Drake Sasser Wins SCG Indianapolis With Storm

For those who missed it, Drake Sasser won the Star City Games Open in Indianapolis with Gifts Storm. Congratulations Drake!!! He did it with some unique card choices that I’ll delve into. Without further ado!

DrakeSasserStorm

When asked why he played Storm at the event, Drake said he thought it was a good time to play the deck because others were playing linear strategies and graveyard hate was down (given the success of Urza, High Artificer decks). Boy was Drake right. He ended up play Amulet Titan in consecutive matchups to take down the trophy!

To me, Drake’s list is built to combo people as efficiently and consistently as possible. He opted to play the full eight mana bears and also went up an 18th land, something that I’ve been doing for a month or so leading up to the event. I see too many Storm pilots cut one-mana cantrips (Drake is played eight here) without adding the land. My general rule, which is backed by Frank Karsten’s math in this must-read article, is playing 17 lands requires 10 one-mana cantrips at minimum. If you go below 10 and don’t add a land, the power cantrips in Storm end up trying to search for lands to avoid missing a critical land drop too often.

Merchant ScrollAside from that, the other big thing, and I’d argue the signature difference between Drake’s version of Gifts Storm and others we’ve seen in recent months/years, is the addition of Merchant Scroll.

Merchant Scroll popped up in very early versions of Gifts Storm, but we haven’t seen it in quite some time. For those newer to Storm, what exactly is this card doing? Primarily, it ups the amount of payoff cards in the deck as it can search up Gifts Ungiven for a kill. Secondly, it can fetch other cards (bounce spells, counter spells, etc.) in postboard games.

On the number of payoffs, excluding the Grapeshot, Remand, Grapeshot or double Grapeshot lines, most Gifts Storm lists have played six payoff spells in the recent months (4 Gifts Ungiven and 2 Past in Flames). In Drake’s list, he has nine total (4 Gifts Ungiven, 3 Merchant Scroll and 2 Past in Flames). This allows him less games where you can’t find a way to win, whether that’s failing to draw a payoff spell or your one gets discarded or countered.

On the second part of Merchant Scroll, Drake played a single copy of a bounce spell of choice in the main deck – Echoing Truth – which is pretty comment these days. Merchant Scroll allows him to basically play four copies of the effect (of note, Drake won game one of his semifinal match against Amulet Titan because of Merchant Scroll getting Echoing Truth to bounce a Primeval Titan).

So why haven’t people been playing Merchant Scroll all along? It mainly has to do with the speed of the format. A six-mana Gifts Ungiven isn’t exactly good value. I like that Drake has optimized his list to offset this somewhat, however with the full eight mana bears and the 18 lands. Remember, he correctly anticipated playing against a linear field.

Now to the sideboard. First off, Drake responded to me on Twitter says his sideboard was sort of all over the place and needed some re-working. I’d tend to agree, mainly with the singleton copy of Leyline of Sanctity. I’ve never been impressed with the card despite trying it in Storm several times over the years, and playing just a single copy and decreasing your chances to start the game with it doesn’t seem great to me.

Drake wasn’t messing around with the four copies of Aria of Flame. Death’s Shadow decks, mainly the Jund variant (which isn’t as bad for Storm as Grixis, might I add) had really been picking up in popularity. Simply put, the card is an all-star against Death’s Shadow decks. It’s also decent against UW control decks and Whirza decks in the right spot, as both of them really attempt to shut down Storm’s primary game plan in postboard games. Mainly, it’s another avenue to victory alongside Empty the Warrens that people have to be ready for.

What I really want to touch on in the sideboard is the two copies of a Throne of Eldraine common in Mystical Dispute. Mystical DisputeStorm has played counter spells in its sideboard more often than not over the years, and this was a great call by Drake in my opinion. I’d played a couple leagues with it before SCG Indianapolis and was impressed.

For starters, this card is a worse version of Mana Leak against non-blue cards, but Storm has seldom played that card in the sideboard. When I played it and watched Drake play it, I more curious on how it compared to cards like Spell Pierce and Negate. (Full disclosure, I’ve been in the Negate camp much more than the Spell Pierce camp in the past, if I’m only playing one of the two.).

While there are matches where Spell Pierce is better than Mystical Dispute (mainly non-creature, non-blue decks such as Amulet Titan), I think this card is better in Modern right now for two reasons. One, it’s better against UWx decks, and two (arguably more important), it hits the most powerful card in the most powerful deck – Urza, High Artificer for one mana. That alone has won me several matches against Whirza and artifact decks.

A note on Blood Moon, I’ve been over this card before. It’s very very powerful and can win you games on the spot in the right field. Some people love Blood Moon in Storm while others think it’s unnecessary. I have both played it and not played it in the past.

Absent from Drake’s list is a grindy card like Pieces of the Puzzle or Fact or Fiction, which notably can be fetched with Merchant Scroll. While I think both of these cards are fine in Storm sideboards, Drake, as mentioned by himself and above, expected a field of linear decks without a ton of graveyard hate. In that field, I tend to agree with him that grindy cards aren’t necessary.

One thing I would have liked to see (perhaps in the Leyline of Sanctity slot), is another target for Merchant Scroll (especially given Drake registered three copies) – another counter spell or bounce spell perhaps? But you might want to ask the man himself (@ViralDrake on Twitter) as he won the tournament, not me.

I’ve been working on my personal list with Merchant Scroll since Drake won SCG Indianapolis and I’ll post that on Twitter (@ModernStorm) later this week. It’s awesome to see someone take down a big tournament with Gifts Storm. Congrats again, Drake!

Mitch

 

 

 

Banned & Restricted Update – Aug. 26, 2019

Wow. I can’t believe Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) actually did it. In what’s likely one of the biggest shakeups the Modern format has had via a Banned & Restricted Update, WOTC laid this bombshell on Monday morning.

BANNED
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
Faithless Looting

UNBANNED
Stoneforge Mystic

The first card, Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis, is no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to Modern since Modern Horizons came out. Despite 477 copies of Leyline of the Void being registered at the most recent Modern Mythic Championships, Hogaak decks still performed the best (day two conversion, winning percentage) at the tournament and had showed no signs of stopping afterwards. The deck was simply too powerful, too consistent and too difficult to stop for Modern.

