A card for card breakdown, organized into categories based on roles, explaining why each card belongs in The EPIC Storm and alternative viable options as well.
A card for card breakdown, organized into categories based on roles, explaining why each card belongs in The EPIC Storm and alternative viable options as well.
Burning Wish — As mentioned previously, one of the defining features of The EPIC Storm. An incredibly powerful and resourceful element that is quite diverse in what it can do. Burning Wish allows TES to not play answers for problematic cards by either providing a solution or an alternative route to victory. One of the greatest things Burning Wish does for this deck is it allows us to not have to play Tendrils of Agony in our main deck as it tends to be a dead card in most games. This can be said for a couple of the cards in our sideboard, that’s the true beauty of Burning Wish – its whatever we need it to be. Our wish board is comprised of storm engines, win conditions, protection and a few solution based cards. We try not to play an entire sideboard full of Burning Wish targets as doesn’t create the greatest value out of our available slots. Generally, I try to have no more than six or seven Burning Wish targets. Lastly, having included Burning Wish into our deck, our threat density is very high in comparison to other storm decks meaning that we spend less time finding our threats with cantrips which leads to a faster kill.
Infernal Tutor — We’ve talked about how it's important to hold priority when casting this card and using Lion’s Eye Diamond in response, but I can’t stress it enough! It's also crucial to remember that you can cast it for a secondary copy of something in your hand. I’ve watched other storm pilots completely blank on this in the middle of a game with tunnel vision. When I’m revealing a card to Infernal Tutor it's usually some sort of mana or protection spells. Sometimes, it's just to shuffle my deck after a Brainstorm or a Ponder.
Brainstorm — An incredibly tough to play spell that can make or break a game all on its own. Brainstorm can often fix hands needing two specific types of cards and finding them at once or simply putting a few situationally bad cards back. An important feature of this card is that in match-ups with discard is very relevant to preserve these and use them to protect the best cards in your hand. When playing TES sequencing your cantrips is extremely important, but there are also games where you’re one card off from winning on turn one. I’m all about the first turn of the game main phase Brainstorm – I’ve received scoffs from some players but it's perfectly acceptable in my eyes. The situation needs to call for it, I wouldn’t just snap off a Brainstorm for the sake of it. I tend to Ponder before I Brainstorm a majority of the time. Collaborating with a shuffle effect is generally the way to go with Brainstorm so that you’re not drawing dead spells. There are times when sitting on Brainstorm for multiple turns while you continue to draw spells just to put back worse ones is the correct thing to do.
Ponder — Our cantrip with the best odds of finding the card(s) we’re looking for! Ponder digs the deepest out of the cards we opt to play, unlike Brainstorm or Preordain – Ponder can see up to four unique cards. Because of this, in hands where we have both Brainstorm, Ponder, and Preordain – it's usually best to cast Ponder first. Like Brainstorm, the best utilization of Ponder is often with a Polluted Delta or another fetchland. Ponder like a fetchland can be used as a shuffle effect for Brainstorm as well, it's just not as ideal. I’d like to note that I’m very aggressive with my shuffling off of ponder, players often think that I must’ve been looking at bad cards often because my decision doesn’t take too long. But if those cards aren’t what the hand needs, why contemplate?
Thoughtseize — Time have changed. The most common question I've heard when it comes to Thoughtseize is, "What about the life-loss, is it an issue?." The quick answer is no. Storm decks for the last seven years have ran four copies of Gitaxian Probe and have done just fine. The trade-off of two life and being able to hit anything instead of "non-creature, non-land" is why you see four copies of Thoughtseize in every list, while lists fluctuate between three and four copies of Duress. Being able to have a guaranteed hit against Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Ethersworn Canonist without question is extremely valuable compared to a blind Cabal Therapy against a deck like Death & Taxes or guessing the proper counterspell against blue decks. While The EPIC Storm will miss the synergies between Cabal Therapy, Gitaxian Probe, and Goblin tokens, I'm a firm believer that Thoughtseize will carry us into the future.
Duress — I go back and forth on the numbers of Duress depending on the metagame. But one thing is certain, it's the second best discard spell in the format now. After Duress the drop-off is fairly alarming, between Cabal Therapy without Gitaxian Probe or Inquisition of Kozilek. While my current list only has seven discard effects, if I were to go up to eight it would be another copy of Duress.
Empty the Warrens — I’ve already said so much about this card, but let’s reiterate. TES opts to play Empty the Warrens over Tendrils of Agony because Empty the Warrens is rarely a dead draw – the issue with Tendrils is it does absolutely nothing until it's lethal. Meanwhile casting Empty the Warrens with six or seven storm will easily win a game. Having a win condition in the deck that needs less storm and costs less than five (Ad Nauseam) dramatically increases the speed of TES often giving it games where we appear belcher-esque. Recently, Empty the Warrens has lost some of its power with the loss of Gitaxian Probe from the format, causing the deck to cut Cabal Therapy. This means the deck lost one of its most powerful synergies between Cabal Therapy and using Goblins to discard our opponent's entire hand! The other side effect from these changes would be less "free" storm before generating our Goblins using Empty the Warrens. While these changes may seem brutal, they're not. It's important to remember that while The EPIC Storm lost some tools, the format lost its best token blocker!
