The most popular deck in Legacy of late, putting up many Top 8s around the world, has been Miracles. This deck certainly isn’t flashy, nor is it likely to win a game quickly, but it has some of the most powerful card selection and interaction available in Legacy.
Deck Core Cards
Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance
The core of the deck comes from the combination of Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance. Top is already a solid card, combining well with shuffle effects to continue churning out solid draws, and it found itself on the banned list in Modern due to the combination of the power level and the lengthy games that a turn-1 Top would produce. Counterbalance doesn’t have too strong of an effect on its own and has almost never seen play in decks without Top, but a “blind” flip (revealing for Counterbalance without the added benefit of selecting the top card of the deck) still provides the opportunity for some card advantage, and Brainstorm and Jace, the Mind Sculptor help counter problem cards in a pinch.
Once Miracles assembles these 2 cards in play, a soft lock has been established. The vast majority of Legacy decks rely on cards with converted mana costs 1-3. There are so many strong cards available in this format that people will try to keep their curves low to deploy their strategies early. With Sensei’s Divining Top in play, the Miracles player can push both a 2- and 3-mana card lower in their library without ever drawing them, just to have them ready for Counterbalance. Top itself costing 1 mana means that in a pinch the Miracles player can activate the Top and counter 1-mana spells for the duration of the turn (or until Top is removed from its current position on top of the deck).
In Miracles, Top also allows you to “float” miracles in your deck until you actually need them. For good measure, you can also use the Top to put a Terminus on top of your deck and draw a card during your opponent’s turn for an instant-speed miracle!
There have been times in the past where players would change up the numbers on how many Tops and Counterbalances were in their decks, but for current versions, dipping below the requisite 4 copies of each is extremely rare. They are the staples the deck is built around.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is the most powerful card in Legacy. Going under 4 copies of this card is blasphemy! For 1 mana, you get everything. This will often give you 3 new cards when you get to use fetchlands or other shuffle effects to get rid of cards you didn’t want in your hand, such as removal that’s useless against certain decks or redundant copies of Counterbalance. Brainstorm also allows the Miracles player to hide important combo pieces from hand disruption, mitigating some of the power of Thoughtseize and Duress effects. If that weren’t enough, Brainstorm is the perfect miracle enabler! It’s also an instant-speed way to draw cards, setting up the potential to miracle on your opponent’s turn. Brainstorm does it all.
The countermagic suite definitely varies from Miracles deck to Miracles deck, but the vast majority have adopted 4 Force of Wills. In many ways, this is a necessary evil. There are many decks that can just be too fast at winning the game before the soft lock of Top + Counterbalance is in place. Also, once this lock is set up, the card disadvantage of Force of Will is really no longer relevant. Miracles operates very well empty-handed thanks to the incredible power of Sensei’s Divining Top—you can stop most things your opponent may do without a single card in hand and the Miracles player can draw a removal spell or countermagic card off the top with Top when it is necessary.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Jace may be the most powerful planeswalker ever printed. For 4 mana, Jace, the Mind Sculptor does everything. He provides a steady stream of card advantage. He bounces problematic creatures from play. He protects himself and is a viable win condition on his own, filtering opponents’ draws until he can ultimate. Getting to untap with a Jace in play often signals the end of the game and it is an extreme challenge for most decks to come back from the card advantage of free Brainstorms while shuffling away useless cards every turn. The fact that Jace also helps to set up miracles is a huge bonus on top of an already incredibly powerful card.
Terminus and Swords to Plowshares
This is the removal suite that Miracles brings to the table. Swords to Plowshares may be the best removal spell ever printed and is absolutely the best in a deck that doesn’t mind the opponent gaining life. The efficiency can’t be matched for a mere 1-mana at instant speed, keeping problematic creatures away from your life total or your planeswalkers. Being able to set up Terminus using Brainstorm, Sensei’s Divining Top, and/or Jace, the Mind Sculptor makes it incredibly tough for any creature-based deck to defeat you. Miracles really preys upon strategies like Elves thanks to cards that can constantly keep the board clear of threats. Some versions do play slightly lower numbers of removal, but 7 total copies of these white cards in some combination is the norm.
So that leaves us with something like this as the core of the deck:
2 other counterspells
That’s pretty close to a complete deck, but the various flavors of Miracles actually can mix things up quite a bit with the non-Jace win conditions and other card selection spells. Ponder is the most common card draw spell in the deck outside of Brainstorm. It’s cheap, works well with shuffle effects and Miracles, and allows the Miracles deck to churn through the deck to find the lock pieces and answers needed.
