How Guilds of Ravnica Could Impact Modern Storm

Guilds of Ravnica is upon us! The set released on Magic Online today (Thursday, Sept. 27) and pre-release weekend will be happening around the world this weekend. Given that we are a little over a week away from Guilds of Ravnica being Modern legal in paper, I’d like to discuss some of the cards in the set and how they impact Storm.

*Disclaimer – This are my opinions having not played with the cards below that you can certainly disagree with. What’s written here isn’t truth, just conjecture.

thousandyearstormThe first card that comes to mind almost immediately is Thousand-Year Storm. This card, aptly named, is off the charts in power level. In fact, it’s way more powerful than Pyromancer Ascension and additionally doesn’t need to use the graveyard to get going (one thing I really like in potential sideboard cards in Storm). Being able to untap with this card and at least two spells in hand with one being a cantrip almost certainly means game over for the opponent.

Now to the down side, which is fairly obvious – the mana cost. Despite the power level being actually insane, its converted mana cost (CMC) of six is a huge detriment, and one I believe will keep Thousand-Year Storm from seeing Modern play. At a CMC of four, I believe this card would be playable and boarderline playable at 3UR.

firemindsresearchThe next card that caught my attention is Firemind’s Research. This is a grindy card that has similarities to Pyromancer Ascension, Search for Azcanta and Dynavolt Tower. Truth be told, it’s probably somewhere in between. Similar to Thousand-Year Storm, I like the fact this card does not use the graveyard. Additionally, it cost two mana and is difficult to remove as an enchantment.

My issue with this card is the mana investment is steep, especially if you are planning on using Firemind’s Research as a win condition in addition to the card draw engine. Modern is a very fast format and this card wouldn’t be playable in a large number of matchups. I could see Firemind’s Research being playable in matchups like BGx and control decks, but even then it’s a stretch in my opinion. Storm has better current options (Pyromancer Ascension, Precognition Field, etc.) for this type of effect.

Guilds of Ravnica also gives us a couple of cards that can copy instants and sorceries in Expansion/Explosion and League Guildmage. See below.

League Guildmage is not expensive in converted mana cost, but its abilities are mana intensive. Expansion/Explosion has some potential to me, but the Expansion side not being able to be reduced in cost from a mana bear is an issue. Additionally, the card Increasing Vengeance is Modern legal and does not see play.

Next up are three cards (see below) that have the new mechanic jump-start, which is a pseudo flashback type of effect that requires discarding a card in addition to paying its mana cost to cast from the graveyard. Quite frankly, I’m disappointed that none of these excite me for Storm. I was really excited when jump-start was announced as a mechanic and hold out hope for something better in the future, but I just don’t see it in any of these cards.

Risk Factor is downright unplayable in my opinion as Browbeat exists and is not played in either Burn or Storm. Radical Idea is interesting, but two mana to just cantrip is a bad ratio, and even with a bear out, having to discard a land to draw a card is not good. Take Inventory is just a better version of this card, in my opinion, and it does not see play. Finally, I don’t think Chemister’s Insight is playable either as Gifts Ungiven is just strictly better, but I think it’s the most likely of the three cards above to do so. It’s a pseudo Pieces of the Puzzle replacement (though weaker in a vacuum), but should Storm go towards a more permanent-based sideboard plan, I can theorize a world where this card is alright (moreso if the CMC was 2U). In reality, it’s a big stretch and likely won’t ever see play.

ralizzetviceroy1

The next card that I stumbled up and thought about is Ral, Izzet Viceroy. This card has the ability to see play in Modern, in my opinion, but I don’t see it in Storm. It checks boxes that plansewalkers need to in Modern – draws cards, protects itself and has a game-winning ultimate. Chandra, Torch of Defiance does all of this for Storm already and one mana less. This card could be a sideboard card to try out early on in the life of Guilds of Ravnica, but a one-of at most and I think there are better options for this type of effect.

missionbriefingThe last card I wanted to discuss here that I’ve seen a lot of debate about in Modern as a whole as well as in Storm is Mission Briefing. Unpacking this card, the first effect is the new mechanic surveil, which is basically a scry except cards you don’t want on top of the deck go to the graveyard rather than the bottom of the deck. Time will tell, but this effect to me feels somewhere in between Preordain and Strategic Planning without drawing a card. Preordain with 100 percent be a four-of include into Storm if it wasn’t on the banned list and Strategic Planning has been played before. Surveil two in a vacuum seems like an effect that synergizes with Storm’s game plan, especially in game one when the graveyard is more reliable.

The second effect is a psuedo Snapcaster Mage effect. This card will not replace Snapcaster Mage as the body is viable in a lot of Modern strategies. Storm isn’t in the market to out-grind opponents to victory (with the exception of postboard games in certain matchups), and having enough mana to cast a card from the graveyard when we aren’t comboing can be difficult at times.

Finally, the mana cost of UU is the part of this card that if changed to 1U, allowing a cost reduction from mana bears, would vastly increase the chances of this card being playable in Storm in my opinion. One of the questions I asked myself is what card could I theorize casting from the graveyard with Mission Briefing? Rituals don’t really do anything as we have to pay UU followed by UR or just R with a mana bear. We could cast Manamorphose which would basically convert to a Preordain for four mana (or three with a bear in play). We could cast Gifts Ungiven from the graveyard, but the surveil two is worthless do to Gifts Ungiven shuffling your deck afterward. The card to flashback that makes the most sense is a one-mana cantrip. Is paying UUU worth draw a card and seeing the top 3-5 cards (depending on cantrip)? Time will tell, but my initial reaction is no.

So if you forced me to play Mission Briefing, how would I play it? I’d probably start with playing it in the Noxious Revival spot. This has a big problem, however, as one of the advantages of Noxious Revival is you can net mana from it due to its Phyrexian mana cost.

