For us Aussies, the biggest Legacy event of the year is right around the corner, and as you can guess, a question that is commonly floated amongst circles is: what should I play at Masters? Whilst I won’t be there myself, my answer to the question is always the same: you should play Miracles, the secret King of the Format. This isn’t just blind devotion to a deck of an era past – I firmly believe that Miracles provides any grizzled veteran of the game all the necessary tools to take down any tournament. Today, I’d like to convince that you, the reader, should place your loyalty in King for Legacy Masters 2018.
1. As it turns out, wrathing people for one mana is still good in 2018. (Answers are great).
Ha. Funny that.
On a serious note though, in an evolving game where creatures are continuously being pushed, getting to play an unconditional wrath at one mana is almost cheating. Its efficiency is unparalleled, sweeping away all of the format’s all-stars for a measly one mana. See that True-Name Nemesis that you can’t target? Gone. Your opponent has played two Banrite Shamans against you and things aren’t looking good? Get ‘em out of here. Leovold is being a smug-ass motherfucker stopping you from cantripping? To the bottom he goes, and they don’t even draw a card! Obviously the card has gotten a little harder to set up without our lost brother Sensei’s Divining Top, but between the over ten cantrips that the deck usually runs, it turns out that being able to clear the board for one mana is worth the extra hoop that you have to jump through.
But wait, that’s not all. On top of Terminus, Miracles also gets to bring all the best answers in the game to the fight. Between Swords to Plowshares, Red Elemental Blasts, Surgical Extraction and Flusterstorm, as well as playing our favourite friend Tiago Chan to buy them back, Miracles always has the tools to defuse any situation. And finally, to stop yourself getting aped out, you get to play the check-all answer in Force of Will. The blue count in this deck is so high that you never have to worry about not having a Blue card in hard which is nice. Miracles has all the right cards to make a game go long, and when it does, there’s not much in the game that can beat an active Jace, Io Scultore di Menti or an Entreat the Angels for five.
2. In this world of Xerox vs. Prison, why not play both? (Cantrips are great, prison elements are great).
Miracles sits in the unique spot where it’s a Xerox deck that gets to play Prison elements, and it seems almost wrong to not use this to your advantage in a big tournament.
By playing on average ten-twelve cantrips, as well as Predicts for more card advantage and velocity, Miracles is as close to the most consistent beast in the game. You will get to do what you want to do in the majority of your games, and in a long tournament, there’s no way I’d want to leave my chances in the hands of the Fates. Playing more cantrips also gives the player more options, which is something that better players can leverage against their opponents. It’s always nice to be rewarded after tight play, and if you play tight enough and get to your spot in the game, the King will reward you for your efforts.
On the flip side, Miracles wins the game through two routes: hard card advantage, and lock pieces. That’s right, Miracles gets to be a Prison deck as well. People used to get ultra shitty about being CounterTop locked, but you know what’s worse than that? Getting blind flipped out of the game by a naked Counterbalance. Counterbalance is still a remarkable source of card advantage, turning all your cantrips into pseudo-counterspells. It’s become a lot more skill-intensive to use, but there’s nothing that gets me more excited than predicting the next threat that the opponent will cast and already having the correct cmc card on top. As Miracles plays many one drops, blindflipping a one isn’t the most unlikely thing in the world, and when the world is racing towards Xerox, it’s almost cheating that we get to cantrip and deny our opponents’ cantrips at the same time.
The other most common lock piece that people play is Back to Basics. The top decks right now are greedy with their manabases, and non-basic hate will give you the free wins you need in a large tournament. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Playing basics is at an all-time premium right now.
Jim Davis has written about this, which you can find here, but to summarise it’s never been a better time to play basic lands than now. Many decks in today’s format seek to punish people for playing their expensive duals.
