Turning Miracles Up To 11
It's been a long time since my last piece on building Miracles, and a lot in Legacy has changed since then. After the release of Modern Horizons, there are now more options than ever before, so let's take the time to dive into building Miracles with some of these new toys!
Winners from War of the Spark
There have been a few cards from War of the Spark that have proven themselves to be Legacy all-stars: Dreadhorde Arcanist, Karn, the Great Creator, and Narset, Parter of Veils. These three cards are War of the Spark's most important Legacy additions, propelling some archetypes forward on sheer power level alone.
You might be asking yourself, "what about Teferi, Time Raveler?" While I was initially hyped on this card, the practical applications of it are just not as solidified as the other cards I've listed here. While Teferi, Time Raveler might find a more solid home in the future, for now, he remains a simple flex slot in various decklists.
Creature - Zombie Wizard
Whenever Dreadhorde Arcanist attacks, you may cast target instant or sorcery card with converted mana cost less than or equal to Dreadhorde Arcanist's power from your graveyard without paying its mana cost. If that card would be put into your graveyard this turn, exile it instead.
Starting off with, this innocuous-looking zombie wizard is a wonderful shot in the arm to Delver of Secrets strategies in Legacy, which were starting to fall off the map while the format itself slowed down and became more grindy, and the increase in basic lands made the Wasteland/Daze feel a lot worse. Personally, I was blindsided by how powerful this card truly was, but am happy to admit that I was very wrong.
All it takes to see the power level of this card is to cast it for yourself and attack once. It's seeing play in both UR Delver and Grixis Delver and it's possible that the card can go into many other strategies (like Grixis Phoenix!). It simply adds to the threatbase and finds more copies of interaction than these decks could have access to before, and by flashing back Lightning Bolts, can remove a 6-toughness creature or end the game on short notice.
The existence of this card is something that every Miracles list needs to respect going forward, because it strengthens the ability for decks that incorporate it to grind, and one of the facets that Delver uses to attack Miracles is that grindy aspect. Thus, augmenting that deck's ability go later is something that Miracles should respect. It's a two mana Jace, the Mind Sculptor that isn't legendary and can't get hit by Pyroblast!
Karn, the Great Creator
Legendary Planeswalker — Karn
Activated abilities of artifacts your opponents control can’t be activated.
+1: Until your next turn, up to one target noncreature artifact becomes an artifact creature with power and toughness each equal to its converted mana cost.
−2: You may choose an artifact card you own from outside the game or in exile, reveal that card, and put it into your hand.
Karn, the Great Creator both spawned new archetypes and supplemented heavily on existing archetypes (see this awesome post by Max) and Miracles must thus respect both aspects of this card. In decks such as Planeswalker Post, Karn, alongside Ugin, the Ineffable allowed the advent of a strategy around big mana and powerful, game ending planeswalkers, while decks like Bomberman gained an additional angle of attack.
For Miracles, this means that strategies that employ nonbasic hate are especially at a premium, so Back to Basics remains a potent strategy, but with the addition of Prismatic Vista (see below!), a red splash that is basic heavy could supplement copies of Back to Basics with an old favorite: From the Ashes. Cards like this, while are very specific, are extremely effective against these new Karn decks.
In addition, utilizing effects like Spell Pierce (and Force of Negation, see below!) are at a premium as well since Karn decks tend to have a glut of noncreature elements to them, such as Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere. Bomberman specifically, however, presents a different challenge as the other elements of the deck are not well attacked by either of the aforementioned strategies. The Miracles game plan of Terminus into a haymaker is the best option here, as Bomberman can't really interact very well against the haymakers that Miracles can present. A well placed Monastery Mentor of your own also gets the job done, as it will usually be able to muscle through opposing walkers and Mentors.
Narset, Parter of Veils
Legendary Planeswalker - Narset
Each opponent can't draw more than one card each turn.
-2: Look at the top four cards of your library. You may reveal a noncreature, nonland card from among them and put it into your hand. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.
