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Competitive Modern Mill

Modern Aggro Combo Mill U/B (Dimir)




The aim of this page is trying to determine the best Glimpse the Unthinkable-based strategy available in Modern, and design the optimal list accordingly; budget is not a concern. That is, my primer wants to get the most out of a Mill deck (which explains the label 'competitive': see the lasts notes in the primer). This article is long because it is meant to be complete and thorough, not appealing: you are free not to read it if you think you don't need to.

The result provided by this analysis will be a deck that maximises the chances of attaining a turn 4 win, where we count as a win too chaining fogs (i.e. functional copies of Fog) from turn 4 until we actually achieve victory as well as casting a spot removal in the first turn and winning on turn 5. Test sessions and theoretical brooding have led me to every single card choice displayed here - as well as to surmise that Mill could do no better than this: THIS IS THE BEST TAKE ON THIS STRATEGY AS FOR WHAT IS AVAILABLE IN MODERN. I might look presumptuous or arrogant, but I'm not, since I'm taking full responsibility for what I say here.

I will unfurl a primer below, trying to give explanation; but if I took something inappropriately for granted, I will surely make plain upon request. Anyway, I will try to be thorough in expounding the reflections that took me to the present list.

This detailed article owns a lot to the comments it received. Such answers allowed me to clarify some points of this primer; therefore, I wish to give my thanks to every single contributor to the discussion. Grateful additional thanks are in order to a friend of mine offering grammatical advice and doing the computing regarding the actual Mind Funeral's effectiveness.

Building the decklist

Starting from perusing and sifting through the Modern pool so as to form an idea of what it can offer in order to build a Glimpse the Unthinkable-based deck focused on milling the opponent out, in this section I will rough-out this strategy's possibilities - fundamentally got at via multiple cycles of mutual adjustment between the cards which can be helpful to the strategy and the strategy itself in its many aspects, process which I am merely/mostly reporting the outcome of.

It is reasonable, before anything else, to explore and probe what a dedicated mill can accomplish when unchecked. In order to do so, I will display the viable mill-spell options, catalogued by CMC (Casting Mana Cost) and arranged by milled-cards/CMC ratio (expressing how many cards they mill for spent mana). (The cards which found a place in the decklist will have a separate comment below, so they get no coverage here.) (I will be obvious in commentig obviously bad cards, but they can be hidden gems if our needs - mostly a function of the metagame - change in a particular way and it can be useful debating exactly where they are strong enough to see play.)

  • 0-CMC

Archive Trap

Chancellor of the Spires: as for the previous card, the conditions to achieve the effect of this card can be accounted for as factors in computing the average mill-power: thus the position in the list.

Surgical Extraction: it can indeed be used merely as a mill card - even though a very ineffectual one.

  • 1-CMC

Hedron Crab

Shriekhorn: since slow strategies are mostly easy match-ups, Shriekhorn is (for what it's worth) better than any Codex Shredder-like card, because the game against fast decks should not last more than 4 turns anyway (5 or more if covered by fogs). If Shriekhorn is drawn in the first stages of the game, it's a 'mill 6 for 1 mana' spell, which is quite strong for a 1-mana mill spell; if it is drawn late, Mill generally doesn't care because it has a lot of things to play in mid- or late-game (at least against the frightening aggro decks): Mill is so slow that you will surely have mill spells to play on turn 4, and that is also why Shriekhorn taking turns to do its work is not a real problem: later in the game we will cast our expensive spells still in hand. Also it is not rare that the mana left available for our 1-mana spell is nonblue (because of a Field of Ruin or a Swamp): we couldn't cast Tome Scour, and that late Shriekhorn is better than a Tome Scour we couldn't cast. Though it is usually bad to spend a removal on Shriekhorn, it is a matter of consideration; on the other side, Shriekhorn don't get countered by Cursecatcher or Glen Elendra Archmage. In addition, like Hedron Crab Shriekhorn works perfectly with Set Adrift from the sideboard (turning it on early without spending two whole card - one to mill ourselves and one to mill their threat); and it is useful to have mill effects that are cheap (e.g. for milling away the card targeted by Set Adrift) and instant (e.g. to win against Academy Ruins, in conjunction with Shelldock Isle + any mill spell or Hedron Crab + a fetchland or Archive Trap), and this card covers both those roles. In the end, what really sets it apart form Tome Scour is that Shriekhorn is good with Set Adrift, can let you draw 3 from Visions of Beyond alongside a lone Archive Trap (13+1+6=20), and mills 1 more card when needed (that is, when you play it early).

Minister of Inquiries: the issue with this card is that when it is bad (no good block/no block at all/block irrelevant/dies immediately..) it is really, really bad since it doesn't give any sort of residual advantage (the energies left are useless: following Minister of Inquiries will suffer the fate of the first) or it is too slow; all this while the ceiling is quite mediocre: best case scenario, it is as effective as one of the worse cards most mill deck could play: Shriekhorn. One should not play Minister of Inquiries unless wanting to go really deep in 1-CMC mill cards (which I do not recommended). Summing up: as a mill spell, Shriekhorn is way better; the fact Minister of Inquiries could block in a pinch is irrelevant (as with any creature we could play: see below) since all decks wanting to attack with creatures has their way to deal with blockers (trample, unblockable, removals..).

Tome Scour: unlike Shriekhorn, it is useful in late-game also. The flaws with Minister of Pain and the negligible (other reasons accounted for) difference in mill-power are the reasons why is usually better to play the fullset of Tome Scour before playing the first copy of Minister of Inquiries unless willing to go deep with Fraying Sanity (which bodes ill for your success..).

Memory Sluice: in a mill-oriented deck full of creatures and in a metagame without removals it would be good.

Dream Twist: aside from the interaction between this and Mesmeric Orb, there is little remarkable here.

Extirpate: see the entry for Surgical Extraction above.

Thought Scour: see the following entry.

Broken Ambitions: it is included here because for efficiency reasons it can even be used with X=0 just for milling - which I consider for ease happening half of the times in fast games (that is, where we want to evaluate the impact of cards for a clunky deck like Mill); like Thought Scour it exchanges two milled cards for 1 mana and the card itself, and situationally converts extra mana (to counter or to cast the drawn spell in case) for one additional card (drawn and cast, or countered)).

  • 2-CMC

Glimpse the Unthinkable

Mesmeric Orb: this mills differently accordingly to the turn in which it is played, the opponent's deck and the game state; I believe that this is the right position for it, as in general it is better than the following alternatives.

Breaking / Entering: even if it leaves you with a Glimpse the Unthinkable feeling, you should definitely turn your nose up at a card worth 80% of Glimpse the Unthinkable. Mill happens to care about milling only by tens: you never have to mill much lesser than 50, and many of your engines begin to work at 20 (Visions of Beyond) and 30 (Shelldock Isle) milled cards. As opposed to the mill spells in the actual list, it doesn't achieve the 10+ milled cards per spell the deck needs in order to efficiently (as to mana/cards) enable Visions of Beyond (2 spells), Shelldock Isle (3 spells) and victory itself (5 spells); and all that matters a lot especially in the mid game when you couldn't cast Archive Trap for free, it's too early for harvesting profits for Mesmeric Orb, you had a bad Mind Funeral milling or your Hedron Crab died early. Sometimes you get lucky with your Breaking / Entering because your opponent have thinned her own deck or because you compensate your lucklaster spell in Breaking / Entering with another card (e.g. Archive Trap); but that does not cover all the cases. And when you are forced to cast a second Breaking / Entering, you'll probably lose. If you think you're saving 1 mana replacing Mind Funeral with Breaking / Entering, you're deluding yourself: many times you'll need to cast an additional spell to win, and that will cost you a card and more mana. A little trick is casting the Entering side (note: only that!) via Shelldock Isle, in order to provide a blocker or perhaps responding to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn's trigger (this could also be the only way out against a Progenitus, if it will ever exist the possibility of encountering it).

Mind Sculpt: additional 2 mana mill spell if need be (and there isn't, fortunately, as Breaking / Entering is already quite bad).

Compelling Argument: too much inefficient, and you don't really wanna spend your mana cycling not even with the intent of keeping few-landers this way since this clumsy deck cannot afford it.

Dampen Thought: possibility of 'splicing' it onto another copy, but overall completely useless.

Manic Scribe: it needs a lot of work to be effective: it conceivably would require you to play a great amount of cards we wouldn't normally want to play and that would twist the main plan too much - like the following: Manamorphose, Street Wraith, Mishra's Bauble, Jace's Phantasm, Minister of Inquiries, Death's Approach, Spontaneous Mutation. The latter two are solid removal spell which also work towards getting delirium; unfortunately, removals are quite ineffective in a mill strategy (more below). And if you play a lot of cyclers sure, you can trim some lands, but ultimately you have to cut spells too: the remaining spells had better to be high-quality ones, and Manic Scribe is too easily foiled while if it manages to stay on the battlefield with delirium active the reward is not so appealing overall (it even needs some turns to do something better than the alternatives!). As for coupling it with Mesmeric Orb, you have to keep in mind that Manic Scribe curves out poorly into it and vice versa: if you play the artifact on turn 2, you cannot block early creatures (losing part of the effectiveness of Manic Scribe itself: how much defence or how many game-prolonging measures can a Mill deck have?); if you play the creature, on the other hand, you mill less cards from Mesmeric Orb - and, as an important consequence, failing to prime Manic Scribe, an early triggering of which is mostly the main reason reason to run Mesmeric Orb in a Manic Scribe-list (as Mesmeric Orb requires fogs to work effectively, not defences in the form of creatures - or removals, for argument's sake): in this case, Manic Scribe is to be reckoned a mill spell (a very bad one) with minor upside for being able to block. But Manic Scribe cannot cover a relevant defensive role due to the issues it shares with Jace's Phantasm or Wight of Precinct Six as creatures in this deck (more below) (note that Hedron Crab is played regardless of those consideration because of the stratospheric power level, and because it is almost exclusively a mill spell). All in all, Manic Scribe is a very bad card that gets only mediocre if supported by other cards, which unfortunately are incidentally quite bad in Mill.

  • 3-CMC

Fraying Sanity

Mind Funeral

Shelldock Isle: it appears here because I count one mana for entering tapped, and two mana for casting - usually, one of the best mill spells - even though, if you count Shelldock Isle as a spell, that cost partly repays itself over time (when you wouldn't have played another land anyway) because on the other turns it's a land giving mana.

Sanity Grinding: in order to give loosely the same performance as Mind Funeral, the deck has to feature an average of 1 blue mana in the casting cast of each single card; if the deck contains, say, 20 lands, it's about 1,66 per single spell: this is something difficult to achieve even in a monoblue deck - and preposterous in Modern. And if you play 1-mana spells, that means that you are loaded of double- and triple- mana costs: clumps of blue costs will be more frequent, further decreasing your change to get a good mill with it.

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver: good against midrange with a not-so-good power/mana ratio (this excludes Tarmogoyf-decks: it is good to steal a Tarmogoyf, but not so good having Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver die from a single Tarmogoyf attack). It is still better than most of our cards against a Tarmogoyf-deck, but so its use would be too narrow and too little effective to be worth of consideration. As a final note, hoping to exiling Emrakul, the Aeons Torn with him is preposterously unreliable, of course.

  • 4-CMC

Startled Awake  Flip: if Mill needs 4-drops; but the following cards are better than this.

Snapcaster Mage: for this and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip, here I assume I want to cast an effective mill spell in timely fashion - i.e. a 2-CMC one like Glimpse the Unthinkable; because the order here regards the milling performance, I consider them as having attained something when they return value in form of milled cards: this explains its position in this list. Because their presence in the deck is justified only by their defence capabilities, these cards will be covered below.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip: see Snapcaster Mage.

