undead Alchemist, you get to do a little victory lap around the draft table; both of those cards are much better in U/B than U/R. 


Pick Orders!

(not including rares in pick orders - you don't need me to tell you to first pick Sever the Bloodline. And, as always, pick orders are not cut-and-dried, they're meant to give a gist of how to value cards)

Focus your early picks on removal. If you end up drafting mill, all of the mill cards will wheel. There's no reason to first pick a Bloody Tome when you can get it back 9th. Order of removal is about as follows...

Brimstone Volley
Claustrophobia
Into the Maw of Hell
Victim of Night
Dead Weight
Sensory Deprivation
Silent Departure
Geistflame
Grasp of Phantoms
Tribute to Hunger
Harvest Pyre (Usually goes late)
Rolling Temblor
Blazing Torch (Not enough creatures to be super viable)

Creatures: You want to mainly focus on anything that slows your opponent down. Armored Skaab is an all-star; it's very reasonably costed and gives you some flashback spells to work with. Delver of Secrets isn't even the worse in this deck because of the high density of spells. 

Civilized Scholar
Hanweir Watchkeep
Armored Skaab
Selhoff Occultist
Abattoir Ghoul
Pitchburn Devils
Markov Patrician
Fortress Crab
Ghoulraiser
Bitterheart Witch
Delver of Secrets
Disciple of Griselbrand
Ashmouth Hound
Manor Skeleton
Exile-a-creature skaabs generally aren't very good in this type of deck; not enough creatures to matter. 

Mill cards! I've already talked about the pick order of these. Hopefully you don't need a reminder, but!

Curse of the Bloody Tome
Ghoulcaller's Bell
Dream Twist 
Selhoff Occultist (fits in wherever; you can pick it earlier than the former because it doesn't wheel as often, but isn't as good at milling as the above)


Hopefully this helps you on your quest to deck your opponents. Just be sure to dodge that Laboratory Maniac!

Lee McLeod
Gardevi on MTGO
@Gardevi on twitter

3 Comments

I personally hated to publish by JXClaytor at Wed, 10/26/2011 - 08:50
JXClaytor's picture
5

I personally hated to publish this, because i love to draft mill so much! I think you did a great job explaining the concepts on the archetype so well!

This was a very good article. by Raddman at Wed, 10/26/2011 - 15:58
Raddman's picture
5

This was a very good article. I don't draft much, to addicted to FNMs and Legacy Online, but since Legacy isn't firing it might be time to draft.

These are exactly the kind of draft articles I think help out the average player.

Well Done!

On a side note.......nobody likes the Mill Player. Online who cares, but at the local shop I'd think the teasing would be overwelming if I sleeved up a build like mill. Guess we will find out as I will try and push mill the next time we draft.

It's gotten so bad that by JXClaytor at Thu, 10/27/2011 - 08:24
JXClaytor's picture

It's gotten so bad that people in my local shop will make snide comments whenever I sit down to draft with them. It's not too bad :D