Matchups & Sideboarding

Welcome to the section about matchups and sideboarding with Storm in Modern! This page is dedicated to role assessment against all the different archetypes Modern can throw at you as well as discussing some sideboard strategies.

Before we go any further, I’d like to discuss what this page is not – a guide for exactly what cards to cut and exactly what cards to bring in postboard. I believe one way to improve your piloting of Storm is not to think about sideboarding as cutting A, B, C and bringing in X, Y, Z. A better way to sideboard is think about the role you want to play and the deck plays in each matchup and what cards do and don’t fit that role.

Further, I’m a firm believer that you can sideboard differently in matchups than others and still be correct, depending on how you see the matchup playing out. Just because you disagree with a suggestion made on this page does not mean you’re wrong! There are different builds of Storm out there and a multitude of cards you can choose to battle with in any given 75. As such, each matchup section will have some general thoughts on what cards aren’t as effective, what you expect the opponent to bring in as far as hate and how the matchup tends to play out.

For those who want specific ins and outs for each matchup, below are two guides to help. The first is from the blog of Caleb Scherer, fixture on the Star City Games Tour and a large proponent of Storm. The second is from Janus Krojgard, a member of the Storm community Facebook page who plays a lot of Storm on MTGO. Thanks to Caleb and Janus for your work on the deck!

Sideboard Guide – Caleb Scherer

Printable Sideboard Guide – Janus Krojgard


Page Legend

Cantrips – A cantrip is a card that replaces itself by drawing another card. Cantrips that have seen play in Storm include: Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand, Opt, Thought Scour, Peek, Quicken, Desperate Ravings, Manamorphose, Strategic Planning, Take Inventory, Peer Through Depths, Anticipate, Think Twice, Scour All Possibilities, Everdream, etc.

Mana Bears – Mana bears refer to cards that decrease the cost of our spells. Most common cards include Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin Electromancer. Another more uncommon option is Primal Amulet.

Rituals – Cards in this category refer spells that add mana to our mana pool. Most common cards include: Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, Manamorphose. Another more uncommon option is Simian Spirit Guide.

Win Conditions – Cards that allow Storm to actually or effectively win the game. Most common cards include: Grapeshot, Empty the Warrens, and Aria of FlameA more uncommon option is Ignite Memories.

Engines – Cards that provide Storm advantages for playing cantrips and rituals. Most common cards include: Gifts Ungiven, Past in Flames, Pieces of the Puzzle, Fact or Fiction, Aria of Flame and Pyromancer Ascension. More uncommon options are: Precognition Field, Search for Azcanta, Pyromancer’s Swath, Harness the Storm, Epic Experiment, Treasure Map, Drawn from Dreams and The Mirari Conjecture.

Permission/Counter Magic – Counter spells that can both help aid and protect our combo. Common cards in this category include: Remand, Negate, Spell Pierce, Mystical Dispute, Flusterstorm, Swan Song and Dispel. Less common options are Pact of Negation, Force of Negation and Disdainful Stroke.

Bounce Spells – Cards that remove permanent-based hate. Common inclusions are: Repeal, Unsubstantiate, Echoing Truth and Wipe Away. Rarer options include: Cyclonic Rift, Perilous Voyage, Set Adrift and Blink of an Eye.

Combo Enablers – This category refers to cards whose primary function is to help Storm execute its combo. Examples include: Noxious Revival, Merchant Scroll and Peer Through Depths.

Removal – Cards that deal with creatures. Some can also double as burn directed at the opponent. Examples include: Lightning Bolt, Abrade and Flame Slash. Less popular options are: Engineered Explosives, Dismember, Magmatic Sinkhole, Rending Volley, Fry, Burst Lightning, Fiery Impulse, Pyroclasm and Anger of the Gods.

Alternate Win Conditions – Refers to cards that can win the game nearly on their own. These usually come out of the sideboard and are different than engines listed above. Commonly played options are: Thing in the Ice .Less common cards include: Jaya Ballard, Bedlam Reveler, Inferno Titan, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Saheeli, Sublime Artificer and the Madcap Experiment-Platinum Emperion combo.

Sideboard Silver Bullets – A wide category referring to specific sideboard cards that are designed for only a few matchups. In other words, these cards are either all-stars or do very little, depending obviously on the board state and matchup. More commonly played cards include: Blood Moon, Grim Lavamancer, Shattering Spree, Rebuild, Shenanigans and Gigadrowse. Rarer silver bullets are: Shatterstorm, Vandalblast, Hurkyl’s Recall and Crumble to Dust, Surgical Extraction and Ravenous Trap.

Matchup Favorability

Each matchup below will include some game play strategies, general sideboarding thoughts, pieces of disruption to expect and how favorable the matchup is for Storm (assuming even skill among pilots). This can vary depending on what build of Storm you’re bringing to battle as well as the sideboards of both Storm and its opponent. Because of that variance, two of the following scale markers will be used in most cases.

