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Hope Eternal—The Last Article I Will Ever Write About Miracles

I’m just going to address the elephant in the room right away: the article title is likely a white lie. Sorry if you were sick of me always talking about Miracles and had your hopes up that I really would be done. But I promise I’m going to ease up a bit after this, since I likely won’t have anything worth mentioning, regarding the archetype and my experiences with it for a good while. With the amount of hours of experience that I’ve accrued with this archetype (I think I may have satisfied Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours rule), and the fact that I’m ready to give it the old, “We should see other people,” talk, I feel like the time is right to present to you Evil Tim’s Official Miracles Primer. So, right, can we get some heading-level font, here?

Why Do I Want to Play Miracles?

This is the million dollar question, though if you’re not making vanity purchases like miscut duals, Summer basics, and foil Japanese Polluted Deltas, it’s really more of a two-thousand dollar question if you’re building from scratch. Do you like to play control? Do you want to play the most turns of Magic as possible in all of your matches? Do you enjoy blowing up ALL the creatures, over and over again? Do you have a perceived notion of how a blue control deck is supposed to “feel” based on how they played in the mid-late nineties? Do you want a powerful lock that can put the game away? If you answered “yes” to any of these, then it might be worth giving this deck a shot. Be warned, though, that it requires a significant amount of practice to play this deck in a tournament, particularly with regards to clock management. Miracles is often regarded as the only “true” control deck in this diverse format. I’m not saying there aren’t other control decks, but this is the only one that you see with some regularity in top 16s and testing gauntlets (but don’t let that discourage you from exploring other ideas for control decks; I’ll be doing that, soon, myself). Oh, there’s also something I missed in my initial volley of questions: do you like casting Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Because this is the best Jace deck in the format.

The History of CounterTop Control

The evolution of this deck can be traced back to before the printing of the namesake mechanic, when an innocuous little combo consisting of a pair of uncommons came together to create one of the most dreaded locks in Magic history. When a control player establishes a board with a Counterbalance and a Sensei’s Divining Top, they suddenly have the ability to counter EVERY spell you play for one (or sometimes ZERO!) mana, without the expenditure of any additional cards. There ability to counter you gets even better when you throw four copies of Brainstorm into the mix. Then, we can’t forget about ACTUAL counters like Force of Will, Spell Pierce, and Counterspell to protect the control player before they establish the lock as well as deal with anything that Counterbalance has trouble catching.

Before we had one-mana Wraths and the ability to flood the board with 4/4 flyers at instant speed, we had a couple of different choices as to how we wanted to win with CounterTop. Now, my knowledge on this era is a little shaky, because I played my first game of Legacy EVER at the Twenty Sided Store Halloween party in 2011, and had only acquired a trivial amount of experience with the format prior to the release of Avacyn Restored, so bear with me (though, this is mostly irrelevant/obsolete background information, so it’s not going to completely ruin my primer, I hope). The two prevalent CounterTop lists that I remember seeing when constructing my first Legacy deck included one that ran green (and some third color that I forgot) to beat down with ‘Goyfs and another that included the Sword-Thopter combo. Then miracles were printed and everything changed, forever.

The scene was Atlanta, in the summer of 2012. Control brewers everywhere abandoned all other forms of CounterTop and were rushing to try various different configurations of UWx Miracles. At the time, the only archetype I had some experience piloting was UW Stoneblade. The CounterTop package was something I considered attractive. I mean, what kind of evil mastermind doesn’t like preventing their opponent from ever playing a spell again, right? I wasn’t sure if I was going to commit hard to the miracle plan, but it seemed like it had some potential as another angle of attack out of Stoneblade. Wily Veteran Tim is almost embarassed to post the list that Silly Noob Tim came up with on the plane ride to Atlanta, but Silly Noob Tim went 8-1 on day one of a Grand Prix with this list, while Wily Veteran Tim went 5-3-1 despite having one additional bye and a wealth of additional experience, so who knows who’s right (no, but seriously, don’t actually play this list; I’m just giving a history lesson, here).