Grixis Delver, a la the best deck in the format, restricts your mana with Wasteland to keep you off-balance with cheap countermagic like Daze and Spell Pierce just long enough to beat you to death with Delver of Secrets or a Young Peezy. Dragon Stompy just makes all your non-basic lands into shitty mountains with their eight maindeck Blood Moon effects. Lands will just straight up Wasteland lock you out of the game. Even Czech Pile, the slowest of midrange bordering control deck, sometimes plays Wasteland because hey, if you’re already losing to Blood Moon you might as well play some utility lands to boot.
Everybody is out to mess with your mana. The ability to play basic lands is an understated wrench in many decks’ plan. Because people can’t touch your basics (bar Rishadan Port), you’re more likely to develop your mana base. The more developed your mana base, the more spells you can cast. We’ve already established that Miracles plays most of the best answers in the game. Often, when you are casting your spells, what you’re doing is more powerful than what your opponent is doing. This lets you stay alive and get to the optimal spot in the game. And when you’re in your spot, you win. It’s simple as that.
Also, pimping your basics is an underrated part of the game (I’m currently using the Venezia Euro Island and the Japan APAC Plains).
4. The King reigns supreme against all the top matchups that I’d expect to see at Masters.
If I were playing at Masters, there are five decks which I’d want to be prepared for. They are: Grixis Delver, Czech Pile, Death & Taxes, Storm, and Sneak & Show. While this is based on knowledge about the local scene, I believe if you’re planning on taking the crown, you’ll need to have a plan for each of these decks. I’ll now go into why the King trumps these matchups.
The boogey-man of the format. It plays a wide range of threat, punishes mana bases, and has Force of Will to stop any nonsense. People have been raving that Grixis Delver is not a good matchup for Miracles, but I honestly don’t see it. Plow-Snap-Plow has always been good against Delver decks, allowing us to weather the initial barrage, and with basic lands in tow, we often get to the stage in the game where we can utilise our superior card quality to close out the game. Terminus plays a huge role in this matchup, gracing us with the ability to deal with Young Pyromancer tokens and True-Name Nemesis efficiently Game One. Post-board things stay relatively even, as they get access to hand disruption while we trade off some of our clunkier countermagic for Flusterstorms and Blast effects. The game still plays out the same though – our late-game cards are just better than anything the Delver player has got, and if we live long enough to get them online we usually don’t lose.
One aspect of the matchup that used to be a bit shakey was the mid-game, where often we could flood out a little, giving the Delver player a chance to steal the win. However, thanks to innovation by Rugved, which you can find here, playing two Preordains and shaving a land has smoothed out this mid-game flooding problem. While I do think he’s tunnelling too much on the Grixis Delver matchup, I do believe that his Preordain suggestion is the best way to build the deck, and if you really hate the Honda Civic matchup that much, just play his list and hopefully you can mimic his 90% win rate against Grixis Delver.
The Czech Pile matchup used to be unfavoured for the Miracles player. However, with the release of Ixalan, we were gifted the legendary enchantment Search for Azcanta, which has turned the matchup on its head. Search represents an uninteractable source of card advantage for the Miracles, encompassing the Czech Pile grind engine of Kolaghan’s Command loops and planeswalkers. Our removal suite by mishap keeps the graveyard empty of threats which depowers Kolaghan’s Command, and Entreat the Angels is often lights out for the Pile player if resolved. Post-board our answers get even better, which makes Search even more of a must-answer, for fear of being drowned out of the game. I used to be a little scared of the matchup, but now I’ll happily play it every round of a tournament. Their clock is slow, and our late-game now is just better than them.
Death & Taxes
While D&T isn’t well positioned right now, I still expect there to be a strong showing due to the accessibility of the deck. And you’ll probably have to face local legend Jack Jiggens at some point, so there’s no harm in being prepared. Game One basic lands let us avoid their mana denial plans, and the threat of Terminus means they can’t extend too much into the board. This gives us time to set up a Terminus into a haymaker, and let’s be honest, getting hit by a 2/1 Thalia all day isn’t the worst thing in this world. You have to be careful about letting Sword of Fire and Ice stick, but otherwise there’s just a bunch of low-powered White weenies in the face of your superior removal spells. Game Two plays out relatively the same, except you get to bring Disenchant effects to the fight. Just like taking candy from a baby.
