TES Infernal Tutoring # 13


Welcome back to the Infernal Tutoring series!

Hello Legacy players, my name is Anthony. I am excited to be taking on the torch for the Infernal Tutoring series! I have been playing TES for a few years now and currently reside on the seacoast of New Hampshire. I usually try to attend as many events as I can in New England, however, I am rather new to the world of Magic Online. It has been a fantastic tool to jam as many matches as possible!

When we play The EPIC Storm, one of the questions we ask ourselves the most is: "What will give me the best chance of winning this match?"
What I aim to show with this article is insight on some of the key decision making that comes with playing TES. Even one decision we make can affect the entire outcome of the game, whether it is during our combo turn or just resolving a Brainstorm. Sometimes we don't always have a black or white answer for what the correct play is, this is especially the case for a deck like The EPIC Storm.

For this week, the latest version of The EPIC Storm (TES) was used from the website.

Deck List

 

SITUATION #1 - Miracles

Miracles is once again one of the best decks of the format. Most of the lists you'll run into play three Counterbalance, as well as two Search For Azcanta from the new Ixalan expansion. With both of these cards available to Miracles, it is very important to go off early in this matchup. Once their Search For Azcanta flips into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, it will become almost impossible to combo through your opponent's seemingly limitless resources. More importantly, once our opponent has a Counterbalance on the battlefield it will be very hard to resolve most of our spells. In a lot of matchups when we combo early will we go for a horde of goblins through Empty the Warrens, however, this becomes very risky with our Miracles opponents running four copies of Terminus. Not only that but with Miracles playing cards such as Counterspell, Snapcaster Mage, alongside two to three copies of Flusterstorm from the sideboard, it is very important to have our combo turn before are opponent has an opportunity to utilize these resources.

Website Recommendation for Sideboarding:

-1 Empty the Warrens,
+1 Tendrils of Agony

In this situation, we are in game two on the draw after winning game one with an early Ad Nauseam. We cast a Duress on turn two targeting our opponent. They immediately cast a Force of Will on it to hide the information of what is in their hand. On their turn three, they played an Arid Mesa and used it to grab a Volcanic Island to cast a Blood Moon. On our turn three, we drew a second Lotus Petal, which gives us exactly enough mana to cast Ad Nauseam. It was hard to believe that our opponent would counter our Duress to just protect their Blood Moon, it is possible that they might have another Force of Will.

I thought about casting our Burning Wish to bait the Force of Will if they had it, and then grab Empty the Warrens if it resolved. However, as I previously stated it is very important to go for our combo in this matchup while our opponent doesn't have the mana to utilize most of their answers. It is also worth noting that using our Burning Wish to grab Empty the Warrens would be very risky in the case that they have a Terminus.

Which option gives us the best chance of winning the game?

I ultimately decided to jam the Ad Nauseam. If they do have a Force of Will we still have some of the tools to rebuild our combo as we have a Burning Wish and a Lion's Eye Diamond in our hand. With our opponent being tapped out and only having three cards in hand, I think this turn is the best turn to go for the win.


This is an interesting situation, as it comes down to our hand reading ability. I think what the opponent exiled with Force of Will may actually matter, as if Force of Will and blood moon are their only interaction, then they very well may Force of Will our Duress, as they would be losing one of their key interactive pieces anyway. I would go for Ad Nauseam in this situation, knowing that a second Force of Will would put us a in tough spot. Since Miracles rarely plays Daze, I would keep the Lion's Eye Diamond in hand, to give ourselves an opportunity to goblins next turn.

I would jam Ad Nauseam without using Lion's Eye Diamond. I think the opponent used their Force of Will to try and protect their Blood Moon. If they have another Force of Will then this still leaves us enough resources to go off a couple turns from now and putting them down to one card in hand. I think the longer we sit the worse it gets.

Trying to bait Force of Will with Burning Wish doesn't really accomplish anything. Using Force of Will to protect Blood Moon also seems completely believable. Without a Lotus Petal we could be in weird shape, and if they don't use the Force of Will, they give us all of the optionality in determining whether we care about Force of Will (because we have no more Discard) or Blood Moon (because we can't beat it). Using that Force of Will could be to protect another Force of Will, but most players just let that resolve, more often using the Force of Will to protect a card they don't have a second copy of or to remove optionality from the opponent, which is what I think is happening here. I would go for Ad Nauseam, since we are very likely to win if it resolves and I think it resolves a good percentage of the time here.

