11 Feb 2015

Eating Dreams - Magic

I love to mill my opponents.

Milling is a term for when you play cards that force your opponent to take cards from his or her library (their deck of cards) and put them into the graveyard (the discard pile). When a player cannot draw a card from their library they lose the match, called by many in the game 'milling out', 'milled out', and 'mill out'.
House Dimir from the plane of Ravnica
owned by Wizards of the Coast
Graphic Artist Unknown
It's an easy counter to any spell in Magic the Gathering. Not only will it not bother you, what ever it is but it is in the graveyard and not in play or in your opponent's hand. Now milling is not a direct counter, it cannot affect the cards in a player's hand - only the cards they have yet to use.

Understanding the basics of an ambush will help you understand my concept for a mill deck.

Frist off an ambush is not a sneak attack. A sneak attack is engaging an enemy unaware of your presence or direction of attack. An ambush is a efficient sneak attack, that also cuts off an enemy's escape and sows confusion. This is normally done when you box an opponent while engaging them at the same time. In most cases when attacked from hidding, humans do one of three things:

1. Freeze - good as dead no need to talk about this one.

2. Run - also good as dead, cutting down a fleeing opponent is easy, you just need to get to them and that's their only defense. So catch them or watch them escape. When you've cut off their escape one of two things will happen:

a. They don't realise they are trapped and fall to your assault.
b. They realise they area trapped and change their state to Fight.

3. Fight - the hardest result when you ambush an opponent. You should have a few things to your advantage:

a. You've struck first, limiting or stopping their ability to fight back - hopefully because they are dead otherwise if they are injured they are also now less effective. You have the advantage.
b. You've struck from hiding and your lack of obvious presence makes it difficult for them to strike back - they need to know where you are to fight back.You keep the advantage.
c. Your position allows you to attack from a superior position. Your position may also provide cover or limit their ability to strike back. This can stack with the above point. You keep the advantage.
d. You've engaged the enemy in a palce where they cannot effectivly mount a defensive. You keep the advantage.

Once the initial contact has been made, it is up to the ambusher to keep the advantage in order to defeat the enemy. A good ambush gives the attackers more time, engaging from outside of the enemy's awareness, and they should be attacking from a superior position.

If an ambush was a 3 act story - the first two acts the enemy is a non-effective combatant and should only be activly engaging you the ambusher in the third act. By then you should have eliminated the enemy or they are in such a weakened state that there is little left for them to do but inflict as much harm on you before they fall.

Milling is an ambush and I love to mill.

Your opponent only has what is in their hand or on the battlefield (in play) to work with. Their support lines are being cut off, they are loosing their long term support. It takes a moment to realise what's happening. You keep a superior position, while preventing them from protecting themselves. A good milling deck will only let players with agro - agressive decks (decks that play quickly and do lots of damage early) with any type of chance.

Hedron Crab
by Wizards of the Coast
Like any good ambush, milling needs to be efficient, quick, and effective.

Hedron Crab start out my lists. At a cost of U (one Blue Mana) it's a cheap defending creature to play against early creatures. With 0/2 they do no damage but they can take those 1 damage attacks that are common early in the game. They will not be able to take on anything larger and hopefully by then you've eliminated enough creatures through milling you're opponents will have few creatures they can cast that will be able to overrun your Hedron Crab. Also they mill three cards when you put down a land.

With one of these in your opening hand, you can play it first turn and every other turn you drop a land you'll be milling three cards. Each extra Hedron Crab will double and triple the effect of this passive milling.

Altar of the Brood is another passive milling card and only costs 1. It will mill one card each time you play a perminent. That includes any enchantment, creature, artifact, and land...

A good opening hand has included three lands, one Hedron Crab, and one Altar of the Brood. First turn drop a land, play Hedron Crab. Next turn I play Altar of the Brood and play the next land - milling four cards. That means at turn two my opponent is now sitting at 60 cards minus 7 cards (opening hand), minus 4 (milling), and minus 2 (one for each turn they will have) for 49 cards. Remeber that number for now...

Another great card for a mill deck is the Leyline of the Void. It costs 2BB unless you're lucky and
you get it in your oppening hand, in which case it's free and comes out before the start of the game. What does it do you ask? Well if a card would go into the graveyard, it would instead be put into exile (out of the game and no longer able to be affect by any effects - put the card back in the box).

So those Black players who cast or play from the graveyard are suddenly without their dirty trick. Delve is no longer an option forcing Blue/Black players to pay full price. Return to play effects or cards that shuffle your graveyard into your library are all useless. No Flashback's to play - the cards are simply gone.

Imagine I had one in the scenario above... yeah dirty.

Glimpse the Unthinkable
by Wizards of the Coast
Next up is the bread and butter cards that mill.