Ad Nauseam — The EPIC Storm is the best Ad Nauseam deck in legacy. Between Chrome Mox to act as additional copies of Lotus Petal as well as a lower average converted mana cost, Ad Nauseam has an increased power level here. Our primary storm engine and game plan, we’ve catered our deck to maximize its potential.
Something to keep in mind that Ad Nauseam is an instant, you can cast the spell in response to a Brainstorm or on an end step. There’s also the “Chrome Mox trick” – which is to cast Chrome Mox, in response cast Ad Nauseam, and in response to Ad Nauseam activate Lion’s Eye Diamond! You do this in order to be able to imprint after Ad Nauseam has resolved and is only viable if you didn’t have a card you could imprint prior to casting Ad Nauseam.
Rite of Flame — A defining characteristic of The EPIC Storm, this card is one of the reasons this deck is blazing fast. The fact that it costs one mana is important for two reasons – the first being that it's easier to cast in comparison to other “Ritual” effects available that cost two and the second reason would be its converted mana costs’ impact on Ad Nauseam. Something that is often overlooked when viewing Rite of Flame and is the ability to make two red mana, which is important because it generates just enough to meet the red mana requirement for both Burning Wish and Empty the Warrens in a single turn. Two Rite of Flame is also the perfect amount of mana to cast Empty the Warrens! Things become a little more interesting when you have more than two Rite of Flames (see below). Revealing Rite of Flame off of Infernal Tutor is one of my favorite things to do, especially with a line to cast Past in Flames. Often times Rite of Flame acts as a Dark Ritual and in certain situations is even better!
Mana Generated by Rite of Flame
Cast off a single red mana source, in one turn.
Dark Ritual — One of the most powerful cards in this deck and Legacy as a whole. If I have multiple “Ritual” effects in my hand, including a Rite of Flame, I will cast Dark Ritual second as it is an instant. This is incredibly helpful when it comes to playing around Daze, Spell Pierce and sometimes Flusterstorm.
Mana Generated by Dark Ritual
Cast off a single black mana source, in one turn.
Lion's Eye Diamond — The card is responsible for most turn one wins and is a total game changer. When using Lion’s Eye Diamond it's crucial to know that you must maintain priority and activate it in response to your other spell before passing priority/checking to see if there are any responses. When using Lion’s Eye Diamond paired with Infernal Tutor, it's important to note that you can cast Infernal Tutor with card in hand and then use Lion’s Eye Diamond to become hellbent by activating the artifact.
Try to cast Lion's Eye Diamond at opportune times, I play this card very differently depending on the match-up. Sometimes I let it sit on the table and threaten the opponent – while in other situations I hide it in my hand or on top of my deck. I typically play it right before my Infernal Tutor or Burning Wish, to maintain priority, this way it cannot be destroyed by effects like Abrupt Decay or Kolaghan's Command.
Lotus Petal — Initial mana sources with no drawback that are almost always a pleasure to see – especially off of Ad Nauseam. They, like Chrome Mox, enable speedy early turn combos and generate storm for free. Something to keep in mind that Lotus Petal can also fix our mana, especially in post-board games with lists that play cards like Abrupt Decay!
Chrome Mox — A card that divides TES from ANT. We opt to take the faster route as a trade off to a late game consistency. Chrome Mox provides additional early mana to allow for quick Empty the Warrens or Ad Nauseams. Chrome Mox is a huge part of why we have such an incredibly high success rate post-Ad Nauseam as it acts as an initial mana source to continue "combo-ing" out for the turn. Lists have recently bounced back and forth on the number of Chrome Mox in the main deck. At the moment, I prefer four to maintain our blazing-fast speed.
Cabal Ritual — This is a flex spot in The EPIC Storm, it could just as easily be a Preordain, Cabal Therapy, or even a second copy of Empty the Warrens.
A card from early lists that occasionally its way back in, the reasons being that the additional mana it provides generates enough mana to easily Burning Wish for Dark Petition to search for Ad Nauseam. Players often refer to it as additional copies of Lion’s Eye Diamond as it generates three mana, I try to not look at it that way as it takes careful planning with this deck to reach Threshold. Keep in mind that Lion’s Eye Diamond and Cabal Ritual have great synergy, if you have the mana readily available, cast your Burning Wish or Infernal Tutor, in response cast Cabal Ritual as it too is an instant and then hold priority and break Lion’s Eye Diamond to generate the Threshold required for Cabal Ritual.
