Tree of Tales – I Need a Miracle!

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Michael Coughenour. I used to be a regular author for, but unfortunately time constraints prematurely ended that stint. I primarily play EDH and Legacy, and this article will be focused on Legacy, most notably how a few of the new cards from Avacyn Restored interact with what might be one of the most diverse metagames that Magic has seen in years, at least in Legacy.
Let’s dive right in shall we?

I Need A Miracle!

So coming into this set, there was quite a bit of hype regarding the Miracle mechanic, mostly surrounding one particular card: Temporal Mastery. At first, everyone seemed to be on the bandwagon of, “Hey, it’s Time Walk all over again.” Somewhere on this road, however, the cart got derailed, and suddenly this card kept getting denigrated over and over, thus pushing what was a $40 presale down into the $20 range. The biggest question for me was a pretty simple one: What changed?

It’s still the same basic card, so it’s not that a last second change nerfed what was a powerful card. It’s not that it comes from an undervalued color, as blue is by far the most diversely played color in Legacy. It’s not that the value is preventative, as tons of people shelled out money for Snapcaster Mage when he dropped, and the two are fairly comparable in terms of price, at least at this juncture.

What I believe changed was that people allowed their perceptions to be altered, even just slightly, to a point where they began undervaluing an incredible effect. I’ve heard this card called a blue Explore, a “cantrip Lightning Bolt” (SCG announcers talking about Temporal Mastery in RUG), and even flat out not good. Really? Time Walk isn’t good?

So first, let me spit out some basic preconceptions that, while not unilaterally true, are true in most instances. Presuming that you are playing blue, one would assume that you would play 4 Brainstorm. If not, you are doing something wrong. Period. One would also assume that in the vast majority of decks running blue, you will have 2-4 Snapcaster Mage (the obvious exception being tempo RUG, and even some of those run it). Lastly, most of these same decks will run 1-3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor (exception being RUG again, as well as UR Delver). So, excepting RUG, just about every blue deck will have minimum 7-11 effects that allow you to put cards from your hand on top of your deck, thus making drawing it significantly less debilitating than you might think. Also, take into account that any deck that plays Force of Will can exile this card to pay it’s cost, so that can potentially raise the number of displacement effects to 10-15.

That’s potentially a quarter of your deck that you already play simply because the cards are good which also maximizes this new miracle. That being said, the argument that drawing it in an opener hurts you too much is probably a spurious one at best. Argument two: It’s really just a blue Explore. In order to debunk this one, I will put forth a series of situations that are not in any way extraordinary in which this card is SIGNIFICANTLY better than Explore.

Situation 1 – UR Delver
Let’s say it’s the beginning of your third turn, and you have a Delver of Secrets in play, flipped. You draw, play Temporal Mastery with your two lands, then enter main phase. You play a land, cast a Goblin Guide, and swing for 5, then pass, untap and start over.

In this instance, Temporal Mastery dealt 5 damage, allowed you to play a land, and then untap everything, plus draw a card. If you’re counting, that’s a free attack step, a free land drop, and an untap step. That’s quite a bit more than an Explore, and can’t be matched card for card with anything but a counterspell, at least in this instance.

Situation 2 – Bant
So this time around, you play a Noble Hierarch off a forest turn 1. You untap turn 2, draw, and what do you know, it’s a Miracle. So you cast it, move into main phase, play a land, possibly cast a Brainstorm, or just pass to yourself. You then untap, draw, and play Jace, the Mind Sculptor on your third turn. Except really it’s turn 2.

In this instance, you have potentially played one of the most powerful cards in the format while your opponent is still rocking a single land. With a lucky string of fateseals, that game may already be over, and it barely started. Explore in the same situation leaves you with 2 untapped lands and next to n0 true advantage.

Situation 3 – Esper Blade
Since both of those were extremely early game situations, let’s make this one turn 6. You have 5 lands, a Jace, a Sword of Feast and Famine, and a Snapcaster Mage in play. Your opponent has a pair of Spirit tokens, a Thrun, and a Scavenging Ooze, and a Sword of Light and Shadow equipped to a spirit. He is at 5 life, you are at 4. You untap, draw, and cast Temporal Mastery. You equip Sword of Feast and Famine, unsummon a Token, then pass to yourself. You untap, draw, bounce another token, then swing lethal.

As you can tell from these examples, this is not a blue Explore. Period. In each of these examples, Temporal Mastery showed itself to be an incredibly high value card, to the point of broken. Comparing it to a decent common is a disservice, both to it and yourself. Will it be good in every situation? Of course not. No card is unilaterally good (with exception to Brainstorm), but when weighing upside versus downside, this cannot be a losing prospect.

