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The situation is similar to wesdfgfgd's question MTG Gatecrash Simic Strategies for a Prerelease event

I'm a habitual Dimir player. In Gatecrash, many Dimir cards are strongly themed towards their millstone strategy or generating card advantage.

In sealed deck, and to a large extent in draft, millstone wins seem hard to pull off. Many of the capstone cards for this approach are rare, so I probably won't have them. (Milling is hard in general, and the format makes this kind of one-method-to-win focus inherently unreliable. To win on turn ten, I'd have to average milling 2.3 cards per turn - while defending myself.)

While many Dimir creatures are rather nice for reasons of evasion or card advantage, I'll hardly win with a direct creature approach against Boros or Gruul.

Looking through the non-rare spells with Cipher, most are two or 4-drops, with a few areas of effect. Most either generate card advantage (Last Thoughts) or fend for time (Hands of Binding, Voidwalk). With 18 uncommons I can hardly count on getting enough Call of the Nightwing to token flood the ciphers through, and that's the most aggressive card. (I don't feel Shadow Slice compares particularly well to a 5-drop creature in a sealed deck format.)

So, can the basic milling approach be made to work? And if not, where should I be going for the win? (And which splash colours would help me achieve it? That decision depends on my draws, obviously, but of the obvious white-splash Orzhov or green-splash Simic, what would you recommend?)

(EDIT: This question originally referred to the Gatecrash prerelease, but has been edited to be less time-dependant. The focus is primarily on sealed, but most answers are probably just as relevant to draft format; answers discussing the differences are particularly welcome.)

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My gut reaction (without investigating the spoilers extensively) is that milling is almost always a strategy for draft, not for sealed. I don't think Wizards is ever going to release as set where there's enough mill at large in the cardpool that it will randomly win the game, but in a draft where one player at the table is hoovering up every one of those disregarded cards, it's a different story. The problem with mill is that winning with it is generally non-interactive with the rest of the game, unlike creatures, so it would be very bad to have too much of it going on, typically... –  thesunneversets Jan 26 '13 at 9:48
    
@thesunneversets: I'm inclined to agree, and it's not a bad thing in general. But in specific, I need to figure out a way round it, and didn't see how to integrate Dimir's mill-focussed creatures with a non-mill strategy. Oh well ;) Heading out now, so thanks to all for their advice. –  Tynam Jan 26 '13 at 11:07
    
Since the pre-release was a one time thing, should we change this to say Draft instead? –  bwarner Jan 28 '13 at 15:30
    
Hmmm... good point @bwarner, but draft strategies are not the same as sealed. Edited to the best compromise I can manage. –  Tynam Jan 29 '13 at 14:04

9 Answers 9

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Well, it's up to you to figure it out based on your card pool, really.

However, some numbers are handy:

  • At the start of the game, your opponent will have at least 33 cards in his or her deck (more if there are mulligans).
  • Each instance of the "mill until you hit a land card" ability will mill something like 2.5 cards on average. That's pretty weak.

What Dimir does have going for it is that a lot of the milling in this set is attached to other stuff -- the common Balustrade Spy is a feeble mill card but also gives you a 2/3 flyer for a reasonable cost, for instance. And you do have access to some repeatable milling, like the prerelease promo Consuming Aberration and lower-rarity carsd like Paranoid Delusions, Sage's Row Denizen, Undercity Informer, and Duskmantle Guildmage.

I don't think Gatecrash's milling is nearly as explosive as similar decks in Dark Ascension Limited. And Dimir creatures are by far the weakest of all the guilds; if you want to actually play a solid defense, you're likely to need Orzhov or Simic to help you stabilize (Dimir can work well with both those guilds because it offers them the missing component they need to be a control deck -- lots more removal for Simic, countermagic for Orzhov). If I'm mixing guilds like this, though, I'd much rather be trying to win off of cipher+extort than straight-up milling.

Mostly I just don't think the power cards are there in any capacity. It feels like black in AVR -- you can get a reasonable deck going in draft if no one else is in your colors, but the card pool's pretty thin overall. Magic pro Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa had this to say about Dimir in Sealed, for instance:

This means Dimir has a bad promo, a bad Keyrune, an OK Guildmage, an OK Charm, horrible rares, horrible uncommons, and horrible commons! To top it all, pretty much all of the guild pack’s slots are filled with cipher cards, which are not very useful—you want mill cards and defensive cards, but those won’t be found in that pack. Unless I underrate cipher very much, I’d stay away from Dimir, because it doesn’t look like you’ll beat anything but the Orzhov decks.

In the end, if you want to play the Dimir colors, I think the best alternative is an esper deck. You get the milling from Dimir and the defense from Orzhov. If this is your plan, then I think the Orzhov pack actually offers better cards for you—you lose the Dimir promo, which is better, but instead of useless cipher cards you get 1/4 defenders and regenerating Thrulls.

