Milling to Victory

Posted in Reconstructed on July 21, 2015

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Welcome to Jace Week!

This is week two of our trip around the wheel of the five Origins Planeswalkers—and this time we're stopping at a Planeswalker very near and dear to my heart: Jace Beleren.

I've played every version of Jace in a competitive deck at one point or another, written about Jace, dressed as Jace, and—while entirely a coincidence—the fact that Jace's father is named "Gav Beleren" tickles me to no end. You could say Jace and I are close.

So, what to do for Jace Week?

Well, there is a wide variety of decks that Jace, Vryn's Prodigy fits into. You'll be seeing plenty of him across the table from you in the next year and a half, I'm sure. He's a natural fit in control, a role player in midrange, and can even do some good work in aggressive decks. But today, for Jace Week, I want to take a look at a deck that really embodies Jace and the mind-magic he's known for.

That's right ReConstructed faithful: it's finally time to dig into a mill strategy! Let's take a look at the decklist we'll be starting with today:

Yvo Warner's Jacination

Download Arena Decklist

The Battle Plan

Well, I'll give you a hint: it's certainly not attacking the opponent to death with Omenspeakers.

This deck aims to "mill" the opponent out. (Mill being shorthand for running your opponent out of cards in their library, causing them to lose.) Now, an inherent problem with most mill decks is that they try and go for it with a bunch of one-shot bursts—for example, Mind Sculpt.

Why is that a problem? Well, they tend to run out of gas because they don't have access to a critical mass of mill. And unlike, say, dealing damage; it's not like any creature can finish the job. If you've cast four Lightning Strikes on your opponent, at least they're at 8 and you can find other ways to kill them. If you've cast four Mind Sculpts they might be down 28 cards, but you will specifically need more milling cards to win the game.

This deck is a little different.

Thanks to the Jace-themed card Sphinx's Tutelage you have access to an excellent recurring source of milling. Now as you're drawing cards and executing the rest of your game plan, you're passively killing off your opponent.

And draw cards you will! With cards like Dictate of Kruphix and Treasure Cruise around, you'll be drawing plenty of cards and milling plenty with the Tutelage. If you land multiple Tutelages, it really sets up a ticking clock toward victory.

Of course, you need to survive that long. And that's where some unusual ways to protect yourself come in! Whelming Wave resets the board, buying a lot of time; and thanks to Jace, you can cast it multiple times and really slow down your opponent.

So what needs to be done in tweaking? Well, tightening up the core of the deck is crucial to making a strategy like this one work. It's going to need a bit more protection and consistency to work—and fortunately, I know just the cards.

Ready to see what they are? Let's move on!

Deck Breakdown

Which cards have a home here and which are simply underwhelming? Let's go through the deck card by card and find out!

The Mystic does a couple things well. For one, it pushes the game toward the end by getting one card out of your opponent's deck each turn. But it also provides you some card selection: when you really need the card or they're getting nothing you keep it, otherwise you send it away. It even triggers Sphinx's Tutelage for you!

However, it eats into your mana and really isn't that quick of an engine. Milling one extra card a turn without a Tutelage is nearly inconsequential, and you're not going to want to be tapping out for the first several turns of the game; meaning this won't be doing anything for a while. While a neat card, it's not as effective and impactful as a card in this deck needs to be to stay around.

One of my favorite tempo cards to debut in Magic Origins, Harbinger of the Tides is a great way to push the speed of the game in your favor. Sending tapped creatures spiraling back to your opponent's hand while picking up a 2/2 in the process does a great job of putting you in the driver's seat of the tempo game.

However, there's a problem: this deck isn't really playing a tempo game.

While there are certainly some great things you can do with this, like bounce a creature then Whelming Wave to return the Harbinger to your hand so you can do it all over again, it's a huge drain on your mana and comes at the cost of having other, more effective cards in your deck. Every card you play comes at the cost of another card you could play, after all. I like the card, but it doesn't fit well enough in this deck to keep.

Ah, Jace. Now here's a card I'll be sticking with!

