“Look Ma! I Can Count to Ten!” My name is Liam and I'm addicted to the storm mechanic. Magic: The Gathering is game we all know and love for a variety of reasons. There are some who enjoy collecting the cards finding pleasure in knowing they have that one-of-a-kind misprinted Brainstorm. There are others who enjoy playing long drawn-out games involving lots of tricky combat math. There are some who enjoy summoning an enormous monster and turning it sideways. Me? I love casting Dark Rituals. I recently placed in the Top 4 at the StarCityGames.com Legacy Open in LA piloting a deck called The EPIC Storm ( which you can read about here ). The EPIC Storm (or TES for short) is a deck that has been around for a long time in Legacy showing up as early as 2007. The deck was created and pioneered by Grand Prix: Columbus Top 8 competitor Bryant Cook and a few other New England players. The basic idea is to be as absolutely unfair as possible utilizing the best tutors in Legacy (Burning Wish and Infernal Tutor) paired with the best fast mana (Lion's Eye Diamond) and enough disruption to push past blue decks (Duress and Orim's Chant). This is the list I piloted:
For the most part the maindeck is perfect; a few people have tried moving one Infernal Tutor to the sideboard so that Burning Wish can grab Ad Nauseam but they've found it to be incorrect. With three Infernal Tutors you give yourself roughly a 30% chance to have it in your opening hand while having four in the main gives you about a 40% chance. That's an extra 10% chance to have one of the best cards in your deck from the start of the game. The three Orim's Chant and one Silence might look strange but the split is meant to dodge Cabal Therapy-type effects. Also the one Silence is randomly better against Leyline of Sanctity. Orim's Chant is just the better card overall due to its kicker so running 3-1 is better than a 2-2 split. Another point that people always get scared by is the mana base; they look at the lack of basics and think that Wasteland walks all over this deck. That can be true but more often than not it's wrong. Between the four Chrome Moxes and the four Lotus Petals you usually only need one land in play to pull off the kill. One thing that I don't see a lot of players do is protect their duals against Wastelands by holding their fetches and while that line plays right into Stifle there's not much you can do about that. The last slot that's up for debate is the Empty the Warrens I think this card is one of the reasons to run TES over ANT the other major reason being Burning Wish. Empty for anything more than ten tokens on the first two turns is something that a lot of decks just cannot handle at least not in the time you give them to handle it. The alternative to Empty in the main is Ill-Gotten Gains which is a complete bomb against all non-blue decks. Blue decks exist though and giving them back Force of Wills is usually not a winning strategy. Lastly naturally drawing Empty the Warrens can be really powerful while naturally drawing Ill-Gotten Gains is one of the most disheartening draws you can make after Tendrils of Agony.
The biggest variations you'll see in most storm-based decks will be in the sideboard. In my opinion the only flex slots are the one Thoughtseize one Krosan Grip and four Xantid Swarms; the rest are far too important and I'll run down each of them one by one. Tendrils of Agony- This is pretty self-explanatory. Being able to Burning Wish for a kill card is a must. Empty the Warrens- Like I said before casting this on turn 1 or 2 can be completely devastating. It also helps turn your Burning Wishes into action. Ill-Gotten Gains- I said that you wanted Empty the Warrens in the maindeck because it was a better natural draw and this is often dead against blue decks. However having access to Ill-Gotten Gains is a necessity for all decks that use Dark Rituals and Tendrils of Agony since it's so powerful against aggressive decks that deal too much damage for you to go off with Ad Nauseam. Diminishing Returns- Since every single one of my opponents had to read this card go ahead and read it. Done? One of the interesting things about combo decks as a whole is that the critical turn is the turn you want to combo off. This turn changes depending on the matchup how much pressure you're facing and how likely your opponent is to lock up the game or combo off himself. Diminishing Returns is extremely important to this concept because when you don't have anything else going on and you've identified the critical turn this is your out. As high variance as this card seems these are the percentages under which it works (taken from the TES thread on The Source): These are the typical conditions under which Diminishing Returns is cast: -One Burning Wish is exiled. -The opponent is at 20 life. -The storm count is four (including DR). -You are at a safe life total for Ad Nauseam. -You haven't played a land yet this turn. Mana Floating/Win Percentage
(U/B/R) (U/B/R): 70%
U (U/B/R): 66%
R (U/B/R): 70%
B (U/B/R): 70%
Grapeshot- This serves three main purposes. The first one is to get rid of a hate bear (Gaddock Teeg Ethersworn Canonist etc.). The second one is to pair with a mini-Tendrils which is to say when you cast Tendrils of Agony for less than their life total to kill them. The third and most important reason is that this card allows you to showboat for your friends. It can be replaced by Deathmark but I wouldn't recommend it.