Entreat the Angels
While we are on the Miracles subtheme, what’s better than Entreat the Angels? This card threatens to end the game in a hurry even with an X cost of only 1-2. As that number gets higher, Entreat can end the game in a single turn. The ability to set this on top of the Miracles player’s library to cast at instant speed to play around any sweepers or ambush potential attackers makes it a potent weapon. It’s also not uncommon to see this hard cast, often producing just a single Angel, but a 4/4 flier can be a real threat.
Just one of the most powerful and versatile creatures ever printed, Snapcaster combines excellently with cheap card draw like Brainstorm and Ponder while also being equally efficient when flashing back a Swords to Plowshares. Things really get out of hand when a Miracles player has access to more cheap interaction like Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast in the blue mirrors.
The Miracles deck actually wants some 3-mana options to combine with Counterbalance and there are few that provide as much utility as Vendilion Clique. It trades with many of the creatures in the format, like Delver of Secrets and its hand manipulation excels against other control decks or combo decks. With the added utility of being able to target yourself to get rid of extra copies of cards like Counterbalance, or better yet if you maindeck a copy of Pyroblast in a matchup where it isn’t useful, Clique can effectively help you draw a card.
This is a newer flavor of Miracles that has picked up in popularity. Monastery Mentor threatens to end the game in a hurry. It’s certainly not a combo with Terminus, but Mentor doesn’t really care, because a slew of Monks can help stabilize the board in the same way a sweeper would. The combination of Monastery Mentor with 2 Sensei’s Divining Tops will allow the Miracles player to add a Monk and trigger prowess for every colorless mana at their disposal, looping multiple Tops.
The main deck can be built in many different varieties that are all quite excellent, but the sideboard options are really where Miracles excels. The Jeskai colors offer the absolute best sideboard options and lots of ways to make problematic matchups favorable for games 2 and 3.
Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast
Both do incredible work vs. opposing blue decks, and in combination with Snapcaster Mage, Miracles can be close to unbeatable.
Another excellent card vs. control that happens to shut down Storm and other combo decks.
Wear // Tear
This is a versatile answer that often provides a 2-for-1.
There are a number of creature decks that completely fold to this card. There are no creatures with toughness greater than 1 from an Infect deck, and Staticaster excels against Goblin tokens and Elves.
Relic of Progenitus, Rest in Peace, Containment Priest
Lots of great answers to graveyard strategies that also happen to come out very early in the game. Containment Priest doubles as being an excellent answer to cards like Aether Vial, reanimation strategies, Dredge, Show and Tell, and Natural Order.
A great answer to creatures when you need another sweeper or when the opponent is playing their own counter magic.
Ethersworn Canonist and Rule of Law
Miracles is not a deck that minds only playing one spell per turn, especially when the opponent is forced to do the same. Shutting down combo decks that are trying to generate storm count is a useful option to have at your disposal.
Going with an extremely controlling version of Miracles is the best way to go. I would likely sleeve up something like the following:
StarCityGames Premier IQ, 1st Place – Joe Lossett
I’m not super high on Vensar, Shaper Savant, so I would likely replace that with a card like Council’s Judgment. I want more copies of Containment Priest, one of my favorite cards in all of Legacy, so I would try to make room for those in the sideboard.
For a slightly different take, here’s the list LSV has been using to pretty good effect on MTGO lately:
Miracles Test Deck
This is a similar list to the one I proposed, but I really enjoy the synergies between Clique and Karakas. That being said, the addition of more copies of Ponder is definitely something I can get behind.
Here’s one more slightly different take that looks a bit more like Miracles did last year:
StarCityGames Premier, 13th Place – Joe Bass
I discussed why I don’t like going down to 3 Counterbalances, but I do like the additional cheap interaction with multiple copies of both Counterspell and Spell Pierce. Keranos, God of Storms has proven to be one of the best sideboard cards in Modern that hasn’t really made a splash in Legacy, but maybe it has legs. It’s cute that leaving Keranos on top can help the Miracles player counter an opposing Force of Will with Counterbalance. I’m not sold on Fact or Fiction due to the high cost, but as one of my favorite cards of all time, I’m certainly willing to give it a shot.
So that’s Miracles. You are looking to play against opposing creature decks and can often get really far ahead against midrange decks barring cards like Abrupt Decay messing up your combo. Combo decks also really struggle against cheap counterspells and setting up your soft lock early is going to be lights-out almost every time. Burn decks, especially if they can stick an early Eidolon of the Great Revels, aren’t always easy matchups. There is also a big target on the head of Miracles, and you aren’t catching anyone off guard, so having extremely easy matchups is often rare (although Elves is super favorable).
What list would you sleeve up if you played Miracles at #GPSeaTac this weekend? If you aren’t playing Miracles, what’s your plan to beat it?