Hidden Draft Archetypes of Outlaws of Thunder Junction: Mill

Abhi Vaidyanatha
8 min readApr 23, 2024

Players at my local game store know me for playing nonstandard draft archetypes. I try to make unique things happen in draft when the lane shows itself to be open. When Wizards creates draft sets, they specifically create “hidden” archetypes to appeal to players like me that like brewing combos that are off the beaten path. If you’re interested in pulling off some unique draft combos in this set, this set of articles are for you. We’ll go over every hidden archetype eventually, starting with Mill.

Mill

It’s better than you think.

Winning by making your opponent draw from an empty library, colloquially known as Milling, is a dangerous proposition in draft. The archetype reminds me of a gameplay truism that Magic players like to use: “The only life point that matters is the last one.” It’s like that but more extreme, where the only card in your opponent’s deck that matters is the last one. In essence, if you can’t introduce a reasonable board presence or interact with your opponent, none of your work mattered.

Usually you elope only once!

Historically, Mill has only been viable in draft when you are able to further your game plan of dumping your opponent’s library while simultaneously interacting with their threats. This was accomplished in Throne of Eldraine Limited by pairing Merfolk Secretkeeper with Run Away Together. Cast the Adventure side to mill your opponent, then cast the creature to stop early aggro. Then use Run Away Together to bounce an opposing threat and the Secretkeeper. Rinse and Repeat.

Luckily for us, the Dimir Crime archetype provides a very similar shell for accomplishing this, albeit with a far less consistent gameplan.

The Stats

17Lands is a website commonly used to look at card win rates on MTG Arena. By evaluating the performance of cards that exclusively function in the Mill archetype, we can uncover learnings about the people that try to make it work. Before jumping in, we want to know that what we are doing is worth trying.

Deepmuck Desperado

This card is a big reason for the existence of this deck. It being at Uncommon means that on average, you will see 1–2 every draft.

His rhymes could use some work.
  • It’s drafted on average around 7th pick.
  • When drafted, people play it 57% of the time.
  • When played, it reduces a player’s average win rate by 4.8%.
  • When played and not drawn, it reduces a player’s win rate by 6.1%

Let’s interpret this. This card should not be played in a non-Mill deck and yet it’s played by 57% of players that draft it. This means that players are building poor Mill decks or they are jamming it in decks that really don’t want it. On average, players perform worse when they play it in their deck. But since decks that play it perform even worse when they don’t see it in a game, I’d wager that people are attempting Mill and failing. So is Mill a poor archetype? Let’s look further.

Archive Trap

It’s really funny when you cast this for 0.

This card should also only see play in a deck trying to assemble a mill win condition, so let’s check out its stats. Note that since it’s on the bonus sheet, we are suffering from a fairly low sample size (1332 picks). It’s good enough for science, but low compared to the Desperado (5679 picks).

  • It’s drafted on average at 6th pick.
  • When drafted, people play it 31.9% of the time.
  • When played, it reduces a player’s average win rate by 1.3%.
  • When drawn in game, it increases win rate by 6% — Wow!
  • When played and not drawn, it reduces win rate by 4.7%.

Let’s interpret this one! This provides the other half of the context we were missing. According to the Desperado’s stats, it seemed like players were attempting Mill and failing more often than not. But according to these stats, Archive Trap Mill has similar performance metrics to some of the best cards in the set. Since the play rate on draft is significantly lower and the win rate is a lot higher, this tells me that players attempting Mill with Archive Trap are better players, have a better idea of the Mill gameplan, and/or are being carried by Archive Trap.

We’ve learned two things:

  • There are more bad Mill decks than good ones.
  • Archive Trap could be make or break for the exclusive Mill gameplan.

The Game Pieces

Mill Pieces

  • At Uncommon rarity, Deepmuck Desperado will be your most common pull into Mill. Multiple copies of this card on board will deck your opponent very fast with many cheap, instant speed crimes such as Take the Fall. Having this on board means that your crimes interact with their plan while furthering yours — this our aforementioned ideal scenario.
  • At Rare… rarity, Archive Trap is the second obvious pull into Mill. Milling 13 cards is usually about half of the way there after 6 draw steps. Throw in any incidental draw they may have, and it’s consistently half of their deck. If you can flash this back with Slickshot Lockpicker, it’s game over for them.
  • Desperate Bloodseeker mills your opponent for two, which is a crime. The Lifelink is useful for stabilizing through the early and midgame. This card is not going to be the Mill engine, but it happily goes in a typical Dimir Crime deck if you need to pivot away from Mill.