I am unsure if our opponent really wanted to protect a Blood Moon, but given that casting Ad Nauseam here isn't really a commiting play on our side, I would drop the mana artifacts and slam the 5cc instant. Even if your opponent holds another Force of Will, you still have enough gas to go off soon after.

I would just jam Ad Nauseam down their throat, however, I would not play the Lion's Eye Diamond. I think keeping Lion's Eye Diamond and the pair of tutors in your hand as a backup plan is far more important than three additional mana floating. If you draw the Swamp or Chrome Mox plus a black card, you could Infernal Tutor for a second Lion's Eye Diamond and then maybe use Past in Flames to win. Alternatively, the more likely back-up plan is Empty the Warrens as you'll have three lands, Lion's Eye Diamond and Burning Wish. Making six Goblins against a deck that is awful at blocking.

SITUATION #2 - Lands

Lands has always been one of the best matchups for The EPIC Storm. The main deck is designed to be very proficient at combating creature-based strategies while having a heavy amount of mana denial which demolishes greedy mana bases.

Against the EPIC Storm, the only real game plan Lands has game one is trying to pick apart our lands with Wasteland and Ghost Quarter (sometimes recurring with Life from the Loam) while gathering the tools they need to kill us with a Marit Lage before we can kill them. With how fast TES is we tend to go off with Ad Nauseam or mill them with Telemin Performance before they have a chance to make a Marit Lage or attack our mana base.

In this situation, we kept a hand in the blind just short of a turn one Ad Nauseam. I cast Gitaxian Probe, then played my Badlands and cast Duress targeting my opponent and took their Gamble. At this point, our game plan was to draw into any land or fast mana source that would allow us to combo into an Ad Nauseam before our opponent could find a Wasteland or kill us with a Marit Lage. We drew into Ponder and Burning Wish which did us no good. Our opponent made a Marit Lage on their turn and then used their Ghost Quarter targeting our Badlands on our upkeep. We have two options here: Grab our Swamp and pray our top deck wins us the game, or grab our Island and cast Brainstorm on our main phase to draw to into more cards. If we go with the Brainstorm plan we most likely have to draw into two cards that produce mana rather than just one.

Which basic land would you grab from the Ghost Quarter ability?

I grabbed the Swamp. We still have twenty-four cards in our deck that will potentially win us the game, which gives us a fifty percent chance of hitting one of them. I wasn't too sure how likely we were to get a combination of cards that let us combo off from the Brainstorm, so I was more comfortable taking the fifty-fifty chance.


This is a pure probability question. Grabbing a Swamp gives us 20 clean outs (3 Dark Ritual, 4 Lotus Petal, 3 Chrome Mox, and 10 lands) out of 45 cards (49 less the Swamp and Gitaxian Probe as a re-draw). Things get a little complicated if we draw an Island, but roughly we can think of this as 45% to win. With Brainstorm we have four cards to see a combination of: Land, Lotus Petal or Chrome Mox (17) plus a combination of Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox, Dark Ritual, and Lion's Eye Diamond 13). We can use a hypergeometric calculator on the permutations, and find that we are about 50% to win off of Brainstorm. This answer was counter intuitive to me, and in game I likely would have incorrectly fetched a Swamp.

I think I would grab the basic Island. About half the cards left in our deck would win the game, so our options would be 1 mana source off 1 draw step or 2 mana sources off 4 draws (draw for turn + 3 off Brainstorm). I would take the Brainstorm line.