Coming down on the second turn, this Jace does a ton of things perfect for this deck. It lets you draw a card and discard a card to find the pieces you're looking for. Then, once it transforms, you can both protect yourself versus some damage or recast the spells you need to buy time. If you manage to get it all the way up to ultimate (which is entirely reasonable against a slower deck), it even fits right into your game plan of milling them out!

It's cheap to cast, very impactful, and provides consistency. I'll even bump the numbers here up to four: it's a card I absolutely want to see in my opening hand.

Sphinx's Tutelage is absolutely a card you need to find for this deck to work . . . and Omenspeaker helps to dig you down to it. Setting up your draws to improve consistency is key to this deck working.

Moreover, there are two other big selling points of Omenspeaker. The first is that it helps you not die—a noble goal—blocking small creatures early or chump blocking to soak up damage in a tight situation. Secondly, it interacts great with Whelming Wave: whereas a card like Dakra Mystic resets and has to wait a turn to activate, Omenspeaker can be cast again immediately and be effective.

I want to go up to three copies of this card. Go Omenspeaker, go!

In a bit of a surprise, this is actually one of the crucial cards that makes this deck tick. Being able to reset the board of creatures over and over again while you're slowly milling your opponent out is a necessary piece of technology. It plays a bit similarly to something like Turbo-Fog, really, just buying time while the rest of your deck kicks into high gear.

In fact, Whelming Wave is so important that I want more. And how is that possible? Well, welcome to Ætherspouts.

While Ætherspouts is weaker in some situations—you can't reuse it with Jace very well, for example—it still serves a similar role. Plus, it helps defeat any powerhouse Godhunter Octopuses that get in your way and Whelming Wave can't remove. I'll take four!

And finally, to sit alongside them both, I'd like a nice little one-of: Pull From the Deep. While it's not a card you want to draw too many of, being able to pull back both a Whelming Wave and an Ætherspouts in the late game `buys you at least two more turns. One copy ensures you won't have too many of them, and in a long game it'll hopefully show up to do your bidding.

Here it is: the crucial card the deck needs to work. It's even appropriately Jace-themed, chronicling his story. And I think we all remember the part in Jace's story where he milled out all of his opponents . . . right?

I would view the fact that you get to repeat-mill on occasion a very nice bonus. It will happen at a relatively low frequency, so don't be disappointed if you keep "missing" with your Tutelage, but when it does happen it's certainly a nice plus.

This card makes you want to draw as many cards as possible to mill out your opponent. The more cards you can draw per turn, the better it gets. And fortunately, you have plenty of options for just that! (And hey, in a late game pinch you can even use it to draw, discard, and trigger it again.)

You want to draw as many as possible early and often, since every one you have essentially doubles your clock. No fewer than four copies, please!

Hey, here's one of those cards that lets you draw more cards each turn!

Dictate speeds up your Tutelage, and while giving them cards isn't ideal, it does actually bring them closer to running out of cards. It also lands you two extra devotion for Nykthos, which can be used to power out some game-ending Fascinations once you're all set up. I want all of these.

Of course, I'll happily take more. And fortunately, there is a similar option: Monastery Siege!

The Siege serves a lot of roles: stocking up your graveyard, finding what you need, and in a pinch even serving as burn deterrent if you need to choose "dragons" against a red deck. I'm totally happy to have all 8 of Dictate and Siege. Is twelve three-mana enchantments a lot? Yes, but I want to find a lot of them, so I'm going to need a lot of them!

In general, I'm totally down with additional delay tactics. Claustrophobia is a way to lock down creatures, so it's plenty tempting. However, the problem is that it's a bit of a nonbo with Whelming Wave, falling off when you cast it and then letting them use the creature again unfettered. At some point, I'd almost rather have a card like Wall of Frost—but this deck is tight enough on space that in the end neither makes the cut.

So, to recap, this deck is filling up its graveyard with a handful of looting effects, which make you draw and discard, and it specifically wants to draw cards (as opposed to Dig Through Time, which puts them into your hand) to trigger Sphinx's Tutelage.

Well, Treasure Cruise sure seems like a natural fit.