Bad list that I am mildly embarassed to post

Planeswalkers (3)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Creatures (7)
Snapcaster Mage
Stoneforge Mystic

Spells (28)
Batterskull
Umezawa’s Jitte
Sensei’s Divining Top
Counterbalance
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Force of Will
Spell Pierce
Swords to Plowshare
Entreat the Angels
Ponder
Terminus

Lands (22)
Glacial Fortress
Island
Karakas
Wasteland
Tundra
Marsh Flats
Flooded Strand
Plains
Sideboard (15)
Counterbalance
Disenchant
Flusterstorm
Grafdigger’s Cage
Path to Exile
Relic of Progenitus
Tormod’s Crypt
Terminus
Engineered Explosives
Crucible of Worlds
Enlightened Tutor

Remember, this was a vastly different world, where Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman did not exist, and Liliana wasn’t nearly as terrifying due to the lack of Deathrite to accelerate her into play and help provide the double black to cast her. Between how much those three cards altered the format and between how little I knew at the time, I would take everything in that above list with a grain of salt. Eventually, through a few months worth of results and tuning, we arrived at several distinctly different variations on this Miracles idea.

Philosophy

The basic idea behind this archetype is taking the lock of Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top, putting it into a strong control shell, and then abusing the fact that Top and Brainstorm can set up your miracles and enable you to cast them at instant speed. Who knew, playing Wrath of God at instant speed for one white or creating n 4/4 fliers for n+2 mana (sorry, I forgot to put the “knows basic algebra” prerequisite at the beginning of this primer) were powerful things you can do!?

The Three Flavors of Miracles

After the dust settled, we were left with two to three different ways to build the deck. I say two to three because you could actually just break it down as RIP-Helm Combo Miracles and Creature-Based Miracles, but I like to further break out the creature-based version, as it can be built in a couple of different ways that offer very different lines of play. The three flavors that I’d like to cover in this guide are RIP-Helm Combo Miracles, Legendary Miracles, and Miracleblade. There are also some fringe variants like Punishing Miracles, Esper Miracles, and various hybridizations of the aforementioned versions, but I haven’t touched any of those (nor have they really put up any noteworthy finishes), and I would prefer to keep this primer confined to what I know best. I have at least one “good” finish* at a large event with each of the three sub-genres we’re going to look at, today.

RIP-Helm Combo

This little number relies on the powerful combination of Rest in Peace and Helm of Obedience to win out of nowhere, once you’ve stabilized, and sometimes, even sooner. The beauty of this combo is that you get to run multiple copies of Rest in Peace in your maindeck, which allows you to invalidate many cards and strategies from the get-go and gives you one of the greatest things to receive during a long, grueling tournament: free wins. Because we are now running a pair of two-card combos that consist entirely of artifacts and enchantments, Enlightened Tutor becomes good enough to maindeck. This lets us get cute with some one-ofs like Energy Field (which also combos with RIP) and Blood Moon, and possibly shave a Counterbalance, due to virtual copies; we also get to load up on silver bullets in the board thanks to the E-Tutor plan. It’s been awhile since I piloted this version in a big event, so rather than paste my list, I’ll give you a list from a more recent top finish. This one comes from Robert Wilkinsin’s 6th place finish at the 11/3/2013 SCG Legacy Open.

RIP-Miracles

Planeswalkers (3)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Creatures (2)
Vendilion Clique

Spells (32)
Helm of Obedience
Sensei’s Divining Top
Counterbalance
Detention Sphere
Energy Field
Rest in Peace
Brainstorm
Enlightened Tutor
Force of Will
Spell Pierce
Swords to Plowshares
Entreat the Angels
Terminus

Lands (23)
Island
Plains
Arid Mesa
Dust Bowl
Flooded Strand
Mystic Gate
Scalding Tarn
Tundra
Volcanic Island
Karakas
Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Pithing Needle
Blood Moon
Humility
Counterspell
Enlightened Tutor
Mindbreak Trap
Pyroblast
Red Elemental Blast
Wear
Entreat the Angels

 

