That person sitting across from you just cast an Imperial Seal. You pick it up and read it. "This seems like a worse Vampiric Tutor," you think to yourself. "How much is that card?" you ask.
"$600" they say proudly.
Oh you're proud of that? You're proud of the $600 neutered Vampiric Tutor? Ok, ok, ok.
"Is it my turn?" You slyly inquire. It is. "I will cast Traumatize."
Nice Tutor, broski!
Yeah, we're that player. We're over here milling opponents. Why, you may ask? Because we do things the hard way on this channel. If you're reading a Mark Nestico article you're not here to listen to me tell you why The Gitrog Monster is good. Nah. We know that. You're here for Wizards and Vampires and *checks notes* a deck that mills your opponents to death.
So why play Mill?
In a regular game of Commander players start at 40 and your job is to reduce their life totals to zero, right? That's boring. That's 2009 Magic. We don't want to deal 120 damage. We want to deal the equivalent of 297 damage to the table and assert our dominance. 99 x 3 = 297. Maths.
I built mill to challenge myself and found out something wonderful: it's fun. And I'm not just saying "wow this is cute" either. I'm talking outrageously entertaining. When you beat someone with mill they will always remember it, and they will never live it down. It gets even worse when you demolish a pod and get to hold it over their head for years. But it won't just happen once, no, you'll keep milling them to death until they start packing maindeck ways to thwart your fun. That's when you've really won.
Let's dig in, shall we?
Yeah, we're doing this.
Mill isn't a race. Mill is a marathon.
Last week we discussed the various avenues you have to traverse to not only play your deck, but to best assess each deck in the pod to give you a good idea of how to play against them and allocate your resources. Mill falls into a couple of those categories, and playing it requires a great understanding of switching roles.
You are never an aggro deck.
Much better. At its heart Mill is a Dimir Control deck. It looks to keep the board in check with various spot removal cards (Drown in the Loch) and sweepers (River's Rebuke), keep your hand full (Pull from Tomorrow), and play a subgame where enchantments and artifacts really matter.
As you may have seen with enchantment or artifact-based decks, these can make or break your strategy. In Mill they are both the engine and the fuel of your deck since they allow for incremental advantage. Landing a Sphinx's Tutelage or Patient Rebuilding allow you to go about your control game plan while rolling the ball downhill of what the deck intends to do in its ultimate endgame. Seemingly boring and weak cards like Jace's Erasure become very powerful when combined with your card draw spells that fall in line with your control strategy.
As with most control decks, always keeping your mana available is paramount to winning a game. Two of your primary win conditions, Keening Stone and Sands of Delirium, give you the option to keep up a Counterspell or a Psychic Strike. You're a blue deck, of course! This will cause players to outright pass the turn, which allows you to utilize Sands or Keening Stone to their full potential and take massive chunks out of your opponent's library.
The bread and butter of mill are, however, your enchantments, so keeping them protected is in your best interest. Propaganda is extremely important for keeping you alive and buying time to begin taking out libraries. Psychic Corrosion, Sphinx's Tutelage, Memory Erosion and Fraying Sanity are your chief win conditions because they give you the most flexibility with your turns.
It shouldn't come as a surprise, but mill has two very solid ways to end a player (or the entire pod) on the spot.
Pretend you have inflicted Player A with Fraying Sanity. That player mills the number of cards at the end of each turn equal to how many cards they put in their graveyard from anywhere that turn.
You cast Traumatize and mill them for half of their library. Now they must mill the other half at the end of their turn. Hooray! They're dead!
More intricately there is the Eater of the Dead + Phenax, God of Deception combo kill. If you untap with an Eater of the Dead you are able to mill a player for four in combination with Phenax's ability, which allows you to tap a creature to mill a player equal to that creature's toughness. For zero mana you can untap your Eater of the Dead if it removes a creature card from a graveyard. You tap it again to mill four. You remove another creature. Rinse and repeat until the table is dead! Of course this doesn't work if you're playing against three other control decks that are light on creatures, but in a typical pod this is going to be lights out.
My Phenax deck:
While this is certainly not budget-friendly, my Phenax, God of Deception deck quickly became one of my best-performing decks in pod play for a few reasons:
With a bevy of sweepers and cards like No Mercy, you're not necessarily being destroyed by aggro decks. Combo decks have difficulty fighting through your countermagic as well as having their important pieces milled. Midrange decks are too slow to stop you from setting up shop. Control decks with only a few win conditions aren't able to break through all of your removal and enchantments which mill them and punish them for drawing more cards.
This isn't to say Mill is a bullet-proof strategy. This deck can very rarely beat dedicated Competitive Commander decks. In casual pods, once your friends get wise to it, they'll start pumping Eldrazi into their decks for free graveyard shuffles or playing things like Loaming Shaman. These cards are pains, yes, but certainly not unbeatable if you have an Eater of the Dead in play or can respond to a shuffle effect with a counter or a Relic of Progenitus.
If you're looking for a new way to win, Mill is my absolute favorite deck. Give it a spin and show your friends that winning through damage is for chumps.