Mind Bend – Boros Self-Mill

(Book Burning | Art by Dave Dorman)

Mill Brings All the Cards to the Yard

The wizard’s spellbook was full of burning questions.

Book Burning flavor text

Boros is bad. At least, that seems to be the meme in Commander. Only narrow-minded fools would venture into red and/or white, the two colors notorious for a lack of card advantage. As soon as the game goes long, Boros finds itself in a bad spot, unable to recover as quickly as anyone else.

If only Boros could be more like Sultai, which utilizes blue, black, and green and never finds itself wanting for cards. Heck, Sultai uses its graveyard the best of all color combinations. Just ask Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, or Muldrotha, the Gravetide, or The Mimeoplasm: they’ll tell you all the fun shenanigans you can get into with your graveyard, especially if you put those cards there yourself! Well, this is Mind Bend, the article series that breaks down the conventional notions of the color pie to forge new ground outside the confines of the already established. And we’re going mill ourselves for fun and profit. . . in Boros.


Sultai Guy

The Self-Mill theme page on EDHREC tells the tale best: Sultai is the most popular combination when it comes to putting your own cards in the ‘yard. And by a wide margin, no less. Sultai has nearly twice the number of decklists as its nearest competitor, Golgari, which is just Sultai minus all the greatness of blue.

Digging into Sultai’s own self-mill page, you’ll find the two leading commanders of the theme: Sidisi, Brood Tyrant at over 600 decks dedicated to milling yourself, and Muldrotha, the Gravetide, with about a third of the self-mill decks that Sidisi holds.

It’s no surprise that Sidisi, Brood Tyrant sits atop the self-mill throne, since she wants multiple little mill effects for maximum Zombies. Cards like Nyx Weaver and Splinterfright provide extra chances at an army of Zombies each turn. And since she’s generous with the tokens if you’re generous with the mill, Zombie tribal, with its sweet lords like Diregraf Captain, fits the bill for an overall theme of beefy tokens ready to tear down the competition.

Pair all that token production via incremental mill with payoffs like World Shaper‘s death trigger, and you’re looking at a quite potent all-around package. Additionally, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant decks look to cast one spell or resurrect one creature from the graveyard a turn with cards like Havengul Lich.

Turning to the other Sultai self-mill leader, Muldrotha, the Gravetide is even more inclined to use self-mill as a way to “draw” cards. Being able to cast multiple permanent spells from the graveyard each turn, and being given the choice on what you can cast, and cards like Perpetual Timepiece almost read “tap: draw two cards”.

However, self-mill isn’t necessarily the focus for Muldrotha, the Gravetide, but an added upside. Instant- and sorcery-like permanents, a la Seal of Primordium doing a great impression of Naturalize, is where Muldrotha shines. Since you can cast those pesky permanents every turn, Mulldrifter looks more and more like a repeatable Divination. In short, Muldrotha looks to cast multiple permanents each turn for slow, hard-fought advantage.


For the Legion

To properly transfer this strategy into Boros, we’ll need to use a blend of the two strategies above. We want little mills to “draw” cards AND have a choice of what big spells to play. But just how are we going to get those cards into our graveyard for later plucking? Here are a few ways to do that.

First, we have straight-up self-mill cards. I’ve already mentioned Perpetual Timepiece as being a great card in Muldrotha, the Gravetide, well, it’s great here, too. The same goes for smaller effects like Codex Shredder and Wand of Vertebrae. And, of course, since we’re in red, let’s add a self-mill card I had no idea existed until building this deck: Book Burning. Six damage is quite a lot to pay for an opponent when you’re going to target yourself to mill.

Looting effects such as Cathartic Reunion and the aptly named Faithless Looting give us the choice on what cards we put in the bin. If it’s going from the top of the library to the graveyard, who cares if it was briefly in our hand? I’m calling this self-mill as well.

We even have a pretty good Dredge card to help put cards in the graveyard, in the also-aptly-named (at least for what we’re trying to pull off) card Shenanigans. There’s a lot of great artifacts that find their way onto a Commander board, and having a way to hit the best of them each turn is always welcome.


Escape the Conventional

So what are we going to do with all of that milling and de-facto milling? There are a few great mechanics from Magic‘s history, plus a brand new one, that let us cast spells from our graveyard.

Let’s start with the fresh out of Theros Beyond Death mechanic of Escape. Cards with Escape can be cast over and over again from the graveyard as long as you have other cards to exile (which we will). Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis gives us a token-making planeswalker we can recur without much help. Ox of Agonas can be sweet card advantage in the late game, with or without being cast with Escape. And of course, the so-good-it’s-already-banned-in-Legacy Underworld Breach makes every card in our graveyard get into the Escape plan.

Commander 2019 saw the release of a Jeskai deck themed around the flashback mechanic, which we’re going to use here, too. Sevinne’s Reclamation can become a ramp spell if we put a land or mana rock in the graveyard, or it can get back one of our milling permanents. Not to mention it works even better when cast from the ‘yard.

With flashback, we also get a board wipe from Divine Reckoning, impulse draw via Ignite the Future, and a whole heap of tokens from Increasing Devotion. Card advantage, chump blockers, and board wipes! Sounds like we’re in control! (Or at least we’re playing control!)

Retrace was introduced all the way back in Eventide, and we’ll kindly use our unnecessary lands to make more tokens with Cenn’s Enlistment, or spin the wheel and see what spell we get with Throes of Chaos.


Morphin’ Time

However, all this token production is for the benefit of Reality Scramble. Being able to Retrace a land to convert a token into something much more powerful is undeniably fun. As such, we have a small cadre of heavy-hitting creatures we can Scramble into, beaters like Blightsteel Colossus or board-devastators like Balefire Dragon.

To aid in the “Polymorph” strategy, we’ll also run Indomitable Creativity and Divergent Transformations. Both of which usually benefit us directly but will be not as lucky if we need to take out a few permanents of our opponents.


Being Extra

For extra card shenanigans, I’ve also included the classic Land Tax plus Scroll Rack pairing that allows you to convert extra lands into potentially useful cards. Additionally, Land Tax and Tectonic Reformation make each land searched into additional cards.

The above synergies, coupled with the self-mill nature of the deck, makes the card Planar Birth stand out. We’ll be heavily invested in playing basic lands, so even if our opponents pitch one or two, we’ll end up ahead on lands, regardless. Normally, white decks can’t or don’t want to mill themselves, but we’ve found a home for such a unique card for the color.

To round out the deck, I’ve included a typical board wipe and removal package in Boros that can be adjusted according to your meta. If you see more wide threats, throw in a few more wipes. If not, maybe more pinpoint removal or looting is the way to go. Also, the choices for creature wincons can vary should you need to. Look for creatures that will shut down your meta’s gameplans.


Millin’ Is Easy

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From Bad to Good

So there you have it. I hope I was able to squeeze a little bit of goodness from Sultai and sprinkle it onto the Arid Mesa that is Boros. I guarantee that running the self-mill cards listed above in the deck is sure to turn some heads at the table. And hopefully you’ll be turning a Balefire Dragon or two sideways for some sweet beats.

Catch you next month for more mind-bending brews!

Jeremy is a data analyst in his hometown of Chicago. He is the commissioner of a Commander league at a local LGS, Near Mint Games. He is also a board member for AnimeChicago, an non-profit anime club for adults, and an avid craft beer fan.