Last week, I had listed Dimir Mill (Lurrus) as the one relevantModern deck I just didn’t have experience with to judge. But the deck had results. The same player going by the Magic Online handle idutra Top 8’ed the Saturday Challenge that week, finished in eighteenth place in the Sunday Challenge, and sat at the top of the League Trophy leaderboard. It would be malpractice to not put in the work and learn about it.
Here’s everything I’ve picked up about Dimir Mill (Lurrus) in that process.
Hedron Crab Really Is Delver of Secrets
I definitely classified Dimir Mill wrongly last week. It doesn’t belong in the Nonsense category; it’s an aggressive but fair deck. The closest decks in Modern to Dimir Mill are Mono-Red or Rakdos Prowess. You start with some cheap sources of damage, progress to direct damage closing the gap if unopposed, and then, if things grind out, you have Lurrus of the Dream-Den to compete as well as some potential larger reloading card draw spells.
The real closest decks anywhere are the Delver of Secrets decks in Legacy that stumble into Fireblast and Price of Progress territory.
Ruin Crab with fetchlands looks a lot like Monastery Swiftspear against painful manabases. Everyone not running Yorion starts with 60 cards, which when converted to Crab mill units is a traditional twenty “Crab life.” You fetch or Field of Ruin most turns so your Crabs are “two-power haste unblockable” threats.
But everyone also draws seven cards to start, about one shockland equivalent of deck damage, and between fetches and card draw you end up close to them starting around fifteen or sixteen “Crab life” most games.
If your opponent started at sixteen, you would be playing Fireblast and Flame Rift in your Delver of Secrets deck too.
But you clearly aren’t a dedicated Burn deck because the one-cost mill cards aren’t redundant or at Lava Spike rates.
You need to interact and play a tempo game, and Dimir Mill fortunately has the cards for that. Your typical good draw isn’t actually turbo-mill; it’s a Crab or two, some interaction, and a card draw spell to gas back up and find those mill spells to close out.
Yeah, your deck has a linear aspect that can get hit by hate cards, but so does the entire color red. Plus, it’s Modern. If there isn’t a high-impact hate card against your strategy, are you even trying to play a good deck?
Rounding Out a List
There’s a general agreement that you want your Dimir Mill list loaded up with Crabs, Archive Traps, Mesmeric Orbs, Visions of Beyond, and the really good interaction.
The final slots are a classic debate for all the Delver and Swiftspear decks I compared Dimir Mill to. Do you want more direct damage and a faster kill, or some grindy refuel elements and more interaction?
I tried both and it’s easiest to start this discussion with Into the Story.
When you cast Into the Story, it’s really powerful and you usually win the game, but there are lots of times you don’t cast Into the Story. Four is a lot of mana in Modern, especially for a 23-land deck. Drawing multiple copies of Into the Story dead-ends your hand really quickly, and it leaves you weirdly open to be exploited by cards like Rest in Peace.
The all answers plus Into the Story plan is a relic of the Uro era where you needed to grind that hard. I’m interested in playing a single copy of the card, but even the second starts getting questionable.
Another issue was highlighted by the choice of interaction over action. If Dimir Mill is a similar deck to Delver, it’s going to have similar concerns going into a long game. Yea, you can play a longer game, especially if your opponent’s deck is threat light and you can line up your answers right, but you aren’t designed to trade card for card forever. You want to get in with your cheap threats, trip up your opponent’s gameplan, and close the game before they get to fully leverage their resources.
By turning into an all-Into the Story, no-Glimpse the Unthinkable deck, you force yourself to play attrition games with Hedron Crab in your deck. This is the same issue the Abrupt Decay and Swords to Plowshares-heavy Delver deck always had, where you try to do two very opposite things and do neither well. If you want to do that, just play a real Azorius Control deck.
That doesn’t mean I though idutra’s list was perfect.
Four Surgical Extraction makes little sense when you don’t need to clear Uro every game. You can do some cute stuff with the card when mill gives you access to a wide variety of targets, but it isn’t an inherently good card. The right number is somewhere between zero and two, skewing on the high side of that when there are more big mana and combo decks that are naturally weak to the Game 1 extraction of a key card.
There’s a caveat here: one of the times that Dimir Mill will be at its best is when Surgical Extraction is really good. If that metagame shapes up, go ahead and play four.
