Legacy tends to be slow to change. Players can stick with the same deck for months and years, making only minor tweaks to reflect changes in the card pool or metagame. Once in a while, a new fad makes a bit of a splash, but it inevitably blows over after players adapt.
This isn’t one of those times.
Treasure Cruise is outrageously good. As long as it remains legal, Legacy will never be what it was six months ago. People who refuse to adapt, continuing to “fight fair” with non-combo, non-delve decks, will have a harder and harder time as the format continues to warp around Treasure Cruise. There’s just no sense in casting Hymn to Tourachs or Abrupt Decays when your opponents can so easily topdeck Ancestral Recall to undo everything you’ve worked for.
If you want to stay competitive, you have to adapt to Treasure Cruise. That, however, doesn’t necessarily mean giving up and playing U/R Delver. There is another way, which is, in my opinion, even better.
I’m no Delver expert, but I can say with confidence that Dig Through Time is a better card Treasure Cruise. It surprises me that so few Delver players have tried out Dig. By the point in the game that you’re casting your delve card draw spells, you don’t need more lands, so seeing seven cards and choosing your most high potency spells from them is vastly more powerful than drawing three cards. Yes, it costs two blue mana, but if you’re at the point where you’re never paying colorless mana for your delve cards, then you should probably be playing more than four copies between Cruise and Dig anyway!
But that’s neither here nor there since there’s a Dig Through Time deck better than Delver anyway. Miracles.
There are a number of distinct Miracles builds that’ve performed well in recent times. While I’ll share my opinions on each of them, I don’t feel particularly qualified (or feel that it’s particularly useful) to declare which one is best. For a W/U/R control deck, Legacy offers a pool of several hundred cards that you can choose in any combination you like and still wind up with a great deck. A lot of what’s best for you will come down to personal preference, play style, and what you have experience with.
“The Stoneforge Mystic Build” popularized by Brian Braun-Duin
Brian Braun-Duin plays with a Stoneforge Mystic for Batterskull package. Certain Magic cards are so good that you’re simply being foolish to not play with them. I’m not sure if Stoneforge Mystic is quite there, but it’s very close. You can consider BBD’s list the “good stuff” list of Miracles.
There’s a lot of value in having something proactive that lets you work toward ending the game. It puts your opponent to the test, threatening an easy win if they have a bad draw, and it makes sideboarding difficult for them. It also reduces the risk of going to time, which is huge with Miracles. The thing that most appeals to me about the Stoneforge package is that it’s the most reasonable way to get access to life gain in the main deck, which I always value in a slow control deck.
“The Vendilion Clique Build” popularized by Joe Lossett
Miracles master Joe Lossett is known for his love of Vendilion Clique, and also his propensity for bold, unconventional choices.
Vendilion Clique is a healthy middle ground between the Stoneforge Mystic version and the creatureless version. It allows you to be a little bit proactive and dramatically improves your game one matchup against combo and control decks.
With regard to the “unconventional choices,” Mr. Lossett challenges conventions that most people—myself included—previously considered set in stone. These are choices like playing two copies of Swords to Plowshares, playing two copies of Karakas (instead of one or zero), and playing with Red Elemental Blast in the main deck. While I’ve yet to buy into some of these choices, I’ve come to realize that others are pure genius! Maindecking Red Elemental Blast is absolutely correct and is one of the reasons I love Miracles in a world of Treasure Cruise.
“The Ponder Build” repopularized by Sam Roukas
It’s hard for adding Ponders to your deck to be a terrible decision. You’re trading a mana (a low cost) for smoothing your draw (a small reward). My opinion, however, is simply that it’s not a trade that Miracles particularly needs to make.
One could argue that Miracles doesn’t have a whole lot to do on the early turns, but that’s simply the nature of the deck, not a flaw in its construction. All you want to do with Miracles is make your land drops, and if you succeed in making it to the late game without dying, you’ll probably win! Moreover, Sensei’s Divining Top is a very mana-intensive card, and drawing a hand with a bunch of Ponders and Top is somewhat wasteful in the sense that you’re not getting maximum value out of your cards.
A useful side benefit of Ponder is filling your graveyard quickly. If you decided that you wanted to play with a lot of Snapcaster Mages, then playing with Ponder would be a good excuse to do so. It’s also marginally helpful for fueling Dig Through Time.
“The Rest in Peace Build” repopularized by Darrel Feltner
In a world of Treasure Cruises, maindeck Rest in Peace suddenly begins to sound like a genius idea. Maybe it is a genius idea, but it’s personally not the direction I’d like to go with the deck.
Over the course of my Magic career, I’ve had a history of overthinking things. I’ve always tried to be two steps ahead of the new trends, and something like Rest in Peace against Treasure Cruise would’ve been right up my alley. By now, though, I’ve learned the hard way that when I identify a good card, I should just play with it instead of bending over backwards to beat it! This time, I’m not going to overthink things, I’m just going to play with Dig Through Time myself.
If the Rest in Peace plus Helm of Obedience combo is something that interests you, Darrel Feltner’s deck list (linked above) is a good starting point. I love that he omits Enlightened Tutor—that card is simply not good. Being heavy on Helm and Energy Field would make me want to maindeck all four copies of Rest in Peace. Beyond that, I think the only weakness of this list is that he doesn’t have access to Red Elemental Blast.
“The Creatureless Build” popularized(??) by Yours Truly
Here’s the deck I played to a 7-2-1 finish at the Legacy Championships:
I tend to be a bit more of a control purist, opting for the minimum number of win conditions and the maximum amount of defense and card draw. The way I like to play the deck is to sit there making land drops and doing nothing until my opponent forces me to react. The longer the game goes and the more lands I get into play, the more confident I feel in winning.
