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

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