A Treatise on Miracles, Legacy, and Me

Hello my friends! This will be a not-so-short 3 part piece regarding a few things.  Part 1 will be on Miracles, Part 2 will be on the Legacy metagame today, and Part 3 will be an introspective piece.  I have a lot of thoughts that I’d like to get out, so I figured it would be best to write a little bit, as well as possibly being cathartic.  This is almost certainly an opinion peace and will likely be full of bias, but please bear with me.

Part 1: ON MIRACLES.

Miracles is gone from Legacy now. The best deck in Legacy for the past 3 years is now defunct, never truly toppled from its throne.  Decks and metagames have ebbed and flowed through Legacy, but Miracles was truly the king.

On average, every major Legacy event since the end of 2013 has had at least 1 Miracles deck into the elimination rounds, and for good reason.  For those of you that don’t know why the deck was good, it was a relatively simple concept: Miracles is essentially a deck that fights across 2 different axes, and it utilizes its cantrip suite to “glue” the two pieces together.  It was apt at always finding what it needed, when it needed it.  The lynchpin of this deck were two cards: Sensei’s Divining Top and Brainstorm.  Most lists also flexed the power of Ponder and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and, towards the end (my own personal contribution) Predict.  Utilizing these cantrips, it was able to fend off combo, fair, aggro, and tempo strategies whenever it needed to, making the deck very powerful.

Miracles was also unique in its ability to completely change each time the metagame evolved or changed, to adjust and rise to the occasion when needed.  When Miracles decks were attacked by the rise of Chalice of the Void, they adapted by pressuring these decks with Monastery Mentor and you saw an influx of main deck artifact removal, such as Engineered Explosives, as well more powerful nonbasic hate like From the Ashes, and so on.   No other singular archetype could adapt as easily or as readily and still remain competitive.  Legend Miracles and Mentor Miracles played completely differently, had completely different strengths and weaknesses, but were two sides of the same coin within the Miracles archetype.

Miracles was banned because it was too good for far too long, as well as the quoted “logistical problem” of Sensei’s Divining Top (I won’t go into this).  The truth is, I saw it coming.  When I started working with the secret “Miracles” cabal, and when we ran with the idea of “Predictable Miracles,” I knew that we were running with borrowed time.  Predict Miracles was an idea that we started working on about a year and a half ago, but the real breaking point was when the metagame slowed down and became overrun by BUG decks.  We began to play 3-4 Predicts in our decks and the grindy metagame became absurdly easy to win in.  The last two major Legacy events before the banning were dominated by Miracles, where my friends and teammates came into the finals with, resulting in TWO Predict Miracles mirrors in the finals, and Predict Miracles also won the last SCG Legacy Open.  I sincerely believe that this was the best the deck had ever been, and to see it all end as such, and having been a part of it all, gives me a small sense of satisfaction.

We broke Miracles.  I can confidently say that, and I’m both happy and sad to have been a part of this entire process.  People attacked Miracles wrong, even at the end.  You cannot hope to grind, we’ll adapt, play 3-4 Predicts, and throw cards at you.  You cannot go under, we’ll pull a Claudio Bonanni and jam Dazes into our Miracles list.  If you wanted a truly good Miracles matchup, you have to skew your deck in a lot of ways, such as Jonathan Alexander’s RUG Winter Orb deck, or rely on cheesing half of the deck out with Chalice of the Void-esque lock pieces, like that which Eldrazi employed.

Its adaptability and ability to find the cards it needed when it needed it was too much of a tipping point.  The deck was banned on Monday, April 24th.  The King is Dead, Long Live the King.

Part 2: ON LEGACY TODAY

Right now, the Legacy metagame is amazingly in flux, and many people that left the format due to the dominance and prominence of Miracles have come back to return to the format, and it’s the Wild Wild West.  It’s a brand new format, it’s completely different, and entire format is now wide open.  The absence of a true control deck, a Tier 0 control deck, created a massive void, and people are brewing like crazy.

Week 1 has past, and, as most people originally predicted, was widely represented by linear combo decks.  Storm, Elves, BR Reanimator was everywhere, because there is no longer a Policing Control deck to keep things down.  My predictions for the metagame for the next few weeks basically boils down to 3 decks coming out as top dog, with a few sleeper hits.

I believe the 3 best decks for the next few weeks, and, incidentally, what should be the litmus test for most people that want to play or take Legacy seriously for the next few weeks while the format settles are: Elves, Storm, and Delver.  Think of it like this: The deck that gains the most from the loss of Terminus is Elves, the deck that gains the most from the loss of Counterbalance (since they can now have ACTUAL sideboard slots) is Storm, and the deck that stands the chance to be the most fair and the deck that can beat #1 and #2 (if built correctly) while also being the most consistent strategy is Delver.  Makes complete sense, I think.