Driven by the milled-cards/CMC ratio and by the rule-of-thumb of trying not to end up empty-handed too quickly, it is easy to develope a nearly optimal 'straight-mill' lists; the full optimization is not interesting, because it couldn't but very slightly change the outcome of the test. Interestingly enough, some lone testing permits to infer that the two extreme versions too of an aggro mill deck - both built to make full use of number of cards and the mana available, but one exploiting the cards with the best milled cards/CMC ratio (demanding 21 lands) and one trying to hit all of its land drops up to turn 5 without flooding (24 lands total; calculations below) - tend to win on turn 5 when uncontested (with a linear and easy gameplay: no stress involved, for what it's worth). However, a turn 5 win is patently too slow for Modern. This means that some sort of protection is needed in order to compete with the metagame. In addition, there are cards that against us entail a more or less automatic loss for us if unchecked: they will deserve special attention (unless you hope to just dogde them). Here's a list of the more problematic ones: Eidolon of the Great Revel, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Thorn of Amethyst, Laboratory Maniac, Platinum Angel, Gideon of the Trials, Leyline of Sanctity, True Believer, Wheel of Sun and Moon, Chalice of the Void, permanent land denial (like Leonin Arbiter, Aven Mindcensor, Blood Moon, Choke), Progenitus, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Gaea's Blessing Struggle / Survive Bow of Nylea Loaming Shaman and other effects that shuffle the graveyard back into the deck, and finally permanents that make your opponent skip her draw phase and letting her simply wait for you to deck yourself (Maralen of the Mornsong, Colfenor's Plans, Dragon Appeasement, Molten Firebird, Null Profusion, Possessed Portal, Psychic Possession, Sundial of the Infinite!!). So, we must not only fend off their main strategy, but also concern ourselves with a way (at least with help from the sideboard) to deal with locking creatures, locking permanents and shuffle-effects present in the metagame.

The cards in the deck can be thus roughly divided into two categories, according to the different roles played (in your ususal game at least: e.g. Hedron Crab is not counted for as an emergency blocker, because it is very very rare and unreliable to use that card this way): there are the ones milling, and the ones that keep the player alive or deal with lockers or shuffle effects - which I will call very comprehensively 'defence cards'. In the following part I will provide a list of the different types of defence cards available, as well as of the most effective (for our purposes) cards in Modern comprised in those categories.

Set Adrift

Kiora's Dismissal: Kiora's Dismissal, like than Echoing Truth, can deal with multiple Leyline of Sanctity, but it can also be a functional fog-effect against Aura when Leyline of Sanctity is dealt with.

Echoing Truth: costing 1 mana more than Kiora's Dismissal and being a weak and inefficient removal, I don't see it as being the catch-all answer to our purposes we need: being a bouncer is significantly worse than Set Adrift, since the latter is a real removal spell, which also comes in i.e. against Tarmogoyf: bouncers in general cannot really fill such a role.

Winds of Rebuke: 2 milled cards attached is not enough to make Boomerang useful to us; it can even feed our Set Adrift, but you should need only 1 permanent-removal per game - meaning that planning to draw the second removal to deal with a single cards is bad.

Void Snare: unlike Echoing Truth it deals with only a single Leyline of Sanctity and it is mediocre even at that. Since removing Leyline of Sanctity would be quite its only purpose, it seems bad; but 2 mana is a critical cost for Mill because most of its cards cost 2 and need to be played early, so Void Snare can indeed fulfill that role better than most other options.

Rite of Undoing: in a list with 1-mana mill spells it being cheaper than Set Adrift is irrelevant: Hedron Crab and Tome Scour don't care about the single less mana, and a double activation from Shriekhorn often comes together with a fetchland activation (5 cards total in graveyard). Rite of Undoing's potential synergy with Shriekhorn is really too slow - and when it would be relevant the downside of Rite of Undoing being a bouncer backfires (i.e. they can easily cast Leyline of Sanctity).

Kefnet's Last Word: bad Leyline of Sanctity removal: even if you take out their Leyline of Sanctity, you are in no position to race them; unique effect for a card this cheap nonetheless.


Nature's Claim: if the splash is affordable, it is perfect against Leyline of Sanctity with marginal applications against Affinity and Aura at least.

Back to Nature: the best card against Aura.


Fragmentize: if splashing, a sorcery Nature's Claim is still good.

Disenchant: if in need of more of such an effect.

War Priest of Thune: vs Leyline of Sanctity; small utility against Aura, Eidolon of the Great Revel and as a blocker.

Cursebreak: similar to the above card.

Demystify: a more narrow Fragmentize, but does what we need.

Leave No Trace: functionally a Back to Nature.

Hide/Seek: if we can produce it surely save slots (being an answer to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn), but then the life loss from shocklands becomes huge and casting the Boros part early would still be unreliable at least.

Tempest of Light: Back to Nature at 3 mana is still good enough most of the times against Aura.

Paraselene: same as above; not being an instant and thus not being able to catch out the latest Auras is paid back with a bunch of life points.

Patrician's Scorn: it would be appealing in a build featuring hybrid-mana cards, but unfortunately the only at least a a bit interesting is Beckon Apparition.

Surgical Extraction

Extirpate: if you need graveyard hate not respondable to. But even against Jeskai Nahiri, the Harbinger-decks drawing cards and exiling ALL graveyard is way better, so we should rely on cards like Nihil Spellbomb. And keeping 1 mana up for this every time can be taxing too many times.

Ravenous Trap: it is superior to the hate in form of permanent (Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, Tormod's Crypt, Nihil Spellbomb, Sentinel Totem, Relic of Progenitus) in that it is less disruptable (i.e. Boros Prison would often remove our piece via Nahiri, the Harbinger, Banishing Light or Wear / Tear before we ever mill Emrakul, the Aeons Torn; Living End has got Beast Within even in the maindeck..). In addition, Ravenous Trap's alternative casting cost's condition is quite easy to achieve, even in your opponent's turn: it is possible to do so by via Shriekhorn, Mesmeric Orb, Shelldock Isle casting any mill spell, Hedron Crab + a fetchland, even (not reliable but possible) Archive Trap. It is even possible that the opponent met the condition on its own, even during her turn, simply by playing her game (again, you should not rely on this, but it happens often enough). It is the cleanest way to deal with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn when it is played in a single copy (as it is in Boros Prison). Also helpful against Dredge (even if not really necessary). However, if you are more concerned with counterspells than with artifact-removals (as against Jeskai) this card should be avoided in favor of something else. A marginal attractive feature of the card is that it allows the following scenario: you are against an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn-deck and they have dealt with your first piece of graveyard-hate, you do not have another one and still you cannot afford to wait for drawing into one; then a viable (even if desperate) course of action is to cast your mill spells anyway, and if you mill an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and they have 20+ cards in their graveyard you can cast your Visions of Beyonds hoping to draw a Ravenous Trap to cast still with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn's shuffle trigger on the stack. Still, it is not so good against Living End: it is unlikely to meet the condition against them with a timing that is favourable for us. Finally, if the opponent is packing Ricochet Trap (and Living End does), Ravenous Trap can easily be worse than permanent hate. Remeber that you can search for them with Trapmaker's Snare, which is already a reasonable maindeck card if playing Field of Ruin.

Tormod's Crypt: better than Relic of Progenitus alongside Nihil Spellbomb if the former costs too much for your list: keeping 1 mana up every time is not always affordable, since even a control deck can put up pressure in form of a clock or threatening a lock. Good for diversifying casting costs of your grave-hate against Chalice of the Void as we don't want to have all of our grave-hate costing 1 mana (they can deal with the first one, so we are likely to need to play another one after their Chalice of the Void on 1; and we probably must save our Set Adrift for Leyline of Sanctity).

Nihil Spellbomb

Sentinel Totem: virtually they are the copies number 5-8 of Nihil Spellbomb when you do not really need Set Adrift, and better than any alternative until Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is played alongside counterspells. Pay attention to the attrition with Set Adrift.

Relic of Progenitus: better than Sentinel Totem in protracted games; otherwise it is quite difficult to keep mana up every time.

Scavenger Grounds: it is already hard keeping mana up for Relic of Progenitus or Extirpate, so it would not be the main answer to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. And, as for lands, we have more pressing priorities.

Leyline of the Void: when we are worried only about 1-time-effect cards such as Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, its little artifact counterparts are better (unless playing multiple Emrakul, the Aeons Torns becomes the norm, or Storm and Living End are relevant matchups). Anyway, when played together with the artifacts it opens up to undesiderable scenarios: you could keep hands with only your complementary single-use graveyard hate (like Nihil Spellbomb) as graveyard hate, in the early game it could happen they deal with that piece or you are forced to use it, yet you need another one for their next bunch of creatures (Dredge, Living End) or because you have not exiled yet their Emrakul, the Aeons Torn; at such point, if you drew into your Leyline of the Void your game could become quite clunky since in the worst case scenario you are going to spend the whole turn casting it: hope they don't have a clock already. The lesson is that Leyline of the Void give its best if you are forced to play it as your only graveyard hate (as we are indeed doing here), since otherwise you are compromised with bad game developings which are overall not acceptable. Mind that many of your cards get worse with an online Leyline of the Void: Crypt Incursion, Surgical Extraction, Visions of Beyond in my list.

Yixlid Jailer: it is very hard to think at an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn-deck that cannot deal with a small creature even post-side, so that Yixlid Jailer all in all is more vulnerable than the likes of Nihil Spellbomb.

Lost Legacy: against cards Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, especially if played in multiples, and the only answer against an in-deck Progenitus if there may ever be need; marginal utility against combo decks in general. The drawing potentially attached is irrelevant at that point. However this kind of cards makes you spend the whole turn for casting them, when even a control deck can put up pressure in form of a clock or threatening a lock: be sure that in your plan casting it is game winning or that the opponent is usually too slow to punish you.

Infinite Obliteration: worse than the previous, but functionally the same for your purpose.

Bitter Ordeal: better than Lost Legacy if you need to take away different cards (like Lightning Storm and Laboratory Maniac against Ad Nauseam); but requires cracking multiple fetchlands. Not a good plan overall in any case.

Sadistic Sacrament: this is a 3-mana spell only virtually: it is difficult to have on turn 3; something like 4 or 5 mana is more indicative of the real cost - which is obviously prohibitive, and shifting to a more supportive mana base is not worth it given the alternatives. If in need of this effect against a single card, milling and then casting Surgical Extraction is all accounted for more reliable and faster.

Goryo's Vengeance: responding to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn's trigger: hilarious, but too mana-expensive.

Lazav, Dimir Mastermind: it is indeed a unique card, that theoretically can do a great job at solving one of our most frightening issue: combating Emrakul, the Aeons Torn-deck. However, once you manage to exile Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, those deck are quite easy to beat, so that there is not a great difference between games when Lazav, Dimir Mastermind becomes a Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and games when you exile Emrakul, the Aeons Torn early/inevitably. So the game, as usual in these cases, revolves around resolving your answer to Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and unfortunately Lazav, Dimir Mastermind is very bad at allowing you to do that: against Jeskai Nahiri, the Harbinger, at 4 mana it is very susceptible to counterspells (any other graveyard-hate at least cost less), and against Boros Prison its super-specific mana requirements make it impossible to cast it against Blood Moon and it does nothing against their Leyline of Sanctity or other hate-pieces. Against Tarmogoyf-decks: Lazav, Dimir Mastermind would be a very late and difficult-to-cast and very-conditional blocker, and would achieve its utility-condition (milling a Tarmogoyf with Lazav, Dimir Mastermind in play) only when you would already be on the winning path (making it quite unnecessary); and it still dies to Liliana of the Veil, so that it could not block indefinitely: even when becoming a Tarmogoyf, it is a Tarmogoyf with a timer on its head. So Lazav, Dimir Mastermind unfortunately fits nowhere in any Mill strategy.

Grafdigger's Cage: not for fighting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn (apart for hating Goryo's Vengeance out, still leaving us with the main issue), yet a viable options as a strong bullet against specific decks such as Dredge or Company when a proper sideboard able to deal with anything fails.


Hide/Seek: it is good, but only against a single Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and it is not worth the splash (both Nihil Spellbomb and Lost Legacy do the same thing - which also happen to have a wider range of application).

