Baral, Chief of Compliance — The best enabler creature printed for Modern Storm. Coming at a time of desperation for storm, Baral brought hope after the Gitaxian Probe banning. The reason Baral is often considered to be the best enabler is because of its synergies with Remand (currently in my sideboard), but there's also benefits like being able to block a Goblin Guide or fend off Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. Its only real downside is that it's a Legendary creature, which means you cannot stack them like you can Goblin Electromancer.
Goblin Electromancer — The original creature enabler in Modern Storm! It's taken a back-burner with the printing of Baral, Chief of Compliance as it's not quite as good, but it's very close. The ability to play multiple copies sure helps! Typical lists only play two, sometimes three, but my list has four! The reason why is I think for the first time in a long-time storm is best as a hyper-linear deck. You want to execute the plan of casting an enabler on turn two and then attempting to win on turn three. What helps makes this happen is the full-complement of creatures. This change is due to modern being a very aggressive format not leaving you with a lot of time to "durdle" around with cards like Noxious Revival, other silly one-ofs, or casting cantrips for multiple turns searching for your next creature.
Pyretic Ritual — Pretty simple, modern doesn't offer a wide variety of playable "ritual effects." But with an enabler in play, Pyretic Ritual becomes Dark Ritual. Some advice for when counting mana, count multiple rituals with no enabler in play as "+1" and with an enabler as "+2" instead of taking the time to actually count the casting of the spells and then the additional mana it creates.
Desperate Ritual — Very similar to Pyretic Ritual, but with the main difference of the ability Splice. With an enabler in play and two copies of Desperate Ritual in hand you can Splice for , as the enabler doesn't reduce Splice costs. One thing to keep in mind that comes up every once in awhile is when casting a Desperate Ritual from your graveyard, you can Splice on another copy of Desperate Ritual from your hand!
Manamorphose — Not truly a "ritual effect" as it doesn't generate any mana without an enabler on the battlefield, but it does a few major things for the deck. First and foremost, it color-fixes our "rituals" so that you're able to cast Gift Ungiven off of acceleration. After that, you can look at it like a cantrip in a lot of circumstances when digging for a specific need. Lastly, at it's very worst, it's free Storm for Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens. Subtly one of the best cards in the deck.
Serum Visions — Generally the best cantrip to play on turn one as Serum Visions "digs" the deepest into your deck (compared to the other cantrips it looks at three cards while the others only see two). That said, when mid-combo, I usually prefer the other two more as I don't want a random draw when I could have a choice. While not a great "Magic" card, I think Serum Visions is the best cantrip in the Modern storm deck in a vacuum.
Sleight of Hand — The second best cantrip in the deck, but the best one while mid-combo as you get to view both options unlike Opt and Serum Visions is a purely random card. I will cast Sleight of Hand on turn one if I do not have Serum Visions over Opt, while you do have the overall card quality comparison, it's better to hold up Opt on turn two as it looks like you're representing Remand.
Opt — The weakest draw spell in the deck, it's greatest strength is its instant speed due to Remand (as well as permanent hate answers too! Abrade, Lightning Bolt, etc.). On the second turn being able to hold open interaction and if they don't do anything meaningful, advance your game-plan is certainly desirable. This is usually the first draw spell sided out. If this is the case, you may be wondering, "well, why are you playing four then?" the answer is velocity. I want to execute a linear plan, having more cards that dig into what my hand needs will make this happen more smoothly. Extra cantrips also make keeping one land hands easier in a deck with seventeen lands.
Engine & Win Conditions
Gifts Ungiven — The real reason this deck is playable! When you cast Gifts Ungiven with an enabler in play with three mana floating you have a deterministic kill. The first step is to find Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, Manamorphose, and then Past in Flames. From here it doesn't matter where the opponent puts the cards. If they give you any combination of cards, you have enough mana to cast Past in Flames from either your graveyard or your hand. Now, you recast all of your "ritual effects" and then Gifts Ungiven again. Now you find Grapeshot, Pyretic Ritual, Desperate Ritual, and then the last card is either Past in Flames or Manamorphose (this depends on where they put the first copy of Past in Flames). Now you can go through the same process, but ending with Grapeshot. Now that you know how the card works with the deck and why it's great, let's talk about circumstances where Past in Flames isn't desirable. Typically it's against decks with a lot of graveyard hate, mainly Leyline of the Void. Against these decks I either side out all of my Gifts Ungiven or just leave two, replacing the main engine with Pieces of the Puzzle. The other common occurrence of Gifts Ungiven being a bit weak is when your opponent can't be the target of spells or abilities, typically from Leyline of Sanctity or Witchbane Orb.
