Legacy Lessons: A New Miracle

by Philipp Schönegger on 28 October 2015, Wednesday

Philipp Schönegger

Welcome back!

 

This week we will look at Miracles as promised. The list will be ready to take to any tournament, especially Grand Prix Seattle next weekend. This article will also feature a certain array of tips and tricks including sideboarding and discussions of important approaches. So let’s get right into it, right?

 

As Dig Through Time is no longer of this world it was time to build a new list as there were now two slots that needed to be filled. Additionally, the metagame has changed, warranting a couple of additional choices to be made. It would have been all too easy to just go back to the list that I played before Treasure Cruise came but that wouldn’t be right.

 

Why?

 

Well, because there were a couple of additions to the arsenal of playable cards for Miracles which alter the way you build the deck.

 

Containment Priest has been a legal choice for quite some time now but turned out to be a rather weak cards when Omni Tell kept rising while Sneak Attack started to disappear. With Sneak Attack being back the card is certainly worth a consideration to say the least. Additionally it’s a playable card against a wide range of decks like Elves, Death and Taxes or Merfolk as well, giving the card the well needed versatility we’d like to see.

 

The second card is also a white creature, but contrariwise to Containment Priest it’s been a very popular and successful card as of late. Monastery Mentor probably doesn’t need an introduction at this point in time. The last Grand Prix (http://www.mtgmintcard.com/articles/writers/philipp-sch%C3%B6negger/legacy-lessons-a-look-back-at-grand-prix-lille) was won by said card, after all.

 

Monastery Mentor has been included in most Miracle variants, some utilized him more than others but this card was pretty much always present. The card has become an all-star and its individual power has made sure that this card is here to stay.

 

I also had the fortune that while I spent most of September in China my good friends Angelo Cadei and Tomáš Vlček kept on testing which allowed me to have a good base to start from when I returned. Coincidentally though, the removal of Dig Through Time didn’t impact the direction the deck was going in any way. All it did was alter the way the sideboard was constructed. So let’s take a look at the list before talking about certain design decisions.

 

I also had the fortune that while I spent most of September in China my good friends Angelo Cadei and Tomáš Vlček kept on testing meant that as soon as Dig Through Time had left the format it was a very easy decision to just take Angelo Cadeis list, tweak a number here and there until we could agree on a list that we continued to test.

 

So let’s take a look at the list before talking about certain design decisions:

 

 

 

 

 

What Changed?

 

The first and most important thing is the redistribution of white cards in the maindeck.

 

Previously to this there were 4 Terminus and 2 Entreat the Angels for as long as I can remember. And some things are so good that they never need to be changed. But it’s equally important to reconsider every choice given the new information and experience you might have gained on the way. Changing things that were once set in stone is a good way to improve even further, if these occasions are well chosen.

 

The thought process behind shaving the 4th Terminus and the 2nd Entreat the Angels in favor of Monastery Mentor is many-sided.

 

Monastery Mentor Entreat the Angels

 

One aspect of that change was driven by the wish for the possibility to have access to more strategical diversity within a game. If you’re playing a very traditional Ponder build it’s very hard to switch gears, a thing that I always loved when playing Esper Stoneblade. You didn’t have enough Entreat the Angels to just cast them in the early game and Snapcaster Mage was never really a threat to quite literally anyone should you ever consider going on the aggressive path. By adding Monastery Mentor to the deck you have just that. A different angle that allows you to switch gears rather seamlessly.

 

The second aspect has to do with consistency, the underlying principle of Ponder Miracles. One of the most glaring problems that Miracles has had since its inception was the fact that an untimely drawn Miracle spell was something you’d love to avoid and did need a Brainstorm for to be fixed.

 

Having less of said cards increases the amount of hands that are playable and should lead to less awkward hands and draws while it should also decrease the amount of Brainstorms that are used just to set up Terminus which in turn necessarily increased the consistency as you can utilize Brainstorm without any constraints.

 

Monastery Mentor is a fine hybrid between Terminus and Entreat the Angels as it acts as a win-condition that also serves the role of a pseudo-removal spell as it’s very hard to make good attacks when Monastery Mentor is on blocking duty.

