Mono Blue Mill in Modern
People have tried to make mill work since the oldest days. In Modern, this usually results in UB Mill or Lantern Control, since these lists have proven to be the most playable decks that run the opponent out of cards, which is a shame, because UB mill is generally pretty bad, and Lantern Control doesn’t really feel like a mill deck while you’re playing it. Mono-U mill has been tested before, but without the raw power of cards like Glimpse the Unthinkable, it just couldn’t make the cut as a burn-style mill deck. With the printing of Mission Briefing, Mill got a shot in the arm because Mission Briefing can recast Archive Trap for 0 mana. MTGO player Killabee took 26th place, going 7-2 in an MTGO PTQ with this list.
The deck has some changes from how most mill decks tend to work. Primarily, the speed is somewhere between UB mill and Lantern Control, with UB being more of an all-in “burn” deck, and Lantern being a definitive prison deck. Killabee’s list falls more or less in the control/tempo range, except instead of playing creatures and protecting them, you’re trying to burn your opponent out while protecting your own life total. It’s quite the departure from what mill players are used to, but who knows, maybe there’s something here.
Hedron Crab is a mill staple, especially when you’re running fetchlands like in UB. Here though, they’re still very effective, allowing you to play a turn 1 creature, and then just make land drops to enable your game plan.Sanity Grinding is a bit of a hit-or-miss, technically able to mill anywhere between 0 and 27 cards, but usually hitting more in the 9-15 range. It’s still a good bit of variance, but the card can hit big enough that playing four still feels correct. Sanity Grinding is this deck’s Glimpse, and it shows its power in-game. Archive Trap is a mill staple, punishing fetches and tutoring, and letting us chop off over 1/6 of the opponent’s deck for free.
Devastation Tide is a generally good board wipe, putting extra work in with this deck since we’re capable of making the five mana casting cost, but we’ll often desperately need a two mana board wipe to combat the fastest decks
Cryptic Command is one of, if not the best counterspell ever printed, letting us choose what we need in the moment and save ourselves from a losing boardstate. Logic Knot is another fantastic counterspell, allowing us to turn all of our previously used spells into a way to keep our opponent from landing their finisher. Mission Briefing gives us card selection and rebuys a single spell that we already played, usually getting us something small like Visions of Beyond or Thought Scour. Thought Scour is a generally good cantrip, and here it directly advances our gameplan, although it gets tricky on who to target when you have Mission Briefing in hand. Trapmaker’s Snare gives us two more copies of Archive Trap, as well as a tutor for Ravenous Trap out of the side, and Visions of Beyond is our own little Ancestral Recall.
Field of Ruin helps us take care of Tron lands, giving us a way to slow them down without having to worry too much about color requirements or wasting spell slots on big mana hate. Ipnu Rivulet gives us another small mill spell stapled to a land, and Shelldock Isle is a good way to help us cast spells like Devastation Tide, Sanity Grinding, and Archive Trap for less. In the sideboard, we have Delver of Secrets for when we need to be more aggressive, Hurkyl’s Recall if a particular permanent is giving us trouble, and Negate and Dispel against other more control-leaning decks. Ravenous Trap gives us another aggressive creature to use, and Ravenous Trap is free graveyard hate that we can tutor up with Snare.
- Keep in mind that you can miracle cards at instant speed, meaning that if you play Thought Scour on your opponent’s turn and hit Devastation Tide off of it, you can miracle it immediately.
- Similarly, if you have a sorcery or (for some reason) creature hidden with Shelldock Isle, you can activate that ability at instant speed to play the card on your opponent’s turn.
- Mission Briefing is not Snapcaster Mage. If you fulfill Archive Trap’s condition, you can choose it in your graveyard with Mission Briefing to cast it for free.
- You don’t have to have a Trap in your hand when the condition happens for it to see the condition. If your opponent fetches during their first main phase, then you can cast Trapmaker’s Snare during their end step to get an Archive Trap and cast it for free.
- Field of Ruin gets you an Island as well, meaning you can use it to double-dip on Hedron Crab triggers.
- Field of Ruin forces all players to search their libraries, meaning that if you use Field of Ruin, you’re guaranteed to be able to free cast Archive Trap.
- I won’t claim to be a mill expert, not by a long shot. But something about Drowned Secrets in a mill deck trying to be slow is appealing to me, since this lets you slightly speed up your clock while also being a card you can deploy early, and just get incidental value off of while protecting yourself with spells like Cryptic Command.
- Fraying Sanity: Because I just can’t think of mill the same way after this card. Sure, it might not be particularly good, but when you Archive Trap twice in the same turn with this down to finish your opponent off, it’s going to feel good.
- Sphinx's Tutelage has had plenty of decks brewed around it, but on its own it might just be good enough to make it. It has some pretty specific conditions to repeat, especially in a multi-color format like Modern, but it can still be a decent card, and it’ll almost always draw some sort of reaction out of your opponent.
All things considered, Killabee’s mill is an interesting take on the deck, and it gives a new angle of attack for the mill player who’s tried everything. The control style works well for mill, and it can only get better with time.
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