It’s the other two cards I wanted to address today. WOTC could have unbanned Stoneforge Mystic a while ago, but has been fearful of doing so because of lack of diversity in the format (e.g. all fair decks would play Stoneforge Mystic, aggressive decks can’t exist, etc.). Only time will tell if it was a wise move or not. Faithless Looting as been the culprit, in my opinion, of the various broken graveyard strategies we’ve seen over the past several years. From my memory, Faithless Looting began seeing playing in Dredge and Mardu Pyromancer and has continued to enable decks to abuse cards like Arclight Phoenix and Hogaak. I am perfectly fine with WOTC making the decisions it made today, though I didn’t think we’d ever come to the day of Faithless Looting hitting the banned list.

Now time for what you all came here for. What impact will this have on Storm? The true answer is only time will tell, but I’ll give my thoughts and predictions.

Prediction No. 1 – Empty the Warrens gets worse, isn’t playable in the main deck.

This one is a pretty safe prediction as it is directly correlated to Stoneforge Mystic. For those who haven’t encountered this interaction in Legacy, it takes a LOT of goblins tokens to beat a 4/4 lifelinker that also has vigilance. How many to be exact? Thanks to TheEpicStorm.com’s data page, it takes 18 goblins to beat a Batterskull turn three on the play and turn two on the draw. In the rare occurrence that we can generate goblins on turn two, Storm needs 14 goblins to beat a Batterskull.

Prediction No. 2 – The UW and BGx matchups get worse.

BGx decks, where Empty the Warrens has been very good, now have access to Plague Engineer. This along with prediction No. 1 means that one of Storm’s best tools, waves of goblin tokens, aren’t as effective. Because of this, I believe both matchups have gotten more difficult. That doesn’t mean they are unwinnable by any means, however.

Prediction No. 3 – The format slows down.

Despite the UW and BGx matchups being slightly worse, I believe both of those decks in the format slows Modern down by a half turn to a turn. How does this effect Storm lists? I’m starting with seven mana bears (Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer) as well as potentially adding a third copy of Remand. I could see even going down to six mana bears, but wouldn’t ever play less than that. Additionally, more expensive sideboard cards (e.g. Fact or Fiction, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, etc.) could become more appealing.

Prediction No. 4 – Graveyard hate, specifically in the main deck, decreases.

With Faithless Looting getting the ax, decks that utilize the graveyard significantly will decrease in popularity, which, in turn, decrease the amount of graveyard hate in the format. How does this affect Storm? I think Storm will become much more streamlined in the main deck aiming to kill the opponent swiftly and consistently. I don’t think there’s a need for alternate win conditions like Empty the Warrens or Aria of Flame in the main deck.

Prediction No. 5 – Big mana decks such as Tron and Valakut Titan re-enter the format along with Grixis Death’s Shadow.

Big mana decks prey on midrange decks. If Stoneforge Mystic is a big player, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the big mana decks begin to see play. These are good things for Storm for sure (along with Burn not being played as much), but I suspect one of Storm’s nemesis’s, Grixis Death’s Shadow, will pop up again.

The List I’m Currently Testing/Playing

Decklist_Aug.28

The list above is what I’m currently testing. I tried Blood Moon for a few matches and didn’t like it because of Arcum’s Astrolabe and Wrenn & Six. A couple notes on this below.

  1. The Peer Through Depths is the 60th card currently. Could see that being another Remand or a third Grapeshot.
  2. I’ve liked seven mana bears. I don’t think the format’s speed requires the full eight copies.
  3. The Flusterstorm and Dismember just entered the sideboard this evening. Flusterstorm, albeit very powerful, is also very narrow. I have liked Negate over a card like Spell Pierce so far. I could also see a card like Fry making its way into the sideboard. Again, this is due to the format’s speed slowing down.
  4. If Death & Taxes style decks along with Human see more play, I’ll be fitting two Grim Lavamancer into the sideboard (likely for the Flusterstorm and Dismember). This will also require the swapping of a copy of Fiery Islet and the third Steam Vents for a single copy of two different blue fetch lands.
  5. The manabase – I’m trying a second Fiery Islet to see if I like it or not. I don’t think it’s a big deal whether you’re on fetches or a fetchless manabase. My personal opinion/preference currently is to playing Scalding Tarn and no other fetch lands unless you’re sideboarding Blood Moon or Grim Lavamancer.
  6. The copies of Aria of Flame in the sideboard are a concession to the Stoneblade decks now having a better answer for goblin tokens. These could turn into Pyromancer Ascension or one of my favorite pet cards, Precognition Field, along with something else for more grindy matchups.

A Note on Twiddle Storm

For those who haven’t seen it yet (there’s a bunch of searchable content on YouTube), a new Storm deck has popped up utilizing an M20 card in Lotus Field. The basic idea of this deck is to assemble the hexproof land with a bunch of effects that untap it to gain mana. Additionally, the card Psychic Puppetry can be spliced onto a bunch of Arcane spells to cast spells for free (given you get three mana off of Lotus Field). The kill condition of the deck to this point has been Past in Flames with Grapeshot.

I have gotten and seen SO MANY questions, opinions and thoughts on this deck. I have read a lot on the deck, watched it and played it in a couple leagues on Magic Online. Is Twiddle Storm better than the standard Gifts Storm? The real answer is we don’t know, but here’s what I’ve gathered so far.

  1. Twiddle Storm is incredibly difficult to interact with. It uses a land, which cannot be discarded from your hand via traditional discard, no creatures and is filled with redundancy.
  2. Twiddle Storm has a more difficult time playing through interaction when it’s presented (one of the strengths of Gifts Storm in my opinion).
  3. The cantrips in the deck, when not comboing, feel very underpowered.
  4. Twiddle Storm does have a fail rate (comboing off and fizzling), but I haven’t experienced that aspect as much as others have.
  5. Twiddle Storm feels more like an Ad Nauseam deck to me (needing specific cards to win) than Gifts Storm. It’s a more black and white deck whereas Gifts Storm is grey (can combo with different combinations of cards).
  6. The deck feels like it is doing something powerful, but it is not fully tuned yet. Some people are playing Tolaria West, Expedition Map and splashing into green for Sylvan Scrying for additional ways to find Lotus Field.

