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Milling Gone Rogue (Precon Upgrade Guide)[PRIMER]

Commander / EDH Mill Primer Rogues UB (Dimir)



The Original Anowon, the Ruin Thief Primer!

Guide to upgrading the Sneak Attack Zendikar Rising Preconstructed Commander Deck.

Wizards of the Coast has recently been turning their attention more towards Commander, and that shows in this latest round of preconstructed decks. The synergies are tighter, the decks are more consistent, and they are just more fun, period. As someone who bought the Ghired, Conclave Exile deck when it was new, precons have come a long way even in just two years.
Anowon, the Ruin Thief heads up a tight package full of classic Rogues from Magic's history, including Invisible Stalker, Slither Blade, Triton Shorestalker, and others. These cheap, evasive rogues provide good value with Anowon, the Ruin Thief's first ability, and with his third ability can help restock your hand with more action.

His second ability is what the precon is based around. He can fill up your opponent's graveyards fast, and the deck takes advantage of that in two ways. First, big graveyards can lead to big creatures like Consuming Aberration, Nighthowler, and Bonehoard. Secondly, and more focused upon in the original deck, is the ability to steal some of these milled creatures for your own use, through cards like Fated Return, Endless Obedience, Sepulchral Primordial, Lazav, Dimir Mastermind, Rise from the Grave, and Extract from Darkness. This side of the deck can both deprive opponents of big threats, and help beef up your boardstate.

The rest of the deck rounds out this two-pronged focus with a mix of tribal elements (Obelisk of Urd, Oona's Blackguard), ramp (Frogtosser Banneret, Sol Ring), control (Silumgar's Command, AEtherize), boardwipes (In Garruk's Wake, Scourge of Fleets), and card draw (Military Intelligence, Distant Melody.

Over all, the deck straight out of the box, in my opinion, is around a 3.5 power level; it is focused and streamlined, but there is a lot missing, and, at the end of the day, no one yet knows how Anowon, the Ruin Thief will handle himself in the vast arena of Commander. That said, this is a very fun deck, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in learning Magic or even to veterans who want a new deck.

When upgrading this deck, there are a couple decisions to be made before exchanging a single card. What direction are we going to take the deck, and how big is our budget? With Anowon, the Ruin Thief, there are a couple directions we could go, but he seems strongest in a rogue-tribal, take-advantage-of-our-opponent's-graveyard-type deck. This is an upgrade guide that I am going to be replicating on paper, so the budget is rather small (less than $200). Many of the cards can be swapped out for more effective/expensive versions if you are looking to take the deck to a higher power level.
As indicated by our commander, we want a lot of creatures. And not just any creatures, but rogues. There are 283 rogues in the game of Magic (at the time of writing), and 189 that fit our commander's color identity. So which to pick? And why?

We want to be hitting our opponents reliably every turn, and rogues aren't big enough or mean enough to push through a bunch of blockers. They are pretty sneaky, however. Many rogues are unblockable, and it's with these that we're going to start. Already in the precon are Invisible Stalker, Marang River Prowler, Slither Blade, Triton Shorestalker, and Changeling Outcast. This is a formidable quintet of sneaky beasts, but there are still more. Nighthawk Scavenger, Inkfathom Infiltrator, Keeper of Keys, Deathcult Rogue,Merfolk Windrobber, Faerie Vandal, Soaring Thought-Thief, and Oona's Blackguard can help us more consistently have early plays and enable our card draw and milling though combat damage.
These rogues aren't bigger themselves, but they make our other rogues bigger, which means more damage, more milling, and more fun times. Already in the precon are Oona's Blackguard, Stinkdrinker Bandit, Soaring Thought-Thief, Obelisk of Urd, and several Equipment. To this we can add Adaptive Automaton which, though technically not Rogues, can pretend well enough to pass measure. There is also Coat of Arms, which can end a game out of nowhere, especially with Notorious Throng.

Rounding out the creatures in the precon are a few multi-talented rogues with their own powerful abilities.

  • Gonti, Lord of Luxury, while most commonly seen as a commander, is a force to be reckoned with in the 99. Opponent tutors something to the top? Deprive them of their combo piece, and even use it yourself if you want to.

  • Notion Thief is a pet card of mine, and will help refill your hand while depriving your opponents of gas.