A specific strength that I can point to is that my opponents’ creature removal is dead in game one. After sideboarding, I still don’t lean heavily on creatures, so I’m happy if they leave in their Swords to Plowshares or Dismembers. If they don’t, though, I can sometimes catch them with an unexpected Baneslayer Angel or Peacekeeper and steal an easy game.
The Deck List
Again, I don’t think that any of the above decks are necessarily better or worse than the others. However, for the deck list and matchups sections to follow, I’ll be using what I know best, which is the creatureless version of Miracles. You’d be making a fine decision if you played any of the above Miracles builds at your next tournament, except that you should consider the following two cards:
Don’t leave home without Red Elemental Blast. Even if you don’t play Miracles, don’t leave home without Red Elemental Blast! I think that all competitive Legacy decks right now should start with a delve card draw spell of their choice, and a healthy number of Red Elemental Blasts.
Maindecking a small number is a great idea. First, all of the best decks in the format play blue. Second, non-blue decks tend to be very good matchups for Miracles (because they are usually creature decks). Third, the deck has enough library manipulation that you can easily handle seeing one dead card over the course of a game. Fourth, Miracles benefits from having a couple extra ways to remove a resolved Jace, the Mind Sculptor from the opponent’s side of the battlefield.
Two maindeck and two sideboard Red Blasts felt like a pretty reasonable place to be. However, if current trends continue, I wouldn’t be surprised to be playing even more than that a couple months from now.
For all intents and purposes, Red Elemental Blast and Pyroblast are the same card. In your 75, you should split them evenly to dodge effects like Meddling Mage and Surgical Extraction. In retrospect, I probably should have maindecked Pyroblast instead of REB because if you play against a non-blue deck, you have the option to just cast Pyroblast for no effect (which could come up if you need cards in your graveyard for Dig Through Time).
On the topic, I also like a one-of Blue Elemental Blast in the sideboard because you’re happy to bring in one in a variety of matchups ranging from U/R Delver to Sneak and Show. It also offers much-needed insurance against Sulfuric Vortex, which is Miracles’ most feared card. Blue Elemental Blast is marginally better than Hydroblast because Sneak and Show cannot Misdirect it unless there’s a second red spell on the stack.
It’s important to understand that Miracles isn’t a “turbo-Dig Through Time” deck in the way that Delver might be a “turbo-Treasure Cruise” deck. Dig Through Time is simply a card to pull you ahead in the mid- and late game. The reason I feel safe playing it is that it’s still a great card even if you spend four mana to cast it. After all, at various points in time I’ve played supplemental card draw spells like Predict, Thirst for Knowledge, and Fact or Fiction. Dig Through Time, even at four mana, puts them all to shame.
In regard to the perfect number to play, I can’t give a definitive answer. I started with one and felt like a fool for not playing more. Then I played two and felt like a fool for not playing more. You don’t want to have two copies cluttering your hand early, but once you can cast your first one, you can usually cast the second shortly thereafter. There’ll be a tipping point where we have too many Dig Through Times, but I’m not sure where it’ll be. Next time I sit down to test, I’ll try out three copies and see how that feels. In the meantime, playing two is a safe bet, and playing three probably wouldn’t be too large of a risk.
I’ll certainly admit that Miracles is prone to awkward opening hands. When you start with multiple copies of Terminus, Entreat the Angels, Dig Through Time, and even Jace, the Mind Sculptor in your hand, you’re definitely at risk of coming out of the gates slow and clunky. (Only when you don’t draw Brainstorm, that is). This quality, combined with the fact that Dig Through Time is adept at putting perfect, pinpoint answers directly into your hand might be a reason to move a little away from Terminus and toward Supreme Verdict—a change that I’d already started to make before Dig was printed. Maybe I’ll also finally cave and do what other Miracles players have done a long time ago, which is to cut the fourth copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. In most cases Dig Through Time is similar and better.
The Delver Matchup
Combining first-hand experience, instincts, and discussions with a lot of players on both sides of the matchup, I’ve concluded that Miracles vs. U/R Delver is very close to 50/50. A groundbreaking discovery, I know…
The thing to understand is that the matchup is very dependent on both players’ deck lists, play style, and experience with the matchup. The games are typically long and complicated. No two games play out the same way, and the more skilled player will typically have a substantially higher chance of winning.
Miracles’ advantage comes from having more Elemental Blasts, and if you can keep your life total high Delver’s burn spells will be relatively ineffective. Once the game goes long, you can make them spend multiple Dazes and Spell Pierces to counter one spell and thus gain card advantage.
Delver’s advantage is in mana efficiency, and not needing as many lands in play to operate.
Sideboarding is very list dependent, but with my deck against an average-looking U/R Delver deck I’d go: +2 Pyroblast +1 Blue Elemental Blast +2 Vendilion Clique +1 Supreme Verdict +1 Baneslayer Angel +1 Counterbalance -4 Force of Will -3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor -1 Counterspell
Blood Moon is great against three-color builds of Delver. Engineered Explosives isn’t likely to change the matchup, but is a pretty good card that you can bring in against any build of Delver. Sometimes a small amount of dedicated life gain like one Rest for the Weary can be nice.
As always, Miracles is a challenging deck that won’t give you many easy wins. However, it’s also one that greatly rewards practice and tight play. If you want to capitalize on the power of Khans of Tarkir‘s delve card draw spells, but don’t necessarily want to play the predictable U/R Delver deck, Miracles is a great choice. I’ll be sticking with it for Grand Prix New Jersey.