Number six is perhaps the most important. In it’s current iteration, I believe Gifts Storm to be a better deck than Twiddle Storm, but I’m VERY excited to follow and perhaps contribute to this deck’s development.

Well there you have it, nearly 1,500 words on Storm after the Banned and Restricted Update. How do you think Storm will fair in Modern? How do you think the Modern metagame will look? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @StormModern!

Until next time, happy Storming!

 

Ignoring/Playing Around Graveyard Hate

My name is Hugo Lopez, and I am a Spanish player who plays primarily Magic Online (my username is hugo87). I’ve been playing Storm in modern since the printing of Baral, Chief of Compliance in 2016. Modern is the only Constructed format I play. Because Storm is the only deck I use, I’ve been able to collect around 2,300 games with it in the past three years. My intention is to write from time to time and share some interesting experiences or situations I’ve faced. My thoughts are intended for those of you who already know the basics and would like to go a level deeper and learn some of the subtleties of the deck. My intention here is to focus on those games where your opponent does actually interact with you, which sadly will be a lot.

Before we start with the first of what I hope it will be a nice series of articles, let me be completely honest with you – do not get frustrated if you lose a lot when you start playing the deck. We have all been there. The good news is this deck is quite prepared to go through all that ‘’unbeatable’’ interaction and win. The bad news are you actually need a lot of practice and losses to be able to find the best lines. Even after all these games, I see the right line after the game or when it’s simply too late on occasion. You really never stop learning with this deck.  If you’re one of those players who can’t play the same deck for more than a few weeks, this deck is probably not for you. Storm is a very easy deck to play at a very basic level, but one of the hardest decks in modern to master. It is, however, extremely rewarding if you’re able to get a decent level with it. If you really like the archetype, my advice is give it a change. The deck is way better than most people think when you get to the next level.

Enough with the boring introductory talk, let’s focus a bit. Today’s article will be about how to play around or ignore soft graveyard hate. No, I’m not talking about sideboarding in  your Empty the Warrens and/or Aria of Flame and make 20 tokens in the face of a  Relic of Progenitus. That’s fairly obvious. I’m talking about beating cards like Relic of Progenitus, Surgical Extraction or Ravenous Trap using Past in Flames, even in preboard games.

The first thing you need to have in mind is that there are only two main cards that shut completely off the graveyard route of the deck – Rest in Peace and Leyline of the Void. Those two cards have a replacement effect that makes your spells unable to even touch the graveyard for a second. Grafdigger’s Cage has the same effect, but it’s not as bad for Storm because if it leaves the battlefield, your whole graveyard is still there waiting for you. I don’t want to focus on these “hard” pieces of graveyard hate. Instead, I’d like to focus on ‘’soft’’ graveyard hate, or cards that have an effect that exiles your graveyard or a card from your graveyard basically once. My goal here is to make visible some lines that you might dismiss because a certain card is in play. Let’s see some scenarios I’ve faced in the last weeks to try to understand this. For reference, the deck list I’m using in this article can be found here.

The first thing to keep in mind is the way Past in Flames Works. Since it doesn’t target the instant and sorceries you have in the graveyard, every instant and sorcery you might add while Past in Flames is on the stack will also gain flashback once it resolves. This is the very basic thing to keep in mind for all these lines to work. So, on the actual games:

 

Scenario 1: Comboing Through a Relic of Progenitus, Nihil Spellbomb or Tormod’s Crypt

HugoScenarioOne

Unfortunately the replay crashes after this point, so we will have to figure out how to proceed this turn and the next one. Our opponent is basically sitting on nothing but a Nihil Spellbomb, and we have a good hand that scryed Gifts Ungiven to the top. The play of bottoming the land, playing Goblin Electromancer and a tapped Spirebluff Canal seems correct with the hopes of comboing off next turn. Assuming the opponent does nothing and the mana bear lives, what can we do here?

Most people would simply destroy the Nihil Spellbomb with the Abrade, but what if the opponent’s last card or the card they cycle into with the Nihil Spellbomb is a pieces of interaction? I think there’s a way to play around such a sequence by letting the opponent make the first move.

The idea here, and in basically every scenario where you face one of the aforementioned artifacts that exile your graveyard, is to make a lot of mana,  get Past in Flames and three other cards (might vary depending on several factors, we will see shortly) with Gifts Ungiven. Then without passing priority, cast Past in Flames from the graveyard in case the opponent puts in there with some mana floating in your pool. The opponent will then active their artifact exiling your graveyard. Simply let that resolve, and cast instants from your hand while the Past in Flames is still on the stack, allowing all of those instants to gain flashback upon Past in Flames resolving.

In this scenario, having Grapeshot in hand and the opponent at a low life total makes things easier. Because a standard pile isn’t going to work (Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, Manamorphose, Past in Flames), I’d start Peer Through Depths and splicing Desperate Ritual on top it, which is a mana neutral play (it costs 1UR because of Goblin Electromancer being in play and generates RRR). If you hit a ritual or Manamorphose (eight hits in 33 cards left after drawing Gifts Ungiven is 77.6 percent), you will have the magical number of 8-9 mana after resolving Gifts Ungiven to combo the opponent.

Scenario 2: Comboing Through Possible Unknown Exile Effects – Ravenous Trap or Surgical Extraction

HugoScenarioTwo

The way to proceed against possible copies of Ravenous Trap (only in postboard games) or Surgical Extraction (especially against Izzet Phoenix decks) is very similar to the previous example with the difference that you don’t have the public information of a permanent being in play. There are going to be times when you can afford to play around it and times when you can’t. It’s important to distinguish the two.

In this scenario, your opponent has discarded a Ravenous Trap in the early turns with Faithless Looting, so it’s very likely they have another one in hand. You probably need to hit a land with any of those two Manamorphose, otherwise you won’t be able to win through any of the free spells we mentioned. Since we are forced to go for it anyways, you start with Pyretic Ritual in case you don’t hit land with Manamorphose. This also plays around Surgical Extraction if you hit the land because you can respond to it with a ritual into Manamorphose to make some blue mana to able to cast Peer Through Depths in your hand after Goblin Electromancer resolves to hit Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens.

