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The Matchup: Miracles vs. Temur Delver


Miracles and Temur Delver have been two of the longest-lived and most successful Legacy decks. When they square off against one another, the games tend to be close and interesting. It’s one of the defining matchups of the format.

When discussing a matchup, the first question is usually, “which deck has the advantage?” From my experience, there’s not always a simple answer, especially when it comes to Legacy. I believe that an expert Miracles player with a deck list tuned for the matchup will have the advantage over any Temur Delver player. However, if the Miracles player hasn’t given the matchup enough respect in deckbuilding, or hasn’t practiced enough, it’s likely to be a slaughter in favor of Delver. Whichever of the two decks you might prefer, I hope to give you the tools you need to be on the winning side as often as possible.

Miracles

Reid Duke

Temur Delver

SCG Invitational, 1st Place – Jacob Wilson

Since there are a handful of different ways to build Miracles, I’ve done my best to offer a rock-solid, representative deck list. I’ve stuck to tried-and-true cards, and minimized fancy technology.

Temur Delver decks, on the other hand, usually tend to have a core of about 57 cards. Jacob Wilson’s winning deck list felt like the perfect place to start.

The key difference between these decks, and the crux of the matchup, is the mana curve. Temur Delver might be the most brutally efficient deck in the history of MTG. If you count Wasteland (which you should), it plays 42 spells that cost 0 or 1 mana! With the ability to shuffle away extra lands, the fact that Delver can operate at full capacity on 2 lands represents built-in card advantage over decks like Miracles, which want to get 4 or more lands into play.

Miracles has a different advantage though, which is that its expensive cards are more powerful than anything Temur Delver has access to. Counterbalance and Terminus can offer card advantage, and an unanswered Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Entreat the Angels, or Monastery Mentor will be game over.

From the Miracles Side

The goal of the Miracles player is to survive long enough to make use of these powerful cards. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, since Delver has a fast clock, mana disruption, and permission spells.

First Priority

Develop your mana. Do everything you reasonably can to play around Wasteland and Stifle. In a perfect world, you’ll operate on only basic lands. If you’re light on mana, or naturally draw too many nonbasic, nonfetchlands, then you might have to take the calculated risk of fetching for dual lands. However, this means playing right into Delver’s hands, and these are the games you’re likely to lose.

Playing around Stifle can be tricky, but the key is patience. If you leave a fetchland uncracked, and the Delver player leaves Stifle mana open, then you’re each losing access to one land for as long as the standoff lasts—not a disastrous situation. If you’re not taking massive damage, and can continue making land drops, then you should continue to be patient. Eventually, you’ll probably find a turn where you can crack multiple fetchlands in the same turn, and even if they Stifle one of them, it won’t be the end of the world. Remember, Stifle can also stop a miracle trigger, or a handful of other valuable abilities in the deck, so you’ll never succeed in rendering the card completely dead.

Second Priority

Protect your life total. You want the game to last a long time, and you don’t want to stabilize at a low life total where you’ll have to fear a flurry of Lightning Bolts, or won’t be able to use you fetchlands and Force of Wills as you please. The most important thing is to ensure that your removal spells resolve. If you jam a Counterbalance into a Daze or Spell Pierce, it’s not be-all-end-all, but if you lose your only Swords to Plowshares, it can be game over. So again, the name of the game is patience. It’s often worth taking 3 damage in order to give yourself a better chance of successfully taking their creature off the board.

Third Priority

Gain card advantage. Counterbalance is incredibly good against Temur Delver if—and this is a big if—you’ve succeeded in developing your mana and protecting your life total. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is hard to stick, but will be great if you can ever do so. Snapcaster Mage, or any other 2-for-1 cards that you have access to will also be good if you’re not under too much pressure.

Fourth Priority

Win the game. Often, you can lock them out with Counterbalance, and this will be merely an afterthought. But, an unanswered Monastery Mentor or Entreat the Angels can sometimes steal an otherwise close game.

Sideboarding

In

Out

Elemental Blasts are good against Delver. But the deck list I’ve offered does not feature a basic Mountain, which lowers their value dramatically, and makes them a risky bet.

Force of Will is bad in the matchup, since all of their cards are cheap and interchangeable. Card advantage is hard to come by, and you’ll have a hard time achieving your third priority if you’re voluntarily giving up 2-for-1s.

If you wanted to improve the matchup, here are, in order, the best cards with which to fill your flexible slots:

  1. Plains.
  2. Island.
  3. Mountain.

You want as many lands as you can get your hands on, and you want them to be basics. If you could start every game by playing out a couple of basic lands from your hand, you’d be taking away Temur Delver’s best way to beat you.

  1. Blood Moon (Conditional on having enough basic lands).
  2. Rest in Peace. Remember that they can Stifle the enters-the-battlefield trigger, though.
  3. Supreme Verdict.
  4. Baneslayer Angel. Expensive, but doesn’t get Spell Pierced or Elemental Blasted. You will never lose if this card gets into play.
  5. Engineered Explosives.
  6. Relic of Progenitus.

From the Temur Delver Side

At its heart, Temur Delver is a deck about “stealing wins,” and that’s exactly what you want to be doing here. And that’s not a bad thing! Add together every Stifle plus Wasteland mana screw, every Lightning Bolt to burn them out as they’re taking control, every time they’re 1 mana short of paying for the final Spell Pierce, and every time they die to Nimble Mongoose with a hand full of Swords to Plowshares, and you have one of the best decks in Legacy!

You want to be aggressive against Miracles. Aggressive, but not reckless. Steer the game toward a single crucial turn, and then somehow make that turn go wrong for the Miracles player. Stifle the miracle trigger on their Terminus, or force them to chump-block with their Monastery Mentor.

In the best-case scenario, you can create a board state where you only need to fight a counter battle over Terminus. (Be aware that Supreme Verdict exists, but that Terminus is usually played in roughly three times greater numbers). However, if it’s still early, and you don’t know exactly how the game is going to play out, you might need to fight over Sensei’s Divining Top or Counterbalance, instead.

Sideboarding

In

Out*

*Consider leaving a singleton Lightning Bolt if you know they have Monastery Mentor. After sideboarding, you want to increase your threat density, and trim reactive cards like Lightning Bolt. Hopefully, the Miracles player will be so far on the back foot when they resolve Monastery Mentor that it won’t matter anyway.

Your plan won’t change a lot after sideboarding, but you should be aware that your opponent is likely to have more board sweepers and fewer permission spells. Use your judgment as to playing out multiple creatures, but try your best to always have one on the board. The last thing you want to do is give the Miracles player breathing room, or a safe window to resolve Counterbalance or Blood Moon.

If you wanted to improve the matchup, here are, in order, the best cards with which to fill your flexible slots:

  1. Sylvan Library. Speaking as a Miracles player, this is the one card in the entire Legacy format that I least want to see. I almost never beat it.
  2. Sulfuric Vortex. Perhaps even more dangerous than Sylvan Library, but harder to cast and vulnerable to Blue Elemental Blast.
  3. Pithing Needle or Null Rod to stop Sensei’s Divining Top.
  4. Flusterstorm, Pyroblast, or any additional disruption.
  5. Vendillion Clique, Sulfur Elemental, or any additional threats.

Like most matchups in Legacy, Miracles vs. Temur Delver is more about the players, and their level of proficiency, than it is about cheap tricks and techy sideboard cards. Come prepared, know what your opponent is capable of, and be ready for a battle!

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