Yana Does Yarna – A Dead of Winter Mill Guide

Introduction

Ah, rotation.  A time to take a step back, enjoy a new format, and go stir-crazy with a new set of cards and figure out all of the neat synergies and top-tier a new Standard metagame gives us.

And then there’s Mill.  For those that are unclear on what Mill is, it is simply a strategy of play designed to provide a victory by forcing our opponent to draw from an empty library, by moving cards from our opponent’s deck to the crypt or graveyard.

Mill archetypes have had a long and storied history in TCGs of being fringe playable but never truly “competitive.”  In Magic: The Gathering, for example, the closest thing to a true Mill deck is a purely prison-style deck that essentially allows you to manipulate the top card of an opponent’s deck, choosing to put it in the graveyard if you like, one at a time.  It is an agonizingly slow approach, and – rightfully so – many players are disenfranchised by such a style of play.  Alternatively, “Mill” decks that have been more powerful in Magic were essentially control shells that provided a similarly slow mill option as one of several avenues of victory.  Decks that aim for a purely Mill-based victory in most TCGs suffer from one of three things:

  1. The deck is too slow to achieve its objective before dying to more aggressive strategies,
  2. Too few cards exist to really provide a true “Mill” deck, or
  3. The cards that do exist are not competitively focused and designed primarily for casual play.

Most players will shy away from Mill-centric archetypes in TCGs for fear of being easily defeated or, frankly, ostracized by opponents for their sub-par choice of deck.  Not me.  Not in Hex.   Luckily for us, Hex seems to have deviated from the “causal only” approach to the Mill archetype.  Starting with Frostheart, Hex has provided a solid framework for a more focused and powerful Mill engine, and that has continued with a vengeance in Dead of Winter.  Today, I’d like to discuss some of the core cards behind the Mill archetype and then offer a few variations on deck choices for your next laddering effort or Standard tournament.

The Staples

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yarna is the Champion of choice for Mill decks, and provides a solid starting life total, to boot.  Plus, it kinda sounds like Yana – what’s not to love?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regardless of the final direction you take with the Mill archetype in Hex, these four cards should absolutely be in your deck.  Cult of the Nameless City provides a consistent bury effect that is harder to remove than a troop, making it a reliable choice to produce value in every game.  Moreover, in the mid-to-late game, it can act as a solid source of card draw.

Inevitably, Mill pilots will need to have consistent answers to the many troop-based threats in the current Standard metagame, and to that end, I would never leave home without a full four copies of Herofall and at least 3 copies of Massacre.  Make sure to tune the rest of your deck to not suffer to a cast of Massacre!

Nameless Draught is one of my favorite resources to have come from Dead of Winter.  Providing a fast resource and Sapphire threshold, I have come to value the Drop of Chaos it provides more than gaining a charge.  If you’re playing Mill, play four of these.

The “Probably Should Plays”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Demented Whispers is a deceptively powerful card in that it provides not only a decent bury effect, but also hand disruption that increases over time courtesy of Escalation.  My general rule of thumb with all Escalation cards: if you are going to play one, play four.  Demented Whispers is absolutely at its best when a full playset is considered.
Emerging Blasphem is one of the stronger uncommons I’ve seen that provides a decent bury effect.  Don’t let the cost scare you – it is generally easy to cast this for 4 resources or fewer, making this a strong card in the mid-to-late game.  I would play four copies for consistency as well as the extra bury effect it provides.

Sample Decklists

Now, what you all have probably been waiting for: Decklists!  I’ll be presenting two decklists for you to use as a starting base for your Milleficent adventures.  The first is a creature-focused strategy that takes advantage of the Chaostouched troop trait:

Champion: Yarna of Lost Voices
4x Blood Shard
2x Sapphire Shard
4x Well of Cunning
4x Shackling Strands
4x Herofall
3x Sapphire Ice
4x Blood Ice
4x Massacre
4x Cult of the Nameless City
4x Runebind
1x Demented Ascension
1x Shard of Cunning
3x The Librarian
4x Emerging Blasphem
4x Demented Whispers
4x Nameless Draught
4x Nameless Devourer
2x Void Star the Sightless

Reserves:
3x Strangle
2x Primordial Cockatwice
1x Demented Ascension
2x Nameless Truths
4x Fever Bloom
3x Stalking Quarry

Every troop in our deck is Chaostouched, which promotes fantastic synergy with The Librarian.  Creating a Library Curator provides our Chaostouched troops with the ability to more freely swing as they are unblockable.  This gives us an additional avenue to be the beat-down, should our opponent’s threaten our Mill game plan with a card like Robogoyle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robogoyle is likely the most effective “Gotcha!” card when playing against a Mill deck.  Playing directly into our primary game plan, Robogoyle, for all intents and purposes, is a “free” 3/3 with Flight that undoes at least one, if not multiple mill effects that we have put into place.  I would never feel bad Herofalling this, as there will likely be multiple copies in an opponent’s deck who is worried about the Mill match-up.

