Canadian Threshold vs. Miracles Matchup Guide

unbenannt-4Hi! Welcome to my matchup guide for Canadian Threshold vs. Miracles. I will be talking about things from the Canadian perspective, more specifically from the perspective of my list, which has remained largely unchanged since GP Prague earlier this year:

canadian_24_07_16( link)

For those who have not read my post-Prague Primer, I recommend you check it out, as well as my sideboarding guide.

The fifteenth sideboard slot (Grafdigger’s Cage in the list above) is constantly in flux. It can be a piece of graveyard hate (Surgical Extraction, Grafdigger’s Cage), Flusterstorm, an extra Seal of Fire or even a copy of Sulfur Elemental, depending on what you expect. I usually like something that can be brought in combo matchups for that slot, but since Death & Taxes appears to be on an upswing, the extra removal has merit as well.

For easy referencing, here’s this article’s table of content:

1. Preboard Threatlist

2. Countermagic Powerranking

3. Preboard Gameplans

3.1 Delvering Them

3.2 Going Canadian Threshold On Them

3.3 Drawing Winter Orb

4. Sideboarding

5. Postboard Threatlist

6. Postboard Gameplan – Winter Orb

7. Miscellaneous Guidelines

1. Preboard Threatlist

Counterbalance is your opponents’ best card. You almost always lose when it resolves, so you should always keep it in mind during your games – if your opponent is going to cast Counterbalance on their next turn, what are you going to do? You should sequence your countermagic and cantrips in such a way that you give yourself the best chances of reacting to Counterbalance.

Entreat the Angels is similarly almost always game over when it resolves, but it becomes relevant much later in the game and is harder to resolve. There are also situations where your opponent casts Entreat for two or less tokens; in those cases it’s not completely impossible for you to actually handle those tokens – trading an otherwise dead card (Dismember) for half an Entreat is a great deal for you. Similarly, Tarmogoyf tends to be bigger than 4/4, so if they only have one token, feel free to attack.

Mentor is their next best card. It is harder to fight on the stack (sometimes, they even run Cavern of Souls!), but it’s easier to deal with if it resolves. Similarly to smaller Entreats, you get to use Dismember, which is always worth something. Further, Mentor is not great versus strong board states – it can’t block Insectile Aberrations and it struggles against Tarmogoyfs. Keep in mind that Mentor can quickly get out of hand though.

Jace, curiously, is their worst piece of business. It’s very easy to fight on the stack and it has the lowest immediate impact on the game. A four-mana Brainstorm that gains some life is very aggressively mediocre and if they have to +2 you, they do not impact the board at all, which is a very dangerous proposition.

All that being said, these are the four cards you do not want to let resolve. There are exceptions, especially for Jace, but you should err on the side of cautiousness here.

All these cards are only situationally relevant. If you have draws heavy on countermagic, it’s often a good idea to counter your opponents’ removal spells, but doing so at the cost of opening yourself up actual business spells is not worth it.

Council’s Judgement is the most relevant card in this tier simply because it’s an answer to Winter Orb, should you have drawn it. Judgement for a creature is much less important.

Terminus is a card that you can play around with many of your draws – if you don’t open yourself up to two-for-one’s, it’s not that bad, considering how much work it takes for your opponent to set it up. However, if you have an aggro draw with multiple creatures, you sometimes have no choice but to play into Terminus, and then it’s worth countering more often than not.

Here’s my rule for Swords to Plowshares: There’s more where that came from. It is the most easily replaceable removal spell given the presence of Snapcaster Mage and unlike Terminus, it requires no set-up, so if your opponents start with two copies, they have two copies, end of story. On top of that, Swords is also the hardest removal spell to counter. On the plus side, Swords are not super relevant, given the fact that we have Nimble Mongoose.

If you look at the section of relevant cards so far, you will see that the only one that interacts reasonably with Snapcaster is Swords to Plowshares, which is already not a very important card for us to deal with. Especially if one copy of Swords already resolved, it’s not uncommon that the second copy does not have any targets. It can be correct to counter Snapcaster when you’re racing and close to victory though, which is why I am including it here. Otherwise, tacking a three-point lifegain on another card for the cost of two mana is not something I am concerned with.

This card is honestly not relevant. It costs your opponents one mana per turn, which I think is great. Further, extra copies are dead weight, so once you start countering Tops, you’re giving your opponents free cards. The only reason I’m including it here is the fact that many players feel Top is relevant and I don’t want to make it seem like I forgot about it.

