Hey everyone! Here to provide some insight on some of the deck changes over the last few months. If you follow my spreadsheet you'll know that I test different things quite frequently, always trying to find the best list for the metagame. Since I track deck versions and all of the information is public, I receive a lot of messages and emails asking about things I am trying.
I don't answer these questions as I often don't have strong opinions or any opinion on what I'm testing at the time. I ask that everyone holds their questions until I release an article such as this one. If you absolutely cannot wait, sign up for a TES Tutoring Session and we can run through things one-on-one.
Grand Prix: Las Vegas Deck List
Eternal Extravaganza VII Deck List
What happened to the fourth Burning Wish?
It's not that the fourth Burning Wish is bad, it's that metagames change and our deck list is very tight on space. Which I believe is something people often don't consider enough, an idea from three years ago might not have been great for that time, but it might work now. I'm rambling a bit at this point, but you'll see it tie in more below.
Where's Defense Grid?
You would think with Abrupt Decay not seeing a whole lot of play and Czech Pile/4c Control playing only two copies of Kolaghan's Command (which are often sideboarded out), that Defense Grid would be very good in the metagame. Surprise! It's not.
Control decks are currently packing lots of discard spells, in the form of Hymn to Tourach and Thoughtseize. This makes Defense Grid laughably bad at the moment, where Defense Grid shines is against Blue & White control decks which aren't seeing as much play at the moment (could always change).
There's also Tempo decks, where Defense Grid is great at stopping things like Stifle or Flusterstorm. The issue is, Stifle isn't nearly as popular as it was three months ago. Cabal Therapy has been trend the last few months as it's very strong when paired with Young Pyromancer. There's also the issue that Defense Grid isn't easy to resolve against the Wasteland and Daze decks.
Empty the Warrens in the Metagame
There are ways of countering these styles of play from your opponent though. The first would be a full set of Cabal Therapy in the main deck to pair with your Goblin tokens, this helps to ensure your tokens get to the table and then disrupts their hand even more. We weren't doing this the first time around. The second thing would be, use their plan against them. It's simple, if they're going to Force of Will a Duress to protect a Toxic Deluge, cast Ad Nauseam and then kill them.
"What!?! Ad Nauseam and three Empty the Warrens?!" Yeah, you read it right. I've been siding out an Infernal Tutor and a Burning Wish for the additional copies of Empty the Warrens. This help keeps the mana curve lower to the ground, but it also helps fight cards like Surgical Extraction. The EPIC Storm still has eleven pieces of artifact mana to help you win from Ad Nauseam, which is something to take comfort in. Also, when you do the math, the mana curve is still lower than Ad Nauseam Tendrils. I've ran this plan for awhile now and it's rock solid.
I'll have to reevaluate this plan in a few weeks to see how the metagame has adapted to it and then figure out if it's still worth it.
For those of you that are unaware, Counterbalance in Miracles has made a resurgence in the online metagame. Mainly thanks to the Mercadian Masques uncommon – Soothsaying. In testing against this list, Counterbalance was inconsistent and I was able to win through it in some of the games. As a counter measure, I attempted to play Abrupt Decay again. I use the word attempted, because after fifty or so matches, I decided to cut it again.
The reason was simple, the mana base is better off without it. On fourteen lands, there's no easy way to support Badlands, basic Island and then a green dual land. You end up with 2 fetch lands in your deck that can't search for a few of your lands, which is really awkward at times. I found a solution, don't play the basic Island. This would allow for a full set of Bloodstained Mires in the deck again and your fetch lands can search for everything.
The basic Island was sorely missed against decks like Grixis Delver, Lands and Death & Taxes. I'd rather have the consistency to win against several decks than one fringe deck that you're capable of winning through anyway. I'm willing to accept losing a match every fifty or so to a deck with Counterbalance if it means I can win five from having better mana.
While we're talking about consistency, let's talk about land counts! I did a lot of testing on thirteen versus fourteen lands in the last few months. I expected my average combo turn to increase, my mulligan percentage to decrease and I was very interested to look at the win percentage. What I found was nothing changed.
The results were all very similar. This is what caused me to put the seventh discard spell back in the main deck, if the number of lands isn't impactful and neither was seven or eight "Tutor effects" then I should try something different. This has given me my most successful configuration yet (I'm sure Jim Baxter would agree at this point!).