We’ve got a bunch of good Stormtroopers in Melbourne, and they’re always floating around the top tables. While they do always have the possibility of just nutdrawing you, I think the matchup is still even, if not slightly in our favour.
Game One we lean really heavily on Counterbalance, and pray to the God of Blindflips that the top of our library is in our favour. It’s not great through, so I wouldn’t be surprised if “discard spell into Tendrils in and around your mouth” happens to be your reality. Game Two is where things start to change. Because our engines of Counterbalance and Search both pull us immensely far ahead if they’re ever unanswered, my game plan for Storm post-board is to trade early countermagic such as Blasts for cantrips, then lay into them with an engine. By trading early, this means they often won’t have the resources to break out of the lock, in which you’ll be able to drown them in card advantage. Experience and skill really shines in this matchup, and there are a lot of mind games that get played when a Counterbalance is on the table. Personally, I love this matchup, and it’s a good one to get a handle on when you have to face your local Opera singer in your win-and-in match.
Sneak & Show
I don’t think Sneak and Show is well-positioned right now, nor do i think it a good deck, but for some reason Melbourne keeps on getting crushed by a certain Pro Player, so I figured I had to write something about it. I’ve heard it’s not good for us, but honestly I’m not too sure.
Sometimes they catch us with our pants down, but overall we have a higher counterspell density than they do. And if you take into account that they can only sculpt a five-card hand (because two slots have to Show and Tell and payoff card) while we get a full seven, it’s not hard to overwhelm them with countermagic. After a fight, take their toys away with Surgical Extractions, and at some point just beat them down with your Ambush Vipers. However, sometimes they draw their Boseiju and get you, but there’s not much you can do when that happens. C’est la vie, as they say.
Oh, and Counterbalance sucks in this matchup, so make sure to side it out. It’s a trap to leave it in, especially now that we don’t have Top for consistency.
And there we have it. Why you should play Miracles for Legacy Masters 2018. It boasts a range of good matchups against the tiered decks, and it provides sufficient control over ones fate across a big tournament that I think it’d be a big mistake to not consider it when choosing a deck to sleeve up. If I were to play, I’d probably play something along the lines of:
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Flooded Strand
4 Polluted Delta
2 Volcanic Island
1 Arid Mesa
Non-Creature Spells: (38)
1 Search for Azcanta
1 Back to Basics
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Force of Will
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Entreat the Angels
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Council’s Judgment
1 Red Elemental Blast
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Council’s Judgment
1 Search for Azcanta
Some things of note:
- 2 Preordains, 19 lands – To minimise mid-game flooded as discussed earlier
- A 1/1 split of Search and B2B main – I’ve found that when one is good the other tends not to be, which is why I’m playing both main. Our card manipulation means that during a long game there’s a good chance we’ll see the one that we want, and if we draw the one we don’t want, Brainstorm solves all our problems.
- 3 Counterbalance – The card has such a high ceiling, and to win a big tournament you need a bit of luck on your side. No better card to get lucky with than good mate Counterbalance.
- Gideons in the sideboard – Usually Monastery Mentor competes with Gideon in this spot, and while Mentor is a more powerful card, I’ve found Gideon to work better when you’re a bit strapped for resources. He does a decent Moat impression by continuously crapping out 2/2s, and doesn’t require you to sink cantrips to make guys. Obviously, he costs 4 mana instead of 3, can be a bit clunky with his double white casting cost, and swapping them for Mentors is a very viable argument. But let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a bit of Alpha Chad Gideon in their lives?
I hope you all have enjoyed this little rant, and I hope to see one of my Miracles disciples take the win!
LONG LIVE THE KING!
By Stephen Tang