I think my favorite thing about Cabal Ritual is it improves the quality of Past in Flames as a tertiary storm engine. What you can do is Burning Wish for Past in Flames, and then on the next turn use Infernal Tutor paired with Lion's Eye Diamond to find the Cabal Ritual. Cast Cabal Ritual and then flashback Past in Flames into an easy win.
Polluted Delta — The best "fetchland" in our primarily blue and black storm deck, the reason it's the best is that it gets either of our two basic lands. Which is something the other fetchlands cannot do, it's also the only fetchland in the deck that can get every land. There's more to Polluted Delta and the other fetchlands as well, they provide shuffle effects for cards like Brainstorm or Ponder which help with the quality of our draws. Fetchlands protect our mana from effects like Wasteland or Rishadan Port, which is key considering TES is a deck with fewer lands than it’s other storm counterpart.
Bloodstained Mire — You'll notice there's three copies of Bloodstained Mire and only one Scalding Tarn as the deck's secondary "fetchlands." This is because the reliance on black mana is more important than blue. While this split may seem strange with ten one mana cantrips and only seven discard spells, keep in mind that cantrips are frequently sided out. In a format like Legacy, there's decks where you need to be able to cast discard on turn one and not worry about a Wasteland staring you down (I'm looking at you Death & Taxes and/or RUG Delver). There's more to Bloodstained Mire and the other fetchlands as well, they provide shuffle effects for cards like Brainstorm or Ponder which help with the quality of our draws. Fetchlands protect our mana from effects like Wasteland or Rishadan Port, which is key considering TES is a deck with fewer lands than it’s other storm counterpart.
Scalding Tarn — Slight diversity can be a real thing, I've had a few occasions where Scalding Tarn not being Polluted Delta or Bloodstained Mire has mattered when it came down to a timely Surgical Extraction or Pithing Needle. That said, it's main function is to find basic Island, with ten one mana cantrips I felt like the deck needed an extra search effect for the basic. There's more to Scalding Tarn and the other fetchlands as well, they provide shuffle effects for cards like Brainstorm or Ponder which help with the quality of our draws. Fetchlands protect our mana from effects like Wasteland or Rishadan Port, which is key considering TES is a deck with fewer lands than it’s other storm counterpart.
Underground Sea — A searchable land that provides two of the deck's primary colors without any drawbacks. In lists with fourteen lands, I tend to prefer a second copy of Underground Sea as it does more for the deck between cantrips and discard spells.
Volcanic Island — A searchable land that provides two of the deck's primary colors without any drawbacks. This is the only "dual land" I don't see myself playing more than one of, it's the one I search for the least, unless I'm trying to pair it with the basic Swamp.
Badlands — A searchable land that provides two of the deck's primary colors without any drawbacks. I tend to waiver on if I would ever play a second copy of Badlands in order to support Pulverize in the sideboard as a fourteenth land, it hasn't happened yet, but it's something I consider. Fortunately, we're in a metagame where the most popular Chalice of the Void deck provides us with Mountains - but that could change. I often pair Badlands with the basic Island in order to be able to tap for any of the three colors. Originally Badlands was added to the deck over a second copy of Volcanic Island, and I have to say there's no looking back. What's nice is that you can tap Underground Sea to cast a cantrip, then search for Badlands, cast a discard spell off of it, and then still have red mana on the following turn.
Swamp — Essentially an indestructible mana source that is searchable in the face of Wasteland. With the rise in Ghost Quarter in the last few years, it's difficult to justify not having a basic land or two. The real valuable in basic Swamp is being able to cast a Thoughtseize or Duress on turn one while not having to worry about your land being destroyed. There's additional gains to be had in lists playing Massacre as Swamp guarantees your ability to cast it for free.
Island — Essentially an indestructible mana source that is searchable in the face of Wasteland. With the rise in Ghost Quarter in the last few years, it's difficult to justify not having a basic land or two. The real valuable in basic Island is being able to cast one of your ten cantrips turn one while not having to worry about your land being destroyed. In post-board games the value of basic Island goes way up as it helps you cast Echoing Truth and Chain of Vapor against hate pieces, while these decks often try to mess with your mana.
Gemstone Mine — Crucial for remaining more than four colors, its more important that it doesn’t deal damage in comparison to City of Brass or Mana Confluence. Every point of life matters in a deck that’s primary storm engine is Ad Nauseam.
City of Brass, Mana Confluence — These cards are typically in older builds with Silence, right now the metagame isn’t full of Stifles or Spell Snares. Meaning that Silence might be waiting quite a while to be playable again. It's possible to play these five color lands in the current lists, but I believe that they would be worse than other options.
Misty Rainforest — This fetchland just isn't viable when running a basic Swamp and Badlands. In order to play Misty Rainforest, the deck would need to return to the days when all of the searchable lands were dual lands and Islands.
