“Have the patience and you’ll be rewarded with an absolutely amazing experience from the tournament where you will never have to say I was unlucky.” — Tomáš Vlček on learning Miracles
When I heard this listening to Everyday Eternal’s Miracle Men podcast, I thought I was on the verge of such an experience. And then it happened on April 26, 2015 at the SCG Cleveland Legacy Premier IQ.
My name is Sitharthan Sriharan, though most know me as ‘Sith.’ I’m a Legacy player currently based in Cleveland, Ohio. I also frequent the Columbus Magic scene a good amount as well. It’s been about two and a half years since I’ve gotten into this format I love more than most things. I started out playing Jund, Shardless BUG, and Team America. It is from the BUG decks I got my best finishes prior to SCG Cleveland. I won a GPT for Grand Prix Richmond with Shardless, a Top 32 at SCG Indianapolis last year with Team America, and won an SCG 1K IQ last summer with Team America. All pretty minor successes prior to what I accomplished recently.
Now back to my journey in learning Miracles. From the get go I did not really playtest Joe Lossett’s legend-heavy Miracles deck, despite having a lot of respect for him as a player. This is mostly because I didn’t want to buy two Karakas, so I decided to play with Philipp Schönegger’s version of Miracles instead. But what started out as a monetary decision eventually grew into one of belief that I was choosing to play the best variant for me, if not THE best variant of Miracles.
Last Fall I messaged Phillipp some questions about Miracles on The Source. What I thought would just be a matter of receiving words of advice from a master quickly turned into something more: a friendship with someone who shared a lot of common interests in things like philosophy. Phillipp’s enthusiasm and dedication to teach others Miracles, coupled with how our friendship developed over time, turned my dedication to learning the deck into a passion. So much so that I decided to play the deck at SCG Columbus and then Grand Prix New Jersey with only three months of experience under my belt. I top 64’ed SCG Columbus, but performed quite poorly at GP NJ. Long story short, I didn’t Day 2 and my playing of the deck wasn’t pretty. I still enjoyed the weekend, getting to meet Philipp for the first time and many of his European teammates. In particular it was a pleasure to meet one of the most interesting individuals I’ve ever met.This is Danish Lands.dec aficionado Felix Peter Munch. Not only does he have the sexiest pimped out Lands deck I have ever seen and probably will ever see (I got a foil Japanese Dark Confidant that he bought online to him before he left the States), he is also very open about having Autism. This was the first time meeting someone who played Magic well while also living with difficulties similar to me. I’d say meeting him also strengthened my resolve to become better at Miracles, as well as becoming more open about my CAPD.
Despite my poor performance at GP NJ with Miracles, I persisted in trying to learn the deck. This period after GP NJ was filled with A LOT of losing. I had a hard time doing well at any big tournament I played at and locals at the same time. I’ll admit there were times where I took breaks from the deck and tried playing other decks at locals, but I kept coming back to 4 Ponder Miracles as if it was the deck I should be playing, and not anything else.
Then I played in the Legacy side events during GP Cleveland. What happened that weekend was something different: I only had two draws the whole weekend, and my win percentage was above 50% from all three tournaments. I even beat Cloudpost MUD TWICE. I originally thought this match up to be as bad as Eldrazi Post, but with correct boarding and plays it actually isn’t. This was a turning point for me in that the patience was really starting pay off in results. But it wasn’t till about a month later that my patience was really rewarded.
I played in the Legacy Premier IQ of SCG Cleveland on April 26, 2015. I was worried how I would do because I was still recovering from a food poisoning I had earlier in the week, and had pressure to start preparing for finals. I especially felt the sickness in the early rounds, but crackers, liquids, and Pepto-Bismol got me there. Now, rather than give you a full report, I’m going to first give you my deck list, then tell you how the rounds unfolded record-wise, and then give you some highlights relevant to my process in learning Miracles. I should mention I don’t take notes during tournaments, because I’d rather just focus my mind for playing out the tournament. Here’s what I ran:
3 Force of Will
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Dig Through Time
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Council’s Judgment
2 Entreat the Angels
3 Snapcaster Mage
[Mana Sources] (21)
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Flooded Strand
2 Arid Mesa
2 Volcanic Island
[/Mana Sources] (0)
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Rest in Peace
1 Force of Will
3 Red Elemental Blast
3 Vendilion Clique
1 Council’s Judgment[/Sideboard]
Here is how the rounds went for me:
Round 1 vs. Junk Stoneblade (2-1)
Round 2 vs. OmniTell (with Personal Tutor and Dream Halls) (2-0)
Round 3 vs. Death and Taxes (2-1)
Round 4 vs. Burn (2-1)
Round 5 vs. Lands (1-0-1)
Round 6 vs. Infect (2-1)
Round 7 vs. Grixis Control (0-2)
Round 8 vs. Joe Lossett on Legend Miracles (ID)
Top 8 vs. Jeskai Stoneblade (2-1)
Top 4 vs. Miracles (2-0)
Finals vs. Grixis Control (1-2)
Thoughts and Lessons from the Tournament, With Regard to Learning Miracles
Control 101: Wrath Effects and Card Advantage
Before this tournament, I had a tendency to sometimes play Terminus too aggressively. In the Miracle Men podcast, Philipp Schönegger talked about how people commend him for playing his Terminuses much more conservatively, only using them when he absolutely needs to extract the most value out of them. This is something that anyone learning the basics of control learns early on: using life as a resource, you want to use your Wrath-effects to generate the most card advantage possible, so playing them aggressively is often wrong. In the case of a card like Terminus you might be tempted to use it early because a one mana Wrath of God is really not fair. However, unless you have no Top to float Terminus, it is usually better to hold it until your opponent has a board position as such where you’ll get at least a 2-for-1 or if you need to stabilize the board to not die to a big standalone threat like Tarmogoyf. I kept this in mind during the tournament, and it was especially helpful against Junk Stoneblade and Death & Taxes.
