Hey guys, today I want to talk about Legacy.
This time I’ll focus on Miracles, but from a completely different perspective. I will not go any further on how to build Miracles or any of this sort. The focal point will be moved towards the opposite. I still think that Miracles is the best deck in the format, and that the my list is very close to optimal.
2 Volcanic Island
4 Flooded Strand
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Arid Mesa
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Entreat the Angels
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Force of Will
2 Spell Pierce
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Red Elemental Blast
2 Rest in Peace
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Pithing Needle
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Entreat the Angels
1 Vendilion Clique
But not everybody wants to play this deck. This article is for you, if you don’t like to play Miracles but want to beat it. I will be talking about cards that are good against Miracles which you can easily put into your deck of choice. Later I’ll be presenting two decks that will perform very well in a metagame that is filled with Miracles. So let’s get it going.
Ever since I have Top 8ed GP Paris alongside Maxime Gilles and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa with Miracles said deck has become not only one of the top decks in Legacy. Together with Team America, Miracles has become the best deck in the format. Both decks demonstrated a staggering amount of top-finishes for the last months, leading to three more Miracles in the Top 8 of Bazaar of Moxen in Annecy this May. But those two decks didn’t only dominate these big tournaments, they have also put up phenomenal numbers at various smaller tournaments all over the world.
With such a dominating strategy it’s always a good idea to see how you can attack a certain deck and which angles of attack will be rewarded. That’s what I will be talking about today.
The three lists that made it to the Top 8 at the Bazaar of Moxen in the hands of Johannes Gutbrod, Marcus Olsson and Tomasz Jablonski are different in some points from what I have been promoting, but are still very close to what I used to Top 8 Paris with. It can easily be said, that these lists represent the strongest version of Miracles now, with different personal variations like more or less Vendilion Cliques and varying numbers of Ponder. The same strengths and weaknesses still apply to every single one of them.
So before I will talk about which decks are very well suited to deal with a metagame dominated by Miracles, I will talk about which cards and strategies are very promising if you have to navigate through a metagame filled with the blue-white-red menace.
Attacking Sensei’s Divining Top
The first and most obvious point is Sensei’s Divining Top. It’s most certainly Miracles’ backbone in many regards. It enables Miracle spells at any time, it protects key spells from discard and most importantly, it works as a cantrip. Every turn. Every single turn. This means that this card helps to draw the right part of your deck, you wouldn’t want to end up with Swords to Plowshares and Terminus against Combo or with Spell Pierce when facing Zoo or anything of that sort. Simply put, Sensei’s Divining Top is the glue that holds this deck together and keeps it from crippling into a pile of conditionally awesome, but generally unusable cards. Brainstorm and Ponder may be more powerful, but the ability to cantrip every turn is the true core of this deck.
Attacking Sensei’s Divining Top is hard, but there are answers out there that might deserve to be looked at.
Pithing Needle is as versatile as a card can get. It is literally impossible to find a competitive Legacy deck without activated abilities. If all plans fail you can still cast it and negate a part of their Fetchlands with this card. But it should be there for Sensei’s Divining Top. Being an artifact that costs 1 means that this card can get onto the board fast, making it easy to find a timeframe where you can safely deploy the Needle without fearing Spell Pierce or Counterspell, leaving Miracles with only Force of Will as their primary answer, which should be in the Sideboard most of the time in games 2 and 3. Obviously Miracles will have Disenchant, Wear // Tear and Engineered Explosives to deal with Needle, but finding those cards without Top is very hard, even more so if Miracles shouldn’t pack the full set of Ponders, which is at least one way to mitigate the loss of Top.
You can also put a very similar effect on a creature. Phyrexian Revoker is a seriously underused card, as it too has a target in pretty much every match-up, with the exception that you cannot keep Fetchlands from being activated. While Phyrexian Revoker has the upside of being able to attack for 2 each turn in most match-ups this advantage is a downside in this match-up as Miracles has creature removal aplenty. Still it’s one of the most effective hate bears when it comes down to interacting with Miracles the correct way. It’s definitely a card to consider, as the fields of use overlap greatly.