2. Countermagic Powerranking

Now that we have established which cards are worth interacting with, we can take a look at how to prioritise and sequence our countermagic. I am aware that we are still in the preboard-section of this article, but I will include our sideboard countermagic as well because this ranking does not actually change during sideboarding. However, some cards can situationally move up a slot or two, I will try to cover those scenarios.

Flusterstorm is, without doubt, our worst counterspell in this matchup. To the extent that I don’t even have a single copy in my stock list – it is barely a consideration for the flex slot. The reasoning here is simple. The only business spell Flusterstorm counters is Entreat the Angels, but Entreat the Angels is not actually the problem. If Entreat happens, that is symptomatic of a game that is already going South – your opponent got to develop their mana and they have the luxury of taking the time to cast Entreat.

Flusterstorm is great at countering removal spells, but that is rarely what we want to be doing anyway. It’s still worth keeping in mind though, and if you have ample counters under Winter Orb, keeping a Flusterstorm for an opponent’s Wear // Tear or Council’s Judgment is perfectly reasonable.

Spell Pierce mostly hits Counterbalance and Jace, so it’s usually worse than Pyroblast and, given Jace’s mana cost, also worse than Snare. However, some opponents run Blood Moon or even Ruination, which you can’t hit with Snare or Pyroblast, so keeping a Pierce can come in handy.

As with Flusterstorm, Pierce hits all the removal for Winter Orb, which is very relevant.

The number one target for Spell Snare is Counterbalance. Given that this is your opponents’ most important card, Spell Snare has a lot of merit. Snapcaster Mage and Counterspell are further notable targets that are situationally relevant. You rarely want multiple copies of Spell Snare in hand though, especially if you have other options to cover Counterbalance. The last copy of Snare is more valuable than both Flusterstorm and Spell Pierce, but if you have two Snares and a Pierce, I like using Snare on an early Counterbalance.

As does Snare, Pyroblast hard counters Counterbalance, Snapcaster Mage and Counterspell. On top of that, it hard counters Jace, Force of Will and opposing Snares (for your Winter Orb). Pyroblast doesn’t hit Rest in Peace, but I am usually not concerned with that card (see Section 5. Postboard Threatlist). Thus, Pyroblast is one of the better cards to keep in hand.


Our most volatile counter. If you have Winter Orb, Daze is one of your best cards – it can hard counter a spell while untapping a land in your next turn. That is really good. If you don’t have Orb though, Daze can become pretty bad pretty quickly, so often you want to use it early.

Just don’t blindly Daze spell whenever you can though. If your opponent has two lands and taps out for a Swords to Plowshares during your end step, keeping Daze and Spell Snare is better than keeping Pierce and Snare. The first option covers both Mentor and Counterbalance, while the second only covers Counterbalance (plus Force).

The original. You almost never want to use Counterspell before any of your other counters – unless it’s the only thing that works, of course. It’s great to deal with Mentor at an advantage, and Counterspell offers just that.

There are two reasons to use Force last. The first is that it’s a hard counter that hits anything and as a general guideline, you want to use your more flexible counters last. The second is that it costs you another card or a bunch of mana, so you want to use when you either have useless cards to pitch (late game Dazes, for example) or the mana to hard cast it.

3. Preboard Gameplans

One of the most important aspects of Magic is having a plan – if you just randomly jam your spells when you can, you’re likely not putting yourself in the best position to win. Canadian Threshold is a very flexible deck that can play full control in one game and super fast aggro in another. Sometimes, you will even switch plans in the midst of a single game.

Against Miracles, you have two-and-a-half plans before sideboarding:

3.1 Delvering Them

This is perhaps the facet of Canadian Threshold the majority of players are most familiar with. You play a creature or two and then counter everything your opponent does while you’re beating them down. If this is your path to victory, you better be aware of that fact because you need to value your own and your opponent’s cards differently than with other plans.

A good indicator that you should Delver your opponent is the presence of Lightning Bolts in your hand. The more Lightning Bolts you draw, the more valuable extra combat damage is. One thing I have talked about in the past is turning your cards into Lava Spikes. You might be surprised by the number of games that I have played a turn one Delver, countered a couple removal spells and then closed out the game with a pair of Bolts.

If you don’t counter your opponents’ removal spells when you have Lightning Bolt draws, you will end up with a bunch of useless cards in hand. This is not to say that you should ignore your opponents’ other cards when you have these draws – it’s just that Jace and Mentor are much less scary when you’re already threatening lethal damage. Further, if your opponents frequently use their mana for expensive spells (those that cost more than one mana, that is), they will have fewer opportunities to cast removal spells.

You might think that this sounds pretty good – that’s because it is. While this is the kind of game you’re most likely to play, there are issues. For starters, you don’t always get to start hitting your opponents for three starting turn two. Also, if you ever do find yourself with and empty board or insufficient burn spells, there is a very real risk of just completely running dry, being left with a bunch of useless tax-counters and removal spells.

