Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Mill Decks in Magic
Sometimes called "millstone" builds, Magic's mill decks forgo winning by depleting opponents' life. Instead, they seek to empty opposing decks (sending cards directly from the deck to the graveyard), which causes a loss when a player must draw from an empty library.
Blue is the standard mill color, sometimes assisted by black, offering potent mill spells of varying costs and card types—which units reign supreme? These are the ten best deck-out tools in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Nemesis of Reason
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 5
Nemesis needs a big chunk of five mana, two colors, and neither of his subtypes are particularly useful. Additionally, he only has three power, low for his price. But his impressive seven toughness helps him survive, and you'll want him consistently swinging—he automatically mills the top ten cards from the defending player's library when he attacks.
That's a big chunk of spells to lose at once, and you can protect Nemesis as he strikes with blocker-deterring traits like flying or attacker-shielding spells like "Dolmen's Gate."
9. Jace, Memory Adept
Many of Jace's planeswalker forms have mill-like ultimate abilities, but his Memory Adept rendition excels at repeated deck attacks. Jace's +1 loyalty effect draws a card and mills the top card from any player's deck, but you'll often be more interested in +0, which simply mills ten cards. If Jace can survive a few turns, that's an easy win condition, and even if he gets destroyed, he at least took some hits for you (you'll need all the health you can get since you're likely short on creatures).
Plus, his ultimate -7 lets any number players draw 20 cards. Pick yourself to replenish your hand, and select opponents to take even more spells from their builds—use infinite-hand cards like "Reliquary Tower" to prevent having to discard your surplus.
8. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Ulamog's tricky because he's often seen outside mill decks, granting other themes a potential deck-out win. He needs a hefty fee of ten mana—which you can circumvent with cards like "Defense of the Heart." That said, unlike most legendary Eldrazi, he lacks the infamous annihilator ability.
However, Ulamog is a fierce 10/10, exiles two permanents when cast, is indestructible, and exiles the top twenty cards from an opponent's deck when he attacks them—even 100-card commander decks won't last long against that. And remember that exile-mills are useful since they guard against the potential disadvantages of regular mills (like providing rivals with graveyard-activated flashback or unearth effects).
7. Fraying Sanity
This aura curse enchants a player, forcing them to mill X cards at the end of every turn, where X is the number of their cards sent to the graveyard that turn. Not only does this tally your other mill tactics, it also counts spells that were discarded from the hand or destroyed from the field, snowballing into a brutal chain.
A powerful benefit, but remember that Sanity depends on cards specifically heading to the graveyard, so milling them into exile with Ulamog or spells like "Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver" won't trigger the ability.
6. Sphinx's Tutelage
Like Sanity, Tutelage is a three-cost blue enchantment with several colorless slots, blending well in multi-color decks. Whenever you draw a card, it mills two cards from an opponent's deck, and if they're both non-lands that share a color, you repeat the process! With a little luck, this dramatically burns through cards, especially against mono-color builds.
Tutelage also grants you the ability to spend six mana to draw and discard one card. That's an expensive price, but it's useful when you have nothing else to play and it triggers the mill. And for larger play groups, consider alternative spell "Psychic Corrosion," which has a weaker effect but hits multiple foes.
5. Persistent Petitioners
For two mana, Petitioners offers 1/3 stats, making a decent blocker for the early portions of your match (definitely appreciated in mill decks). By tapping a spending a mana, he can mill a card from any player's deck. But by tapping any four advisors you control (likely including himself), Petitioners mills twelve cards instead!
Unfortunately, advisor isn't the most common subtype in the game, but decks can have any number of Petitioners—you could fill an entire library up with them if you like (just don't forget some lands).
4. Consuming Aberration
Aberration excels in Dimir themes since he provides a much-needed meaty creature while still assisting with your actual milling. His power and toughness automatically become the number of cards in every opposing graveyard, especially imposing in multiplayer games.
Then, whenever you cast a spell, Aberration forces each opponent to reveal cards from the top of their deck until they reveal a land, then send those cards (including the land) to the graveyard. This strengthens himself, affects each opponent, and mills at least one card (likely more) with every activation—just be careful not to exile opposing graveyards lest Aberration die with zero toughness.
3. Hedron Crab
Hedron provides an excellent first-turn play for mill themes. He's a weak 0/2, and his crab subtype isn't great, but his landfall mills three cards from any player's deck whenever you play a land card.
Over the course of a game, that can take out half an opponent's deck, and you can even target yourself if you're searching for a flashback or aftermath effect.
2. Glimpse the Unthinkable
For one mana of each Dimir color, Glimpse simply mills ten cards from any player's library. Most spells this cheap only net around five, making Glimpse an excellent discount. It's also a great way to quickly place a sorcery into your graveyard, helping you meet the bonus effects of cards with spell mastery or delirium.
1. Archive Trap
Yu-Gi-Oh's not the only card game with traps. At base price, this instant requires five mana and mills thirteen cards, a hefty chunk of any library. Better yet, if you wait until a turn where an opponent searches their deck, you can cast Archive for free!
With the abundance of tutors and other searches in commander, this shouldn't take long, and you can't beat an easy and instant-speed thirteen mills.
Mill Supports in Magic
Remember that the effectiveness of mill decks partially depends on your preferred format. 100-card commander decks will be hard to deplete, 60-card standard decks are a fair challenge, and 40-card draft decks are easy prey—if you hunt down the proper mill cards during the draft. You can also support mill strategies with cards like "Jace's Phantasm," which strengthen based on opposing graveyards.
When you see mono-blue or blue-black themes, be ready for a deck attack; try to overwhelm martially weak millers before they ransack your library. But for now, as we await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion of deck-weakening spells, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
Questions & Answers
Question: What about "Traumatize", the card that mills half your opponent's deck for 5 mana while playing Magic: The Gathering?
Answer: Good suggestion! Traumatize narrowly missed the list because it rounds down and gets less effective as the match progresses, but it's still a great addition to a mill theme.
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on April 27, 2020:
Mind Grind is amazing if you have infinite mana, and since it affects all opponents, it's great in multiplayer.
me on April 25, 2020:
bro MIND GRIND is the best mill card in my opinion
Tristan on February 26, 2020:
Folio of Fancies is an amazing mill card two
Guy who likes milling on December 15, 2019:
Ghost Quarter plus 4 Archive traps will mill out a whole deck if it’s 60 cards. Then, simply say, “turn.”
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on December 02, 2019:
True, you won't get Ulamog's cast effect if you play him with Defense of the Heart, but you're still avoiding the mana price for a 10/10 indestructible titan who mills 20 cards with each attack.
Rah on December 01, 2019:
Defense of the Heart can not proc Ulamog, Defense of the heart skips the cast no mana was used no cast,