Always Keep the Clock in Mind
Round 5 game 1 took forever as my Lands opponent didn’t concede to the inevitability from my early CounterTop lock. This is an instance of playing to draw game 2, because I won game 1. It feels somewhat dirty to me, but I still think it’s justifiable in a tournament setting with considerable prize support. Enacting this game plan of just making sure your opponent can’t win (even at the cost of you not being able to win either) is something to keep in mind when the situation calls for it, especially since Miracle players always have to be conscious of the clock.
“Know Your Enemy and Know Yourself…” – Sun Tzu
My only losses in the tournament were to the same guy on the same deck: Jason Smith on Grixis Control. In playing Miracles, not only do you need to know the intricacies of your own deck like the back of your hand, but, as with any control deck, you need to know how your opponent’s deck works, so you know how to best combat it. My games against Jason Smith are examples of what happens when you don’t know your enemy. When I first played against this guy, it was (maybe) the second time I’ve played against Grixis Control with Miracles. And so, both times we played I was at a great disadvantage because I did not know the match up all that well. I think had I known the match up better, it would have been a lot closer.
To give a contrasting example, take my Infect opponent in Round 6. Despite everyone claiming this to be one of Miracles worst matchups, I ultimately was victorious against the Infect menace because I had gotten in a good amount of reps against the deck prior to the tournament. In general, if you aren’t playing against Goblins or Eldrazi Post, you probably have a decent chance of winning with Miracles provided you play tightly. Game 1 was somewhat close because my opponent did not do much for a while, which gave me time to cantrip and try and get something set up like a CounterTop lock. In the end I died to a Noble Hierach attacking me for 20+ damage with trample so that my lone Snapcaster Mage’s block did not even matter. In game one I do think that Infect does have the upper hand, but this is just a matter of Miracles not having enough early game action in the pre-board games. Post-board games are a lot closer. In game 2 I had more of a chance to play magic as I grinded down my opponent, dealing with the various threats he presented. I ended the game with the CounterTop lock and Vendilion Clique to beat him down. Game 3, unfortunately my opponent mulliganed down to four or five. With a big advantage from the start instead of trying to play control, I played a more proactive tempo/value game, getting Vendilion Clique into play early and using Snapcaster Mage more aggressively, while using cantrips to cycle through my deck for gas (sometimes you play Magic without Sensei’s Divining Top. Thanks cantrips!).
And so I ended the night by treating myself to a decent dinner at Panini’s, since that was one of the few decent places open after 10PM on a Sunday. It wasn’t until at this point that all the fatigue from playing Miracles for about 13+ hours hit me with a vengeance, as I sat back and reflected on what I accomplished that day…
I hope you all enjoyed this report. I have been wanting to write Magic articles for a long time, and it feels good to pen my first one, so please leave any constructive comments you may have, either in the comments section below, or in the forums. I already have some ideas for future articles, and would love more input.
– My Magic friends in Cleveland, Columbus, and Europe (who I’ll be seeing again this summer at Prague Eternal and GP Lille. I can’t wait!) and anywhere else. Aside from the intellectual stimulation that Magic provides, it would not be as fun without the traveling and meeting all kinds of people.
– Philipp Schönegger, Tomáš Vlček, and Angelo Cadei for working hard on the Ponder Miracles variant. I am especially thankful to Philipp for not only his help but also friendship and inspiration.
– Everyday Eternal for making good podcasts, especially their recent “Miracle Men” podcast.
– Food poisoning.
– My OmniTell opponent’s opening play in game 1: Personal Tutor for Ponder. No offense to him but that just really boggled my mind, as that’s supreme card disadvantage, and doesn’t really advance his plan all that much, amounting to what is essentially a wasted turn.
-Not getting first. I still have quite a lot to learn in playing Miracles, despite having come a long way.