Shattering Spree- This is by far the best solution to artifacts. Remember you can get around Chalice of the Void at one by replicating it once. Also if they have a Trinisphere out you can replicate it three times for three mana and fulfill Trinisphere's requirement while still destroying two other artifacts. I've seen it replaced with Meltdown on occasion.
Wipe Away- Some people insist on playing Counterbalance. I know I know; they're horrible people but you have to accommodate them since it's next to impossible to win through that lock. This is also helpful against Chalice at two when you haven't Wished for Spree.
2 Echoing Truth- Some people like a 1-1 split between Echoing Truth and Chain of Vapor. I'll argue that in almost every case they're exactly the same except Echoing Truth can get rid of two Chalices where Chain is usually cut off by Chalice. It's also randomly good against Dredge and Belcher.
That leaves us with six flex slots in the sideboard. However I highly recommend you choose some combination of these four cards since they're the best at what they do: Thoughtseize Krosan Grip Pyroblast and Xantid Swarm. I know that quite a few people who want to pick up this deck will copy my exact 75. This is unbelievably wrong. These six slots are not cards you want to have lying around in your sideboard forever; you want to change them up each time you play this deck. One of the amazing things about the current Legacy metagame is that it's constantly fluctuating and these cards are good in different situations.
Thoughtseize- I'd only ever have one in my board to grab with Wish. This is good if you expect to play against decks like Landstill and Counterbalance which won't pressure you too much but are bursting with counterspells.
Pyroblast- This is your best chance against Counterbalance since preventing it from hitting play is a much more effective plan than trying to remove it once it's landed. The biggest issue with Pyroblast is how awkward it is with Lion's Eye Diamond. Because Lion's Eye Diamond forces you to discard your hand reactive cards like Pyroblast and Force of Will won't be around to defend your Infernal Tutor.
Recommended flex slots:
In a completely open metagame where both Counterbalance and Tempo decks are viable I recommend three Xantid Swarms and three Pyroblasts. In metagames where Counterbalance is still somewhat viable but not too much of a concern (like it was in LA) four Xantid Swarms one Krosan Grip and one Thoughtseize should be helpful. In a metagame where Counterbalance has taken over don't leave home without four Pyroblasts one Krosan Grip and one Thoughtseize. Lastly in a metagame where there's no Counterbalance (much like the Survival metagame) I recommend one Pyroblast four Xantid Swarms and one Thoughtseize. Remember this is not a strict code you must adhere to just my suggestions. Feel free to tweak these slots for personal play style.
Basics of Play:
Storm decks typically require a high level of mastery to do well and this happens to be one of the most complex ones. If you plan on playing this deck in a tournament I highly recommend practicing a lot. This can mean goldfishing while procrastinating your work or full-on gauntlet testing.* The most important thing to be able to do is play around Force of Will and maybe a Daze.
*By gauntlet testing I don't mean playing against every deck in Legacy. This is a feat that's just about impossible to do in an efficient manner. I recommend testing against the following decks since they provide the basic forms of disruption found in almost every deck: Merfolk Team America some sort of Chalice and Trinisphere deck 4c Counterbalance Junk and ProBant (which has hate bears as well as counterspells). Feel free to test against other things too but if you're crunched for time those are your basics.
The reason that this deck can exist is because of the interaction between Lion's Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor (and to a lesser extent Burning Wish). The basic idea is you cast an Infernal Tutor and before passing priority you break the Lion's Eye Diamond for whatever color you need. This combination amounts to having cast a Black Lotus and a Demonic Tutor; sounds fair right?
Something that gets asked about a lot is “What is an Iggy loop?” I'll finally answer that for all of you. An Iggy loop is what you set up for before you can Ill-Gotten Gains and what happens after. When your opponent has twenty life to kill with Ill-Gotten Gains typically requires you to have BBBBB floating and Infernal Tutor Lion's Eye Diamond and a Dark Ritual in the yard with Ill-Gotten Gains as your sixth spell of the turn. After casting it you should have B floating and you should return the three aforementioned cards to your hand cast them all again and grab a Tendrils of Agony. Cast it and then shuffle up for the next game. Although there are many many variations of that that's typically what you want to set up. Sometimes you'll have more mana floating after Ill-Gotten Gains and you'll be able to cast Duress to strip them of a Force of Will but I don't recommend going this route against a blue deck unless you have to or you have the mana and know what you're doing.