Narset, Parter of Veils is perhaps the most annoying of all of these, as she creates a psuedo-Leovold, Emissary of Trest effect while also being a source of card advantage. While this effect seems small, the way it contorts the game is subtlely powerful; you don't usually get to see what happens when your opponent can no longer cantrip to find the things that they need.
Miracles has been one of the prevailing strategies employing this card, as it stops common methods of going over the top of Miracles, such as Palace Jailer and Sylvan Library, while providing value in matchups where the static ability doesn't necessarily have text. On the flip side, it's an excellent card against Miracles as well, since Miracles relies so heavily on its cantrips and card draw. Narset, Parter of Veils has also found a home in Grixis Control and even in various Delver strategies due to her power and flexibility.
Cards to attack her include a lot of the aforementioned cards like Spell Pierce, but also makes having the red splash for Pyroblast a lot more appealing. Thankfully, we've got a new card that makes our manabase much more stable to support the red splash!
On the Other Side of the Modern Horizon
Modern Horizons is the newest set and there are two very powerful tools that I believe Miracles can leverage going forward: Prismatic Vista and Force of Negation. The impact of these cards is difficult to ascertain, but the number of options it adds to Miracles is not to be underestimated!
[Tap], Pay 1 life, Sacrifice Prismatic Vista: Search your library for a basic land card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.
Prismatic Vista is one of few lands printed that Miracles actively wants, because the manabase of Miracles is deceptively unstable.
One of the first pieces I wrote for this site involved studying and understanding how powerful Back to Basics is in Miracles, and a manabase built around making it more one-sided increased the power level of the card exponentially. Legacy in general is a format where everything revolves around mana. Delver decks don't play basics because they are so colored mana intensive, that all of their cards absolutely have to tap for blue mana. In a similar vein, in order to facilitate some of the double mana symbol cards that Miracles plays, such as Council's Judgment and Counterspell require a very specific mana development sequence
In most instances, you're going to want to build your manabase to transition from U to UU to UUW ideally. This allows you to Cantrip, then Cantrip/Interact, then Cantrip/Interact/Interact and so on. Miracles also requires UW in combination to catchup from losing tempo, as it will often need Terminus plus defense plus threat in order to turn a game around, and that usually means UW or UUW in order to actually pull off. For this reason, the UW manabase is one that I've preferred for quite some time now because I believed red simply stretched your manabase too much. Gone are the days of Sensei's Divining Top, where your early white source could help you easily find your blue sources later.
Manabases for Miracles usually started with 1 Arid Mesa, 4 Flooded Strand, and 4 off color blue fetches, followed by as many basics/duals you choose to play. Of these, Arid Mesa is easily the worst since it can only fetch 2/3 Plains and your dual land suite, which can range from 1 to 5. It's the least flexible fetch land and whenever you looked at your opening hand with Arid Mesa and a cantrip, you were extremely sad.
Enter Prismatic Vista! This fetch land that gets any basic changes a lot of how Miracles can develop its mana to the point where I believe that Prismatic Vista is a 4 of in all Miracles manabases going forward as long as you have less than 4 dual lands in your deck. If you have more than 4 duals in your deck, there is a high likelihood that you should rebuild your manabase to take advantage of Prismatic Vista. It's THAT good.
Prismatic Vista allows you to sequence your fetches to get basics of any color in the early game, and allows your other fetch lands to be more flexible and get dual lands should you need them. As Miracles is among the only decks in Legacy to play 4+ basic lands, this is extremely potent and this makes Prismatic Vista better than Arid Mesa. In fact, it's often going to be better than the non- Flooded Strand fetch lands as well, since it can get more than simply a blue source. It can also fetch your non-Wasteland-able white sources, thus making your starts with the 'incorrect' fetch land configuration much more stomachable.
The biggest issue that I had with the red splash before was that it required a few too many dual lands than I found to be palatable, as I believed that Back to Basics was one of the main game plans behind Miracles, and the red splash was difficult to manage with an already strained manabase. Wasteland was also very difficult to stomach unless you overloaded on dual lands heavily (5/6) and built your deck to utilize these potential Lotus Petals in more tap-out threats and interaction. I deemed skewing a deck like this to simply be worse than streaminling your manabase into two colors, until now!
