Howdy folks! It's Joe again here with our continuing look at some of the best decks in the Legacy format, and this time we've got our eye on what used to be the King of Legacy: UWx Miracles!
History of a Dominant Archetype
Miracles' origins lie in the early interaction between the cards
Sensei's Divining Top and
Counterbalance which create a lock condition that allows the deck to counter nearly every spell its opponent could throw at it, while trying to find a way to win the game. Early versions of this lock condition lacked strong ways of actually closing games out and thus could be overloaded and eventually beaten.
Enter Avacyn Restored.
Released in May 2012, the set brought with it a brand new mechanic known as "Miracle", along with two very important cards:
Entreat the Angels.
The deck at this point slowly adapted into a control shell that sat behind the Countertop lock, while using
Terminus to control the board before assembling its win condition either through Entreat or a resolved
Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Like most decks in the format however, the deck changed greatly during the era of
Treasure Cruise /
Dig Through Time to try to combat the fast and furious U/R Delver decks that rose to prominence.
Following the banning of Cruise and Dig, the deck quickly settled into a position at the top of the heap. Multiple Top 8's and many wins followed, with the deck's most fervent pilots (often referred to as the "Miracles Cabal") tirelessly working to tune the deck with each new set. The deck became the format's best deck, and often the most criticized for how miserable it was to play against. This trend continued for two years, with the deck adopting cards like
Monastery Mentor and continually improving its game.
Then, in April 2017 Wizards of the Coast finally took action by banning
Sensei's Divining Top. Thus, the King finally died.
Except, not really.
Miracles didn't actually die, but instead evolved to a new world defined by the lack of its most potent lock engine. The deck adopted a new strategy through the use of cards like
Portent along with newcomer
Search for Azcanta. Today, the deck is still quite strong and one of the most traditional "control-like" decks in the format.
Miracles in a Nutshell
Miracles is a traditional draw-go style control deck. It utilizes its cantrip suite and efficient spells to leverage incremental advantage into powerful board control before finding a finisher to close the game out with.
To understand it, let's take a look at a few lists. The first comes from Grand Prix Seattle, placing 7th and piloted by Luke Purcell.
Miracles - Luke Purcell | GP Seattle 7th Place
2 Snapcaster Mage 1 Vendilion Clique 1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 4 Brainstorm 1 Flusterstorm 4 Ponder 3 Portent 2 Preordain 4 Swords to Plowshares 2 Counterspell 1 Predict 1 Council's Judgment 1 Entreat the Angels 1 Supreme Verdict 4 Force of Will 3 Terminus 2 Counterbalance 1 Back to Basics 1 Arid Mesa 4 Flooded Strand 6 Island 2 Plains 3 Scalding Tarn 2 Tundra 2 Volcanic Island 3 Flusterstorm 2 Pyroblast 1 Red Elemental Blast 2 Surgical Extraction 2 Disenchant 1 Search for Azcanta 1 Back to Basics 1 Council's Judgment 1 Vendilion Clique 1 Supreme Verdict
Luke's list includes some newer technology that has been thrown about, running
Back to Basics in a predominantly UW list splashing red for sideboard cards like
Red Elemental Blast to combat other blue decks in the format. The dominance of Grixis Delver and other nonbasic heavy decks like 4C-Leovold (Czech Pile) is primarily what makes
Back to Basics such a good choice in the current metagame.
Let's take a look at another variation, by James Baker at the SCG Cincinnati Team Open, where his team placed 3rd.
Miracles - James Baker | SCG Cincinnati Team Open 3rd Place
2 Snapcaster Mage 2 Monastery Mentor 3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor 4 Brainstorm 1 Flusterstorm 4 Ponder 3 Portent 4 Swords to Plowshares 1 Counterspell 2 Predict 1 Council's Judgment 4 Force of Will 4 Terminus 2 Counterbalance 2 Search for Azcanta 1 Arid Mesa 4 Flooded Strand 5 Island 2 Plains 3 Polluted Delta 3 Tundra 2 Volcanic Island 1 Engineered Explosives 2 Flusterstorm 1 Path to Exile 2 Pyroblast 1 Red Elemental Blast 3 Surgical Extraction 2 Disenchant 1 Snapcaster Mage 1 Vendilion Clique 1 Supreme Verdict
James' list ditches the
Back to Basics plan, also dropping
Entreat the Angels for the more straight-forward
Monastery Mentor. While Mentor's strength is greatly diminished with the loss of Top, the card still takes advantage of Legacy's efficient cantrips and noncreature spells.
A Look at the Core of the Deck
With some lists out of the way, let's take a look at some of the important cards this deck plays.
Ponder / Portent / Brainstorm
Card selection in a deck that needs to find a win condition after wiping the board is key. Both
Portent are mostly the same in regards to how they function, with the exception that
Portent's draw occurs on the next upkeep (meaning your opponent's). This can sometimes be used to set up a
Terminus on your opponent's upkeep.