I want to highlight two troops in this decklist that have been back-and-forth with my playgroup as to their effectiveness:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nameless Devourer is a brilliantly designed card, that provides some interesting decisions for our opponents.  In one sense, one could argue that Nameless Devourer dies to most removal – and they would be right.  To that end, it may not appear to be the best card on the surface.  Having said that, a 5/5 crush for two resources is insane, and the cost of not having it is either a removal spell, or milling 10 cards.  I think Nameless Devourer deserves a lot more credit than I’ve seen it been given, and I have been on four copies since day one of post-Dead of Winter Standard – I don’t intend to change that.

Void Star, the Sightless is also in an interesting design space.  While it doesn’t seem extremely powerful on the surface – a 2/3 with Lethal for four resources is underwhelming – the bury ability is subtly powerful in that any mill effect can trigger its ability to put a Chaostouched into our hand.  Void Star is certainly a troop I would only advocate for in a Chaostouched-focused deck, but given the number of troops currently running around in Standard, I find it to be a solid inclusion.  Left unchecked, it can take control of a match.

Beyond our troop suite, the rest of the deck ensures that we have the staying power to effectively attack both when we do and don’t have The Librarian on the battlefield.  I have found Shackling Strands to be particularly effective in lowering the gates for a solid attacking front with benefits, with support like Runebind as extra pseudo-removal when needed.  Our reserves are primarily focused on socket strategies, control and removal-heavy decks.  In these situations, we have the ability to transform into a more all-in Mill deck that eschews some of our Chaostouched package for a harder-to-remove Mill package that can function effectively during all stages of the match.  The reserves are naturally a work in progress while the metagame becomes more solid post-rotation.

The other deck I want to discuss comes from fellow BattleShopper writer Androod, who has seen a fair amount of success with his take on Mill:

Champion: Yarna of Lost Voices
7x Blood Shard
4x Dark Heart of Nulzann – Gems: 4x Major Sapphire of Clarity, 4x Minor Sapphire of Lunacy
4x Herofall
3x Casualty of War
4x Well of Cunning
3x Cheap Shot
2x Dingle
4x Massacre
4x Sapphire Ice
4x Blood Ice
3x Cult of the Nameless City
3x Emerging Blasphem
3x Demented Destiny
4x Nameless Draught
4x Howling Madness
4x Nameless Devourer
Reserves:
2x Nameless Truths
4x Runebind
2x Verdict of the Ancient Kings (Alternate Art)
2x Disruptor Drone
1x Demented Destiny
1x Cheap Shot
2x Stalking Quarry
1x Into the Unknown

Androod has built something special here, opting to use a heavy control package to take on the many troop-focused decks of the format.  Typically, it is difficult to defend against the Mill archetype’s primary game plan (with the exception of the aforementioned Robogoyle), but in our previous, troop-based deck, the majority of our troops are undersized and susceptible to removal.  As such, other angles of play are needed to prevent us from falling victim to the loss of troops.  Don’t be fooled, though – there are plenty of solid mill effects here that keep the deck true to Yarna’s goals.  I’m particularly impressed in Androod’s inclusion of Dark Heart of Nulzann (with bury and cost reduction gems) to provide a reasonable body, reasonable mill, and a reasonable source of removal; honestly, I’m a bit embarrassed I hadn’t seen this as an option when testing this archetype!  Beyond that, Androod is deploying a full playset of a card that I’m sure will see plenty of play going forward:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Demented Destiny was a card that, I’ll admit, I took for granted until I saw Androod’s list, but my oh my does it look stellar in this take on the archetype.  Androod’s deck is absolutely designed for the late-game grind, and having multiple copies of this card in play make for a hard-to-win late game for any opponent who has already been nickel-and-dimed by the plethora of removal effects that Androod has put into place.  While perhaps not the best home for the Chaostouched version of Mill, the control-heavy iterations of Mill should absolutely stick to four copies of this card, as it shines brighter and brighter the longer the game goes.

Conclusion

Call me naive or even a dreamer, but I fully believe that Hex has provided us the tools to finally make Mill an established and powerful competitive archetype in post-rotation Standard.  There are a number of different avenues that you can explore as you seek out to wreak havoc on your opponent’s library, and I’m beyond excited to see what the Hex community comes up with.  Stay tuned as I’ll be providing some videos of each of these decks in action later this week!

What do you think?  Does Mill have a place in Hex Standard, or will it fall by the wayside as another casual pile of cards?  Feel free to leave a comment below or get in touch with me on Twitter @profyana_twitch.

Join the new Battleshopper Discord channel for real-time communication with all of our content creators and quickly ask questions or give feedback!  As always, I thank you for reading, and I’ll see you on the battlefield!

 

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