Legacy Lessons: How To Kill Miracles (2)

by Philipp Schönegger on 10 August 2016, Wednesday

Philipp Schönegger

How to Kill Miracles

Part 2 – One for Many



Welcome back to the second part of my series on how to beat Miracles. If you wish, you can read Part 1 here!


Allow me to preface this week's article with a short story by fellow traitor Johannes Gutbrod.


Once upon a time in a far away land, where a miraculous king ruled with power and strength, a colorful band of citizens came together to degrade their self-proclaimed leader. Dark confidants, pyromaniacs, seers, symbiotic insects, matrons, mothers and even advisors from the distant realms of the Kithkin gathered in caverns. In these strangely spiritual chambers, they planned to dethrone their miraculous king once and for all.


"Let's choke and stifle him ad nauseam," uttered the first. "We should poison his ancestral chalice with sulfuric acid," said the others. "I can sneak my vial of aether into his bedroom. When he's fallen asleep, the tar will creep out of my vial, and needle him to death." "I will carry my sword made in the ancient sylvan library of tourach and bring fire and ice over our true nemesis." "Bitter and decayed shall his flowering blossoms be." "Relentless and punishing agents must seize him and post him in the clouds!" Their voices grew hoarse and cacophonous as they bickered, interrupting each other. "Roll over him with my baleful orb!" "Pierce him painfully unt--""Let's smash his reali--"




A cloaked figure, erstwhile silent, doffed his hood and spoke from one corner of the dimly lit cave. It was Jace, formerly employed by the king; the planeswalker who had quit his royal duties to dally with a mysterious, veiled woman expelled from the monastic order of healers. "Your ideas," he said, "are good, and there are plenty of them. But you won't overcome him alone. You have to combine your strategies to destroy him once and for all. While you harry him with critters, you must bespell his castle, disrupt with artifacts and sorceries, and finally send walkers to finish him off!" The stunned crowd erupted in applause, and arose bloodthirsty, eager to seek their traitorous destiny.


Greatness... at any cost.




A Wider Focus


Last week, we looked at the circumstances in which the intersection between the white and the blue parts of Miracles should be attacked. Today, the focus is a little wider. The aim of this week's article is to build upon the previous one and offer tips and examples that will be applicable for more decks and scenarios.


However, this will not just be a list of cards that are good against Miracles, as these can be found in various places across the internet. The main question that we aim to examine is which cards have the greatest impact and efficiency.


First, one has to understand that fighting Miracles on the axis of card quality will be hard. Hardly any deck is able to do that (Grinding Station, I am looking at you). One natural conclusion is to attempt to use card advantage to overcome the eventual imbalance in card quality. However, card advantage is hard to come by in Legacy, and this classic response to the problem will be the focus of another article.




Many approaches that aim to defeat Miracles make a common mistake. They plan to play a single card to deal with a single card. For example, Envelop. On paper, this card is insane. It counters both Terminus and Entreat the Angels for the minimal investment of just one mana.


And in many scenarios, it might actually be very good. This can make it hard to identify the reason that the card is basically bad, causing many people to fail to attribute their lack of success to the correct cause and continually switch cards of the same type around. I would argue that many people choose the wrong type of card in order to address Miracles, and cards that only one-for-one are the wrong type of card to employ exclusively. But don't get me wrong; Flusterstorm and Envelop are great cards that do have a role to play, and will be brought up at a later stage in the series.


However, they do not meet the criterion of maximum impact per smallest investment that we are using at this point in time.




Better Than One for One


The type of card that is outstandingly powerful against Miralces is that which trades, virtually, at a rate better than one for one. These cards have the potential to influence the viability of more than one card, creating virtual card advantage. Let's look at one well known example: Pithing Needle.


Pithing Needle


At first glance, this card is pretty bad at dealing with Sensei's Divining Top as the Miracles player can just tap, spin, and shuffle it away in response to the Needle, or use Brainstorm with a shuffle at a later stage of the game, therefore negating the effect. But does this negate its effect? I argue that cards of this category are far more potent than one might think. This is due to two reasons, one obvious, and one less so.


Sensei's Divining Top


The obvious reason is that cards like Sensei's Divining Top are integral to the deck, and Miracles would most certainly play more than four if that were possible. Shutting down all of them at once is amazing.


Even if one plays Pithing Needle preemptively, the opponent is denied the use of all future Sensei's Divining Tops.


The second, less obvious reason is the following: A Miracles deck is very deliberately built. Most parts of Miracles rely quite heavily on the others. Taking out all (potential) copies of one card at once can be backbreaking. In effect, one single card can sometimes virtually take out four cards at once, and still reduce the power of even more cards because these other cards relied on the aforementioned one.


For one example, take Null Rod, another card of this category.


Null Rod


On your second turn, you play Null Rod and Daze the opposing Force of Will. By playing this one card, the following happens: your opponent will not be able to use Sensei's Divining Top any more.


Without Sensei's Divining Top, Miracles will not be able to trigger all Miracle spells in a controlled and timely fashion. Without Sensei's Divining Top, Miracles will not be able to search as efficiently for their limited answers to Null Rod.


Furthermore, Null Rod invalidates some possible solutions to itself like Engineered Explosives. With an investment of one card, one has achieved all of that. Granted, Null Rod does not generate as real card advantage like Sylvan Library or Life from the Loam, but its impact might easily be greater.


Another card that has gained a lot of traction lately is Winter Orb.


Again, it is a colorless permanent. What differentiates it from Pithing Needle and Null Rod is its more stringent deck construction limitations. One cannot simply slide Winter Orb into almost every deck, like Pithing Needle. But those who can, should. Winter Orb functions quite similarly to Null Rod but may be even more powerful.