Jace's Phantasm: the role of Jace's Phantasm is certainly NOT blocking against aggro NOR attacking vs combo, since they are both losing propositions: it is to be a blocker against midrange decks, making it a value defence card: if they have the answer to your first Jace's Phantasm, maybe they haven't it for the second one which will block any creature send at us apart from Tarmogoyf and can even kill them quickly if they kept a hand with only reaction yet none directed at creatures. This is the reason why is better to play proactive cards in general instead of reactive ones, and this is why Jace's Phantasm gets better (and is good only) in multiples: if you play it, don't play it in less than 4 copies. Maxing them out also give you one of the best lines of play Mill could carry out against a combo deck: Jace's Phantasm into Jace's Phantasm into enabler (Archive Trap, Hedron Crab, Glimpse the Unthinkable, Mind Funeral); still it is so rare to get that you shouldn't count on it, and it is thereof a prospect that can be disregarded. However, Jace's Phantasm turns on midrange's removals (Hedron Crab nets value before dying, so it doesn't really count) and they always have it; even post sideboarding they could not side out all of theirs removals because of nothing better to put in, so you should always take out Jace's Phantasm for your own removals (especially against Tarmogoyfs, which Jace's Phantasm cant block well). So it is bad even against midrange decks. Don't play it.

Wight of Precinct Six: it would be big only if your opponent plays many creatures, and in that case it would be useless both at defending your life total and attacking through that many blockers. This is a poor card.

Nihilith: it is too slow either to attack - since we have no use for un unblockable Tarmogoyf in the main strategy if we cannot follow it up with defence cards and do so with consistency - or block (we must pass our third turn to have it ready to block). Were it not enough, the clock it could put up in the best case scenario is not nearly fast enough (turn-7 kill) and as a blocker it leaves to be desidered.

Death's Shadow: I do not see how we can play it aside from a 'suicidal' build (more below), and it does not belong there.

Nivmagus Elemental: against Leyline of Sanctity, but too slow nonetheless.

Thing in the Ice  Flip: too slow in this strategy.

Baral, Chief of Compliance: good vs Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in that it also blocks well against decks that want her; otherwise, Baral, Chief of Compliance can't help us much since we mostly have only colored mana to pay.

Snapcaster Mage: as for inserting Snapcaster Mage in the deck because it being a creature is part of the value that the card can add to the deck, I must point out that that part of value is irrelevant in this type of deck: the reason is that there's a common issue with creatures in this deck-type, concerning the inability to block effectively when needed most (namely, against wide-aggro decks; or, for what it's worth, against decks that combine pressure and removals, letting them use their removal with no loss in tempo); least of all to attack. For integration, I redirect to the part of my primer where I digress about the usefulness of Jace's Phantasm and the like in this sort of strategy. Moreover, as for including Snapcaster Mage because the value it would add to the deck is us to be able to cast a good spell lategame - granted that the extra value makes worth having that good spell overcosted (which is often unaffordable for this deck) - then the trouble is worth if the deck can prolong the game consistently - namely, if the defence cards are good enough or in sufficient number (something typically not happening in Modern as a whole, and even less in Mill). So, if the versatility and the fact of being a creature do not accomplish much for themselves, it has to cover a proper role in the strategy - that is to say milling or defending: if more mill spell in the deck are needed, then play more of them instead of Snapcaster Mage; if affordable defence is needed, then it must flashback almost always a 1-mana defence spells: but a removal (even with the supporting body from Snapcaster Mage) is not nearly sufficient, and flashbacking a fog-effect is really not the place to be: 3 mana for that kind of effect entails losing the whole turn, making the spell pretty useless (which is a different matter from what happens with Crypt Incursion; see below). And flashbacking a Visions of Beyond is very costly in terms of mana: what is the decks that allows you to do that that investiment without punishing you for that? Not even Jund is that slow. All in all, Snapcaster Mage works bad with the only route this strategy can go down (as I will argue below): employing fogs. Snapcaster Mage, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip are so inefficient that they make fogs useless because they hinder you in trying to win the game the following turn: at that amount of mana (4 mana to net game-progressing value, for each of them) I'd be better off casting two mill spells. And Mill is so slow that you will surely have 2 spare mill spells to play on turn 4. Wrapping up: this deck gains nothing in playing Snapcaster Mage, whether under the 'creature' respect, or under the 'spell' respect (defensive, milling, or Visions of Beyond-esque). The high versatility of the card means nothing when none of its potential uses is effective for the deck's plan.

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip is usually a slower functional copy of the foregoing, so for argument's sake I will cover only Snapcaster Mage's usefulness.

Augur of Bolas: I don't see any reason to play this over Manic Scribe or Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip except that it would be good against decks full of 2/1s.

Spellskite: if you have some free slots in your sideboard, this is meant to be an ace against any Infect-like deck; it is also good against Aura, so that you can keep a starting hand without enchantment-removals for Leyline of Sanctity if you see this because it buys a lot of time (if not winning the game by itself). However, Spellskite does nothing against Lantern or Ad Nauseam (which sport Leyline of Sanctity from the side), so that it couldn't fully complement your enchantment-removal suite. It has (hopefully) marginal utility against Burn. A shame that vs Infect and Burn, the decks it should hose, it is not so useful: too many removals in the first case (as I'll argue, we cannot afford to back it up), too little utility in the second one. In fact, Infect has plenty of ways to deal with it: Nature's Claim which Infect can even side-in regardless (not recommended though) because of our high artifact count (especially if we play Shriekhorn), and Dismember and Twisted Image which Infect could again side-in regardless (not recommended though) because of Hedron Crab and possible Spellskites.

Contraband Kingpin: against Burn, especially if playing Shriekhorn; but in general worse than the previous card.

Gifted Aetherborn: same as the previous, only a little harder to cast (maybe too difficult against Burn) and probably a (bad) side-in against decks like Jund.

Stinkweed Imp: useful against Infect if supported by removals.

Maralen of the Mornsong: to force people searching; maybe in a build with Trapmaker's Snare too for getting those Archive Traps, but now it is completely outclassed by Field of Ruin.

Trinket Mage: searches for Shriekhorn or sideboard cards like Nihil Spellbomb.

Trophy Mage: for getting Ensnaring Bridge.

Tasigur, the Golden Fang: appealing in a strategy supporting it.

Gurmag Angler: same as above for one mana more.

Avatar of Woe: even at only two mana is too costly/slow perhaps.


Tarmogoyf: best creatures after Jace's Phantasm; it can be fed even under Leyline of Sanctity milling ourselves.

Melira, Sylvok Outcast: if you desperately need to beat Infect.


God-Pharaoh's Faithful: probably the best anti-Burn card (even above Timely Reinforcements), competing only with Collective Brutality.

Perimeter Captain: possibly with cards like Steel Wall. Walls in general are good if the field is only of little aggro decks with few creatures AND few removals (sure, it is a non-sense).

Wall of Omens: not dead against non-aggro decks; still aggro must make a big portion of the meta for this to see game in Mill.

Wall of Shards: good even against not-so-little aggro decks.

Meddling Mage: it would be useful vs combo or (even if marginally) vs Burn; but, unfortunately, it doesn't solve any of the common issues.

Lingering Souls: at its best against control or/like Jund.

Hidden Stockpile: lighter version of the precedent (if you pack a lot of fetchlands).

I am considering almost only 1-mana or less because if it costs more than that we will most probably fall behind for being unable to cast our already no-impact mill spells (the most important and numerous ones cost 2+ mana).

Fatal Push

Disfigure: it is the best cheap instant removal in next to Fatal Push to answer quickly and neatly annoying cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Goblin Guide, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Leonin Arbiter, Tidehollow Sculler or Aven Mindcensor; therefore it should be played in fullset before any other functional spell (Fatal Push aside) if going down this route. Just keep in mind that (especially against Infect) Disfigure is utterly blanked by Mutagenic Growth, which is quite catastrophic.

Darkblast: vs Infect. At its best if you can diversify the answers (like in combination with Spellskite or Immortal Coil, better if both) so to have a shot at winning defending from multiple angles; but even alone sometimes it is gamebreaking enough for the Infect player. It can certainly do wonders with Immortal Coil against Infect, but it is bad against Burn where it cannot kill anything (at least spending only 1 mana, which is fundamental) or versus Hatebears (Thalia, Guardian of Thraben aside). It can be used in a pinch to fuel Set Adrift, but such effect is redundant especially if playing 1-mana mill spells. Against Affinity is not a good side-in because it is not always good even in the early stages of the game - actually, the only ones where you are supposed to use it.

Death's Approach: useful if creatures are big and decks slow with a lot of creatures in (that is, never of course). Good to get delirium for Manic Scribe.

Dead Weight: same as above, but against little creatures.

Vampiric Link: mostly against Burn: enchanting their creatures to buffer the damage, or something like Jace's Phantasm to gain a ton of life; on their Eidolon of the Great Revel is hilarious; marginal use as a pseudo-removal against other decks.

Murderous Cut: always against those chimeric 'very few big creatures'.

Ulcerate: if the format is only about decks with very few creatures that also happen to sport 3 or less in thoughness.

Vendetta: great against Infect or decks where you dont care about your life total and Dismember is not enough.

Dismember: less great than the above against Infect. Against other fast decks the life-loss in the early game is bigger, but later you can sometimes pay the black mana. It can be cast out off Field of Ruin, which shouldn't be disregarded.

Liliana's Defeat: good against Death's Shadow-decks: it kills Death's Shadow, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Gurmag Angler, Liliana of the Veil and Liliana, the Last Hope.

Collective Brutality: great to catch up against fast creatures decks (especially Infect and Burn) and small utility against other aggro decks. A little help as an additional pseudo-gravehate against Living End (it discards Violent Outburst and Demonic Dread), Goryo's Vengeance-decks (it discards the namesake card, but it is no use if they play Emrakul, the Aeons Torn), Jeskai Nahiri, the Harbinger-decks (it discards counterspells/Wear / Tear) and Storm (it kills Goblin Electromancer and discards something).

Sickening Shoal: if speed is of the utmost importance like against Infect; however, black spell usually are our best cards and we do not want to pitch them.

Snapback: like Sickening Shoal against big creatures.

Unsummon: like the above, but at 1 mana; it can also save our own Hedron Crabs.

Containment Membrane: like Murderous Cut.

Spontaneous Mutation: same as Death's Approach.

Take into Custody: a little Send to Sleep (though that is more a fog than a removal like this), very strong when creatures are few and come in late.


Path to Exile: despite it could seem the best removal for us, do not expect the opponent to search for the basic land (more below): she won't, or she will win anyway.

Oust: it is a sorcery Path to Exile since we mill.

Condemn: I found it underwhelming: Eidolon of the Great Revel, Hatebears, and Infect (through protection before attacking) all laugh at it.

Drown in Sorrow: in a format of aggro decks with creatures not larger than x/2 is worth the slot maybe, but I can't image how: now even decks with this feature are very resilient to an early mass-removal, or can play around it without delaying too much their plan (I'm thinking of Elves and maybe Affinity).

Flaying Tendrils: same as the above card, but with an additional effect relevant against something like Kitchen Finks where the scry is not more useful.

Engineered Explosives: typical answer to fast decks and especially to Aura, but against the latter you should already play enchantment removals for Leyline of Sanctity. Good when there are almost only permanents at 0- or 1-mana (even if you can produce more than 2 colors; in that case you are aiming at a single problematic permanent).

Bontu's Last Reckoning: not bad at all against go-wide decks, if a sweeper is really needed. Unfortunately, sweepers are bad in this strategy (see below).

Damnation: classic mass-removal, useful against most creature-decks and a quality card against Jund if we need this kind of card.

Languish: better than the previous one against non-Jundish decks if playing creatures like Jace's Phantasm or Tarmogoyf.

Yahenni's Expertise: it certainly seems strong when the first effect is good. Yet I wonder what deck it can cripple in a timely fashion.. against Elves, perhaps? Too narrow. And now that it can't cast the Entering part of Breaking / Entering it got even worse.

Baral's Expertise: maybe in a shell where the defence is made up of spot-removals like Fatal Push alongside Yahenni's Expertise and this. Casting this with Yahenni's Expertise in hand is nothing less than a mass-removal that also casts a big mill spell: the ceiling is certainly high; unfortunately, the floor is unconvincing: the mana cost is too steep. Side note: it can bounce your own Shriekhorns or Manic Scribes for value. And, again, now that it can't cast Breaking / Entering it got worse.