  • Oona, Queen of the Fae, while not a rogue herself, makes 1/1 Fairy Rogues while exiling your opponent's deck. She however is rather slow, and we want access to our opponent's cards.

  • Sygg, River Cutthroat is another nice payoff for dealing some sneaky damage.

  • Syr Konrad, the Grim can deal massive amounts of damage to your opponents when you mill them, kill their creatures, when they kill your creatures...

The artifacts in the precon back up our army of rogues in two ways: ramp and buffs. We have a collection of Equipment (Blackblade Reforged, Scytheclaw, Bonehoard, Whispersteel Dagger, and Heirloom Blade), some of which synergize with filling our opponent's graveyards, and others that are just plain good. Other equipment, to help our rogues be sneaker, hit harder, and be meaner, includes cards like Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, Neurok Stealthsuit, Cloak and Dagger, and Whispersilk Cloak, to name a few.

The other artifacts in the deck are concerned with ramping. As this deck is , we don't have access to the kind of ramp that or does. But that doesn't mean we have to follow the mana curve. Included in the deck are Dimir Keyrune, Dimir Locket, Dimir Signet, Mind Stone, Arcane Signet, Commander's Sphere, and a classic Sol Ring. There is not much other ramp to be found in these colors, but there are some other powerful artifacts.

Most of the sorceries in the precon revolve around reanimating your opponent's creatures (Endless Obedience, Extract from Darkness, Rise from the Grave), or clearing away said creatures (In Garruk's Wake, Necromantic Selection). There is also Notorious Throng to beef up your board state and maybe snag an extra turn, Stolen Identity to copy opponent-controlled powerhouses or your own lords, Open Into Wonder to deal some extra-sneaky damage and draw some cards, and Distant Melody to draw even more.

Some powerful sorceries to add if focusing on the milling aspect of the deck include Traumatize and Maddening Cacophony, both of which can be game-enders. Knowledge Exploitation can be a boardwipe, a kill spell, a reanimator, or whatever else your opponent's are running.

The primary instant function is as removal, and this deck falls a little short of where I'd like it to. We have Price of Fame and Murder, and that's about it. Silumgar's Command is a sort of removal spell, as is Spinal Embrace. AEtherize is nice, but will probably only come into play against another aggro deck. Fated Return. 7 cmc is too much. Soul Manipulation seems to have been chosen for flavor reasons, as it's both the only counterspell and the only return-to-hand card in the deck. To round out the instants, we have Fact of Fiction. 4 mana for at least 3 cards at instant speed? Not bad, but we can do better in an aggro deck.
This is the short panel. There's only one enchantment in the precon, and while Military Intelligence is decent, there's a lot of better options out there, and hopefully our creatures are connecting with opponents' faces, not just attacking.
So. Now that we've gone over the precon, let's get down to the upgrading. The upgrades listed here are actual changes that I will be making to the deck in the near future.


  • Scourge of Fleets. While a pretty effective boardwipe, against big creature decks or big mana decks this just wastes both of your turns. Kindred Dominance works better as a boardwipe in tribal decks, and is more permanent.

  • Gonti, Lord of Luxury. Yes, he's a rogue, and yes, he is a hugely popular commander, but his ability just has no synergy with our deck.

  • Nighthowler. 95% of the time this would be cast as an aura, and it doesn't give enough of a boost, just counting creatures.

  • Ogre Slumlord. We don't want our creatures dying, and without that he is just an overpriced vanilla rogue.

  • Sepulchral Primordial. I am still undecided about the effectiveness of this big bad boy. We are generally going to be focusing on one player, so not everyone's yards will fill up as fast, and he's not a rogue. More playtesting needed before a final decision is made.

  • Consuming Aberration. Another tough decision. Without trample this can be stopped by chump blockers every turn, and can make us enemies at the table.

  • Oona, Queen of the Fae. Similar to Gonti, she doesn't have as much synergy with the rest of the deck, and a mana sink is the last thing we need.

  • Latchkey Faerie. There are better cheap rogues to fill this slot.

  • Master Thief. Stealing a mana rock? Maybe some Lightning Greaves? Not really worth it except against artifact combo decks.

  • Nightveil Sprite. Again, there are better cheap rogues.