City of Traitors, Crystal Vein — These lands are typically in builds that replace Chrome Mox with additional lands. The thought process is that these “Sol Lands” will help play around cards like Daze or Spell Pierce. I don’t prefer this as an option, the reason being is that TES is a four color deck that aims to win as fast as possible. Chrome Mox helps provide needed colors where these lands do not. Chrome Mox also improves the speed of the deck where additional land drops do not and can also stop hellbent for Infernal Tutor.
Rain of Filth — A one-time ritual effect that is good anytime after turn one. After the first turn, it’s at worst a Rite of Flame and potentially a fifth Dark Ritual. The downside in Rain of Filth is that we’re not planning for turn three, TES wants to combo off on the second turn. One of the benefits of this deck is it’s ability to win blazing fast, I don’t want a card that doesn’t help in match-ups where the game is decided on the second turn.
Preordain — A recent addition to The EPIC Storm, its inclusion is due to the loss of Gitaxian Probe. Added to smooth out draws, initial lists tried to not play this card but were found to be slightly inconsistent. Preordain was the perfect remedy for the problem at hand. If you have the option of casting Preordain, Ponder, or Brainstorm on turn one - don't cast Preordain. It's generally better to cast Ponder as it digs deeper. Something to keep in mind is that Preordain fills the "flex spots" in the deck and will likely be one of the first cards sided out in plenty of match-ups.
Silence, Orim's Chant — Cards that were shelved for their ineffectively at answering problematic cards in the current metagame and not being proactive. Playing cards that don't interact with the opponent often leads to things like Hymn to Tourach, Show and Tell, Chalice of the Void or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. I believe the time for these cards has come and gone, these cards were incredibly effective when all of the Delver of Secrets decks played four Stifle and four Spell Snare.
Inquisition of Kozilek — An additional option for a discard spell in the main deck, Inquisition of Kozilek has the issue of not being able to discard Force of Will or else it would be playable.
Cabal Therapy — Even with Gitaxian Probe people thought they were better with Cabal Therapy than they actually were, there's a reason you saw very few lists with four copies of Cabal Therapy and only two copies of Duress. When you miss, it can often cause you to lose the game. We're about to head into a new unknown format, where things are likely to change. I see RUG Delver becoming very good, good luck guessing between Stifle, Spell Pierce, Force of Will, Spell Snare, and Flusterstorm. Seriously. Now take a step back and think about how you just lost four free "Peek" effects at your opponent's hand, Cabal Therapy is going to be very bad. That said, I could see keeping one to two for the synergies with Empty the Warrens, but even that I'm not convinced about. I think it's hard to justify keeping a card for its secondary purpose when it's primary focus is suffering.
Lim-Dul’s Vault — This card has several things wrong with it in my eyes. The first being that it doesn’t put any cards to your hand, it uses life as a resource which is a problem with Ad Nauseam being our primary storm engine. The last thing being this card is very mana intensive for a Vampiric Tutor effect.
Death Wish, Grim Tutor — Both of these cards have the same problem in my eyes, they’re costly tutor effects that are dreadful to see pre or even post Ad Nauseam. They both have the upside of being able to find any silver bullet from our sideboard, but I don’t believe that the life loss or mana are worthwhile.
Tendrils of Agony — One of the worst possible cards you can draw in your opening hand. Pair this with the fact that most of the time when you could cast Tendrils of Agony for a lethal amount you could pay an additional two mana has caused Tendrils of Agony to live in the sideboard. It's sided in occasionally when Empty the Warrens isn't good in a specific match-up.
Echoing Truth — Echoing Truth has found it's way back into the sideboards and our hearts as the card to answer things like multiple Chalice of the Void, Chancellor of the Annex, Leyline of Sanctity, or even Marit Lage. It's versatility is why it's seeing play over a card like Hurkyl's Recall, being able to come in for a variety of different match-ups is highly desirable when playing a silver-bullet "wish board." With decks like Dragon Stompy becoming popular, Echoing Truth being easier to cast is a big difference maker compared to having to sideboard in something like Abrupt Decay. Having the ability to cast your solutions to permanents off of basics makes life much easier. Which is why you'll see four copies of Echoing Truth, especially with Counterbalance being not as popular as it once was.