To summarize, Guilds of Ravnica has some sweet new cards that operate on the axis Storm is trying to operate on. The issue I see is either the card is too expensive, cost to much to get the effect they provide or better options exist currently. The biggest disappointment for me was not having a card with jump-start pop off the spoiler list. Some good news to close, however, is that Steam Vents will drop in price due to the reprint and we have some new flavor text for Goblin Elecromancer.

Did I miss any cards you’d like to discuss? Do you think I am improperly evaluating anything? Finally, what cards are you most exited to try? Let me know in the comments or via Twitter @StormModern!

 

Mitch

 

 

Pros Cover Playing Storm at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary

Pro Tour 25th Anniversary took place earlier this month. Though a team event, several notable players chose to play Storm in the Modern seat at the Pro Tour – Jon Finkel, Seth Manfield, William “Huey” Jensen and Martin Muller all pioneered the same list at the tournament. For reference, that list is below.

Stormat PT25thAnniversary

I wrote a gut-reaction piece to this list in a post a couple weeks ago. The complete post can be found HERE, but I’ll summarize some of my initial observations.

  1. Two Pyromancer Ascension main deck was peculiar. Pyromancer Ascension has been a key engine of Storm decks in the past (see the History of Modern Storm tab), but has fallen out of favor due to the printing of Baral, Chief of Compliance and the deck moving towards a Gifts Ungiven engine.
  2. The 3/3 split of Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer. In the FAQ section, I go over why I believe playing less than four Baral’s in incorrect. I guessed the reason why the pros played a 3/3 split was because of Reflector Mage out of the Humans deck.
  3. Two Grapeshot main deck is less than “stock” versions of the deck over the last several months. You have to make room for Pyromancer Ascension in the deck somehow, and cutting a win condition for another win condition makes sense.
  4. The land base refers back to fetch lands. The FAQ section goes over the rationale for playing fetch lands or a fetchless mana base. Though I didn’t say it at the time in my initial article, the fetch land mana base in this deck makes sense if you want to play Blood Moon and Grim Lavamancer in the sideboard.
  5. I noted Blood Moon, Grim Lavamancer and Fiery Impulse as interesting sideboard cards. Thought Fiery Impluse was strictly worse that Lightning Bolt for nearly any non-Humans matchup.

Since I published that post, several articles have come out discussing playing Storm at the Pro Tour. I’m going to highlight two in particular as both players actually piloted the deck at the PT.

Why I Chose Storm at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary – Written by Jon Finkel and published on the Star City Games Premium side.

Storm in Modern (with video of MTGO League) – Written by Seth Manfield on TCGPlayer.com/

*Since I’m a journalist/public relations professional for a living, I’m not going to just copy and paste both articles (though the TCGPlayer one is free to view). I don’t want to publish information that another credible site (StarCityGames.com) charges people for.

So what did we learn from the articles written by Jon Finkel and Seth Manfield about their deck choices? First, it’s very obvious that the team took the Humans matchup into much consideration when constructing the deck. Seth mentioned on Twitter that, as I predicted, Fiery Impulse was solely a tip of the cap to Meddling Mage as it’s a worse version of Lightning Bolt. He also states that not playing Pieces of the Puzzle opens up more sideboard slots for Humans. Finkel also mentioned Humans, and said he was close to registering a fourth copy of Baral, Chief of Compliance instead of Repeal until a teammate convinced him being dead to Meddling Mage naming Grapeshot game one wasn’t where they wanted to be. Below was the sideboarding plan used to fight Humans.

Out on the Draw: 3 Opt, 2 Remand, 2 Pyromancer Ascension, 1 Pyretic Ritual
In on the Draw: 2 Lightning Bolt, 2 Abrade, 2 Grim Lavamancer, 1 Fiery Impulse, 1 Shattering Spree

Out on the Play: 4 Opt, 2 Remand 2 Pyromancer Ascension, 2 Pyretic Ritual
In on the Play: 2 Lightning Bolt, 2 Abrade, 2 Grim Lavamancer, 2 Blood Moon, 1 Fiery Impulse, 1 Shattering Spree

*Full sideboard guide is available in the SCG article.

Second, Jon Finkel still loves the card Pyromancer Ascension, and he has had a lot of success with the card at the Pro Tour level. He has nearly always played it in his Storm decks, and as of this last Pro Tour, his record with Modern Storm at the PT level is 32-11-1 (with a 9-5 finish at #PT25A). Below is an excerpt from his article about the card.

“Yes, it doesn’t contribute to your absolute fastest draws, but when you play actual games of Magic, it does so much. You win most games either by getting a cost-reducer in combination with Gifts Ungiven/Past in Flames, but it’s almost impossible to win without putting together both cards. An active Pyromancer Ascension is almost always a win as well and because there’s a lot more creature removal out there than enchantment destruction right now, an Ascension versus any deck without a very fast clock is often a win on its own.”

There’s a lot to unpack here. I agree with him that it’s very difficult to win games without Gifts Ungiven/Past in Flames, but it does happen occasionally, and that occasion nearly always involves casting two Grapeshot (with or without Remand). This is the reason I’m a big advocate for playing three Grapeshot main deck in more traditional builds of Gifts Storm that don’t play Pyromancer Ascension. I also think that with as fast a format as Modern is right now (Bridge Vine, Hollow One, Humans, Burn, etc.), Storm wants to win the game quickly. Pyromancer Ascension seldom wins quickly, as Jon points out. I agree with him completely that against decks that don’t clock you, Pyromancer Ascension is nearly unbeatable if you get two counters on it.

Manfield also talks about Pyromancer Ascension in his article. See below.

“There are a variety of Modern decks that have a lot of spot removal spells and in those matchups Pyromancer Ascension becomes your best card. Without a Pyromancer’s Ascension or a creature on the battlefield it is very difficult to go off.”