Legendary Miracles

My weapon of choice, this list combines a control-heavy shell with the legendary flash creatures, Venser and Clique. Both have powerful enters the battlefield abilities that can be used repeatedly thanks to Karakas (and in some cases, Jace). Karakas also allows Legendary Miracles to close games out in an efficient and methodical manner with a Clique bringing the beats; three in the air is a fairly significant clock, and Karakas makes most conventional removal a lot worse. This is probably the most decision-intensive version and it sometimes really feels like you have to “work” for your wins, unlike both of the other versions that have more ways of assembling a free win out of nowhere. Here is my current Miracles list:

UWr Miracles

Jaces (3)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Creatures (4)
Vendilion Clique
Venser, Shaper Savant

Spells (30)
Sensei’s Divining Top
Counterbalance
Rest in Peace
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Flusterstorm
Force of Will
Misdirection
Spell Pierce
Swords to Plowshares
Entreat the Angels
Supreme Verdict
Terminus

Lands (23)
Arid Mesa
Flooded Strand
Island
Karakas
Misty Rainforest
Mystic Gate
Polluted Delta
Plains
Scalding Tarn
Tundra
Volcanic Island
Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Entreat the Angels
Flusterstorm
Force of Will
Misdirection
Pithing Needle
Pyroblast
Red Elemental Blast
Rest in Peace
Swan Song
Terminus
Unexpectedly Absent
Venser, Shaper Savant
Wear

Miracleblade

This is currently the least popular of the variants that I am familiar with, by a fairly large margin. Still, I think it provides a fun twist to the deck and enables the pilot to sometimes close games out very quickly on the back of Jitterskull. The list I posted above, from Grand Prix Atlanta, was a very early prototype, and actually leaned more heavily towards the Stoneblade side of the spectrum than the full-on Miracles side. Many current lists that I have seen don’t even run a full set of Mystics. Snapcaster is also better in these types of lists, due to the presence of equipment and a more solid beatdown plan. This list below was piloted to an eighth place finish at a Legacy Open by Joe Bass.

Miracleblade

Planeswalkers (3)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Creatures (6)
Snapcaster Mage
Stoneforge Mystic
Vendilion Clique

Spells (29)
Batterskull
Sensei’s Divining Top
Counterbalance
Brainstorm
Counterspell
Force of Will
Misdirection
Spell Pierce
Swords to Plowshares
Entreat the Angels
Supreme Verdict
Terminus

Lands (22)
Island
Plains
Arid Mesa
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Tundra
Volcanic Island
Academy Ruins
Karakas
Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Tormod’s Crypt
Rest in Peace
Flusterstorm
Path to Exile
Red Elemental Blast
Wear
Umezawa’s Jitte
Vendilion Clique
Venser, Shaper Savant
Terminus
Mountain

Card Choices

Now, we’ll examine the individual cards that form the various Miracle lists to discuss what they contribute, suggested quantities, their interactions with the rest of the deck, and some neat little tricks, where applicable. I’m not going to give a precise sideboarding guide, because I don’t believe in them (sideboarding should be organic, rather than mechanical), but I will mention which matchups some number of a specific card should come in or go out. This is not the be-all end-all list of cards you can play. Metagames shift. Decks come and go. New cards get printed. Old technology gets rediscovered. And you are free to innovate! But these are the commonly played cards in the existing lists that have shown any level of success.

Always Play These

See those three words above? These are non-negotiable cards that should ALWAYS be in the maindeck of your Miracles list. Exact numbers may vary, but I wouldn’t leave home without one of these.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor: My love affair with this card is no secret to anyone who has ever read my column. Jace is your main (or only) source of absolute card advantage (Counterbalance is virtual card advantage). Depending on which version you’re playing, he may also be one of your only win conditions. I’m not going to spend too much time singing his virtues, as they are well-documented, but this guy really does it all. Need some cards? Have a free Brainstorm EVERY TURN! Staring down a troublesome creature? Send it back to where it came! Bonus points if you have a pre-set Counterbalance waiting to hit said creature when it tries to make its way back to the battlefield. Is your opponent in topdeck mode (or do you fear a specific topdeck)? Do you have something completely useless sitting on top of your own deck? Do you just have too many damn cards in your hand and you think you’re ready to win? Jace’s +2 is great for all of these things. And his ultimate… well, you know how a lot of Planeswalker ultimates are just different ways of writing out, “win the game,” but with more elaborate wording? Well Jace’s ultimate is probably the one that comes closest to ACTUALLY saying, “win the game.” I’ve seen some people advocate running the full four copies. I’ve tried it before under the rationale that you always want Jace, but sometimes you pitch one to Force, sometimes one gets plucked by Thoughtseize, and sometimes one will eat a Maelstrom Pulse or something, so it’s good to have extras.