Wipe Away — In Grixis lists of The EPIC Storm Wipe Away provides an answer to a problematic card in Counterbalance due to it's Split Second ability. This means the opponent doesn't have an opportunity to change the top card of their deck before the Counterbalance reveal, if Counterbalance reveals a converted mana cost of three naturally, Wipe Away will be countered. The same could be said in a weird world where Chalice of the Void is on three as well. These things said, a three is incredibly unlikely and the Split Second of Wipe Away means Flusterstorm or Force of Will won't be stopping Counterbalance from leaving the battlefield. Wipe Away is essentially a mono-blue Abrupt Decay, which is why we're playing it. The green splash is difficult on the mana-base and Wipe Away provides a solid answer. Typically when casting Abrupt Decay you often have three mana available regardless, so it's not much of a difference. A huge benefit to Wipe Away is being able to sit on your two basic lands and then on the end step, search up another blue source before casting your Wipe Away. I've also had a few interesting scenarios where Wipe Away was the perfect card for the situation, such as a Chalice of the Void on two stopping both Burning Wish AND Echoing Truth. Another situation was I knew my opponent had a Flusterstorm in hand, but tapped down to one mana on their turn, so on their end step I bounced their land untapped and won!
Hope of Ghirapur — Xantid Swarm's little brother so to speak, while Hope of Ghirapur does it's best to be as good as Xantid Swarm, it's not quite as good. That said, it sure is easier on the mana-base by not requiring green, this is why it sees play. The effect is certainly comparable, the main differences are that Hope of Ghirapur is a one time use – that targets. This is relevant because of Leyline of Sanctity, where Xantid Swarm does not target. Hope of Ghirapur also requires it to deal damage, meaning it can be blocked by Delver of Secrets, Griselbrand, Baleful Strix and other flying creatures. Speaking of creatures, it's effect doesn't stop the opponent from casting creatures. This means Vendilion Clique can still disrupt you if the opponent chooses not to block. "Well, why does it see play if it's this much worse?" I can't emphasize enough how much easier casting Hope of Ghirapur is, it's best off from a basic land or even a Badlands as these things help advance your game-plan. Bayou is simply a wasteland target that happens to be a worse swamp. There's also the added benefit of dealing damage to the opponent.
Empty the Warrens — By playing a copy of Empty the Warrens in our sideboard we effectively play five copies in our seventy-five – it's best to play the most copies we can while not decreasing our Ad Nauseam percentages. Empty the Warrens is also the decks fastest combo option (as it requires the least amount of mana) against decks trying to lock you out of the game, which matters more than you think. Depending on the metagame you'll notice the numbers of Empty the Warrens fluctuate, in metagames with lots of Delver of Secrets decks more copies (generally the full set) of Empty the Warrens is more desirable as it's an easier card to cast when your opponent is trying to attack your resources. Casting Empty the Warrens from your hand is a lot less resource intensive as you'll only need four mana, playing a full-compliment of Empty the Warrens allows for drawing them to be much easier. Meanwhile in these match-ups, Ad Nauseam at it's absolute cheapest is a seven mana line that loses to Daze, Spell Pierce, and even itself. What I mean by this is Delver decks pressure your life-total very quickly, Empty the Warrens is a great way to turn the tide. That said, there are metagames where I think one main deck and one sideboard are correct.
Past in Flames — Our tertiary option in The EPIC Storm, while powerful - our deck doesn’t utilize it as well as ANT does. However, we do have the tools for it to be effective if we build towards it. Often the card requires some foresight if you plan to use it. The reason it really sees play in the sideboard is how effective it is against blue-based decks. Past in Flames is often a "counter me twice or lose" which opens up the door for other spells to resolve. I will say that Past in Flames has become weaker with the loss of Gitaxian Probe, the days of having non-deterministic kills with zero mana floating are gone.
Massacre — Our best option against Death & Taxes! Its searchable with Burning Wish and free to cast! Recently, it's been added back to the sideboard due to the loss of Gitaxian Probe. I noticed with the lack of free information that I was losing to these white prison creature decks more and more. Free information allowed you'd you to "go-for-it" early or know how to sequence your cantrips. With Massacre in the sideboard you're able to keep less explosive hands and not be locked out of the game on the second turn. With a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in play it may most a little more, but it does kill Thalia even with a Mother of Runes in play. Additionally, you can also cast this card occasionally against Elves or Goblins as they’ve been known to splash a Savannah or Plateau respectively. Lastly, Massacre does have a real casting costs for dire need – don’t forget it!
Pulverize — One of my favorite answers to cards like Chalice of the Void, Sphere of Resistance, and Thorn of Amethyst that can be retrieved by Burning Wish. The real struggle with this card is finding space for another Mountain effect in the main deck as it currently doesn't play enough. In lists with fourteen lands, it's much easier to support Pulverize off of the back of a second copy of Badlands over a second Underground Sea. Currently, we're very fortunate that the metagame's artifact prison decks are also all Blood Moon decks. This means that they provide us with the necessary tools in order to cast our spells!