Because you drew the land (as seen above), what do you do here?

Cast all your rituals, cast Manamorphose, cast Peer Through Depths and cast Past In Flames? Definitely not if you smell Ravenous Trap, but even if you don’t, your graveyard is stacked enough! Play it safe! Cast one ritual, cast Past in Flames with R floating, and let your opponent make the first move once again. If your opponent has something, you will see it here 99 percent of the time. The opponent did indeed have Ravenous Trap, but it didn’t matter because after letting the trap resolve, you simply play all the cards in your hand with the Past in Flames on the stack. Your opponent could also let Past in Flames resolve and try to Ravenous Trap you after you cast your first spell with flashback and no mana floating at that point. This still gives you some mana and a card you wouldn’t have had access to with that Manamorphose you’re casting from the graveyard.

Scenario 3: Comboing Through a Game One Surgical Extraction (and Additionally Force of Negation)

HugeScenarioThree

Another deck that plays some number of Surgical Extraction main deck on occasion is Azorious Control. The scenario above depicts the following: you’re in the opponent’s end step and deciding which card to take with Peer Through Depths. Given your hand, the first inclination is to avoid the redundant copy of Past in Flames, but what if I told you that it’s the right choice here?

Remember, you’re playing against a deck packing Surgical Extraction and Force of Negation, so having Past in Flames in hand is super valuable. Additionally, having the second plays makes it easier to play around these cards because you don’t need to wait to generate millions of mana and cast Gifts Ungiven.

Some turns after this, you’re lucky enough to find a Gifts Ungiven, which should be more than enough to win the game through everything (with the pile of Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, Manamorphose, Peer Through Depths). I like to include Peer Through Depths in many of my Gifts Ungiven piles because my decisions become very flexible based on what I have to interact with.

Ideally, you cast Gifts Ungiven during opponent’s end step with Remand backup to protect it. Be sure to keep the Baral, Chief of Compliance in hand before comboing to avoid a sweeper and do not pick Grapeshot in your Gifts Ungiven pile to play around Surgical Extraction. Once you have a good amount of mana in play and in hand, lets say two more rituals, the party starts. Imagine you have drawn one more land for a total of five lands in play.

You start by casting one ritual (seven mana), it will resolve, you cast your second one (nine mana), you cast your Manamorphose (10 mana), cast Baral, Chief of Compliance (eight mana, which is very important because you will be casting multiple Past in Flames) and cast your first Past in Flames from hand with six mana floating. The best your opponent could do here is Force of Negation, at which point you can let it resolve and cast the second one. You fold to a second force of negation basically, but a Surgical Extraction shouldn’t cause you to stop comboing. This is what happened in this game, and I won it.

I’ll do my best to continue writing a bit and sharing some interesting situations I might face. This could mean a second part with similar situations to what I talked about here, or different common ones. I’ll be glad to share them with everyone and discuss the lines with you / read you opinions.

Until next time, and don’t stop storming!

Storm Post Modern Horizons

*Disclaimer – The majority of this article are opinions of mine (and some people I talk with regularly) about how Modern Horizons is going to impact Storm. People are welcome to disagree as I’m not the letter of the law. Just throwing out my thoughts and predictions ofnhypothetical paper. 

The much anticipated Modern Horizons set, the first set designed specifically for Modern that is bypassing Standard, has had its full spoiler completed last weekend. Before we delve into some Horizons cards, let’s take a look at where Storm is currently in Modern.

I would argue that Storm was in a bad spot pre-War of the Spark. I mentioned that in a posting a couple of weeks ago, but Storm felt like it was paying for the sins of Arclight Phoenix. Meaning, both decks function on a somewhat similar axis with cantrips and the graveyard. Other decks would play hate cards like Chalice of the Void, Damping Sphere and even main deck Surgical Extraction to fight Phoenix. The problem is all of those cards also hit Storm. Since that point, a Pro Tour has happened and War of the Spark entered Modern!

What did the Pro Tour do?

In my opinion, Humans rose back up to the top of Modern, which vaulted Grixis Death’s Shadow down a peg. Humans isn’t the best matchup for Storm, but it’s certainly not as bad a good Grixis Death’s Shadow pilot playing the deck.

What did War of the Spark do?

The real answer is we don’t completely know as it takes an eternal format like Modern a while to adjust. But these two cards have already seen a lot of play.

Both of these cards have seen Azorius Control rise up to the top of Modern. Both have very powerful static effects that can really hamper the powers of some Modern decks. While both of these cards do hurt Storm, we can combo through them, especially if our opponent taps out on turn three. Mainly though, UW Control, which even with the new toys above isn’t a bad matchup for us, being a deck (along with Humans) has pushed Death’s Shadow decks out of the format, a very good thing for Storm.

 

War of the Spark did give Storm a couple of cards to think about. Ultimately though, I don’t think either ends up in our deck in its current configuration. Finale of Promise is another engine card, but it relies on the graveyard, meaning it’s much more effective main deck than postboard as our graveyard becomes much less reliant. Casting it for three mana yields us two cantrips (Opt and either Serum Visions or Sleight of Hand) while casting it for four yields a ritual and a cantrip. Neither of these options sound very exciting to me. Secondly, Ral, Storm Conduit does make all of our spells ping the opponent, but that only helps in situations where we are “not fully going off”. Additionally, planeswalkers have always been difficult for Storm to protect.

Modern Horizons Cards for Storm
FieryIslet

I’ll start with the auto-include, and it comes as part of a “Horizon Canopy” cycle of lands that features the enemy color pairs. Fiery Islet provides Storm with an ability to turn flooding into drawing a card or two, which can be the difference between winning and losing a game in a combo deck.

Most Storm decks should play at least two of this. There’s been a debate in the Storm community to play fetch lands or not. For those who don’t play fetches, this card should auto replace some copies of Shivan Reef. For those who play fetch lands, I believe this card will slot in to replace non-Scalding Tarn fetch lands. Unless you’re a strong advocate for Blood Moon, Fiery Islet’s presence means the end of non-Scalding Tarn fetch lands in Storm in my opinion.