Vendilion Clique: I became a lot higher on Clique in the aftermath of the M14 rules. Not only are they a great way to pressure opposing Planeswalkers (that we can no longer Legend out), but the it’s also very nice to curve a Clique at the end of their third turn, make sure the coast is clear, then resolve big-daddy Jace on the following turn. The fact that Clique plays nicely with Karakas is a nice little bonus.

Sensei’s Divining Top: Half of the infamous CounterTop combo, this amazing one-drop gives us perfect card selection all game long. We ALWAYS want this card, and it’s usually not a terrible thing to draw multiple copies (as long as they’re not held down by a Needle or Revoker), as we can use the tap ability in conjunction with fetchlands to turn excess Tops into new cards. Having two on the battlefield at the same time also is nice in those situations where we need to draw a miracle, but then crack a fetch in order to cast it, so that we don’t feel sadness over shuffling away our only Top.

CounterbalanceThe other half of the vaunted CounterTop lock, this card can prove to be a shining beacon of card advantage. Sometimes, you don’t even need the top, and you just get lucky! This enchantment has some neat interactions with a few other cards in the deck (ANYTHING that manipulates the top card of your library; this includes shuffles).

Brainstorm: This one Magic card probably has more entire articles written about than most archetypes across any format. I’m not going to write about how to properly Brainstorm, because there is already a plethora of literature written about that topic. I’m just tell you some of the additional utility this powerful instant provides in Miracles. (as an aside, if you are diving into Legacy cold, or if this is your first blue deck, I would recommend Googling something like “how to brainstorm mtg,” and check out some of the articles that come up; here’s a good starting point!) When we have a Counterbalance on board, every Brainstorm suddenly becomes this insanely-broken one-mana counterspell that has a Brainstorm tacked onto it. And we haven’t even gotten to the namesake mechanic! Brainstorm allows us to engineer our own miracles by putting that crucial Terminus on top, or setting up that flurry of 4/4s to close the game out. Oh, we also get fresh new cards for the “price” we paid by putting those miracles back on top of our library. In addition to setting the miracles up, Brainstorm can also be used to draw a miracle on our opponent’s turn if we don’t have a Top, or for some reason, we don’t want to use our Top.

Last, but not least, the combination of Brainstorm and Top gives us at least eight (more if we are also running Ponder) ways to potentially keep one-land hands. We would like to keep those types of hands if we can, because this deck hates to mulligan. We don’t really have any source of real card advantage, outside of Jace. Even if we have cards that aren’t exactly the most useful thing in the world, right off the bat, we can turn them into useful cards with Brainstorm and Jacestorm. (obviously, this strategy changes a bit after sideboarding if it is a matchup where having a certain type of card in our opener is vital.)

Counterspell: Ol’ faithful tap for two blue and say, “No.” One of my favorite spells to cast in middle school; still one of my favorites. I usually only run a single copy, as it is sometimes difficult to keep two blue open in the early game, and it would be miserable to be stuck with multiple copies in hand. That said, it’s nice to be able to unconditionally counter something without having to pitch a blue spell or pay five mana. Added bonus: it serves as a two-drop, which is a scarce converted mana cost in the Legendary version. I’ve seen (and ran) an additional copy in the sideboard, in the past, so it’s not unreasonable to have multiple copies in your 75.

Force of Will: The glue that holds all of Legacy together. I like to play three, but it’s not unreasonable to play four. The only reason I normally skimp on one (which I keep in the board for when I do need it) is because I play a Misdirection in the main and enjoy the 3/1 split.