The rest of the format is going to be in a state of flux.  People will be cutting copies of Abrupt Decay overall, and the prevalence of strategies that played those cards in an attempt to fight Miracles will start to lose their value.  BUG control shells, and 4C control shells like Czech Pile were built to try to fight miracles on the grindy axis (spoiler, it didn’t work) are going to fade slowly as decks become more and more streamlined to fight the aforementioned Big 3.  However, they’ll certainly still see play because, well, it’s Legacy and people don’t often switch decks (unless you’re a former Miracles player, getting to that later).

I think there will be one key deck that people should definitely be on the lookout for coming out of the wood work: Turbo Depths.  Turbo Depths is an all in combo deck that tries as quickly as possible to make a Marit Lage token via Dark Depths with either Thespian’s Stage or Vampire Hexmage.  The reason I believe it to be very strong and a sleeper hit in this Wild West format is that it only really had 2 absurdly bad matchups: Miracles and Death and Taxes.  Miracles is gone, and I believe that Death and Taxes is still good, but it is going to be heavily preyed upon by both Elves (easily it’s worst matchup) and splash hate that people want against elves, like -1/-1 effects.  This leaves a wide open space for this deck to come and dominate a format no longer well equipped to handle it.

Finally, I’d like to address UWx Control strategies now that Miracles is gone.  Control decks outside of Miracles did not see much success in the past few years because Miracles simply did everything better than what those decks were trying to accomplish.  Now, however, most former Miracles players are going to look towards the tried and true Stoneforge Mystic strategies, which were the ubiquitous control shells that people played most before Miracles.  Some will divert elsewhere, perhaps bringing back Landstill as an archetype, but I don’t think either option will truly be as good or as consistent as Miracles was, because you can no longer truly play a draw go game and expect to have a late game that is unstoppable.  You have to interact with your opponent via pressure in the form of Stoneforge or True-Name Nemesis, or somehow cheese a win by locking your opponent out.  Main deck Back to Basics or Blood Moon based strategies try to accomplish the latter, and you’ll see a lot of strategies trying this out.

Ultimately, I think Legacy will be super linear for a while before the metagame can truly ever settle, and I don’t really know what Legacy will look like even if this settles down.  Control decks will be very difficult to build until at least a few weeks and a few events have passed, so most shells you see now are simply just shells of what could work.

Thank you for reading this far, and my apologies for the inconsistent, stream of consciousness writing, but I felt like I needed to iterate my thoughts out in paper.  The following section is an extremely personal and introspective section, so please feel free to stop reading.

Part 3: MY OWN STORY

I entered the Legacy format during college, as my good friend Ben Krein had just graduated and wanted to get me into the best format of magic.  I attended a few proxy events and got my bearings, but I was still a simple and naïve college student with no money, and I was TERRIBLE.  I had a few splashes with Delver, a few with regular Stoneblade, but nothing really stuck.  I spent most of that year playing and learning Storm, and it was a lot of fun and taught me a lot, but it never truly felt “right”.

The summer after my junior year, I met Sith Sriharan, who was locally known then as the best Miracles player, and I had almost never played against the deck before.  I believe I was playing a 4C Delver deck with Tarmogoyfs, and I got dismantled thusly.  I spoke to him about the deck, and, over the next few months, I had begun to proxy the deck and learn it.  Progress was exceptionally slow, since, ya know, I was picking up the most difficult legacy deck while being terrible at magic.

In my personal life, I was rather depressed (ya know, the college kid lyfe) so I sort of deflected and put a ton of my own thought and energy into getting better with the deck, and then GP New Jersey came around.  There, I met my hero, Philipp Schonegger, and my resolve was enhanced by his GP Top 8 finish.  I decided, then and there, that nothing was going to stop me from understanding this deck so deeply.  Sith eventually invited me into this chat full of Miracles players, about 6 months after, where I met my sensei, Marcus Ewaldh, my good erratic friend, Anuraag Das, and many many others.  This became the secret “miracles cabal” of whispers past, and we set to work on breaking the best deck in Legacy.  Marcus inspired us with Predict, and we ran with it.  The rest, as they say, is history.

During this time, I graduated college, bought a car, fell in love with a girl, and matured completely, (eh, kinda) and turned my life around.  All the while, my adeptness and understanding of Miracles grew alongside me, and I constantly thought about the deck, even in my sleep.  It became a subconscious obsession, and I didn’t truly understand how much it was ingrained in me, until the ban occurred.  Since GP NJ 2014, I had not played any other deck.  Not just in Legacy, but almost anywhere else.  I played a few modern and standard events, but nothing captured me as much as Miracles had.  As my understanding of the deck deepened, so did my maturity and standing in life.  Today, I have an amazing job, a wonderful and loving girlfriend (yes, the same girl I fell in love with before =P) and it feels as if my best friend through it all is gone now.  I know I didn’t have any high profile finishes with the deck, but my contributions mainly came from theoretical discussions and working on decklists into the wee hours of the night.