Portent also has the upside that it can target your opponent, setting up either a
Predict to get rid of their best card or to simply
Time Walk them out of finding an answer or a threat.
Counterbalance / Predict / Snapcaster Mage
While Miracles no longer has access to the card filtration half of the Countertop lock,
Counterbalance itself is still fairly useful in that much of Legacy's efficient spells are fairly homogenized to specific converted mana costs (1 - 3), so by nature of playing these same spells Miracles can often counter with Counterbalance easily.
It also plays well with
Predict, which can be used to filter away dead cards off the top that you get to see off
Predict also can target any player, so if your opponent performs an action to put something on top of their library and you know what it is, you can cast
Predict and name the card they have on top. Note that much like the card
Cabal Therapy, you do not name the card until
Predict is resolving.
Finally, as a control deck, Miracles does run some number of
Snapcaster Mage, which is a general all-value control card that also acts as a creature to close games out.
Counterspell / Force of Will / Swords to Plowshares
As a control deck, Miracles needs some way of interacting with its opponent's spells, and both
Force of Will achieve that goal.
Force of Will is one of the format's defining pieces of countermagic, while
Counterspell can be brutal when paired with
Snapcaster Mage. Finally, the deck plays a number of
Swords to Plowshares in order to deal with problematic threats.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor / Terminus / Entreat the Angels
One of the best planeswalkers in the Legacy format, Jace backed up by
Force of Will definitely makes it one of the best cards in the deck. Jace is able to close games out while sitting behind the wall of countermagic and removal.
The deck's biggest piece of technology however comes from the card
Terminus. For one white mana, this card sweeps away a field full of creatures to the bottom of their owners' libraries, ignoring indestructible and even regeneration. While
Terminus is harder to trigger on the fly on your opponent's turn with the loss of Top, it's still very easy to set up one through the use of all the deck's manipulation effects.
Finally, some Miracles decks also run the Miracle spell
Entreat the Angels as a way to close games out quickly. Some builds eschew this plan for cards like
Monastery Mentor, however. Regardless, Entreat is a strong card, able to set up lethal damage in even just a few tokens.
Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin
One of the newest additions,
Search for Azcanta has proven that it is a strong eternal playable card. The card does mostly everything, from filtration on the front half to digging for answers on the reverse half. The best part of this card is being able to have both a flipped and unflipped version of this card on the battlefield at the same time.
Other Card Choices
Mentor was one of the strongest cards at the tail end of traditional Miracles' life, because with more than one
Sensei's Divining Top a player could loop them based on their available mana and create a small army of Monk tokens. Regarldess of not having this tech any longer, Mentor is still incredibly powerful boosted by the fact that Legacy boasts many efficient and strong cards.
Back to Basics
Relatively new technology for the deck,
Back to Basics lets the deck shut down greedy manabase decks like Grixis Delver or Czech Pile while the Miracles player is given enough time to have an answer to deal with their opponent's
Common Sideboard Options
Red Elemental Blast
Both of these cards are very strong at what they do, given that most of the Legacy format hinges on the existence of other blue spells.
Pyroblast has the additional utility of being able to be cast and target anything, but only does something if the target it's hitting is actually blue. This means you can just cast the card as a combat pump spell for say,
The format's premier graveyard hate spell,
Surgical Extraction is extremely versatile in a deck where the card
Snapcaster Mage exists. Able to dismantle combos and graveyard based strategies, this card does it all.
Council's Judgment is a highly powerful spell that lets Miracles deal with threats normally too difficult for a control deck, such as
True-Name Nemesis or
Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Because the voting action doesn't actually target, it gets around protection and hexproof/shroud.
Generally an all around powerful card,
Engineered Explosives grants the deck some flexibility in dealing with problem permanents.
One of the more powerful counterspells in the format, some decks have taken to playing at least one
Flusterstorm in the main deck as well as some number in the sideboard. This allows the deck to face down combo, anything with
Stifle and also the mirror match.
During traditional Miracles, decks would often play copies of
Wear // Tear in their sideboards, because of how
Counterbalance interacted with split cards. Now that the split card rules no longer work like that, more often you will see
Disenchant in the sideboard, due to the fact that it can be cast off one white mana.
A powerful card in its own right,
Vendilion Clique gives the deck even more game against combo and control mirror matches by controlling aspects of that player's hand, but also sometimes acting as a dig spell for the Miracles pilot. This card has often times fluttered in and out of the main deck, but generally always boasts 1 copy in most sideboards.
That's all the time we have this week folks! Next time on this column we'll be taking a look at another "Deck to Beat", the new kid on the block Czech Pile, otherwise known as 4-Color Control/4-Color Leovold!
Until next time, may all your matches be eternal!