After 1800 words I have yet to mention what most people think is the defining card for this deck Ad Nauseam. While Ad Nauseam is what you'll usually be casting to kill people realize that it's a random card that might not get you there. I've won games with as low as five life and I've lost games with twenty life after casting Ad Nauseam. That being said this is by far the best deck in which to cast Ad Nauseam much better than that other deck ANT. The four Chrome Moxes mean you rarely if ever need any mana floating when you cast Ad Nauseam and Burning Wish gives more ways to find Tendrils that don't require also finding a Lion's Eye Diamond.
One really cool trick I've done against blue decks a few times is upkeep Chanting them which almost always resolves then end of turn casting Ad Nauseam. The look on their face is priceless and they'll be countering every single Chant you cast for the rest of the match.
Basics of Each Matchup:
I won't be including boarding plans since they vary depending on your sideboard and I posted what I boarded in every round in my report.
Counterbalance- This is one of your toughest matchups but it's winnable. In fact I have a winning record in tournament play against these decks with TES. Duressing away Counterbalance is the most important play you can make in game 1. If you cannot do that try to combo off as soon as possible. If you think they have the Counterbalance playing around Force of Will is usually not possible. If they do resolve Counterbalance but don't have a Top try and bait them to reveal then try and win as if there were a Chalice of the Void at that number.
Post-board you have to just hope they didn't bring in anything too devastating and try and go off as soon as possible. The difference is that now if they resolve Counterbalance you can remove it and then kill them. It's also worth trying to resolve an Ad Nauseam since it dodges Counterbalance pretty well. Beyond that all I can say is good luck and hope they're not running Dreadstill which is just about unwinnable. Empty the Warrens is extremely powerful here. Although they have access to sweepers putting them under pressure is the most important thing and Empty the Warrens does that quickly and a lot of the time right through a Force of Will.
Merfolk- This is a lot easier than you might think. Since they usually don't play Stifle holding up your fetchlands to protect yourself from Wasteland is extremely important. At that point you're only truly worried about two things: Force of Will which is easily gotten rid of and fast starts that involve Cursecatchers and a million lords. Once again Empty on turn 1 or 2 on the play is extremely powerful but be careful since they can race you with the Cursecatcher-and-a-million-lords draw. It may be obvious to say you'll need practice playing around Daze but it's worth mentioning because it greatly affects your math when you're going off.
Team America- This is a deck that runs Hymn Force of Will Daze Stifle Wasteland and sometimes even Thoughtseize. This is going to be a lucky game if you pull away with a "2" next to your name. Because they often sideboard out their removal Xantid Swarm is an extremely important card. Once again Empty the Warrens is extremely powerful as long as it doesn't run into a Stifle. This is actually just a nightmare matchup and that's true for all combo decks. If someone tells you otherwise check your pockets for your wallet because he's not the trustworthy type.
Junk- The matchup against Junk is surprisingly even for a non-blue deck. Hold your cantrips to protect your business or acceleration spells on top of your deck or put them into play and use Chant proactively to buy you an extra turn. They usually don't bring in any hate bears for game 2 just more discard so just be sure to play around that. Ill-Gotten Gains and Diminishing Returns go a long way in winning this matchup.
Zoo/Goblins- This is just a straight-up race in which they can't really kill you before turn 4 and you can easily kill them on turn 1. They don't really put up much of a threat. Post-board be aware that they'll be bringing in hate bears Mindbreak Traps or Cabal Therapies. I normally don't play around Mindbreak Trap in game 2 ever unless I can do so without giving anything up. If there is a game 3 play around whatever hate you saw game 2. Be aware that Goblins can disrupt your mana sometimes but TES doesn't need more than one land in play to win so it's usually not an issue. Both these decks can easily race Empty the Warrens so don't go for it unless it is turn 1 on the play.
Dredge- Once again this is just a race where they can only disrupt you with Cabal Therapy and you have four maindeck Time Walks for W. If they have not established a board presence an early Diminishing Returns can just win the game for you. Just remember to protect your Lion's Eye Diamonds and Infernal tutors from their Therapies. Once again play around whatever hate you saw in game 2 if there is a game 3.
ANT/TES- You'll want to be holding up W every turn until you can go off since a lot of the time they cannot afford to play into the Chant. Other than that it's a race. If they have W up be sure to Duress them before you go off. It's extremely important to protect your Lion's Eye Diamonds by putting them into play and floating your business spells on the top of your deck. Usually nothing important gets sided in and it comes down to who can break the serve and get lucky twice. Play skill goes a long way in the mirror match.
After about 3000 words I hope that I've convinced you that this one of the best decks. With enough practice and patience you'll be tearing up your local tournaments; I can guarantee that. If you guys ever find yourselves in Los Angeles and decide you want to pit yourself against the best we have to offer I recommend checking out Knight Ware a store in Studio City where I have honed my Legacy skills over the past two years.
Hugs and kisses