Twenty lands also isn’t enough, but it’s also weirdly close to too many. There’s tension between the “Glimpse the Unthinkable is a burn spell” half of this operation and the “Hedron Crab has landfall” half that you’re trying to balance. Unlike the Delver decks I mentioned, you don’t really play good card selection in Dimir Mill so you sometimes draw the wrong number of lands for the half of the deck you drew. Your cards are cheap and you can operate fine missing a land for a couple of turns, so aiming a bit low isn’t terrible, but you do actually want to do things at some point. The right number is 21 or 22, and unfortunately you can’t subsidize this much since you want your lands to be untapped.
This is also another strike against large numbers of Into the Story, as playing enough lands to hit four on time also implies drawing a lot more than four lands enough that it would be a problem.
I do like the inclusion of Cling to Dust in Zach Allen’s list and want one or two of them somewhere. The eighteenth-place Sunday list idutra piloted did have one in the sideboard, which points in the same direction. Cling is the graveyard interaction you want against fair decks, where it’s a low-investment way to cut off something like Snapcaster Mage or Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and something that turns Mesmeric Orb into an engine.
The other very minor upgrade in Zach’s list is Prismatic Vista over any other fetchland. Lowering your life cost to find a black mana with a fetch is good stuff.
Tips and Tricks
This deck can keep a fairly wide range of hands. Most hands with a Crab and lands are fine. Your non-Crab hands with mill cards and interaction are also fine. In many matchups, just having a couple of Fatal Pushes will let you figure out the rest later. I wouldn’t sweat the mulligans too hard, as the bad hands are quite obvious. Just imagine the cards as their Delver equivalents and your normal Magic instincts should apply.
Play to maximize your Crab value. If you’re stalled top decking, holding fetches on the battlefield for later Crabs is great.
If you have a Crab on the battlefield and could fetch up the mana to cast another Crab, it’s actually more mill if you let the fetch sit and use your existing mana to cast the Crab next turn. Passing with a Crab and Polluted Delta up to maximize future equity happens a lot.
If your opening hand has a single Crab and isn’t curving into anything Turn 2, you can hold the Crab for the Crab plus land locked-in mill if you’re afraid of losing it to Lightning Bolt.
Just in case you didn’t know about this, Field of Ruin is a forced search that enables Archive Trap. You’re really interested in holding your Field activations until that happens or until you get a landfall trigger off them.
Against more aggressive manabases, you can get into spots where you mill your opponent’s basics of a color and can use Field of Ruin as real mana disruption. It’s rare, but keep an eye out for it.
Multiple Mesmeric Orbs make a fast way to mill yourself out too. Not an every-game concern, but before casting a second Orb, consider whether your gameplan for the rest of the game involves tapping a lot of lands while theirs might not.
You do care about your opponent’s graveyard count. Think about whether you would rather Cling to Dust your own fetchland over their card in graveyard when cycling it, and if you’re using Surgical Extraction as a Cranial Extraction and not a Cremate, you can leave the copy in their graveyard there.
Your top-of-library removal spells are a little more permanent when you’re good at milling that card right after casting them.
This also comes up whenever your opponent’s top of library is known. To use one I’ve run into: you can pull some light Lantern of Insight lock maneuvers against Conspicuous Snoop, and a Hedron Crab plus a Polluted Delta breaks up that combo.
A List and a Sideboard Guide
If I were registering Dimir Mill (Lurrus) for a tournament tomorrow, it would look something like this:
Another Bloodchief’s Thirst or Eliminate and the second Maddening Cacophony are the last cards out. The 22nd land is also on that 60th-card waiting list.
VS Izzet Prowess
Your main concern each game is just having removal spells. If you can bog down the early-game, your refuel spells usually overpower theirs. You also have Lurrus and they don’t, so attrition wars will naturally favor you.
Be aware you need to account for Lava Dart damage when you do end up milling your opponent out. You can Cling to Dust, Crypt Incursion, or just battle with Lurrus; just make sure you aren’t under four life.
If your opponent is on one of the more Bedlam Reveler-heavy Prowess lists, you’re going to want more Aether Gust than Damnation. Against opposing Lurrus lists that tend to be lighter on red threats for Aether Gust, I want Soul-Guide Lantern for both Lurrus and Kroxa, but Damnation also does a fine job cleaning up an Lurrus and whatever it recasts.
