Do Your Worst - Gruul Mill

Compost | Secret Lair Art by Victor Adame Minguez

Milling Around

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another installment of Do Your Worst, where we take a popular archetype and find the most unusual home for it! I'm your host, Philomène, and in this column, we look at decks that shouldn't be – or should they?

Ah, mill.

We all have experienced the agony of this strategy at some point. I have seen my deck flash before my eyes, knowing I would perish at my next draw step. I have witnessed the full potential of my carefully selected pile of cards waste away at the bottom of my graveyard. One night, the horror became unbearable: I watched helplessly as my own creatures rose against me! This nightmarish assault on my life total and sanity left me broken, shattered, spiraling down into madness.

Ahem. Sorry, I've been playing Darkest Dungeon all week. I'll return to my normal tone now!

According to the EDHREC mill theme page, mill "is a Magic deck archetype that seeks to defeat opponents by eliminating the cards in their libraries, rather than by reducing life totals to 0. It does this by ‘milling’ cards (putting the top cards of a library into its owner’s graveyard). Then, when opponents attempt to draw a card from an empty library, that player loses the game."

This strategy has a bit of a bad reputation, but honestly, in Commander, killing your opponents in this way is quite difficult, as it requires you to get rid of 300 cards! Not an easy task.

Before we try to build our off-color mill deck, let's see what are the top five colors combinations for this archetype.

Dimir wins by a lot, and the next four combinations are variations within the Sultai colors. The commanders representing this top five are Captain N'ghathrod, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Bruvac the Grandiloquent, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, and Grolnok, the Omnivore. Green is present, but mostly in the three decks that focus more heavily on self-mill: Sidisi, Jarad, and Grolnok.

Boros is obviously absent from this list, and that's probably where we should begin looking. However, this article is titled Gruul Mill, so what's up with that? Let's find out.

The Research

I began the way I usually do, which is with a Scryfall search. There are 48 cards in Boros that reference the word "mill", and the vast majority of them are colorless artifacts. In fact, the most efficient ones, like Keening Stone, work with an activated ability. I immediately thought of Zirda, the Dawnwaker's mana reduction ability and began brewing. The thing is, milling your opponents is a long process, even for supported Dimir decks. Payoffs like Syr Konrad, the Grim or Consuming Aberration help you stay threatening and relevant over the course of the game. In Boros, my payoffs were minimal. If I was going to make a deck that could function and hang with regular mid-powered decks, I would have to add green into the mix. I tried to go Naya.

My next attempt was with the Partner pair of Akiri, Line-Slinger and Ich-Tekik, Salvage Splicer. In this version, Akiri could get pretty big, and I became interested in artifacts like Mindcrank and Crumbling Sanctuary. The thing is, I was killing people faster by hitting them than by milling them. The deck also struggled with card advantage. Basically, I had "pockets" of synergy, but the deck as a whole felt clunky. In gaining access to green, though, I was able to play Meria, Scholar of Antiquity, and every time I drew the card, I felt like the deck just hummed and took off. I decided to forsake white and go with Meria as the commander. Turns out, mana generation and card advantage in the command zone is pretty good, huh?

With Meria as my commander, I could focus on my gameplan. That's the thing with off-color decks: everything is possible, but there are very few cards that do double duty. A spell like Didn't Say Please is good because it acts both as interaction and as a mill piece. With Meria, cards like Altar of the Brood can not only mill my opponents, but also tap for mana, so I can then dedicate other slots in the deck for utility or synergy pieces. Meria lets the deck breathe, so to speak.

Let's get into the deck in its final form then, shall we?

The Mills of the Magic Gods Grind Slowly

Now that we have our commander and our colors, let the milling begin.

Our best tools are probably Mesmeric Orb, Altar of the Brood, and Keening Stone. That last one takes a while to take off, but it is exponential and can be very threatening in the late game. Ghoulcaller's Bell and Worry Beads are slow, but Beads can be tapped for mana, so that's not too bad. Speaking of, we're able to generate a lot of mana with Meria, so mana sinks, like Sands of Delirium, Whetstone, and Whetwheel, are really useful. We also have the infamous Grindstone and Painter's Servant combo in here. To round everything out, we have Sword of Body and Mind, so that Meria can get into the fray, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, because that attack trigger is pretty good!

Rings of Brighthearth are useful in a deck with lots of activated abilities, and while we're at it, why not include its good friend, Basalt Monolith, for a little infinite mana combo? We also have our recursion crew: Myr Retriever, Junk Diver, Scrap Trawler, and Workshop Assistant. They're good value and can get into some loops with Grinding Station!

What are our payoffs for milling our opponents?