Grapeshot — My favorite Magic card! It kills all sorts of creatures, mainly the hatebears that the Humans deck plays but Grapeshot's primary purpose is our main win-condition! There's a few cute tricks you can do with Grapeshot such as allowing all of the copies to resolve and then cast either Remand and/or Unsubstantiate on the original spell to return the card to your hand. From there you can recast the Grapeshot. This is effectively having another Grapeshot in your hand for an additional two mana. Having multiple copies of Grapeshot is one of your easiest ways of beating a large amount of graveyard hate!
Past in Flames — The sole true "storm-engine" of the deck, what separates the very good Storm pilots vs. the average pilot is knowing when to going off with Past in Flames without an enabler as it's not an easy task. Games that are deterministic are easy, it's the games where you take the highest probability path without knowing if you'll get there are where play-skill and knowledge of the deck really come into play. Past in Flames is a card that requires a lot of practice, not every game will be an easy 3 mana floating game. It's worth noting that the flashback cost is reduced by our enabler creatures for you new storm pilots out there, it's a question that pops up frequently.
Empty the Warrens — Not a typical main deck card, but I think you gain a lot of value out of the unexpected. My belief is that by not playing the stock lists, cards like Meddling Mage will be less effective by not knowing to name effects like Empty the Warrens. Rather than something common like Unsubstantiate or Repeal. Empty the Warrens is highly effective in a lot of non-combo match-ups, typically midrange and control decks. Against aggro decks, it's a good road-block to stop the bleeding while you build for an actual kill. There's also a slight benefit of by moving one of my copies of Empty the Warrens to the main deck, I've opened up a sideboard slot.
Noxious Revival — Recently added back into the main deck, I found myself not needing more answers to Meddling Mage and instead have had continued success with just being the best combo deck I can be. This means opening up a "two-mana play line" with Noxious Revival. If you already have a Past in Flames, Manamorphose, or Noxious Revival in hand, you can create piles with Gifts Ungiven that can win with only two mana floating instead of the standard three. There's also interactions that one may not consider such as using it as a free counterspell to stop a Snapcaster Mage on a combo turn or to stop a card from being returned from your opponent's graveyard. Noxious Revival can create a line where you can Gifts Ungiven for a creature, by searching up each creature, a Noxious Revival, and a fourth card (typically Past in Flames).
Spirebluff Canal — By far the best land in the deck. Zero damage and comes into play untapped 80% of the time. Typically it's the first land I play, but there are occasions with having cantrips and fetchlands, as well as Spirebluff Canal where I'll search for my basic on turn one and then cantrip. Turn two play Spirebluff, and then this leaves the possibility of playing a second copy on your third turn untapped while maximizing your scry.
Scalding Tarn — "Why do you play fetchlands?" I hear this question a lot. Let me start off by saying, that the first reason is the same reason throughout Magic as everyone else, deck thinning and an increased percentages of drawing non-land cards in the late game. While these are small percentages they do add up over the course of a longer game, which is very relevant to a combo deck. The "fetchless" lists often have this issue with pockets of lands in long-lasting games. This may seem weird if you've heard the counter argument of actually playing the "fetchless" lists of, "better draws throughout the game due to no shuffling with your scrys" the real issue with this is that's not actually how Magic: the Gathering games go. As a Modern storm player you often cast Gifts Ungiven on an end-step and undo all of the scry-work that you've previously done. There's also the fact that your opponents often shuffle your deck using Path to Exile, Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin, and Assassin's Trophy. My major concern with these "fetchless" lists is you don't want to get rid of the cards forever, you just don't need them at the moment. Another thing people glance over when looking at lists that play fetchlands relates back to deck thinning is less lands in your deck is a huge benefit for the card Pieces of the Puzzle. You want your deck to be flesh full of instants and sorcerys, not excess lands.
Let's imagine a scenario where you need a second land, you cast Sleight of Hand and see Gifts Ungiven and Shivan Reef. For the rest of the game, you're a combo deck playing down a critical piece of your engine. You want Gifts Ungiven, just not right then. This is part of the reason fetchlands make sense.