Moreover there is another card that acts very similar to the two above mentioned, yet it also has the upside of not being vulnerable to creature removal while negating some of the answers to said hate piece all by itself. I am talking about Null Rod. This card is certainly narrower than Pithing Needle and Phyrexian Revoker as you cannot name the card you are worried about. The advantage of the card on the other hand is pretty high, as most Miracle lists rely heavily on Engineered Explosives to deal with pesky permanents as this. As this isn’t possible any more the answers are narrowed down to Disenchant and Wear//Tear which should grant you enough time. Additionally Null Rod can be boarded in against Storm Combo too, where it represents a powerful piece of permanent based disruption.
Sensei’s Divining Top activations cost mana, and while it is practically very hard to mana screw a deck with so many basic lands and cantrips there are cards that help in this regard. I am talking about Winter Orb. This card negates Sensei’s Divining Top to some regard, as it disables the Miracle – pilot to use it at their will. Not many decks can run this card, but those who can, should.
Other than having answers to Top it’s generally a good idea to counter it if you can do so, without committing too many resources to this quest. I generally wouldn’t advise to use Force of Will on Sensei’s Divining Top, but Spell Piercing or Dazing it is basically a great idea.
Getting rid of a Top in the early stages of the game is essential and very important, but even if you have the chance to Abrupt Decay the Sensei’s Divining Top later in the game in response to an activation or a Fetchland it’s still very likely that there will be a second one. That’s why it’s generally important to deal with the Top fast or use any of the answers mentioned above, as the damage might have been done already later.
Before you think about cards that deal with Entreat the Angels or Jace, the Mind Sculptor – make sure you have a plan against Sensei’s Divining Top. Once my Jund opponent started with Thoughtseize, took Entreat the Angels and used his Surgical Extraction on it. I just proceeded to use Snapcaster Mages and Rest in Peace to full potential, and killed him with Jace, the Mind Sculptor later. All enabled by Sensei’s Divining Top. Miracles can function without most cards if it has to – but winning without Top is hard. Focus your struggle on this card, and this card only.
Creating Card Advantage
It might sound obvious at first, but creating card advantage is something that is very powerful against Miracles. I am well aware of the fact that this is the case for most Control decks in many formats, but let me elaborate.
Outside of having Counterbalance in play and countering spells with it, it is very hard for Miracles to generate card-advantage. Some Snapcaster Mages are card advantageous, but in general it all boils down to Counterbalance and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which also double as win-conditions in various match-ups. That being said it’s very hard for Miracles to get ahead in cards, but it’s even harder to catch up, as most answers are 1-for-1s. Terminus should rarely kill more than one or two creatures, most of the time at least one of those creatures will have affected the game in some way anyways just like multiple Deathrite Shaman activations, or creatures that made some kind of card-advantage, just as Stoneforge Mystic or Snapcaster Mage
Basic cards that generate some kind of card advantage are widely played in Legacy. Snapcaster Mage, Stoneforge Mystic, Shardless Agent and stuff like this are nothing new. Then there are cards that have been very important in Legacys history, but have been forgotten and replaced. The card I am talking about is Lingering Souls. Ever since True-Name Nemesis has replaced this card in Esper Stoneblade the match-up has gotten a lot easier, as Nemesis doesn’t need to be killed twice. Putting cards that generate some kind of advantage in your deck is essential when trying to beat a Control deck. Think about splitting your True-Name Nemesis with Lingering Souls or putting some of those in your sideboard.
But then there are cards that create card advantage that cannot be dealt with as easily as paying W for Terminus. Cards like Ancestral Vision and Bitterblossom are not really prominent in nowadays decks.
Bitterblossom is hardly destroyable in game one, and should be therefore valued very highly when planning to beat Miracles. It is easily splashable in any deck with Black, and generally in any deck featuring Deathrite Shaman. Paying life shouldn’t be an issue too, as Miracles has hardly a way to put a serious amount of pressure on any opponent. Consider this card for the future.
Ancestral Vision on the other hand is not that easily splashable as Bitterblossom is, as it forces you into playing Cascade-effects. More on Ancestral Vision later when I talk about the decks to consider for tournaments to come.
Dark Confidant is a prime example of card advantage printed on a creature. But it needs to survive a turn, which makes it less appealing when playing against Miracles, as nothing is easier than killing a creature. This card is not a very good idea in a creature-light deck, but is worth its gold when coupled with an already creature-dependent strategy. Definitely worth a thought.
The last and most important form of card-advantage-cards I want to mention is very important and without a doubt the most impactful threat against Miracles. Take this scenario that kicked me out of contention for the Top 8 at BoM9 in Annecy this year.
