Searching for the New Look of Miracles
Last time I wrote about Miracles I was hesitant to pick up the deck. While players were having solid finishes with the deck, it was a far cry from the Miracles that I had played ad nauseum before the ban. After playing with the deck back then, I wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be. It lacked an on-board engine that would allow it to generate a long-term advantage like Counter-Top. The immediate post-ban variant generated a lot of card advantage but didn’t really pack the punch I look for in my Legacy decks. That is, until Search for Azcanta was printed.
What Does Search Do for Miracles?
Search for Azcanta is an incredible card and it is particularly good in this deck.Here is an example of a recent iteration. Miracles can use every one of its functions to great effect. To start, spending 2 mana for an improved scry which sends cards to the graveyard instead of the bottom of the library (which I will refer to as just a scry for the rest of this article) on each upkeep is a solid, if slightly underwhelming, ability. Miracles is a deck that is constantly trying to find the best card for the situation. Having a small amount of card selection can go a long way.
Although this effect is relatively innocuous, that isn’t the end of this effect in Miracles. Having Search in play means that the need for fetchlands to shuffle post-cantrip is greatly reduced because of the ability to mill away the unneeded cards. Even more so, this effect is often better than having a fetchland post-Brainstorm because of setting up a Terminus. The Miracles player can simply set a bad card on top of the library, mill it away with Search, then cast Terminus. This avoids having to shuffle the potentially bad cards into the deck and allows the player to continue to dig straight down into their deck. On top of that, Search opens up the ability to use Predict for maximum value when there aren’t any cantrips in sight for the Miracles player. It is a bit inefficient in terms of tempo and mana to Predict oneself on the upkeep, but drawing 2 cards is certainly powerful enough to warrant that line of play. All of these incidental effects would make the card worthwhile in Miracles.
Search for Azcanta’s power doesn’t end there, though! When threshold is met, Search can be transformed into the powerful Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, which is an unbelievable card advantage engine. Like the front side, this half does a number of things which are all very sought-after in Miracles. On its face, the ability to impulse for a non-land, non-creature spell every turn can quickly turn into a substantial advantage for Miracles. So much of its game plan involves digging for the correct answer, and Azcanta makes this relatively easy.
Like the front half, this side makes the need for fetchlands to optimize cantrips much less important. Casting Ponder, taking the best card, and Azcanta-ing away the other less needed cards is an effective way to keep the card selection moving. Many times, the card also just represents the threat of activation, which gives the Miracles player a lot of control over the pace of the game. The opponent needs to respect the fact that with Azcanta out the Miracles player will likely win the long game. This forces opponents to cast spells at inopportune times for them, which can allow the Miracles player to dictate the pace of the game.
All of these reasons alone would certainly be reason enough to play Search in Miracles. However, I don’t think any of these are the best effect that Search for Azcanta provides. When threshold is eventually met, on top of all of these benefits, Search does its best Rampant Growth impression and gives you a land! This lets the Miracles player generate a mana advantage on their opponents, which Miracles is excellent at capitalizing on. This version of Miracles is often seeking to cast somewhat clunky spells. Predict takes some setup, Counterspell costs 2 mana for its effect, Jace costs 4, etc...It can be difficult sometimes to deploy each setup spell and the payoffs in a single turn. However, a single mana makes a huge difference during the mid game, and this can more easily allow the deck to pull ahead.
Wasteland and Abrupt Decay
While I think that Search for Azcanta is all upside in Miracles, there are some popular ways to disrupt it. The two most commonly played cards that deal with Search in Legacy are Abrupt Decay and Wasteland. While these concerns are reasonable, in practice I don’t think they matter nearly as much as they might seem. Search does transform into a non-basic land, which is problematic in the face of Wasteland, but drawing a card off of it right away turns that into a clean 2 for 1. If Wasteland is played preemptively, the advantage generated off of the enchantment part is usually enough to warrant not transforming it and still being able to pull ahead. This play pattern can even allow the Miracles player to more safely develop their mana because the Wasteland will likely be saved for the Search. If it isn’t, then Search can transform more freely.
Abrupt Decay is a bit more problematic. The fact that it can easily trade for Search for Azcanta at any point before it transforms makes it a potent answer. However, in many cases the Miracles player can force this action just by playing a Search. If this prompts an Abrupt Decay on the opponent’s main phase (in order to mitigate any value generated), this often means that nothing else of worth is happening, which is exactly what Miracles is looking for. Sometimes playing the Search can be a weird form of tempo-generation, and allow the Miracles player to dictate the pace of the early stages of the game. On top of this, if Search ever transforms Abrupt Decay no longer has the ability to interact with it.
Search for Azcanta Saves the DaySearch isn’t the only addition to recent Miracles decklists that boost the archetype. Counterbalance is back in the deck and, despite looking a bit out of place without Top, it still generates some nice card advantage. However, I think Search for Azcanta is a key piece to my recent deep dive into Miracles. I love using the card, and think it takes Miracles to the next level. I am going to keep testing this deck leading up to SCG Philadelphia and might even set aside some Grixis colored cards for the event, which is honestly shocking. The new Miracles deck is relatively deep, and it is likely that the best version of the deck hasn’t been found yet. For now, though, i’m having a great time playing the deck and i’m definitely going to keep deeply exploring this archetype.
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