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I Believe in Miracles

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

Editor’s Note: Legit MTG is participating in Azorius theme week alongside Daily MTG and other websites in the Magic community. Look for articles about the blue-white guild to join our regular features. And don’t worry. The other Return to Ravnica guilds will get equal treatment in upcoming weeks.

In honor of Azorius Week and the band Hot Chocolate, I’d like to talk a little about Miracles. Yes, yes, Avacyn Restored has been out for months, and the talking heads in the Magic community have been ranting and raving about how “there’s no skill involved in topdecking bomby spells”, or “it’s ruining the game.” I say that since we’re stuck with them for another year, rather than complaining let’s abuse the crap out of them!

When figuring out what to play after rotation, it’s important to look at the previous top decks in Block Constructed. Ever since Alexander Hayne won Pro Tour Avacyn Restored with UW Miracles, it’s been on my list of decks to try out post-rotation. Fortunately, the Azorius guild was included in Return to Ravnica, which gives us an entire fifth of a set to work with on top of the already solid Innistrad block deck.

As the Standard meta shifts toward more creature-heavy decks, the notion of UW Miracles becomes more and more attractive. UW has a veritable monopoly on sweepers because Supreme Verdict and Terminus fit right into our deck. Couple that with the two best planeswalkers in the format — Jace, Architect of Thought and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage — and we’ve got quite a beating on our hands.

UW Miracles is the frontrunner for a control deck in the format, although it plays considerably closer to a tapout control deck than the more reactive control decks of yesteryear. Traditional control decks have been dealt a huge blow by losing Mana Leak and the Titan cycle, which were go-to finishers for the past two years. But our deck relies on spells for finishers. We no longer have to untap with a bomb in play because most of our finishers can be Miracled on the opponent’s turn. All this means is that actual “counter/spot removal everything you play” control decks will most likely be non-existent in the meta in favor of sorcery-speed, sweeper-heavy control.

So what on Earth does our updated UW Miracles list look like? Well here you go!

Everything under control

Jace, Architect of Thought is absolutely insane here. He helps defend against swarms of small creatures, complementing Tamiyo’s ability to lock down one big threat, and his -2 gives us an effective Truth or Tale that nets us the best of the top three cards of our deck. Generally speaking, his ultimate is pretty irrelevant. More often than not, you’ll be cycling between his first and second abilities for unbridled card advantage. Should you actually be in a position to use his ultimate, my suggestion is to take their best bomb while casting my next pet card: Temporal Mastery.

Remember how much hype this card got when Avacyn Restored was spoiled? “WotC reprinted Time Walk! The sky is falling!” Outside of Pro Tour Miracles and the occasional RUG Wolf Run deck, Temporal Mastery’s tournament play has ranked somewhere between Jack and Squat. But here Temporal Mastery excels. Roughly 80 percent of the times you miracle it, Temporal Mastery is an Explore. But you know what? For a deck that wants as many lands as possible to cast its big spells, Explore isn’t bad. Moreover, casting Temporal Mastery late game can be huge. You get extra activations out of Tamiyo and Jace, extra attacks with Entreat the Angels tokens, or even just drawing extra cards. Taking an extra turn is never a bad thing.

I included Syncopate instead of Dissipate in an earlier draft of this deck. Sweet Odyssey-era Syncopates, too, but I quickly realized I could almost never cast anything during my turn if I wanted to counter a spell. Syncopate is incredibly easy to play around just by looking at how many lands they have untapped. With Dissipate, you always get to counter and exile the card. There is nothing more awkward than having to Syncopate a bomb when the opponent has more mana available than you do. It’s happened to me far too many times to give Syncopate a second thought.

While the other control decks have lost their bombs and best countermagic, we’ve lost something just as important: Ponder. There are no good deck manipulation spells in Standard. They reprinted Index in M13, but it has two fundamental weaknesses — it doesn’t draw a card and it doesn’t let you shuffle. Sometimes your top five cards are land-heavy, or sometimes it’s all spells when you need to dig for a land. While Ponder can offer that little glimmer of hope, seeing a bad five with Index ensures five turns of misery. To combat this, I’ve elected to overload the deck with cantrips. Both Azorius Charm and Think Twice let us draw at instant speed. Both Jace and Tamiyo can draw us cards. Instead of trying to stack our deck, we’re just going to draw a crapload of cards.

The finishing touches

You may be wondering how this deck actually wins. There are a few different routes. The first is beating down with Entreat the Angels tokens. Whether via miracle or hardcasting it for one or two tokens, 4/4 fliers are surprisingly huge in a format with no Titans. Just cast Entreat, hope it doesn’t get countered, which it won’t, and proceed to beat face. And Ratchet Bomb is no longer in Standard. With this gone, tokens can actually survive long enough to attack!

