Vs UW Control
(last updated 5/31/18)
Best cards (main): Aether Vial, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Cavern of Souls
Worst cards (main): Batterskull, Swords to Plowshares*, Mother of Runes*
Best cards (side): Cataclysm, Sword of War and Peace
Revoker targets: Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Best Generic Sanctum Prelate Number: 6, 1
Deck Strategy and Key Cards
This deck is the shell left behind after the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top in Legacy. Miracles was the premier control deck in Legacy. It had superior card selection, packing the usual blue cantrips alongside Jace, the Mindsculptor and Sensei’s Divining Top. Top was a particularly potent card in that shell, as when it was combined with Counterbalance, it presented a relatively hard lock for many decks in the format. The deck played a variety of efficient and broad answers, using its excellent card selection to dig for the specific answers it needs for any given moment. It dominated Legacy for years as the unquestionable best deck.
Like its predecessor, the UW Control deck seeks to abuse the Miracle mechanic. These miracle cards have an alternate, cheaper cost if they are the first card drawn per turn. Using its card selection, the UW Control player attempts to set up Terminus or Entreat the Angels to either wipe the board for a single mana or create a huge angelic army. This can be done on your turn using Portent, Brainstorm, or Predict. The UW Control deck plays a few less miracle cards than traditional Miracles did, but the cards are still a core part of the strategy. The deck tends to win with either Jace, the Mindsculptor or Monastery Mentor once the board is stabilized.
Predict is the card advantage engine of choice here. Combined with the other cantrips, it is a relatively consistent source of card advantage. One of the other ways this deck can pull ahead is by weakening your draws. Fatesealing with Jace or using Portent to push your bad cards to the top can make getting out of a bad situation very difficult. The deck sometimes splashes red for sideboard cards like Blood Moon and Pyroblast
The Matchup and Important Interactions
This matchup is going to be very long and grindy, so prepare accordingly. You need to be wary of Terminus and not over-extend into it whenever possible. In most cases, it is going to be correct to only play out a single creature at a time and force your opponent to deal with it before dispatching another. Any creature plus a piece of equipment is a very real threat that your opponent is going to need to answer. Batterskull is your worst piece of equipment here, as Jace bounces the germ token, and the equip feels terrible when your opponent can answer the threat for 1 mana. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and Mangara of Corondor are particularly excellent threats, as Karakas will make it very difficult to get them off the board permanently.
The mid to late game of this matchup often becomes an elaborate dance as your Aether Vial and/or Cavern of Souls battles against removal and counterspells. Try to construct a scenario where you get to resolve an important spell. Multiple Rishadan Port activations can limit your opponent’s ability to counter multiple spells or deal with multiple threats. Once you have an equipment on board, you can often lean on that pretty hard. Be aware that Unexpectedly Absent can bury your equipment at instant speed though; not every list plays this card, but it’s common enough to keep in consideration when making attacks.
Phyrexian Revoker’s job in this matchup is primarily to shut off Jace. It’s likely correct to hold your Revokers until a bit later in the game, as a Jace after a sweeper is a big problem. You don’t want to run your Revokers into removal in the early game if you can avoid it.
Rishadan Port is very difficult to use correctly in this matchup, and many of your decisions are going to be based on what you believe your opponent has in hand and on the top of their library. Your opponent needs UU Jace, while they need WW for Council’s Judgment and Entreat the Angels. The red is largely irrelevant in this matchup, though occasionally your opponent will play a red sideboard card. When Porting, consider your opponent’s mana usage. Similarly, don’t be afraid to Port fetchlands to deny an opponent a shuffle at a key moment.
