Because of the upcoming Grand Prix Seattle, this week’s edition of The Deck to Beat will feature Legacy. If there’s one hallmark of the Legacy format, it’s diversity. It’s rare that a single deck ever makes up even 10% of the metagame at a large tournament, and you never quite know what to expect. This weekend, though, I think that WUr Miracles might make a run at that “10%” mark, and will be the format’s number one deck to beat.
It’s worth mentioning that, added all together, Delver of Secrets decks are the most played archetype in Legacy by a decent margin. That said, Delver decks take a wide variety of forms, and the overlap between—say—Sultai Delver and Jeskai Delver with Stoneforge Mystic is not terribly large. No single build of Delver will be as popular as Miracles, and if you only have time to test one matchup, it should be the latter.
Miracles is a challenging deck to pilot. Unfortunately for those of us trying to beat it, that means that it’s a popular choice among Legacy aficionados and other highly competitive players. If your opponent leads with Tundra and Sensei’s Divining Top, expect a war. Hopefully, this article will give you the tools you need to come out on the winning side.
Miracles is the primary control deck of Legacy. It packs card advantage, answers to just about everything, and prison elements in Counterbalance, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and legendary creatures with Karakas. The deeper into the game you get, the more powerful Miracles becomes.
In some ways, though, it won’t resemble the control decks you know from Standard. Dedicated card drawing that’s efficient enough for Legacy is hard to come by, so Miracles has fewer 2-for-1s than a deck like Shardless Sultai, Esper Stoneforge, or Jund. Instead, it seeks to set up a winning board state, and grind card advantage with permanents like Counterbalance or Jace. It also generates exceptional card quality via Sensei’s Divining Top.
Miracles’ defensive elements, on the other hand, are miles better than what control decks have access to in Standard. I can’t even conceive a spot-removal spell more efficient than Swords to Plowshares—and that’s probably the least impressive of the bunch! Terminus threatens to wipe the board at instant speed for a single mana. Force of Will, Counterspell, and Counterbalance make combos and late-game spells unreliable options. A healthy mix of versatile answers like Council’s Judgment, Engineered Explosives, and Elemental Blasts fill in the holes and make sure that Miracles doesn’t have any real vulnerabilities.
What to Do
- Attack their resources. While Miracles doesn’t have a ton of direct card advantage, it does need to hit its land drops and defend itself every turn. It also plays a healthy number of basic lands, but if you are able to attack their mana via Stifle and Wasteland, you’ll make life difficult for them. Hymn to Tourach and Liliana of the Veil are also among the best weapons. Finally, if you can (profitably) answer Sensei’s Divining Top, you should do so. Whether to Force of Will a Top is a controversial question—I usually do not bite. However, stopping it with Pithing Needle or Null Rod is excellent.
- Combo them! Miracles has a decided weakness in the first two turns of the game, before their expensive cards come online, and before they can establish the Counterbalance plus Sensei’s Divining Top lock. However, recognize that things are going to get dramatically more difficult with each passing turn. The number of games that Storm and Reanimator win on turn 1 and 2 against Miracles is quite high. The number of games that they win on turn 4 or later is astonishingly low.
- Don’t give up! Or, do give up… Being in the Counterbalance plus Top lock is the same as having your life squeezed out by a boa constrictor—the more you struggle, the tighter you’re squeezed. The last thing you want to do is play your turns on autopilot, “Ponder. Oh, it’s countered? Okay, go.” If you have Abrupt Decay in your deck, you’re usually best served simply doing nothing until you draw it. That way, you won’t needlessly sacrifice your spells at the altar of Counterbalance plus Top. If your deck doesn’t feature a clean answer to Counterbalance, then there may not be much you can do. Your best bet is to save up for one big turn where you can cast multiple spells of different mana costs, and hope to overload the opponent’s mana. Take your one shot, give it everything you have, and if it doesn’t work, then feel free to concede and leave enough time to finish the match. For further reading on this point, see Owen’s article about Counterbalance.
- Good sideboard cards: Sylvan Library, Pithing Needle, Choke, Dark Confidant, Liliana of the Veil, Boseiju, Who Shelters All (in a combo deck)
- Good deck choices: Infect, Show and Tell, Shardless Sultai
What Not to Do
- Don’t try to win with creatures. Terminus and Swords to Plowshares are simply too strong against creatures. This is not to say that all creatures are bad against Miracles, only that you’ll need a diverse set of threats that attack from multiple angles at once.
- Don’t fold to Counterbalance. This advice comes in two parts: First, don’t play a slow deck without reliable answers to Counterbalance (and no, Thoughtseize doesn’t count). Second, get in some practice against the card before you show up to the tournament. Most players, the first time they play against Counterbalance, sort of slip into panic mode and start making bad decisions.
- Don’t fold to Jace. If you’re not playing a combo deck, and you’re not playing red, you’re going to have a hard time against Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Pithing Needle is a good dual-purpose sideboard card, that can stop either Top or Jace. Otherwise, you might have to pack cards like Maelstrom Pulse, Vindicate, or Council’s Judgment to take care of him.
Legacy is a challenging format, and it may be at its most challenging when you’re playing against Miracles. But follow the advice in this article, and you’ll be well prepared.