Continental Miracle Masters

Posted in Event Coverage on November 26, 2016

By Chapman Sim

Going into any Legacy tournament, you'd better be prepared to play against Miracles because the White-Blue Control deck has been a cornerstone of the format ever since Avacyn Restored brought us Terminus and Entreat the Angels. It wouldn't be wise to not have it on your radar. Over the last four years, Miracles has undergone numerous evolutions. With most shells being similar to one another, around 90% of every Miracle deck shares the same core but it is the remaining 10% that sets it apart from each other.

Today, we're here with three players from three continents who are piloting this dominant archetype and share with us what makes their own deck tick.

The American Miracle Master


Joe Lossett, the American Miracle master

Two-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Joe Lossett has a reputation for being one of the best players in North America to have ever piloted Miracles. He has at least 20 documented Top 8 performances across various StarCityGames.com Open Series events and over 20 performances within the Top 64. Most recently, he also came in second place at Grand Prix Columbus 2016—narrowly losing out in the finals—solidifying his supremacy when it comes to the leading White-Blue control deck in Legacy.

Force of Will is probably the best counterspell to have ever been printed and the same is true for Swords to Plowshares when it comes to creature removal spells. While most player usually run the full playset, Lossett is often seen sporting only three copies of each.

What kind of world do we live in where three Swords to Plowshares and three Force of Will in the maindeck is the correct number?

Jossett's world, obviously!

"The fourth Swords to Plowshares is very bad in the mirror match and I always try to tune my deck to beat the mirror. That's how I have always approached the format and on certain occasions I even move the fourth Force of Will to the sideboard and bring it in only against combo. That's not to say I am one removal short, I'm simply swapping it out for Engineered Explosives because Chalice of the Void is a huge headache for Miracles. I'm also expecting more Death and Taxes given the popularity of many new cards which gave the deck a slight boost."

While a lot of players value card advantage in the mirror match (which gives rise to players sometimes boarding out one Force of Will to preserve every shred of card economy), Lossett is an advocate of board advantage instead.

"If you look at my list I'm usually running a lot more creatures than others. Like before, I'm playing 3 Vendilion Clique and 2 Venser, Shaper Savant along with 2 Karakas. Karakas allows me to reuse my Legendary creatures and also improves my matchup against Emrakul and Thalias. People like to have cards in their hand, I like to have cards on the board! At one point, I even considered playing Emrakul, the Promised End but it just seems so slow. On the bright side, if I do get to cast it, I can cast it every single turn (points to Karakas)!"

This proactive approach is certainly good in circumventing one of Miracle's weaknesses and that is the ability to close games quickly. There is also the fear of picking up a draw due to the long matches resulting one in dropping into the draw bracket where things spiral downhill as you get matched against other slow matchups.

"I'm all set for Death and Taxes and Eldrazi today," Lossett said as he pointed to his two Moat and two Back to Basics in the sideboard. "It's better than Ensnaring Bridge and Blood Moon in my opinion. However, playing Moat means I cannot run Monastery Mentor. I'm also here today with a second Surgical Extraction and three Flusterstorms to beat the combo decks."

So, is Blood Moon better or is Back to Basics better?

"Well, let's just assume you have 2 Islands and 1 Volcanic Island and then you cast Blood Moon. You have no white mana and you cannot fetch for Plains even if you draw Flooded Strand later. This is why I prefer Back to Basics. Also, against Eldrazi, they can still tap all their lands to cast nasty things like Endless One but if they try that against Back to Basics they never get their mana back."


Grand Prix Chiba is Joe Lossett's first taste of a Japanese Grand Prix.

We've always known that Lossett is a huge fan of Legacy but for him to cross the Pacific to attend this Grand Prix is further evidence that he believes in his deck choice and his ability to play it well. In addition, this is also Lossett's first time in Japan, a country which he has always wanted to visit.

"When I told my family that I was going to Japan, they were doubtful that I would actually go because the trip might cost quite a bit. Once I made my decision and registered for the Grand Prix, my mother and my sister decided they wanted to tag along as well! We're very spontaneous that way. While I play Magic this weekend, they're likely to go shopping around Tokyo this weekend and we'll group up again next Monday."

Hopefully, Lossett will be delivering them good news over a well-deserved sushi feast.

Joe Lossett's Miracles

The Japanese Miracle Master

Nobody would dare to put themselves in the same league as Lossett unless they're really in the same league. What I say is true because nobody is as famous as Nobuo Saito within the Japanese Legacy community. As the best Miracles player in Japan, he has won numerous tournaments all over the nation.


Nobuo Saito, the Japanese Miracles master

"Miracles is absolutely the best deck in Legacy ever. It's not close. I played it on the release weekend at a Legacy tournament and I won. And then the next week, I went to another Legacy tournament and I won that one too. Both of them were about 80 – 100 players."

Most interestingly, he leads a dedicated Legacy team of seven players (including himself) and they exclusively work on Miracles together. Collectively, they play an average of 500 games in a single playtesting session.

"We meet up regularly every week and we play almost all Legacy tournaments. All seven of us are Miracles players and we hold meetings and playtesting sessions just to test one or two cards. We also have a chat group which we call The Miracles Room, where we discuss anything and everything about Miracles as a deck."

Indeed, The Miracles Room is where all the magic happens and Saito estimates that he has played at least 2000 games with Miracles alone in the last four years. This number would be astoundingly high if not for the fact that he occasionally takes on the role of the "gauntlet pilot" and plays other decks against his teammates for practice sake. However, Saito is running a sixty-one card deck this weekend and it is certainly going to raise some eyebrows. However, he insists that none of the cards in the maindeck can be cut, citing more reasons that I can put in writing.