I agree with Seth that Pyromancer Ascension is good in matchups that have a lot removal (e.g. Jund, Control, Mardu Pyromancer, etc.), but I disagree with his assessment that it is very difficult to go off without a mana bear. All the deck needs is six mana in play and a Past in Flames in hand or seven lands in play and a Past in Flames in the graveyard. In my experience playing the deck (and by NO means I am I good as any of the people mentioned in this article), it isn’t that difficult to kill someone absent a mana bear. Even if the opponent has removal, Storm can wait until turn four or five in grindy matchups to play the mana bear and gain the cost-reducing effect in response to removal spells or just combo without a mana bear.

About the land base, Seth and Jon have both said that they prefer a mana base with fetch lands. Thinning the deck of excess lands along with the ability to play cards like Blood Moon and Grim Lavamancer, which Manfield calls possibly the best card in the format to fight Humans, are all benefits fetch lands provide. Manfield also mentions the mana base in a “Fact or Fiction” Modern article.

“Perhaps more than any other question I have been asked over the past couple weeks, if playing without fetch lands is the way to go in Storm. I believe that fetch lands do make the deck better. This is a tough concept to fully prove, as the life loss is a real cost. However, the primary argument, is that Storm is a deck that needs a critical amount of spells, and this means not wanting to top-deck lands especially the turn you are going off.

Sometimes finding an untapped fourth land is useful, but I find myself more often looking for a key card like a Ritual or Manamorphose. By playing fetch lands you are able to thin out a couple of lands from your deck, and are thus less likely to draw them later on. Considering the deck is full of cantrips, and you are going through a large portion of your library this is quite relevant. Not playing fetch lands makes flooding a bit more likely. I have a lot of respect for Caleb Scherer and the work he has put into this deck, but I am going to advocate for what I believe to be correct.”

Manfield is referring to Scherer as the SCG Tour mainstay is the first to have pioneered a fetchless mana base in Storm, a deck he works on almost exclusively in Modern. It’s an interesting debate, for sure, but we clearly see the players at the Pro Tour advocating for fetch lands in the deck.

The final question I had, and didn’t address in the first recap, is the absence of Pieces of the Puzzle. Here is Manfield’s defense for not playing it.

We completely cut Pieces of the Puzzle, a card Storm decks had pretty much universally been playing. While the card can be good against some of your grindier matchups, we ultimately deemed it to be unnecessary. With the addition of four Opt and 12 total cantrips it is pretty easy to go through your deck and find specific cards. By cutting Pieces of the Puzzle we were able to dedicate more of our sideboard to fight Humans, one of the tougher game one matchups.”

While I agree that having the full suite of a dozen cantrips does help you find specific cards, some matchups require the deck to just add more volume of cards to Storm’s hand (specifically decks that play hand disruption). Seth does mention this, but said their testing team deemed in unnecessary. I could see that being the case with a deck playing Pyromancer Ascension as it provides card advantage as well. As Seth says, it does free up sideboard slots.

I do think, however, that the ability to play around graveyard hate with Pieces of the Puzzle is very relevant, especially in a format where a lot of decks utilize the graveyard and graveyard hate will show up more frequently in people’s sideboards.

 

In conclusion, I’m really glad that Jon and Seth shared their thoughts on the Storm deck they played at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. Discourse on an archetype, whether you agree or disagree with what’s being presented, is a great thing for the community. I also believe that different versions/card choices in one archetype can both be correct at one, depending on how you play the deck, what speed/axis you want the deck to function and what metagame you expect.

Also as is common with most of my posts, I don’t claim to be an expert on Modern Storm. Everyone talked about in this article is a better Magic player than me and all have a great understanding of the deck. All I’m trying to do is present information on the archetype in a centralized location for everyone and weave in a couple of my own observations and opinions.

 

Thanks for reading and feel free to comment on here or Twitter (@StormModern) with any of your thoughts!

Mitch

 

Storm at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary

For those who live under a rock, Magic celebrated its 25th birthday with a Pro Tour in Minneapolis, Minnesota. For the first time in a while, Pro Tour 25th Anniversary was a team format featuring three constructed formats – Standard, Modern and Legacy. It marked the first time Legacy has ever been played at the Pro Tour.

Wizards of the Coasts posted all of the Modern decklists HERE. There were five Storm pilots at the event, but despite the small number, some big names chose Storm as their weapon for the Pro Tour. Long-time Storm proponent and one of the three best Magic players ever Jon Finkel played Storm at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary along with fellow Hall of Famer William “Huey” Jensen, platinum pro and former world champion Seth Manfield and Martin Muller. All four played the same list with Chih-Cheng Yeh playing very similar to Caleb Scherer’s build.

Finkel/Jensen/Manfield/Muller Storm at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary

Stormat PT25thAnniversary

There are a lot of things to unpack with this list. My first observation is the two Pyromancer Ascension in the main deck. Previous Storm lists used this as an engine, but the deck has moved away from them in the main deck and towards a Gifts Ungiven engine due to the printing of Baral, Chief of Compliance. Pyromancer Ascension is an incredibly powerful card, so playing the full suite of one-mana cantrips makes sense to enable the Pyromancer Ascension. While I believe Pyromancer Ascension makes more sense in the main deck than sideboard (due to opponents bringing in graveyard hate often in post-board games), the card seems a little slow in Modern’s current state.

My second observation is the split of Baral, Chief of Complaince and Goblin Electromancer. I go over this in my FAQ section above, but to recap slightly, the legendary clause on Baral rarely matters as Storm often needs just one bear in play for a kill. The 1/3 body on Baral is also very relevant for blocking two-power creatures of the format and surviving Collective Brutality. Finally, the looting ability on Baral helps sift through our deck. I’d be really curious to hear the pros’ rationale on the 3/3 split.