Very Unfavorable – A matchup Storm does not ever want to see and rarely wins.
Unfavorable – Not an unwinnable matchup, but still one that Storm wants to avoid.
Slightly Unfavorable – A close matchup that Storm is a small dog to.
Even – A matchup that is nearly even.
Slightly Favorable – A close matchup that Storm wins a little bit more than not.
Favorable – A matchup that Storm should win and doesn’t mind seeing.
Very Favorable –  A matchup that Storm should win the majority of the game.

Matchup Generalizations

Before we get into specific matchups, I wanted to briefly discuss some general matchup guidelines with Storm. Obviously, Storm is a dedicated and linear combo deck that does not intact with its opponent very much to win. This has its advantages and disadvantages against other general archetypes in Modern.

Aggro Decks – These are generally bad matchups for Storm. Despite Storm being a relatively quick to assemble a kill, a quick clock from an aggressive deck followed by a removal spell for a mana bear is a recipe to beat Storm. Aggro decks that also pack a disruption are very unfavorable where decks that don’t provide any disruption can range all the way to slightly favorable.

Midrange Decks – These are usually fairly even and can range from favorable to unfavorable depending on configuration of main deck and sideboards.

Control Decks – These are generally favorable matchups for Storm. Control decks do play a lot of counter spells, but need to provide a clock in order to kill a combo deck like Storm. Control decks can range from very favorable to even depending on the sideboards of each deck.

Combo Decks – These matchups can swing from very unfavorable to very favorable. Most of the time, these matchups are “two ships passing in the night” with minimal interaction with each other. Because of this, the speed of the combo deck Storm is playing matters greatly. Other combo decks that are quicker to kill are very unfavorable to unfavorable matchups while other combo decks that are slower are favorable to very favorable matchups.

Big Mana Decks – These matches tend to range from favorable to very favorable. Big mana decks require ramping the first several turns and often have very little interaction for Storm.

Sideboard Generalizations

I have seen so many questions involving how to to sideboard in Storm. The final thing to discuss before going into specific sideboard analysis is talk about some general sideboarding guidelines with Storm.

  1. As eluded to above, knowing Storm’s role in each matchup is critical to sideboarding. How much time we have to combo in each matchup is important to know.
  2. Knowing what hate the opponent is going to bring in is one of the key to sideboarding with Storm. Generally, Storm’s graveyard is going to be less reliable in postboard games, so plan accordingly!
  3. If you play a grindy engine (e.g. Pieces of the Puzzle, Fact or Fiction), that comes in against grindy decks as well as most matchups where we expect graveyard hate. These often get swapped out for Gifts Ungiven, but you can leave in six or in rare cares all eight copies of those effects in the deck in postboard games.
  4. Taking out some number of cantrips (Opt or Sleight of Hand are usually the first to go in current builds) is encouraged when Storm needs to combo quickly and does not have time to sculpt its hand.
  5. Just because someone sideboards one way, doesn’t mean you doing it differently is incorrect. As a start, however, trust people who have put a lot of time into Storm before making different sideboarding choices.




Deck Classification – Combo (up for debate here)
Favorability – Very unfavorable to unfavorable

Storm-Specific Hate Cards – Damping Sphere, Surgical Extraction
Graveyard Hate Cards – Leyline of the Void, Nihil Spellbomb, Surgical Extraction
SweepersRatchet Bomb, Bontu’s Last Reckoning, Damnation

Game Plan – Hitting land drops is important. As such, don’t walk into getting a mana bear killed with Smallpox. I tend to hold them in hand until going off. Most 8-Rack players will give you the play, so take the draw if you’ve won the die roll as the extra card is more important than the tempo of being on the play (Smallpox is also worse on the draw). This is a matchup where if their deck does its thing, Storm isn’t winning. Alternate engines are our way to victory.

Cards to Bring In – Engines (see above), Artifact Removal, Empty the Warrens, Engineered Explosives, Bounce Spells
Cards to Board Out – Permission (see above), trim Mana Bears (see above)

5-Color Humans

Deck Classification – Aggro
Favorability – Slightly Unfavorable to Even

Storm-Specific Hate Cards – Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Meddling Mage, Kambal, Consul of Allocation, Gaddock Teeg, Kitesail Freebooter, Chalice of the Void (less common)
Graveyard Hate Cards – Grafdigger’s Cage
SweepersPlague Engineer, Deputy of Detention

Game Plan – Game one can be difficult if they get the Kitesail Freebooter and Meddling Mage combo going. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben can be annoying in combination with Reflector Mage for our bears. We do not have a lot of time to setup in this matchup, especially game one. A stumble on lands usually means death. In postboard games, we turn into more of the control deck removing problem creatures with removal. Depending on their sideboard (which can vary greatly given the 5-color nature of the deck), postboard games can be easier or more difficult for us. One thing is for certain, however, the games are significantly slower.

Cards to Bring In – RemovalBounce Spells (optional)
Cards to Board Out – Permission, some number of Cantrips (can’t afford to spin our tires too much)