CounterTop. The very word is enough to send chills through the spines of Legacy players and interior decorators alike. The slow, grinding combination of Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance is easily the most oppressive combination a control deck can run as it seeks to shut the opponent out of ever playing another spell for the rest of the game. With Legacy being effectively a 1CMC format, the ability to use Sensei’s Divining Top to keep a 1CMC card on top of your deck does wonders for locking down the majority of decks, making CounterTop one of the most frustrating things to play against in the game.
The game plan for Miracles is relatively simple. Turn 1 play Sensei’s Divining Top, turn 2 play Counterbalance, then turns 3 through 30 durdle until you can either activate Jace’s ultimate or cast Entreat the Angels for a lethal amount of tokens. While the CounterTop combo is certainly the core of the deck, Miracles really derives its power from the innate synergy between Sensei’s Divining Top and Terminus. Instant speed board wipes are a rarity in Magic, and the ones that do exist tend to exceed seven mana to cast. However, with Sensei’s Divining Top you can crack the Top to draw a card whenever you want, and if a Terminus is on top you can cast it for a measly White mana. Since you are constantly manipulating your deck through Top, Brainstorm, and Jace, the odds of a Terminus on top of your deck tend to be pretty high, which is a nightmare for any deck that relies attacking with creatures to win. As this comprises roughly 95% of the format, the instant-speed Terminus is a feared card indeed.
With the board cleared, it’s then time for Jace, the Mind Sculptor to steadily take over the game. Every mode on Jace can be backbreaking, and once resolved it becomes very difficult for the opponent to catch up. Getting a free Brainstorm every turn not only allows you to set up the top of your deck, it also frees up your regular Brainstorms to pitch to Force of Will or to cast a Terminus on your opponent’s turn. This incremental card advantage is perfect for grinding your opponent into oblivion, but when you really want to keep them out of the game you can activate Jace’s +2 to fateseal their deck, effectively filtering their draws so they never get anything good. The last trick that Jace can do is Unsummoning the opponent’s creatures, as this can help you save your Terminus or Swords to Plowshares for when they try to overextend to get around the -1 ability. Jace’s ultimate, while game ending on its own, is often an afterthought in all but the tightest races, since by the time you are able to use it you have often controlled the game long enough that you can cast a lethal Entreat the Angels or the opponent has quit in frustration.
One of the best aspects of Miracles is that unlike most Blue decks in Legacy, it doesn’t have to jam itself full of countermagic. Despite being a control deck, a minimum package of 4 Force of Will, a single Pyroblast, and a pair of Counterspell are all you really need since CounterTop does so much of the heavy lifting. This frees up slots for both removal in the form of Swords to Plowshares and Council’s Judgment, as well as extra deck manipulation in Ponder and Dig Through Time. This gives the deck the means to prolong the game long enough to find an Entreat the Angels and finish them off.
The land base is something worth noting, since despite being a primarily two colour deck, Miracles tends to run upwards of 10 fetchlands. While deck thinning and finding your splash colours is important, Miracles runs this many fetches to help prevent the dreaded “Top Lock”. Top Lock is when you have three undesirable cards on top of your deck with no way to get rid of them, so it’s important to always leave a fetchland open to shuffle your deck. As well, Miracles tends to prioritize fetching their basics until it’s absolutely necessary to get a dual. This is mostly to mitigate the effectiveness of Wasteland, but it’s also because most Miracles decks run Blood Moon in the sideboard, which is something of a nonbo with dual lands.
WHAT SHOULD I RUN IN MY SIDEBOARD?
As a control deck, you typically want to run cards that neutralize the effectiveness of certain problem decks. For example, the aforementioned Blood Moon is absolutely backbreaking against tri-coloured decks like Shardless BUG and RUG Delver since it shuts off their ability to cast any of their spells, and the ability to shut off the abilities from lands like Thespian’s Stage help keep decks like Lands under control long enough to set up your own game plan. As well, Miracles tends to run both Grafdigger’s Cage and Rest in Peace to stop graveyard oriented decks like Dredge and Reanimator, which can combo off before you can establish the CounterTop lock.