My third observation is the presence of only two Grapeshot main deck. Previous versions of Storm with Pyromancer Ascension have played just two Grapeshot and it’s likely correct in a build like this with the extra Ascension engine. I’m a strong advocate for three Grapeshot in the main deck of traditional Gifts Storm builds as the ability to double Grapeshot an opponent out of the game without needing the graveyard is very relevant.

My fourth observation is the land base. Caleb Scherer has pioneered a land base that doesn’t use fetch lands in order to preserve library order, making Scry’s more powerful. Obviously, fetch lands have their benefit as well, allowing more sources of both colors of lands in the deck. I say this in my FAQ section, but I don’t believe in playing fetch lands that aren’t Scalding Tarn. Having to fetch a Steam Vents untapped can be very costly often in Modern, and Shivan Reef, the land that replaces fetch lands, seldom pings you more than twice (the only exception being Shivan Reef(s) as the only land(s) early in the game).

My fifth observation is some interesting sideboard cards, particularly the two Grim Lavamancer and the Fiery Impulse. I’ve seen Grim Lavamancer in sideboards before (from Andrew Shrout in particular). I can’t speak a ton on the Lavaman as I haven’t played it in a long time, but I’m intrigued at the very least. It seems good against some of the more aggressive decks in the format, especially if it comes down early.

The one I’m having a difficult time figuring out is Fiery Impulse. It’s a differently-named card then Lightning Bolt and Abrade against Meddling Mage, but worse than the third Lightning Bolt in general as it can’t go to the face. That along with Blood Moon and Grim Lavamancer, this sideboard seems particularly setup to battle Humans. I’d be curious to hear their sideboard plans in the matchup.

Chih-Cheng Yeh’s Storm at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary

StormCaleb_PT25Anniversary

Yen is playing a list very similar to Caleb Scherer’s list with the fetchless mana base. The only differences are playing the fourth Baral, Chief of Compliance over a Repeal and a Lightning Bolt instead of the a third Opt. I don’t dislike these changes and think it depends on what field you expect to face. Yen did miss out on the free opportunity to play Snow-Covered Island(s).

 

What do you think about the Finkel/Jensen/Manfield/Muller list? Things you like/don’t like? Let me know in the comments!

Mitch

Grand Prix Barcelona 2018 Tournament Report – Ben Gusenburger

One of the ideas I had for this website was reporting on tournament finishes that Modern Storm has recorded through a number of different pilots. The report below is courtesy of Ben (@bgoose321 on MTGO and Twitch). I want to thank him for reaching out and offering this report to be posted here. My interjections will be in italics. Enjoy!

Mitch

Ben’s List for the Grand Prix

GPBarcelona_BenGusenburger

*A couple things to note here. Ben elected to play a main deck Lightning Bolt over the third Opt. Other interesting things are the one-of Thing in Ice and Negate in the sideboard.

Ben’s Tournament Report

Hello Stormtroopers,

I had a great time at GP Barcelona playing Storm and I would like to share my way to 79th place (11-4 with no byes). First of all, most don‘t know me. I‘m Ben, also known as bgoose321 both on twitch and Magic Online. I used to be a student and had a lot of free time, most of which I spend playing Magic Online. Last autumn, I won a PPTQ with a friend’s Affinity deck which qualified me for the Modern RPTQ. I did not know what to play and found Caleb Scherer’s stream. I put Storm together and decided to go all-in with Storm. Fast-forward, I lost in the quarterfinals of the RPTQ and was hooked by Storm. Since then I almost exclusively played Modern Storm. I finished at 10-5 in February at GP Lyon and this weekend 11-4 in Barcelona. I will go briefly over every round, share my sideboard plans and talk about a few card choices.

Round 1: KCI – 0-2

Even though KCI is one of the better matchups for Storm, being a turn faster on average and having game one interaction, this match did not go my way. Game one was very easy. I lost the die roll and got killed on my opponents on turn four with turn four kill in hand. Welcome to Modern! Game two was much more interesting. I drew a lot of sideboard cards and I could make the game go long. At no point did I have a deterministic kill and with onlyone1 Manamorphose and not much mana to spare I decided to not go for it. My opponent then killed me.

Sideboarding
IN – 1 Abrade, 1 Negate, 1 Shattering Spree
OUT – 2 Opt, 1 Grapeshot

Round 2: Humans – 2-0

I mulliganed to five game one and scryed a Grapeshot to the bottom. I immediately get punished when my opponent starts Cavern naming Humans… Lucky me, the first card I draw is Grapeshot. Grapeshot allows me to kill Meddling Mage naming Gifts Ungiven on turn three and kill opponent from there. It‘s my opponent’s turn to mulligan to five and I win easily.

Sideboarding
IN – 1 Abrade, 2 Lightning Bolt, 1 Echoing Truth, 1 Wipe Away, 1 Thing in the Ice, 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance 
OUT – 2 Opt, 3 Remand, 1 Noxious Revival, 1 Baral, Chief of Compliance

*Interesting to me that Ben sides out a Baral, Chief of Compliance in this matchup. I have left them in to counter Thalia, Guardian of Thraben’s tax.

 

Round 3: Eldrazi Tron – 2-1

I get destroyed game one, but win both sideboard games thanks to Empty the Warrens.

Sideboarding
IN – 4 Pieces of the Puzzle, 2 Empty the Warrens, 1 Shattering Spree, 1 Abrade, 1 Wipe Away
OUT – 4 Gifts Ungiven, 1 Grapeshot, 1 Past in Flames, 1 Lightning Bolt, 1 Noxious Revival, 1 Repeal

 

Round 4: Humans – 2-0

See round two recap for sideboarding.

