Miracles Gone Wild: My First Topless Tournament Experience

Hey there sports fans, it’s Stephen Tang back at it again with an Eternal Masters edition tournament report! Now if you’ve given MtGTop8 a squiz recently and had a look at the standings for the event, you may notice the lack of my name from the Top 8 standings – that’s because I came a decent but not fantastic 17th place, narrowly missing out on a Top 16 result due to a reporting error from the TO. As this wasn’t a great result or a 9th place story of drama and anguish, I didn’t really feel the need to write up my tournament. But the lads at The Salt Mine wanted me to run through my tournament with the new Miracles deck, so here it is.

For those of you who have been living in caves or have been playing other strictly worse formats such as Standard or Modern, the Legacy metagame recently was rocked to its core. On the 24th of April, WoTC, much like Brutus in the Shakespearian classic Julius Caesar, betrayed the Caesars of the Legacy community and plunged the blade of a Sensei’s Divining Top banning deep into our chests. Many, myself included, thought this to be the end for our careers as control mages. The plebeians of the world cheered, thinking that the oppression of Terminus had come to an end and that they could once more play their shitty Green-White creature decks again. Luckily in this tale, due to the efforts of MODO visionaries, Caesar did not die, but came back even more durdly than before. The citizens of the world cheered, and all was right in the world again.

That’s right friends, unable to relinquish my desire to faff around until the end of time, I sleeved up the “Topless” Miracles, or as I like to call it, “Naked” Miracles. This was the list I brought to the tournament:

Creatures: (3)
3 Snapcaster Mage

Non-Creature Spells: (37)
4 Ponder
4 Predict
4 Brainstorm
4 Portent
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Supreme Verdict
3 Terminus
1 Entreat the Angels
2 Unexpectedly Absent
4 Swords to Plowshares
3 Counterspell
4 Force of Will

Lands: (20)
4 Flooded Strand
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Arid Mesa
3 Tundra
6 Island
2 Plains

Sideboard: (15)
3 Leyline of Sanctity
3 Flusterstorm
2 Monastery Mentor
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Humility
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Moat
1 Disenchant

Predict Terminus Jace, the Mind Sculptor

The Three Pillars of Naked Miracles

Now if you’ve never played this deck before, but were familiar with Sensei’s Divining Top Miracles (rest in peace, my sweet prince), you at this stage might be thinking: “This looks like quite the pile. There’s no way you could effectively time a Terminus without Sensei’s Divining Top”. I won’t lie, when I first saw the list, I too thought to myself that it couldn’t be good. But it is, and let me explain why. While the deck looks and functions like the Miracles of old, there are some differences in the play style between Miracles with its shirt on and without.

Sensei’s Divining Top Miracles was a deck built to not only be the most consistent deck in the room courtesy of the power of Top, but also a deck which could keep up in card advantage with the BUG decks thanks to Predict. Its end games were either the CounterTop lock or a big Entreat, depending on whether the opponent played Abrupt Decay.

Naked Miracles, on the other hand, is a true-Blue card advantage control deck. As the deck doesn’t have the luxury of locking its opponent out with the convenient one-two punch combo, all it wants to do is power through its deck and see more cards than its opponent whilst trying to line up answers for its opponent’s threats. Once the deck has stabilised, Jacey Boy is the primary win condition, as he has the ability to filter the opponent’s draws and creates a pseudo-lock in combination with Portent and Predict. Also, the hopelessness of an opponent who has only shit draws in his deck is immensely satisfying and almost brings a warm fuzzy feeling to my cold, dead soul.

Recently, I was having a chat with Callum Smith a.k.a. Whitefaces (one of the early innovators of the deck, and was interviewed in Sean’s This Week in Legacy series), and he summed up the how the deck plays so succinctly that I figured I’d just let him explain the nuances of the deck:

A friend summed up the deck quite well actually, we’re looking to ignore text boxes as much as possible. Terminus doesn’t care what text is on the creatures, Counterspell doesn’t care what card it’s countering, it’s true for Swords to Plowshares too to an extent (not Young Pyromancer, True-Name Nemesis or Nimble Mongoose… But generally) … If you’re at parity with a fair deck, then you’re cantripping to find Predict, Jace, Snapcaster Mage or countermagic to pull you ahead. If you’re behind you’re obviously looking to find the answers, if you’re ahead you’re looking pull further ahead (usually with Portent, Snapcaster Mage and Jace) and lock the game up.