  • Whirler Rogue. More playtesting is necessary to make a decision, but I'm leaning towards no. There is equipment that can do this cheaper.

  • Marsh Flitter. Way overpriced for anything except sacrifice decks.

  • Syr Konrad, the Grim. Again, good against creature decks, but otherwise a dead draw, and a 5cmc dead draw is something I don't need.

  • Zulaport Cutthroat. We still don't want our creatures dying.

  • Adaptive Automaton. A 3cmc buff for all our creatures? Yes, please!

  • Brazen Borrower. It's been taking Standard by storm, and no wonder. A flashy rogue duct-taped to a removal spell?

  • Deathcult Rogue. Unless there's another Anowon, the Ruin Thief deck at the table, this is fantastic value.

  • Faerie Vandal. It's evasive, can come down off of mana held up for a counterspell, and grows off our commander trigger. Nothing flashy, just value.

  • Glasspool Mimic  . Lords are nice, so why not have two? Copying our key rogues is very useful, it can be a land if we need one, and it's even a rogue!

  • Inkfathom Infiltrator. Fantastic value with our commander.

  • Keeper of Keys. Not sure what he looks like under that hood, but it doesn't matter. He's willing to help our rogues be even sneakier, and he's even a rogue himself!

  • Merfolk Windrobber. Evasive damage, milling, card draw... can we just play 50 of these?

  • Nighthawk Scavenger. A new rogue from Zendikar Rising, this has fantastic synergy with our commander.

  • Sakashima the Impostor. One of my favorite cards in the deck, Sakashima's synergies have no end. Not only can she copy our commander, which doubles out milling, buffing, and card draw, she's a rogue herself. Keeping her name allows her to circumvent the legend rule, which in this case is extremely powerful.

  • Thieves' Guild Enforcer. I believe that WotC may have been intending to make this a 2-drop and somewhere along the way that extra pip fell off, because this is a tremendously powerful 1-drop. Her first ability enables her second ability, and her synergies are perfectly on theme.

  • Zareth San, the Trickster. The card I was most disappointed not to see in the precon, Zareth could very well be Anowon's brother with the way they synergize.

  • Bident of Thassa. Slapping a Curiosity on all our sneaky rogues enables us to easily refill our hand, over and over again.

  • Cloak and Dagger. Another card I was disappointed not to see in the precon. Come on, Wizards! It's a rogue tribal sneaky equipment!

  • Keening Stone. It's turn 15 or 16, your board has been wiped a few times, you're out of gas, but you've already milled half their deck? This card is the answer. It can help you decisively close out long games, or by itself mill someone out over a few turns.

  • Lightning Greaves. Anowon being removed is annoying, and really affects our chances. Help protect him with this and similar protection equipment.

  • Mindcrank. Doubling our damage milling enables us to mill someone twice as fast, which, as an aggro deck, is very helpful.

  • Neurok Stealthsuit. A pet card of mine, but also (I think) a very underrated one. The instant-speed attach means that here is the ultimate answer to removal.

  • Swiftfoot Boots. Again, protecting Anowon protects our chances, but this can also be used to give our creatures haste. Fleet Swallower with haste? Not pretty.

  • Whispersilk Cloak. Protection AND evasion, all on the same card. This is as good as it gets.

  • Hex. Boardwipes do us more harm than good, so this localized boardwipe is very helpful against other creature-heavy or combo decks.

  • Knowledge Exploitation. "Hey, can I borrow an extra turn spell?" This is a very impactful card, and depending on how much you know about your opponents' decks can be huge. Nothing like a 4-mana Time Stretch to make your day.

  • Mnemonic Betrayal. You did all this work to put your opponents' libraries into their graveyards, so might as well use them! This can turn games around, especially later in the game, however it hurts to hard-cast a Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur when Animate Dead is 2 mana. Maybe-board for now.

  • Reanimate. The ultimate reanimation spell, which all future reanimation spells are compared to. Taking 12 damage to grab a Blightsteel Colossus is only a bad thing when you're at less than 12 life.

  • Yawgmoth's Vile Offering It's removal and reanimation on the same card, and for a great price.

  • Cast Down. Almost all of the added instants are removal, and this is a good example.

  • Cyclonic Rift. One of the most played blue cards in commander, this can effectively restart the game for your opponents, leaving you a dozen turns ahead.