In grindy matchups where I expect my opponent to have access to Abrade after sideboarding, I like to trim a Mesmeric Orb. The card is still fine; I just don’t think it’s good enough to warrant the number of hands where you rely on it and don’t get immediate return when it dies to a Shatter.
VS Jund Midrange
The Jund Midrange matchup is handled almost the exact same as the Prowess matchup, except you have to plan for Liliana of the Veil a bit more than you need to plan for dying. If Jund is popular, you likely want a second Bloodchief’s Thirst or Eliminate in your deck.
Mesmeric Orb in large quantities is especially embarrassing if their Shatter effect is Kolaghan’s Command. Depending on their Kroxa count, you can also go for Soul-Guide Lantern.
VS Boros Burn
Here we find another slightly different variant on the Prowess matchup.
Force of Negation is going to trade for a card every time, but it’s going to be a little bit inefficient and the second copy in a game can be a liability. You would be fine with the third copy in your deck; it’s just not better than anything you’re playing or adding unless you trim yet another Mesmeric Orb. I don’t love that because finding Cling to Dust is a huge swing in the matchup.
VS Azorius Control
A fairly straightforward matchup; it’s just Delver against Control. Your stuff costs less than their stuff, so your job is to play tactically and keep them under pressure without throwing away value. Use Surgical Extraction wisely as Cabal Therapy.
If your opponent casts Gideon of the Trials, you need to counter it. The emblem is extremely problematic.
If your opponent is on the Stoneforge Mystic list, you can adjust the Force of Negation count down and trim some cards to keep access to Fatal Push. If they have a bunch of Celestial Colonnades, you can also keep some Fatal Pushes, or if that list becomes prominent the Bloodchief’s Thirst can become an Eliminate.
VS Selesnya Company
If you keep Heliod, Sun-Crowned off the battlefield, you’re in good shape in this matchup. Drown in the Loch is almost exclusively reserved for that card or Collected Company, and if you can Surgical Extraction that card, do so. The other play you want to think about having Drown in the Loch up for is protecting Crabs from Skyclave Apparition, but the timing is identical to when Heliod would show up so your plays are the same.
I don’t love Aether Gust against most of their deck, but Wheel of Sun and Moon is just a rude card for people to be playing right now. I’m trimming Glimpse the Unthinkable over Maddening Cacophony or Mesmeric Orb to minimize the number of Veil of Summer blowouts I’ll run into (at least if Archive Trap gets hit, I’m not down mana).
VS Mono-Green Tron
Your two big plans are Field of Ruin and Surgical Extraction on a milled Tron piece. Fortunately those plans are pretty easy to pull off, and when you do their deck is way too slow to win a race against you.
Bloodchief’s Thirst can kill Karn of either variety so it stays in. Soul-Guide Lantern is a low cost hedge against a random Eldrazi reshuffle. If you win Game 2 without seeing one, you can replace them with other low-impact cards like Cling to Dust or Mystical Dispute.
The Eldrazi Tron matchup sideboard plan is really similar, but just casting Drown in the Loch on their best threats is often just as good as handling their mana. Set Adrift shines there as a way to break out of Chalice of the Void.
Primeval Titan matchups are more along the lines of Eldrazi Tron, where you’re often just fast enough. Their decks are also oddly vulnerable to mill taking out Titan access to key lands, and Surgical Extraction is easily your best card. Against Titanshift, I would want my Mystical Disputes in addition to Aether Gust since I know I’ll catch them somewhere with it, but Amulet Titan is too smoothly fast to reliably do that.
VS Death & Taxes
Slower creature decks are a good spot for Dimir Mill. While Humans is a bit of a problem, the Death & Taxes variants are all much easier. Mesmeric Orb is one of your better cards, since your opponent is forced to attack with many small creatures to win, and the third toughness on Ruin Crab really kicks into gear here.
Against more aggressive Thalia, Guardian of Thraben decks, you can cut Into the Story for Maddening Cacophony.
Modern is turning towards a good point for Dimir Mill. I want to line the deck up against slower midrange decks, threat-light aggressive decks, and single-threat combo, and all of those are things I was promoting last week. Meanwhile I still haven’t seen a lot of threat-dense, high-pressure decks like Humans or a ton of Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. I love every deck that looks like Selesnya Company and would personally register that until the format forces me to do something else, but if you feel the same way about Dimir Mill…