If we get swamp, we are 50% to cast Ad Nauseam with 24 outs in our 48 card deck. If we go for Island and cast Brainstorm, we see 3 cards to hit 19 outs, but then we'll also need to hit another Lion's Eye Diamond, Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal, or Chrome Mox. This is one of those situations where it's purely mathematical, but it's pretty hard if you don't know the math, which you can't unless you've spent a lot of time staring at a Hypergeometric Calculator. I could do the math and tell you that you are X% to win if you Brainstorm, but that doesn't really help if you find yourself in a similar but different scenario where you don't know the math. More important is to understand making a decision from a limited knowledge pool and accepting that you might be giving up a few percentage points some of the time. The goal is to try to get those points back more often than you lose them. My general rule of thumb for a situation like this is this: reducing your number of outs by a reasonable margin (Lion's Eye Diamond and Dark Ritual no longer serve as win conditions without another initial mana source, and two lands doesn't do the trick either), and requiring yourself to draw two of them instead of one is not worth seeing two extra cards. There may be some weird math involving Fetchlands and Gitaxian Probe, but again, that's not the kind of math you'll be able to do on the fly. If you do want to know the odds for similar situations though, it comes out to about 41% to be able to cast Ad Nauseam if you Brainstorm here, though that number ignores games where you Brainstorm into additional Brainstorms and single mana sources, in which case that real odds might be closer to 43 or 44 percent.

This scenario presents an easy choice for me. If you dig up the Island you are forced to find two more initial mana sources with the Brainstorm, while if you aim for the Swamp you just need any initial mana source, Dark Ritual or Lion's Eye Diamond to combo off, which means that you have pretty much still a coin flip in this otherwise dire situation.

I would grab the Island. After this, if your draw step is a black source of some sort, you still win. Otherwise, you now have three more opportunities to find either Lands + Ritual effect (either), Land + Artifact mana (any of them) and you even have weird lines with Gitaxian Probe. This way, if your draw step wasn't a mana source you get a better idea on the correct decision as a mana is needed regardless, but I think this gives you the most play as well as some extra insight. Good question!

SITUATION #3 - Sultai Delver

When it comes to our matchups against the many Delver variants, I would say our two most difficult matchups are Sultai Delver and Temur Delver. Sultai Delver usually runs a heavy amount of discard spells such as Thoughtseize and Hymn to Tourach depending on the list. This is very troublesome when paired with countermagic as they are able to strip our hand apart while having answers for spells. It is also worth mentioning that Sultai Delver usually plays more answers to Empty the Warrens than other variants of Delver decks with cards such as Golgari Charm and Toxic Deluge. Temur Delver, on the other hand, has a lot of mana denial. In addition to the standard four copies of Wasteland, they also play four copies of Stifle.

Our opponent is playing what seems to be a Sultai Delver list with Stifle and Nimble Mongoose. This means that they play discard spells as well as extra mana denial. With all this hate packed against us, it is very important to go off as early as possible while still keeping in mind that our opponent has answers for Empty the Warrens. During game two I saw Golgari Charm as well as Toxic Deluge in their hand.

Website Recommendation for Sideboarding:

None

We are in game three, our opponent has a Delver of Secrets on the battlefield as well as a Wasteland and a tapped Underground Sea. They also had two copies of Daze in their hand that we forced them to discard with Cabal Therapy. Right now we know their hand has Stifle, Nimble Mongoose, Hymn to Tourach, and a mystery card. Our hand at the start of our main phase was Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Burning Wish, and Lotus Petal.

I decided that it would be better to go off before our opponent had the open mana for Stifle or if they drew another black mana source for Hymn to Tourach. I cracked my Scalding Tarn for a Volcanic Island, played a Lotus Petal, then cast Burning Wish. I wanted to cast Burning Wish first because in the case that our opponent drew a Force of Will we wouldn't have already used up our copies of Dark Ritual.

My initial plan was to make ten goblins this turn with Empty the Warrens, however after some thinking, while resolving the Burning Wish, I questioned how likely it is that our opponent has Toxic Deluge or Golgari Charm, or if they draw into it. The other option here is to grab Dark Petition from the Burning Wish, cast both copies of Dark Ritual, and then use our Dark Petition to grab Ad Nauseam. It is worth noting that we are only at fourteen life, and we saw during game two that our opponent had a Ravenous Trap in their hand, which would completely blow out the Dark Petition strategy. We clearly have two options here: Make ten goblins and pray that our opponent doesn't draw into an answer for them, or grab Dark Petition and hope our opponent wasn't saving a Force of Will or drew Ravenous Trap, then hope we get there at fourteen life.

