This page is designed to delve into the core of Modern Storm, or commonly referred to as “Gifts Storm” via the card Gifts Ungiven. I’ll also cover why one would chose to play Gifts Storm as well as what cards to be on the lookout for that hinder/stop our game plan.
*Disclaimer – I don’t claim to be the best player or end-all, be-all when it comes to Modern Storm. Much of this information has been taken from other people better at Magic than me. Some content, however, is my own thoughts and opinions that people can certainly disagree with.
What Exactly is Gifts Storm?
More information on the evolution of Storm can found on the history page, but Gifts Storm is essentially the go-to version of the Storm archetype in Modern right now (as of 2020). It is centered around the name-sake card Gifts Ungiven, historically one of the more difficult cards in Magic to play due to the mind games one can play with their opponent. Which four cards can I pick to ensure I get two that I want? What information does my opponent have about my hand? These are the types of questions I ask myself when casting Gifts Ungiven.
The deck is basically divided up into four categories.
- Mana – Lands (e.g. Steam Vents), Rituals (e.g. Pyretic Ritual) and cost-reducers (e.g. Goblin Electromancer)
- Cantrips – Cards that replace themselves with at least another card in your hand (e.g. Serum Visions)
- Win Conditions – Cards that win you the game (e.g. Grapeshot)
- Interaction – Cards that interact with the opponent (e.g. Remand)
Why Play Gifts Storm?
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already entertained the thought of registering Gifts Storm for a tournament! There are a lot of reasons to play Gifts Storm, but I’ll tackle a couple reasons why I register the deck so often when I’m playing Modern.
- Gifts Storm is Proactive – What do I mean by this? Proactive decks have a game plan before they know what the opponent is playing. Sure, every deck will have to shift its play style based on matchup and board state, but Gifts Storm knows its trying to accumulate a large number of spells in a single turn. Rarely does a Storm deck win without doing this to some degree. In a format as diverse as Modern, you’re in a much better spot generally speaking “asking the questions” rather than “finding answers”. Control decks, which aim to dismantle what the opponent is doing and win a long game, often struggle in Modern because you play against such a wide variety of strategies. Even with a 60-card main deck and a 15-card sideboard, you can’t answer everything.
- Gifts Storm is a Dedicated Combo Deck – A combo deck in Magic refers to decks that need to acquire certain card combinations in order to win. Gifts Storm needs to accumulate enough mana and cast enough spells in a turn to kill the opponent with a storm card (Grapeshot or Empty the Warrens). One of the benefits of combo decks are a certain percentage of your opponents deck doesn’t do anything against you. As an example, Gifts Storm largely doesn’t care what creatures the opponent plays because we don’t need to kill those creatures to win. We just need to survive long enough to find and execute our combo before those creatures reduce our life total to zero. Another benefit of dedicated combo decks like Gifts Storm is their speed. The deck can kill the opponent very quickly and out of nowhere.
- Gifts Storm is Consistent – Deck consistency is an important in Magic and Modern specifically. If the opponent cannot interact with your combo, Gifts Storm is going to reliably kill the opponent on turn five. Sure, you’re going to occasionally lose matches to mana flood or mana screw, but Storm plays so many draw spells that won’t often happen. Storm players frequently get to see over half of their deck in a given game.
- Gifts Storm is Resilient – Dedicated combo decks have cards that completely shut them down from executing their combo/game plan. Gifts Storm has those cards, but the deck has the ability to beat almost anything should you, the pilot, anticipate the hate coming. I will go over pieces of hate later on this page, but the list of cards Gifts Storm simply must remove from the table before executing its combo is very small.
- Gifts Storm is Rewarding to Pilot – I eluded to this at the top of this page, the card Gifts Ungiven is incredibly difficult to play. Sure, we will have some situations/scenarios where Gifts Ungiven yields a “deterministic kill”, but others that do not. Gifts Storm isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s difficult and requires a lot of time to master, but the more I play it, the more confident I feel and more sticky situations I find myself either avoiding or getting out of.
Essential Cards in Gifts Storm
There is some variety with the cards people play in Gifts Storm, but there is a core to the deck, that I believe, needs to be registered if winning matches of Magic is your top priority. Below is a list of cards that should be in everyone’s Gifts Storm deck, or in other words, the “core”.
- Lands – You should be playing at least 16 lands. There is some debate about whether to play fetch lands or not (more on that later). Some number of Spirebluff Canal, Steam Vents, Basic Island, Snow-Covered Island and Mountain should be in the deck.
- Rituals – A playset (4) of Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual and Manamorphose are not optional in order for the deck to function properly.
- Cost-Reducers – Depending on the role you want your Gifts Storm deck to play, this number can vary. A minimum of (4) cost reducers are required. It’s usually four Baral, Chief of Compliance. More on this later.
- The number of cantrips cay vary based on build, but a minimum eight (Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand) should be played. Opt is the deferred third-best cantrip currently while Thought Scour used to see play to help get Pyromancer Ascension “online”.
- Actual Storm Cards – Grapeshot is the go-to option main deck with Empty the Warrens usually coming out of the sideboard. A minimum of two Grapeshots main deck is required with the third one being optional. Empty the Warrens is sometimes played in the main deck.
- Gifts Ungiven – A playset (4) is not optional in order for the deck to function properly.
- Past in Flames – Most current Gifts Storm lists play two in the main deck. A third was necessary when Pyromancer Ascension was more popular.
- Remand – Most Gifts Storm lists play two copies of Remand minimum. Some lists will play the full play set as Remand doubles as both interaction and a pseudo win condition (Remanding a Grapeshot on the stack gives an extra Storm trigger).
- Bounce/Removal – Storm pilots will often play a single copy or two of Repeal, Lightning Bolt, Unsubstantiate and the likes to avoid losing to pieces of hate game one.
- Alternate Win Conditions – Empty the Warrens and/or Aria of Flame. It requires a lower Storm count to kill the opponent with goblins and usually doesn’t need the graveyard.
- Removal – Lightning Bolt, as the prime example, provides the deck more time against aggressive decks that beat down with creatures.
- Bounce Spell – At least one of these is required for dealing with problem permanents the opponent could present. Echoing Truth and Wipe Away are the most common, but other options include Perilous Voyage and Cyclonic Rift.
Pieces of Hate
Because we are a dedicated combo deck, there are certain cards that prevent Storm from executing our combo, and thus, need to be answered before we can win the game.
- Must Answer – The majority of hate pieces in this category involve preventing people from casting more than one spell per turn.
- Pseudo Must Answer – These hate pieces virtually lock Storm out from winning. It’s possible, though very unlikely.
- Taxing Effects – Cards that make Storm’s cards cost more. Some of these are beatable (Thalia, Guardian of Thraben) while others (Damping Sphere, Trinisphere) need to be removed.
- Hexproof – Cards that give a player hexproof. If Empty the Warrens is not in the deck, these non-creature permanents needs to be removed.
- Graveyard Hate – Cards that interaction with Storm’s graveyard. Storm can win without its graveyard, but it’s more difficult. The key is realizing what graveyard cards the opponent is playing. Most common graveyard hate cards include: Rest in Peace, Leyline of the Void, Grafdigger’s Cage, Relic of Progenitus, Nihil Spellbomb, Tormod’s Crypt, Ravenous Trap, Surgical Extraction, Extirpate, Faerie Macabre, Scavenging Ooze, Dryad Militant, Bojuka Bog and Scavenger Grounds.