Just to mention a few key points, he needs to stick to the magic number of 21 lands because he believes that "20 or 22 are both wrong". In addition, the most special card that differentiates him from other Miracles decks is the inclusion of 2 Predict.

"Predict is a 2 mana instant that effectively draws you three cards. Or rather, it often feels like 'Draw 2. Scry 1.' because you often know what the top card of your deck is. This is very important in grindy matchups. It sometimes acts like pressure at the end of your opponent's turn so that you can untap and cast something else even more important. Opponents who underestimate its power simply lose out in card advantage."

While most players are playing four copies of Ponder, Saito is only playing three. It's crazy because Ponder is strong enough to be banned in Modern and yet when the chance to play all four in Legacy arises, Saito doesn't capitalize on it.

"The point is that Chalice of the Void is everywhere in Legacy. You lose to Chalice of the Void more often than you lose in any other manner. It's doesn't look like much but it hedge to mitigate."

Also, Saito is agreeing with Lossett on the Back to Basics, which he is also playing today. However, he has cited a very, very different reason for wanting Back to Basics over Blood Moon.

"Yes, you can lock down Eldrazi decks and the Lands decks, but the most important thing to understand is that I want to use my fetch lands. The whole deck is basically built to abuse what is at the top of your deck and you want to shuffle away the cards you don't want to get the cards you want. If you play Blood Moon, you lose the ability to shuffle and it weakens your Brainstorm, Ponder, Sensei's Divining Top and Predict."

Nobuo Saito's Miracles

The European "Miracle Master"

Because this is a Japanese Grand Prix, there aren't that many European players in the room. However, those who are present are pretty good and include international superstars such as Jeremy Dezani, Oliver Polak-Rottman, and Valentin Mackl. As a former Austria National Champion and a Gold pro with six Grand Prix Top 8s, we wanted to hear what he had to say about Miracles as well!


Valentin Mackl, the European "Miracle master"???

"No, no, no. I'm not a Miracle master. I don't even play Legacy that much," Mackl confesses.

I told Mackl begrudgingly, "I hate to break the news to you but you might be the only European player in the room who is playing Miracles. That makes you the best European Miracles player in the room. By default. We don't have a choice. So, well, you're the best."

"Well, ok then. *grins* I'll be your European Miracles master for today."

Jokes aside, Mackl quickly points out that the biggest problem with Miracles is not in its ability to control the game but its ability to complete the game.

"You often find yourself in a position where you cannot win fast enough. If we're playing untimed matches, I would play zero Monastery Mentor. Since our tournaments are timed, I am playing two copies of it in the maindeck and zero Entreat the Angels. Entreat the Angels is only good when you already won game and bad in every other situation. However, Monastery Mentor can help you to crawl back into the game if you're behind."


Mackl looking majestic at the Feature Match area.

Mackl says that you only want the Entreat against decks which are grindy, without counterspells and don't play Wasteland, which is why he has kept in a copy in his sideboard. He's also playing three Pyroblast instead of the split between Red Elemental Blast and cites that Pyroblast is simply the better card.

"I'm not going to worry something fringe like Meddling Mage or Surgical Extraction because those situations are almost never going to happen. I am playing with Monastery Mentor and that is why Pyroblast is the better card because I can always get my triggers if I topdeck it."

Both look the same but the difference is that Pyroblast can target any spell or any permanent. You never worry about not having a and to target so you can always get your prowess triggers when you need them. Imagine a situation where you have Monastery Mentor and your opponent is at three life and you draw Red Elemental Blast. Oh, oh...

Also, Mackl is on the other side of the fence when it comes to his mana disruption card of choice. Both Lossett and Saito prefer Back to Basics, but Mackl does not.

"My theory is that, when you're bringing in Blood Moon and you resolve it, you should win that game. You don't need to worry about not having white mana or not being able to sacrifice your fetch lands anymore. If you resolve Blood Moon against Eldrazi, they are not likely to beat you with only Endless Ones. If you resolve Blood Moon against Lands, they're not going to beat you either. Most importantly, Blood Moon comes in against matchups that Back to Basics doesn't, for example Grixis Delver. Blood Moon is also better against Abrupt Decay. In decks like Jund, they can just play Taiga and Bayou and cast Abrupt Decay to get out of trouble."

However, Mackl's choices also deviate slightly when it comes to the "two countermagic slots". Lossett is playing 2 Spell Snare, Saito is playing 1 Counterspell and 1 Spell Snare, while Mackl is playing 2 Counterspells.

"The Spell Snares are probably there to counter Chalice of the Void but I just want a better card to draw in the late game. I don't want to be in a position where I'm holding Spell Snare and my opponent casts a one or three mana card which kills me. Counterspell is slower, but it is also a catch-all card. I sacrifice early game defense for late game power. I think it is a matter of preference and nobody is right or wrong."

Lastly, two copies of Kozilek's Return are in Mackl's sideboard and they're pretty good against Death and Taxes.

"Usually, they will set Sanctum Prelate on six to stop your Terminus. Then, if they have Mother of Runes, you're screwed. However, Kozilek's Return gets rids of both of them! Yay!"

So guys, which do you think is the best Miracles master of them all? Whatever it is, it is my belief that they're all masters in their own right.

Valentin Mackl's Miracles

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