Supreme Verdict: the to-go-card if in need of a white mass-removal or of an uncounterable one (sometimes it can be relevant, as against Merfolks).

Wrath of God: as above, if regeneration is common (Welding Jar, Thrun, the Last Troll..).

With 'fogs' I mean functional copies of Fog. As nice as they play with Mesmeric Orb, we are interested in them as a tempo (=mana) engine - meaning that you are looking for a way to cast other spells either in the very turn in which we cast our fog, or in the following turn(s) our fog can provide. Such requirements rule out spells like Sudden Spoiling, Hydrolash, Gigadrowse, or Exhaustion.


Crypt Incursion

Immortal Coil: it is great both vs Burn and Infect: if you happen to have Mesmeric Orb too on the battlefield, they must remove it; and in a pinch, you can mill yourself with your cheap spells while pointing the big ones at the opponent. You just have to survive until turn 4, which vs Burn you can accomplish with Crypt Incursion and vs Infect with Darkness. Unfortunately, sometimes they will have a removal for Immortal Coil (they could side in removal for your artifacts regardless, even if only in fear of a Spellskite). But it is still better than Spellskite (with a little help) because vs Burn Spellskite does too little, and of the reactive cards from Infect, only Nature's Claim is a matter of concern for Immortal Coil. A great choice against those decks if you have room in your sideboard (a single slot would be ideal I guess).

Profane Memento: playing this card early against an aggro deck can gain around 20 life over the course of the game: it is outstandingly comparable to a fog-effect cast in the late-game; however, it is not useful if drawn later, and the risk does not seem really rewarding to me (the opposite of Archive Trap in this respect; more below). Also versus Burn (where life gain is the priority, and this kind of effect should give its best) due to its low creature count Profane Memento is utterly useless (while Crypt Incursion is still viable thanks to the 3x multiplier). In general, it is too narrow: to be effective, your opponent have to try to win by damage (not through a combo like Elves, though) and featuring a very very high creature count in her deck. So, Profane Memento is a fog in the best case scenario and useless otherwise: you'd better play Fatal Push over it, because like Profane Memento it is a fog in the best case scenario and useless otherwise - yet it is your best defence card in some niche situations and matchups.

Send to Sleep: it is seemingly an impressive card in Mill. The trap is that it would be ideal casting it from turn 4 on alongside a mill spell, but at that point is meanignless to cast a double removal (since they should not be likely to untap ever again) against an aggro deck (the kind of deck this type of spell is meant against) as they should be able to kill you anyway (or at least not giving you the opportunity to makes full use of your other turn, making you uncapable of redeem the mana you spent on Send to Sleep). And on turn 3 it is higly unreliable, and even when you manage to cast it that early with spell mastery you get it at the price of not casting your copies of permanent mill spells like Mesmeric Orb or Fraying Sanity (as there could be a Hedron Crab or a Mesmeric Orb already on the battlefield, or you could't afford to not being able to acst many 3-drops in the future) still in hand.

Agony Warp: good when it can kill something while buffering damage.

Hurkyl's Recall: backbreaking vs Affinity if needed.


Fog: very good if the splash is worth.


Ethereal Haze: see Fog.

Holy Day: see Fog.

These cards are meant to be brought in only against Burn (or quite so).

Shamble Back: blocker + lifegain at one mana. But it does too little, and makes Crypt Incursion worse.

Sun Droplet: good with blockers or removals, otherwise useless. Way better if played in multiple copies.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet: it does too little for its high price.


Authority of the Consul: leaving aside infinite combos, Authority of the Consuls is good only against haste creatures; but at that point Disfigure or even Crypt Incursion are at least equally good (especially considering the stress on the manabase). Additional synergies don't seem worth of consideration.

Lone Missionary: good, but Eidolon of the Great Revel would still rage about.

Rest for the Weary: good, but their creatures would still be left to run around unchecked: it's but an expensive fog against Burn.

Timely Reinforcements: one of the best way to deal with Burn, with little application anywhere else; options need to be diversified for this to be useful: with removals and Crypt Incursion or Phyrexian Unlife, perhaps.

Phyrexian Unlife: it shares part of its problem with Leyline of Sanctity and Rest for the Weary.

Ensnaring Bridge: this card is soft to incidental artifact/permanent hate (even maindeck, mainly because of Abrupt Decay, Maelstrom Pulse, Kolaghan's Command, Qasali Pridemage, Engineered Explosives, Oblivion Stone, Karn Liberated, Beast Within...), and (much like with creatures, even if in a surely lesser, but still seizable extent) you cannot afford to lose that easily your only line of defence because it will most probably not be followed by additional defence - a problem in common with adopting spot removals as the main defence, as it is not trivial to cast more than 1 defensive spell in this deck without giving up to the ability to win consistently on top of the right one. Ensnaring Bridge is too fragile in that it is exposed to common and played-regardless removal spells: hate is to be expected as heavy played especially after sideboard, when the opponent brings in a lot of marginally useful or even probably dead cards (graveyard hate, artifact- or enchantment-removal..) because they have a bunch of surely dead cards maindeck against us; Ancient Grudge is the most frequent of the brought-in, and it can even be cast from graveyard after we mill it (sure, if they get Ensnaring Bridge they won't destroy your Mesmeric Orb.. but to what end, if you cannot live long enough?). Mill is a frail deck: if only 1 of your spell (even a milling one, but there is no point in that since it is enough for them answering the defensive one) is thwarted, you lose any chance to race out racing decks (i.e. quite any Modern deck); this is especially true about Ensnaring Bridge since it costs too much and comes in too late to take you ahead in tempo when thwarted. However, that is less of an issue when we compare an Ensnaring Bridge list to a tempo list employing fog (like mine): now that between Mesmeric Orb and Fraying Sanity permanents makes up for a big part of our milling engine, a removal on any of them would take out our ability to win in the time our fog would net us. Another concern is that Ensnaring Bridge works poorly with other cards: it requires playing suboptimal cards (blockers, removals, Collective Brutality, Surgical Extraction to get rid of what can deal with it, and perhaps even millers like Shriekhorn or Breaking / Entering that are less efficient than what you would play in order to win without it, i.e. not enough to win most of the times without an Ensnaring Bridge!!) and adopting suboptimal lines of play (casting spells in an untimely manner, like a Surgical Extraction on an irrelevant target or a Visions of Beyond for drawing but one) to be effective, such that leave you in no position to win the game without giving the opponent a lot of time to deal with the lock. It bickers with Archive Trap which can remain unused in hand; or with untimely/unlucky Visions of Beyond (even if cast in your opponent's end phase) or with land-heavy/-light draw (lands/cards will remain stuck in hand). It is useful to note that more than one of these events can happen simultaneously, making the card looking silly more often than not (finalized and fine-grained deck-building and tight play can do very little about that). Not being a catch-all answer to creatures in a meaningful way can be easy exploited by opponents, as 0-force creatures like Noble Hierarch and little creatures in general (from Infect, Affinity.. which can buff their creatures after having attacked, or even move Cranial Plating at instant speed) can attack regardless: I understand that a Noble Hierarch will take and eternity to kill, but when Ensnaring Bridge is cast or is fully operational (turn 4-5 at the earlier) we will have already taken a lot of damage; we would want to try and not to reckon on the potential support a timely Crypt Incursion could grant: any list even only dreaming to be viable could boast a quite safe victory with a well-placed resolution of that spell, or with casting more than one defence card (hoping not to draw many of them). That said, Ensnaring Bridge does not even help the Infect, Burn, Leyline of Sanctity- or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn-decks matchup, which are the most hard ones (preventing Emrakul, the Aeons Torn from attacking still leaves open the question of how we win: most ways to cheat it into play see it not to stay on the battlefield for long). I see an argument for Ensnaring Bridge against reanimator, but a fog against Griselbrand is equally effective (and at 3 mana you could also have Crypt Incursion - though you should be dead in any case on turn 3, i.e. you should not be able to cast Ensnaring Bridge anyway). Changing viewpoint Ensnaring Bridge makes our mulligans way stronger, which is actually a very strong point. At worst, you could even plan to mulligan with the sole end of getting Ensnaring Bridge online sooner. Surely, while being useful only from turn 5 on like Crypt Incursion, it is stronger against discards (it is better as a single card, and it isn't nullified if they take your mill spell); unfortunately, decks playing discards are the more capable of dealing with it: Abrupt Decay, Maelstrom Pulse, Kholagan's Command, Liliana of the Veil only to name their more common maindeck resources.

Intruder Alarm: it is good only if the opponent plays very few creatures, and very risky in any case.

Silent Arbiter: versus small non-evasive creatures, it is a lock more than it is a creature - with the notable downside of dying from removals.

Leyline of Sanctity: vs Burn it is a real life-gainer - shielding you from burn spells. But it is unreliable, favors dead draws and must in any case be supported by removals: you would die from their creatures before you could mill them out, and you even have at least 1 card less in hand (we are talking about the case where you have it first-hand); Eidolon of the Great Revel would still be unbeatable, and they can destroy your Leyline of Sanctity at some point with Destructive Revelry.

Chalice of the Void: since we have a hard time finding suitable 1-drops (see below) we can put them completely aside (apart from our blowout-cards: Hedron Crab and Visions of Beyond) and play this; however Chalice of the Void suffers pretty much from the same limits of Leyline of Sanctity against Burn, which is the deck it is meant against.

Noxious Revival: it can be useful to re-draw a much needed spell like Darkness, Ensnaring Bridge or Glimpse the Unthinkable depending on the situation; on this respect, it is an alternative to Snapcaster Mage that costs no mana - even if the card is acquired later, it costs life (because most probably it isn't worth to splash for it) and it provides card disadvantage (which, incidentally, is a boon if you play Ensnaring Bridge). Noxious Revival in rare occasions can also cover the disruption role against cards like Snapcaster Mage, Unburial Rites, Eternal Witness, Murderous Redcap, making it quite a deep card.

Claim / Fame: it mainly reanimates Hedron Crab; but, though we can mill Hedron Crab with Mesmeric Orb, non-interactive decks don't kill our Hedron Crabs and interactives ones have got more removals than we have got Hedron Crabs+Claim / Fames. So it is unhelpful. In the sidelines, it brings back a Snapcaster Mage for a big spell, a Jace's Phantasm or a Minister of Inquiries if the plan needs them, or Manic Scribe (mostly in an Ensnaring Bridge build).

Trapmaker's Snare: in sideboarded games, it can search for traps like Ravenous Trap (which is already very reasonable on its own), Mindbreak Trap (a tool against Storm), Lethargy Trap, Whiplash Trap, Permafrost Trap (the lasts ones are not good though). It is not so useful for getting an Archive Trap if not in a dedicated deck, since Archive Trap already underwhelming as it is (more below); I would never play a card planning to use it often times only for getting that effect overcosted by 2 mana. I would only play Trapmaker's Snare with the purpose of getting Archive Trap in a non-dedicated deck against Death's Shadow-decks and Burn, but I'm not sure the upgrade to a mill card you get in those cases is worth having a bad gravehard-hate in the sideboard slots meant for that kind of card. On the other hand, when also running many copies of Field of Ruin, Trapmaker's Snare is easily better than Breaking / Entering when you manage to also have a natural Archive Trap in hand - and they tend to rot there.. (in the end, it's not that Trapmaker's Snare is a strong card, but that its alternatives are way worse). It is also an important piece of many of your turn-4 wins: a new and common turn-4 win involves only a few cards (and certainly not the best ones!): 2 between Archive Trap and Trapmaker's Snare, 1 Fraying Sanity, 1 Field of Ruind and 1-2 other lands (depending on your Archive Trap/Trapmaker's Snare mix); and the mere chances of carrying it out makes Trapmaker's Snare so good that I would consider it over Breaking / Entering in any build including Fraying Sanity. Only beware of Leonin Arbiter and Aven Mindcensor.

Search for Azcanta  Flip: especially with Mesmeric Orb, this is indeed a Rampant Growth for Mill, which makes it very interesting and unique. However, as you can imagine the 2-mana slots are pretty much stuffed, and in Mill there isn't very much to ramp into (see the section about mana creatures).