Next are these two blue instants above, both of which I think will find homes in Storm sideboards. First, is Flusterstorm, which is NOT the same in Modern as it is in Legacy. Legacy is over 50 percent Brainstorm/Ponder/Force of Will decks. Additionally, a lot of the format features decks that use instants and sorceries. Modern is not that way. It is much more creature based and many feature artifacts, enchantments and plansewalkers. As such, I don’t think Flusterstorm is going to see that much play. Magic players and content producers who are much smarter than me – Emma Handy of StarCityGames, as well as Luis Scott-Vargas and Matt Nass of Channel Fireball, all said Flusterstorm is overrated.

ShenanigansRebuild is a catch-all answer to artifacts that I think is a slight upgrade from the Shatterstorms and Hurkyl’s Recalls of the world. It does cost one more mana, but it has the option to cycle if you don’t need it in a situation. Additionally, it doesn’t target an opponent, which is relevant a non-zero amount of time. 

I’d also like to mention the card to the left. Though subtle, Shenanigans gives Storm a guaranteed way to get a shatter effect a turn after casting Gifts Ungiven. Also noteworthy, this interaction gets around Grafdigger’s Cage.

 

FactorFiction

The next card that’s generated a lot of buzz is Fact or Fiction. Specifically, with a lot of the Storm community I’ve talked to, is the comparing this card to Pieces of the Puzzle. Let’s take a closer look at both of these cards.

First, both Fact or Fiction and Pieces of the Puzzle are card advantage and card selection at the same time. Additionally, both dodge the graveyard Fact or Fiction is the better card advantage option as you are guaranteed to get three cards at least if you want. Pieces of the Puzzle, on the other hand, is better selection as you can get the best two instants and sorceries in the pile. I said this on social media, but I think which one of these to play (or a split in some number) is one of the most intriguing decisions Storm has once Modern Horizons is legal.

The Argument for Pieces of the Puzzle

First, Pieces of the Puzzle cost one less mana, which is very relevant in a format as quick as Modern. Getting to cast Pieces of the Puzzle a turn earlier than Fact or Fiction is a BIG deal. Second, Pieces of the Puzzle gets the best two instants/sorceries in the pile. Not letting the opponent have a choice is relevant a non-zero amount of the time. Third, Pieces of the Puzzle is better during the combo turn as it cost less mana and gets two specific cards if, say you need a ritual and a pay-off.

The Argument for Fact or Fiction

First, despite being more more mana, Fact or Fiction is an instant, which can be relevant, especially against an opponent playing counter magic. Second, Fact or Fiction will get you more card quantity as you are guaranteed at least three cards. Third, Fact or Fiction gets any card, not just instants and sorceries. This can be relevant when looking for mana bears or lands (specifically thinking of the control matchup as an example).

My Prediction

I could be drop-dead wrong here, but that’s what you sign up for when you make predictions! I think that if Modern remains very quick and linear, I think Pieces of the Puzzle is the better option, due to the selection. If Modern slows down, I think Fact or Fiction is the better option, due to the the card advantage.

Going one step further, I’d give the edge to Fact or Fiction on what will ultimately shake out. I think Modern will slow down a touch after Modern Horizons, though that may be wrong with the London Mulligan rule entering the format in 2020. Additionally, I think if I end up being wrong, it’s because of the mana cost of Fact or Fiction, not the lack of selection/letting the opponent pick your piles with Fact or Fiction.

Next up are these two beauties and to be completely honest, I don’t have a good read on either of these cards. I could see both being very good, not even played or somewhere in between.

I’ll start with Aria of Flame. We haven’t seen anything exactly like this card, but a couple of enchantments, Pyromancer’s Swath and Pyromancer Ascension, come to mind that can be at the very least a loose comparison. All three are enchantments that if left unchecked, will win the game. Both Aria of Flame and Pyromancer’s Swath kill around the same speed, but that’s assuming a Grapeshot is cast with Swath (the card requires you to discard your hand for those not familiar). Additionally, Aria of Flame doesn’t require a combo in a single turn. In theory, it feels sort of like a ticking time bomb (psuedo Shrine of Burning Rage out of red decks). Further, Aria of Flame feels better than Pyromancer’s Swath. The comparison of Pyromancer Ascension is a little more loose, but again, both serve as engines for Storm. In general, I think Ascension is much more powerful and has the better ability to win the game on its own once turned on. But that’s just the kicker, Ascension needs to get two counters on it to do anything, which involves the graveyard. That drawback is much worse than Aria of Flame’s gain 10 life. To conclude, I think that Pyromancer Ascension is the more powerful card, but Aria of Flame fits in better as a sideboard option for slower matchups as it doesn’t need the graveyard to get going (something I LOVE have access to in postboard games). I could definitely see this being played alongside Empty the Warrens as an alternate win condition.

Echo of Eons, a new Timetwister effect for those who have played Magic since the mid 1990s. There’s no doubt that getting a symmetrical draw seven effect for three mana is absurdly powerful. The question I have is two-fold. One, how often would this effect win the game? And two, how difficult is it to setup? As I’ve said above and other times on this site, one of the reasons Storm is so potent as a combo deck is its ability to transition to a kill that doesn’t need the graveyard in postboard games. Because of this Echo of Eons would likely need to be played as an engine in the main deck. In order to do this, I think current Storm lists would need to change pretty significantly. A couple of things I’ve thought about in order to make Echo of Eons more reliably flashed back is to play cards like Faithless Looting and Thought Scour as well as replacing Gifts Ungiven with either Pieces of the Puzzle or Fact or Fiction (see above). That’s too much of a change for me to make a prediction with an ounce of accuracy on whether or not Echo of Eons will see play. I reiterate, however, to predict that the configuration of the deck will need to change a lot to get the flashback effect consistently. That answers the second question above. The answer to the first question remains to be seen.

Before touching on cards in Modern Horizons that other decks might play against Storm, I’d like to highlight Everdream, Scour All Possibilities and Collected Conjuring as cards that aren’t quite good enough.

Modern Horizons brought a cool mechanic in Splice onto instant or sorcery that has me very excited for it seeing play in Storm at some point. I don’t think Everdream is it, though, as the mana cost for both casting and splicing is a colorless mana too expensive. Some people have mentioned the splicing combination with Storm cards as, yes, you would draw a card for each Storm copy. That’s a high ceiling (how good a card is when it’s good), but the floor (how bad the card is when it’s bad) is two mana to draw a single card. No thanks.