 

Additionally it’s also a valid win-condition if left unchecked for even a small time window. The fact that you don’t need to draw him from the top of your library coupled with the fortunate metagame constellation that is naturally very low on counterspells that directly counter Mentor make this card a very welcome addition.

 

Granted, the addition of Monastery Mentor is not a strict upgrade to the deck like the switch between a 2- and a 4-Ponder list was.

 

It’s a mere side grade with the possibility of being superior in the correct metagame that I believe to be prevalent right now. As most removal spells have a varying degree of flexibility it’s been a thing of the past to assume that all removal spells will be stranded in the opponents hand sooner or later. This is actually only the fact with Swords to Plowshares as Abrupt Decay and Lightning Bolt have very valid targets when playing against Miracles. This means that adding Monastery Mentor does not necessarily mean that this deck is opening itself up to removal spells. It sometimes does, but not always.

 

The rest of the deck hasn’t really seen much of an improvement as most card choices appear to be very close to optimal. There are now only three Islands in the deck as the goal shouldn’t be to play as many basic lands as possible but as little as possible while still having the ability to develop your early and mid-game mana base by just playing basic lands.

 

While it does decrease the likelihood of having them in your opening hand it’s shown to be just as stable as the 4 Island variant, which means that we’ve been playing a suboptimal mana base for quite some time now. Being able to fit in another fetch land is also huge in terms of having more shuffle effects that increase the fortitude of all 12 cantrips.

 

 

 

The Sideboard

 

 

The sideboard is started off with the classic 3-3-3 split of Pyroblast, Flusterstorm and Vendilion Clique, giving the deck a great and versatile suite of cards to choose from when it comes to battle with the unfair decks in Legacy.

 

While Red Elemental Blast and Vendilion Clique are seen in almost all Miracle variants it still baffles my mind how Flusterstorm isn’t more widely adopted, but I’ll most likely write about the card itself in the coming weeks as it’s one of my all-time favorite cards and relatively underplayed considering its versatility and power.

 

Generally speaking, though, these 9 cards are the backbone of this sideboard and I’d need to hear very good arguments that would advocate cutting those. They’re adjuvant in most match-ups and are an integral part in pretty much every match-up that doesn’t revolve around creatures. The rest of the sideboard is targeted towards specific things and match ups. These cards aren’t as versatile but are there for one purpose.

 

The graveyard-hate package is split up between Rest in Peace, Containment Priest and Surgical Extraction as each and every single one of these cards is great in certain match-ups but lackluster in others. Three Rest in Peace would be way better when you were trying to beat Canadian Threshold but wouldn’t do a thing against Sneak Attack.

 

Splitting them up like this allows you to have something for pretty much every deck you’d want to beat, with the downside of not having a sideboard that can drown any one deck by a sheer amount of targeted hate.

 

Having one of the highest digging powers in the format, the highest if you take the average time played each game, enables you to also reliably find certain silver bullets.

 

Wear//Tear Disenchant

 

I opted for a pair of Wear // Tear over Disenchant or Engineered Explosives due to several reasons. Contrary to popular belief the ability to cast Wear for just W is huge. This is a point that many, myself included, have overlooked in the past. It’s not just about the requirement to fetch Volcanic Island or the ability to cast it with Fuse.

 

This feature is very important, even more so when coupled with Snapcaster Mage. On that matter, make sure to never use Snapcaster Mage to flashback a fused Wear // Tear. This doesn’t work legally. Whenever you cast a Fuse card from any zone other than your hand you may only cast one half.

 

The 15th slot for the sideboard goes to Izzet Staticaster and it’s a big one. This card does a lot of heavy lifting in a multitude of aspects. It’s worse than Sulfur Elemental when it comes to dealing with Monastery Mentor but this card shines in pretty much any other context. It’s useable against three widely played decks in Miracles, Elves and Death and Taxes.

