Personalizing Miracles in Legacy

Rich Cali
January 10, 2019
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While I was testing for SCG Con, UW Miracles was one of the four decks I was strongly considering. It has been doing incredibly well in Legacy lately and I have a lot of experience with the archetype. My decklist looked like this:

It was clear that the deck was powerful and consistent but it didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t going to play it. The number one problem I had was that there weren’t that many cards in the deck that really did anything besides draw cards and answer what your opponent played. The introduction of Accumulated Knowledge, in addition to the already present Predict, means that almost every matchup can be won with pure card advantage so most of the time pure win-conditions aren’t necessary.

While this is a positive feature to many I found the gameplay relatively unfun. I have really grown to like sources of card advantage that don’t simply generate cards in hand: Cards like Kolaghan’s Command, Baleful Strix, and Stoneforge Mystic (not all at once, mind you) are much more my speed these days.

However, this weekend I am going to play in the Legacy Classic at SCG Worcester and I have decided to give the deck another chance. It would be remiss of me to fully pass up on such a powerful deck but I really want to make sure that I enjoy my experience. Therefore, I have been iterating and tuning the deck to my liking and trying to find the best balance between fun and power.

This week, I want to go through some of my process and walk you through what I wanted to change, the logic behind my adjustments and what conclusions I have found based on my testing.

Accumulated Knowledge

This card allows Miracles to be as pure of a draw-go control deck as is possible because of the sheer card advantage it generates. At the same time, its inclusion is indicative of a lot of my biggest issues:  

  1. It doesn’t really have synergy with any of the other cards like Predict does. It simply draws a lot of cards at a relatively efficient rate of mana.
  2. It demands a lot of deckbuilding space. Playing any less than 4 doesn’t make more sense because they first copy is the worst card in the deck. The power comes from copies 2-4 and you have to maximize your ability to draw multiple copies.
  3. In conjunction with demanding deck building space, it promotes a specific style of gameplay and means of building a deck. When you accrue so many cards it is generally better to play cheap, reactive cards. This will allow you to efficiently use the resources you gain and generally allow your cards in hand to be more meaningful. This means that you are incentivized to simply hold up mana every turn, try to make sure you can answer what they are doing and draw cards when the opportunity presents itself.
  4. Accumulated Knowledge is extremely slow. The first copy is just a 2-mana cycle. Paying 2 mana for a cantrip is a terrible rate by Legacy standards and that is with the hope that you draw a second copy sooner rather than later.

All of these factors lead me to shy away from the current de facto draw spell of choice. Predict isn’t perfect by any stretch but it is a great draw spell in Miracles. Not being required to play 4 is a big upside to me because it opens the door for some other deck building choices. I would prefer my deck not to be comprised of 20 spells that just draw cards (I would guess that I might be in the minority here). To be fair, I am choosing to play Miracles, though, so what else do I think i’m signing up for?

Portent

This card is essentially the opposite of Accumulated Knowledge: It is a relatively weak card that synergizes really well with Miracle cards and Predict. I find this card to be far too bad to be included in large numbers, especially when Preordain is an excellent card. Preordain doesn’t work nearly as well with the deck, but it’s enough better as a card that i’d rather have more copies of it than Portent.

Counterbalance

When Top was banned I thought the continued inclusion of this card was pretty absurd. Once I was able to really dive deep into the archetype again I found the lists that excluded it to be the ridiculous ones. Not only did it greatly help the Storm match up, but being able to play a difficult to remove source of card advantage gave the deck a lot of late-game staying power.

Pour one out for Top

             

via GIPHY

Recently, this card hasn’t been a staple inclusion in Miracles decks. The inclusion of so many card draw spells not only incentivized moving away from permanent-based cards but also meant that most match ups could just be overcome with card advantage.

While the card is kind of miserable on both sides of the table, I like the slightly more proactive style that it promotes. It can totally change the dynamic of a game when it resolves early and there aren’t that many cards that do that in Miracles. It’s nice to have a few different dimensions in the deck beyond the reactive style Miracles has been moving towards and this one does a lot of good things for the archetype.

Monastery Mentor

To me, Mentor is the best part of the deck. It essentially solves every problem I have with the deck:

  1. It’s a proactive play that can kill opponents who stumble and can take advantage of opponents who aim to set up in the early turns.
  2. It adds a new dimension to the deck that changes how opponents play.
  3. It helps give the deck a clear identity besides drawing cards, countering spells, and illing creatures.
  4. It speeds up the match time substantially.