As for the final argument, that it’s flat out bad, I can’t argue with something that is innately insane, so I will simply say that if you view this card as bad, then I would guess that if you play Vintage you’d skip on the Time Walk. For that matter, if this card is bad, then why not unban Time Walk? It’s just a blue explore, right?

What’s In A Type?

Grim Lavamancer
Delver of Secrets
Mother of Runes
Noble Hierarch
Snapcaster Mage
Dark Confidant
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Knight of the Reliquary

Riddle me this: What do these 7 cards have in common? Aside from all being Legacy playable, and amazing creatures, they all share a creature type: Human. In fact, most of them also happen to be Wizards. The point being, you don’t have to be playing against a Tribal deck in order to worry about Cavern of Souls.

Cavern of Souls is the most relevant land they’ve printed since Zendikar fetch lands, and it’s not hard to see why. The real question has become exactly what decks it fits into, and which ones it doesn’t. Being able to push a creature through without fear of reprisal is an amazingly powerful effect, and I see this land making it’s way into a lot of decks other than just Goblins and Elves.
For example, here’s a list that our group tested a little.

Maverick – Legacy, by Michael Coughenour

Creatures (24)
Mother of Runes
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Noble Hierarch
Knight of the Reliquary
Scavenging Ooze
Thrun, the Last Troll
Gaddock Teeg
Stoneforge Mystic
Qasali Pridemage

Spells (12)
Swords to Plowshares
Sylvan Library
Green Sun’s Zenith
Sword of Light and Shadow
Sword of Feast and Famine

Lands (24)
Cavern of Souls
Windswept Heath
Verdant Catacombs
Arid Mesa
Maze of Ith
Dryad Arbor

As you can see, all the 4-of creatures share the type Human, and therefore I decided to play 3 Caverns. Obviously it doesn’t cast the remaining 8 creatures, but whatever. 5 of those creatures are meant to be fetched via Green Sun’s Zenith when needed, and the Stoneforge Mystic can still use Cavern to get the colorless mana it needs. The point of showing this list wasn’t to suggest a deck, but to show how Cavern can fit into existing archetypes fairly easily.

That being said, let’s move onto our final topic, shall we?

Your Graveyard is Bigger than My Library… on turn 2!

So probably the most overlooked card in this set is actually a red common. Dangerous Wager is a pretty easy card to overlook, as at first glance it seems like a bad Sign in Blood. I mean, two cards for two mana isn’t bad, but who wants to discard their hand? I’ll tell you who, Dredge.

The fact that it does what it does in the particular order is what makes it so fundamentally amazing, or at least potentially amazing. For Dredge, this can enable a turn 1 win, with a particularly good hand. First, let’s look at a sample decklist I’ve got:

Dredge – Legacy, by Michael Coughenour

Creatures (14)
Golgari Grave-Troll
Stinkweed Imp
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Flame-Kin Zealot

Spells (34)
Faithless Looting
Dangerous Wager
Careful Study
Dread Return
Cabal Therapy
Bridge from Below
Lotus Petal
Lion’s Eye Diamond

Lands (12)
City of Brass
Gemstone Mine
Undiscovered Paradise

First off, I’ll admit it, I don’t play much Dredge, so this might be a bad list. I don’t know. In testing, it was pretty hard to beat, but it kept getting pretty good hands. That being said, here’s an example of what this deck could do with an amazing opener.

Opening Hand
City of Brass, Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Dangerous Wager, Faithless Looting, Golgari Grave-Troll, Stinkweed Imp

Play land, petal, LED, cast Wager with land and petal. Discard hand, dredge 11. Among those 11 are Flame-Kin Zealot, Golgari Grave-Troll, Stinkweed Imp. Sac LED and flashback Faithless, dredge another 11. That’s 22 dredged on turn 1. Assuming you hit 2 Bridges, 3 Narcomoebas, and Dread Return, I’m pretty sure that’s lethal on turn 1. With even 1 Bridge, that puts you at 12 damage on turn 1, and lethal sitting for turn 2. If you hit two bridges, 2 Narcomoebas, a Therapy and a Dread Return, you’d be putting them on a 3 turn clock.

In either case, this card enables a potential turn 1 win, and makes turn 2-3 almost a certainty without disruption. I would be very surprised if I’m the only person who was seen this interaction, but since I have yet to have someone cast Dangerous Wager on me, I will assume that it is still flying under the radar. Expect big things if people catch onto this.

Well, it’s been fun, but I can see the gloom seeping through the limbs of our tree, so unfortunately story-telling time is over. Until next time, keep on turning things sideways and aiming for the win!

-Michael Coughenour