Serum Powder: it would be used to maximize the chances to see at least one enchantment-removal or a graveyard-hate post board: we really need to have them in hand at the beginning of the game. However, it is probably better to split the answers - even if doing so lowers the chances to see them compared to them together with Serum Powder - to have more impactful options in every stage of the game (especially if the first ones are dealt with, i.e. with counterspells).


Pyromancer Ascension: unfortunately, there aren't cheap or good ways (less both) to abuse Pyromancer Ascension in Mill; apart from dream-like draws, it would be slow, inconsistent and without Pyromancer Ascension it would do nothing (even if you could refill your cheap mill spells with Visions of Beyond).

I will consider only palatable cards for a build; potential splashing is to be appropriately integrated.



Watery Grave

Polluted Delta

Flooded Strand/Misty Rainforest/Scalding Tarn

Marsh Flats/Verdant Catacombs/Bloodstained Mire

Shelldock Isle

Oboro, Palace in the Clouds: it is wonderful with Hedron Crab when not drawing lands, and can give double when needed (if not playing other lands). It is of no use in decks with so many lands that they are guaranteed to make all of their land drops till late in game. Excellent at getting revolt for Fatal Push.

Sunken Ruins: the same consideration made for River of Tears apply here, with the relevant extra of fixing colors (1) from Island/Shelldock Isle for an early Glimpse the Unthinkable/Breaking / Entering/Mind Funeral + Darkness, or (2) from Swamp in order to activate Shelldock Isle (colored mana is highly stressed even lategame). This is of great help when you naturally draw the wrong lands or if you need to fetch for basics more than you would in order to be conservative with your life points. It actually saves more than a single life point over the course of a typical game.

Darkslick Shores: very strong in the early game, I suggest not play more than 1 because the second copy is ugly (you want fetches early in any case for Hedron Crabs). Like most of the following cards it is good against Choke and if you have too many fetchlands in the deck - since you could find yourself fetching in the very first turn, which is not ideal because later fetches have less targets (and permit fewer choices) and because fetches are meant to feed Hedron Crabs. You should play it if you are not playing Crypt Incursion, Darkness or Fraying Sanity since in such case we want to make full use of our mana from turn 1 to turn 5; and we should already feature Shelldock Isle as a surely tapped land on later turns.

Sunken Hollow: good with fetches both for taking it or for playing it untapped; but we can't afford too many lands that can't cast a turn 1 Hedron Crab against fast decks.

Drowned Catacombs: like Sunken Hollow it is good with fetches since they let you play it untapped; but again we can't afford too many lands that can't cast a turn 1 Hedron Crab against fast decks.

Port Town: no Mill deck can play that many basics: it will always come into play tapped.

Fetid Pools: the drawing part is pretty irrelevant since you will happen to manage to cycle at 2 mana only in half of the games (the slow ones) you play against grindy decks - and never anywhere else.

Waterveil Cavern: good if we are not playing Crypt Incursion, Darkness or Fraying Sanity (in such case we want to make full use of our mana from turn 1 to turn 5) and we do not go much deep as to colored mana requirements (like if we play Shriekhorn instead of Breaking / Entering).

River of Tears: the only and big problem is that it can't pay for Hedron Crab on turn 1, and we need a really good reason to play such a land. The reversed effect would be perfect for this deck.

Nephalia Drownyard: it is not against slow decks that we need a hand.

Ipnu Rivulet: same as above for a one-shot use in exchange of producing blue painful mana (which makes it better than Nephalia Drownyard). In other words, we would get to activate it only against those rare slow control decks, against which we have already the edge: an additional double land (perhaps a fetch?) as an insurance against color-screw, a basic land more against random Blood Moons or more simply another painless land are in any other case more valuable than Ipnu Rivulet.

Ghost Quarter: if mana permits (almost all of our cards need only colored mana to be cast), especially if used as part of a removal-based defence strategy (it kills manlands) or a color/land-denial tactical ingredient (more below; the wrap-up is that I would never use it if I am not planning to use it as a manland-removal very often, obviously in the frame of a removal-based maindeck defence strategy - and you should not do it). Remember this is not a way to cheat your Archive Traps because searching is not mandatory.

Field of Ruin

Academy Ruins: great tech: late game it retrives mill spells (Shriekhorn, Mesmeric Orb), defence cards (Ensnaring Bridge, Engineered Explosives..) or grave-hate (Nihil Spellbomb, Relic of Progenitus, Tormod's Crypt..); and it can recoup those items because you already used them once/they have been destroyed, because you auto-milled them with Mesmeric Orb or because you milled them with other spells (e.g. you are milling yourself as a part of an alternative plan..) - so Academy Ruins is very versatile. However, playing a colorless mana source (like Ghost Quarter) in a deck with so few lands and too many very specific color-requirements (nearly every single spell, and Shelldock Isles..) makes for very awkward sequences on your part: the games in which you draw it without planning to use its unique ability (very very few) see you in too bad a spot. It is thus sideboard material; but at that point you probably want an additional grave-hate (since it will be the most frequently recurred kind of card).

Gemstone Caverns: it could be sideboard material, allowing you to catch-up on mana when the opponent starts if you see it in your starting hand, and if you can afford to have a quite sure dead draw in the course of the game (colorless mana ends up being pretty useless, especially in the list highlighted here). All of these conditions are met if you have to draw first against aggro or combo; but sideboard slots are pretty important: so there is no room here. As if additional motivation were needed, against anything else a dead card is more liable to exert influence upon a game win/loss. Pondering alternatives routes, adopting Gemstone Caverns in the main plan can only be detrimental: since you will always want to play second, the card is of any use if you need to draw a very specific card along the course of the whole game (and not only in you first hand: if it is so, it is better to mulligan than hoping to draw it otherwise), and if neither you (without that card) nor your opponent put any pressure: only this way drawing first is of any utility, i.e. when 'drawing first' means 'drawing extra' (because the card drawn is the only relevant, and after that you close the game). Said that, aside from some combo mirror or a dedicated strategy I cannot see any profitable use of Gemstone Caverns - and much less in Mill.

Now I will showcase some popular or peculiar plans I found bad, including build-arounds demanding a little more than a shallow analysis, and exhibit reasons for my judgement:

Ensnaring Bridge Lock:

To make Ensnaring Bridge really work either you have you play suboptimal spells like or lowering your curve much more than normally appropriate thus putting you in no position to win without an Ensnaring Bridge and still relying on the topdeck for multiple times when you have it: your deck has to be built to make such path viable, i.e. it must sport spells that are both cheaper than normal AND stronger than normal (and infamously Mill has got no access to such kind of cards), unless you are sure that it won't be removed (at least for a while; but not every deck is Merfolk or Eldrazi!). In other words, Ensnaring Bridge easy-wins are not enough to balance out the fact that it cannot be operational early in a Mill deck in any realistic list (that is one consistent enough, that in our special case means 'capable of winning without Ensnaring Bridge') - and that is more important as long as by the time Ensnaring Bridge, with of bit of dedication (i.e. building-around and appropriate plays) and luck, could be operational (i.e. turn 4), you could just cast a fog and win the following turn, making lists built arounds fogs a real contender for Ensnaring Bridge-builds. But Let's take a closer examination of our circumstances. What kinds of defence cards could support Ensnaring Bridge? Fatal Push is the obvious first option, being able to grant you a whole turn if played in the first coulpe of turns of the game and and being likely to fit into your curve not delaying importamt spells. But what else? If you play only Fatal Push alongside Ensnaring Bridge, you concede that in order to gain an edge from your Ensnaring Bridge you will usually need to cast Fatal Push before it as an enabler. Darkness loses appeal if you play too few mill spells, and it would only act as an enabler for Ensnaring Bridge then: lists, and even hands out of the same list, are either too clucky (skewed towards making Darkness good enough to win) or too low-powered (skewed towards having Ensnaring Bridge actually work); Fatal Push in such builds would be but an unpowered version of Darkness (that is why you cannot have Fatal Push and Ensnaring Bridge as your only means of defence): it couldn't win on its own here because of the same issues Darkness has such builds, and it would be even narrower in use. In other words, Darkness (and even more so Fatal Push) is either a conditional tempo play or an Ensnaring Bridge enabler - but it cannot cover both roles in the same list. Collective Brutality too wouldn't be more than an enabler, since unlike Fatal Push it doesn't fit painlessy into your curve and as a result casting it is not worth it without being able to back it up with an Ensnaring Bridge: Collective Brutality is good both to get rid of their answer to Ensnaring Bridge and to get it online before it would otherwise (turn 5); yet it is still a 2 card combo, and both cards do too much little alone as to progress our plan (both offensively and defensively). So those cards assemble a 2-card combo, yet again any list could easily win when managing to resolve more than one defence card (which is way different from what happens with fogs). Is this really what we are left to rely on? Noxious Revival too is good with Ensnaring Bridge (enabling it and rebuying it when dealt with); yet way less than Collective Brutality, and does too little by itself. Similarly, Surgical Extraction would be but Ensnaring Bridge enablers (being mana-free, it doesn't really count as a card in hand), doing pretty much nothing on their own. Can Surgical Extraction entertain additional uses? As for playing Surgical Extraction on their answers to Ensnaring Bridge, you are assuming that they are not diversifying their answers, that you are milling, that you mill a specific card played in few copies, that they haven't drawn it meanwhile and already destroyed your Ensnaring Bridge, all this assuming too that you drew an early Ensnaring Bridge with sufficient lands. Such requirements are unrealistic to meet; even when the stars align and you meet the relevant conditions I just remebered, pointing Surgical Extraction at their answers to Ensnaring Bridge would only work half of the time because a great portion of the aggro decks run Ancient Grudge. As for the main topic, Crypt Incursion needs an enabler on its own (being useful only from turn 5 on where you actually need it), so that it wouldn't be a good pairing with Ensnaring Bridge; you might try to have your enablers (like Fatal Push) be such for both Ensnaring Bridge and Crypt Incursion in order to get more payoff cards, but that would further reduce the number (likely the quality too, since raising the cost of your defence spells you may want to adopt cheaper mill spells like Breaking / Entering) of your mill spells, opening your flank to bad variance both in the developing of the early strategy and in the process of capitalisation on your defence. Finally, you could play creatures - such as Manic Scribe or Jace's Phantasm - so as to block early until you empty up your hand, and to block low-power creatures passing under Ensnaring Bridge late; yet any removal at any of those cards makes the other one completely useless, and are very bad cards to boot. All this means that, in any single game, in order to have a chance to win we must have both an Ensnaring Bridge (hoping they cannot answer it) and an early enabler. And you have to live with the fact that any enabler (in different degrees, the most useful being Fatal Push - but even Fatal Push itself gets unhelpful after turn 2) is but a worthless piece of paper without Ensnaring Bridge. Sure, Ensnaring Bridge truly shines against Eldratron (they only get Karn Liberated to deal with it) and Merfolk (they only have Echoing Truth, if playing it somewhere in the 75s), meaning that it can win on its own in those matchups; yet this isn't enough to justify its inclusion over (some) fogs. So, even if Ensnaring Bridge should be able to get an edge over any opponent's mediocre hand, a build made up in order to take advantage of Ensnaring Bridge isn't very likely to punish them consistently. I do not recommend adopting Ensnaring Bridge as for now - even though like any other choice, employing it (and therefore building around it) is a metagame decision; but if I had to play it, as to my present list I would swap 4 Fraying Sanity for 4 Ensnaring Bridge (prolonging the game, you can do without the card and mana advantage provided by Fraying Sanity), and 4 Darkness for 2 Crypt Incursion and 2 Collective Brutality. Note that I would still play 24 lands total, and I would play the 4th Ensnaring Bridge before the 3rd Crypt Incursion because the second Ensnaring Bridge is stronger than the first one is (they are less likely to have an answer for it), while the second Crypt Incursion is obviously worse than the first one: I think these facts weigh more than the games in which you have to stablize immediately after an Ensnaring Bridge with a Crypt Incursion and you couldn't do that simply playing your spells in order to get that Ensnaring Bridge online.