Fortunately, we also have other options:

3.2 Going Canadian Threshold On Them

This one is really simple: You draw a bunch of Stifles and Wastelands, your opponent does not manage to draw enough lands and they die, never doing anything of significance.

In all seriousness, that is actually pretty close to what sometimes happens. We all know that every deck has the potential to randomly die to just one Wasteland; if you add four additional cards to blow up lands, this happens a lot more.

A slightly less brutal version of this draw is when you stunt your opponent’s mana in the first one or two turns and then proceed to Delver them – if they’re low on lands, they can either try to cantrip into the landdrops they need (this will cost them valuable time) or they can try to resolve their removal through your tax-counters (which is rather ambitious).

3.3 Drawing Winter Orb

Every once in a while, you get insanely lucky. In the context of Canadian vs. Miracles, that means you happen to draw your one-off maindeck Winter Orb. For more information on how to play these games, check the postboard-section. Just keep in mind that you still can draw Lightning Bolts and therefore you might have to slightly adjust your game in the direction of Delver draws every now and then.

4. Sideboarding

(-1 Delver of Secrets)
-2 Tarmogoyf
-2 Dismember
-4 Lightning Bolt

+2 Winter Orb
+2 True-Name Nemesis
+3 Pyroblast
+1 Spell Pierce
(+1 Flusterstorm / Surgical Extraction)

You will see why I’m sideboarding like this when I explain my postboard gameplan, but I thought it would make sense to present you with the context of that plan first.

You don’t always board out the one Delver of Secrets, but you should if your fifteenth sideboard card is something with a relevant textbox against Miracles. Surgical for example is mediocre, but it can make games much easier. Delver, on the other hand, is close to being dead weight. Mostly, it pitches to Force of Will; you almost never want to actually cast it.

5. Postboard Threatlist

The first two are pretty simple. If Blood Moon resolves, you are limited to casting Winter Orbs, Pyroblasts and Forces. As good as Winter Orb is, it does not deal any damage and therefore it will not win games on its own. If your opponent casts Moon into Winter Orb and you have a clock going, it can be correct to let it resolve, assuming you still have some countermagic left after Moon. I don’t think I have ever been in that situation though.

Counterbalance does the same thing as it does before sideboarding. Well, almost. It has a hard time stopping you from resolving True-Name Nemesis, so you can steal games that way. The main thing that’s different about Counterbalance after sideboarding is that it basically never resolves though. You now have eleven hard counters for it, plus an additional two Spell Pierces, four copies of Daze to scare them into playing it late and Winter Orb to keep your tax-counters live.

Mentor, just as anything else, has a much harder time resolving after sideboarding. With Winter Orb a frequent presence, three mana is a lot. Therefore, many Mentors simply get Dazed. You do not have any removal spells left after sideboarding, so if Mentor ever should resolve, you will be in serious trouble.

Entreat the Angels, as I mentioned in the countermagic section, is a sympton, not the problem. Often I see players boarding Flusterstorms to fight Miracle spells, but if you let them become relevant, things have already gone wrong. It is still up there as one of the scarier cards though.

Yeah, that’s not happening.

These cards are relevant for one reason only: They kill Winter Orb. You actually never want that to happen. Fortunately, these cards are all really clunky and get hit by Spell Pierce. Wear also gets hit by Snare, which can also often counter Engineered Explosives – they can rarely afford to cast it for X=3 under Winter Orb.

The nice thing here is that if your opponent casts one of these cards, that means you have Winter Orb, so if you get into a counterwar, you will have time to recover your hand because your opponent has just tapped a bunch of lands semi-permanently.

Do not interact with these cards if they are supposed to kill creatures, unless you have a guaranteed kill lined up.

As I said before, many players think Miracles are relevant. I am here to tell you they’re not. I only ever counter Terminus if my opponent is out of untapped lands and below 10 life.

Rest in Peace does nothing, although I do respect countering it for the sole purpose of not getting your time stolen by someone insisting to play three times as many turns.

6. Postboard Gameplan – Winter Orb

In principle, your plan for post-sideboard games is very simple. Set up a scenario where your opponent has no pressure and you have Winter Orb. With Orb on the battlefield, you have the better long game.

In the early game, Canadian is advantaged because it has much cheaper spells than Miracles. Mana-effiency is huge here.

In the mid game, you are still slightly ahead because you have land advantage – if you draw the same amount of cards and your opponent has two more lands than you, that also means they have two less spells than you. This is a real thing.

