Zendikar Rising Spotlight: Ruin Crab in Nonrotating Formats
- Marin Magda
In the last few years, mill decks have gained new removal and counterspells, but no useful mill cards. This lack of support is the main thing that keeps them from moving up in the meta. How likely is it that a new and, in the case of this deck, better Hedron Crab helps with this issue in Modern and other formats?
Times have been a little sad for mill players, in particular those favoring the Modern format. Hedron Crab, Archive Trap, Glimpse the Unthinkable, and Mesmeric Orb set the bar pretty high for mill effects. Without additions of a similar caliber, the Modern Dimir Mill archetype sometimes takes a slight turn toward Sultai and solidifies as a semi-control deck that just happens to have a mill win condition. In a field full of aggressive decks, Dredge, and Uro, it is facing many obstacles, but with a new Crab about to arrive, things might change.
Not only do we finally get another mill card that is worthy of main-deck spots, we're receiving a strictly better Hedron Crab, one of the deck's more iconic cards. The old and the new crustacean basically work the same, but there are two big upgrades: Ruin Crab does not target players and its toughness is bigger by one. Leyline of Sanctity and Veil of Summer cannot stop it. What catches everyone's eye is that its ability is limited to milling opponents, but this is not a downgrade for our deck. Legacy Dredge variants and Modern Crab Vine lists may care about that — Mill decks do not.
The question is not if Ruin Crab will be included in Dimir-based Mill, as I am certain that a playset is a must. It is whether to play it instead of Hedron Crab or in addition to it — and if the latter is the case, how many copies of which Crab? Since these are some of the best early-game options for the archetype, I am certain that we will be looking at "8 Crab" decks in Modern soon enough. This is the easy part, actually. It's much harder to predict the numbering in other formats.
I am not that fond of this deck not having many creatures, but I still think Manic Scribe should be one of the first cards to go. Cards such as Fatal Push and Crypt Incursion are great in this meta, while I also like the recent inclusion of Search for Azcanta. All of these find themselves showcased in Jim Davis's Dimir list. Sacrifices need to be made for the better, however, so here's how I'd shape the update early on:
|Modern Crab Mill|
There are no new sideboard options — at least there were none when I wrote this line — so I wouldn't change a single card there just yet. All in all, I think that this deck will greatly benefit from a new set of Crabs as these increase the deck's overall consistency. Looking at the current top strategies, I would not splash another color. The player's life total with this deck is already endangered enough as is.
Unfortunately, I'm currently not seeing any Standard potential whatsoever. Sure, Teferi's Tutelage is a card, but it interacts with card draw, not with additional mill effects. Many of them, such as Drowned Secrets and Wall of Lost Thoughts, are leaving Standard, which leaves the new Standard without a critical mass. Other than Ruin Crab, all of the new mill cards revealed at the time of writing seem mostly underwhelming.
A while back, a Sultai Fastbond combo deck made waves in Vintage. It featured multiple ways to win on the first turn, one of them being Hedron Crab. All that's needed is the enchantment, the Crab, two lands or other mana sources to cast them, and a land like Oboro, Palace in the Clouds or Simic Growth Chamber that can return to hand by itself. This leaves life to make eighteen land drops resulting in 54 cards milled.
As another way to kill the opponent the deck included Retreat to Hagra. This method requires a higher initial mana investment but recoups all life lost to Fastbond triggers, which really is no small deal. Alternatively, Glacial Chasm can step in to prevent the damage Fastbond deals to its owner. This is the original list by Magic Online user SamuraiFunn, otherwise known as Eric Freytag:
|Eric's Crab Shack, 7th place, Vintage Challenge on December 10|
This deck has a goal of specifically milling the opponent when going the Crab route, so Ruin Crab is an autoinclude here as well. I'm not convinced that we'll be seeing playsets of both Crabs, but I do think that this deck might benefit from including more than four. I am no Vintage expert, but if anything is certain, it's that Ruin Crab will kick out Hedron Crab. The fate of the latter depends on testing results.
Unlike Standard, Pioneer might stand a chance of getting a dedicated mill deck. Due to Hedron Crab not being legal here, the idea was almost a nonstarter from the beginning. With Ruin Crab now available, maybe Dimir Mill actually gets a shot. The only card that is now really missing is, you've guessed it, Archive Trap. But at least this is a weaker format, so maybe it still manages to do well. Another big one is Glimpse the Unthinkable, though Mind Sculpt can serve as a replacement. The mana base cannot be as good as in the Modern version, but perhaps the playstyle can.
Modern Mill sometimes splashes green, so why not try and imitate this trend in Pioneer? Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is just that strong. Similarly to Uro, Assassin's Trophy is rarely a dead draw, so I think that the reasons for splashing green are already plentiful enough. Veil of Summer may be banned, but green still increases the amount of sideboard options too.
Mission Briefing can be surprisingly powerful when timed right, especially with so many targets. The same goes for Fraying Sanity, as it earlier even used to see play in Modern. Also worth mentioning is the fact that it has great synergy with Traumatize.
Ruin Crab is, rather lowkey, the card that just about might make all this work, though. It also goes along with both Fabled Passage and Field of Ruin, both great lands. That's not to mention that it's quite a big threat itself. Unfortunately, Yorion decks are still lurking around the halls of Pioneer, so I'm not sure about the deck's playability at this point. It probably isn't very competitive anyway, so this may be a good starting point for future reference. At the end of the day, in whichever way all of this plays out, this is still a push in the right direction for mill decks in all three of the mentioned formats.
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