“How do I want to win?”
This is likely the first question that you ask when you set out to build a deck. Once that decision is made, you can decide what cards you’d like to include to achieve that goal.
Today, in carrying on last week’s tradition of discussing odd decks, I want to discuss a few modern decks that have no true win con.
These are the ultimate attrition decks.
This deck is unique in the fact that it was pioneered entirely by the community at MTGSalvation over three years ago. The members of this forum have tested every possible card choice and mana color. As a result, it’s been radically tweaked since its inception. Credit for this deck definitely goes to those guys, but it was considered fringe and noncompetitive until in 2015, Zac Elsik brought the deck to Grand Prix Oklahoma City and took first place!
Here is the deck Zac used:
If you’ve never seen this deck before, you might be asking yourself, ‘what does this deck do again?’
Lantern Control is all about hand control and eventually, establishing a lock on the game. The strategy focuses a few cards. Lantern of Insight allows you, the Lantern pilot, to see everything your opponent is doing. Ghoulcaller’s Bell and Codex Shredder are used to control your opponent’s draw steps, by milling anything the you don’t want to deal with, at instant speed. It’s very easy to get these cards on the field in multiples. In fact, in an average game, you might have up to 6 of these ‘Mill Rocks’ on the field, which means your opponent needs seven threats in a row in order to squeeze a threat through the Lantern Control Prison.
Speaking of prisons, the last piece of the lockdown is Ensnaring Bridge. Since the deck has an extremely low curve, it empties its hand very fast, and Ensnaring Bridge keeps creatures from attacking them. Once they successfully establish a lock on the game, the only thing you need to do is keep your opponent from drawing their oh-so-critical hate cards, but that’s easy to do with so many cards to mill a good draw away.
Other cards in the deck contribute to, but don’t actually establish, the lock:
A great early game card is Surgical Extraction, with it you can strip a key card from your opponent’s deck after they milled it away.
Players also found that Spellskite and Sun Droplet were necessary to stay in the game versus aggro until a lock could be established. Spellskite also has a bonus of deflecting removal away from the key prison cards. Many players also run Academy Ruins to fight early artifact hate.
How does it win?
Lantern Control wins by milling out your opponent. That’s right, this is your competitive Mill deck. Once the lock is established (And often-times before), you WILLl mill away your opponent’s cards, selectively milling to deny them answers or other cards that could break the prison. Throughout the game, you’ll find more mill rocks, which allows you to mill your opponent even faster, all while controlling the entire game.
Lantern Control is widely viewed as one of the most (If not THE most) skill intensive and decision intensive decks in modern. You have to have a vast knowledge of other decks in your current meta to know what cards to Needle, which to Extract, and which key cards to mill away.
Doesn’t Lantern Lose to Common Sideboard cards?
This is a common misconception about Lantern Control. It’s easy to say that Lantern Control loses to two or three copies of Ancient Grudge in the sideboard...and this is true. In theory. In reality, you would never let your opponent draw those hate cards that they so desperately needed.
It’s easy to look at the deck list and see what the cards do, without seeing the core engine of what the deck will do. Anyone who believes Lantern Control “Loses to artifact hate” will likely lose to it, due to not understanding how the deck works.
What DOES it lose to?
Burn: This is the worst matchup for a Lantern deck, since Sun Droplet and Pyroclasm from the sideboard are some of the few cards that can put in an effort to slow down the burn deck. Welding Jar can also help keep the prison assembled if they bring in Destructive Revelry.
Jund: It’s hard to selectively mill the opponent, when so many of their cards are heavy hitters. If you get a Pithing Needle, naming Liliana is best. If they manage to break the prison, Tarmogoyf presents the fastest clock around.
That’s really it though.
In short, most matchups are favorable as Lantern Control. At its core, just keeps your opponent from doing what they would normally do.
The Real Mill Deck
That’s right, this deck wants your opponent to run out of cards as well. But in a different fashion that Lantern. Mostly, it’s very aggressive with the milling, with potential to throw away 10+ cards a turn. Another way to look at is a slower burn deck that has to count to 50 instead of 18.
This deck has been around for a very long time, but it is only competitive in the slowest of metas:
Assaults on the Mind
In order to make your opponent ‘Deck’ themselves as fast as possible, this deck capitalizes on all the most powerful mill effects available. First and foremost, is Glimpse the Unthinkable. This card is tough on the wallet simply because no other mill spell comes close to this level of power and efficiency. The second best spell is Archive Trap. A nice interaction is to enable the free cast by using Path to Exile, Ghost Quarter, Extirpate, or Surgical Extraction against your opponent.
Other spells, such as Mind Funeral, Breaking, Hedron Crab, and Thought Scour contribute to the mill plan as well. Mesmeric Orb performs essentially the same role as Eidolon in Burn. You mill yourself, but your opponent gets milled even faster.
Putting Up a Wall
With a single-minded deck such as this, there needs to be plenty of defense. Generally, extraction effects such as Surgical Extraction, Extirpate, and Haunting Echoes may be used to keep the opponent from playing troublesome permanents. As a bonus, they accelerate the mill plan.
Path to Exile is the most efficient removal in modern and therefore is an easy include. Even though Crypt Incursion doesn’t synergize with Path, it can help stabilize versus an aggro deck after milling a few creatures.
The sideboard is also almost entirely defensive cards. Leyline of the Void attempts to keep the mill deck from accelerating opposing graveyard synergies. Some other cards include additional Crypt Incursions and Ensnaring Bridges which help fend off aggro decks, along with a playset of Darkness.
Why Doesn’t it See Play?
Unfortunately, Mill has been pigeon-holed into being a fringe deck in modern. It’s seen as burn’s less effective cousin. The reason is, because the play styles are similar, except in this case your opponent’s deck is their ‘life total.’ In modern, burn also has the benefit of working with your opponents fetch and shock lands most of the time.
Burn is the much faster of the two, and is generally much harder to hate out than mill. It’s also better equipped to remove creatures than mill. Another knock against mill is that you face the possibility of accelerating your opponent’s graveyard synergies.
The main problems with Mill fall into one or more of these three categories:
- Milling an opponent to 0 doesn’t affect him/her until their next draw step.
- Many decks have powerful creatures and/or other ways to beat you before they mill completely out.
- Certain cards in the graveyard, such as Emrakul can invalidate all your hard work.
Regardless of these apparent drawbacks, if losing friends is your goal, this deck will do the trick. Many players hate having to throw away all their cards. The kind of place that this could most likely perform well is at a smaller Friday Night Magic event, just because most players would not expect it or know how to handle it.
Did Shadows Over Innistrad Bring A New Toy?
Startled Awake is definitely a super cool card but I think the verdict is in on that one and most people agree, a 4 drop that mills 13 just isn’t what a modern mill decks want since other cards like Archive Trap and Glimpse the Unthinkable are so much more efficient.
Most players agree it's one of the coolest card from the new set, but unfortunately, just not good.
That’s All Folks!
Yes, that’s all for now, but next time I’ll be back with two more decks that will make your friends wish they never introduced you to Magic.
I hope you enjoyed this article and hope you come back next time.
Thanks for reading!