I didn’t want to end up here. It may be hard to believe, but I legitimately tried. I was originally planning to play Lands at GP Columbus. I tested Grixis Delver. I tried various Esper decks. I tried Eldrazi. I felt like Miracles had a giant target on its head and people were finally figuring out how to beat it. I felt that I would be better served just battling with some other deck. I did not want to be on Miracles for the Grand Prix.
I won a Legacy IQ with Miracles today. As much as I want to quit this deck, there's one thing I keep learning. Don't Stop at the Top.
— Brian Braun-Duin (@BraunDuinIt) May 30, 2016
The problem? I wasn’t winning with decks that weren’t Miracles. The flip side? I’ve been winning with Miracles in testing. Quite a bit, actually. So here I am, back to square one. Only square one doesn’t look exactly like it used to. This is my current list.
One of the recent trends in Miracles is to play Predict. I’m lucky enough to be in a number of Facebook groups and threads with some of the best and brightest Miracles minds in the world. As legend goes, someone was complaining about Serum Visions in Modern and wondered how to make Serum Visions useful. The response? You Predict it away.
The rest, as they say, is history. Playing Predict in Miracles or Legacy certainly isn’t new, but making it a focal point of the deck is. That idea was the brainchild of Marcus Ewaldh, and players like Anuraag Das and Minhajul Hoq have been testing and tuning it since.
Predict is, in many ways, similar to Dig Through Time. It’s like a Dig Through Time where you need to know the top card of your library to cast it for value, and you get two random cards instead of the best of seven. That kind of a Dig Through Time. The kind that is predictably worse in every measurable way. I guess the comparison isn’t exactly perfect. Being worse than Dig Through Time isn’t necessarily a horrible place to be. One of the reasons that Shardless Sultai was a poor deck during the Dig Through Time era is that it just couldn’t keep up with the card advantage generated from Dig and Treasure Cruise. The entire point of a deck like Shardless Sultai is to bury the opponent in card advantage. If it can’t succeed in doing that, it’s not worth playing.
Some percentage of the decks that are good against Miracles are decks like Shardless Sultai that can keep up with and even overwhelm the advantage created by Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance thanks to Abrupt Decay on Counterbalance and repeated 2-for-1s. Predict lets Miracles keep pace with those decks and even pull ahead. In fact, I’d argue that the above deck list is actually favored against Shardless Sultai, a deck that is supposed to beat Miracles. The other kinds of decks that are good vs. Miracles are usually weak to Monastery Mentor, and Predict helps fuel that too.
Once you commit to playing Predict, you are also committing to building your deck differently in a number of ways. For one, you don’t want too many big, clunky, or expensive cards in your deck. Card advantage is pointless if you don’t have the time or resources to spend those extra cards you’re drawing. You also want cards like Ponder, which can help set up Predict, find Predict when you need to, and are cheap to play and gain an advantage off of after a Predict.
You also don’t need a lot of ways to actually win the game. This deck has 2 Monastery Mentors, 2 copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and that’s it. You don’t need more than that, and in some ways you could actually function with less than that. The purest version of a Predict list would play zero win conditions and just rely on cards that provide advantage and disruption like Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique to also serve as win conditions.
To provide an example of this, I played against Infect at the IQ I won last weekend, and I sided out my Jaces and Monastery Mentors, leaving me with just three Snapcaster Mages and one Vendilion Clique to win with. I traded off a Snapcaster and the Clique early, but was able to still win. Once you’ve locked up the game, it doesn’t really matter how you win afterward, even if it is with one of your remaining two Snapcaster Mages dealing the full 20 points of damage.
Predict also influences the decision to play a card like Monastery Mentor over Entreat the Angels. For one, Predict encourage deckbuilding with a lot of cheap spells, which plays well with Mentor. Secondly, drawing an Entreat the Angels off of a Predict isn’t very useful. Without a way to put it back on top of your deck, it’s essentially a dead card. Drawing Mentor with Predict, on the other hand, is pretty effective, because you can use it to set up a big Mentor turn.