For those interested, here are my thoughts on specific card/deck building choices:

  • The cantrip suite does a decent job at making the deck smooth and finding what you need when you need it. Potent does a fairly good job filling the void of Sensei’s Divining Top, and its ability to target an opponent as well as draw in the opponent’s upkeep synergise with cards like Predict and Terminus respectively. Brainstorm plays an even bigger role in this deck, as it is the only way to put a Terminus or an Entreat back on top of your library. Ponder is Ponder, and is still stupidly powerful.
  • The one-of Supreme Verdict was a trial, and it put up decent results. While it is worse against Death & Taxes as well as Elves, it does a lot of work in against the Delver decks, allowing you to clean up True-Name Nemesis and other unplowable garbage without having to worry about Stifle or countermagic.
  • I think the deck should be playing three to four ‘deal with troublesome permanents’ cards in the seventy-five, and I chose to fill out those slots with two Unexpectedly Absent and a Disenchant in the board. This can be tweaked to one’s fancy, but I was pretty happy with this split.
  • The Monastery Mentors were in the side instead of main. It’s really a playstyle thing – some people like killing their opponent with a billion Monk tokens, and others like ultimating Jace. I’m firmly in the Jace camp. They were ok in the board, but they were a bit of a nonbo with some of the other cards in my board. I’m probably going to cut them in the future. Which gives me a clean segue to the next point.
  • The enchantment haymaker suite of three Leylines, one Moat and one Humility were great. The Leylines were ping against Burn and Storm, and were useful against the fast RB Ape decks that relied on discard to get through your countermagic wall. Humility and Moat were last minute additions that were surprisingly good, with both either buying you a lot of time or a straight lock when they hit the table. Moat was pretty much played because it’s a cool card that costs a lot of money (thanks Graham King), but I think two Humilities would be better. Or just pay the Moat anyway because you’re baller. That works too.
  • The deck is straight Blue-White instead of the Patriot versions which are floating online. While Patriot gives you access to Red Elemental Blast and Blood Moon, Whitefaces convinced me that the splash isn’t necessary unless you’re expecting the mirror to be a common matchup. And while this may be the case in the States and over across in my favourite place Europe, let’s be honest, there never was and never will be a strong Miracles showing at any tournament in Australia. Staying Blue-White gives you a stronger mana base against all those nasty Delver decks, and doesn’t lose you many points against ape decks such as Sneak & Show. Access to the Blasts and Blood Moon is good against the grindy BUG decks such as Food Chain, but my solution to that was Humility.

Anyway, enough about the deck, let’s run through what I played against in the tournament!

Round 1: Dragon Stompy (2-1)

As I sat down, Sean asked who I was against and I told him. He told me that she was on Dragon Stompy. Well this is not going to be fun. Luckily for me she was late and I started the encounter up a game. So we start game two and she demonstrates exactly why the deck is a nuisance for Naked Miracles: she leads with a Chalice on one. I wasn’t a good player and didn’t have a Force of Will in my opener, so that was fun. We have some back and forth, with me setting up a Terminus with a Jace which promptly bites the dust to buy me time while I hit land drops. Eventually she jams a Chandra, Torch of Defiance and gets her to ultimate range. She ultimates Chandra and casts some idiot which I Force, taking me to six points of life. I untap and Entreat for six. She is on ten. I need her to whiff for one turn and draw anything but another Chandra or a Fiery Confluence. She rips in the Chandra. I die. Game three is equally as good. We start off slow and I at some point fire off an Entreat for two. She takes a hit, but then finds an Ensnaring Bridge to halt my assault. I have a Snapcaster Mage in hand, and an Unexpectedly Absent in the bin to deal with the Bridge for a turn, but no way to get it in the bin. I pass the turn back and she casts a Chalice on two, in which I response with my Snapcaster Mage and UA the Bridge on top of her library. Might as well get use out of my mana. She passes the turn back and I draw the timely Jace off the top to put the Bridge on the bottom. I crash in for ten and eventually Jace along with my idiots overwhelm her. Jacey Boy never dogs the boys, even on Sundays.

 Round 2: Sneak and Show (1-2)

Once again I am punished for not keeping a hand with Force of Will. In game one my opponent mulls to five, but nut draws me with a Show and Tell into an Omniscience and a hardcast Emrakul. Goddamn, I hate these ape decks. Game two I draw my seven and see my spicy Humility in my hand, and keep it. Sure enough he casts Show and Tell and puts in Omniscience while I put in my Humility. My pocket ace immediately does work as he casts a 1/1 Griselbrand and passes the turn. We faff around for a while but I eventually find a Jace and ultimate him to close out the game. Game three he casts a Sneak Attack which made my Flusterstorm in hand a little dumb, and I die to an Emrakul. Yay fun interactive Magic.

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A realistic snapshot me after getting turn twoed from a mull to five.