One can even argue that this is as good as it gets for versatile cards that can conceivably be used in sideboards these days. While Null Rod attacks a big part of the intersection and many more cards, Winter Orb applies pressure on an even lower level. Miracles needs a lot of mana.


And, due to the high number of basic lands, applying the usual mana denial strategies proves very difficult at times unless executed with highest expenditure, which comes with a whole new set of problems. Winter Orb circumvents most of these problems and hits Miracles where it hurts most. Allow me to briefly sketch the high number of relevant entities that Winter Orb impacts. Quite obviously, it sharply curtails the available amount of mana per turn. This then leads to a decision that Miracles certainly does not want to make: whether to cantrip or not. Impairing the intersection leads to less controlled Miracle spells and worse timing of bombs.


With that comes the eventual downfall.




A Walk Down Memory Lane


Allow me to illustrate this with an anecdote. I had the pleasure of playing against Jens Wilkens on camera for the last round of Grand Prix Paris in 2014 (unfortunately, I cannot seem to find the footage). In this win-and-in match I had managed to secure the first game after a very long struggle.


Somewhere in the middle of the second game, when I felt quite confident that I was going to win, Jens resolved Winter Orb. I was fortunate enough to have access to three Terminus and a few Swords to Plowshares, if memory serves, but I still could not overcome the card.


Winter Orb


We drew the second game and I advanced into the Top 8, only to be defeated by Maxime Gilles again. The point of the anecdote is the following: I had an outstanding hand, powerful cards on top of the library, and a good position in the game, and I was unable to overcome one card.


One single card.


It's also pretty likely that I would have been totally incapable of winning this second game. At all. Over the past couple of weeks, I have seen several lists using Winter Orb as a card for the maindeck, which is an outstandingly powerful strategy.




A Little Case Study on Canadian Threshold


For reference, take a look at this Canadian Threshold list by Jonathan Kurz:



I think this list is quite amazing. Not in the sense that it is necessarily better than all other lists of Canadian Threshold, as I'm in no position to judge that, but in a sense that it is clearly one of the most frightening Delver lists for a Miracles player to face. But before we get into the why, one more remark.


Wear // Tear Flusterstorm


Obviously, Miracles players aren't oblivious to the fact that mostly enchantment and artefact hate cards are used with great efficiency against them. They are the reason Miracles brings at least 2 cards, mostly Wear // Tear, to deal with them. Just closing one's eyes and hoping that the Miracles player will enter the fight unprepared won't work.


At worst, these cards will result in a tempo swing in favour of the Miracles player, as they can sometimes deal with the aforementioned cards at instant speed with less mana, which may in turn enable them to apply Flusterstorm efficiently. One does not want to end up in this situation.


How does one avoid it?


Well, one way, and this is mostly geared towards non-blue decks, is to play a lot of these cards. The age-old mantra of diversifying one's hate is repeated over and over again, partly by myself as well. But this mantra shouldn't be misunderstood. Compare the following two set-ups:


1) Winter Orb, Pithing Needle, Flusterstorm, Envelop, Thoughtseize.


2) Winter Orb, Winter Orb, Pithing Needle, Null Rod, Null Rod.


Both are diversified, in a way.


The first example shows a classic, diversified suite of hate. However, if you are set on crushing Miracles, I wouldn't advise such an approach. Don't get me wrong, such a combination may be incredibly powerful in a more mixed metagame and may be close to optimal under certain circumstances. But if you want to beat Miracles, you may want to make sure, similar to Dredge.


The second package does one thing pretty well, and that is taking advantage of the weak spots identified above. All of these three cards attack a similar area, but do so in a slightly different way. This will prevent Miracles from easily having answers to every single hate card. Miracles will have to use most, if not all, of their Snapcaster Mages, and additional removal like Engineered Explosives or Council's Judgment, to deal with such a package. Furthermore, if you followed my advice from part one, you should not have wasted hard counters on Sensei's Divining Tops or bad Brainstorms, enabling you to pick the fights you want to pick.


I'd now like to come back to the Canadian Threshold list posted above. If I knew I had to play against this deck, piloted by a player of similar skill, I'd be scared. Legitimately scared. Partly due to the fact that Winter Orb is good, yes. But also because of how the deck is built. It follows a lot of what I have said in this article.


Counterspell Pyroblast Spell Snare


Postboard, it has access to three Winter Orbs, in addition to a strong defensive suite to defend those cards in Force of Will, Counterspell, Pyroblast, and Spell Snare. While non-blue decks should most definitely run more than three permanent-based hate cards, lists like this can get away with less.


I wouldn't suggest going lower than three if you want to make sure that Miracles will not enjoy the games, though. If you are playing Delver decks and find it hard to deal with Miracles, I'd advise you to give Jonathan's list a try.


You will not regret it. But your Miracles friends may.




Signing Off


Generally speaking, one way of attacking Miracles is to utilize cards that do not just effect one other card, but many more. This works to counteract the overwhelming card quality of Miracles. In choosing such cards, one should keep in mind one's own deck philosophy. This is why I didn't mentioned Chalice of the Void, as there are no decks that could run Chalice of the Void that do not do so already.


Chalice of the Void


When diversifying, keep in mind how your potential opponent may react and try to counteract this. One does this by either blanking one card type completely, or overloading on a card type. In the case of Miracles, I advise overloading on permanent-based hate cards. This advice applies to blue and non-blue decks alike, though on a different numerical level, and may give you an idea of where to start.


I hope you have enjoyed part two of my series on how to beat Miracles. See you in two weeks!

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