I know what you’re thinking:
Sensei’s Divining Top? Counterbalance? This is just Miracles! That’s one of the best decks in Legacy, if not the best! We’ve all seen it before, maybe too much of it.
But count again. That’s right. Zero Miracles. Really that just means zero copies of Terminus, since the Temporal Mastery that graced the early Miracles lists has long been discarded, but that’s still a huge deviation from the norm.
Terminus is an incredible catch-all that allows the deck to catch up from way behind with relative ease. Miracles has the deserved reputation of a deck that gets off to slow starts, and Terminus is a big reason why that has not been as big an issue for the deck as it normally would be in a lightning-fast format like Legacy. So what do we gain by sacrificing such a card?
As you might expect, what we gain are cards that bolster the deck’s early game, namely Deathrite Shaman and additional copies of Monastery Mentor. These changes turn what was Legacy’s premier control deck into something decidedly more aggressive, even if Sensei’s Divining Top and Counterbalance still play key roles.
Mentor is a card that many Miracles pilots have turned to as a win condition because of how explosive the card is. Just by playing your natural game with Top, Brainstorm, and Force of Will, the army of tokens Mentor creates can end the game within a few turns, and if you have two copies of Top, you can start generating a Monk token and a prowess trigger for one mana, which should end the game by your following turn. With this game plan accelerated and augmented by Deathrite Shaman, we have a deck that is worse at sitting back and slowly locking its opponent out of the game, and more suited toward closing the game in the window that a Top-Counterbalance soft lock opens.
What I really like about this list is that all the changes make sense once you account for the changes in overall strategy. Jace, the Mind Sculptor becomes a role player in this list, as you do not have the desire to sit back and keep generating an advantage off of it and would rather not use your Monk tokens to play defense, although they can if a particular situation calls for it. I would not be surprised if Jace is often used to control the opponent’s battlefield by successive uses of its -1 ability so you can force through damage with Monk tokens.
Snapcaster Mage is a contentious option in most Miracles lists but operates at its best in this one that wants to play more spells to trigger Prowess and needs more removal spells to clear the way or mitigate the loss of Terminus. Flashing back a Ponder or Brainstorm is similarly excellent. The Vindicate is a nice addition that the black splash gives you, especially for dealing with the increased presence of Chalice of the Void in the current metagame.
The last major change we see from most Miracles lists is in the manabase. Without the desire to go long, this is not a deck that needs to make a ton of land drops, so the need for lots of basics diminishes. You’d rather have enough duals that a single Wasteland doesn’t cut you off of a color. The singleton Creeping Tar Pit is a nice touch that gives you some added percentage points for a low cost.
The sideboard is skewed toward dealing with early creatures, which makes sense with the lack of Terminus. Zealous Persecution, Disfigure, and Toxic Deluge are all great options, and Deluge for one notably will never kill your Monk tokens. The stretched manabase allows you to deal with Chalice of the Void as well as Counterbalance against Miracles, which is an important war in the mirror. I would like to see a little more against combo, since a single Meddling Mage alongside two copies of Thoughtseize seems shy, but the increased clock this deck has relative to normal Miracles decks helps a lot.
I imagine this deck got some added percentage from people assuming it was a normal Miracles list on most draws, and while that is a slight nod toward the deck, I think it is powerful enough to stand on its own. Mentor is a seriously good Magic card in Legacy, so centering a deck around it is reasonable, and the list makes sense.
Plus, you’ll get about 300 fewer draws per tournament, which makes us all winners.