 

Due to not being restricted to hating on white creatures it can also try to make up for the loss of the 4th Terminus vs Elves while also allowing you to deal with Phyrexian Revoker in the Death and Taxes match-up. It lastly serves as a last wall of defense versus Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique in the mirror as these creatures can sometimes slip through and apply heavy pressure. Having the ability to deal with these cards repeatedly without using more than one card is huge as investing a Red Elemental Blast on such a threat always feels pretty wrong.

 

Additionally, it’s a less situational Terminus when playing against Storm that you can also pitch to Force of Will, which is actually relevant in this scenario.

 

 

 

Sideboarding Guide

 

As this should cover the most important design choices in the list it’s now time to move on to some sideboarding. We will talk about the most important match-ups with a short explanation on why to board this way. For the rest of the match-ups not mentioned it’s advised to just use these boarding plans as a rough skeleton on which you can build your own plans upon as many match-ups are very similar to each other.

 

 

 

The Mirror Match

 

 

Let's start off with the mirror match. The approach I will present may sound radical to many and while a lot of what I’ll say may appear contrary to popular belief do me a favor. Hear me out and try it for yourself if you cannot trust me.

 

OUT: 4 Swords to Plowshares, 3 Terminus, 1 Council’s Judgement, 2 Plains, 1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

 

IN: 3 Pyroblast, 2 Flusterstorm, 2 Wear // Tear, 1 Izzet Staticaster, 3 Vendilion Clique

 

Now there are several things that are going on here at once. The first one is the removal of most white cards. In the past it was correct to exclude all white cards from the maindeck but with the advent of Monastery Mentor things have changed. This card is still not reason enough to keep in Terminus but is the sole reason that Entreat the Angels is still in the deck. Things change if your opponent is playing a 4 Mentor + Daze Miracles but here we are talking about playing against regular Miracles, where you expect one or two Mentors. The way you deal with Mentors is by having your own and having Izzet Staticaster in addition to all the points we’ll talk about in a second.

 

Due to the removal of Plains, a terrible card, from the deck you are going as low as 19 lands. This allows you to bring as many good cards as possible which in turn leaves your deck with a very high percentage of good cards in the postboard matches. You don’t have to cycle through your mediocre and bad cards to find what you need if you have about 40 cards that are actually good.

 

In order to further capitalize on the low amount of bad cards and lands it is essential to be on the draw for the postboard games. Should you happen to win the first game then your opponent will be kind enough to grant you said advantage. If things didn’t go according to plan in the preboarded game you can choose your own fate and decide to be on the draw. This means that you will lose a small percentage of games where your opponent goes for T1 Top, T2 Balance and has a couple Force of Wills to back this up. However, every other game that will go longer, and an impressive amount of games do so, will see you being favored due to having less lands which means more business as well as having the extra card. This is also why we can afford to not have Terminus in the deck against Monastery Mentor, as the combination of card quality and card quantity is the key to victory. This approach is not feasible when playing against a Mentor/Daze build, which should be rather obvious.

 

 

 

Against Combo Decks

 

 

Let’s take a look at the combo match up next.

 

Granted, there are many different variants of combo but let’s take a look at a generic Storm build and Sneak Show. Again, we want to reduce our land count to 19 by eliminating Plains from the deck. This gives us a lot of options as to what cards we actually want in the deck with a pretty much nonexistent downside as Plains wouldn’t have done anything here with the exception of casting and activating Top.

 

Now when you’re facing Storm you do have to distinguish between The Epic Storm, Ad Nauseam Tendrils and Grinding Station. For the sake of simplicity I’ll stick with ANT (Ad Nauseam Tendrils) as an example as it’s the most widely played variant.

 

OUT: 2 Terminus, 1 Swords to Plowshares, 1 Council’s Judgement, 2 Plains, 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, 2 Monastery Mentor

 

IN: 3 Flusterstorm, 3 Vendilion Clique, 1 Wear // Tear, 1 Izzet Staticaster, 1 Rest in Peace, 1 Surgical Extraction

 

You have to keep 3 Swords to Plowshares in order to have enough means of interaction against an early Xantid Swarm. The Izzet Staticaster is the better Terminus here because it handles the occasional Empty the Warrens tokens just as good but is also useable as a pitch to Force of Will while also being less conditional when it comes to the usage itself.