Scour All Possibilities dashed any hopes of Wizards of the Coast (WOTC) unbanning Preordain as this card is simply that for an extra mana. There was a time when Storm played around with running two-mana cantrips (Shimmer of Possibility, Think Twice, Strategic Planning, Anticipate, Take Inventory, etc.), but ever since Opt entered Modern, the need for that went away. I do think this card would be borderline playable in Modern pre-Opt existing, but not right now.

Finally, Collected Conjuring just doesn’t cut it, mainly due to the fact it cannot cast instants. The only way to make this work would be to play a heavy Pieces of the Puzzle/two-mana sorcery cards, which really waters down the deck in my opinion. Playing a playset of Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand, Pieces of the Puzzle, Scour All Possibilities (as an example) and three copies of Storm spells (Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens) gives the deck a total of 19 sorceries. Using a hypergeometric calculator, we can deduce that the probability of Collected Conjuring hitting two or more sorceries is just 62.6 percent. All that effort for missing more than one third of the time.

 

Modern Horizons Cards for Storm to Watch Out For

In this section, I’ll go over some cards in Modern Horizons that I think will see Modern play that will impact Storm. Cards like Seasoned Pyromancer, which I do think will be playable, won’t appear here as it doesn’t affect Storm much at all.

The first three cards I’d like to discuss are “hatebearer” type cards in Unsettled Mariner, Ranger-Captain of Eos and Giver of Runes.

Unsettled Mariner is the real deal. It generates a mana tithe for everything that targets the opponent or ANY permanent the opponent controls. Yes, that includes copies of Grapeshot. Additionally, it’s a changling, meaning any tribal deck that can support its mana cost can play it. Herein lies the Mariner’s weakness in my opinion. The mana cost hampers the ability to play it in a wide variety of decks. Mainly, I see Humans and Spirits as the main two decks that will play Unsettled Mariner. Merfolk and Death and Taxes decks could as well, but that means venturing into another color. We did see White Weenie aficionado Craig Wescoe play a “Spooky Taxes” at the Magic Online Championship a couple of years ago. I could see that being the way taxes lists go in the future. To conclude, Unsettled Mariner will see Modern play, and it’s another creature that needs to be killed before comboing our opponent playing it. What does this mean for Storm? It could be playing more removal or bounce spells in the main deck, if this card ends up finding its way into opponents’ 60s. I see it as a staple sideboard card for sure with the possibility of it being played in the main deck.

Next is Ranger-Captain of Eos, a play on Ranger of Eos. While this card’s search effect isn’t the original Ranger, the captain does have a great ability at the bottom of the card that Storm needs to be aware of. This is essentially a time walk as the Silence-ish effect ensures we can’t combo or do much of anything that turn. Who will play this? I’m no Humans expert, but I’ve gotta think this card will be in their 75 in some capacity. Additionally, Death and Taxes style decks as well as Martyr Proclamation and Soul Sisters (which I’ve never felt were quite good enough in Modern) will surely play this as well. Time will tell if Ranger-Captain of Eos will push any of these archetypes into the top couple of tiers.

Finally, we have Giver of Runes. Make no mistake, this card isn’t Legacy staple Mother of Runes as it cannot protect itself. But the style of decks I mentioned in the previous paragraph play cards that the giver can protect that are problematic for Storm (e.g. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Leonin Arbiter, Kitesailer Freebooter, etc.). Fortunately, WOTC didn’t make this card a Human, but Death & Taxes decks as well as Collected Company combo decks (with Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies) could also play Giver of Runes.

CabalTherapist

That’s a perfect segue into the next card, Cabal Therapist. Again, this isn’t Legacy staple Cabal Therapy, but with all the creatures in Modern, it could be even better. I don’t predict the therapist to see play in many Modern decks, but the Collected Company/Chord of Calling/Birthing Pod style decks will certainly play this as they are flush with creatures to sacrifice. Not removing Cabal Therapist means our opponent basically gets a hand-hate spell every precombat phase on their turn. Can you imagine this alongside Giver of Runes? Yikes.

If I had to guess, I’d say this is mainly a sideboard card for them that could see a copy enter the main deck as a tutor target for the various green tutors (Chord of Calling, Eldritch Evolution, Finale of Devastation, etc.).

Blue decks also got some new tools in Force of Negation, Archmage’s Charm and Flusterstorm. I won’t touch a ton more on Flusterstorm as I already did above. But to summarize, I don’t think Flusterstorm will see widespread play and will be at must a sideboard card. It is effective against us, but Storm can play it as well.

Force of Negation is part of the new “Force of Will” cycle in Modern Horizons. For what it’s worth, I think WOTC did a phenomenal job with the power level of this cycle for Modern (though I do wish the red one was playable for Storm). I see Force of Negation as a sideboard card for control decks, but will not be a four-of. Being part of some of the control groups on social media, they are predicting leaning more heavily on Dovin’s Veto and not Force of Negation. The only decks I could see this card being played main deck are blue tempo decks. Mainly, Delver of Secrets style strategies have been missing a free way to protect their threats. This along with the printing of Nimble Mongoose could mean a Temur Delver (or Canadian Threshold for those old-school folks) makes its way into the Modern scene. To conclude, Force of Negation will mainly be a sideboard card to be worried about, and if a tempo deck rises, it will see play in the main deck of those style decks. Luckily, we have a new tool in Flusterstorm to fight it.

Archmage’s Charm is a narrow card in mana cost, meaning only a select-view decks can play it, but for those that can, it’s very versatile. I put in on here mainly to show that blue decks that can support the triple blue casting cost (which they might not be able to) will have a counter option on turn three. Previously, these decks usually have counter spells on two mana (Mana Leak, Negate, Dovin’s Veto, Logic Knot, etc.) and four mana (Cryptic Command). Should this card see play, that will change.

These last three cards – Kaya’s Guile, Force of Vigor and Weather the Storm – are miscellaneous options that could see Modern play.

Kaya’s Guile will likely be a main deck option for decks like tokens and Abzan. Three mana for these effects is expensive, but the flexibility warrants the mana cost. Be aware of possible main deck graveyard hate from these style of decks in Kaya’s Guile.