 

Round 5: Mardu Pyromancer – 2-1

I made a big mistake that cost me to lose game one. If I don‘t Remand my opponent’s Kolaghan‘s Command, I can Gifts Ungiven end of turn and win from there. My mind told me that the Shock from Kolaghan‘s Command would kill me, but I had a higher life total than two. Game three, I needed to Grapeshot my opponents Kambal, Consul of Alllocation. It was painful, but felt good afterwards. 🙂

Sideboarding
IN – 4 Pieces of the Puzzle, 2 Empty the Warrens, 1 Shattering Spree, 1 Abrade, 1 Wipe Away
OUT – 3 Gifts Ungiven, 1 Noxious Revival, 1 Past in Flames, 1 Goblin Electromancer, 1 Remand, 1 Grapeshot, 2 Opt

*I prefer to side out both copies of Goblin Electromancer. Mardu Pyromancer has a lot of removal and leaving in Goblin Electromancer plays into Collective Brutality.

 

Round 6: Living End – 2-1

Living End is a weird matchup. It was fun playing around their hate.

Sideboarding
IN – 3 Pieces of the Puzzle, 1 Negate, 1 Echoing Truth
OUT – 2 Gifts Ungiven, 1 Repeal, 2 Opt

 

Round 7: Jeskai Control – 2-1

UWx Control decks are good matchups, but you need to be patient and prioritize making land drops. Never try to be fast except if their shields are down or you know exactly that you can beat all the cards that they could have. You can always try to make them spend mana on their turn. For example, I repealed a Search for Azcanta on their upkeep in game one. They did not recast it that turn to keep up two interaction spells and then when they pulled the trigger to recast Search, I was able to get them by overloading all their interaction. I think the matchup is very interesting to play, because we are in charge of deciding how the games go.

Sideboarding
IN – 3 Pieces of the Puzzle, 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance, 1 Negate, 2 Empty the Warrens, 1 Wipe Away
OUT – 1 Gifts Ungiven, 1 Lightning Bolt, 1 Noxious Revival, 2 Opt, 1 Repeal, 1 Goblin Electromancer, 1 Pyretic Ritual

*I very much agree with Ben that making land drops is the most important thing against UWx Control decks. I find Storm often loses the matchup when land drops aren’t made. I also see a lot of Storm pilots try and go off to early in these matchups. If the opponent doesn’t have a clock/threat, Storm is perfectly content making land drops and playing draw-go.

 

Round 8: Burn – 1-2

Burn, yes Burn. In Lyon, I had to play Burn four times. I got lucky and only faced it once this tournament. Can somebody tell me how to win the matchup please?

*Burn is certainly not a favorable matchup for Storm, but I don’t think it’s as bad as the majority of people think. The games that we lose are so lopsided, the matchup feels worse than it is. We obviously need to be as fast as possible.

As for sideboarding, I don’t know for sure what to do. My aim is to make a quick Empty the Warrens. Some people like Thing in the Ice here, but I didn’t like it. The card won me game two, but Spellskite or any other 0/4 wall would have done the same.

 

Round 9: Humans – 0-2

My opponent had no interaction, but a super fast clock both games. My draws on the other hand were awkward, and I had no option but go out in my own terms both games by Grapeshoting myself.

At this point, I knew that I was out of Top 8 contention, but I still could get enough Pro Points to get into the Top 5 of my countries Lifetime Pro Points ranking, and that‘s why I kept fighting. Personally, if I play without goal in mind, my concentration starts to fade and I lose focus. Going to the beach would have been the reward for dropping.

See round two recap for sideboarding.

 

Round 10: UW Control – 2-0

This matchup plays similarly to Jeskai Control, but you can jam your bears early. Usually, you‘re happy if you get your mana bear Path to Exiled to further develop your manabase.

Sideboarding
IN – 3 Pieces of the Puzzle, 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance, 1 Negate, 1 Empty the Warrens, 1 Wipe Away
OUT – 1 Gifts Ungiven, 1 Lightning Bolt, 1 Noxious Revival, 2 Opt, 1 Repeal, 1 Pyretic Ritual

 

Round 11: Mono Green Tron – 2-0

Sideboarding
IN – 4 Pieces of the Puzzle, 2 Empty the Warrens, 1 Negate, 1 Abrade
OUT – 2 Gifts Ungiven, 1 Noxious Revival, 1 Lightning Bolt, 2 Opt, 1 Goblin Electromancer, 1 Repeal

 

Round 12: Dredge – 2-0

Dredge won the Grand Prix, but my opponent’s deck did not cooperate this round.

Sideboarding
IN – 3 Pieces of the Puzzle, 2 Empty the Warrens, 1 Echoing Truth, 1 Abrade
OUT – 2 Gifts Ungiven, 2 Opt, 1 Goblin Electromancer, 1 Lightning Bolt, 1 Grapeshot

 

Round 13: BR Hollow One – 0-2

My opponent played very well, and I got a tad unlucky game one at least, since every non-blue card would have killed. In game two, my opponent had Leyline of the Void and I had to go with Pieces of the Puzzle. I might have made the wrong choice on what to take on the first Pieces of the Puzzle. I whiffed on the second Pieces of the Puzzle and the next card down was the lethal Grapeshot.

Sideboarding
IN – 4 Pieces of the Puzzle, 2 Empty the Warrens, 1 Lightning Bolt, 1 Abrade, 1 Echoing Truth, 1 Thing in the Ice
OUT – 3 Gifts Ungiven, 1 Noxious Revival, 1 Past in Flames, 2 Opt, 1 Grapeshot, 1 Repeal, 1 Goblin Electromancer

 

Round 14: Living End – 2-1

See round six recap for sideboarding.

 

Round 15: Humans – 2-0

I won again vs. Humans and I still don‘t understand why people think the matchup is bad. They need very specific cards to beat us and with Bolt and Repeal in the main, Meddling Mage is far from game over.

See round two recap for sideboarding.

*I agree with Ben that Humans isn’t a bad matchup for Storm. I wouldn’t say it’s good (probably somewhere between 45-55 and 55-45), but EVERY commentator I hear says the matchup is horrible for Storm.

 

Card Choices

Repeal is probably an accepted tech by now, but the more unusual card is the maindeck Bolt. First, I expected a lot of Humans decks (I was not wrong) and second I expected to see a lot of Burn. From my experience, Spanish players love their burn decks and three 8-0 players played Burn. Being able to kill Eidolon of Great Revel in game one is crucial. Overall, I think I would keep the fun-of Bolt, it‘s rarely bad and helps in some very popular matchups.

*I can get behind a maindeck Lightning Bolt in aggressive metas, but I don’t think it makes much of a difference against Burn (like it does against Humans) in game one. In my experience, if Burn has Eidolon of Great Revel, we are likely dead game one anyways.

Sideboard Negate: I only added the Negate the morning of the GP when I decided to cut Pyromancer Ascension. Negate overperformed for me, and with Baral in play, its busted. I am playing Negate going forward with no doubt. Negate protects us from their big plays, can protect a bear or even counter our opponents hate cards.

*I’ve played Negate in the sideboard of Storm before, but haven’t in a while. To me, Negate fits in the Gigadrowse slot as opposed to Pyromancer Ascension as Ben said. I see Negate as a more versatile card than Gigadrowse, but not as good against UWx decks. 

Thing in the Ice: I don‘t know, I need more matches to have an opinion. Sometimes the card over-performs, and sometimes it‘s very bad. If your metagame has a lot of Humans, I think the upside is real, if not, don‘t play it.

First, the card is in my opinion only good against Hollow One, Burn and Humans, but there is a big problem with the card. Flipping the card takes a lot of time and mana. The dream is obviously to cast Thing in Ice turn two and then go Manamorphose-Manamorphose-Sleight of Hand-Serum Visions or something like that, but most of the time you need to play a very weird game in order to flip it.

Against Humans, it’s a good card, it bounces cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Kitesail Freebooter, Meddling Mage or Gaddock Teeg. The only problem that exists is that you need to combo usually the turn it flips.

Against Hollow One, the card looks good on paper but it doesn’t bounce any of their hate. It only reduces their clock. I need to know more before I have a definite opinion for the matchup.

Against Burn, Thing in Ice is a wall and it bounces Eidolon. Only problem is that in order to bounce Eidolon, you usually take 6-8 damage which is way too much. Second, Thing in Ice could be awkward because I usually try to go for a fast Goblins and Thing in the Ice is a nombo with Empty the Warrens. I‘m waiting for the day when someone casts Empty as their fourth spell.

Thing in Ice is not good against Mardu. At first, I thought the card might have potential with all the tokens and so on, but if they Young Pyromancer and spell spell after you flipped the Thing, it‘s good game. We spend all resources to flip the Thing in Ice, and then they can easily build an army of chump blockers.

*I agree with Ben on his thoughts on Thing in Ice. I’ve played it before in the sideboard, but as a two-three of. I like that Thing in Ice is a sideboard plan that doesn’t involve the graveyard, but as Ben said, it takes a lot of resources to work. And even if the Awoken Horror makes an appearance on the battlefield, it’s not necessarily game-winning.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance: I could not cast Chandra even once during the Grand Prix, but from my experience it’s best when there is a lot of graveyard hate. I can make a link with Pyromancer Ascension here. Chandra comes in the sideboard when we cut Ascension and vice-versa. The cards are good in the same matchups with Chandra also being a removal in other matchups. In the week leading up to the tournament, most of my Mardu Pyromancer opponents had Leyline of the Void instead of another graveyard hate, and most UW/x decks had Rest in Peace. Pyromancer Ascension is not very good in these circumstances that‘s why I decided to run Chandra.

Even though Chandra is great, I personally think that Pyromancer Ascension is better in a vacuum. Currently, graveyard hate consists mostly in Leyline of the Voids and Rest in Peace, and these cards make Pyromancer Ascension very bad. If the graveyard hate package shifts back to a more Nihil Spellbombs, Surgical Extractions and Relic of Progenitus, I could see Pyromancer Ascension making a comeback.

*As powerful as Pyromancer Ascension is, Ben makes a good point that it’s graveyard dependent until it gets two counters. Chandra, Torch of Defiance, or my current Storm pet card, Precognition Field, are great in grindy matchups and don’t need the graveyard intact at any point in time.

 

Mitch here to close things out. Again, thank you very much Ben for sharing your tournament experience on this website! Also, huge congrats for going 11-4 at Grand Prix Barcelona with zero byes. That’s no easy feat!

 

What’s the Gifts Ungiven Pile? – No. 1

A QUICK INTRODUCTION – My name is Mitch Blankespoor, or mblanko on MTGO and Twitch. I work in collegiate athletics full-time as athletics/sports are my first love, but I also love Magic: The Gathering and Modern Storm in particular! I’ve always enjoyed watching Caleb play the deck on the SCG circuit and was quick to follow and subscribe when he began streaming on Twitch. I have been playing Magic since the original Innistrad block. Due to my full-time career, I seldom can travel to big events and mainly play locally and online. I don’t claim to be an expert with Modern Storm by any means, but I thought I would assist the Storm community and help us all (myself included!) improve piloting the deck with this series.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to my good friend, Brandon Dollaway (@dollawab on Twitch). We talk through a lot of Storm lines together and his input helps and will help this series greatly. Finally, I’d like to thank Caleb for his input with the series and talking about it on his stream.

THE SERIES – My idea for this series spawned in watching Caleb’s streams and his decisions with the card Gifts Ungiven. I’m also a frequent visitor to Bryant Cook’s website dedicated to The Epic Storm (TES) in Legacy. There are a lot of articles about improving your play with TES and I felt like there’s a void for that with Modern Storm!

For anyone who has played Modern Storm (in its current iteration) before, it’s no secret Gifts Ungiven is one of the key engines to the deck. Often times, we have, to quote Caleb, “a deterministic kill” with Gifts Ungiven. There are a number of standard piles (Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, Past in Flames, Manamorphose with three mana floating and Baral, Chief of Compliance/Goblin Electromancer in play as an example) that kills our opponent no matter what cards they put in our hand or the graveyard. For this series, I wanted to focus and take a closer look at piles that are not as clearly defined.

THE SITUATION – We are playing Affinity and its game three. The screenshot below depicts the board state just before we cast Gifts Ungiven.

GiftsOne

THE DECK – In this league, I was playing Caleb’s exact 75 (as of May 15, 2018) with one change: Precognition Field instead of Echoing Truth in the sideboard. For sideboarding, I followed Caleb’s suggestions by making the following changes:

OUT – 3 Opt, 2 Remand
IN – 2 Lightning Bolt, 1 Abrade, 1 Shattering Spree, 1 Engineered Explosives

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION – The key pieces of information not shown in the picture above is the Abrade is no longer in the deck. It was used to kill the opponent’s Damping Sphere earlier in the game (and was exiled from the Relic of Progenitus). The opponent’s last card is almost certainly not Spell Pierce and likely a 3-mana spell. The opponent does not know the contents of our hand.

THE PILE I TOOK – I chose to get a pile of Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, Engineered Explosives and Shattering Spree. My thought was to get the opponent to crack the Relic of Progenitus with Past in Flames on the stack (for fear of flashing back Shattering Spree), and after the Relic trigger resolved, cast both Manamophose so I can flash them back after Past in Flames resolves.

WHAT HAPPENED – As I predicted, my opponent binned the Shattering Spree and Engineered Explosives leaving me with both rituals in hand. I untapped, drew a blank, and cast one of the rituals followed by Past in Flames. The opponent responded by cracking Relic, and after letting that trigger resolve I cast both Manamorphose, the other ritual and then allowed the Past in Flames to resolve. I flashed back both Manamorphose and the ritual only to draw nothing but more mana bears and lands. In total, I drew five cards for the turn (draw step plus four Manamorphose) and didn’t hit anything.

WHY MY PILE WAS INCORRECT – It was obviously unlucky to whiff in five draws, but I could have avoided this by picking a better pile. My biggest mistake was incorrectly assessing how much mana I needed. With the Manamorphoses in hand, I had enough mana be able to play around the Relic of Progenitus with Past in Flames without the second ritual.

GIFTS PILE OPTION No. 1 – Immediately after the match, I knew my mistake and began to think about other possible piles. My first initial thought was the following: Engineered Explosives, Shattering Spree, Desperate/Pyretic Ritual and Manamorphose. This is very similar to the pile I took, but allows us to draw two more cards (assuming the opponent gives us the ritual and Manamorphose). While this pile is slightly better than the original, after consulting with Brandon, we think there are better options.

GIFTS PILE OPTION No. 2 – Using the same thought process (with better execution) as my original pile, we came to the following: Engineered Explosives, Shattering Spree, Pyretic/Desperate Ritual and Gifts Ungiven.  If the opponent bins Engineered Explosives and Shattering Spree, they are deterministically dead by the following sequence: Ritual, Past in Flames (opponent responds by cracking Relic, Manamorphose, Manamorphose, Gifts Ungiven (standard issue kill). Again, if the opponent does not crack Relic, we get to Shattering Spree most of the board.

GIFTS PILE OPTION No. 3 – Another route to take is the following: Engineered Explosives, Shattering Spree, Gifts Ungiven and Grapeshot. Similar to above, we thought the most likely scenario is the opponent giving us Gifts Ungiven and Grapeshot. If so, we get to force the Relic crack with Past in Flames, and “mow the lawn” with Grapeshot before setting up a kill with Gifts Ungiven next turn.

OTHER GIFTS PILE OPTIONS – Probably the most intriguing thing about this scenario to me is the fact that we have Noxious Revival in our deck as a potential Gifts target. I’m curious if there’s a better pile involving Noxious Revival (responding to our opponent cracking Relic which we can force with Past in Flames).

MY CONCLUSION – I believe that of the three options above, No. 3 is the best. It’s the safest option that allows us to wipe their board and go off the following turn. Option No. 2 has the highest upside as a kill is possible that turn, but the downside is if the opponent gives us Pyretic/Desperate Ritual and Engineered Explosives, we don’t have a for-sure follow-up play next turn after cleaning up some of the board with the explosives. This also can leave us dead to a top-decked Cranial Plating or Arcbound Ravager.

CALEB’S PILE/THOUGHTS – Given the above parameters, my inclination is also that they do not have Spell Pierce as they would use it on Gifts Ungiven. Thus if Gifts Ungiven resolves (and our bear not blasted), we can reasonably assume the opponent is in “F6-mode.” Now my thought process is to see if I can think of piles that will let me put them in “check” so they will be forced to pop the Relic of Progenitus, with maybe a possible fail case of blow up the world/mow the lawn. There aren’t any deterministic piles that successfully, “check” the opponent, but my selection is close. Here I would choose Desperate Ritual, Noxious Revival, Shattering Spree, and Gifts Ungiven. This gives us the following possible scenarios, also assuming what we draw are blanks. The cards listed below go in hand.

Gifts Ungiven, Ritual: Here we cast Ritual, then Manamorphose and then cast Past in Flames. Now they need to pop the Relic or die. If they do, we let it resolve then Gifts and win. If not, we just keep gaining value out of the graveyard with Rituals and the gifts in there. Plus we have Noxious Revival and another Manamorphose in hand to pluck out something to always be safe.

Gifts Ungiven, Shattering Spree: Spree Relic then kill them.

Noxious Revival, Shattering Spree: same as above only respond to Relic crack with Noxious on Gifts then Manamorphose and win.

Noxious Revival, Gifts Ungiven: Noxious on upkeep targeting Ritual, if they crack we win, if they do not, reduced to scenario one.