Which card would you grab from the Burning Wish, and how would you proceed with the rest of the turn?

I decided to take Dark Petition and go for the Ad Nauseam line by casting Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Dark Petition, and using the rest of our mana sources to cast Ad Nauseam. In retrospect, I think it may have been correct to make the goblins instead, as our opponent would need to draw another land to cast Toxic Deluge or Golgari Charm anyways, and that's assuming they already drew either of those cards. Even though we haven't played a land this turn, we are only at fourteen life and still have Empty the Warrens in our deck, we would need to have a pretty decent Ad Nauseam to win.


Our opponent on Sultai Delver means that they don't have anyway to blow us out with a Lightning Bolt if our Ad Nauseam doesn't get there. I would Ad Nauseam here. The key is that we can Ad Nauseam conservatively, and set up a win on our following turn (so long as we stay safe from a flipped Delver of Secrets). This does get blown out if our opponent naturally drew Daze (4%). However, this is lower than the chance our opponent finds Golgari Charm, or Toxic Deluge in two turns - there's a 23% chance they've drawn a copy or find it naturally assuming they have 4 total answers, and they could dig deeper with Brainstorm or Ponder.

I would grab Empty the Warrens. Both of their ways to handle the goblins require 2 more cards. Golgari Charm requires a green source and Toxic Deluge requires a 3rd land, plus drawing the actual card itself. Blocking with creatures is also probably not good enough because he can't flip his Delver of Secrets and draw a creature. The Ad Nauseam plan isn't bad, but I will admit I tend to be more biased towards Empty the Warrens.

Something to keep in mind here is that Empty the Warrens doesn't beat Force of Will in a lot of situations either. They can Force of Will one copy and play a 3/3 Nimble Mongoose off most lands, which could spell trouble if they flip their Delver or find another creature to block with. While it might still be good enough, there are a lot of reasonable cases where it is not. If we can reasonably ignore Force of Will, which we should unless we really think that small edge where Force of Will isn't good enough pushes Empty the Warrens over the edge, then we only need to focus on deciding whether to play around Ravenous Trap and Daze, or a wrath effect. Presumably, they play 3-4 wrath effects, and have 1-2 Ravenous Trap and 1-2 Daze left in their deck. When considering the wraths though, they not only need the wrath but also another land, but on that same token, we give them 1 to 2 additional turns to find those things. With all of that in mind, it seems to be around fairly even odds for which set of outs they are more likely to have. At that point then, the fact that we could, in theory, still beat a Force of Will with the Empty the Warrens line pushes that one over the edge for me, and so I would choose to make 10 Goblin tokens. If you think that they likely only have 1 Ravenous Trap though and/or it is unlikely that they are still playing 4 Dazes with Stifle in their deck, then you can make a strong case for Dark Petition.

Given that your opponent is lacking a green source to play Mongoose or Golgari Charm and a third land to cast Toxic Deluge in general, grabbing Empty the Warrens would be my pick. You can even cast it through disruption, if your opponent's unknown card is another counterspell (or the mentioned Ravenous Trap) for one of the Rituals.

I believe the proper line to be: Lotus Petal, Burning Wish (for Dark Petition), Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Dark Petition, and Empty the Warrens. This line plays around a drawn Daze (even if unlikely) and doesn't lose if we have a poor Ad Nauseam. To me, a poor Ad Nauseam is more likely than them having a sweeper. While I understand that we have a land drop, we've also burned two of seven initial mana sources – making Ad Nauseam a risky move. At this point, I likely wouldn't bother flashing back Cabal Therapy. Leaving yourself with more tokens to get through a potential Deathrite Shaman is more valuable to me than maybe hitting Golgari Charm, Marsh Casualties, or Toxic Deluge with poor odds (they would actually have to have a sweeper AND THEN for you to name the proper one).

Some of the most challenging moments of playing The EPIC Storm are when we are faced with multiple lines that win us the game. The beauty of TES is that there are limitless situations we'll find ourselves in where the correct path isn't so clear. Even though I have been playing the deck for a few years now I still find myself stumped sometimes because of how many options it presents us with every single match.

See you storm cowboys!