Tendrils of Agony — Have you ever drawn Tendrils of Agony in your opening hand? It's miserable - you can compare it to drawing multiple copies of Chrome Mox. For this reason Tendrils of Agony has been moved to the sideboard as its usefulness in the main deck was decreasing. What caused this change is that I found that most of the time that I was using Tendrils of Agony, that I had more than enough available mana to Burning Wish before casting it. This isn't anything new (the change happened in 2012), so those of you who are experienced with The EPIC Storm shouldn't see this as a shock. That said, there are times when sideboarding into Tendrils of Agony is correct, typically these are match-ups with an overload of mass removal for our goblin tokens. The other time siding in Tendrils of Agony is what you want to be doing is against a deck like Burn where Ad Nauseam isn't effective.
Dark Petition — Essentially an Infernal Tutor in the sideboard that is there to be able to find the Ad Nauseam in the main deck. This is a nine mana line that comes up more often than people notice, but it’s important to remember the Spell Mastery on this. I also commonly use Dark Petition to get the main deck copy of Empty the Warrens for an additional storm copy. When watching other storm pilots play I've noticed they feel the need to cast Burning Wish and Dark Petition all in one turn, while it may be correct sometimes, there's no harm or shame in casting Burning Wish on turn and then Dark Petition on the third turn.
Bayou — The best land for the green splash, this is because when paired with Volcanic Island it provides all four of the colors the EPIC Storm requires. Bayou also provides a green mana on the first turn to cast Xantid Swarm (in post-board games), it then provides a combo color mana on turn two. If unable to combo, providing black mana allows you to be able to disrupt the opponent's game plan with hand disruption. These reasons are why Bayou is selected over Tropical Island or Taiga.
Tropical Island, Taiga — Alternative options for the green splash over Bayou. Each with downsides that I believe to be bad enough where I would rather not run them. Tropical Island doesn't tap for a combo colored mana on turn two and can often be awkward on your mana for the remainder of the game. It's worth noting that against decks like Miracles, Ponder is often sided out anyway – reducing the blue count in your deck. I would rather run Taiga than Tropical Island, that said, I think Taiga has it's own downsides. The first is pretty major, it cannot be found with Polluted Delta, which means restructuring your manabase to support a sideboard land. You can run a different split of fetchlands to support Taiga but ultimately ends up costing you games in the long run. The second reason I'm not a fan of Taiga is that outside of casting Xantid Swarm or Abrupt Decay, it doesn't actually help cast anything until the combo turn itself as red mana is rarely used up until that point.
Xantid Swarm — I can’t stress this enough, do not side in Xantid Swarm against blue-based decks with damage based removal - it’s acceptable if their removal package is Swords to Plowshares or Terminus based as they’ll likely be sided out. Xantid Swarm’s intended purpose is for traditional control decks (Miracles and Stonelade), Show and Tell variants, Reanimator, High Tide, and Merfolk.
One huge benefit of Xantid Swarm is that it effectively negates Leovold, Emissary of Trest's ability during the combo turn, which is actually very good for the storm deck. The downside is that Xantid Swarm is traditionally not the best against blue and black strategies as they pair their countermagic with discard.
Abrupt Decay — The best card for answering Chalice of the Void and Counterbalance. Abrupt Decay is also brought in sometimes for hate creatures. Against blue decks such as Stoneblade, Abrupt Decay's uncounterable nature is important for killing creatures such as Ethersworn Canonist. Otherwise, the opponent can counter your bounce spell and lock you out of the game. Even more so in lists that don’t play bounce spells or removal such as Echoing Truth or Fatal Push.
Carpet of Flowers — With blue decks more popular than ever, it’s not shocking to find this card in our sideboard options. Its great against all of the blue tempo decks and even against Miracles! In slower blue-based matches it’s fine to swap these with the main deck Chrome Mox to give us better late game power.
Reverent Silence — Reverent Silence is a Burning Wish target that can act like as a free answer to Leyline of Sanctity or Counterbalance (even if it's not very popular).
Defense Grid — A pseudo replacement for Xantid Swarm now that The EPIC Storm in lists without green, it's main function is to prohibit cards like Stifle, Flusterstorm, Pyroblast and Invasive Surgery that are coming out of our opponent's sideboards. Keep in mind, our opponents can still cast spells with a Defense Grid in play, but it typically taxes our opponents enough where we can plow through the first counterspell and eventually kill the opponent. One of my personal favorite things about the card is it's ability to shut down Leovold, Emissary of Trest from ruining your day. While your opponent can draw ten to fifteen cards off of your Tendrils of Agony targeting them, this will most likely stop them from casting Mind Break Trap or Flusterstorm.
Cabal Therapy — Disruption that can be fetched by Burning Wish. Sometimes it will replace Duress in the main deck in post-board games in match-ups with more creatures. Its inclusion over Duress and/or Inquisition of Kozilek is based on its ability to hit Force of Will and hate creatures. It’s often sided in over Empty the Warrens in combo match-ups.