There's also the benefit of not being easily locked out of the game by Blood Moon, which is a real issue. Having access to basic lands when you need them is incredibly beneficial. I've heard the counter argument of "Fetchless plays five to six basics" while this is true, they can't always find them when they've locked out of the game on turn two. When playing fetchlands, you have eleven opportunities to "fetchless"'s four to five to have a basic land. If "fetchless" is playing five basic Islands, I imagine there's also games where they struggle to find red sources, which wouldn't be an issue if they played fetchlands.
The last thing I have to point out is that I've heard "fetchless" players claim they take less damage throughout the course of a game. They're playing four copies of Steam vents and four Shivan Reef, this is false. On average they will take more damage/loss of life than the one time cost of using a fetchland.
Polluted Delta, Flooded Strand — "Why don't you play Snow-Covered Island?" When you're playing fetchlands, you don't need to play Snow-Covered lands as your deck naturally happens to have plenty of lands with varying names for Gifts Ungiven. The second you play a Snow-Covered Island, your opponent immediately knows that you're on Storm. There's no reason to give that information away, especially considering how little the name-difference is relevant. It's certainly cool to search for two basic Islands with different names, but how often is it relevant? Not very. Instead with this list, if the occasion ever were to present itself, you can just search for the three off-brand fetchlands and that'll do the trick. You may notice that all of these lands search for basic Island and not basic Mountain, that's because having access to Island in the early stages of the game is a lot more critical for cantrip development of your game-plan.
Steam Vents — The best non-Spirebluff Canal dual land available that is searchable with your fetchlands and isn't recurring damage like Shivan Reef. There isn't much to be said about the shocklands other than plan ahead in match-ups where the damage is relevant and try to take less damage by searching for them on the end-step.
Island, Mountain — Not being locked out of the game by Bloon Moon is always good, basic lands (more so the Island in this scenario) are good to have. Especially in a world with Field of Ruin, Path to Exile, Ghost Quarter, and now Assassin's Trophy. I just added a fifth basic land at the moment due to the increased presence of cards that provide you with them. Blue mana is more desirable in the set-up stages of the game which is why you see more copies of Island than Mountain, generally, you really only need red mana on the combo turn or when answering a threat.
Pieces of the Puzzle — Boarded in for a few reasons. The first and most popular reason is a way to combat graveyard hate as Pieces of the Puzzle allows you to play around graveyard hate efficiently by just ignoring the issue. Chaining cantrips and Pieces of the Puzzle is a lot easier than it looks. The second reason would be to dodge effects like Leyline of Sanctity shutting off your copies of Gifts Ungiven. The last reason would be simply to out-grind midrange and control decks by overwhelming them on cards, which is a very good strategy in these match-ups.
Empty the Warrens — Another way to beat graveyard hate as well as to "out-grind" midrange and control decks. When I side out all of my enablers and bring in Empty the Warrens, I try to not over-extend if I don't have to. The plan isn't to go all-in but to slowly overwhelm the opponent over time. If each time I cast Empty the Warrens it dealt six-to-eight damage, I would be satisfied. But if they win the game, that's even better! Storm players often forget about Izzet Staticaster and how it works regarding Empty the Warrens. Try not to allow yourself to be blown out by it, but you can also take preventative measures by holding open Abrade and/or Lightning Bolt. This way when they go to target your creature, you kill it in response, and then the rest of your Goblins live to fight another turn.
Surgical Extraction — This may seem a bit weird, I get it. But here me out, most people agree with me that effects like Remand and Unsubstantiate aren't great right now due to the speed of the format. They continue to play these blue instants because they want some sort of interaction. Well... most of these fast decks are graveyard-based decks and Surgical Extraction allows you to develop your own plan and protect yourself. Which is crucial, because no one wants to be sitting there with lands untapped representing countermagic. I typically bring in Surgical Extraction against decks such as Dredge, Dredgevine, KCI, Storm, and the new Phoenix decks — it's really been working out well and I highly recommend it.
Abrade — Probably the deck's best permanent based answer since the printing of Damping Sphere. It cleanly kills the majority of the ways your opponents are trying to combat you with hate-cards. I can't speak highly enough about Abrade, I wouldn't leave home without the second copy personally.