That’s it. There’s technically also Tinybones Joins Up, but you’re mostly just playing that for the discard. We don’t have a lot to work with, so you really need to find these pieces to make this work.

Support Pieces

Plan B(ombs)

  • With enough control cards for the ground, you can get in with fliers if your Mill plan isn’t working out. Marauding Sphinx is a great crime payoff and can get in for 3 every turn. If you’re lucky enough to pull Stoic Sphinx, this is great too. Hollow Marauder is fantastic, but is best if you have enough creatures in the yard.
  • This is obvious, but having some bomb rare that just cares about crimes like Gisa or Vadmir will be extra good in this deck due to how efficiently you will be committing crimes.
  • An opponent with a lot of playable cards may also commit to adding 5–10 extra cards to their deck after game 1, so don’t count on it working the same way after sideboarding.

Adding some Red — Grixis

With the right payoffs and fixing, dipping into red could be worth it. Just be careful — you can’t afford to get mana screwed while also trying to do something complicated. If you pick up some red deserts and enough Desert’s Due, you’ll be quite happy here.

This section will seem extremely obvious, as I’m just listing bombs, but there is intentionality here. Note that I did not include any red crimes such as Deadeye Duelist, Explosive Derailment, Thunder Salvo, or Longhorn Sharpshooter. These are great playables (especially the Longhorn), but they are part of a Grixis crime deck, not a Mill deck with a central blue/black shell. In general, you should always splash bombs, not playables. I also notably did not include any red bombs that require 2 red mana to play.

As per the splash rules, have 3 red mana producers if you’re splashing one of these cards. 4 red producers for two, and so on. Ideally, as mentioned, you’re using the Deserts to splash.

Here are some good reasons to dip into red:

Laughing Jasper Flint

He laughs especially hard after exiling your bomb rare.

This card just rocks. It gets you card advantage, it’s a relevant 4/3 body, and lo and behold… it “mills” your opponent. With two other rogues on board, you are exiling three off the top of your opponent’s library every turn and you even get to play those cards. There’s a good chance you incidentally find crimes in your opponent’s deck, which you should play happily. If you want to live a real pipe dream, pair it with Obeka, Splitter of Seconds.

Marchesa, Dealer of Death

She’s dealing more cards than death, generally.

Unless your opponent immediately removes Marchesa when you have no mana up, she will replace herself immediately with any incidental crime. She can help put stuff in the graveyard for your Hollow Marauders, put a Forsaken Miner in the bin to bring back later, or pick up a needed removal spell. This card is top tier removal bait though, so don’t expect it to stick around for too long.

Magda, the Hoardmaster

We’ll talk about treasures later.

You’re going to be consistently committing crimes, so triggering Magda will be straightforward. Use the treasures she creates in a pinch, but you really want to save them up to buy a Scorpion Dragon, which adds some extra inevitability to your gameplan. Don’t lean too heavily into other treasure creators, although you can do some cute things like sacrificing Forsaken Miners to Boneyard Desecrator to create treasures for Magda.

Example

Here is an example deck that I played on Arena with some friends from my local game store. This deck leans more heavily into a crime focused gameplan with a Mill combo win condition. This deck went 7–1 in Premier Draft with three out of seven wins being Mill wins.

Do try this at home.

Pivoting

Let’s say you find a Deepmuck Desperado early in Pack 1 and start assembling a blue/black Crime shell with the hope of getting into Mill.

If you don’t see any other Desperados or Archive Trap by early-mid Pack 3, you should plan to cut the Desperado and be left with a very playable deck. You likely passed on one or two higher quality picks to get here, but you’re not hosed, as your deck functions completely without the Mill engine.

Wrapping Up

I hope this guide has convinced you that Mill is a viable archetype, but also that it shouldn’t be forced. It’s great when you:

  • Have 2+ Desperados and/or an Archive Trap
  • Have a Plan B for when your Mill is removed or countered
  • Have enough crimes to interact with your opponent’s game plan

Happy Milling!

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