Never did I think that I would take this ban so hard, but to me, it’s less of getting my deck banned, and more of losing a friend that’s stood beside me this entire time.  Sith gave me my first Miracles cards, my first tops, my first counterbalances, and as I bought and played the deck, my relationships and friends grew.  I met people from all over the world and became friends with them, and I would easily consider them to be my best friends.  Working on Miracles had become an obsession for me, but so did the relationships that were fostered by working on this deck and playing Legacy overall.  My drive to get better with the deck made me do whatever it took to foster the competitive Legacy scene in Columbus and today you see 20 people attend each week, which is amazing!

In closing, I still consider Legacy to be the best format, but Magic overall has kind of lost its luster for me.  I don’t think I can ever become as infatuated with a deck ever again, because the deck followed me from a tough part of my life into the brightest, and nothing can ever truly replicate that experience.  I don’t have the motivation to play or do something else, but Magic is such a deeply engrained part of me, that I’m not sure what I’ll do.  I think I’ll take a break for a while, see if it’s possible that something can be bourne from the ashes of Miracles as a control deck in Legacy, but that will take a LONG time to build anything remotely reasonable.  And don’t tell me to play Stoneblade, Stoneforge Mystic sucks.  It’s not the same thing, it never will be the same thing.

Thanks for bearing with me through this journey into my own thoughts, it feels great to finally put it on paper.  My apologies that it’s so long winded, but I had a lot to say.  I’ll be taking a break for a while, I think, as I believe I need some time to myself, to continue going through the five stages of grief for my fallen friend.

The King is Dead, Long live the King.

 

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2 thoughts on “A Treatise on Miracles, Legacy, and Me

  1. MY STORY:

    I have played Legacy since its inception and a lot of Type 1 prior to that. Up until about 2009, I was always a hardcore Landstill player. Essentially registering the card “Standstill” in every tournament I played. Around 2009, players were starting to play more of Countertop Standstill decks, which I personally never really adapted towards -much preferring traditionally built versions. For those who don’t know me, in Magic and in life in general I tend to be a traditionalist. I much prefer to take “tried and true” approaches as opposed to being cutting edge and most of my lists reflected this ideology.

    Over the next few years, I was still living on the East Coast and I didn’t get to play Magic as often as I would like. Since Legacy events were few and far between and Modern/Standard never particularly interested me, most of my actual “playing Magic” was playtesting with one of my best friends, Neil Martin. I regard him as an incredibly talented player who is also exceptional at reading people and analyzing board states. We would spend hours and hours playtesting random matchups on a given day and I can easily say that these sessions helped make the player that I am today.

    Around 2013, I moved back to Toronto partially because of family reasons and the fact that I had a job lined up. It was shortly after this move where I decided to devote myself to Miracles. There were a lot of reasons that factored into this decision. Part of it was that I had experience from back in the day with Extended Countertop. Part of it what was the fact that the Legacy metagame was fairly competitive in Toronto. Most of all though, it was the fact that I deeply love blue-based control decks and love to do nothing in matches.

    Up until GP Columbus, I devoted myself to mastering Miracles as a deck. I’ve played a lot of Magic throughout the years but no other deck challenged me as much to learn every angle and every play for every situation. I thought about the deck an immeasurable amount and because the Legacy scene in Toronto has always been fantastic – I got a wealth of real life practice. It was also around this time where I became involved in the “Miracles chat”. Although, I never fancied myself as a contributor and more as a troll (lol) – I listened to a lot of people’s theories and decklist ideology and incorporated so much into my own thinking. Not to mention, I made a lot of really good friends through my conversations in the Miracles chat that I will always be thankful for.

    GP Columbus was by my best result in Magic with my top 8 performance. It meant so much to me because I was able to do it in a format that I love with a deck that I love. It also meant that I got to play on the Pro Tour – something I never thought I’d have the chance to do given that I’m the furthest thing from a PTQ grinder. Even after GP Columbus, I continued to devote constant effort and attention into Miracles and growing even more as a player. By December of that year, I realized how inexperienced I was at GP Columbus compared to the player that I was at that time. When people started regarding me as the best Miracles player in Canada – I felt like I had truly achieved something.

    Since then I’ve had a string of good results with Miracles until it all came crashing down with the recent banning of Sensei’s Divining Top. I’ve never been so frustrated and saddened by the loss of my favourite deck of all time. I gave so much to the archetype. I gained so many lifelong friends in my journey with Miracles. And in turn, Miracles returned the love to me with a string of success. At the moment, I’m not sure what Legacy will look like right now and I’m not sure how much I will be a part of it. I’ve never been so divided with what to do and I’ve never felt so gutted by an action that WOTC has implemented. Regardless of what happens though, I’ll never forget the friends, the games and the experiences that Miracles has afforded me.

    The King is Dead, Long live the King

    Liked by 1 person

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