Round 3: Death and Taxes (1-2)

This round I was against local legend Jack Jiggens. Game one I manage to stabilise and get my Jace going, ultimating it after filtering his draws so that he could assemble his playset of Aether Vials on board. Aren’t I nice. A noticeable moment in this game was when I draw step triggered a Terminus to his board of a Mirran Crusader. I loudly announced the trigger, and he responded by Vialing in the Flickerwisp, targeting his Crusader. I let that happen, then elect not to cast the card. He looks at me a bit funny and I tell him that it’s a trigger and that I don’t always have to cast it. I don’t think I was sharking him because it’s always good to announce the trigger as decks like Death & Taxes can do stuff like Vial in a Sanctum Prelate in response and name six. I at least thought I was pretty smart. He then proceeded to roll me in games two and three. Sword of Fire and Ice is a very hard card to beat when active. So I’m pretty dead at this point, but I figured I should jam on and get some solid reps with the deck.

Round 4: Lands (2-0)

As I sit down opposite our latest Kiwi import Adrian Kitto, we have some good banter and talk about how we both haven’t really played this matchup. He keeps a slow hand, and on turn two Punishing Fires me without a Grove of the Burn Willows. I’m slightly confused at this point, but continue to do my thing and hit land drops. He casts one Crop Rotation, which I Counterspell, and then casts another, which sneaks through. Now I’m wondering what he’ll get with only one land in play but when he places the Grove on the Table, the pieces of the puzzle fall in place and I think to myself: “Oh shit it’s going to be one of these games”. I then start aggressively looking for my Entreat, and he gets me down to nine points of life before I find the Entreat and kill him with my Angels. Game two he starts his Loam engine early and mills a Dark Depths, which I Surgical Extract. He then concedes, knowing that I would have more removal spells than his Tireless Trackers and that he’d rather go get a feed. Fair cop really. They were really fun games though and the banter was top notch, especially when he commented how the best thing about the Punishing Fire engine was that I couldn’t play a Jace without him biting the dust. I told him that Jace was the card I had drawn for turn. We had a good laugh.

Round 5: RB Reanimator (2-0)

If there’s one thing you should get from this report, it’s that you should keep hands with Force of Will in them. Game one my opponent mulls to five, but because I didn’t keep a hand with Force in it, manages to Faithless Looting into a turn one Iona naming white. As I was on the play, I knew I had exactly three turns to find my only out: Jacey Boy. I dig very aggressively with my cantrips, and on my penultimate turn fire off a known Predict. I needed to draw the Jace in the next three cards or I was donezo. And what do you know, my boy was the first card I drew. I slam him, bounce the Iona, and it was smooth sailing from there. My opponent once again gets the bad end of variance and mulls to four. He doesn’t really do anything and I jam Jace on turn four. He responds by Stronghold Gambiting a Grave Titan into play, but by then I had already so many cards that I dealt with the Titan and its tokens with a Swords to Plowshares and another Jace. This Jace then locked up the game. Actually, there’s one other thing you should get from this article too – that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a house and he’s a boy that will never let you down. Yeah the boys.

(Editor’s note: This round was on feature match, which should be out soon!)

Round 6: Merfolk (2-0)

These games play out fairly similarly. Both games my opponent doesn’t put enough pressure on me and I buy myself enough time to engineer a situation where I can fire of a Terminus then follow up with a Jace on an empty board. Terminus and Predict do such a good job in these fair creature matchups, allowing you to find Swords to Plowshares and Snapcaster Mages to keep them down on creatures. Standard control games.

Round 7: Honda Civic (Grixis Delver) (2-0)

My opponent looked pretty worn out during the game, and I can say with 100% certainty that the only way to be able to pilot a deck like Naked Miracles or Delver through a long tournament is to put in enough reps with the deck so that a majority of the decision trees become autopilot. Luckily for me my past experience for Miracles largely transferred over, and I was in a fairly decent mental state coming into the final round of the Swiss. In both games Predicts kept me ahead on cards, even after a mulligan to six in game two. That, in combination with the cantrips, meant that I could line up removal spell with threat, and just grind him out with good ol’ card advantage.

Overall, I felt that this iteration of the deck was extremely smooth. The deck had all the tools to answer both fair and unfair decks, and when left alone to fire through its deck, was nearly unbeatable. Having my boy Jace as the primary win condition never felt too slow, and having Entreat the Angels as a secondary way to overwhelm fair decks was a good option to have.

Naked Miracles is a powerful and fluid alternative to Sensei’s Divining Top Miracles, and I encourage all those who were deeply cut by WoTC’s garbage decision to ban Sensei’s Divining Top to give it a spin. Ultimately, outside of a Show and Tell ban, nothing would bring me more pleasure than playing the Naked Miracles mirror in a large Aussie tournament, so get on it!

By Stephen Tang

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