Most new Magic: The Gathering players learn that you win the game by dealing 20 damage to your opponent. But there are plenty of other ways to win games of Magic. In the last few years, we’ve seen the proliferation of cards that allow you to win the game or force your opponents to lose.
And, of course, there’s the oldest alternate win condition in the book: your opponent loses the game when they can no longer draw cards from their library.
What is Mill?
The concept of “mill” is almost as old as Magic itself. It refers to the act of putting cards directly from a player’s library into their graveyard, usually so that player will eventually run out of cards to draw. The word “mill” comes from Millstone — an artifact introduced in Third Edition — and it’s been a common slang term among players ever since. That is, until Wizards officially made it a keyword in Core Set 2021.
Though mill takes its name from a colorless artifact, it’s an ability you’ll find almost exclusively on blue cards nowadays. You’ll also see mill on a number of blue-black cards, including several of the Dimir cards from Magic‘s many trips to Ravnica.
Mill decks are common in a number of Magic formats — you can build a Ruin Crab landfall deck in Standard or a Phenax deck in Commander. There’s also a fast and powerful mill deck in Modern, which utilizes spells like Glimpse the Unthinkable and Archive Trap.
But you don’t just have to mill your opponents — there are certain advantages that come from putting cards into your own graveyard. Decks like Dredge are entirely built around putting cards in the bin, and recent creatures like Uro and Kroxa can hit the battlefield again and again if you have a full graveyard. There are even cards that allow you to win if you have no cards left in your library, such as Laboratory Maniac, Thassa’s Oracle, and Jace, Wielder of Mysteries.
A few additional things to keep in mind, whether you’re milling your opponents or yourself:
- Remember, you don’t lose the game from having no cards left in your library — you lose the game if you go to draw a card and can’t. If your opponent has milled all your cards, you’ll still have one more turn left to try and win the game.
- If you would mill more cards than you have in your library, you mill what you can.
- However, if you’re trying to pay a cost that requires you to mill more cards than you have in your library, you cannot pay that cost.
Check out the rest of our keyword ability primers: