by Joe James
What are Miracles?
Miracles are one of Doomtown: Reloaded’s spell types, along side hexes and spirits. These can only be used by (attached to) Blessed dudes, primarily found in the Law Dogs plus some 108 Righteous Bandits. Miracles can punish opposing wicked dudes, while offering resilience via buffing your dudes or sparing them from death.
How do miracles win?
Many criticisms of Miracles decks stems from the perception that “not losing” is often a poor way to win a game. With the release of Blood Moon Rising, and especially Father Tolarios, the scales seemed to tip enough to make miracle decks a solid, competitive choice.
Miracle decks have several paths towards victory:
1) Forced Attrition: This involves using spells like Get Behind Me, Satan and Lay on Hands to keep your dudes alive, while at the same time using actions like Point Blank and Takin’ Ya With Me to inflict a casualty here and there until you whittle your opponents dudes/influence down enough to win.
2) Natural Attrition: My personal go-to method for Blessed, this takes away the forced casualties of Point Blank and Takin Ya With Me, and instead has a strong draw structure aimed at legal full houses and 4 of a kinds. Combine this with casualty reduction plus cheatin’ punishment, and you will naturally chip away at your opponents’ posse, turn after turn.
3) Cheating Through the Pain: Casualty reduction allows you to build a very tightly structured deck that cheats as much as possible. All the while, use your miracles to soak up any cheatin’ punishment your opponent dishes out. The goal is to quickly run them out of cheatin’ punishments so you can go with consistent cheatin’ 5 of a kinds. This style also benefits from buff miracles, like Sentinel, Holy Roller, or Onward Christian Soldiers to facilitate those 5 of a kinds.
4) “Voltron” buffing: This uses a combination of miracles and goods, like Holy Roller, Consecration, Sentinel, and Tlalocs Furies (especially on Erik Samson) to give one dude a huge stud bullet rating. Your uber-stud can potentially take on a whole posse alone. Point Blank goes well with this strategy as well, to help leverage your high stud dude. This type of build finds itself vulnerable to Pistol Whip, Sun In Yer Eyes, and Unprepared. Smart players track early lowballs and discards for those telltale 3s, 5s, and 10 values (along with LawDogs starting Xiong “Wendy” Cheng.” In this case, one of the other strategies may work better than stud buffing.
Strengths of miracles
Looking at the list of miracles, one notices a variety of effects. There are buffs, movement, casualty reduction, unbooting, cheatin’ punishment, and control point generation, among others. This gives miracle decks many options for different strategies. Thus when you see a miracle deck across the table from you, you cannot be sure which of these strategies confronts you.
With the release of Father Tolarios, Law Dogs Blessed decks have the option to put more off-value miracles into their deck to take advantage of the variety of powerful effects. He can quickly search them out to both power up your Blessed, while simultaneously improving your draw structure and removing the low value cards from your deck to increase the odds of making a spell check pull. All spell decks have to weigh the risks of adding low value (but often powerful) cards. More of them will mean a higher chance of failing your spell pulls, but if you can effectively leverage Tolarios then you can greatly mitigate what would normally be a risky situation.
Weaknesses of miracles
Like all spell decks, miracles suffer from a reliance on their spell casters (Blessed). If you lose all your starting Blessed, not only do you lose their attached miracles, but you cannot play any miracles until you bring another Blessed into play. Your opponent will most likely target your Blessed with their Kidnappin’, Mugging, or Unprepared.
And again like other spell decks, miracle decks have pull requirements for their spells to succeed. This means low value cards either cannot be included, or at the very least utilized sparingly, limiting the card pool for Blessed decks.
As mentioned briefly above, miracle decks often suffer from the “not losing” strategy being difficult to leverage into an actual winning strategy. The card pool for miracles has expanded enough to largely mitigate this former weakness, but it requires a combination of miracles and other non-miracle cards in the deck. Unlike hexes, for example, who have access to spells that kill (Soul Blast, Festering Grasp) or take over other dudes (Puppet), the power of miracles are often more subtle and require different strategies.
One last weakness of miracles is that, as of the time of writing, the options for Blessed dudes are not as deep and rich as other spell types. The release of Father Tolarios was a huge boon for Law Dogs Blessed, but options for starting posses remain rather limited for all factions.
What you should learn playing with and against miracles
Play miracles, and explore their different effects for yourself. You will learn which spells work for your particular deck, and which ones do not. If you start Tolarios, you can include a wide range of toolbox effects to help against nearly any deck you will face. Plus you will learn how to maneuver around town to best take advantage of his ability.
At the time of writing there are also two drifter Blessed, which will allow miracles in any faction. Sister Lois Otwell works well with Sword of the Spirit and allows your melee dudes to keep their bullets high even against unbooted weapons, and Félix Amador can take advantage of cards like Get Behind Me, Satan! and Confession that become more powerful with a higher blessed skill rating.
Playing against miracles can sometimes seem like trying to bash against a brick wall. It can be very difficult to actually kill any of their dudes, due to their impressive staying power. You will have to use a combination of:
1) Movement to split up their Blessed and pick off dudes.
2) Action cards like Unprepared, Mugging, and Pistol Whips against their Blessed.
3) Multiple shootouts in a turn, since spells can only be used once a turn.
4) Early aggression: as with all spell decks, miracles often takes time to get rolling. So hit them before they can set up, and you can often inflict some solid damage, including the removal of a Blessed or two.
This deck exemplifies the ‘forced attrition’ type above. This deck predates There Comes a Reckoning, so it may benefit from adding Intercession with K’s as a main value.
108 Righteous Bandits Blessed:
This is a fun 108 Blessed deck that leverages Stevie Lyndon to never fail a spell pull for Onward Christian Soldiers Amazing Grace. Yes, it relies heavily upon Stevie as the deck’s sole Blessed, but at the same time is not dead in the water without him. Miracles are not a primary driver of this deck, but they are a powerful addition.
My recent OCTGN league winning Law Dogs Deck:
I have made several versions of this deck, but they all run the same basic strategy of combining the natural strengths of Law Dogs with powerful miracles and Tolarios. This results in hard to kill dudes who heavily punish opposing wanted dudes. All my various versions fall into some combination of the natural and forced attrition strategies above.