The first tournament of the year is a Legacy GP in Louisville. I don’t get to talk much about Legacy, which is a shame, so this is a nice way to start this series off. Especially considering that both the SCG Player’s Championship had a Legacy portion, and a Legacy GP in Chiba happened only five weeks past.
With various fast, linear archetypes boxing out Sultai archetypes, Miracles has less Abrupt Decays to face now than ever. Considering how well Miracles does against a lot of that swath of the metagame, it stands to reason that it would be both a popular choice, and a successful one. This means that the key to Legacy has become to beat Miracles while not sacrificing too much of your other matchups. This is the front on which Delver archetypes usually fall.
There are two ways to go about this: the first is to play something fast and linear that isn’t caught under the net of control elements that Miracles brings to the table. Storm and Elves are examples of decks that are fast and linear, but succumb to Miracles’ main game plan and is weak to their card choices, namely Counterbalance and countermagic, and Counterbalance plus spot removal and sweepers respectively.
It’s important that you are still fast and linear, however, as decks that match up well against Miracles gameplan and card choices that are slow and non-linear will simply be stuck in tournament hell where you’ll have to fade a bunch of bad matchups while winning a lot of coin flips, because you aren’t going to get paired against Miracles every round. Shardless and 4-color midrange are examples of this phenomenon.
So what are the decks that fall under the right structure? Sneak and Show and Infect. Both do just fine against Miracles, and are fast and resilient enough to take on any matchup. You’ll have some auto-wins against poor deck choices, favorable matchups against the “best” deck choice, and nothing worse than a 40% pairing in a sea of coinflips.
Infect is very difficult to play but is better against Miracles, while Sneak and Show is easier to play and slightly worse against Miracles, but with better game against a lot of fringe archetypes.
The other way to go about things is to simply play Miracles, but with an extra nod towards the mirror. For that, look no further than Joe Lossett’s list from the Player’s Championship:
3 Snapcaster Mage
3 Vendilion Clique
2 Venser, Shaper Savant
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
3 Force of Will
2 Spell Snare
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Entreat the Angels
1 Arid Mesa
1 Cavern of Souls
4 Flooded Strand
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Volcanic Island
Vendilion Clique and Venser, Shaper Savant are both big nods to the mirror that happen to be good against one of its biggest predators, the aforementioned Sneak and Show, both by costing 4 to counter Sneak Attack off of Counterbalance, and by disallowing an early Show and Tell from outpacing a Jace. Not to mention the addition of not one but two Karakas, both for those synergies and for that matchup, with splash damage elsewhere. The biggest conceit to the mirror is not only playing a 22nd land, but that land being an otherwise very ineffective Cavern of Souls! Joe clearly knew he did not want to lose the mirror when submitting this decklist.
Those creature choices over the more common Monastery Mentors, the second copy of Entreat the Angels (which I think is just plain terrible), or the third Jace, the Mind Sculptor (which I think is just plain great) give you a lot of advantageous play in the mirror, specifically in game 1 in a matchup that is infamous for going to time. All too often you will see Miracles players sideboarding heavily for the mirror, only to lose game one and draw an advantaged position in game two, losing the match.
And while I can’t at all abide the shaving of a Force of Will, I am all about the choice of Spell Snare over traditional Counterspell. Leaner exchanges, added Snapcaster utility, and more mirror tech are exactly what I’d be looking for when examining this card choice. It also has to do with his manabase, as stock Miracles builds have three lands that can’t produce blue in the form of two Plains and a Mountain. Joe has one additional land over those builds, but a total of five lands that don’t cast a Counterspell [or a Counterbalance for that matter] in two Plains, two Karakas, and a Cavern of Souls.
These manabase concessions are also why he sideboards the inferior Back to Basics rather than Blood Moons (or Atsuki Kihara’s GP Chiba tech of playing two copies of From the Ashes, a card he clearly made up and printed in his basement which went undetected on his way to the finals).
I believe that playing a couple copies of Monastery Mentor in your sideboard gives you a lot of range that something as clunky and hamfisted as Entreat the Angels just doesn’t. I think Surgical Extraction is a fancy bow and arrow when you have access to the nuclear option of Rest in Peace. And I’m a big fan of tutor sideboards when you have access to all of these options and Sensei’s Divining Top to team up with Enlightened Tutor to put it directly into your hand.
Here is what I would play if I were to register Miracles:
I’m probably out of practice enough that Miracles would be a poor choice for me, as I’d risk drawing myself out of the tournament if not blundering it away. My inexperience with Legacy Infect leaves me wary in that regard as well. So that just leaves good ol’ Sneak and Show. Not only do I have more experience with it, but the current builds are almost identical to what I used to play; I like more mana sources, I like the one-of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and I prefer Preordain to Gitaxian Probe. All of these are accounted for in Kentaro Yamamoto’s GP Chiba winning list. With only a cosmetic tweak splitting a Spell Pierce into a Flusterstorm, and moving off of the semi-transformational sideboard plan, you have what I would likely be registering were I to play in Louisville:
The biggest mistakes I see players making with this archetype are all rooted in a lack of faith in the deck: overly conservative play, and over-sideboarding. Sneak and Show is very powerful and extremely consistent. You will lose enough games to opponents with way too much sideboard hate to give up games against people without enough by diluting your deck or not letting it function the way it wants to.
I hope this helped if you’re thinking of going to the Grand Prix. I’m heartbroken that there won’t be any video coverage of the event, but I’m just glad that people still get to play big Legacy tournaments at all, so take advantage if you can!
Happy New Year!