I like this style of Miracles a lot more than the clunky, no-Ponder, Entreat-the-Angels versions or the legend versions. In formats like Legacy and Modern, I’ve always put a lot of value into mana efficiency and doing things as cheap as possible. I want my deck to be smooth and consistent. This philosophy is why I believe a card like Gitaxian Probe is one of the most underplayed cards in both Modern and Legacy. I’ve even played Probe in Mentor Miracles before. Come at me.
Haymakers vs. More of the Same
The way I have built my version of Predict Miracles makes a lot of concessions. For one, Council’s Judgment is the kind of card that doesn’t really fit the game plan. It’s kind of clunky and sometimes it’s hard to assemble double-white through Wasteland and Rishadan Port. Likewise, a lot of the SB cards are expensive cards that are also a bit clunky. I’m talking about cards like Blood Moon or Izzet Staticaster or even the 3rd Monastery Mentor.
A lot of the Miracles pilots I know who advocate for a Predict build of Miracles are a lot more committed to theme. They play fewer lands, more copies of Predict and Snapcaster Mage, and the sideboard is nearly all 1- and 2-mana instants, like more copies of Wear // Tear, Pyroblast, Flusterstorm, and the like. They have a “more of the same” style of deckbuilding, whereas I have leaned more toward having big haymakers and big effects that win the game.
My reason for wanting to do that is the exact same as the reason for playing cards like Monastery Mentor and Jace in the first place. One-dimensional strategies are exploitable. Mentor and Jace both provide completely different avenues for winning the game. Cards like Blood Moon or Izzet Staticaster or Containment Priest are also broad-strokes cards that are useful in a lot of random matchups and can be legitimate plans for winning the game in those matchups. Who knows what kind of random decks you could get paired against in a Legacy tournament, and it’s nice to have some fail-safe measures. Additionally, in formats like Modern and Legacy, it’s important to take as many free wins as you can get, and cards like Containment Priest and Blood Moon are often exactly that.
If you load up your sideboard with a lot of Pyroblast and Flusterstorm to go with Counterspell, Counterbalance, and Force of Will in the main deck, it makes the deck one-dimensional in that decks that are designed to be good against counterspells have a real advantage. There are a lot of those kinds of decks in Legacy. Cards like Cavern of Souls, Aether Vial, Cabal Therapy, Shardless Agent, and Abrupt Decay are all quite good against countermagic. Those same decks are often weak to things like Containment Priest, Blood Moon, or Izzet Staticaster.
Here are a few quick tips for playing with Predict.
• If you want to use Predict to miracle a card like Terminus on the opponent’s turn, stick the Terminus 2nd from the top. Predict mills off the top card, and then Terminus is the first card actually drawn.
• Another easy way to get a guaranteed use out of Predict is alongside Sensei’s Divining Top. Let’s say your opponent casts a Pithing Needle that’s clearly going to name Top. You can draw a card with Top, and then Predict away the Top to get two more cards.
• Another common use of Predict is the upkeep Predict. Sometimes you know the top cards of your deck but the earliest opportunity you have to cast Predict is in your upkeep right before you lose knowledge of that last card. Don’t be afraid to do this. One of the advantages of having a bunch of cheap spells in the deck is that this rarely takes up your whole turn.
• The last thing to note is that sometimes you have to fire off the blind Predict just to cycle. In those situations, I tend to name cards that I have the highest likelihood of hitting. Generally this means Swords to Plowshares, Ponder, Brainstorm, or the like. In more dire situations, I will also name a card I want to flashback with Snapcaster Mage. That way I get the most value out of hitting with Predict, by drawing the maximum number of cards and having the best graveyard for Snapcaster Mage.
I’ll be completely honest, I’m not sure how good Predict is in Miracles. It’s hard for me to tell if Predict is good, or if Miracles itself is just that good despite Predict. It’s certainly possible that just playing more copies of something like Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a stronger strategy. But until someone proves me wrong, I’ll be sticking with this version. Predictable, I know.