I am playing against Mono Red Painter, it’s the third game, and I am on the draw. I keep a hand with Top, Island, Plains, Brainstorm, Spell Pierce, Swords to Plowshares and Counterbalance, which is pretty awesome. I have interaction at various stages, Top, Brainstorm and Basic Lands alongside Counterbalance, which functions as a win-condition. I snap keep this one. Then my opponent starts:
Exile Simian Spirit Guide
Exile Simian Spirit Guide
Koth of the Hammer
As I was unable to Force of Will I was digging for my 1 of Pithing Needle, but couldn’t find it in time, which lead to one of the most horrifying losses I had with Miracles in a long time.
Planeswalkers are super important when trying to get an edge against Miracles. They comply all the points that are necessary. They stick and can’t be removed easily. They produce card advantage or pressure, in one way or another. And they will eventually win, if left untouched for too long.
Not all Planeswalkers produce card advantage immediately, Liliana of the Veil for example mostly doesn’t, until you use her ultimate. This card is still very threatening for Miracles. But it’s not the discard that makes this card powerful, as this is actually easy to circumvent for Miracles due to Sensei’s Divining Top. It’s the pressure it puts on Miracles to answer Liliana before the first ultimate is going to devastate the manabase, which is the real threat.
But Liliana is basically not as devastating as most other Planeswalkers are, as I have survived two ultimates already only to make a comeback with Snapcaster Mage into Jace, the Mind Sculptor into Entreat the Angels.
It goes without saying that Jace, the Mind Sculptor turns games simply by untapping once with him. Cutting down on the number of maindecked Jaces has been a mistake for many decks, leaving them with a worse Miracles – Match-Up than they used to have. Playing three of this card is important in a metagame with Miracles.
On the other hand Carsten Linden, the inventor of bUrg-Threshold has played plenty of different planeswalkers in his sideboard. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Garruk Relentless, Ral Zarek and Xenagos, the Reveler has all been part in said deck, though never all at once. In the end it doesn’t really matter which planeswalker enters the battlefield, as long as it can stick, and as Miracles have hardly any real ways of removing any of them, each planeswalker is powerful.
There are many cards that function well against Miracles, but if you have a few undecided slots that should be dedicated against Miracles think about planeswalkers. There are very effective ones just as Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Elspeth, Knight-Errant but pretty much every planeswalker has a way higher impact on the game against Miracles than most of the other cards.
If you don’t want to bring in planeswalkers you can easily take cards that work just like planeswalkers just as Bitterblossom or Keranos, God of Storms
Being a permanent that sticks and produces value each turn is what you want to focus on against Miracles.
Decks to play
Other than adding some of the cards I suggested earlier you could also play a deck that is by nature a good and solid deck that also has an edge over Miracles. In fact there are two decks that are valid choices when looking for a good deck in Legacy, plus those decks are even better if the metagame is dominated by Miracles.
The first deck I am talking about is Death and Taxes. At first sight Death and Taxes is nothing but a mono-white wheenie deck, but this perspective couldn’t be further from the truth. DnT is a creature based Control-deck, which is able to disrupt the gameplan of pretty much every deck alike. Miracles is no exception. Phyrexian Revoker is a good way to disrupt Sensei’s Divining Top, even though it’s a creature. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben + Karakas make sure they will always have a creature in play and Aether Vial negates our countermagic while giving all their creatures flash, which weakens our Jace-plan even further, which was kind of hard to accomplish through mana denial anyways.
On the other hand though, DnT can’t handle a resolved Entreat the Angels and struggles very hard to overcome Jace, the Mind Sculptor should there not be an Aether Vial. There are essentially two versions of Death and Taxes. The first one is the classic one, which Thomas Endevoldsen and Michael Bonde piloted to a Top 8 finish at GP Strasbourg. The other one is newer and had just had a Top 8 appearance at the Bazaar of Moxen in Annecy in the hands of Wenzel Krautmann. This version sacrifices aggro-elements just as Stoneforge Mystic, Serra Avenger and/or Mirran Crusader for even more lock-down and disruption. Wenzel even told me that he will cut the Mirran Crusaders from the sideboard to add more hate in form of Grafdigger’s Cage. This means that DnT seems to move away from a classic Aggro-Control deck to a Mono W Control deck. I think that a list like his is very well positioned right now.
2 Aven Mindcensor
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