In the late game, however, Miracles is traditionally ahead. Not only do they have ways to pull ahead on cards, thus offsetting the land advantage, they also gain virtual cardadvantage because your tax-counters lose most of their power.

Winter Orb completely turns the late game around – by shutting it off.

When you have Orb, every cantrip and Top activation permanently costs your opponent mana, keeping your tax-counters alive much longer. Conversely, if they try to cast their spells in batches (not casting cantrips nor activating Top, building up mana for bigger turns), they are still unlikely to win counter-wars. When you don’t have Orb, that usually means they try again the next turn and then you can’t do anything anymore because they have too many cards. When you do have Orb though, that second attempt comes several turns later, allowing you to recover from the counter-war.

All this in mind, the games are very simple:

Step One: Counter everything that would kill you, ignore everything else.

Step Two: Stick Winter Orb. Still counter everything that would kill you, but also protect Winter Orb.

Step Three: Find a creature (Nimble Mongoose or True-Name) and attack. If they remove it, wait for a new creature.

Notably, you do not want to cast Delver of Secrets after sideboarding. The only reason they are still in the deck is that they pitch to Force of Will. Sometimes, you randomly cast Delvers because you would have to discard otherwise. Outside of that, Delver just eats Swords, which they can’t really afford to board out (or so they think). They are inevitably going to draw some Swords, so it’s nice to turn those into dead cards.

7. Miscellanous Guidelines

7.1 Wasteland & Winter Orb

The relation between these two cards is very interesting. When you don’t have Winter Orb, I recommend using your Wastelands very aggressively, especially before sideboarding. After sideboarding, however, it can pay off to not use them.

When you have Winter Orb and an untapped Wasteland, your opponents will tend to untap their basics before their non-basics – they don’t to let their untap step go to waste. This means that you can delay your Wastelands’ effect, which is nice because it allows you to aim them at your opponents’ Volcanic Islands, potentially shutting of Pyroblasts they might have drawn (I have won games this way, it is very relevant and has no cost).

7.2 Tax-Counters & Winter Orb

Just as you are happy when your opponent cantrips under Winter Orb, you might be looking for other ways to attack their mana. I sometimes like to two-for-one myself with tax-counters rather than hard counter an opponent’s spell.

An example would be an opponent casting Counterbalance with two lands remaining untapped. If I have a creature here, I might Spell Pierce and Daze the Counterbalance rather than use Pyroblast. This does not come up very often, but it is something to keep in mind.

7.3 Stifle

For the most part, you want to Stifle fetchlands. As with most things, exceptions can arise from the presence of Winter Orb (which I guess might be ironic here). The only other cards you really want to Stifle are Engineered Explosives and Miracle spells. If you Stifle Explosives, that will usually attack your opponents’ mana harder than Stifle on a fetchland – while also trading for a spell in the process.

Stifle on Terminus mostly comes up when you have started racing. It should be easy to recognise when this is the correct play.

Stifle on Entreat is a little more tricky. If your only reasonable options to deal with Entreat are Force of Will and Stifle, the latter might be the way to go. In both cases you go down a card, only with Force it’s guaranteed, whereas Stifle might actually trade with the Entreat.

The same can be true with Stifle and Counterspell, against either Miracle spell. If those are my only pieces of interaction, I definitely like using Stifle. At worst, I will have to Counterspell the Miracle a turn or two later, but this will also give me additional draws and maybe some extra damage.

Another thing to keep in mind is Rest in Peace’s enters the battlefield trigger. If you already have Threshold, one Stifle can be a reasonable investment to keep your Mongooses big.

7.4 Snapcaster Mage

Just one small thing: Don’t let Snapcaster Mage trade for a creature. That’s the worst. Especially after sideboarding, you don’t always need to attack with your Mongoose. You might miss out on a few points of damage early, but you have a limited amount of creatures in your deck, don’t throw them away.

I also don’t mind getting hit by Snapcaster Mage a couple times. You will draw a creature at some point; you can easily spare 14 or so life and thenset up a blocker.

7.5 Don’t be slow.

Yeah, that’s basically it. Games under Winter Orb can easily take 20+ turns, so don’t waste time and don’t let your opponent waste time either. This is less of a problem on Magic Online because the Miracles players will usually spend more time than you.

This is likely not everything, and I might have to revisit this last section at some point, so please let me know if anything is still unclear.

Until then, thanks for reading!



10 thoughts on “Canadian Threshold vs. Miracles Matchup Guide

  1. Thank you for your insight. I tend to play against Miracles just like you explained it and I feel far ahead in this Matchup.

