There's a Legacy Grand Prix in Louisville this weekend, and if you plan on attending, you will need a plan for Miracles. One way or another, the deck is format defining and you should either play it or prepare for it.
Legacy is a nuanced format. The best way to learn about playing with or against Miracles is to simply sit down and play the games. Knowing exactly when to fire off that Brainstorm or when and how to use Sensei's Divining Top are skill sets completely unique to the format. The first-hand experience of casting the spells cannot be duplicated with research or data crunching.
In today’s article I’m going to provide a crash course in the world of Miracles so that you’ll be primed and ready to go on Saturday.
The Two Schools of Miracles Decks
In my estimation, there are two distinct builds of Miracles. There is a nearly infinite space within any given list, but there are two major categorizations. As Bill Murray says in the film What About Bob?, “There are two types of people in this world: those who like Neil Diamond, and those who don’t.”
“The Neil Diamond of Miracles.”
There are pros and cons to both versions, so let’s take a look at each to understand their respective advantages. Keep in mind that both versions share a ton of overlap among the key strategic cards: Counterbalance + Sensei's Divining Top, white removal, permission, and blue library manipulation. The differences are subtle but important.
Joe Lossett’s version of Miracles has a ton of threats compared to its predecessors. I also like the fact that Karakas allows the deck to recur and protect Venser, Shaper Savant and Vendilion Clique. The grinding is real and offers a totally new dimension to how Miracles can attack the opponent.
Joe Lossett, 1st place in a Player’s Championship
Adding a sweet Karakas package has tangible upside, but comes at a cost. The most important is that Lossett’s version of Miracles is more susceptible to nonbasic hate.
“Taps for Waste, taps to Waste.”
The Karakas version will inevitably be more susceptible to Wastelands and other nonbasic hate. It is also true that the sideboard nonbasic hate (in this case Back To Basics) comes at a greater cost because it adversely affects your deck more than usual.
“A sea of staring eyes gaze on the sunburst,
His weapon by his side he flashes it with pride.”
Bob Seger, "Sunburst"
"Night Moves" = rock and roll at its best. EE = the sunburst mechanic at its best.
Another trend is the widely adopted use of Engineered Explosives in place of other more situational answers. I like that Engineered Explosives is flexible and can be a functional Disenchant or Pyroclasm depending upon the matchup.
I also like that EE is a decent answer to Chalice of the Void and Endless One from Eldrazi. One thing to keep in mind is that unless you specifically have Cavern of Souls to tap for colorless mana, Thorn of Amethyst stops Chalice from being set to 0, which can be awkward.
“Spare the Rod and spoil the Miracles player.”
• Higher threat density.
• Karakas is a good card in several matchups: Sneak and Show, Death and Taxes, Lands, etc.
• Karakas recursion is a powerful tool in grindy matchups.
• The Karakas package has an edge in the mirror.
• More nonbasics and less consistent colors.
• Deck is higher CMC and more mana-intensive.
• Sideboard nonbasic hate has more drawback.
• Issues with killing quickly in turns.
Who would know more about Miracles than a bunch of Monks?
Personally, I prefer the traditional Miracles list. I’m addicted to perfect mana. I start every game without a worry about Wasteland in my mind.
My Miracles list is so basic that it just ordered a Pumpkin Spice Latte…
Not only is the mana nearly all basics (only 3 nonbasics), everything else the deck does is just as straightforward and streamlined.
When I’m playing Miracles, I’m not trying to be cute or clever—all I want to do is execute my game plan as quickly and consistently as possible. I understand why the Karakas plan is great (it is especially good in the head-to-head), but overall I prefer the elegance of simplicity.
I prefer to win games with Jace and Mentor, and both cards are effective at doing just that. The upside is that both cards are inherently powerful but both cards need setup to be effective, whereas Clique and Venser require little-to-no setup and interact immediately.
It's not insignificant that Mentor can close out a game in 1 or 2 turns, which is relevant with a deck that is noted for taking a long time to win. It is very easy to Mentor + Top + Top and deal lethal in one turn cycle. It matters when you are up against the clock.
I really like Ensnaring Bridge right now as a pseudo-Moat. Moat is mostly an Eldrazi card, and Bridge is functionally similar. I love the fact that it comes down a full turn faster, which matters in a world of Thought-Knot Seer. It is also sick that it survives All is Dust. Sneak and Show is making a comeback, and Bridge is a straight-up all-star there as well, while Moat does basically less than nothing against Flying Spaghetti Monsters. Last but not least, Bridge has really nice synergy with Mentors because you can sculpt your hand size to allow Mentor and the Monks to attack.
Death and Taxes got a lot of powerful new tools in the past year. The most important of which is Sanctum Prelate. Once you’ve played against the card a few times, you realize that dealing with it is often the difference between winning and losing.
You need answers, and Miracles provides them. Council’s Judgment’s will of the council ability dodges protection abilities, which is great here as well.
I also like that the additional removal spells, Council’s Judgment, and Engineered Explosives get around Leovold’s triggered ability, since neither actually target.
• More basics and better color consistency.
• More streamlined plan of attack.
• Has more ways to end the game quickly when up against the clock.
• Less to do in the late game.
• No lands that are also “spells,” e.g. Karakas.
• Slight underdog in the mirror match.
I tried not to be too biased when describing the various versions of the deck, but it should be pretty clear that I have a preference for my list. It’s only natural, I suppose. I’m going to be playing something close to my list on Saturday.
With that being said, I don’t think that either deck is better or worse than the other. I wouldn’t (and haven’t) tried to talk anybody out of playing the Karakas version of the deck so far. The Karakas version of the deck has advantages that are hard to argue with!
Miracles is a great deck and has a lot of options. The most important factor is to be comfortable with the list. I’d be willing to concede that the Mentor version of the deck might be worse positioned, but I have such a preference for the things it does well that I’d choose it anyway. Like I said, I’m addicted to good mana!