For combo decks like OmniTell, Miracles tends to board in Red Elemental Blast, Pyroblast, and Spell Pierce to keep the opponent from resolving their key spells. These also help you win counter wars against tempo decks like Delver, since they tend to have more countermagic than you do. As well, for opposing Red decks with Pyroblast, Miracles also has the option to bring in Blue Elemental Blast to counter opposing Pyroblasts, and even destroy the occasional Sneak Attack or Goblin Guide. Another useful tool against combo decks is Vendilion Clique, as it can get rid of a key card in the opponent’s hand as well as provide a clock to pressure them.
For more creature-oriented decks, Miracles runs an additional Council’s Judgment to pick off problem permanents like Batterskull or even Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and a single copy of Supreme Verdict provides an uncounterable board wipe against decks like Merfolk, Delver, and even Goblins, which can pressure you before you can set up a Terminus. Against slower decks, Monastery Mentor gives the deck the ability to play the beatdown, as every noncreature spell you cast will make a Monk token. Since you can constantly put Sensei’s Divining Top on top of your deck to cast again, you can produce a steady stream of tokens to quickly close out a game.
Some other options that Miracles often runs, depending on your metagame, are Enlightened Tutor, Helm of Obedience, and Keranos, God of Storms. The Enlightened Tutor and Helm of Obedience, when combined with Rest in Peace, create a sort of instant-win combination to catch opponents off guard. With Rest in Peace in play, you can activate Helm for 1 and mill your opponent’s entire deck. Enlightened Tutor really helps tie the combo together, as it allows you to fetch for either an enchantment or artifact and put it on top of your deck at instant speed, so you can run the bare minimum number of combo pieces and still go off. Keranos is for the more grinding matchups like the Miracles mirror, since you either get to draw an additional card every turn or you get a free Lightning Bolt every turn, and with Sensei’s Divining Top controlling your draws, you can pick and choose what Keranos will do each turn. As well, since Keranos is an enchantment, you can even tutor for it with Enlightened Tutor. However, if your meta is more Delver and combo based this package might be too slow to reliably work.
HOW ARE MY MATCHUPS?
As the de facto control deck in Legacy, you have a bit of an advantage over aggressive decks like Death & Taxes and Elves. All it takes is a single resolved Terminus to undo turns of progress, buying you plenty of time to lock down the game with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The smartest way to fight Miracles is to stick one or two big threats and force you to use your Terminus while holding back reserve creatures. If you can use your Swords to Plowshares and Jace -1s effectively, you can mitigate this plan immensely, turning their own caution against them. Delver is slightly different as they can over-commit to the board while holding up countermagic for your Terminus. Here you typically have to stockpile countermagic for the one big fight over a Terminus that, should you out-counter them, will swing the game in your favour and leave them with nothing.
Combo is a slightly different animal, as it requires you to establish CounterTop just to survive rather than establish any kind of control game. Most combo decks can go off before Counterbalance is even a factor, so you really need to lay on the countermagic if you have any hope of winning. Reanimator and Dredge can really steal games away from you if you’re not prepared, and they can put enough pressure on your that your options quickly turn into Terminus or lose. For Storm, it’s really a matter of countering the right spells and letting Counterbalance do the heavy lifting. The majority of their deck is 0 and 1CMC spells, so keeping a land or a Top on top can keep them from resolving their cantrips and mana rocks. This lets you save your Force of Wills and Spell Pierces for Infernal Tutor and Ad Nauseum, which are the key win conditions. If Storm is particularly problematic for you, swapping the Spell Pierces in the sideboard for Flusterstorm can help keep them under control.
As far as bad matchups go, decks that tend to ramp out like MUD, Nic Fit, and Titan Post are abysmal, as they often don’t care about what you have going on. For the most part Counterbalance is useless against their threats, and they often have the tools to render your Swords to Plowshares useless, such as Chalice of the Void or Emrakul just being straight up immune to spot removal. As well, even Blood Moon does little to hurt these decks, since even Titan Post brings in Krosan Grip to kill Counterbalance, and you’re just giving them more targets to work with. I’m not saying they’re impossible matchups, but if you can avoid them do so at all cost.
SO WHY SHOULD I BUILD MIRACLES?
You should build Miracles because it’s a tournament playable alternative to Ambien. All joking aside, Miracles is an incredibly powerful deck against the majority of the creature decks in the format, and as Legacy and Magic in general start pushing toward more creatures and combat, the instant speed Terminus will always be a powerhouse. This is THE control deck for Legacy, with some of the best control cards from Magic’s history, so if you are a fan of making opponents feel helpless and locked down, then Miracles is the deck for you!
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