What is Dead May Never Die: A Look at Legacy Miracles
Miracles was supposed to die with the passing of Sensei’s Divining Top, but somehow Tundra lovers managed to resurrect the archetype and pilot it to many top 8 finishes in major tournaments. Read below to find out how Miracles works and how it performs in the current Legacy metagame.
A Brief History of Top Decks.
What happened to bring back Miracles as a main contender, given that the deck was pronounced dead, never to see the light of day again.
There was a long process, where people (You might refer to them as the “Miracle Cabal”) realized that the broken part of Miracles was not only the CounterTop ‘lock’ but also Terminus. A 1-mana Wrath effect is obviously very powerful and if you have enough control over the top of your deck to play it when you want, instead of when your opponent only has a lowly Baleful Strix on the board it might be worth basing your deck around it. But how do you control your top decks without Sensei's Divining Top? A lot of ideas were floated, some looked at Soothsaying, others at Scroll Rack but in the end, we just added a “bad Ponder” to our deck: Portent! While other versions are still played, Portent has been broadly accepted as the way to make the deck tick. What does Portent do for our deck?
A Strictly Worse Ponder?
On it’s face Portent might just look like a very silly way to write Ponder but there are a few noteworthy differences; First of all, you draw the card in the next turn, leading to 2 interactions: You can use it to trigger Terminus within the same turn cycle and it gets around Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Another neat thing is that it is possible to target your opponent, which, together with Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s +2 ability can almost feel like a lock. So, it’s not straight up worse than Ponder, but obviously not drawing the card immediately has its downsides (when you’re trying to ‘go off’ with Monastery Mentor or you need to find your next land drop). For better or for worse, Portent adds the consistency needed to get away with 4 Terminus. This discovery led Swedish expert Nicklas Lallo to comment “They banned a cantrip out of a blue deck” and when you think about it, it makes sense. Sensei’s Divining Top's most important role was that of a cantrip: add consistency and prevent us from drawing random cards (seriously.. drawing random cards sucks! I have no idea how non-blue players live with it). Top was a really good magic card and it filled a few other roles as well, but in essence this was its primary function and losing a cantrip wasn’t going to kill a deck, just make it worse.
After playing a very reactive version for a few months and doing… alright with it, someone had the idea that we should be playing more to the board and we started testing out Counterbalance. We had to readjust our expectations for the card, as we couldn’t lock people out with it anymore, but just countering a few spells is usually enough to pull you ahead. We also noted that just the threat of suddenly blind flipping made our opponents play differently. They might play all their CMC 1 spells in one turn just to get value from them while they can, leading to delver players taking entire turns off just to cantrip, or playing all their creatures into a potential Terminus. When Counterbalance was adopted, Ixalan brought us Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin and you might think it wouldn’t see play in the format with both Abrupt Decay and Wasteland, cards which answer both sides of Search for Azcanta. You’d be wrong, however, as the ceiling (the potential power of a magic card is often referred to as it’s ceiling: this is the best it’s going to get) for this card is just so insanely high that even if they do answer it, what then? We traded, that’s fine. Depending on when we traded, we even got a few scrys or maybe even a full card out of the deal. This card is very good, and it will be a role player in multiple formats.
So, we started playing more to the board meaning we had some “threats” that our opponents had to respect if they didn’t want to be buried in card advantage. For reference compare the list I played in GP Vegas the list I recently 5-0’d a league with:
|20Lands||3Creatures||34Instants and Sorcery||3Other Spells|
|2Arid Mesa||3Snapcaster Mage||4Brainstorm||3Jace, the Mind Sculptor|
|1Karakas||4Force of Will|
|3Scalding Tarn||3Swords to Plowshares|
|1Entreat the Angels|
|3Flusterstorm||3Leyline of Sanctity||3Monastery Mentor||3Surgical Extraction|
And my recent list:
|20Lands||3Creatures||30Instants and Sorcery||7Other Spells|
|1Arid Mesa||3Snapcaster Mage||4Brainstorm||3Jace, the Mind Sculptor|
|4Island||4Force of Will||2Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin|
|3Scalding Tarn||4Swords to Plowshares|
|3Volcanic Island||1Entreat the Angels|
|3Flusterstorm||2Disenchant||3Monastery Mentor||3Surgical Extraction|
|1Engineered Explosives||2Pyroblast||1Red Elemental Blast|
You’ll notice the latter has more permanents and that it is splashing red. With Search of Azcanta, you can “overload” the opponent’s wastelands and the splash become much easier.
What’s the Plan?
Miracles at its heart is a Jace deck, resolve the mind sculptor he will win for you, one way or another. Entreat the Angels is mostly there as a way to add 12 loyalty counters to Jace in pinch, and sometimes you’ll top deck it and win a game you had no business even being in. Your game plan is a very simple 2 step process until you resolve Jace: 1) Don’t die and 2) Get ahead on cards.
Some prefer Monastery Mentor main deck instead of Entreat, in which case you’ll need to find another slot since you really need more than one mentor for it to be a reliable plan. That’s it for me for this time
Until next time and may you hit all your blind flips.
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