Force of Vigor is another one in the “Force of Will” cycle that gives green decks a great answer to all the various artifact and enchantment decks in Modern. Should you choose to play the wide number of possible enchantments in your Storm build for a tournament, know that this card exists. I do think it would be too narrow to bring in from the opponent’s point of view, however.

Finally, we have Weather the Storm. Yes, an opponent could play this in response to our Grapeshot and gain a bunch of life, but most of the time, Storm can just keep combing and cast another Grapeshot for even more. I don’t think this card is very good, frankly. And for those who suggest we splash for this, I don’t agree at all. Making our mana worse for a very narrow card (mainly Burn and Zoo decks only) doesn’t seem worth it in my book.

The Post Modern Horizons Metagame

I’ll be the first to say, there is absolutely no way to know what the meta game will look like. Modern hasn’t had this big of a shakeup probably ever (save maybe post Pro Tour Philadelphia 2011 bannings) as this is the first set designed for Modern specifically. I will list off some decks that I think got some new tools as well as ones that didn’t get much. To clarify, I’m only going to level one here – meaning what archetypes got new cards and what didn’t. I’m not gonna try and delve into level two thinking such as – “Tron got nothing, so that means BGx decks are more represented which means creature decks aren’t….”. Analyzing a metagame is a lot more complicated than just listing which decks  got what cards, but I’m not going down the rabbit hole any further. 🙂

Winners of Modern Horizons
Control decks (Azorius mainly)
Creature Toolbox decks (Chord of Calling/Collected Company)
Humans (will be this way basically every set as Humans are printed constantly)
Blue tempo decks (previously not really playable)
Aggro Loam decks (welcome to Modern, cycle lands)
Infect (should Scale Up prove to be great)

Losers of Modern Horizons
Black-Green-X decks (Jund, Abzan, the Rock)
Tron variants
Artifact decks (a lot of artifact hate in the set)

*Thanks to Micah Lupa (@drisoth on Twitter) for coming up with some of these.

 

Storm’s Place in the Format Post Modern Horizons

Overall, I don’t think Storm gets any worse than it already was (if you’re in that camp) with Modern Horizons in the format, but I also don’t think it got significantly better either. Too much is yet unknown to predict much beyond that. I will say, however, that unless we find out that Echo of Eons is completely busted, the deck’s configuration doesn’t change drastically. As I said above, I think Storm gets the option of another two engines (Fact or Fiction and Aria of Flame) as well as a couple of sideboard cards (Flusterstorm, Shenanigans, etc.) and a great new land in Fiery Islet.

Ultimately, if the format slows down a touch, which I think Modern Horizons will do, that is a small net positive for us. Azorius Control got some new tools, but I still think it’s a good matchup for Storm, especially if control isn’t packing a bunch of hate cards (which there isn’t really a reason to do as Storm isn’t tier one at the moment).

The wrench in this is the London mulligan rule coming in 2020. I could write another completely separate piece on that, but I’ve said on social media that I think it’s a good rule for Magic. The unfortunate part, however, is that less consistent and quicker combo decks (Neoform as a prime example) that play very few cantrips get a lot more consistent. We do too, but the gain isn’t as much. Throughout my time playing Storm, which is coming up on six years now, I’ve always said the deck is unfavored (in a general sense) against three types of decks – faster combo decks, aggressive decks with removal for bears/disruption and prison decks. Here’s to hoping both Modern Horizons and the London mulligan don’t create openings for those!

There you have it, just over 4,000 words on my thoughts on Storm with Modern Horizons. I apologize for the wordiness at times, but for those who’ve gotten this far in this article, thank you! Let me know if I missed something or your agree/disagree with some of my thoughts and predictions.

Happy storming!

 

Mitch

 

Where I’ve Been & Storm the Last Few Months

Hello everyone,

First, I’d like to apologize for the lack of content coming out the last couple of months. For those who don’t know, I work in collegiate athletics and the spring season gets to be very busy with the constant weather changing in the Midwest. Additionally, my wife and I bought a house late in 2018 and getting a 2.2 acre property up to standards takes time. Both of those things aren’t excuses though, and I vow to do a better job at producing content for the rest of 2019 and beyond.

A lot has happened since the last posting in Modern. A Modern-only set, Modern Horizons, was announced, Izzet Pheonix rose to the top of the Modern metagame, a Modern Pro Tour took place and most importantly, Wizards of the Coast tested a new mulligan rule that’s been named the “London Mulligan” (the city in which the first big tournament had the rule implemented).

Let’s unpack these a bit, starting with Modern Horizons. I don’t think anyone can really predict what the set will bring. What we do know, however, is the cards in the set that are new have been designed specifically for Modern and the reprinted cards will be currently not from Modern-legal sets, making them legal in Modern after the sets release in late summer/early fall of this year. I’m hoping for a playable ritual and/or cantrip in this set for Storm. I do think, however, that the set’s contents will give us an idea of what WOTC wants to do with the format. Modern has always been the people’s format and has great diversity, the problem right now and for the past months follows a trend typical of eternal formats – the longer the format exists and the more cards enter the pool, the more degenerate the format gets. Basically, Modern has become largely non-interactive. Even though Storm is considered a non-interactive deck, I believe formats are the most healthy when interaction is high. Will Modern Horizons change the direction of Modern? Only time will tell.

Second, where has the Modern metagame been over the past couple months and how does that impact Storm? Simply put, I don’t think Storm has been well positioned in the early part of this year. Several people I trust who play Storm shared the same feelings, which were confirmed at the Mythic Championships (the artist formerly known as the Pro Tour).

In my opinion, Izzet Pheonix has really made life difficult for Storm in Modern. The matchup between the two decks wasn’t bad for Storm (though it got worse once Pheonix replaced Gut Shot with Surgical Extraction in the main deck), it was what Pheonix’s position in the format made other decks do. Although Izzet Pheonix isn’t a combo deck, it operates on a similar axis to Storm – plays a lot of cantrips, those cantrips find key cards and uses the graveyard. This alongside an uptick of Dredge meant decks were packing a lot of graveyard hate.

