Zendikar Rising Spotlight: Ruin Crab in Nonrotating Formats

ElonThragtusk

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.


ruin crab ruin crab hedron crab

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.


ruin crab

Modern

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.


crab invasion photo
Mill players shall rejoice as a better Hedron Crab is on the way

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:


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.

Other Formats

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.

Vintage


fastbond oboro, palace in the clouds

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:


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.

Pioneer

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.


fraying sanity 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.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.



10 Comments

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SunTzu(12.09.2020 10:46)

How good or bad would Engulf the Shores be in Pioneer currently? Of course, that would require a redesign of the manabase. Kinda sweet that it can also get a little extra value out of Merfolk Secretkeeper.

ElonThragtusk
ElonThragtusk(14.09.2020 18:12)

SunTzu
Not too sure about that one, I think it would only see some play if someone would actually manage to come up with a monoblue version of the deck. I'd say Pioneer (unlike Modern) Mill decks still aren't strong enough to run just blue, so black would be required. I even thought about adding Bontu's Last Reckoning to the list, but that might be a bit too risky

TimeLord(15.09.2020 01:55)

ElonThragtusk

Hey, Bontu's Last Reckoning is a great card for the Modern version, yes you`ll miss your untap, but since most decks are so a fast, it can be a win to clean the board.

Just saying, maybe i should share my deck list. Iam still improving it, and due Corona, is wasn`t able to play cups this year with it.

ElonThragtusk
ElonThragtusk(15.09.2020 08:05)

TimeLord
I know that one and Damnation see play in Modern every now and them, but I'm not sure which Wrath would work best in Pioneer, I've actually thought about including Bontu's, but I'm not sold on it...
I'd love to see your list, feel free to share it if you'd like, people always love to see new interesting builds, including myself!

TimeLord(09.09.2020 16:15)

@kakal

Hey, i tried the same, but iam not sure about it, iam also not sure if i prefer Esper or Dimir mill, both are great, in good times i mill my opponent on turn 3.

Whats also a good combo with the trap is mission briefing,

Anyway i love to play mill since the beginning of Magic, and i really love to have my modern mill deck, but i would like to suggest to play Darkness at least in the sideboard, sometimes its just saving my ass;=)

Iam also not sure about Mesmeric Orb, its often just to slow, thats why i would suggest this card from the new Zendikar set "Maddening Cacophony".

Its better than Break and Enter, and also mills 8 cards and can be kicked, not that you`ll kick this card often in modern.

Anyway thanks for this article, was a good read, would like to read more about mill decks;=)

ElonThragtusk
ElonThragtusk(10.09.2020 06:57)

TimeLord
Thanks for the comment and your great insight! I earlier thought that Mission Briefing is a bit clunky and Mesmeric Orb isn't, but now you're making me rethink everything ;)
Darkness also seems good, but isn't Crypt Incursion somewhat better? Not always do aggressive decks deal damage in particularly big bursts, so I've always liked it better.
I, naturally, think that Maddening Cacophony is a great card, but it wasn't around at the time of writing :( Maybe we will get to kick it in Pioneer, I think it would greatly improve Pioneer lists, I'm optimistic about that card and even Mill in general, so who knows, maybe something else about Mill does come up later

TimeLord(10.09.2020 12:17)

Hey, Mission Briefing is a great way to play the trap again or just another cheap card. Iam getting the best results with my Esper deck.

When you can include Path to Exile in your deck, you`ve a good way to deal with early creatures and you also have a trigger for the trap. Iam also using 2 copies of Angel`s Grace in my Sideboard.

With mill decks you often only need one more turn to win, have a good day;=)

ElonThragtusk
ElonThragtusk(10.09.2020 22:20)

TimeLord
Thanks for going into detail about your Esper build, it sounds great and I have no idea why we aren't seeing it more often. I presume that Sultai is the reason at this very moment, but Uro will hopefully get banned soon enough (one can at least hope). I hope that, if he does, Esper becomes the 3c build of choice!

kaKaL(08.09.2020 18:37)

I include Scheming Simmetry in my modern mill deck. You search the card you need and then you could cast Archive Trap for 0

ElonThragtusk
ElonThragtusk(08.09.2020 22:55)

KaKaL
So many decks rely on fetchlands right now that I didn't even mention it, especially when you consider Field of Ruin; its main effect is just better, I'd say, and it also makes your opponent search their library, even if no basic land is found.
Don't know if you're running Symmetry in the mainboard or not, but I'm guessing it's a meta call that can be pretty good if you're not facing fetches that much

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