Be careful when delving—try and keep cards Jace can reuse—but otherwise, I'm totally happy moving up to the full four and watching these do great work in the deck.

It's a bit fascinating that this card finally has a home, but here you go! It actually works fairly well here to close out the game. The draw option turns into a super-mill mode, as you get rid of that many cards from their library (since they draw them) and then you get that many Sphinx's Tutelage triggers. So if you have nine mana and you Fascination for seven with a Tutelage in play, you're getting rid of at least 21 cards from their library!

You really only want to find one to end the game with, so I'm going to move down from three copies to two copies. However, it's still plenty potent as a finisher.

The intent behind the Font in this deck is that it's an early spell which adds devotion and then you can crack it later in the game to draw some cards and trigger your Tutelage. However, this deck has enough going on early already, and Font isn't such a large boon that it needs to be kept.

Instead, I'd rather have a larger "draw" spell that also pushes me toward my goals. And there's one card from Origins that fits the job—and hey, it's even on-theme with Jace.

Enter: Talent of the Telepath.

While a simple mill spell on its own doesn't interest me, the great thing about Talent of the Telepath is it does other things in the process. You put them seven cards closer to their doom while also firing off a Thoughtseize or removal spell that buys you some time. And while this will be sideboarded out against some decks—it's poor against something like green devotion—I'm interested in playing two main deck.

There's only so much delving one deck can do, and I ended up cutting this to make room for the aforementioned fourth Treasure Cruise. While Trespass is splashier and potentially stronger late game, the fact that Cruise is much better earlier pushed me in that direction. The only place this deck will be trespassing is into your opponent's mind.

With all of those changes made and a couple additional lands added (the deck was a bit low before) that brings the decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's The Long Game

Download Arena Decklist

Well, that was fun.

This is a very different kind of deck—and it's a blast to play. You feel like you're racing against time as you try and set up all of your pieces. It feels different from so many other strategies. Give it a try!

If I were to try anything else with this deck, I might break off-color so I could investigate what green provides. You could potentially turn this into a full-on Turbo-Fog deck if you add some damage prevention effects!

Other than that, this is a pretty complete package as-is. And look at that wonderful Jace flavor!

Have fun, and may your opponents forget everything they know!

McArtor's Mentions

Each week here on McArtor's mentions, we take a look at some of the other great decks sent in this past week. Check them out!

Itou Kazunari's Jace, Goblin's Prodigy

Download Arena Decklist


Download Arena Decklist

Matsukasa's Jace, the Reanimator

Download Arena Decklist

SwapGoTron's Jace's Rally

Download Arena Decklist

Yuri Makiduka's Jeskai Blade

Download Arena Decklist

Yuutarou Ichinomoto's Toughness Esper

Download Arena Decklist

Morikawa Takayuki's Jesky Jace

Download Arena Decklist

From Water to Fire

As we continue moving around the color wheel, that means two weeks from now I'll be taking a look at the fiery Planeswalker Chandra Nalaar!

What can you spin up with her? Show me what you can do!

Format: Standard

Restrictions: Your deck must contain Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh

Deadline: Monday, July 27, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

Submit all decklists by emailing me at

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain

4 Satyr Firedancer

3 Ash Zealot

4 Lightning Bolt

. . . and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)

These first two weeks have been a lot of fun to work on—and I'm excited to see what you come up with for Chandra!

As always, if you have any thoughts or feedback, please let me know! I'd love to hear from you. You can always send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to take a look!

I'll be back next week as I go to the dark side and take a look at Liliana for Liliana week. Talk with you then!




Latest Reconstructed Articles


January 4, 2016

Kozilek's Return by, Gavin Verhey

Kozilek had quite an explosive reappearance. Everything on Zendikar was starting to go all right. And then, in one earth-rumbling swoop, the beast below awoke: Kozilek surged up and reap...

Learn More


December 28, 2015

Jumping for Jori by, Gavin Verhey

Welcome to Oath of the Gatewatch previews! This set has a lot of awesome elements going for it. Support. Surge. And—oh yeah—that colorless mana symbol, just to name a few. I was on the d...

Learn More



Reconstructed Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All