Additionally, decks like Grixis Death’s Shadow, Whir Prison and, as we saw at the Pro Tour, Humans popped up. Shadow, particularly Grixis, as Prison decks are among Storm’s worst matchups and though Humans can be close, it hasn’t been in my experience as Humans decks have adapted to the degeneracy of Modern.

Finally, I’d like touch on the London Mulligan rule. I don’t play much Limited at all and only dabble in Standard, but from everything I’ve heard, the rule seems great for those formats. The issue I have with it in Modern is two-fold. First, it incentives people to play linear decks (as I said above, I think a healthy format usually involves more interaction). Second, those linear decks can now be more inconsistent in nature. Certain combo decks in Modern (and other eternal formats) have fail rates (Allosaurus Rider combo, Serum Powder decks, etc.). Those fail rates decrease with the London Mulligan rule.

One of the biggest strengths of Storm in my opinion is its consistency. The cantrips allow the deck to function the same way the majority of games. The London Mulligan rule does help Storm become more consistent, but not nearly as much as the other “glass-cannony” decks. As an example, if Storm had a consistency rating (ie: how often does it execute its game plan uninterrupted) of 8-of-10 without the London Mulligan rule, that might increase to a 9-of-10. The other combo decks that don’t play cantrips might be a 3-of-10 on the consistency scale with the Vancouver (Scry) Mulligan rule, but that number bumps up to a 7-of-10 with the London Mulligan. These numbers are just made up, obviously, but they illustrate well my theory that Storm doesn’t gain near as much as other linear decks do with the London Mulligan rule.

Man, it feels good to be back writing again. Look for an article on War of the Spark’s impact on Modern Storm later this week.

Cheers,

Mitch

Ravnice Allegiance and Storm

Hello Stormtroopers and happy Ravnica Allegiance prerelease weekend! I’m not able to attend a prerelease this weekend, but I did want to take some time to think about some cards in the set and their possibilities in Storm. Due to the Izzet guild not being in Ravnica Allegiance, Storm won’t get any possible multi-colored cards without dipping into a third color. Even still, there are some exciting possibilities. Without further ado, let’s dive itn

electrodominance

This is the card I’ve heard the most buzz about, and for good reason. There’s no denying the power level of Electrodominance. Being able to cast cards without mana costs such as Ancestral Vision, Wheel of Fate, Restore Balance, or Living End at instant speed is absurd and can definitely fit in the Modern format somewhere in my opinion.

But where does this fit in Storm? The real answer is we don’t know yet, but we can speculate! First, let’s look at using Electrodominance in a combo fashion. The two obvious cards to use are Ancestral Vision and Wheel of Fate.

With Ancestral Vision, if we are casting Electrodominance as soon as possible, it would require two mana and two casts (Electrodominance and Ancestral Vision) to draw three cards. There’s also a Gut Shot tagged onto it, so if that one mana kills something, then there’s generated value there. Personally, I don’t think that’s enough value for the cost that’s required – two mana and having two specific cards in hand.

With Wheel of Fate, I think there are more possibilities. Being able to start a ritual chain and cast Electrodominance with Wheel of Fate and gain virtual card advantage due to the opponent having to discard more cards than us. In this instance, Electrodominance can act as a removal spell and Wheel of Fate as an engine. This possibility intrigues me, but I think it requires the deck to be built quite differently. Feel free to pass along any builds you may have by commenting here or tagging @StormModern on Twitter.

The second possibility of this card as I see it would be to insert it into relatively the same core Storm plays now. Paying three mana (without the ability to cost reduce off of a mana bear) to do one damage to any target and play a cantrip in our hand is a possible line of play, but I find that is very inefficient. In the best case scenario, Electrodominance is a free shock with a mana bear out and a ritual in hand.

In summary, Electrodominance has the power level to be playable in Modern, but I don’t think it’s in Storm. I’d expect it being played in a Restore Balance with As Foretold or something like that. If Electrodominance sees play in Storm, I think it will be in a Wheel of Fate shell.

shimmerofpossibility

The next card that peeked my interest was this little one  – Shimmer of Possibility. After seeing this soiled and taking a little time to evaluate, I, in theory, peg this card as a slightly better version of Anticipate and Strategic Planning. I don’t tend to value instant speed as much as other Storm players, and I’d rather have a look at a fourth card than putting the other two in the graveyard (especially postboard). I also like this card better in a vacuum than Peer Through Depths as it grabs any card. Peer Through Depths is obviously better on the combo turn.

Storm played two-mana cantrips in small numbers before, but that was before Opt was printed in a Modern-legal set. Will Storm ever go back to playing two-mana cantrips? I don’t know. But if it does, this card would be near the top of my list.

The two cards below – Light Up the Stage and Precognitive Perception – both draw cards, but both ultimately will not end up in Storm for different reasons. Storm doesn’t have enough ways to active Spectacle for Light Up the Stage and Precognitive Perception cost too much, even with a mana bear in play.

cindervinesThe final card I’d like to discuss is a potential piece of hate in Cindervines. While this card would like comboing off with Storm more difficult, what deck in Modern would play it? The one that comes to mind immediately is Burn, but Eidolon of the Great Revel is better than the first half of this card and Destructive Revelry is the second half of the card. Maybe Burn or a Zoo deck would play this card? Only time will tell, but I don’t see this being a wide-spread card in Modern, especially given its mana cost.

 

Those were the cards that caught my eye that could impact Storm out of Ravnica Allegiance. Did I miss any? Let me know! Again, happy pre-releasing everyone.

Mitch

Storm Matches – Jan. 12, 2019

Happy New Year Storm Troopers! I apologize it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. Purchasing a new home, moving and daily professional duties have taken up a lot of my time. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to begin to put out video content of Storm matches, and here we are!

I had a couple of issues with the recording, so my apologies in advance. First, the screen capture took the other monitor instead of the intended one, so that footage wasn’t usable. I then audibled to the classic MTGO replay system, which worked for the most part. in My experience, Gifts Ungiven can really screw up that system, which you’ll see it did at points. I tried to do my best to describe the actual sequence of events despite the replay system not working all the time.

I appreciate everyone’s patience as I work through some technical issues. Enjoy!

Grixis Death’s Shadow and game one of Azorius Control

Game two vs. Azorius Control

Mitch