Cards I've tested recently
- Wipe Away - Tested as a non-green answer for Counterbalance. The mana cost difference never mattered against the control decks, the big issue for me is that you can't use the card anywhere else. It's too expensive against Chalice of the Void, Sphere of Resistance or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben decks unlike Abrupt Decay. I tested Wipe Away over Rending Volley at the time and most of the time I found myself using it on Ethersworn Canonist, with the downside of not being able to bring it in against Death and Taxes. Although, I suppose the one benefit to it is that if you had four mana in that matchup (Wasteland & Rishadan Port) you could answer a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and a Mother of Runes. Seems like wishful thinking to me.
- Massacre - When making room for additional copies of Empty the Warrens, Massacre was cut. I've tested over a dozen lists since Las Vegas, some with additional Empty the Warrens and some without. One thing was clear – Massacre is not needed. In over 50 matches I am 77% against Death and Taxes, why are we playing a card devoted to a terrific matchup that is awful in most others? The key is to adjust play patterns and mulligans without the crutch of Massacre.
- Pyroclasm - I actually prefer Pyroclasm to Massacre as Pyroclasm is actually effective versus Grixis Delver, a matchup in which a sideboard sweeper is more relevant. Another upside would be accidental blowouts versus Elves.
- Consign / Oblivion - I strongly consider this over Chain of Vapor at times since it's a card you can get with Burning Wish to answer Chalice of the Void, Leyline of Sanctity or even an end step Marit Lage. The only real reason I don't play this over Chain of Vapor is taxing effects, having a two mana answer to Sphere of Resistance or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben on turn two is very good. There's also the consideration of casting it post-Ad Nauseam and then continuing to win. Something to keep in mind is that you cannot side in Consign / Oblivion as it's seven damage off of Ad Nauseam.
- Night's Whisper - I tried this as a way to combat the uptick in Hymn to Tourach and Cabal Therapy decks, the issue is that it's very slow and easily stopped. It's a prime target for Daze, quickens their clock and is completely shut down by Leovold, Emissary of Trest (which is an issue I have with siding in draw spells against a Leovold deck).
- Surgical Extraction - Reanimator numbers are at an all-time low since BR Reanimator became popular a little over a year ago, which has caused me to cut Surgical Extraction for the time being. I actually really like Surgical Extraction in the sideboard as it pairs nicely with Telemin Performance, but it's just not worth the slot at the moment. It's just okay in the storm mirror and that isn't enough for me at this time.
- Artifact hate - I just don't believe these cards are ever worth the space. For the amount of times they get used, you would've used something else in this slot a dozen more times. If you're dead set on running an Burning Wish answer in the sideboard, it should probably be Consign / Oblivion.
Echoing Truth vs Perilous Voyage
For those of us who play Grixis Storm, this has been a hot topic. I don't believe the answer is one or the other, but both. I plan on testing two copies of Perilous Voyage along side a pair of Echoing Truth. This would mean no more Chain of Vapor, which is slightly worse against Taxing effects but you gain some consistency from the scry effect.
"Why not just run one over the other?" Because Perilous Voyage does something very unique, it's removal that then provides card quality. This is important because in most matches where you're bringing in Echoing Truth, you side out Ponder. Perilous Voyage would be making up for some of that consistency loss. There's a few issues with Perilous Voyage though, the first being that it doesn't answer multiple hate pieces which is actually relevant and the second being that it's difficult to become hellbent with. There's a clause with Perilous Voyage that you can only target your opponent's permanents, meaning that unlike with previous bounce spells, you can't play out artifact mana and then return them to your hand to help you become hellbent.
A card like Hurkyl’s Recall could be played over Echoing Truth to answer multiple hate pieces, but the issue I see with Hurkyl’s Recall in today's metagame is that it's too narrow. I need this slot to be effective against more than a few decks, I often bring in Echoing Truth against Death and Taxes or even Turbo Depths on top of all of the Chalice of the Void type decks.
While I didn't perform incredibly well at Eternal Extravaganza VII – Jim Baxter did (finishing in the top 8)! Congrats Jim!
With the deck list above, I've had a lot of success between paper and online Magic with a win percentage of 67%. I even won a 2k event a few weeks ago. I'm likely to stay on this list until Perilous Voyage is legal, then I'll need to reevaluate sideboard space.
As for the website, over the next few weeks I'll do my best to update the sideboarding guide as well as other materials.