  2. No offense, but this has lots of aspects of “Canadian Threshold vs Miracles Players who spent zero hours testing against Canadian Treshold”. If Miracles Players have multiple copies of Swords and Snapcaster and any copies of Jace and Entreat in the deck they are setting themselves up to get absolutely stomped by Canadian . My current SB plan (will likely change for Chiba, different meta and all) would be:

    -2 Snapcaster -3 Swords to Plowshares -2 Counterspell -2 Jace -1 Entreat -1 Tundra -1 Force

    +1 Sulfur Elemental +1 Mountain +2 Vendilion Clique +3 REB-Effects +2 Flusterstorm +1 Blood Moon +2 Wear/Tear

    Together with 2 Spell Snares in the main this allows me to play the waiting game postboard against Canadian very well. If they don’t play around Snare they risk getting their Orb countered, or might start a counterwar during their own turn, which allows me slam a bomb. So both players have to play the waiting game and assemble enough permission before starting to cast cards that actually matter. For both players a slip up means losing the game, so this is definitely one of the more fun matchups in legacy!

    1. No offence taken.

      Still, I don’t agree with everything you say.

      For starters, I don’t agree with your boarding plan against traditional Canadian Threshold lists. It mostly seems like a reaction to my approach, but even there I think there are issues.

      The kind of game you’re desribing is what happens when Canadian does not play Winter Orb: You play the waiting game and then Miracles gets in two or three counter wars, where they eventually come out ahead because Canadian has all these tax-counters which become dead. You mention that Miracles can win games if they get into counter wars during the Canadian player’s turn. But the only time that is going to happen is when the Canadian player casts Winter Orb. If that happens, you can’t untap and slam a bomb, because Orb is now on the board.

      For the traditional lists though, I agree with everything you say, outside of boarding down to just one Swords to Plowshares. If there are Goyfs in the deck, I think you want at least two, despite the fact that you have Spell Snares. I’m fairly sure I’d rather let the Sulfur Elemental stay in the board, especially since the non-Orb lists should keep in some number of Bolts.

  3. Great article :)
    One question though, I have often sided out 1-2 wastelands in this matchup since 99% of miracle players play around it religiously (often to their detriment tbh) and it doesn’t really cast anything other than winter orb/goyf so they often end up completely dead.
    Do you think this is plain incorrect?
    Admittedly, most of my experience in the matchup is with a more traditional RUG list, ie; no orb, 4 goyfs, so i may still be a bit biased from games before I moved to this style of list.

    1. I think boarding out some number of Wastelands is correct when not running Winter Orb, but I think not running Winter Orb is a mistake ;-)
      Before I had Winter Orb, boarded something like -4 Stifle -1 Wasteland -1 Lightning Bolt -2 removal.

  4. Wasteland wins games.
    Wasteland wins games.
    Wasteland wins games.

    I wrote it 3 times. This has to be the most important agenda, next to turn 1 threat. I would write it as the first paragraph if not second. Sure, Miracles run some Basics, but they have to break their fetch to get to the Basics, which has a lot of mental chess before Miracles player decides to break the fetch vs. Stifle.

    This article is an introduction at best, not a guide, has the label mr. obvious all over it.

  5. Thank you for Insight.
    I have been testing your list and tweeked it a little.
    This Weekend is a Win-a-dual Event near me.
    From my Experience i have been feeling very good about the miracle matchup. It would be interesting to see insights on harder matchups. Had difficult times with R/B Reanimator and DnT.

    1. Thank you for your feedback! Although you did give me gruesome Ocarina of Time flashbacks with your name. Which then reminded me of how great the game is so…thank you I guess? Anyway.

      Might I ask what you changed about the list?

      I am very unlikely to write full articles on those matchups.

      BR Reanimator is just very simple. You always keep up as much countermagic as you can, ignore their discard outlets and try to counter their reanimation spells. Spell Snare is pretty nice to have here, considering that they have Exhume, Animate Dead and now Collective Brutality as well. Unfortunately, we don’t have great sideboard cards for the matchup though. We can really only board out Winter Orb and the Dismembers for the third Tarmogoyf, Spell Pierce and whatever is in the flex slot. I’m not sure how reasonable it is to board Submerge against them (they usually do have some Bayous in the deck), but it does at least pitch to Force and transform Delver.

      Death & Taxes is both quite complex and very simple at the same time. Fundamentally, you have to do Canadian Threshold things in the matchup, but the minutiae are very intricate. You have to both attack their mana and their creatures. You can not usually allow them to untap with Mother of Runes and should almost always counter their Vials. Also keep in mind that they are low on answers to Delver of Secrets, so sometimes you can actually start ignoring their board and focus your countermagic on their removal and your burn spells on their face.

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