Milling your opponent for a very long time
Asked by SimicPower 5 years ago
Say you had an infinite mill combo on the battlefield, such as Altar of the Brood, Ornithopter, Midnight Guard, and Retraction Helix. (I think that works, it was just the first one I could think of.) You begin to mill your opponent again and again and again. Eventually, however, your opponent mills a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, and shuffles his graveyard back into his library.
If you were to continue to mill again, you would just hit the Eldrazi again and shuffle the graveyard back again. Say you are either playing singleton, or you have previous knowledge of your opponent's deck, and know that he only plays one copy of Kozilek. The ideal situation would be to have Kozilek on the bottom of your opponent's library so you can mill every card except for Kozilek, causing them to draw Kozilek on their next turn, and subsequently lose on their draw step the turn after.
So my question is, is it okay to just keep milling your opponent until Kozilek is on bottom? In an 100 card format like commander, this could take a very long time! (1 in a little less than 100 each time they shuffle) Would continuously milling your opponent like this be considered stalling? Is your opponent required to place the Kozilek on bottom and move everything else to the graveyard, as it is statistically inevitable? How would this work if you were uncertain of how many copies of Kozilek (or other legendary Eldrazi) your opponent was playing?
It does count as slow play, because, although if you do it "infinite" times, eventually you'd see the desired outcome at least once, you don't actually do things infinitely in Magic (with very, very few exceptions). You eventually have to say you're doing it a finite number of times, and since you can't accurately say exactly how many iterations it would take to give you the result you want, you can't make your opponent go "hey, I'm doing this until Kozilek is the last card in your deck." Try to do it manually, and it's slow play, because unless you're really really lucky, you're basically doing nothing to change the board state unless you decide to stop.
There's a Vintage or Legacy deck (I forget which) called Four Horsemen, that basically functions on this principle, though it's self mill ("eventually I'll mill 3 Narcomoeba and a Dread Return without hitting Emrakul").
January 9, 2015 4:18 a.m.
@erabel Yeah, Four Horsemen was a Legacy deck that had to mill itself using Mesmeric Orb+Basalt Monolith until there were 3+ narcomeobas on the battlefield along with Sharuum the Hegemon, Blasting Station, and Dread Return in the graveyard. So basically you had to mill those three cards before milling your Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
The deck is effectively neutered by the slow play ruling, which says you can't repeat a loop any number of times without knowing when it will end and what the outcome will be. In both of these cases, the loop would be whenever you repeated the same game state of a battlefield that hasn't changed, cards in hand that haven't changed, and an empty graveyard; so basically, when you hit the Eldrazi a second time, and its trigger resolves, you are in slow play territory, because you have repeated a series of actions that resulted in an identical game state. You can avoid this by moving to different phases of your turn or resolving spells in between iterations of the loop, which effectively changes the game state enough for it to be considered a series of actions. Basically, the board has to change in some way in between resolutions of the Eldrazi's triggered ability.
So, in reality, infinite mill with Eldrazi is a no-go.
January 9, 2015 9:16 a.m.
If you want to shortcut to a given gamestate, it has to be through a series of steps with predictable outcomes that you can describe in a definitive way. Because this situation involves a shuffle, the process is unpredictable. You don't know exactly when you're going to achieve that gamestate, and there's no real guarantee that it will ever happen.
If you have some way to respond to Kozilek's trigger (Tormod's Crypt, etc.), then you can say "let's go until we hit Kozilek, then I have a response". I doubt any judge would call you for slow play on this, since you know for a fact that you'll eventually get Kozilek into the graveyard in some short amount of time, and then you're taking another action that significantly affects the gamestate.
January 9, 2015 9:34 a.m.
Just to clarify on some of the judgy bits. That is not stalling. Stalling is intentionally playing slowly to take advantage of the clock. Slow play is when you take too long to do something. The second clause of slow play, "It is also slow play if a player continues to execute a loop without being able to provide an exact number of iterations and the expected resulting game state" because if you name a number of iterations greater than or equal to your opponents deck size then you are guaranteed to hit Kozilek and have a reasonably accurate idea of the expect game state. However you have to be able to stop the repetition because otherwise there isn't a expected gamestate.