We are talking Breaking costs UB and mills eight cards. Tome Scour cost U and mills five cards. Mind Sculpt costs 1U and it mills eight cards. Dampen Thought is a sub par card but it mills four cards at a cost of 1U. The beast of the pack is Glimpse the Unthinkable that mills ten cards for only a UB!

Throw in cards like Mind Funeral 1UB which mills cards until four lands have been milled and it's most costly cousin Mind Grind XUB which forces a player to mill until they mill X amount of lands. Mind Funeral is awesome and can really pay off, and Mind Grind is a great spell when you're flush with mana and you draw it - throwing all that
useless mana into the spell.

Back to the scenario above imagine we also had in our opening hand a Tome Scour, allowing us to mill another five cards... so our opponent has only 43 (don't forget they draw a card each turn) cards left in their deck when the third turn starts. We should have drawn at least another mill card or two by now, or even a land.

Third turn we drop our third land, unless we drew another Hedron Crab which thanks to the Alter of the Brood would mill one card. So we drop our third land and we've now milled our opponent another four cards plus their third turn draw leaving them at 39 cards. Hopefully we have a mill card to cast - somewhere between 5 and 10 cards to mill. Lets go with Mind Sculpt since we're unlucky and have yet to draw a Mind Funeral, Glimpse, or a Breaking. Our opponent is down to 32 cards and it's the end of turn three.

This is now the danger zone. If the opponent has three mana, agro deecks will be comming at you hard and the game has become a race. Your life versus his library. Otherwise most players will be sporting and groaning at each card they have to discard. Try not to feed to loudly on their tears as you eat their dreams. You dont' wana be a shitty winner on top of being a total ruthless player aka 'a Dick' as Dawn Seeker would say.

Before we go forward we need to talk creatures. Cheep creatures are the must if you are playing with the Leyline of the Void.

If you are not I'd look at the Wight of Precinct Six which only costs 1B and becomes stronger the more creatures are in your opponents graveyard. Consuming Aberration is the bomb if you are not running the Leyline as it's power and toughness is equal to your opponents graveyards and it passively mills until a land every time you cast a spell.

Leyline of the Void
by Wizards of the Coast
So back to our scenario it's turn four. If we've dropped a cheep creature to block our opponent, who is at 30 cards (one for the creature we dropped and one for his fourth turn draw). If we drop another land or cast a larger mill card (lets say Breaking) we're looking at minus 8 cards for Breaking and 4 cards for the land... 18 Cards remain in our opponents graveyard.

If we were lucky we'd have dropped another Hedron Crab increasing the number of milled cards by 3 per land dropped. Or we played a Mind Funeral that dropped our opponent at least by 8 cards or if lucky 12 or more (I've Mind Funeraled up to 20 cards once) . If we played Glimpse the Unthinkable that's 10 cards.

Turn five they draw another card with less then 10 cards in the tank if lucky. Just over a dozen cards if things are ok.

One more spell, one more drop, one more anything... 10 cards is easy look what we did in five turns.

Now if you drew crap dont be afraid to mulligan down to five cards. That means reshuffling the deck to draw a new hand but with one less card each time. If you get a some land and just a few mill cards you're dropping your opponent down by 15 to 25 cards or more with a good Mind Funeral by turn three. Leaving the average opponent at minus 25 cards, less than 30 cards left in their deck at turn three is brutal. If they are not an agro deck you have a chance otherwise - c'est la vie. Time to 'Enjoy the Poop' - Ash Burke.

If you are not running a Leyline of the Void bring Traumatize. Cutting an opponents deck in half with a Consuming Aberration out is ugly mid game. First they mill until they mill a land - could be a few cards. Then cut the deck in half due to Traumatize. Enjoy the bloated Consumming Aberration. Phenax, God of Deception is also a pain in the butt and with a fat Consuming Aberration post Traumatize - it's an instant win.

Dont' forget you can also play with the Duskmantle Guildmage and if you have the mana using his 2UB ability to do a point of damage to an opponent every time a card would enter their graveyard it can be very mean with some of the cheap mill spells. Mix that with Mindcrank and you have a loop. Since each time they take damage they have to mill a card for each point of damage. With effects up they will take damage or mill and one effect will activate the other card who's effect will activate the other and back and forth... hence a loop. So do a point of damage or play a cheap mill card with those two feeding each other and one of two things will happen. Your opponent will die from losing life (most likely option) or they will 'mill out' (have not yet seen it - but I really want to.)

So these are the basics of eating someone's dreams in Magic the Gathering. Lots of players hate me but there are some who like the challange. It forces them to play with only part of their deck and earning a victory with some smart plays is worth the hardship and truly tests the best players and their decks. Milling is not the end all or be all of the game but it's a strong style that can really harden some players into real challangers once they learn how to adapt with what they've got.

- Cheers.