Swan Song, Flusterstorm — These cards are often looked at to answer the combo mirror as well as control match-ups. My primary issues with counterspells in Lion's Eye Diamond based combo is that they don't do a good job of protecting your Tutor during the combo turn since you will need to become hellbent. They also don't play well with Lion's Eye Diamond itself as the opponent can wait for you to crack your artifact before responding. There's also the issue of counterspells becoming stuck in your hand preventing Hellbent.
Pyroblast — Added during times when the number of Meddling Mage rises from blue decks. The beauty of Pyroblast over other permanent based answers is that in these match-ups is that if they don’t draw hate creatures/permanents worth killing you’re not stuck with dead cards in your hand. Pyroblast can then be used as protection to stop their permission spells. You can also target a land to get it out of your hand for Hellbent!
Surgical Extraction — A great card in metagames with lots of Reanimator, being a free instant speed card in these match-ups is invaluable. It also has an interesting function when your sideboard contains Telemin Performance, bringing in Surgical Extraction against opponents so you can look at their library to see if they have any creatures in the Storm and Lands matches. It has some extra utility against decks like Show and Tell to remove one of their combo pieces from the game, or even to check their hand if there's a Leyline of Sanctity in play. I also sided it in against slower control decks, hitting all of their Force of Wills or something similar is nice, but I think it has some other upsides. Being able to mess with their Brainstorms if they've responded to a discard spell, removing the target to their Snapcaster Mage (a card we don't interact with that well), removing their Terminus from the game so that small Empty the Warrens can do the job, or simply just a free "Force of Will" check.
Chain of Vapor — One of the best bounce spells ever printed, efficiently answering cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Gaddock Teeg, Sphere of Resistance and Leyline of Sanctity. The only downside of this card is that Chalice of the Void on one is very popular, causing this otherwise perfect bounce spell to be not great at times.
A "cool trick" you can do with Chain of Vapor is to use it to generate mana and storm – a pseudo "storm engine" so to speak. When you have a bunch of artifact mana (Chrome Mox, Lotus Petal, and Lion's Eye Diamond), you can target your own artifact, sacrifice a land, and then copy it. When you have enough lands and artifacts, it can be the cause of your opponent's demise. I find myself doing this post-Ad Nauseam in scenarios where I'm low on resources. Maybe you needed to cast a few cantrips or discard spells, after that, you can bounce all of your copies of Chrome Mox and replay them and imprint with the extra cards from Ad Nauseam – you've created mana with a bounce spell!
Void Snare, Consign / Oblivion — Bounce effects that can be found by Burning Wish. The real upside to these cards is that they provide an answer to Leyline of Sanctity without the need to sideboard cards in. There’s also the added benefit of being an answer a variety of anti-storm permanents.
Perilous Voyage — "Why do you play Echoing Truth over Perilous Voyage" comes up a lot. The reason we play these cards is to deal with problematic permanents, the secondary effects are bonuses. I would much rather play Perilous Voyage over something like Hurkyl's Recall due to flexibility of use in a sideboard that is constrained on spaces due to Burning Wish. When it comes down to it, would you rather have a card that answers multiple cards or something that provides slight card quality? Typically sideboards are constructed to have either Chain of Vapor and/or Abrupt Decay as they fill a different purpose (either dealing with Chalice of the Void, Counterbalance or just being good against "sphere" effects). Now, you can have something that answers two issues or a card that can also only answer one. I don't think Perilous Voyage is bad by any means, but I don't want to have to find two answer spells if my opponent starts the game off with, "Chalice of the Void on zero and Chalice of the Void on one."
Hurkyl’s Recall — A good answer to a variety of permanent based artifact disruption such as Chalice of the Void, Sphere of Resistance and Thorn of Amethyst. My personal issue with this card is that I don't think it does enough, it's very similar to Echoing Truth but doesn't answer Marit Lage or Chancellor of the Annex. I would only plan to use this during spikes of Ancient Tomb based strategies.
Meltdown — A great answer to Chalice of the Void. I often hear, "This should be By Force." - No, it shouldn't. The most common piece of artifact disruption in the format is Chalice of the Void, which is often dropped for zero and one against TES. If a Chalice of the Void is in play for zero, Meltdown is cheaper than By Force. If Chalice of the Void is on one, they're even. Now take into consideration that Meltdown can destroy multiple copies of Chalice of the Void for less mana. Against Sphere of Resistance effects, Meltdown is more expensive than By Force by a single mana. But I would rather personally be prepared for the most popular version of a hate piece in the format than the second. Sphere of Resistance effects are also likely coming out of the sideboard, where Echoing Truth can be brought in to combat them.
Lastly, I've heard people say that By Force is better versus Phyrexian Revoker or Ethersworn Cannonist. Sure, but why aren't you getting Massacre or Grapeshot in that situation? My advice – play Meltdown.
By Force — A fine artifact removal spell, the second best one for answering Sphere of Resistance and Thorn of Amethyst after Pulverize. I prioritize being able to answer Chalice of the Void over these effects, which is why I prefer Meltdown.