Once again, enter Prismatic Vista! This card also fetches basic Mountain! Now you have a much more palatable red splash option with the basic, while still allowing you to flex the clean manabase of a stack of basics. Prismatic Vista fetching all 3 colors of basic lands allow for unparalleled flexibility and I think this opens up a lot of additional options for a red splash, with cards we have not played since the Sensei's Divining Top era, such as Pyroclasm, Wear // Tear, and From the Ashes. In most cases, Mountain would be the same as basic Wastes as the additional mana source not tapping for blue comes at a huge cost. However, with the ability to simply fetch it when you need, while also retaining the ability to get any other source as you need, is not to be underestimated. We did not have the ability to use our supplemental-to-Flooded Strand fetchlands this flexibily before, and I think that suddenly Mountain becomes a more appealing option.
Flexibility in mana due to Prismatic Vista is a difficult thing to evaluate, but I urge you to try one of the decklists I link at the bottom of this piece and compare it to Arid Mesa or an off-color blue fetch in order to view how it impacts your manabase. I believe that you will be pleasantly surprised. Miracles's manabase was already quite good, but playing so many double costed cards was often very difficult to do. Now, we have a much less strained manabase and more sources to sequence our colors as needed.
Force of Negation
If it’s not your turn, you may exile a blue card from your hand rather than pay this spell’s mana cost.
Counter target noncreature spell. If that spell is countered this way, exile it instead of putting it into its owner’s graveyard.
The other heavy hitter from Modern Horizons, Force of Negation has a lot of subtle applications that may not seem evident within the sphere of Legacy. At face value, it seems like another Force of Will effect, and Force of Will is already a card that most decks can only sustain casting once or twice per match. The cost of 2-for-1ing yourself to cast a counterspell in Legacy is extremely high, where tempo, mana, and card advantage matter, but I believe Miracles is already built enough to offset the downside aspect of Force of Negation heavily, while also being able to maximize on its upside.
One of the most powerful things you can do in Legacy is cast things for free, and Force of Negation deserves a look simply due to that. It's a uniquely designed counterspell in that only a subset of decks can maximize it: decks that operate or create decision points at instant speed, or decks that attempt to be the "answers" deck in a format that asks a lot of "questions".
Thus, going up to 6-8 Force of Will-esque effects allows those decks to stop opponent's proactive plays. However, Force of Negation can also simply be used as a 3 mana Negate. While that may not seem the most stellar, consider that a deck like Miracles is already designed to somewhat get into the late game, so there are often points where a 3 mana Negate is perfectly reasonable to cast, and Legacy is already incredibly spell heavy.
You might be asking yourself now, how can a deck sustain more than 4 pitch card effects? Well the truth is that most decks in Legacy often can't, but Miracles once again, is unique in how much card advantage it can play and sustain. Cards such as Accumulated Knowledge, Predict, Narset, Parter of Veils, and of course, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, catch Miracles backup heavily after most early turns of the game, and Force of Negation can help bridge that gap and sustain the early tempo loss that Miracles often has to recover from.
Turning It Up To 11
Putting all of these pieces together, I’m going to present a few theoretical lists to start testing and tuning with. Keep in mind that the metagame is still in flux, especially since we're just now experimenting with new cards from Modern Horizons such as Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Wren and Six in Legacy.
This first list is simply an extension of my "UW Show and Tell" decks that I've worked on and tuned since SCG Cincinatti, with a few of the new cards added in:
UW Show and Tell
This change is somewhat simple: replace the Spell Pierces with Force of Negations, thus still maintaining the early game defense that Pierce would allow you, while also allowing you to tap out more frequently, which this deck already did in spades. Secondly, the Prismatic Vista allows you to go to a 3 Plains 1 Tundra manabase that I was loathe to do in the past. That added flexibility means that instead of being worried about the number of white sources in your deck, ALL of your fetches can get white mana as needed any time, and I think that is a boon to a deck like this.
