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By: gwyned, gwyned
Nov 26 2013 12:02pm
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I. Introduction

While most games of Magic come down to who can reduce his or her opponent's Life total down to zero, over the years several other alternate win conditions have waxed and waned in popularity. Of these, perhaps the oldest and most common of such victory conditions is the act of reducing the opponent's library down to zero, affectionately known as 'milling' after the Revised card Millstone that featured just such an ability. While some powerful Rares of late have featured similar abilities, this type of effect is almost always present at Common in most sets, and thus even in Standard Pauper mill strategies have been present, with various degrees of effectiveness.

With the release of the Return to Ravnica block, a different breed of such cards have come into the Standard Pauper pool, taking this archetype from fringe rogue status to become the dominant archetype in the current metagame. In fact, the Dimir Mill deck has captured the trophy of three of the last five MPDC events. Therefore, it is the purpose of this article to analyze what makes this deck so good, offer some tips on how to defeat it, and illustrate this through some video coverage from the most recent tournament.

But before we get to that, let me remind you that MPDC is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 7:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room. You can also check out any of my previous articles by clicking here.

II. Dimir Mill, Analyzed

Let's take a look at the winning Dimir Mill list from MPDC 23.05, piloted by the skilled Mundisv:

Dimir Mill
1st place by Mundisv in MPDC 23.05
4 Archaeomancer
4 cards

Other Spells
4 Cancel
4 Devour Flesh
4 Essence Scatter
4 Grisly Spectacle
4 Psychic Strike
4 Pilfered Plans
3 Pharika's Cure
3 Read the Bones
3 Thassa's Bounty
2 Crypt Incursion
32 cards
11 Swamp
9 Island
4 Dimir Guildgate
24 cards

Psychic Strike

The strength of this deck is that it doesn't rely upon spells that only mill cards. Nor does it use creatures to mill that would then be vulnerable to removal spells. Instead it relies upon only four different mill cards: Grisly Spectacle, Pilfered Plans, Psychic Strike, and Thassa's Bounty. Even without their mill abilities, each of these cards would be playable in Standard Pauper already: Grisly Spectacle, as a four mana unconditional removal spell; Pilfered Plans as a three mana draw two spell; Psychic Strike as a three mana unconditional counter; and Thassa's Bounty as six mana draw three spell. This decklist then utilizes a mix of solid removal spells, permission spells, and Graveyard recursion via Archaeomancer to lock down the board and force the game to go long enough to run the opponent out of cards.

And should an opponent fight back with counterspells or simply refusing to play into counters, this deck's pilot can bring into Duress, Stymied Hopes, and Dispel to win any counter war, as well as the lone copy of Benthic Giant or Razortip Whip as an alternate win condition via damage. The additional copies of Crypt Incursion and Pharika's Cure also help stretch the game long enough to keep any aggressive archetypes from powering out a win before you can lock down the board.

To demonstrate how this works, here is the Final match from MPDC 23.05. Be warned - watching someone mill an opponent out makes for a lengthy match!


III. Defeating Dimir Mill

So what are Dimir Mill's potential weaknesses?

Right away, you need to realize that any Mill archetype is playing an entirely different game of Magic. Rather than trying to reduce your life from 20 to 0, Dimir Mill is trying to reduce your library from 60 to 0. This means that anything you can do to keep more cards in your library is ultimately going to be good for you. Such an approach is powerful but also quite slow.

Furthermore, the strength of this deck is also its greatest weakness. Both Pilfered Plans and Thassa's Bounty take as many cards from your opponent's library as they do from yours. If you and your opponent have a similar number of cards remaining in your library, neither of these cards do anything to change that race. The only way the Dimir Mill deck has to get ahead in total cards remaining is to cast Psychic Strike and Grisly Spectacle. But your opponent can only cast these two spells if you allow them. If you never cast a creature, or cast any spells at all, at least prior to Sideboard Dimir Mill has no means of milling you out.

Thus, there are essentially two directions you can take to defeat this archetype.

First, you can try to power out a quick victory, overwhelming the deck's ability to keep the board under control. This means aggressive starts, dealing damage as quickly as possible, and casting multiple spells in a turn to push through the counterspells. Since Dimir Mill is almost entirely reactive, if you can create more threats than your opponent can remove, you can secure a quick victory and essentially render all of the milling effects meaningless. Be warned though that this requires a very aggressive build as well as a good opening hand of cards. For many of the other popular archetypes, such a start is unlikely or even impossible. Hence, you need a different approach.

Second, you can refuse to play into Dimir Mill's strength and instead play a different game entirely. Don't try to beat your opponent before he can mill you out. Rather, turn the tables and try to mill out your opponent! Take your entire Sideboard and dump it into your Library, boosting your "life total" from 60 to 75. Aggressively mulligan, even down to a single card, if that's what it takes to keep your library larger than your opponent. Don't cast any draw spells, since anytime you do this, you are reducing your "life total" by the number of cards you draw. Don't cast any creature spells either, and only cast other spells if you are certain your opponent can't counter it.

Interestingly enough, you can often succeed with a hybrid of the two plans. If after sideboarding you have a sizable advantage in the number of cards left in your Library as compared to your opponent, this gives you some margin to play with. You can survive several mills without losing this advantage, allowing you to eat into your opponent's cards in hand and potentially disrupt your opponent's plan.

In fact, such a strategy is critical, as a wise pilot of Dimir Mill, faced with a situation where he or she cannot win by milling, will use Archaeomancers to try to deal lethal damage, backing them up with its large suite of removal spells. Even worse, post Sideboard, he or she can bring in Benthic Giant or Razortip Whip as additional threats that you will have to deal with. It takes quite a bit of practice to get a feel for when and how you should act to counteract these additional threats. But, especially if you have some countermagic or disruption of your own, you can often fight through your opponent's plan and neutralize all of your opponent's win conditions.

Here is video from one of my own games from MPDC 23.05, where I managed to do just that:

 IV. Conclusion

And with that, I conclude this look at how to improve your win percentage against Dimir Mill. In closing, let me remind you that you can always check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays and Fridays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at my matches from this event before they go live here at over on Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. Finally, you can keep up with everything I'm doing for this event on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow.

Finally, I would be lax if I didn't also promote the Standard Pauper Players clan, which is a clan on Magic Online dedicated to the Standard Pauper format. I recently joined this great community of players, and would highly recommend it if you have yet to join a clan online or are looking for one that revolves around this great format. You can find more information about it here on my blog. Thanks for reading, and good luck on taking down Dimir Mill!