 

Flusterstorm Vendilion Clique

 

The cards that do most of the heavy lifting are obviously Flusterstorm and Vendilion Clique. Flusterstorm is one of the most potent cards that you can have in this match-up.

 

This is further amplified by the fact that you can float Flusterstorm on top of your library, giving your opponent an additional obstacle to overcome. Vendilion Clique fills the role that Miracles needs, which is presenting a clock. Add a very useful disruption effect to it and not having Vendilion Clique seems outright false. Pyroblast would be a reasonable choice but it’s just superior to the cards mentioned and there isn’t enough space to fit them in.

 

A very important concept when playing against Storm is the aspect of getting something on the board to attack with, be it Snapcaster Mage or just a single Angel. Some variants and Grinding Station in particular are very well equipped to deal with a multitude of counterspells in the late game, forcing us into the role of applying pressure without tapping out. That’s why Vendilion Clique is so important, but if you don’t have access to said card I’d advise using excess Snapcaster Mages as long as they’re not a back-up for more Flusterstorms.

 

Sneak Attack has to be approached a little bit differently, though. Despite the fact that this Show and Tell based deck relies on creatures to attack you, unlike Storm, there will be no more removal spells left in the deck. But let’s look at what we’re boarding out and in first.

 

OUT: 4 Swords to Plowshares, 3 Terminus, 1 Council's Judgment, 2 Plains, 2 Monastery Mentor

 

IN: 3 Pyroblast, 3 Flusterstorm, 3 Vendilion Clique, 2 Wear // Tear, 1 Containment Priest

 

Most of what I said above about Storm and Miracles also applies here.

 

Containment Priest

 

Containment Priest is a great addition and certainly shines here as a hard-to-deal-with threat that is ideal for this very match-up as it also applies the much needed pressure mentioned above. Historically this match-up hasn’t been great due to its abilities to apply heavy hitting disruption cards like Boseiju or Defense Grid. Should this deck rise in popularity even more then it might actually be worth considering adding more Containment Priests to the sideboard. The approach to the match-up is as simple as it gets, sadly.

 

 

 

Beating BUG

 

 

The next two decks we are going to talk about are both BUG colored, namely Team America and Shardless BUG. The approach to them is rather similar but still differs in a certain way. So what are the cards you want and don’t want when facing Shardless BUG?

 

OUT: 4 Force of Will, 4 Counterbalance

 

IN: 3 Pyroblast, 2 Wear // Tear, 3 Vendilion Clique,

 

Counterbalance is not reliable enough when facing this deck, and this is due to several points. Abrupt Decay isn’t the real issue here, but rather that the angles Shardless BUG is attacking from are wildly different. It’s very hard to hit the important cards as they stretch from cc1 all the way up to cc4 and the power of anticipation is on their side. It’s not like when you’re facing a Storm deck where you are fine if all your Counterbalance does is counter cc1 spells and you can expect the power your card will have for the foreseeable future.

 

Secondly it appears to be a good way to counter Ancestral Vision but the problem is that the opponent can perfectly await the point in time where he needs to cast Abrupt Decay on Counterbalance, giving him a certain degree of self-determination that isn’t really profitable for us. Counterbalance on its own is also beyond useless in this match-ups due to the points addressed earlier as all it can do reliably is counter Deathrite Shaman and Discard.

 

Couple that with the fact that Sensei's Divining Top is under heavy attack in this match-up by Discard and Null Rod/Pithing Needle and you achieve a certain degree of independence from Top if you don’t have Counterbalance, making your individual cards stronger. And despite the fact that we still have Monastery Mentor that will be the target of Abrupt Decay sooner or later it’s more important to fight over Ancestral Vision with cards that will deal with it for sure like Pyroblast.

