[SINGLE CARD STRATEGY] Some words about Millstone.
Dear Pojo reader.
Salute to Jeff Franzmann for his unique Single Card Strategies (originally located at: http://mox.perl.com/deckmaster/scs/index.html, but disappeared in the meanwhile) and numerous strategic evaluations of often underrated cards. His articles had made me look differently at a lot of cards in the past. Even if some of the evaluations are outdated now (after release of more than 10 expansion sets), at least the writing style is worth to read some descriptions again.
Nevertheless, during excessive play with an U/W control deck I recognized some strategic impacts by using Millstones which I like to share now with the community. My personal way of card rating uses victory points. There is one or maybe more than one point for every strategic impact of the card to a specific play situation, independent of the opponents type of deck and playing style. Finally I summarize the victory points to get an impression about the tactical strength of a card.
On to the Millstone:
Putting two cards from the top of a players library on the top of his graveyard is not a big deal by itself. No damage, no land destruction, no creature removal, no artifact removal and no neutralization of opponents threats. Nothing of them directly but all of them at the same time in a subversive way.
There are up to now a lot of recursion decks out who’s players may thank you for filling their graveyard. What if you are planning to play such a deck by yourself? You need a creature, enchantment or what ever card in your graveyard - go mill your own deck. Consider the use of the Millstone because of the additional strategic effects you gain from it. Half of a victory point for supporting the own deck’s strategy.
The Millstone is a potent weapon against the common four Tutors (first in Mirage, later in sixth Edition) as you may mill away whatever the opponent had put on top of his deck. Or otherwise, the opponent will not use any Tutor as long as an active Millstone is in play. That gives one victory point for fighting against decks which relay on specific cards.
Agonizing Memories, Painful Memories, Memory Lapse, Time Ebb, Fallow Earth, Plow Under, Elven Warhounds and the new Temporal Spring all are very nice by themselves but combine especially well with the Millstone in removing opponents threats. Some of the cards (maybe except the Warhounds :) are worth building a special deck around them. One more victory point for targeted removal of an opponents threat.
If used in a ‘bleeding’ deck, like the mentioned U/W Humility/Forbid/Millstone deck, this nice little artifact shows its best side: depleting approximately 2/3 of the opponents spells leaving him with a rest of only 1/3 for use. This should not be underrated, it is a serious attack that will give the opponent headaches. In its simple power the Millstone makes the assembly of any combo much harder. The opponent does not have his combo cards in 4 copies each available, no there may be only 1 or 2 (depending on luck and the initial draw) of each left after milling through the whole deck! In most cases when I was playing my U/W deck the opponents cries out loudly: ‘Hey, you’re lucky, you countered the first Disenchant and now you mill away all my others’. Then I have to answer: ‘No, I’m not lucky, dear opponent, you have to play with only 1/3 of your deck. Therefore you have to use your single Disenchant to destroy both my Humility and my Millstone! Tell me how you will do that.’
Why 1/3? The opponent draws one card each turn and you mill away two more. That is the reason I do not agree with Jeff’s original recommendation to use Millstone together with Howling Mine. Four cards per turn sounds like a good bleeding progress, but the denial is only 50 per cent (two drawn, two milled away). On the other hand you may increase the rate slightly by using Fatigue (maybe the combination with Howling Mine is the only serious use for that card).
Let us reconsider: If the Millstone is already in action you need to disrupt or denial only 1/3 of the remaining threats. That gives you the freedom to reduce the number of counters (for example) for keeping ‘total’ control and opens the possibility to use Forbid with maximum power. If you can add a couple of spells that deal with all those permanents which are already on the board (let’s say: Wrath of God, Scattering Pulse, Allay) you should win. Simple, isn’t it? And God help your opponent if you are able to have two active Millstones in play! Three victory points for that strategic impact is appropriate.
What other card can neutralize that amount of spells?
That makes all together: 5,5 strategic victory points for the Millstone.
What are the downsides?
The bad pairing downside: Your opponent is playing Counter-Oath or another Deck using Gaeas Blessings. To escape from the never ending Millstone-story you need at least one Jesters Cap resolving to remove all the Blessings. In a creature based deck, the Rootwater Thief may be the proper replacement. Especially the Cap does not have a very high probability to become active, only a small chance. Nevertheless, maybe the Millstone deck is the only one that can include a Jesters Cap maindeck for good reason.
The technical downside: If you include four Cursed Scrolls in your deck, have one in the starting hand and draw the other three during your next three turns, chances are good that you survive the duel. If the same happens with Millstones, you will most probably loose. To bring it to the point, the Millstone is no offensive threat, it is neither a lifesaver nor a board controlling card by itself.
Finally some words about the often claimed preference of Grindstone over Millstone. Personally I would include three Millstones and one Grindstone maindeck and have one of each in the Sideboard. Especially when playing a control deck, mana is limited and the higher activation cost of the Grindstone may be more of a disadvantage then the possibility of milling additional cards away (don’t forget the need to have mana available for counterspells to responses of the opponent to your Grindstone activation). Only if the opponent plays a mono colour deck, preferably mono Blue, I would sideboard in the second Grindstone and search for it with an Enlightened Tutor. To have both ‘Stones’ in your deck provides something like a Lifeline against opponents Splinter, which you may miss to counter. Yes, believe me, splinter will resolve only once - next time you will play more carefully.
My deck example for a proper use of Millstone (Type 1.75):
1x Jesters Cap
4x Wrath of God
3x Enlightened Tutor
3x Force of Will (or maybe Foil)
1x Trade Routes
Thanks for your attention