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Thanks; that's the analysis I was looking for. (Consuming Aberration is the obvious bomb for a Dimir mill deck, but I can't tutor it, can't count on drawing it and can't protect it much against removal.) So: mill if I get lucky and have strong support, otherwise provide control support for an extort or flyer evolve deck. –  Tynam Jan 25 '13 at 23:04
    
It's also a bomb that could just as easily be a 2/2 when you first summon it on turn 5. :( –  Alex P Jan 26 '13 at 0:10
    
I agree that almost all of the other guild packs are better choices for winning a sealed deck, but I intend to play Dimir in constructed so I want the cards and promo for my collection. Also, I prefer blue-black and enjoy difficult tactical challenges. (Personally I think da Rosa is underrating Cipher a little in limited, but in the evasion-heavy Gatecrash sealed environment he's right.) –  Tynam Jan 26 '13 at 6:41
    
I witnessed this at our prerelease: Chump Strider and Undercity Informer. Then a Sage's Row Denizen hit the battlefield. Mill is there. –  ghoppe Jan 28 '13 at 21:39

I managed to go 3-0 with Dimir in the one draft event I've participated in. Some of it was luck, but I'll share what I learned:

  • My gameplan was: evasive creatures to whittle down their life total and combine with cipher, and removal and defensive creatures to hold them off for long enough to win.
  • While evasive creatures are essential, they also tend to be small. It's important to pick up a few non-evasive guys just to serve as blockers. Two mana 2/2s and 1/3s, and three mana 2/3s are there for the taking. Horror of the Dim served a useful role as a 3/4 that could at least compete with some of the bigger creatures.
  • Along the same lines, Riot Gear was essential in my deck. Turning a 2/2 into a 3/4 makes a huge difference.
  • I never actually used the abilities of the Duskmantle Guildmage, but he seems useful as a way to turn the incidental mill you are going to get into a few extra points of damage. Less so as a way to win by milling. For me he was just a two mana 2/2, which is fine.
  • Shadow slice won me a few games, it's a good way to get in those extra points of damage. But in retrospect, I think I should have picked up some of the Madcap Skills going around and splashed red for them.
  • I can't comment too much on the feasibility of a mill deck, I only got 1 Paranoid Delusions and I think I'd want at least 3 to try for a mill deck.
  • Duskmantle Seer is sweet. :)

Hope that helps!

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Welcome to the site! –  Alex P Feb 7 '13 at 22:21
    
Welcome to the site Jonathan. While I back this approach in draft, in sealed deck I don't think it can be counted on - there's too little chance of drawing evaders and finishers. –  Tynam Feb 8 '13 at 12:06

I got 3rd in a prerelease of 50-ish running dimir. I personally am a hardcore dimir player and love milling opponents, and I was disappointed that my draws did not support that. However, I pulled a lazav and an under city plague. I found that cipher is very underrated (I hated it until I used it, then I thought it was better) and that removal is needed for dimir because of its weaker creatures. Lazav didn't do me much good, I was playing silicon or dimir whenever I drew him, but death cult rouge is really good with cipher. There were numerous times when I stacked everything on him and ciphered my opponent away. I nearly always got my consuming aberration and the land milling is good because by the time he's out your opponents probably played 4-5 lands and might have 2-3 In their hand This was my deck; 1x realmwright 1x shadow alley denizen 1 dusk mantle guildmage 4x death cult rouge 2x bane alley broker 2x sage row denizen 1x lazav dimir mastermind 1x consuming abberation 1x paranoid delusions 3x psychic strike 2x midnight recovery 2x grisly spectacle 2x way of the thief 1x shadow slice 1x under city plague 3x dimir guild gate 9x island 5x swamp

The psychic strike and grisly spectacle saved me numerous times

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I do think Dimir (with lucky pulls/correct picks) can be the dominant force in draft or sealed now...however, my opponent in the finals ran simic and splashed red for gruul, and he was a force to be reckoned with. My belief about Gatecrash at this time, is that if your cards aren't allowing for Dimir, that red/blue/green is obviously your second best option.

Boros got slaughtered at my event...infact I never played a boros opponent because they all fell to the losers bracket almost immediately. they simply don't have enough momentum to make use of battalion-especially with the multitude of affordable removal in this set.

Orzhov is deadly, no doubt about it, but if you are running black or white at all, I found a couple of extort creatures on your side of the board can balance the scales enough against an Orzhov opponent...enough so that you get them before they get you.

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Curiously, I feel almost exactly the opposite - Dimir's commons feel the weakest of the bunch for draft, and (as a diehard RGU player looking forward to plenty of Simic drafts) Boros scares the hell out of me; it's the tempo color and I suspect most good Boros decks will regularly have opponents dead on the board by their 5th turn. –  Steven Stadnicki Jan 29 '13 at 0:00

A lot of people underestimate the milling power of Dimir. I played Dimir at the prerelease yesterday and milled hard (and likewise got milled myself vs. Dimir). With Consuming Aberration being the promo card for Dimir that means there is a great chance to mill, plus its power and toughness are decided by the amount being milled so it has great stopping power. Thanks to Stolen Identity cyphered onto a Deathcult Rogue I actually had two 17/17 Consuming Aberrations before winning a match. My opponent's removal simply couldn't keep up with another Consuming Aberration appearing each turn.