Knowledge of priority is very important to success in this matchup. Do not be afraid to regularly use the phrase, “Do you pass priority?” The answer to that question often influences your decision to Port during the upkeep or draw step. In particular, there is one important interaction. If you try to Port a land with your Rishadan Port and your opponent responds by floating mana, that action creates an additional priority pass. You will want to clarify that the Rishadan Port activation resolves before asking if your opponent passes priority again. If your opponent passes priority with the stack empty (i.e. with your Rishadan Port activation not on the stack) and you pass priority as well, you will proceed to their draw step with no opportunity to use any mana. This matters, as your opponent may be trying to float some mana to cast a spell or for a Miracle, and you want to get the most value out of your Port activations, sometimes staggering them across phases/steps.
Sanctum Prelate is best played on one or six to shut off opposing removal. I tend to name one early on in the game, as shutting off all of the opposing cantrips and Swords to Plowshares is insane. As the game goes on, I tend to name six, especially if I have Mother of Runes. Once Terminus is no good, you can more safely extend onto the board.
Recent Miracles lists have had some oddball cards in the main ranging from Soothsaying to Back to Basics. Enchantments are difficult for the format to deal with as a whole outside of Abrupt Decay, so Miracles has been leaning on them pretty hard to recoup some of power lost when the Counterbalance and Top combo got the axe. Neither of the cards is particularly potent against us, but don’t underestimate the power of Soothsaying in the late game. It’s really easy to find a Terminus with that sucker.
It’s usually easy to identify what cards should come in for this matchup. The deck runs the best when it has an active Jace, so Pithing Needle is a great addition to the deck. Running that card out on turn 1 or 2 can really make things stressful for the Miracles player, and it may mean that they have to use a Council’s Judgment or Wear/Tear on it rather than on something like your equipment or threats. Cataclysm and Armageddon are often game-ending cards. The deck needs a large amount of mana to function, and destroying all or most of their lands may actually leave them without enough mana sources to cast things like Jace or Entreat. If you have additional equipment (e.g. Sword of War and Peace) or additional legendary creatures, those should also come in.
It is more difficult to decide what to take out, and to a certain degree, that also varies depending on your opponent’s build. Prior to the printing of Monastery Mentor, the “correct” way of sideboarding was to remove all or most of the Plows, as you most frequently lost to Jace or an Entreat the Angels. These days, the UW decks are running far more creatures, and Mentor becomes very problematic if not dealt with quickly. The Miracles player also frequently brings in problematic creatures ranging from Izzet Staticaster to Containment Priest. For that reason, most players don’t board out all of the Plows anymore.
Recently I’ve been testing out boarding out Mother of Runes instead. At some point in the game, your opponent’s Plows are going to get one of your creatures. Mom encourages a gameplan of extending further into a Terminus, one of the big things you want to avoid in the matchup. While Mom is a fine card in the matchup, it is likely worse than most of our sideboard cards, and it is a terrible top deck. With Sanctum Prelate in the deck, this may no longer be correct. An article Mom alongside a Prelate on six makes it extremely difficult for Miracles to interact with your board, so it may be correct for Mom to stay in.
UW players have started to adapt to the Sanctum Prelate tech, so it’s not necessarily going to be the lockout it was about a month or two ago. Unfortunately, they now often pack a Kozilek’s Return or Engineered Explosives, giving them additional out to Prelate. Mother of Runes isn’t going to do anything to stop either of those, and Sanctum Prelate isn’t much help either.
Here are some thoughts from the other side of the table. I highly suggest you give the D&T section a read, though the whole thing is great.
Though Miracles used to be a favorable matchup in the days prior to the Top banning, this matchup is slightly unfavorable now, assuming pilots of equal skill levels. It’s probably a 40-:60 matchup if you are playing a stock build. That being said, pilot skill and familiarity with the matchup is the most important thing here. I’d be willing to say that a difference in skill level can swing this matchup by as much as 20%. The D&T player who extends four creatures into a Terminus is just going to lose. The UW player who misses on board Karakas tricks or makes mistakes with priority passes is going to get annihilated.
Data as of 5/31/18
Win rate with WW D&T: 4-7 (36.4%)
Win rate with RW D&T: 10-8 (55.6%)