I know I just posted, but I’m trying to revitalize the Basement’s MtG content page.

Because Dimir just came crashing out of the gates (heh, heh, see what I did, there?) combined with the promise I made in my previous post, I decided to write about why Mill decks are generally bad.

Please understand that I’ve tried to make mill decks work in various different Standard formats and in Legacy.  Never was I able to make a deck with a mill plan as its Plan A work–I have incidentally won by milling people out.

Why has this Plan A never worked?

How is a Mill Deck Constructed?

Like all decks, a mill deck requires many necessary moving parts.  A deck usually (not every rule is hard-and-fast) requires interaction, win conditions, mana, draw/card advantage, and utility.  Every mill deck I’ve seen does require all of these parts.  I bet you’re thinking, “That sounds like just about every other deck I’ve seen.”  True.  But unlike other decks, few of a mill deck’s cards pull double duty.  When a Bant Control deck lands a Thraggy, that Tusk fulfills the interaction, win condition, and card advantage roles.  The Esper player who has Azorious Charm in his/her deck can use that card for draw, interaction, and utility.  Even your lowly Rakdos Cackler can be considered interaction and win condition.

But if you look at a mill deck, very few cards function with double duty.  Sure you get Jace, Memory Adept, Psychic Strike, and Thought Scour, but there are problems with all three of these cards.  Big Jace costs 5 mana (coming down 1 turn later than Architect of Thought), and Psychic Strike and Thought Scour only mill two cards (or 2/53 of your opponent’s remaining library after opening draws).  Further problems for the first two is that they are pretty terrible cards against blitz aggro decks and often just strictly worse than their counterparts: Jace, Architect of Thought and Dissipate, respectively.

Clock Versus Resource Investment:

One Thragtusk is a 5-turn clock once it hits the field.  And so is Big Jacey, but there is one huge difference.  When Thraggy leaves play, he leaves you with a 3/3.  But when this planeswalker leaves play, what are you left with?  An empty board, that’s what.  So even when you use the biggest and baddest mill card in your deck, you still need MORE investment of your resources to win.

The Other Severe Downsides:

What deck doesn’t play with the graveyard?  In Standard, you’re playing in a field of Lingering Souls, Unbural Rites, and Snapcaster Mage.  In Modern, you see more or the Snappy Mage, Tarmogoyf, Knight of the Reliquary, and Emrakul.  And Legacy and Vintage, there isn’t a deck in either format that doesn’t somehow interact with the trash.

—-So putting large amounts of cards in your opponent’s graveyard is a SERIOUS risk.

The Upside and Cards Which Do Work:

If you somehow do come up with a decent mill deck, many of your opponents’ cards are complete blanks, mostly their removal.

Also, I really like Nephalia Drownyard.  Why?  Because it’s a land-drop and really hard to deal with.  The Drownyard can be a pretty quick clock as an ALTERNATE win condition in late control v control match-ups.