Shattering Spree — The most cost efficient sorcery speed answer to all permanent based artifacts, the only real downside is that we just don't play enough red lands. We haven't played enough since the days of "gold" lands.
Hull Breach, Revoke Existence — Answers to Leyline of Sanctity that can be retrieved using Burning Wish while being flexible enough to hit cards like Chalice of the Void. I generally prefer a more flexible card in this slot like Chain of Vapor or Echoing Truth. These cards are likely permanently on our bench with the printing of Void Snare.
Rending Volley — A card that's more versatile than one may think. It's primary function is to kill Ethersworn Cannonist out of blue-based decks as resolving something like Massacre or Pyroclasm can be difficult. However, it doubles as a cheap removal spell to kill Thalia, Guardian of Thraben against Death and Taxes. I've even brought it in as an answer to Leovold, Emissary of Trest against decks that have lots of answers to Defense Grid.
Fatal Push — A cheap and easy way to answer Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that can be cast off of the deck's basic Swamp. There is everything to love about this card with very little draw back, the only concern is finding sideboard space.
Grapeshot — A highly versatile card, while people think it's a joke - Grapeshot is the real deal. From clearing blockers for Empty the Warrens tokens, an easy kill after a few Griselbrand activations, clearing hate creatures from the battlefield, requiring red mana post-Past in Flames and a non-creature based win condition that isn't Tendrils of Agony. Grapeshot has its uses and isn't a joke. Perhaps it's most desirable trait is being able to kill Ethersworn Cannonist through countermagic.
Pyroclasm — A solid card that can answer Gaddock Teeg, Young Pyromancer, Delver of Secrets, Meddling Mage, Elves and a variety of other creatures. The difficult thing with Pyroclasm is that it just doesn't do enough, it's slightly worse than Grapeshot and isn't as efficient as Massacre. The only time I find myself wanting Massacre is generally agains the Grixis Delver variants.
Dread of Night — This card is terrific at killing creatures such as Mother of Runes, Aven Mindcensor and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. The problem with it is that it would take multiples to kill Ethersworn Canonist, Sanctum Prelate, Gaddock Teeg or Meddling Mage. It just doesn’t do enough in my eyes.
Karakas — A card we attempted to play during Maverick’s reign of terror in Legacy with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Gaddock Teeg everywhere. It also has functionalities against larger Legendary creatures from Reanimator and Sneak Show variants. I see it as a liability nowadays as Griselbrand is often put into play, the opponent will draw a handful of cards leaving you in an awful position before the creature is returned to its owner’s hand.
Reanimate — One of our worst match-ups is Reanimator, these cards were an attempt at solving that issue. I think it's less effective than just playing Surgical Extraction.
Dark Confidant — Good in long and grindy match-ups, the downside is that it's very slow which isn't something TES is designed to do. There's also the downside that it uses life total as a resource, which isn't desirable with Ad Nauseam being the primary storm engine.
Doomsday — I’ve tried to get this card to work, I really have. But one of the biggest issues with it is that it forces you to play suboptimal cards such as Ideas Unbound. Even then, its mana intensive and uses life as a resource. Our additional storm engines ideally wouldn’t rely on the same resource as our main game plan.
Ill-Gotten Gains — In an age with Surgical Extraction and an increased amount of instants or responses from almost every deck, this card is almost unplayable unless its an already favored match-up. A real relic of the past.
Diminishing Returns, Reforge the Soul, Time Spiral — This slot was cut when Dark Petition was printed. I could see myself possibly going back to it at some point, the problem is these cards aren’t very consistent. Each card has benefits over the other, but I prefer Diminishing Returns over the other two.
Bribery — More attempts to answer Reanimator and Sneak Show, too narrow for my taste and somewhat ineffective. I would rather play Telemin Performance.
Telemin Performance — The first thing to know about Telemin Performance is that it's really only good against other unfair decks (Storm, Sneak & Show, Lands, and Reanimator variants). When you look at how the sideboard for this deck is constructed, we lack a powerful silver-bullet type effect for these match-ups. Empty the Warrens and Past in Flames can likely take too long to kill or to set up. Both Dark Petition and Past in Flames are weak to graveyard hate. All three of these choices are weak against Crop Rotation as they can put Bojuka Bog or the Tabernacle of Pendrell Vale into play. This leaves us with Telemin Performance to either mill our opponent to death or put a huge creature into play! This makes Telemin Performance great in some match-ups where the other options are pretty bad.
I've found the most effective usage of Telemin Performance to be when paired with Surgical Extraction, the knowledge you gain from knowing the opponent's deck and how they sideboarded is fantastic.
It's worth noting that I wouldn't use Telemin Performance post-sideboard against decks like Storm or Lands as they commonly sideboard into creatures to counter Telemin Performance – often limiting it's effectiveness.