Profane Memento can gain us a lot of life for just one mana. I've also been very impressed with Compost. Sure, you might get into a pod without any black, but when this card pops off, it's absolutely incredible. I really like Dire Fleet Daredevil as a way to cast a useful spell outside our colors. I use Klothys, God of Destiny for mana most of the time, but the drain is nice too. Bonehoard scales up as the game progresses. Centaur Vinecrasher can be retrieved from the graveyard if you mill it and can be a decent threat later in the game. Portal to Phyrexia controls the board and lets us reanimate our opponents' best creatures.

We will end up milling ourselves quite a bit, especially with Mesmeric Orb and Whetstone, so how can we use our graveyard for value?

Goblin Welder will help us buy back artifacts from our graveyard. Conduit of Worlds is a Ramunap Excavator effect that gives us the option of casting a permanent from our graveyard every turn. If we do so, we can't cast any more spells that turn, but that doesn't matter when our strategy relies on activated abilities. Scrap Mastery gets us back in the game after an unfortunate enemy Vandalblast or catapults us ahead when we've milled a good portion of our deck. Actually, what do we do if our own library gets dangerously low? Fear not! Gaea's Blessing and Elixir of Immortality are here to save us when we fly a little too close to the sun.

Run of the Mill

We are milling our opponents. Success! Now, let's make sure the deck runs smoothly by checking our essentials.


As you will see in the decklist below, we don't really run mana rocks. Heresy? Not quite. Like I said, Meria turns pretty much everything into a Moss Diamond, so wasting our early turns casting mana accelerants is really not what we want to be doing. Still, Sol Ring is a must. Foundry Inspector makes an appearance, and I have found The Mightstone and Weakstone's modality to be quite useful.

Card Advantage

Obviously, Meria is really good at providing card advantage as well, but we don't want to rely solely on her. As I said earlier, Compost can get us an insane number of cards in the right pod. Howling Mine can be turned off by Meria's ability so that only we take advantage of it. I found Sarinth Steelseeker to be quite good, especially when our graveyard is an extension of our hand. Mystic Forge lets us cast a good percentage of our cards from the top of our library. Combustible Gearhulk is a pet card of mine, and, in the right situation, drawing or milling three cards will functionally be the same.


Unfortunately, the biggest holes in our deck are in the interaction department. Still, Beast Within and Chaos Warp let us deal with any permanent. Haywire Mite taps for mana until you need to use it. You Find Some Prisoners can take care of a problematic artifact or exile three cards from an opponents' library; I count that as milling! The Mightstone and Weakstone can Dismember something if need be, and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger can exile two permanents on cast. Vandalblast, Chain Reaction, and Blasphemous Act will help us clear the board if it gets too cluttered.

As far as protecting our gameplan, we have options. In this deck, Welding Jar, Lightning Greaves, and Swiftfoot Boots are all protection pieces that can tap for mana. Meria produces green mana, so instants like Tamiyo's Safekeeping, Heroic Intervention, and Moment's Peace are all castable at a moment's notice. Last but not least, Tibalt's Trickery says "mill" on it! Wow, look at us go!


Tormod's Crypt is just a Mox Emerald that can get rid of a problematic graveyard. Since we'll be tapping a lot of artifacts, Voltaic Key and Unwinding Clock will generate a lot of value for us. Mycosynth Lattice is a useful tool to have and pairs devastatingly well with Vandalblast. Titania's Song can create an interesting boardstate with Hair-Strung Koto and Unwinding Clock where all your artifacts can now tap to mill a card on each player's turn. Is it good? Debatable. Is it cool? Undoubtedly.

Let's check out the decklist!

⚙️ Meria Miller Band | Gruul Mill

View on Archidekt

Commander (1)
Artifacts (33)
Enchantments (2)
Sorceries (5)
Instants (7)
Creatures (15)
Lands (37)

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Gaea's Blessing | Art by Rebecca Guay

Going Against the Grain

Well, this was certainly a challenge! There were times when I thought we wouldn't make it, but I think the deck came out pretty well! Let's talk about some notable exclusions.

Exoskeletal Armor is an interesting payoff, but it's an enchantment, so it's not very synergistic with our plan. Terravore, Lhurgoyf, and Undergrowth Scavenger are just worse versions of Centaur Vinecrasher. Screaming Shield, Book Burning, Millstone and many other mill cards were not efficient enough to be worth an include. Without access to Rest in Peace, Helm of Obedience becomes a lot worse as well.

And there we have it! How would you build a Gruul mill deck? Did I forget to include an awesome card? Is there any hidden synergy that I missed? Do you think I should have stayed with Zirda, the Dawnwaker or Akiri and Ich-Tekik? Let me know in the comments below! I'm Philomène, and this has been Do Your Worst. See you next time!

Philomène is a film composer from Montréal, Canada. Her love of card games started in the late 90's with Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z and of course, Magic: The Gathering. Preferring a more casual kind of game in commander (art and lore being very high on her list of reasons to play cards), she satiates her competitive urges through Limited formats.

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