There is another approach to this that utilizes Portent and maximizes on the ability to Miracle on the opponent's turn (allowing you to then defend the Terminus with Force of Negation). This play pattern may seem "cute" or insignificant, but I believe it allows for an overall different take on Miracles, the likes of which we haven't truly seen since the banning of Sensei's Divining Top: A 0 Win Condition, low to the ground, and almost entirely flash-based Miracles list.
UWr No Win Condition Miracles
This is absolutely not the final form of a decklist like this, and I know that Rugved Karhade is working on something similar, but it harkens back to when we originally worked on Miracles and there is likely some merit into this list, but I worry that the lack of ability to close out the game will come to rear, as Legacy has changed a lot since the last time a similar list saw play. If the initial list has promise, I will try cutting the Accumulated Knowledge s for 2 Predict and 2 Vendilion Clique .
Next up is a more "normal" list that features a slew of the new cards and likely the first place where I'll be working on Miracles from here on out:
This list harkens back to Wilson Hunter for inspiration, featuring 4 copies of Monastery Mentor within the 75. All of the slots in this list make sense to me and I've talked about them before in my piece about Mentor here. It is highly likely that this list should be playing 2 copies of Force of Negation over the Spell Pierces or Counterspells, but that's what testing is for!
Overall, you'll notice a few trends in these lists:
- Monastery Mentor remains the win condition of choice
- Lack of reliance on Counterbalance
- 4+ wrath effects
- A split of Nature's Chant and Disenchant
Firstly, though Narset, Parter of Veils can't find Mentor with an activation, it can find other cards that can find Monastery Mentor, so I believe playing a card like Entreat the Angels or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar due to the ability to find it more easily from Narset activations is a bit of a non-factor. Others may find success in a combination of Entreat the Angels, Teferi, Time Raveler to protect it and enable it at instant speed more, but I am not in the business of trying to assemble a contraption.
I still firmly believe that Monastery Mentor is much more powerful than any other win condition/stabilization tool that Miracles has access to and I will never register a Miracles list without Monastery Mentor in my 75.
I've spoken at length about how I believe Counterbalance is only as good as your opponents allow it to be, and I believe that still holds true. Unless your game plan revolves around the Monastery Mentor / Back to Basics / Counterbalance "UW Show and Tell" trifecta, I believe that Narset, Parter of Veils plays a similar role to Counterbalance in most matchups, while having relevant text in matchups where Counterbalance would normally not be effective and you'd have to rely on one of the other pieces of intertaction to deal with.
Counterbalance's main highlight was acting as a one-sided Chalice of the Void, and that was primarily to stop opposing cantrips, and I believe that Narset, Parter of Veils does that better in most cases, except against Delver of Secrets strategies. If Delver gets more prominent, it might be correct to go back to some number of this card in order lower the curve of this deck, since Narset, Parter of Veils being 3 mana is a definite downside against tempo strategies. In addition, basic Mountain allowing you to leverage blast effects in the matchup is something we could not fully leverage before, as well as an overall larger and more-heavy hitting removal suite. This brings me to my next point:
With the rise of Delver once again, I believe that 4+ sweepers are a must going forward. Most of my lists started with 3 Terminus and added additional wrath effects in the sideboard, but I think unless you play 3 Terminus and 2 Supreme Verdict, you simply have to play 4 Terminus. Dreadhorde Arcanist is a very real danger to Miracles, and you have to be able to get it off the table as soon as possible, and maximizing on removal allows you to do that more consistently overall.
Lastly, the split of Nature's Chant and Disenchant is simply to play around Surgical Extraction and Meddling Mage. It is absolutely free to play a split, unless you run into the random person boarding in Flashfreeze against you!
It's overall quite difficult to work on a control deck when a metagame is fresh and new, but I think the above lists and concepts are excellent starting points for us to try some of these new cards ourselves! It’s a very exciting time in Legacy now, with lots of things in flux from the two most recent sets, and even Core Set 2020 is just on the horizon! While it is doubtful anything Legacy-playable comes from that upcoming set, the Legacy metagame overall hasn’t had so many playable cards introduced to it in such a short amount of time, and now is an excellent time to get some of these new toys and start to play around with them!
Thank you all very much for reading, until next time!