Spell Pierce: Having a few of these in your 75 is a necessary evil to help keep unfair decks honest as well as to win counterwars. It also stops Planeswalkers, like our archenemy, Lily, cold (along with opposing Jaces). Pierce is a pretty versatile tool that is almost never completely dead, so I don’t mind keeping a pair in my maindeck.

Swords to Plowshares: Since last summer, I’ve joined the movement to shave down to three, and I’ve never looked back. After watching Joe Lossett’s stream, I was sold on completely cutting the fourth copy that I moved to the board. The reason being is that we have four other copies of a one-mana removal spell in the seventy five: Terminus.

Entreat the Angels: Remember that algebra thing I was talking about, earlier, with n 4/4 fliers for n + 2 mana? This was a card I used to severely undervalue when I played Miracleblade and RIP-Helm Combo, when I used to believe that one copy was enough. I used to think Entreat could always wait, and that I didn’t need it until I was “ready to win,” whatever that meant. It turns out, when we’re playing Miracles, we’re pretty much ALWAYS ready to win, once we hit five mana. Most fair decks are absolutely overwhelmed by a trio of instant speed 4/4s, especially if they just made an unfavorable attack into them! Even in the versions that run alternate win-conditions, such as Jitterskull or RIP-Helm, it pays to have at least a second copy of Entreat in the sideboard for those situations when game two just finished and the time on the clock is dwindling (which WILL happen), to increase the likelihood of hitting a kill-spell before time expires. I find myself running a pair in the main, but find myself boarding in the third copy more often than not.

TerminusRout for one mana is cool, guys! This is one of the main reasons why we play this deck. Being able to use Top to cast this one-mana sweeper on their turn can be backbreaking. In the current metagame, Terminus has gotten a boost, by virtue of the fact that it is one of the most efficient answers to True-Name Nemesis. Because of the new Progenifish, I would almost say it’s worth testing with four copies in the main (I currently have the fourth copy in the board).

Basics: We only REALLY need two blue and a single white to operate for most of the game (Entreat requires double white, but we usually don’t need it until we’ve stabilized). This means we don’t need ALL the colors ALL the time, so we can get away with playing more basics over duals. This makes us extremely resilient to Wasteland decks. I believe that the ability to often laugh off Wastes is one of the greatest strengths of the archetype.

Duals: This is Legacy, I’m not going to give you an explanation on Dual Lands. Everyone knows what they do and what they’re here for. That said, it’s absolutely unnecessary to max out on them in Miracles (see: Basics).

Fetchlands: Yes, we all know Fetchlands are great. And most Legacy players know that they’re amazing with cards like Brainstorm and Ponder. Top just lets us ratchet the level of utility provided by these lands up to a whole new level! The ability to look at the top three cards is already rather powerful, but when you add in several lands that each provide a one-time shuffle, it gets absurd. Then put that together with Counterbalance.. no more spells for them. Also, here’s a little trick that isn’t immediately obvious: if you have a Counterbalance in play without a Top, and you have a second Counterbalance in hand, it’s not the worst idea to play it (if you don’t need to pitch it to Force), as it has a neat interaction with Fetchlands. They play a spell, you put both Counterbalance triggers on the stack, and then resolve the first Counterbalance trigger. If it’s a hit, it’s a hit, and we move on. If the trigger misses, crack the fetch BEFORE resolving the second Counterbalance trigger, shuffle, and then flip a fresh card. It’s not a high-percentage play, but it works a non-zero percent of the time, and that’s what counts (and you feel like a boss when it does work). Now that you know all this, DO try to avoid cracking fetchlands until you can somehow take advantage of them. Even if “take advantage” is something as insignificant as flipping a card to Counterbalance, deciding you don’t like it, and shuffling it away so you can draw something fresh.

(next level tip: sometimes, I will lead off with Scalding Tarn without cracking it, to try to bluff that I am RUG Delver; an experienced player may hesitate cracking their own fetch, out of respect for Stifle, which could buy you a turn; I also don’t know if this actually works, as it’s just sort of a silly guess of mine, though, I try to respect Stifle when I see a mystery deck with uncracked RUG fetches.)