 

Monastery Mentor is a very good source of card advantage here as you don’t really deploy him on the third turn. You want to have at least one card to go along with him when you’re deploying it, assuring to have at least one or two tokens that actually go a long way. The card itself serves two purposes. The first one is that of a substitute to Entreat the Angels, a win condition. This doesn’t work as easily as a single Abrupt Decay can demagnify the power of Mentor immensely. This can be circumvented by Vendilion Clique or tricking the opponent into using Abrupt Decay on your Top making them feel clever but defeated sooner than later.

 

The second and more prevalent approach to Mentor is that of a disruption spell that has the ability to escalate. Deployed on a rather neutral board it threatens to turn into a win condition very soon but even if dealt with as soon as possible you are most likely still sitting on a couple of tokens that can apply pressure to planeswalkers to call in for their duty as chump blockers. Don’t cling to the card because it’s supposedly going to win you the game. Just use it as a valuable angle of attack that can win you the game. Not a win condition that can fail.

 

When you’re facing Team America you kind of plan to do a similar thing, despite the decks appearance seeming to be quite different.

 

OUT: 4 Force of Will, 4 Counterbalance

 

IN: 2 Wear // Tear, 3 Vendilion Clique, 1 Rest in Peace, 2 Flusterstorm

 

Force of Will and Counterbalance are bad for the reasons mentioned above and despite the fact that Team America is largely focused around the low end of the cc-spectrum it’s still not a gameplan that will lead to much success due to the fact that this card doesn’t equal a game win as it does versus Canadian Threshold, therefore degrading it to a disruption spell. And having the disruption spell cost UU while also having sorcery speed sounds like a bad idea.

 

Due to the nature of their threat base Swords to Plowshares, Snapcaster Mage and Jace, the Mind Sculptor are unbelievably good again, making it a delight to play this match-up more often than not. Flusterstorm and Wear // Tear are there to deal with impactful cards that could impact the match-up drastically such as a well-timed Hymn to Tourach, Null Rod or Stifle. Other than these cards the match-up is relatively easy to navigate and doesn’t require any specific additional consideration.

 

 

 

Aggro Loam / Punishing Blue / 4C Control

 

 

The last match-up that we are going to address is AggroLoam/PunishingBlue/4C-Control which you can read here!

 

OUT: 1 Terminus, 1 Counterbalance, 1 Force of Will

 

IN: 2 Wear // Tear, 1 Surgical Extraction

 

Now this match-up is very interesting on multiple levels. While the first game relies heavily upon the very early game it kind of changes when you move into postboarded games. In the first game Force of Will is crucial at dealing with a fast Sylvan Library or Chalice of the Void but once you move to G2 and G3 your density of cards that can answer such a play is increased due to Wear // Tear enabling you to shave the 4th Force of Will. Couple this with the fact that the opponent is also very likely to reduce Mox Diamond, setting you both up for a slow and grindy game rather than the swingy one that the preboarded one seems to be.

Rest in Peace isn’t brought due to its decreased impact as the opponent will anticipate said card. The sideboard plan is also more reliant on heavy hitting cards just like planeswalkers. Johannes Gutbrod, who’s had a great amount of success lately with this deck, has added during the discussion of this plan that there is also the possibility of adding Vendilion Cliques over Counterbalance, which would in turn force you to add Rest in Peace again to have a reasonable chance at dealing with Punishing Fire.

All in all I have to say that this is a very interesting match-up that doesn’t really favor any side too much. The early game of G1 is incredibly deciding on how the rest of the first game runs but the second and third game are a display of numerous decisions in addition a multi-level sideboarding plan that can including dodging bullets and anticipating them dodging some of yours. I have to admit that I do lack the amount of experience here in comparison to the other match-ups, though.

 

This version of Miracles is well positioned in the current metagame and ready to take on all of the major players in the format. It’s not as powerful in comparison as I had expected it to be but it’s still one of the, if not the best deck you can play right now. I’d run this very 75 at every event for the time being.

I hope you enjoyed the article, learned a thing or two and decided to take this list to a tournament or even GP Seattle. Let me know if you did and share your stories!

 

Next time I’ll talk about what GP Seattle showed before taking a closer look at Flusterstorm in four weeks, unless something major happens that demands my attention.

 

Until next time!

 




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