How to Beat the Top Decks in Modern with Dimir Mill

Jason Chung


As many of you know, I have been playing Mill in Modern since the existence of 《Mission Briefing》 from Guilds of Ravnica pushed this deck to a playable state.

Mission BriefingArchive Trap

Yes, you can pay the alternative cost with 《Mission Briefing》.

Although it’s been pretty out of meta since the 《Krark-Clan Ironworks》 Banning’s, the new meta alongside the London Mulligan rule has pushed midrange decks out for more combo and linear game plan decks in Modern. This is where Dimir Mill really shine.

Dimir Mill is not a burn deck. It is a UB Control deck at heart that focuses on disrupting your opponent’s main game plan through discard spells and main deck 《Surgical Extraction》. The win condition is to run your opponent out of cards however often games are won due to the opponent having no ways to win the game anymore. Cards like 《Ensnaring Bridge》 also pose a problem to decks which like the operate with one linear game plan.

Inquisition of KozilekSurgical ExtractionEnsnaring BridgeCrypt Incursion

In this article I will briefly go over the game play and game plan against 5 of what I believe are the top and popular decks in Modern and what we will see high up in the metagame in the coming weeks. Although this will not be a sideboard guide but more a how to play each matchup, I do have a short sideboard guide against most decks in Modern that you can find here.

I believe most people’s flaws playing Dimir Mill come down to not being able to establish what you’re exactly supposed to aim to do in the matchup and not because we mis-sideboarded therefore I am putting more emphasis on general gameplay.

My Current List

Unfortunately, I am not qualified for the next Modern Mythic Championship however this is the list I would play if I was.

Trapmaker's Snare

The addition of 《Trapmaker’s Snare》 is a concession to the fact I believe there will be an increased in match-up where “it’s just a race” and having more copies of 《Archive Trap》 is the cleanest way to counter this. Additionally, if Izzet Storm ever becomes popular again, you can sideboard one copy of 《Mindbreak Trap》 too.

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Game Plans

Izzet Phoenix

Keycards to 《Surgical Extraction》:

Arclight PhoenixCrackling DrakeThing in the Ice

《Arclight Phoenix》, then all win conditions usually 《Crackling Drake》 followed by 《Thing in the Ice》.

What is the Game Plan?

Archive TrapArclight Phoenix

Take out key cards and ultimately run them out of threats. Preserve your life total and don’t start milling them until Phoenix is out of the deck.

How to Play the Match-up:

Surgical ExtractionNoxious RevivalSpell Pierce

Their key interaction with you is their own 《Surgical Extraction》, 《Noxious Revival》 and 《Spell Pierce》. Discard spells are at a premium in this matchup. Stripping their hand not only gives us information on what threat we need to take care of first, but it makes it very difficult for them to piece together enough spells to do anything threatening. This matchup is all about being patient, figuring out ways you can lose, and stopping that from happening. This match-up is not a race, if we mill them too fast they often can kill us out of nowhere.


Keycards to 《Surgical Extraction》:

Urza's TowerUrza's MineUrza's Power PlantKarn Liberated

A Tron Land. Failing this, if they assemble Tron, try disrupt them by taking out their expensive threats such as 《Karn Liberated》, keeping in mind that you can also break up Tron at a later part of the turn using 《Field of Ruin》.

What is the Game Plan?

Archive TrapUrza's Power PlantSurgical Extraction

Mill a Tron land and 《Surgical Extraction》 it! Start thinking about next round and lunch.

How to Play the Match-up:

Relic of ProgenitusExtirpate

This is one of Mill’s best matchups. Plan A is to just mill them early and 《Surgical Extraction》 out the Tron land as soon as possible. This game plan becomes harder when they have 《Relic of Progenitus》 but we still have 《Extirpate》 as an out. Alternatively, even if you don’t get to take out the lands, 《Surgical Extracting》 a threat like 《Karn Liberated》 also slow them down. Plan B is just to race them. They kill you very slowly and even if they get to cast their big spells, you often mill them out before they can kill you.


Keycards to 《Surgical Extraction》:

Creeping ChillConflagrateAncient Grudge

《Creeping Chill》 and 《Conflagrate》. Post Board: 《Ancient Grudge》 if it is their only answer to 《Ensnaring Bridge》.

What is the Game Plan?

Archive TrapNarcomoebaBloodghastPrized Amalgam

Take out key cards using 《Surgical Extraction》 and 《Extirpate》 and go for the kill when they don’t have much of a library left. Don’t mill them early!