Karakas: At the bare minimum, there will always be one Clique (but preferably more!) in our 75. That, alone, doesn’t make it terrible to run one. Getting to reuse Clique’s trigger is sweet. Having a blocker that never dies is also sweet. Maybe they also just happen to be playing a Cheat-a-Fatty-into-Play deck. That just randomly makes our Karakas even stronger. Sometimes, we can use it to escape from under the grip of a Thalia or Gaddock Teeg for a turn, both of whom can be crippling to our game plan (especially if we have a Counterbalance in play, with a two sitting on top of our deck). Yes, it exposes us to Wasteland a bit, but I think the risk is worth the potential reward. Maybe we’re playing a version running Venser, as well, in which case it becomes very reasonable to run two copies. Venser, Clique, and Karakas operating in tandem is just a nightmare for most opponents to deal with.

These Are Sometimes Good

Cards that don’t show up in every list, but they have their uses. Some of the cards in this section include cards that might be version-specific, like Stoneforge Mystic (who obviously shows up in the Miracleblade variant). Again, we’re still mostly talking maindeck cards.

Snapcaster Mage: Great against Miracle mirrors if they have maindeck RIP (which you probably don’t want to be doing, yourself, if you’re playing Snappy). That said, I prefer to maindeck RIP, which makes Tiago a lot worse.

Stoneforge Mystic: She’s only played in the Miracleblade variant. (Derp.. do I really need to talk about what she does? You know, right? Assemble Jitterskull, go to town..)

Venser, Shaper Savant: There are SO MANY COOL TRICKS that this guy can do. I could probably write a whole article on just Venser (don’t tempt me, I’ll do it). He can act as a soft counter (read: Remand) against otherwise uncounterable spells. He can save your permanents from Abrupt Decay, or any form of removal that doesn’t have split second. You can use him to dig out of a parity situation faster by activating Top to draw while holding priority, and then casting Venser and using his trigger to bounce Top; you will still draw a card, but Top will go to your hand rather than the top of your deck. He can effectively fog an entire attack if everyone is coming at Jace. He can save your lands from Wasteland, which becomes pretty good with Karakas—oh, SPEAKING OF KARAKAS! YEAH! That’s when things get REALLY fun. Venser also makes for a pretty good card to have when your opponent casts Show and Tell.

Batterskull/Umezawa’s Jitte/Sword of X&Y: See: Stoneforge Mystic. Sword is optional, but play the other two equipment in the main, just like you would in any normal Blade deck.

Helm of Obedience: This is basically a five mana (costs four, but you need one to activate) do-nothing card until you have RIP. Then it becomes a five mana win-the-game. Though, I did once activate it against 12-post in hopes that I might be able to steal an Eldrazi; it didn’t work, and it’s too bad, because that was actually on camera, and would’ve made for one of the sweetest rips EVER.

Blood Moon: This enchantment isn’t the free win that it was, a few months ago, but I still think it makes for a reasonable sideboard slot. It’s one of the few ways to make the 12-post matchup remotely fair. It was absolutely crippling to some of the greedy, Wasteland-playing, three-color manabases that were everywhere, last summer, and provided a level of free wins on par with Rest in Peace. Just be mindful when casting this that if you don’t have both of your plains, it’s going to be challenging for you to cast Entreat, as you will not be able to fetch it after slamming Moon.

Detention Sphere: This is usually found in the board, but it’s been effective in the main for me, before. It’s a good catch-all answer that happens to pitch to Force and is a three-drop for Counterbalance.

Energy Field: Popular in the RIP-Helm combo builds, though it’s not unplayable in other versions; if you’re playing 2-3 RIPS in your 75 (which the non-combo variants usually do) and a tutor board, it’s not unreasonable to also put one of these in your board. This card is a free win in some matchups, and who doesn’t love free wins?