Monastery Mentor was going to be a critical piece in any deck list I tried. In fact, I was

particularly interested in revisiting the deck to try to push Mentor to its limit.

Putting it All Together

With these thoughts being the guiding framework for testing, here’s where I ended up:

The first point is the mana base. Playing a ton of Basic Lands in conjunction with 12 cantrips means makes it much easier to safely develop a solid mana base. This means that you don’t really need to run more than 19 lands in order to make sure you can hit all of your land drops. While I think adding Red gives the deck a lot of play in the Blue mirrors, the upside of having a great mana base with such a small amount of lands outweighs it in my eyes. This has been a somewhat common trend in mana base construction recently but it’s weird enough on paper that I thought it warranted mention.

As for this list, I wanted to make Mentor the centerpiece of the deck. There is a real deck building cost to including 4 Mentors though, and I felt like I had to trim on some of the other 3-drops. Back to Basics is a great piece of disruption and a powerful lock piece but I thought I could afford to trim a copy to support the Mentor plan. Similarly, having access to 1 Council’s Judgment is awesome in this deck but again adding in more Mentors would allow me to proactively attack my opponents as opposed to trying to answer everything they played.

I do really like the way Predict fits in the deck but it can be clunky. Since I did have some fear that the deck would be more choked on mana in the early turns, cutting 1 seemed acceptable. The same was true of Snapcaster Mage, despite the card being awesome in Miracles.

The need for Terminus is minimized by having more Mentors and they work against each other so trimming 1 of those made sense. Finally, Spell Pierce was a last minute inclusion that seemed like it might mitigate some of the early-game mana pressure by allowing me to double spell early on.

This sideboard was mostly just a smattering of cards that usually worked for me in Miracles. I wanted to test a bunch of different cards because I didn’t have a clear game plan in mind for any of my post-board games.

The Conclusions

I was relatively happy with how the deck performed but I thought it could be improved upon.

I always knew 4 Monastery Mentors were a lot and it often felt like too many. I liked having access to it on turn 3 more often but drawing 2 or 3 early on did not feel good. I might have just built the deck wrong if the goal was to take advantage of Mentor in this way but the best solution I have for now is just trimming a copy.

While Portent is kind of embarrassing to me, it works so well with other cards in the deck that I am coming around to its inclusion being mandatory. Not being able to draw the card right away does impact the Mentor plan, but so much of this deck is about knowing the top 2 cards of your library at all times. Plus, when you need to Terminus on their turn having access to Portent makes it much more convenient. I was definitely wrong to go lower than 2 but i’m not currently willing to go higher than that.

Finally, Spell Pierce was awesome. It worked well with the game plan, it lines up well with Legacy at the moment and it had an extra layer of surprise that really made it shine. Miracles is still looking to have the games go really long so I don’t want to push the concept, but having 1 felt like it made a big difference.

With these lessons in the bank, here’s where I went from there:

I really liked the way this deck played and I think i’ll play something really close to this in Worcester. With the inclusion of extra copies of Portent, as well as trimming a Mentor, I thought that Predict would be a bit smoother. It has so much potential in this deck and I really liked having 4 of them. I didn’t want to dedicate too much space to card draw so I cut an extra Preordain, as well.


I know I cut Council’s Judgment in the other list but that had to be wrong. Simply having the ability to find it in Miracles is such a huge game and I don’t think i’ll cutting it from the main deck again any time soon.

The sideboard continues to need work. I haven’t formed completely functional plans against every archetype yet but there were some parts that I really liked. The extra Counterbalance really felt good against Combo decks that I would cut Back to Basics against. Again, I really like having permanents that can influence the game over time. Relic was nice as a concept, but I don’t think it’s better than another Containment Priest, especially since Show and Tell can definitely be an issue.

I want to spend the rest of the week trying to hone in on effective sideboard plans but i’m happy enough with how the main deck felt. When I tested the deck back in November I couldn’t wait to put the deck down because the game play wasn’t fun to me. I’ve been having a good time with this variant, though, and i’m looking forward to continuing to explore it.

Next week i’ll report on how the deck performed and talk about my sideboard plans and how I can change them to improve the deck even more!