  • Drown in the Loch. Taking advantage of your opponents' full graveyards, this is a competitively costed removal spell that can counter something if needed. It's the only counterspell in the deck, and that's intentional. I did not want this to be a control-y type of deck, and that's inevitably where counterspell-heavy decks go.

  • Eat to Extinction. Can hit planeswalkers, and leaves no room for recursion/reanimation. Kind of hurts our own reanimation though, so may be taken out.

  • Go for the Throat. There aren't a ton of artifact creatures running around commander, so this has great value.

  • Heartless Act. Very few decks can put counters on their creatures, so this is generally just a 2-mana Murder.

  • Hero's Downfall. Strictly better Murder.

  • Into the Story. Pay 4, draw 4? Yes, please!

    • Animate Dead. Don't be intimidated by the wall of out-dated text - this is one of the best reanimation pieces around.

    • Bitterblossom. Pumping out evasive rogues for massive value, 24/7. A fantastic card, if a little out of budget. Alas, maybe-board for now.

    • Bloodchief Ascension. Part of the only infinite combo in the deck (with Mindcrank), this also makes it easier for us to win through damage rather than mill. Again, quite pricey: maybe-board.

    • Coastal Piracy. Similar to Bident of Thassa and Reconnaissance Mission, this helps refill our hand.

    • Cover of Darkness. Giving all our rogues Fear for 2 mana? Hell yeah!

    • Court of Cunning. Extra mill, extra card-draw, and even more payoffs for turning our rogues sideways (if other players steal the monarch)? Yes please!

    • Fraying Sanity. Double the mill makes an easier kill. Hey, that rhymed.

    • Reconnaissance Mission. For refueling our hand.

    • Rhystic Study. A classic blue card draw piece that should honestly find a slot in every blue Commander deck.

  • Bojuka Bog. filling the graveyard of the Muldrotha, the Gravetide deck isn't something we want to be doing, so this is here just in case.

  • Clearwater Pathway  . Manafixing for the win!

  • Drowned Catacomb. Fix that mana up.

  • Guildmages' Forum. Both manafixing and occasional buffing.

  • Morphic Pool. More manafixing.

  • Path of Ancestry. Why not more manafixing? And some topdeck manipulation into the bargain.

  • Rogue's Passage. This both fills out our flavor palette and can help Anowon sneak in for the win.

  • We're an aggro deck. The word aggro may conjure up disgusting visions of mono-red and Shock, but really, it just means that we have a faster start than most decks. The early game is when we can dictate the tempo of the rest of the game, in more ways than one.

    Ramp This deck only runs 7 pieces of ramp, and one can only be used to cast our commander (I'm still considering the value of Jeweled Lotus. Turn 1 Anowon is nice, but kind of unnecessary) but our strategy gives us access to another version of ramp: prowl. The prowl mechanic enables us to cast cards for an alternate cost, usually cheaper, if we have dealt damage to an opponent with a rogue this turn. This is quite a likely scenario, given the third part of the early game strategy.

    Control The Board This deck plays 9 pieces of targeted removal, so you are likely to get one by turn 3 or 4. Don't let it sit in your hand! Removal spells are meant to take out the biggest threat at that point in the game. Turn 2 Lotus Cobra counts. Turn 8 Kozilek, the Great Distortion counts. Removal does nothing in your hand, so use it! Aggressive use of removal helps with the third part of your early game strategy:

    Deal Some Damage! We have four 1-drop creatures, seven 2-drop creatures, and six 3-drop creatures, so you should have a creature down at least by turn 3. Then, it's time to start hitting some faces. Focus on the deck that will have the most impact on the mid-game, as that's when we want to be unopposed.

    This is when our deck shines. Ideally by this point (turns 5-6) you have several creatures down, have started dealing some damage, and have some sort of card draw engine online. With these basics, it's time to get down to business.

    Swing, Swing, Swing Our rogues are tiny, so we aren't going to be blocking out any Ghalta, Primal Hungers anytime soon. And since we're not leaving them up as blockers, any and all rogues that won't die to blockers should be turned sideways every turn! We don't win with fancy combos or lock-outs, we win with damage and milling, and both of these are accomplished by turning your rogues sideways. To insure that our rogues are having the maximum impact is when the next section of the mid-game comes into play.