How to Play the Match-up:

Inquisition of KozilekSurgical ExtractionExtirpate

Mulligan aggressively and ignore hands with too much mill. We want early discard but mainly the more copies of 《Surgical Extraction》 and 《Extirpate》 we draw, the easier this is. Be very patient with our mill spells as the more lands we have out by the time we have to start milling them, the easier this is.

A little bit extra:

Here is a video of me playing against Dredge in Unified Modern (Grand Prix Liverpool 2018).

Amulet Titan

Keycards to 《Surgical Extraction》:

Primeval TitanSummoner's PactNature's Claim

《Primeval Titan》. Post Board: 《Summoner’s Pact》, 《Nature’s Claim》.

What is the Game Plan?

Boros GarrisonSlayers' StrongholdSunhome, Fortress of the Legion

Mill them as fast as possible hoping to hit enough of their deck that their tutor spells can’t find any 《Primeval Titan》s or lands.

How to Play the Match-up:

Ultimately, this match-up is a race, they don’t have great ways to deal with our 《Hedron Crab》 or 《Mesmeric Orb》. Go for the most efficient and fastest mill as each card they lose out of their deck is great value in stopping them from being able to kill us when they land a 《Primeval Titan》.

Ensnaring BridgeReclamation SageMesmeric Orb

After sideboard they have interaction for our 《Ensnaring Bridge》 and 《Mesmeric Orb》, so keep in mind you can use a discard spell or 《Surgical Extraction》 before landing one of these key artifacts.

Whir Prison

Keycards to 《Surgical Extraction》:

Whir of InventionThopter FoundrySword of the MeekTezzeret, Agent of Bolas

《Whir of Invention》, 《Thopter Foundry》/《Sword of the Meek》. Post Board: 《Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas》.

What is the Game Plan?

Surgical ExtractionInquisition of KozilekField of Ruin

Mill their key cards as fast as possible. Don’t waste 《Surgical Extraction》, discard spells or 《Field of Ruin》 in unnecessary spots.

How to Play the Match-up:

Witchbane OrbChalice of the VoidAcademy Ruins

The card we fear the most is 《Witchbane Orb》, followed by 《Chalice of the Void》. We want to use early discard to prevent a possible 《Whir of Invention》 for 《Witchbane Orb》. Additionally, try to use up any 1 Converted Mana Cost spells first to prevent 《Chalice of the Void》 from blowing us out. Save your 《Field of Ruin》 to kill 《Academy Ruins》 as we can not win as long as that card is on the board. (Barring some 《Extirpate》/《Surgical Extraction》 on their upkeep)

Back to the Top

Going Forward with War of the Spark

《Ashiok, Dream Render》

The most obvious inclusion from War of the Spark is 《Ashiok, Dream Render》.

Ashiok, Dream Render

In the past, I’ve always avoided any 3 mana mill cards as I deem them too slow, but this card isn’t for racing, it’s for playing into your disruptive Control game plan. Although it seems counter intuitive, you can still activate 《Field of Ruin》 to enable your 《Archive Trap》s, what this deck really does is it eliminates your opponent the choice of allowing your alternate cost. Additionally, with this out for a few turns, you get more turns to draw Traps so when they finally remove Ashiok and crack their fetch, you are ready to cast your 《Archive Trap》s.

This card is a great main deck hedge against all the graveyard decks in Modern right now. I would look at replacing 《Crypt Incursion》 first, then maybe 《Collective Brutality》 or 《Ensnaring Bridge》. This card does not work very well with 《Visions of Beyond》, but I believe it is an okay cost to give up.

《Karn, the Great Creator》

Karn, the Great Creator

Another option is 《Karn, the Great Creator》. This card can kill 《Chalice of the Void》 and act as an expensive 《Stony Silence》. Additionally, it can tutor for both 《Ensnaring Bridge》 and 《Mesmeric Orb》, and allow us to explore playing additional artifacts such as 《Torpor Orb》, 《Pithing Needle》 and 《Witchbane Orb》.

Thanks for reading,

Jason Chung @Sqlut on Twitter / Sqlut on Twitch

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Jason Chung Jason Chung is a top player from New Zealand. He is known as the best New Zealander in the history because no one advanced to the Pro Tour Sunday other than him. He is skillful at playing combo decks so piloting UR Storm (Modern) or Rally the Ancestors (Old Standard) is quite easy for him. He also likes aggro decks like Burn (Modern), and kind of prison decks like Dragon Stompy (Legacy). Read more articles by Jason Chung