Legacy can be a tough format to get into. A pool of over 20,000 cards, a deeply-entrenched metagame, and the price tags of some staples mean that the format isn’t Magic’s most accessible. Nonetheless, Legacy is a rich and rewarding format to play, and Level One Legacy is all about helping you make a start and find your feet in the format. This week, I’m looking at Miracles.
What Miracles Does
Miracles is Legacy’s control deck. As almost all control decks seek to do, Miracles answers opposing threats with proactive disruption and sees a huge amount of cards with various cantrips. Card advantage engines such as Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Accumulated Knowledge help overrun the late game, with Counterbalance providing virtual card advantage while concurrently locking the opponent out.
There is a pretty wide diversity in the way Miracles decks are built. While the core of the deck remains the same—Brainstorm, Force of Will, Ponder, Terminus—the deck gives you a lot of flexibility, especially when it comes to win conditions. Various decks play cards like Entreat the Angels, Monastery Mentor, Brightling, and even Standard all-star Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.
Irrespective of win condition, the game plan stays the same. Answer opposing threats, play to the late game, and lock things down with Counterbalance and/or Back to Basics. Given enough time and space, Miracles will win—the inevitability and power of its late game engines are too much for most decks to contest.
This deck doesn’t get any free or easy wins—each one is a long, hard slog. If you’re going to play Miracles, you need to be sharp, quick, and on top of your game, not to mention ready for a very long and intensive tournament process. You need to practice playing very quickly, as the amount of time it takes for Miracles to actually close out a game in real terms can be considerable.
One of the primary strengths of Miracles is the sheer number of cards it sees. With Ponder, Brainstorm, Preordain, Portent, Predict, and more recently Accumulated Knowledge all seeing play, Miracles has enormous “velocity” and is able to burn through its deck to find the answers it needs. Whether it’s a card to get back in the game like Terminus or to lock the opponent out while ahead like Back to Basics, Miracles sees a huge volume of cards and will often find what it’s looking for.
Miracles is also one of the few decks in the format that gets actual, real card advantage. Most decks play on razor-thin margins or gain virtual card advantage by killing opponents fast before they can use all the cards they have, but Miracles can pull ahead with Jace, Teferi, Accumulated Knowledge, and the like, and simply bury opponents in card advantage.
The mana base of Miracles is one of the best in the format, playing a high number of basics to provide resilience against cards like Wasteland and Blood Moon. This also enables it to play Back to Basics, an absurdly potent card against greedy opposing mana bases. Blanking mana disruption and minimizing the impact of opposing Wastelands is very important, as—unlike a lot of Legacy decks—Miracles does want to continue hitting land drops (while something like Grixis Delver can win with one or two lands).
Finally, the inevitability of this deck really can’t be understated. Miracles will win if given enough time to do so, so it’s not really realistic to expect to go toe-to-toe with them in a drawn-out long game. Their engine cards—Jace, Counterbalance—can’t be overcome while remaining at parity, and eventually will get them across the line.
Miracles is not a fast deck, and as a result, sometimes folds to early pressure while spinning its wheels. Terminus is an incredible answer to aggressive starts —a 1 mana sweeper is no joke—but if they don’t find it or can’t cast it in a timely fashion, they risk being overrun. A fast aggro or tempo deck can put the screws on Miracles and ensure they never stop playing catch up. Similarly, it’s very reliant on Force of Will in the early turns. This is usually mitigated by its card advantage engines in the later stages of the game, but overloading their early answers is a great way to get ahead quickly.
Additionally, Miracles does not have a very high threat density. Playing so many cantrips helps them find their few threats readily and easily, but it still means that a few judiciously-timed answers can unpick the game plan of Miracles and put them back several turns. Answering their few threats will give you a lot of time to get across the line while they spin their wheels seeking out the next one.
With a relatively high land count, Miracles is also subject to flooding out. They can’t simply Brainstorm away excess lands like other blue decks, as they actually need to hit land drops, but this can ultimately come at a high cost as they are unable to mitigate flood as some other decks can. While resilient in the face of land disruption, sometimes Miracles loses to drawing too many lands themselves.
Finally, Miracles has a weird weakness to Chalice of the Void. Traditionally, Chalice is thought to be good against low-to-the-ground decks like Delver, but given the sheer number of 1-drop cantrips in Miracles (that are heavily relied upon to craft and execute game plans), an early Chalice for 1 can heavily stymie their development. Just make sure to back it up with a clock while they search for answers.
How to Beat Miracles
Just as in other formats, the best way to beat Miracles is to employ tried-and-true anti-control techniques. Get on the board early to pressure their life total, overload their answers with diversified threats (don’t over-commit creatures into a Terminus!) and pick apart their hand with Thoughtseize-type effects to take advantage of their threat-light list.
Recognize which lines are going to win the game, especially when up against an active Jace. Two to three opposing Jace activations is usually game over, even if it doesn’t feel like it—it’s extremely difficult to come back from being down so many cards—so decide early if you’re going to go after them or Jace, depending on the overall status of the game. Can you win quickly? Get it done. Do they have defensive answers to stay alive? Deal with the Jace instead.
Miracles is very weak to blasts, both Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast. Having effective, efficient answers to Jace, Back to Basics, and Counterbalance is massive, and part of the reason you usually see Miracles splashing red for these cards in the board. Additionally, Eldrazi Aggro is a nightmare for Miracles— it gets under their countermagic with quick threats, and can even beat a Terminus with its sheer pace.
Ultimately, it comes down to something pretty simple—all Miracles is trying to do is buy itself enough time to win. It’s the deck that Dutch van der Linde would play, if he was into Magic: “I just need time, Arthur.” Don’t give them that time! Get on the board quick, apply pressure, protect your threats from or diversify them again Terminus, and get ’em dead before they can stabilize or lock you out.