As with anything this depends on what you pull. Dimir could use more removal but don't underestimate some of the unblockable creatures combined with the cypher ability. Hands of Binding, Stolen Identity, and Voidwalk are all amazing.)

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I won my pre-release tournament last night with Dimir. I did get lucky on some of my pulls (Lazav, Lord of the Void) but Consuming Aberration actually was the hero of the deck-easily finishing off my opponent a couple of turns after playing him. Psychic strike also saved me a number of times while adding to the mill strategy nicely. the 2/3 vampire with flying is very handy, and if you attempt this strategy I attempt snagging a few of him, as well as pretty much any rogue in your colors. The one drop rogue is great early damage, the 1/2 blue faerie rogue is a great evasion damage source many people are overlooking, and the unblockable rogues...do I really have to explain that when you've got cipher?

Also, grissly spectacle? AMAZING. Best non-rare of my deck.

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Hi Nick, thanks for your notes and welcome to the site. (Glad to hear it worked for someone. My tournament contained an awesome Dimir mill deck without Lazav, using multiple Consuming Paranoia and smart evasion to set up the Aberration. Unfortunately, it wasn't mine; I pulled three secondary mill cards, few bombs and a lousy creature curve. Decent removal, but no winners except Undercity Plague. So I had to really work to win my fair 50% of matches, and couldn't beat that.) –  Tynam Jan 27 '13 at 21:07
    
I left out the faerie rogue, but then I'd drawn two Cloudfin Raptors, Basilica Screecher, two keyrunes and Deathcult Rogue. So I really didn't need it. –  Tynam Jan 27 '13 at 21:13

I plan on going dimir( pulls allowing) and possibly splashing white for extort, because if you cipher-cast a spell then you have plenty of mana left over for removal and all the extort you want, also, if you play mind grind with consuming abberition out it adds another land to the dig, so all the cars with that effect do it again, and also having more defense is a plus, managing to mill tenish land may not be as dificult as it seems

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Hello and welcome to the site, Magicman. I agree that cipher/extort seems like a solid combination, although I'm worried that it's too vulnerable to aggro. With CA milling tenish land seems possible, but being able to try means committing to that plan, which is a likely loss in all matches where I don't draw the Aberration - probably two thirds of them. –  Tynam Jan 26 '13 at 6:37

There is enough mill in dimir that I think that it actually can be a decent strategy

Again, you have to see what cards you get, and if you get enough of them, but if you get enough mind grind, Paranoid Delusions, and Psychic Strike, among other mill cards, you can actually mill your opponent pretty quick.

You only need to hit about 10 lands with the various mind grind like milling to mill them all the way(odds are they'll play the other 6-7)

You have to remember that mind sculpt / sands of delirium was a very real limited paradigm in m13, and know some people who have succeeded with the axebane guardian / doorkeeper / gatecreeper vine / trestle troll plan.

Just think about your mill strategy as a burn strategy, except your opponent has 33 life to start and takes 1 damage per turn.

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Ooh, good point, thanks. (I'm returning to tournament play with this match after being out since Ice Age, so I'm far from up to date with limited strategies; I haven't seen much of M13.) That said, both of those combos are much better mills than most things I might draw in Gatecrash; I get the feeling that Mind Sculpt / Doorkeeper were added with Dimir constructed in mind, but that won't help me tomorrow ;) –  Tynam Jan 25 '13 at 22:41

For the prerelease it is going to depend entirely on which cards you get. In general, I would say no, milling is not going to be a good primary strategy (but may be a decent secondary strategy - try to get lucky and mill out opponent's bombs, pump up the Consuming Aberration)

For any prerelease guild you should build a deck around the cards you get, not the guild. Your guild pack helps, but if your other packs don't support your guild then abandon it for one that works.

Someone more experienced than I may be able to give more specific advice.

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'Get lucky via milling' isn't a strategy - you're exactly as likely to mill them to their good card as you are to mill them past it. If you don't completely deplete their library, it literally doesn't matter how many cards you mill out of it. –  Steven Stadnicki Jan 25 '13 at 22:27
    
Thanks for the general advice. I'm always very dubious about mill as a secondary strategy; you're as likely to mill in an opponent's bomb as mill it out. If you can't take advantage of graveyard size (as with Consuming Aberration), then milling is an effect you're paying for that doesn't help you win. (Obviously I abandon Dimir if my draws don't support it; in this question I'm more concerned about what I do if the draws do support it, but don't have the Lazav / Aberration bombs for the mill-based win.) –  Tynam Jan 25 '13 at 22:28
    
Also: Hi, Tomanta; welcome to the site! Thanks for your answer. –  Tynam Jan 25 '13 at 22:29
    
Good points. Given the "mill until you mill land cards", you might be able to mess someone up if they are playing 3+ colors, but that also depends on luck. Maybe an alternate win condition with Duskmantle Guildmage as well, but with the mana involved I don't think that is likely either. I wonder if a cipher/extort strategy could work instead of mill, but it most of the cipher cards cost too much mana for that. –  Tomanta Jan 25 '13 at 22:52

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