Ritual, Noxious Revival: We start out the same as scenario one, and if they respond to Past in Flames (PIF) with the Relic crack, we Noxious Rivival the Gifts then after that resolves with PIF still on the stack we Manamorphose and Gifts, then we win. If not then we reduce to scenario 1 again with the Noxious rescue button.

Ritual, Shattering Spree: This is the fail case of all the scenarios. Our plan here is to Ritual and kill Mox Opal, Relic, both Signal Pests and Vault Skirge leaving them with virtual nothing. We likely have time to assemble a likely PIF next turn or after without likely dying.

 

Well that’s a wrap for the first installment of the “What’s the Gifts Ungiven Pile” series! Feel free to drop a comment on the scenario or anyway to improve this going forward. Exited to keep learning and improving with everyone!

 

Mitch

SCG Regionals Taken By Storm

*My vision is to weekly or bi-weekly highlight some of Storm decks that have placed in large events (SCG events, Grand Prixs, MTGO events, etc.). This is the first of these.

Star City Games hosted its Season One Regional Championships as part of the SCG Tour last weekend (June 2, 2018). Magicians came out to 13 different cities across the country for Modern action! The forecast for the weekend proved very stormy as Storm took down three regional titles. No other archetype won multiple regional titles. Without further ado, let’s get to some lists!

First, Storm aficionado and current SCG Tour points leader Caleb Scherer took down the regional championship in Southaven (Missouri).

Plug, for those who don’t follow Caleb’s stream on Twitch, you should. I’m a subscriber and have learned a lot from him streaming the deck.

Sam Powers also took Storm to a fourth-place finish in the event.

 

Caleb’s decklist and Sam’s decklist are exactly the same main deck with one difference -Scherer is playing three Grapeshots while Powers has chosen a copy of Empty the Warrens as his third win condition. I tend to be in the camp of three Grapeshots as drawing multiple Grapeshots is often a way the deck wins. Empty the Warrens does have its merits, however, in certain matchups such as BGx or Jund style decks and control variants. As for sideboards, the biggest difference comes in the cards the two players have brought for grindy matchups. Caleb elected to throwback to Pyromancer Ascension while Sam played a Chandra, Torch of Defiance along with a copy of the versatile Engineered Explosives.

 

Second, fellow SCG Tour Stormbrother Paul Muller took home the regional crown in Baltimore, Maryland playing the same 75 Scherer registered.

Plug, Paul also runs an awesome Twitch stream that you should checkout! Link to both Stormbrothers’ Twitch pages are in the “Resources” tab above.

One thing to note from these two lists, both Caleb and Paul have shaved to just one copy of Empty the Warrens in the 75 to make room for three Lighting Bolt alongside the single copy of Abrade. I’m assuming both individuals were expecting an aggressive meta, which makes sense due to Humans continuing to sit atop the Modern metagame.

 

Third, Bryant Cook won the Liverpool Regional in New York. For those who might not be aware, Bryant is the creator of The Epic Storm (TES) archetype and a very good Storm pilot.

Plug, Bryant runs an excellent website – TheEpicStorm.com – dedicated to TES in Legacy. I have TES built in Legacy in paper & on MTGO and have learned so much from the content Bryant creates and publishes on his website. My vision for this website (will hopefully be upgraded from a blog to a website here soon) on Modern Storm is gleaned from his product.

Decklist_Cook_2018_June2

At first chance, it appears Cook is playing the same 60 as Scherer and Muller. One big difference, however, is the manabase. Bryant is playing the Modern-staple fetch lands while Caleb and Paul have been advocates for a fetchless manabase. I’ll go into more detail about the difference in the two in the soon-to-be-created “FAQ” section, but I wanted to note the difference here.

Cook, along with the SCG Stormbrothers, assumed an aggressive metagame as he brought three Lightning Bolt and two Abrade to battle in the sideboard. Also of note, Bryant went heavy on the Empty the Warrens plan in the board. I’m guessing that’s due to him playing with it a ton in Legacy TES and wanting to be explosive in post-board games.

Three other individuals recorded Top 8 finishes at Regionals. Jose Rios took fourth place at the Lewisville Regional (Texas) as well as my good friend Brandon Dollaway, who also took fourth place, at the Frankenmuth Regional (Michigan). Both played the SCG Stormbrothers’ list while Rios opting for the second Empty the Warrens over the third Lightning Bolt in the sideboard. Zach Bishop finished in fifth place at the Lexena Regional (Kansas) with the same list with one change – cutting an Opt for a Lightning Bolt main deck.

All in all, it was a GREAT weekend for Storm, taking down three regional titles in addition to several other Top 8 finishes! What do you think is most interesting about these lists? Give a comment or tweet at us (@StormModern) on Twitter.

Happy storming, Stormtroopers!

Mitch

 

 

Welcome Stormtroopers!

Hello and welcome to my website dedicated to Modern Storm! This is the first blog post on this website and serves as a welcome to everyone!

I’m Mitch Blankespoor, and I’ve been playing Magic since shortly after Dark Ascension came out (2012) while in college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After playing a year-and-a-half or so of Standard, I decided to invest into Modern after I saw Thoughtseize being re-printed in Theros (2013). In the year that followed, I bounced around from deck to deck until I came across Storm. To make a long story short, I’ve been hooked on Storm ever since! I feel like it’s one of the more difficult decks to play in Modern, while at the same time, believe it’s very rewarding. For more information about me and this website, please visit the “About” tab above.

A complete history of Storm in the Modern format as well as an in-depth look at current Gifts Storm lists are also available in the tabs above. I have plans for a “My Current Decklist” tab as well as an Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section that aims to answer common question I’ve gotten or heard about Modern Storm.

I’ll constantly be updating more information on the website, but feel free to comment, share and provide feedback about how this website and I can better serve you. Give us a follow on Twitter (@StormModern) as well!

Enjoy!

Mitch