Oblivion Ring: I prefer D-Sphere. The benefits of pitching to Force outweigh the liability of getting hit by REB and being unable to break a Jace mirror. Sometimes getting a two-for-one or invalidating Empty the Warrens are nice ancillary benefits, but not the main draw.

Rest in Peace: One half of an “I win!” combo, I would advocate playing this enchantment even without the combo. The power it has over decks that it’s good against is phenomenal, and when we don’t need it, we have enough ways to shuffle it away. In the Legendary build, it also helps fill the light two-slot on the Counterbalance curve.

Enlightened Tutor: Lets us assemble our combo(s) quickly, as well as find our silver bullets. Outside of those obvious uses, E-tutor also has a neat interaction with Counterbalance, where we can go and dig up the exact mana cost that we need to counter whatever pesky spell is on the stack.

Flusterstorm: I get a surprising number of people who are caught off guard by the maindeck copy. In some cases, this card is a great trump in a counter war, as it is very hard (or near impossible) for your opponent to be able to counter this back. Sometimes it’s a complete blowout if you’re up against a storm opponent. At other times, it’s just a bad Spell Pierce that draws a sigh of resignation from you while you shift your stare from the Liliana of the Veil on the stack to the useless Flusterstorm sitting in your hand. I wouldn’t go above one copy in the main, but you definitely want at least one in the 75.

Misdirection: Bayou-based decks happen to have a large number of cards that we don’t really like to see resolve. They include Hymn, Ancestral Vision, and Abrupt Decay. Misdirection is a blowout against all of them. The fact that it doubles as a Force of Will in a counterwar certainly makes a case for giving this card maindeck consideration, if you aren’t, already.

Spell Snare: This card seems to have fallen a bit out of favor, likely because of the combination of facts that many of the fair decks can easily skip two on the curve, thanks to Deathrite, and that one of our most-despised two-drops, Abrupt Decay, is uncounterable. I like it a lot more if you’re playing a Snapcaster build.

Unexpectedly Absent: The double white is a difficult requirement to meet; a friend actually suggested cutting red completely and running FOUR of these in the 75. His reasoning was that you no longer get REBs, but you don’t need them as much when you have four copies of a catch-all answer. It’s worth experimenting with, but I’ll have to wait until Commander comes online before I can get some serious reps in. I have discussed the implications of this card in a prior post.

Ponder: Rafael Levy was a big fan of playing this in his early Miracle lists, though I personally feel that we have enough one-mana card selection spells, between Brainstorm and Top. I’ll sometimes play a single copy, but I usually end up cutting it before taking it to any major event. I have seen some lists with several Ponders running a very light land count, though, which is something nice that the extra cantrips allow you to get away with. Ponder also gets WAY better in a Snapcaster build.

Supreme VerdictSome lists were starting to cut this card, but I expect that trend to cease with the rise of True-Name decks. Having an uncounterable answer to this new menace seems like a decent idea.

Academy Ruins: For when you want to run maindeck Explosives. Also decent in Miracleblade.

Dust Bowl: I’ve only used this on one occasion, and it was when I was not splashing a third color. Playing utility lands that produce colorless mana can be a big sacrifice, so it had better be worth it. That said, a repeatable Wasteland is pretty nice, at times.

Mostly Sideboards and Fringe Technology

I’m not saying I would NEVER play one of these in my main, but the sideboard is where you’ll usually find these guys.

Ethersworn Canonist: Tutorable anti-Storm tech. Can also beat down. (don’t laugh, it happens!)

Meddling Mage: Pikula might be a reasonable choice in the more creature-heavy Blade lists, especially since he looks good holding a Jitte. I usually prefer something E-Tutorable for permanent-based answers, though.

Engineered Explosives: a versatile answer that can evade opposing Counterbalances and other nuisances, like Chalice of the Void (remember, x and sunburst can be different numbers). It also feels good to get a two or three-for-one. You can get a big-number-for-one against Elves with this.