Echoing Truth — Another card, another name. I say this because of Meddling Mage and our own Gifts Ungiven, but Echoing Truth does provide some other functionality. It's the best card for answering multiple copies of Meddling Mage or Leyline of Sanctity, it's also the cheapest way (tied with Perilous Voyage) the deck has to answer Enchantments.
Wipe Away — Wipe Away is in our deck for a few reasons, the first is to be able to answer a Damping Sphere from control decks so that we don't need to worry about it being countered. From there, you can untap and attempt to kill your opponent! The other main reason is that it's actual mana cost is three instead of two. This provides an out to a Chalice of the Void on two, even if those decks aren't very popular.
Dismember — With the rise of Spirits, Dismember to skill pumped Spell Quellers was interesting. What really sold me on Dismember was that in lists with eight cost-reducing creatures, you can cast it for free! Which means answering a hate-creature on turn two and "combo-ing off" on turn three without anything slowing you down at all. I love this.
Popular Cards Not Played
Lightning Bolt — I used to be a lot higher on Lightning Bolt before the printing of Abrade and Damping Sphere. My issue is it doesn't fight back on all of the most popular axes that your opponents are trying to beat you with. At this point, I think it's really only played for Burn and Humans. Within the last six months I've gone from four copies all the way down to zero. I've beaten Humans a number of times just by being a better combo deck and haven't found myself desperately needing Lightning Bolt, for Burn, I just accept that the match-up is miserable and move on my way.
Repeal — A popular main deck option as it answers Meddling Mage as well as a possible main-decked Leyline of Sanctity. The real benefit people see in this card is it's ability to draw a card, that said, I'm not running it because it's a known element in today's digital age. This makes it a liability due to Meddling Mage.
Remand — I'm very low on main deck Remand at the moment, the issue is the format has become very "low to the ground" in the sense that decks are going underneath it and making it not as relevant (there's also the issue with Cavern of Souls being very popular at the moment). I believe there's actually very few decks it's good against in the current metagame, which is why I've moved them to the sideboard. I played five Magic Online leagues recently and noticed that I only didn't sideboard it out once, this was a major indicator to me that this card was not where I wanted to be.
Unsubstantiate — I've never really been a fan of this card, but I begrudgingly played it when the Humans deck came to power as Remand was awful against them and it provided a third out to Meddling Mage. It suffers from the same thing that Repeal does in that it's a known-element, if you looked at the UR Storm deck from GP: Stockholm you'll notice the list that made top 8 was running a pair of main deck Lightning Bolt, these are the sort of choices that I can get behind.
Perilous Voyage — Similar to my views on main deck Empty the Warrens, there's a lot to be said about being unconventional in a world with Meddling Mage paired with Phantasmal Image. Perilous Voyage is an atypical card in a world where most people can see a land drop and know the rest of your deck, so by playing something out of the norm, you gain a huge advantage when your opponent tries to lock you out of the game by cutting off your options with "chanting" creatures. The reason I chose Perilous Voyage over other possible cards is its ability to scry two most of the time, most cards you care about are CMC 2 or less. If the permanent costs more than this, it's beneficial that you're paying less mana than Repeal anyway! I even don't mind casting it just to fix the quality of your draws while slowing the opponent down. Overall, I think Perilous Voyage is a solid card.
Pyroclasm — I used to play this as an unknown blow-out card for Humans, I think Anger of the Gods costs too much. A nice benefit of Pyroclasm is that your Baral, Chief of Compliance lives through it! That said, this card can be a bit risky due to Thalia's Lieutenant.
Shattering Spree — This card is narrow and we all know how I feel about narrow cards! That said, I've certainly played it in the past. Modern Storm is weak to a resolved Chalice of the Void on two and Shattering Spree is an effective answer for it. Outside of metagames where Eldrazi & Chalice of the Void are popular, I dislike the card and would rather play something with a bit more flexibility.
Pyromancer Ascension — I've been playing Modern Storm for a very long time, I have very fond memories of Pyromancer's Ascension — but I don't think the card is playable anymore. My issue is you're often sideboarding this card in and people are bringing in their graveyard hate like Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, and Nihil Spellbomb. Siding into another graveyard strategy isn't beneficial in my eyes, instead you should do something different. This is why I'm more interested in cards like Pieces of the Puzzle and Empty the Warrens, you should be trying to do something else while your opponent is concentrated on something that is no-longer as effective.