Fraying Sanity Built-around

Unfortunately, Fraying Sanity falls only a tiny bit too short for being playable on its own, meaning that a 'turbo-mill' built around it is not the way to go. A Mill build with Darkness or Crypt Incursion can fog its way to the win from turn 4 more often than any dedicated Fraying Sanity build can win on turn 4. Just consider the ways to achieve a turn 4 win as to a Fraying Sanity built-around and my very list respectively: almost all of those additional turn-4 wins Fraying Sanity could purport involve resolving 2-3 1-mana mill spells in the first two turns of the game or a turn 1 Birds of Paradise with a full curve - which makes those wins very very rare and can overall be disregarded. On the other side, fogging is relevant (i.e. better than simply stumbling/having a consistent win on the following turn based on the deck's composition alone) since almost every deck right now wins through combat. Adding fogs to a Fraying Sanity-centered strategy given the present quality of mill cards is surely detrimental and should be done with caution, since Fraying Sanity is a combo card of the kind which demands a wide range of options as to what to play next in order to give a significant performance: if you play too many fogs you end up with too few mill spells and take out further consistency to your Fraying Sanity wins; if you play too few you are giving up on too many early fog wins, which come up much more often and are almost equivalent. The mill cards available as to now don't permit to assemble enough turn 4 wins for a Fraying Sanity all-in strategy to be consistent (namely, if we make Fraying Sanity wins consistent we cannot manage to win without it at an acceptable rate); under this respect, building aroud Fraying Sanity is like building around Ensnaring Bridge: you can't really win if you don't draw the namesake card and have it stick around until you're done.

Fraying Sanity+Traumatize Combo

It may well glare out that Fraying Sanity combos out with Traumatize, though such a deck would be but a worse Ad Nauseam and in any case there Glimpse the Unthinkable would be redundant; on the other hand in a build wanting Glimpse the Unthinkable Traumatize would be largely unneded to win on turn 5 - on top of the fact that Archive Trap would achieve the same result as Traumatize with the perk of being more all-around (i.e. we could win without Fraying Sanity). So, a Traumatize build could sport more defence than a Glimpse the Unthinkable deck, but it couldn't play Glimpse the Unthinkable without wasting slots (and that's what I am actively trying to avoid).

Field of Ruin all-in

One could be tempted into going full-combo with Field of Ruin. You have a lot of feasible tutors for Archive Trap in Trapmaker's Snare, Merchant Scroll and even Infernal Tutor. Merchant Scroll could also get Visions of Beyond against attrition decks; but the most interesting one is certainly Trapmaker's Snare, which in sideboard games could get you other traps like Ravenous Trap. For getting Field of Ruin, we could sport Expedition Map or even Sylvan Scrying: they could also search for Shelldock Isle against grindy decks! Unfortunately, if you don't draw your Fraying Sanity it gets very very hard to win before turn 5. Moreover, with all the tutors and so little action you'd become more vulnerable to cards like Thoughtseize and Surgical Extraction than it is necessary.

Exploiting the interactions in a package of Ghost Quarter/Path to Exile + Archive Trap (+ Surgical Extraction (+ Snapcaster Mage) + Mind Funeral (+ Mind Grind)):

This plan has loads of flaws: removal spells are bad against wide-aggro decks, and even exiling a creature for one mana with no downside (i.e. opponent not searching for the land) is not useful here by any means: this deck do not care about card/value advantage (if here value does not mean to break out combos or gaining tempo), and cannot consistently/effectively follow up the removal spell with other spot-defence cards and/or blockers. Ghost Quarter is of any use only in the early stages of the game (i.e. usually not further than turn 2, because the relevant threaths can easily come down with the amount of mana available at that point, and we want the opponent to search); but then you are behind in the game by a land drop and a card just to be able to cast a card in your hand (Archive Trap) that is not even that good: if you activate Ghost Quarter on turn 2 and the game lasts, say, 5 turns, casting Archive Trap costs you 4 mana! It's functionally like a Startled Awake  Flip that requires a combination of 2 (otherwise dead) cards in order to be cast (even if you would already play Archive Trap regardless of the synergy) - and if the opponent doesn't search, Archive Trap is most probably bound to stay in hand for the rest of the game! I am aware that being card-conservative is not an integral part of this strategy, so it would not be a big deal to have a built-in two-cards mini-combo; but this particular plan implies an unnecessary squander of resources for a really mediocre achievement. Even if everything goes as wanted - which is something not granted at all, given the choices offered to the opponent and the incongruence with other objectives (i.e. casting spells and staying alive) - even if you succed in ghosting, extracting, pathing someting and then trapping/funeraling, you end up without cards and nothing accomplished (Visions of Beyond or Shelldock Isle are not even ready at that point!), and you will get crushed even by an opposing Snapcaster Mage cast on turn 2. Especially considering that Ghost Quarter, Path to Exile and Surgical Extraction wouldn't have taken you any further in regards of your own plan. Sure, sometimes this plan can strip the opponent of some of her resources (even from her hand, especially with a lucky Surgical Extraction pointed at a non-basic land played in many copies); but lands played in a relevant amount of copies by aggressive decks especially (and in Modern in general) are very rare apart from fetchlands, which we don't want to extract in order to have a better chance at casting a late Archive Trap (as I argued, they should most often refuse to search because of cards - ours or theirs - different from (early) fetchlands) - altough everything changes if you sport Field of Ruin: but then you would't run Ghost Quarter, as the manabase would be already strained. Anyway, it is quite impossible to actually get the opponent screwed on colors or total mana if they don't have the targeted land in hand - which is very rare and we should not rely on that: we shouldn't play Surgical Extraction with this objective in mind (even if we can time its casting so as to have a greater chance to accomplish that, i.e. her draw phase). Also, there are manabase considerations: playing a (possibly high) number of Ghost Quarters plus being able to cast Path to Exile on turn 1 if needed, in addition to other spells' strict color requirements is very taxing: it implies a high count of fetchlands (around 11) and mostly untapped shocklands (around 3), rarely having room for listing even a single Plains. These numbers entail huge life loss over the couse of the game, which pairs up poorly with Path to Exile as a defence card. Ghost Quarter and Plains would be more affordable if also playing Shriekhorn and Mesmeric Orb; but there is no room for them in such a build because of the high dedication the deck demands for each sub-plan in order for them to be of any use. Moreover, the overall resilience of this strategy is extremely low: each card per se doesn't do much. I've already shown it regarding Path to Exile and Ghost Quarter; but even Surgical Extraction does nothing against most opponents (the will be an apposite entry for such matter). And if you plan on casting Surgical Extraction on lands in order to power up a following Mind Funeral, don't do it: the computings below (see Mind Funeral's entry) show that 3 lands exiled from the deck allows Mind Funeral to mill averagely only 1 more card than normal; and if they counter or discard your Mind Funeral, you will quite surely end up without anything useful in hand (being able to flashback something via Snapcaster Mage will not be quite enough). Finally, this strategy is slower than it seems: it leaves more open to things going wrong (i.e. flooding, losing to combo or to a single undealt creature...). As a collateral takeaway, we can consider playing Ghost Quarter (if not effortlessly affordable) or Path to Exile/removal spells in general as part of the main plan already dismissed by these arguments.

Suicide Mill:

At some point I even tried a build worth calling 'Suicide Mill', which main game-plan featured Street Wraith, Gitaxian Probe (when it was legal), Mishra's Bauble and even a splash for Manamorphose. The strategy is a bit unreliable yet capable of very fast wins (turn 4, which is very good for Mill) - but, needless to say, it got smashed by any creature deck because of the huge life loss (mentioned cards + a lot of fetch-/shocklands inevitably untapped because of the speed requirements and the low land count needed by this this strategy). Throwing in Death's Shadow would but make early wins more inconsistent.

Milling via permanents:

Jace's Erasure/Sphinx's Tutelage/Curse of the Bloody Tome/Memory Erosion or Altar of the Brood (the last one either alongside Codex Shredder/Grinding Station/Grindclock/Jester's Scepter/Shriekhorn/Mesmeric Orb/Ensnaring Bridge; or together with other permanents like Minister of Inquiries/Jace's Phantasm/Manic Scribe/Mishra's Bauble/Death's Approach/Hedron Crab/Fraying Sanity): almost all of these cards are worse in a 'turbo' strategy than the spells already played in my list; even if Altar of the Brood can be powerful in a fully dedicated deck (either combo or an aggressive Mill, but in the latter you have to play bad cards that get even worse because they give their best only if played early - and you can play early only so many of them...), Codex Shredder is great in a Lantern-lock deck and a Sphinx's Tutelage built-around deck can be better than the present strategy, they just don't belong here (even granted Grinding Station's reusability). About Grindclock, it is overtly too slow: only good versus control pre-side, but that is already very easy to win. I've seen an alternative win-con involving Altar of the Brood, Heartless Summoning and multiple Myr Retriever, interesting at least as a sideboard plan: never tried though, never deemed worth.

Thopter Foundry:

Thopter Foundry+Sword of the Meek: surely we can easily have some artifact for the first activation of Thopter Foundry even if we don't have a Sword of the Meek: those two in addition to Shriekhorn and Mesmeric Orb already amount to 16! We can as well mill ourselves until we get Sword of the Meek into the graveyard if we already have Thopter Foundry in play (Mesmeric Orb even does that naturally!). This plan is a very neat and easy addition to the whole strategy. Sadly, it does not solve any of Mill's common problems; it doesn't even help against aggro: it is too slow if not supported by removals.


I also tried to attack with creatures in games 2-3 where the main plan is undermined (namely against Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Leyline of Sanctity): this should dodge usual hate against a spell-based combo deck as Mill is. A starting point might feature this sideboard: 2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang, 4 Gurmag Angler, 4 Sibsig Muckdraggers, 4 Shambling Attendants(/Tarmogoyf if -splashed), 1 Laboratory Maniac. The plan would be to mill ourself and cast those huge creatures. Because against Leyline of Sanctity we cannot mill the opponent (Mesmeric Orb would be too slow), and against Emrakul, the Aeons Torn it would very risky (and those are the cases in which this plan would be needed most), it is no use playing Jace's Phantasm or Wight of Precinct Six. Laboratory Maniac allows for an alternative win - which, even if very hazardous, it is a welcome out when the game would be otherwise unwinnable; if it is accidentaly milled out, it can even be recurred by Sibsig Muckdraggers. The problem is that this plan is too slow: Ad Nausem can win long before letal damage, and Aura can set up a gigantic lifelink creature we could never overcome, and it also has Path to Exile for our Laboratory Maniac (even if we can win at instant speed via Visions of Beyond). Shouldn't this be enough, Burn and Infect remain unwinnable match-ups. As for Death's Shadow, fetchlands alone are not sufficient to put it online.


Sideboarding 4 Prized Amalgam + 4 Bloodghast + 4 Haunted Dead + 3 Stitchwing Skaab (I think they would be much better than Narcomoeba here): we mill ourselves, activate Haunted Dead which at the same time puts possible creatures from hand into the graveyard, and attack until we win. Unfortunately, this plan has an average turn 5/6 kill, too slow against anybody. And against Aura we still cannot win mainly because of lifelink. Ive seen adopting this as a maindeck plan for Mill, relying on a sideboard of only mill spells to beat the maindeck-plan hosers; still, it is too slow to win and therefore a bad idea.

Unburial Rites:

Otherwise, an option is featuring an 'Unburial Rites-package', with Iona, Shield of Emeria and the like: milling ourself, we can cast Unburial Rites quite reliably on turn 4. The problem is that this plan is an 'all-in' and very fragile one; also, we cannot choose which reanimation-targets go into the graveyard, unlike than via Gifts Ungiven: the wrong one will be most likely unsufficient to win (and sometimes even the 'right' one). And it is too slow most of the times.