Grafdigger’s Cage/Relic of Progenitus/Tormod’s Crypt/Surgical Extraction: Here’s your suite of non-RIP graveyard hate. I currently don’t play any of these, as I feel that RIP is enough, but I’ve played all of them at some point. Sometimes, RIP is too slow; Reanimator can actually go off on turn two quite often, and turn one with the right nut draw. Surgical might look a bit loose, but it gets better if you’re playing with Snappy.

Pithing Needle: A versatile hate card, I’ll bring this in for any opposing non-Jace ‘Walkers (read: Lily). A well-placed Needle can often take out a key cog to someone’s win condition, like Grindstone, for example.

Humility: Be warned that some tribal decks will just beat you to death with eight 1/1s if you play this and think you’re safe. I’m still a fan, though, because of its ability to shut out Sneak & Show.

Moat: Great for dealing with all the tribal decks, Goblins, Elves, and Fish. Also deals with True-Name. Unfortunately, it is pretty much useless against Sneak.

Runed Halo: I’ve never actually seen this used, but I could see it happening in a post-True-Name world.

Disenchant: If you don’t want to splash red, then I would play one of these. Otherwise, see: Wear//Tear.

Divert: This card seems better than it actually is. I played it in one event, when Abrupt Decay decks were likely at their historical peak, and I don’t think I hit with it once, all day. I may have forced someone to pay an extra two, once, just to take away some of their mana for value because that was all I could get with it.

Path to Exile: Nobody plays this anymore.. most people don’t even play the full four Swords. That said, I played a pair of Paths, early on, before gradually cutting one, then both, then the fourth plow. If Maverick-style decks see a major resurgence, maybe Path comes back into the picture, but it’s SUPER fringe for the time being.

Pyroblast & REB: The best anti-blue card in our arsenal. Counters stuff, kills Jaces and Cliques, blows up opposing D-Spheres, etc. Play a split, as insurance against Surgical Extraction and Meddling Mage. If you’re playing an odd number, slightly favor Pyroblast, as it has some fringe benefits, like being able to increase the storm count for Flusterstorm, despite not having any legal targets, and being able to kill a Phantasmal Image that’s copying a non-blue creature.

Swan Song: Having one or two of these out of the board is nice for dealing with combo matchups, particularly Show and Tell and Storm Combo decks. Don’t rely too heavily on this card, though, as it is bad against decks that can present any sort of normal clock, as the 2/2 advances their gameplan. One or two copies in the board seems like a decent number.

Wear//Tear: In addition to spending one less mana to hit enchantments than Disenchant and having the ability to two-for-one, this is a great card to float in your top three when you have CounterTop established (or to keep on top if you don’t have Top, but can set the top of your deck once with something like Brainstorm), as it hits both ones AND twos! That’s right, not everyone this, but when flipped to Counterbalance, split cards count as both converted mana costs rather than the sum.

 

To Be Continued…

See, I told you my article title was a lie! No, but seriously, we’re already at more than double my average article length, and I do have a day job. I want this to be perfect, because to be honest, this archetype has a very special place in my heart. We’ll cover many of the commonly played matchups, sample hands and mulligan decisions, and some video analysis next Thursday. Same evil place, same evil time. Also, for those that haven’t been paying attention, DAILIES ARE BACK! Unfortunately, they are not using the old method of having a staggered schedule where the event times shift every day. Instead, Legacy Dailies are at 6pm and 11pm EST (and 11am and 2:30pm, but like I said, I have a day job.. gotta pay for Legacy cards in both the paper and digital realms somehow!), so I’ll try to stream the 11pm when I can; the 6pm is probably tough for me because I usually have a few meetings towards the end of the day and would need to get out of the office by 5:30, which is a challenge. I’m hoping they go back to the staggered schedule so I don’t have to commit to staying up until 2:30am to play a daily.

In other news, I’ll have more time for the next couple months to devote towards Legacy (and Magic, in general), as I just finished with a major exam I was studying for. (On the downside, my gut tells me that I may have to take it again in June, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.) The timing is great, since it coincides with the return of Daily Events. What makes this extra sweet is that I picked up MODO Wastelands during Tempest flashback week and U.Seas/Deltas while I was on daily hiatus, so I’ll have some new decks open to me for streaming.

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