Milling in Hearthstone used to be a fun, if misguided, dream. Load up your deck with cards like Coldlight Oracles, Naturalizes, and Dancing Swords, which force your opponent to burn through as many cards as possible. It wouldn’t work 90 percent of the time, the other player usually tipping his hat towards your generous gift of card draw—but on the rare occasion where you made that Control Warrior burn his Alexstrasza and Grommash Hellscream on a Coldlight? Pretty funny! You still might lose, but it was worth it.
It seems that Blizzard liked the idea too.
A number of the new cards introduced in Goblins vs. Gnomes, Hearthstone’s first massive expansion, were directly engineered to be effective by putting a huge number of cards in the other player’s hands. There’s Goblin Sapper, a middling 2/4 for three on its own but who turns into a much more formidable 6/4 when you’re staring down six or more cards. There’s the Clockwork Giant, 12 mana for an 8/8 but whose cost decreases by one for every card in the opponent’s hand. And then there’s the Iron Juggernaut, perhaps my favorite card from the new set, who shuffles a mine into the other player’s deck that, once drawn, deals 10 damage to the face.
These are all fun, inventive ideas. But so far, they haven’t been put to any great use. The aggressive mill decks who try to get an edge through putting out cheap Clockwork Giants tend to get overpowered and out-tempoed more often than not. The early verdict on these cards puts them in the same category as, say Lorewalker Cho or Mindgames—fun, inoffensive drops you only mix in when you’re bored.
However something odd began to happen as those Clockwork decks finished their brief moment in the sun. On Dec. 29, a redditor calling himself ChaosFollowing introduced a new, radically different kind of mill deck on the Hearthstone Reddit forum. His version stripped out any offensive threats and every big minion, leaving him with a slew of card-draw and defensive spells. No Malorne, no Giants, no Sappers—but Poison Seeds? And that off-kilter mass removal spell that people almost never use? Yeah, run two of those. It combos great with Starfall, and if you’re drawing your entire deck you’ll have the time for nine-mana combos.
You see, Goblins vs. Gnomes didn’t make an offensive, aggressive mill archetype work. It did however, make this ultra-slow, ultra-conservative Immortal Druid Mill work. With two Healing Touches, two Antique Healbots, and a Tree of Life, your opponent needs to chew through almost 100 lifepoints to take you down. When you pair that with potent removal like Big Game Hunter, Swipes, Naturalizes, and Starfire, as well as Coldlights and Grove Tenders to burn through your opponent’s cards and speed the game up, all of a sudden you’re pretty hard to kill.
But here’s the brilliant, unique thing about this deck. By purging your list of any big minions, you more or less render your opponent’s removal and card-draw into hand-crowding flotsam. Furthermore, would-be lifegivers like Acolytes of Pain, Northshire Clerics, Mana Tide Totems and Arcane Intellects will now turn against their masters. Your goal here isn’t to devastate resources, you’re simply aiming to outlast until your opponent is completely void of threats. The win condition is to have an answer to every single thing on the other side of the board, and then to graciously watch that inescapable fatigue counter tick away till doom.
Playing this deck is the most fun I’ve had in Hearthstone in months.
Every so often a deck comes along that reshapes the very way you think about this game. This is a control deck that doesn’t run a minion with more than four health. That’s crazy! And it works! I’m not any high legend player, but I’ve been able to shut down everything from arch-control Warriors and Warlocks to corrosive Hunters and Mages. Will it stack up against top competition? Maybe not, but it certainly seems viable enough to be a go-to in most tournament formats.
Mostly though, you should play this deck to remind yourself how weird and wonderful Hearthstone can get once you start thinking outside the box. If you’ve been disappointing with the diminished creativity coming out of Goblins vs. Gnomes, you ought to start milling. Never forget about all those ideas that just might work.