The next path to victory is the seldom-used Jace, Architect of Though ultimate. This will rarely come up, but when it does, you are in for a treat. You get to cast the best card out of their deck, as well as one from yours without paying the mana cost. All you have to do is take their biggest, bombiest spell, and cast your own Temporal Mastery. This is less effective against aggro decks like Zombies, but against a deck like Frites or GW Midrange, getting a turn after stealing a Griselbrand or an Armada Wurm is huge.

Lastly, we have the concession. Present your opponent an unwinnable scenario and they will scoop nearly every time. This is done with Tamiyo’s emblem. Once you have the emblem, having a Dissipate or Terminus in your hand means the opponent will never be able to do anything for the rest of the game. Only the most stubborn players wouldn’t admit defeat at that point. If you explain it to them, they’ll generally concede. Saying something like “I’m going to counter/kill everything you’ll play for the rest of the game” can really hammer home the situation. Nobody enjoys having to endure that, so we basically troll them into submission.

More Jaces Can’t Hurt

Between Supreme Verdict, Terminus and Jace’s first ability, we’re set for aggro decks. But we can always make this match even more one-sided. Of all the cards printed in Return to Ravnica, Rest in Peace was the only one that had me absolutely terrified. I love decks that play out of the graveyard, but this one card proverbially curbstomps anything involving graveyards. It effectively shuts off Gravecrawler and Geralf’s Messenger.

I tend to take out my Dissipates and two Temporal Mastery against Zombies. Witchbane Orb is enough of a counterspell for any burn spells running around, and we have more than enough sweepers/spot removal that them resolving spells isn’t much of a concern. You kind of want them to resolve a lot of spells so they play into a sweeper. Because of the speed of Zombiess, I want to decrease the odds of having a Temporal Mastery in my opening hand, which is almost the same as taking a mulligan. When control has been established later in the game, topdecking a Temporal Mastery becomes desirable.

Should Miracles rise in popularity, I have a solid variety of cards dedicated to breaking the mirror. The mirror boils down to a staring contest over who taps out for a planeswalker first. Post-board I have two Negate, the third and fourth Dissipate, the third Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, and two Jace, Memory Adept to help break the mirror. Our sweepers are pretty weak here, so I swap out the set of Terminus, the Feeling of Dreads and one Supreme Verdict. Our goal now is to stick a Jace, Memory Adept and just wreck them with his 0 ability. With Jace 3.0 in play, we just hoard countermagic and stop any attempt at getting rid of him. Milling 10 cards every turn is a huge clock against a deck without any real means of interacting with planeswalkers.

Last but not least is Nevermore. This quirky little enchantment is pretty much our biggest savior against Jund’s most powerful answer to our deck: Slaughter Games. Seriously, have you read this card? Once they cast it, there is literally nothing you can do to stop it. It will happen, and more often than not, it will name Entreat the Angels and make our life a living hell. So how do we stop it? By preventing them from being able to cast it in the first place! Nevermore conveniently costs one mana less than Slaughter Games, so you can drop it the turn before they extract our win condition.

Meta destruction

I’ve often been asked why I opted for this list over Todd Anderson’s UWr Miracles deck that won SCG Cincinnati. And the answer is fairly simple: That list was tuned toward hating out Zombies. When he won the SCG Open with UWr, Zombies was expected to be the biggest deck coming out of rotation, and he prepared for that matchup like crazy by running four Pillar of Flame in the maindeck. You’ll notice when you look at that list is the only cards that need red are the four Pillars and one Desolate Lighthouse. Other than that, the deck is just a UW Control deck. As Zombies declines because of the rise of Thragtusk decks, the Pillar of Flames become significantly less relevant and there’s very little reason to continue splashing Red.

I’ve been testing this list on Cockatrice, and I’m not exaggerating when I say you win if the opponent is playing creatures. I’ve lost track of how many Zombies and GW decks I’ve faced where I’ve just controlled the entire game from as early as Turn 3. I almost feel bad when I do it! One can only imagine the opponent’s reaction after getting their board wiped away turn after turn.

When I feel like seeing their face in person, I bust it out for FNM. And let me tell you, it’s brutal. The decks at my local game store have become steadily more mid-ranged and creature-based. My deck doesn’t care how many creatures they play, and the matches become a breeze. I’ve even milled out a control opponent by using Jace, Memory Adept’s 0 ability, Detention Sphereing it away, Sundering Growthing my Sphere, then activating him again. The deck has been slaughtering the usual Friday night crowd.

I believe this is the natural progression for UW Control in the post-Return to Ravnica Standard. If you’re looking for a control deck to play, I strongly suggest you give this a try. You won’t be sorry.

— Tyler Priemer
Twitter and Cockatrice: @tylerthefro

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