    Getting Swole We're running 8 lord effects (counting Necropolis Regent), not including our commander, and 6 evasion/buffing equipment. These should be turning our insignificant rogues into large (-ish) evasive threats, and allowing us to dish out more damage than we take. Protecting our lords is important; a Swiftfoot Boots does more on an Adaptive Automaton than on a Triton Shorestalker. Pumping our rogues as large as they can go enables the third section of the mid-game.

    Milling At this point in the game, our commander should be down and protected in some way, and we should be transferring large amounts of cards from libraries to graveyards. Anowon is the linchpin of our strategy, so keeping him alive is the main concern. Most of our evasive rogues are replaceable, as are our lords, but Anowon is one of a kind.

    This far into the game (turn 10+), things have balanced out a bit. Most decks will have established their engines, and will start out-valuing us. Hopefully we have managed to knock out at least 1 player by this point, but this is where things start to tip away from us. This is where Keening Stone, Fleet Swallower, and an overloaded Cyclonic Rift are useful, but be warned: dropping one of these will make you the target. At this point (unless someone else has a Notion Thief our hand should be huge, allowing us access to our removal and protection when we need it. Find a Coat of Arms, deal some damage, super-size our boardstate with Notorious Throng, and keep swinging. Our main strategy is to keep our hand full, try not to let any opponent develop too stacked a boardstate through application of removal spells, and try to set up a game-winning swing.
    Congratulations, you made it all the way through this primer, and have, hopefully, been inspired by it. Thanks for checking out this primer. If you enjoyed it, learned from it, or were just amused by it, please give it a +1, or leave a comment.
    many thanks to Wihito for providing these awesome styles! Check out his CSS edits page here.


    Updates Add

    Kaldheim is here! Let's get frosty!

    So, I don't know about you guys, but me and my playgroup are loving Kaldheim. The flavor is beautiful, the art is fantastic, the showcase cards rock, the new mechanic is really fun while being balanced and having lots of design room, and there was more support for the best format in Magic: EDH.

    Rogues made out like bandits in this set (pun intended). We have FIVE new cards from this set that are being considered for a slot. In order from least to most likely, here they are:

    • Reflections of Littjara . I'm sure there's a lot of infinite combos with this out there, but we'll leave them for other decks. In Anowon, this would just be pure value. 5 mana is a lot, but it might be worth it. More playtesting necessary.

    • King Narfi's Betrayal . Gives us access to anything that was removed from our board, and anything that we've milled from our opponents. It's not as much of a bomb as Reanimate or Animate Dead can be. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger costs 10 mana to cast off of this. Still, probably worth a slot.

    • Mystic Reflection . "Hey, nice Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger . That's now a copy of my Burnished Hart ". Alternatively, those 10 tokens from Notorious Throng are now going to enter as Pathrazer of Ulamog s. A really strong utility card, very excited about this one.

    • Crippling Fear . No need to dish $27 for Kindred Dominance - Crippling Fear is here to save the day! For tribal creature decks on a budget, this is fantastic. At three mana this is very strong, and in some circumstances may even outperform the Dominance.

    • Varragoth, Bloodsky Sire . Wizards, how did you know it was my birthday?!? It's not really, but it feels like it. This is beautiful! Beautiful showcase art (not riffing on the regular art, but I mean, look at that beast!). It's flavorful, it's right where we want it on our curve, it has pseudo-evasion, even without the tutor it can still do work with our commander, overall this is a 10/10.

    Overall, this set is fantastic. I was lucky enough to draft this set with my playgroup, and we all have a great time. Wizards, you've figured it out! Keep 'em coming!

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    Top Ranked
    Date added 10 months
    Last updated 3 days

    This deck is Commander / EDH legal.

    Rarity (main - side)

    2 - 0 Mythic Rares

    25 - 0 Rares

    32 - 0 Uncommons

    13 - 0 Commons

    Cards 100
    Avg. CMC 2.43
    Tokens C Emblem Monarch, Copy Clone, 1/1 B Token Creature Faerie Rogue, Ape 3/3 G, Frog Lizard 3/3 G, 2/2 C Creature Manifest, Skeleton 1/1 B, The Atropal, 1/1 Goblin
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