Laboratory Maniac:

A last attemptive down this road might see roughly the following 15 cards: 4 Laboratory Maniac, 4 Noxious Revival (and/or Unburial Rites if willing to splash ), 4 Dispel, 3 Swan Song. Mill yourself, make sure to draw a Laboratory Maniac (via Noxious Revival if necessary) and cast it protected with counterspells. Unfortunately, this plan is very very slow - too much to compete. Lantern, Ad Nauseam, Storm, Aura, Boros Prison are the typical decks playing Leyline of Sanctity in the 75 right now. Boros Prison, Jeskai Nahiri, Blue Moon, Goryo's Vengeance, Krak-Clan Ironworks on the other hand are the decks sporting at least an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. It seems to that each and every of them can win faster than us or disrupt our Unburial Rites + Laboratory Maniac combo: Lantern has got Abrupt Decay and Surgical Extraction; Ad Nauseam, Storm, Aura, Krak-Clan Ironworks and Goryo's Vengeance represent fast wins (even with fewer cards than normal due to mullingans into Leyline of Sanctity); Storm, Goryo's Vengeance and Boros Prison have got Blood Moon, to which Boros Prison adds Chalice of the Void and perhaps even a Boil; finally Jeskai Nahiri and Blue Moon are full of counterspells. All this sometimes accompanied by reactive cards from time to time incidentally good against us: creature/artifact/permament removals, meaning that we cannot rely on that Hedron Crab or Mesmeric Orb not even post side, and more importantly if they happen to side them all out they would put them back the following game in order to kill Larboratory Maniac - so that we couldn't adopt the same plan twice against them, which is a serious problem since we wouldn't have another plan in the matchup. I would never play a transforming sideboard that can never win.

Madcap Experiment:

We could sideboard 4 Madcap Experiment, a couple of Platinum Emperion and a Steam Vents (making sure all of our fetchlands could get it). But Platinum Emperion doesn't really help against Leyline of Sanctity and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn (it is unlike those kind of decks do not have a removal, even if post side and against us); and Burn can win at the fourth turn, and in the worst case they can draw a removal any time (they will bring in artifact removals). Because of these issues, I never really tried this route - even if perhaps it's worth some consideration: it offers another angle of attack and it is quite fast, despite providing an extremely brittle plan.

Duskmantle Guildmage + Mindcrank

Duskmantle Guildmage could be a standalone card worth to be in the maindeck (perhaps to free up sideboard slots), if it wasn't too much expensive and frail when it isn't needed to make up for the times when it is: when it would be useful, against anything apart from an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or a Leyline of Sanctity deck you would win with anything else earlier and with much less mana. As for Duskmantle Guildmage + Mindcrank being a mere sideboard plan, there is hardly an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or a Leyline of Sanctity deck that couldn't deal with such a brittle combo (Duskmantle Guildmage is a little creature at the very least!); and even if it weren't the case, finding 1 out of 4 graveyard hate or Set Adrift is much more likely than getting 1 out of 4 Duskmantle Guildmage AND 1 out of 4 Mindcrank (plus 1 out of 4 Mesmeric Orb against Leyline of Sanctity) every single game (and it is the only relevant factor since it's unlikely that the games where your graveyard hate or Set Adrift are not enough to win exceeded the times when you couldn't get the combo to begin with).

In this section I will expouse my most important conclusions from the above analysis, from theoretical thinking and from testing. These conclusions are the foundations which the decklist is built upon. The data from testing, tournament results and personal experience, as Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa lucidly reminds us at http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/8-biases-that-are-making-you-worse-at-magic/ , should be reckoned not as representative of the win-trend in the match-up but as giving out hints at what can go bad or well, and to what extent: result and experience are not meant to ratify expectations on a deck's performance but to give hints about what happens in certain circumstances. Not even 100 games are enough to provide a (usable/reliable) representation of the win-trend in the matchup (even if in practice we nonetheless rely to that kind of testing to chew off rough estimates, such being a shortcut leading to a result that might be way off as well); playing them surely can give useful insights though, and that is the reason for testing. In the end, my comments are something that someone wanting to improve her Mill build could use as a mean of identifying and addressing issues. If that someone finds out that some of the issues I mentioned are scarcely influent overall (and consequently that my conclusions are out of place), either by appropriate arguments or data, than that would represent an improvement in the Mill lore in general which I would be eager to know (in the case of data, the successive and desiderable step of answering the 'how much?'-question would be resolving the 'why?'-question). Yet, especially given that Mill is hardly played at all (for all good reason), I expect any proposed data to be inappropriate; I therefore expect only dataless arguments (that is a world apart from probality calculation, which is very welcome) to play a role in our decisions on the matter (this isn't much of an issue because adducing data only serve the purpose of corroborating a thesis, exactly as a non-deductive argument would).

Jace's Phantasm, the most notably of them, is a defensive card that has the advantage of becoming a threat if the opponent stumbles (badly); but it is useless in far too many matchups, while where useful it is still marginal (it is a gamebreaking defence card if, again, the opponent stumbles badly). All in all, creatures either to block or to attack (even if they offer an alternative way to win) are glaringly ineffectual: opposing strategies can either swarm the board with creatures or cast a removal after having played their relevant threat (Tarmogoyf, Affinity/Infect/Zoo ones..) - this way they even suffer from no tempo loss, because the opportunity cost to cast a removal spell at that point is negligible or null: they can win with what they have on the board, and playing additional creatures would hardly affect the turn in which they threatened letal damage. Also, creature decks usually have their ways of making blocking creatures obsolete - by having huge trampling creatures (like Aura's ones) or unblockable/color-protected ones (like the ones from Infect, or because of Islandwalk from Merfolks). (As a little note, direct-mill spells like Breaking / Entering are obviously better than Mesmeric Orb with something like Jace's Phantasm or Wight of Precinct Six, while the artifact on the other hand reduces actively the cost for delving the likes of Gurmag Angler: there is little of a conflict here for the 'fringe mill spell' slot.) Remarkably, blockers are easily redundant and superfluous in the defensive role if something like Fog is reckoned on as part of the plan for staying in the game. Finally, creatures are detrimental in the control/midrange matchup (they get to keep removals even post side since they don't have much better to bring in), against which normally the plan is to take advantage of Mill's difficult-to-disrupt gameplan (i.e. it wins by means of spells) and redundancy; defence slots (main- or sideboard ones alike) are better used to cover up holes in the strategy, as opposed to playing creatures and then having still to deal with creature-decks post side as well as with the other common issues.

Playing so mana-orientedly requires a lot of payoff in bigger spells than usual. We could thus choose to play 4-mana mill spells; or we could aim at protracting the game - though it is hardly advisable since, again, Modern features too many strategies to fend off while the available answers are in the best case scenario either weak with wide applications, or too selective. As for big mill spells, Startled Awake  Flip and Snapcaster Mage are both kinda inefficient and overall weak; the only one actually appealing is the Trapmaker's Snare + Field of Ruin combo, which however requires 2 cards. The bigger upside of employing means of mana acceleration seems to be either that they help you cast Fraying Sanity on turn 2 (allowing for a more likely turn 4 win) or that they allow you to get a double-mill-spell turn not only on turn 4-5, but also on turn 3. Yet getting spells on curve is hard enough that most times Birds of Paradise without an early Fraying Sanity will do nothing; and we do not have enough 3-mana spells worth playing (Ensnaring Bridge would be utterly useless without a mana creature allowing you to enable it early), so that frequently the mana available from Birds of Paradise will be useless both on turn 2 and on turn 4 (since many spells will cost only 2 mana). What cards could Birds of Paradise be switched in for? Fatal Push achieves the same as Birds of Paradise: even it does the same against fewer decks, it does it more consistently due to curve-variance: in the end, Birds of Paradise mostly relies either on a perfect draw or on an early Fraying Sanity in order to be of any use. And giving up fogs (the only other kind of card you could really cut from my list, since I already play too few mill spells than ideal and because ) in favour of Birds of Paradise do not grant you nearly enough turn 4 wins to make up for the switch.

Because we tend to feature at least a little less defence cards than a reactive deck, the opponent will hold superfluos threat in hand at no cost (i.e. if they would not affect the turn in which she threaten to win, even playing around potential spot-removals): this way they can play around potential mass-removals or Mesmeric Orb (because of the lands they would tap to cast the creatures). So in the best case scenario, against a capable opponent who deploys but the needed resources, since the opponent can eventually cast the creatures held in hand until then, Damnation and the like could do no more than granting a land drop - not even acting as a fog (i.e. a time walk, in our deck) because you couldn't play your extra spells (the ones you couldn't simply play in place of your defence spell) neither in the same turn (as we could with Darkness) nor in the following one (as with a proper Crypt Incursion: see their respective entries). And at worst, Damnation is completely useless because, apart from the kinds of disruption that could thwart your fogs too, it is weak to haste or flash(ed) creature or manlands, which make our efforts much less rewarding because we would likely be at very low life at that point; here are some: Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear, Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, Spell Queller, Restoration Angel, Collected Company, Chord of Calling, Through the Breach, Aether Vial, Mutavault, Treetop Village, Raging Ravine, Hissing Quagmire, Shambling Vent, Stirring Wildwood, Celestial Colonnade.

We simply cannot consistently/effectively follow up the removal spell with other spot-defence cards and/or blockers or mass-removals because of the dedication of slots a mill strategy requires: defence cards in Modern are typically of a too wide use and little effective (like Fatal Push or even Path to Exile) or too narrow (like Stony Silence or Phyrexian Unlife) to produce an effective defence against the many strategies available in Modern - or at least slow them down long enough. Actually, this is something not even a dedicated control deck can accomplish; let alone Mill, with only a few slot reserved to defence! And if you manage to squeeze in more slots, it would be like a Burn deck playing 12 Path to Exile-like cards - blatantly inconsistent! The alternative to comparing Mill to Burn is slowing the plan enough to make big plays (like Snapcaster Mage, or Startled Awake  Flip); but again this is not possible. Since we cannot back up our removal spell following it up with another defence play, we actually cast that removal spell in order to gain tempo and not to control the board; and since the tempo given by a removal spell is at most one turn (foremostly in the very first turns) because of redundancy/protection, why not playing the most efficient Time Walk Modern has to offers? We will shortly explore such path. In other words: we don't have room for removal because we need space for mill: we need to resolve five mill spells milling 10+ cards in order to attain victory, and if we are not dense enough in the mill spell department we would lose the extra turn(s) hardly gained through our cheesy defence. Please note that I am not saying that playing removals in Modern is bad. I am claiming that spot-removals are bad as main defence in a Mill deck - though sometimes they are a nice support out of the sideboard even there as turn-1 lifeloss-free spot-removal are incidentally of some utility against aggro decks like Merfolk, Affinity and Elves. Profane Memento is comparable in such role, but it doesn't help against Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Goblin Guide, Eidolon of the Great Revel. In particular, we would still want spot removals to come in from the sideboard against any aggro deck not playing fetchlands for Archive Trap - especially if playing no/few Field of Ruins. Removal spells against an average creature deck (Zoo, Merfolk, even Burn), against which spot-removal should be meant, is good only in the first or the second turn (and, incidentally, you usually cannot do it on the second turn because you have to do other things as a lot of cards we cannot avoid to play cost 2 or more). Against those decks, the 'value' (of exchanging one card - our removal spell - for an opponent's card of our choice - her most threatening creature) that can be gained in later turns means nothing if you cannot survive. Thus that value is certainly not intended as preventing a combo or gaining some time, which are welcome outcomes we actively seek to get from our defence; similarly, against decks with few creatures we can surely bring in spot-removals from the sideboard. In the end, Fatal Push finds its way in the maindeck but only as a tempo play alongside Darkness - though much worse because it accomplishes something useful only in the temporal window of turn 1-2.

So, if an 'all-in' defence plan of any of the kinds suggested above is not enough (as argued extensively), one could think of 'mixing' the lines of defence - that is playing a bunch of creatures, spot- and mass-removals, lifegain spells and perhaps Ensnaring Bridge. Unfortunaley, because any of those is effective enough, a lot of defence spells should be played; but this deck can afford to play a lot of defence-dedicated cards only if they guarantee to keep the player alive until she has drawn and resolved the needed mill spells (which, in this instance, have to be very scarse due to the deck's intrinsic composition); and even this kind of defence strategy cannot lead the game there - not even nearly reliably. This happens because mixing up your defence suit entails giving up to the capability of following up one of your defence spells with another one of the relevant kind, making you lose pretty much every game to yourself due to inconsistency at the very least.

