Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
What Are Anti-Mill Cards in Magic: The Gathering?
In Magic, most decks strive to win by reducing opposing life points to zero, but some adopt the approach of winning via deck-out; when a player has to draw from an empty library, they lose the game. Mill decks utilize spells that send cards directly from opposing decks into the graveyard (or exile), attacking your remaining cards until you have nothing left to draw.
But like any strategy, mill decks harbor their weaknesses—today we'll examine ten excellent counters to millstone themes to shield yourself from deck-out defeats!
10. Memory's Journey
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 2
Like many of today's spells, Journey is blue and protects against deck-out by restocking your library. It only needs two mana, activates at instant speed, and has a target player shuffle up to three cards from their graveyard into their library. While only a moderate defense against milling, it's a cheap and instant-speed effect that you can also use on opponents to prevent them from accessing threats in their graveyard.
Better still, Journey's flashback effect lets you recast it from your graveyard into exile (for just one mana) to apply its ability again. Remember that just about any flashback ability helps thwart milling, as you can utilize their effects from the graveyard even if they never entered your hand.
9. Commit // Memory
Like other aftermath split spells, you first cast Commit from your hand and later play Memory from your graveyard into exile. At instant speed, Commit places either a spell that's currently being cast or an already-fielded permanent into its owner's deck second from the top. That's a great removal that ignores indestructible, triggers instantly, and can remove spells before they arrive—but since it doesn't technically counter them, anti-counterspell measures won't block it.
Whether you cast Commit or had it milled into your graveyard, you can aftermath Memory by spending six mana. It shuffles all players' hands and graveyard into their decks, then draws them seven cards. This simultaneously restocks your hand when you run low and replenishes your library, a recovery few mill decks can rebound back from.
8. Diminishing Returns
Like Memory, Returns has each player shuffle their hand and graveyard into their deck, then draw seven cards. However, before you draw your new hand, you (and only you) exile the top 10 cards from your library.
So, you're ten cards down, but that's a small price to pay for a revitalized deck and hand, especially at such an affordable price. You also draw "up to seven," so you can purposefully decrease your value if your library is running thin. Combo with cards like "Narset, Parter of Veils" to restrict your opponents to only one draw per turn, leaving them with a nearly-empty hand while yours is full!
7. Legendary Eldrazi
With this entry, we're talking about Eldrazi aces like "Emrakul, the Aeons Torn," "Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre," and "Kozilek, Butcher of Truth." These behemoths all require insane amounts of mana, but they're colorless and can be gimmicked into play with free-creature effects like "Defense of the Heart." They also wield the devastating annihilator ability, forcing foes to sacrifice permanents when they strike.
But most relevant for our purposes, when these creatures enter your graveyard (from anywhere), each shuffles your entire graveyard into your deck. This prevents players from cheating them into play with revivals like "Animate Dead," but it also provides a superb anti-mill countermeasure, completely refilling your library.
6. Gaea's Blessing
Gaea's Blessing offers a rare anti-mill tactic that doesn't require blue. Similarly to Memory's Journey, it costs two mana and has a target player shuffle up to three cards from their deck into their graveyard.
However, you also get to draw a card, and if Blessing is sent directly from your deck to your graveyard, it automatically shuffles your entire graveyard (including itself) back into your library, forcing opponents to run through your build all over again.
A versatile and inexpensive sorcery, Blessing frequently adorns my own green commander decks and is one of today's cheapest cards, costing well under a single dollar!
5. Day's Undoing
With Day's Undoing, we again have players shuffle their graveyard and hand into their decks, then draw seven cards. And Undoing only requires three mana, but your turn immediately ends after casting it.
So you'll have to wait until your next round before utilizing your refilled hand, but that's still an amazing effect for such a small amount of mana—use it during your second main phase to avoid losing your turn's combat step.
4. Time Spiral
Yep, it's the blue ultra-shuffle again, having everybody unite their hand and graveyard with their library and draw seven cards. But while Spiral demands a hefty fee of six mana, it also untaps up to six lands, essentially mitigating its own cost!
That's a huge late-game benefit, but note that Spiral exiles itself, so you won't be able to recover it from your graveyard.
Want Day's Undoing but without the immediate turn end? Timetwister offers exactly that, reuniting each player's hand and graveyard with their deck, then drawing seven cards—no strings attached. Both an anti-mill countermeasure and a replenishment tool, Timetwister help demonstrates why blue is so feared in commander format.
2. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries
One of Jace's many planeswalker forms, this spell demands several blue mana, making Jace a bit unwieldy in multi-color decks, and he never actually replenishes your library. However, he arrives with four loyalty, and his +1 both draws a card and mills the top two from any player's deck. You'll often want to target yourself since Jace's passive has you win rather than lose if you draw from an empty library!
Jace's ultimate -8 also draws seven cards, further emptying your deck and edging you near a reverse-mill win.
1. Laboratory Maniac
Maniac offers Jace's power in a cheaper package better suited for multi-color decks. While he's a mediocre 2/2, Maniac similarly flips an empty-deck loss into a win. He also carries the useful wizard subtype, blending well with blue's most abundant faction.
Many of today's cards are rendered ineffective when your opponent exiles milled cards rather than sending them to the graveyard, but Jace and Maniac don't mind—either way, they turn generally-destructive mills into an instant win.
More Anti-Mill Spells in Magic
In addition to today's cards, you can combat mill decks with spells like "Creeping Chill," which doesn't actually replenish your deck, but punishes foes with damage when sent from your library to your graveyard. Or, you can utilize the God-Eternals, who slightly replenish your deck by placing themselves into it when defeated.
Mill decks remain a prominent threat since they completely alter the nature of the game, but with today's cards in hand, you're well-equipped to defend against their antics. But for now, as we eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next set of deck-refilling tools, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on April 05, 2020:
Archive is okay, but its cost (four total to cast and activate) and self-exile (which prevents recovering from graveyard) hinder it.
Rex H on April 04, 2020:
Have you used ‘Cranial Archive’? I prefer it because it is both anti mill and anti graveyard abuse ( plus a draw). I use it in almost all my sideboards, since it works in any color and defends against two themes. Not as effective as some of the cards in this list though.
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on June 01, 2019:
Good suggestion, "Psychic Spiral" replenishes your deck while ransacking an opponent's.
blaster on May 31, 2019:
What about psychic spiral