JOU/BNG/THS: Followup on the mill deck

Last week, I’d hypothesized that mill decks in Theros block draft should be U/B, or perhaps U/W. I then proceeded to draft a mill deck that was actually U/G, like the mill decks in Magic 2014. I suspect this color combination is unusual for mill decks in this format; it came together primarily because I opened an Eidolon of Blossoms in my first pack, then took a Bassara Tower Archer (over a Thassa’s Devourer), a Golden Hind, and a Thassa’s Devourer hoping that the first one would lap the table (it did). In Born of the Gods, I picked up a pair of Evanescent Intellects, and then focused on rounding out the deck in the Theros pack. Here’s the deck I played:

Creatures Spells/Land Sideboard
Sedge Scorpion
Bassara Tower Archer
Golden Hind
Triton Fortune Hunter
War-Wing Siren
Nyxborn Triton
Nyxborn Wolf
Nylea’s Disciple
Cloaked Siren
Eidolon of Blossoms
Prescient Chimera
2 Thassa’s Devourer
Archetype of Endurance
2 Evanescent Intellect
Triton Tactics
Savage Surge
Ordeal of Nylea
Pin to the Earth
Kruphix’s Insight
Eternity Snare
Interpret the Signs

Temple of Plenty
8 Forests
8 Islands

Guardians of Meletis
Pillar of War
Hunt the Hunter
Defend the Hearth
Unravel the Aether
Fade into Antiquity
Aerial Formation
Lost in a Labyrinth
2 Stratus Walk
Pull from the Deep
Ephara’s Enlightenment
Leonin Iconoclast
Ephara’s Radiance
Font of Vigor
Glare of Heresy
Ray of Dissolution
Claim of Erebos

There were several tough cuts from the final build:

  • I really wanted to run the pair of Stratus Walks for the constellation/heroic triggers they offered and the interaction with Kruphix’s Insight, as well as the cantrip effect. However, I decided to run Prescient Chimera and Cloaked Siren instead, even though my deck only has 2 sorceries, 2 instants, no other flash creatures, and 2 instant-speed activated abilities. This is because I really didn’t want to go down to 12 creatures while running 5 Auras, 2 bestow effects, and 2 combat tricks. I also wanted to ensure I had enough aerial defense since this deck can take a while to get set up. (I should probably have prioritized Shredding Winds when drafting this deck, since it is fairly short on removal.)
  • Ephara’s Enlightenment combos well with my constellation creatures, but I would have had to run at least 2 Plains in addition to the Temple of Plenty, and I didn’t want to mess up my mana base. If I’d seen any other color fixing, I would have happily picked it up and run Ephara’s Enlightenment and Leonin Iconoclast.
  • Guardians of Meletis and Pillar of War would have fit the deck’s goal, but I had enough ground defense and enough 3cc creatures. I also didn’t want to expose myself to incidental artifact removal such as Reckless Reveler and Wild Celebrants since I wasn’t running any other artifacts.
  • Fade into Antiquity and Unravel the Aether would have provided my deck some much needed removal, but I couldn’t afford to run potentially dead cards.

The deck ended up going 1-2, but both the matches I lost were quite close, and I felt like things could have turned out differently if I’d had fewer mulligans or if my opponent has slightly slower starts. A particularly disappointing loss was to a B/G graveyard deck whose pilot was aiding me by milling his own library. However, I did win a game against him by playing Sedge Scorpion on turn 1 and Ordeal of Nylea on turn 2, and swinging for the fences.

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JOU/BNG/THS: The mill deck

Theros and Born of the Gods had a smattering of mill cards, but no particularly effective ones at common or uncommon other than Evanescent Intellect, which gave your opponent an opportunity to 2-for-1 you. Journey into Nyx brings Thassa’s Devourer and Countermand to the table. Does this give us a critical mass of mill cards in a block draft?

Let’s start by looking at all the cards in the format that help you get cards out of your opponent’s library, organized by set, rarity, and color. The number after the color indicates how many cards it mills. N / X means it is a reusable effect that mills N cards each time X occurs, whether that be a mana cost or an ability trigger.

Journey into Nyx Born of the Gods Theros
Common Countermand (blue, 4) Evanescent Intellect (blue, 3 / 1U+{T}) Thassa’s Bounty (blue, 3)
Thassa’s Devourer (blue, 2 / constellation) Forsaken Drifters (black, 4) Returned Centaur (black, 4)
Returned Reveler (black, 3)
Uncommon Dakra Mystic (blue, 1 / U+{T}) Siren of the Silent Song (U/B, 1 / inspired)
Rare Mindreaver (blue, 3 / heroic) Pyxis of Pandemonium (artifact, 1 / {T})
Daxos of Meletis (W/U, 1 / dealing combat dmg to opp)
Mythic Phenax, God of Deception (U/B, T / creature) Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver (U/B, 3 / turn)

Thassa’s Devourer is the strongest of the mill effects at common since it has a reusable effect with a reasonable trigger condition, and provides a strong defence that buys you time to mill out your opponent. None of the other common or uncommon mill effects in Journey into Nyx are worth building a deck around, and an 8-person draft will only have 1.3 copies of Thassa’s Devourer, so a mill deck is only possible in a draft with an unsually high number of copies of the card or in a casual draft with more than 8 people. If you’re already in blue and see a couple of copies going around, you can plan to take them if they lap the table. (If someone else takes them, you don’t want to be drafting a mill deck anyway, since the format does not have enough mill cards to support 2 drafters.) If you don’t end up drafting a mill deck, they can still be a good sideboard plan against control decks. Since you have to draw at least 1 Thassa’s Devourer for the deck to get going, you’re not likely to have a strong mill deck unless you draft at least 3+ copies of the card, especially since the format has a fair bit of enchantment removal.

Once you have decided to draft a mill deck, it is probably worth picking up Evanescent Intellect in Born of the Gods. While playing it still involves a certain amount of risk, I believe Journey into Nyx makes the card more playable since it triggers Thassa’s Devourer (and so can mill 5 cards on the turn it comes into play) and Countermand can protect the enchanted creature from removal. Like Thassa’s Devourer, Evanescent Intellect is likely to lap the table, so you don’t need to take them the first time around.

If you’re building towards a mill deck but are not yet in black when you get to Born of the Gods, you can also consider white as your second color. The color provides Dawn to Dusk and Griffin Dreamfinder as ways to get Thassa’s Devourer back if it is killed. It also provides access to Daxos of Meletis and Gods Willing in the Theros pack, although those are not passed quite as often as Returned Centaur. If you’re drafting this deck, you should also prioritize Griptide higher since it allows you to mill away your opponent’s best creature after putting it back on top of their library.