Another solution would be to play a mix of silver-bullets, in the sense of cards so strong (particularly, defensively) against certain kinds of deck that they can win by themselves - or at least gain a ton of time. But there are only so much of such cards in Modern for our deck, and most of them are effective only with severe limitations and reserves even when they should be strong (I'm thinking of Ensnaring Bridge, which imposes strict building demands, and Surgical Extraction, which is way too narrow); those cards should be so strong to win the game by themselves or gaining a lot of time, but nearly none of them can do it even against the deck they are meant to be effective. In other words, none of them is strong enough to win you the game by itself early enough to be a threat - apart from Ensnaring Bridge against Eldratron or Merfolk, Surgical Extraction in lucky games against Living End and little more; but those are rare cases. The only purpose left in sight for playing a defensive card is to gain more advantage than a single turn: the ones of wider application are Ensnaring Bridge or Crypt Incursion, yet both do enough work so as to keep alive as long as needed only from turn 5 on. Of the two, Esnaring Bridge often reveal itself useless before turn 5 in a non-dedicated deck; and Crypt Incursion, on the other hand, can be a winning condition as early as turn 3 against fringe decks like Reanimator, Dredge and Living End (even if a bit too slow against a good hand of any of them). In the end Ensnaring Bridge (more often than not, especially if not in a dedicated deck of the kind I have already touched) Crypt Incursion and mass removals have in common the requisite of being forerun by an enabler (a spot removal or a fog, for the most part) to be of any use - and, notably, we can do better even then by employing fog as an integral part of the plan.

Playing less defence cards of the 'mixed' kinds for additional mill spells in order to win faster could be fruitful only if the defences are quite effectful on the development of the game (inferior-quality mill spells hardly affect the average winning clock, only adding a bit of resiliency); and none of them can do that. Lastly, counterspells don't address any of our problems (fast aggro, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn-decks, Infect, Burn, Hatebear..).

"There are a ton of different answers: surely there is a combination of them that is effective to our ends" is not a valid argument: it is at best a persuasive (i.e. good) one, until we don't find out that there actually isn't such a combination. My suggestion of going Aggro (or, in any case, running a Combo that plays like an Aggro) with mill cards is due to the fact that I am overestimating Aggro because I don't have the skills to take advantage of traditional reactive cards is obviously not a valid argument: I am offering proper reasons for my thinking so. Let me sum up. Some piece of interaction is always ineffective against something, because of a natural resistence (e.g. a removal against a spell like Ad Nauseam or Living End, or a Murderous Cut or a Dismember against an early Goblin Guide..) or because the opponent manages to nullify your thwarting attempt (e.g. Vines of Vastwood responding to a removal..); this causes the defence you were trying to put up to crumble more often than it is acceptable (or at least more often than with the adoption of the following alternative). On the other hand (as I am about to argue) fogs can only be frustrated by counterspells and discard spells, so they are harder to disrupt.

One of the most difficult quandaries when building a Glimpse the Unthinkable-based deck is indeed figuring out what this deck wants to do on turn 1: while the 2-mana (up) mill spells are quite strong, the 1-mana ones are not. Still some sort of 1-mana early spell is desiderable - if only to fully utilize mana on turn 2 when playing Shelldock Isle, or Hedron Crab to 'dodge' a potential removal spell (that is to make value before it dies). Because of barring out Jace's Phantasm and (an heavy reliance on) spot-removals, the alternatives are: draw spells (Thought Scour, Serum Visions, Ancestral Vision..), discard spells (Inquisition of Kozilek, Thoughtseize...) and cheap mill spells (which usually have a high milled-cards/CMC ratio, but they tend to leave the hand empty too early especially if played in too many copies). The problem with drawing cards on the 'turn 1' slot is that your deck is rather clunky and you still have to answer your opponent's play at some point, but nonetheless you have to win the turn following your defence play: the deck really needs to maximize the chances to do that - because, again, other kinds of defence cannot keep the mill player in the game not even nearly reliably enough - and if you don't then you have to cast more fogs than needed otherwise along the course of the game. Regarding us playing discard effects, some of the worst enemies of the deck - i.e. aggro strategies, which defence cards are mainly meant against - are by definition extremely redundant: much like drawing cards, discarding only results in a tempo loss in your opponent's favor - and we could make aggro matchups much more acceptable by playing fogs. On the other hand, 1-mana mill spells (which are more important in some Mill builds, like one engineered around Fraying Sanity) which smooths your toil of getting good Visions of Beyond, Crypt Incursion and Shelldock Isle and makes your Mesmeric Orb better in that you can still play Mesmeric Orb AND get early Visions of Beyond, Crypt Incursion and Shelldock Isle without giving up the late-game power (if played early) of Mesmeric Orb. 1-mana mill spells make Set Adrift a powerhouse since you could cast it very early - which is very important against Leyline of Sanctity (even if those are poor match-ups anyway..); they even make you a little better against Blood Moon (since those are usually slow games and Tome Scour and Shriekhorn are easier to cast under Blood Moon than other spells are), but they are a liability against Chalice of the Void. Unfortunately, they are bad cards even among mill cards - Tome Scour is indeed a Shock at a player, as a simple proportion between the around 50 cards to mill and the 20 life to bring down shows - so that they often count only as half card in a typical game (you mostly end up milling 10 by 10 till the goal of 50 anyway). The benefit of not playing 1-mana mill spells is that you have better mulligans (which, very importantly, otherwise are a nightmare, since your cards individually do less than a 'normal' card - which is already bad on its own) and that it allows you to play additional lands (resulting in less mullingans overall); 1-mana mill spells also 'turn on' their graveyard too early, if they rely on it for any shenanigan (i.e. we cast turn-1 Tome Scour, they play turn-1 Polluted Delta+Gurmag Angler: winning then becomes very difficult - especially if they cover it up with discards or counters). In the end we will see that in order to maximize our chances at a turn 4 win we have quite to give up on the 'turn-1' slot completely (not having a real, i.e. dedicated, use for that moment aside from playing a tapped Shelldock Isle), and use that window to cast suboptimal yet unavoidable cards (like Fatal Push just to gain a little time) or great cards at a suboptimal time (like a Hedron Crab wishing to dodge removals or a Visions of Beyond).

Because of the exclusion of the alternative forms of defence/disruption, we have finally come to define the kind of defence the maindeck strategy should adopt: fog-effects. Hopefully, psychologically speaking, this preference is not to be due to an instance of the 'availability bias' (i.e. I would value the probability of a kind of defence to be effective based on the lower complexity of the situation to envisage: it is simple and immediate to imagine a situation in which a timely Fog swings the game in your favor, while it is more difficult to estimate the effectiveness over the course of the whole game of a sequence of Fatal Push into Snapcaster Mage+Fatal Push): I believe that my assertions are compellingly motivated. Now, this kind of defence is of any effect only if the turn gained by playing the relative spell is enough to win the game - so that you don't really have to (always) chain multiple fogs in order to attain a win; so the deck has to be very fast and mill-oriented. As such, Mill cannot play too many fog-effects (as it needs around 24 mill spells that can be played on curve anyway according to my own experience, and neither Archive Trap nor Visions of Beyond can be counted among them) without diluting the milling plan so much that we couldn't win not even when our opponent bricks out; diluting the milling department also makes fogs much less effective (if not completely useless): even leaving aside decks that can ignore fog-effects (like Ad Nauseam), if you play too many of them you give the opponent more time to get cards to nullify their action: it is true that fogs recycle themselves (you gain an additional draw step at least), nonetheless if you play too many fogs a deck featuring counterspells can find one of those (they counter the fog and win), while a deck with discard spells can simply target an important mill spell in the early stages of the game - making the time (and the card) gained quite irrelevant; were it not enough, if they find a Grim Lavamancer or a Scavenging Ooze your Crypt Incursion quickly becomes useless (if playing it). As for the control matchup, what defence card you run is hardly relevant if it is not super specific - that is what we are trying not to do; and since they hardly put any pressure and they cannot run a lot of counters, you can easily afford to have a bunch of dead cards (your fogs) in the matchup, and you can in any case switch them post side with better cards. A discard spells-based deck is to be fought by means of redundancy: the fog-plan is not useful (even if you need some fogs - or, better, removals - in order to survive an early Tarmogoyf). And on the defence side of the plan, you'd better play only fogs (or what better resembles it: unfortunately, in our case, it is the underwhelming Fatal Push), since it is a common play keeping hands of only mill spell and searching aggressively for a fog with Visions of Beyond and Shelldock Isle: it is better to maximize the chances to make this plan successful, since it happens very very often. If you are still skeptical about fogs usefulness, and you still hold prejudices against Fog-like cards so that you can't believe in the Time Walk comparison, let's examine what the typical fog (i.e. Darkness) does for us: for 1 mana, it draws 1 card, mills the opponent for 1 (or many more if we have Mesmeric Orb!), and most importantly practically adds 3-4 mana depending on the number of lands we have in play, allowing us to close the game or finally getting that Crypt Incursion, Visions of Beyond or Shelldock Isle ready to be exploited!! That's a lot for 1 card and 1 mana! Wrapping up, since we need to defend against too many things and we are not a control deck, if we end up adopting fogs (as we will), if we lower the number of mill spell even fogs themselves become useless as you cannot win within the time gained (at some point you end up without cards at the very least). Due to these considerations, a Mill deck has better playing only mill or fog spells if it can afford it. The truth is that, even adopting fogs, the deck is capable of winning on turn 4 (between natural wins and fogging from turn 4 until winning) at most around 50% of the times when uncontested; and, of course, your opponent can still win before you do or have a countermeasure for your plays and win on top of it - all that being way more likely than you simply winning later on because of the inefficacy or unreliability of your opponent's plan. This is not enough to carry out winning rounds against aggro decks (i.e. the kind of strategy fogs are meant for), not even the ones aiming at winning on their turn 4 like Sliver, since you'd still have to win 2 games out of 3 (especially since at times you will be on the draw). The conclusion is that with fogs bad matchups, in the end, remain bad. What are left are aggro decks trying to win on their turn 5 featuring little to none disruption, helping ourselves with fogs mostly when they are on the play; yet those kinds of deck do not exists, and for good reason. Are those good arguments for giving up fogs completely? No. I think they are still our best tool to punish grindy/aggro decks keeping bad hands or with little disruption overall; we are likely not be able to make up for their loss as to our win percentage if we chose to address other situations or parts of the metagame instead.

Because mana creatures or creatures meant for attacking or blocking have been excluded, both Birds of Paradise and Tarmogoyf are not worth adding; and doesn't offer anything else that couldn't already. Path to Exile didnn't prove itself an option in the main defence slot (traditional means of defence are to be rejected in Mill, and already has Fatal Push - which anyway in my list does something different tha being a mere removal) and against Leyline of Sanctity we can rely on Set Adrift. Fragmentize is certainly wonderful, and big reason to consider a -splash; but that comes at the cost of precious sideboard slots and a maindeck splash (we probably don't want to sport a Hallowed Fountain in the sideboard) only for gaining 1-2 sideboard cards for fringe matchups (since Set Adrift is overall much better). God-Pharaoh's Faithful and Timely Reinforcements are perhaps the better options available against Burn, but they are not enough to turn the matchup around. gives access only to Darkness and Crypt Incursion as catch(-almost)-all fog-effects: however, Crypt Incursion is so much worse than Darkness where this deck needs it (i.e. on turn 4; interestingly, we could end up not even wanting Crypt Incursion maindeck: see its entry): we could ponder adding a third color in order to get better or even more fog-effects ( can offer Holy Day and Ethereal Haze, the best of the best), only bewaring of not diluting too much the mill spell density. As for getting better fogs, it becomes a matter of feasibility of the splash; if, conversely, we find out to be in need of more than 6-7 fog-effects (since you playing too many Crypt Incursion makes any later copy almost ineffective) we should weigh that feasibility against adopting more narrow means of netting time (like removals). The critical point is that no manabase could support the splash without giving up to some