Since Grand Prix Seattle, we have been testing new lists to see if any of them are an improvement over V4.2. This led to the creation of V4.4, which has more or less been an alternative to V4.2 if anything. I don't believe either one of the deck lists is strictly better than the other. I will say though, the second main deck Empty the Warrens has been great for all of the Delver decks. However, with the rise of Stompy decks, it would also not be a bad idea to be playing a deck list that has Pulverize in the sideboard (V4.2).
I am also very happy to announce that starting with this month's edition of Infernal Tutoring that we will now have different monthly guests! They will mostly be pilots of either storm deck, which is great as it can provide new perspectives and opinions for the scenarios that come up in Infernal Tutoring. This month's guest is Ethan Formichella!
A few words on Ethan Formichella (monkeyscantcry):
Ethan started playing Magic with the release of Apocalypse, and fell in love with Storm strategies starting with the Heartbeat of Spring + Mind's Desire deck in the old Extended format. He started playing Legacy casually with TES around 2010, and in the past few years has been playing a lot of MTGO Legacy Storm, primarily ANT.
SITUATION #1 - BUG Leovold
BUG Leovold is another stock blue Deathrite Shaman deck that has countermagic and discard spells, which can be troublesome for The EPIC Storm. Until we see a big change in the Legacy format (Ex: Deathrite Shaman gets banned), then decks like this will remain popular. To me, this matchup is very similar to 4c Control (Czech Pile). Both decks run a lot of the same cards that we care about, such as Hymn to Tourach, Thoughtseize, and Leovold, Emissary of Trest. Both of the decks are also light on soft countermagic, so you mostly have to worry about Force of Will game one and Flusterstorm from the sideboard. Empty the Warrens is generally strong in this matchup, you just have to watch out for potential copies of Marsh Casualties or Toxic Deluge after game one.
How I Sideboarded:
+1 Cabal Therapy
We are in game three on the play, and in a very rough spot. We mulliganed to five cards and kept a hand of Gitaxian Probe, Cabal Therapy, Rite of Flame, Ponder, and Badlands. We cast Gitaxian Probe and drew an Infernal Tutor. We then cast Cabal Therapy which our opponent countered with Force of Will (Exiling another Force of Will). On our opponent's turn, they played a Misty Rainforest, used it to fetch an Underground Sea, and cast Thoughtseize to have us discard our Infernal Tutor. At this point we only have Ponder and Rite of Flame left in our hand. On our current turn, we drew Polluted Delta, fetched a Volcanic Island, and played Ponder. This Ponder revealed two copies of Rite of Flame and a Burning Wish. With already having a Rite of Flame in hand, this gives us potential to make ten Goblin tokens with Empty the Warrens in two turns if everything goes right. That being said, it is a fragile game plan that will lose to either Burning Wish getting countered or a sweeper for the Goblin tokens. We could also shuffle these cards away in hopes to find something better. Our opponent has four cards in hand, which we know two of them are copies of Tropical Island, and another one is a Wasteland which they will likely use next turn, the fourth card is unknown.
How would you resolve this Ponder?
I chose not to shuffle the Ponder, leaving Burning Wish on the bottom of the three cards. While this line loses to exactly Force of Will or a sweeper, I'm more confident in just going for this set line than shuffling the Ponder when the resources we have left are next to none. Also, if our opponent has a Thoughtseize, we still have enough mana to cast Empty the Warrens after Burning Wish. #banriteofflame
I would probably keep it on top and plan to make the 10 goblins over 2 turns. They probably don't have another counterspell because when they used Force of Will pitching another Force of Will that indicates to me they probably don't even have another blue card. They also don't have access to a second blue source (with what we know) to be able to cast Marsh Causalities. If we shuffle our top 3-4 cards would have to be pretty perfect, and I can't imagine what the odds would be for them to be better than what we have. If our opponent does use their Wasteland next turn then I would have liked keeping this Ponder even more.
I think that we'd have to get pretty lucky to shuffle and have a better outcome after getting hit by Wasteland. I would put the Burning Wish last, and then in two turns plan to make 10 Goblins and, depending on what our opponent has done at that point, use Cabal Therapy on Toxic Deluge.
I would keep that Ponder, top three (Burning Wish on the bottom) and work towards the Goblins. It's very unlikely that you find a better line of play in the next three after shuffling.
I don't think you can afford to shuffle, you would need a string of runners to even get something close to this. I think ultimately you need to keep Burning Wish on the bottom with two copies of Rite of Flame on top. In two turns you can make Goblins and then flashback Cabal Therapy on Marsh Casualties or Toxic Deluge. Alternatively, you could even start to look into a Past in Flames plan if things begin to not go your way.
As much as I'm not happy to do so, I think I'm keeping this Ponder – drawing Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Burning Wish in that order. It's going to take some luck for us to win with this, but I like that we have a path to victory through Wasteland, and the alternative is pretty rough. If they draw 2 creatures and no removal, we can fight through it exactly. If they don't play any creatures, I'm inclined to flashback our Cabal Therapy the turn we make Goblins – naming Marsh Casualties. I would not do this if the opponent has a non-Baleful Strix creature though, because losing that Goblin would result in us losing the race to a top-decked second creature, which I think is more likely than the opponent having a sweeper.
SITUATION #2 - Elves
Elves is generally a great matchup for The EPIC Storm, especially game one. The deck doesn't really have anything to disrupt us with until sideboarding, so for game one you mostly just have to win before they can kill you. That being said, Empty the Warrens isn't great in this matchup and I only recommend it as a last resort option, or if you can make a sizable amount of Goblin tokens turn one on the play. After sideboarding, Elves usually has access to discard spells such as Cabal Therapy or Thoughtseize, some lists even play Mindbreak Trap in the sideboard. These pieces of disruption generally make our matchup more difficult after sideboarding, but the matchup is heavily in our favor nonetheless.
How I Sideboarded:
-2 Empty the Warrens
+1 Tendrils of Agony, +1 Grapeshot
In hindsight, I'm not sure if my sideboarding was correct. I could definitely see bringing in a Chain of Vapor instead of Grapeshot so we can leave a win condition in the sideboard and also so we can have some protection against Ruric Thar, The Unbowed if our opponent is running it. That being said, I think this difference is marginal and this sideboarding has worked out for me in the few times I've played against Elves with V4.4.
Anyways, we are in game two on the draw and resolving a Ponder. We are dead on board if we pass the turn and have to make something happen this turn. We were hoping to find a Lion's Eye Diamond from this Ponder, as it would let us win with a natural Tendrils of Agony line for exactly twenty life. If we draw the Dark Ritual, we have a few more options. We can Tendrils of Agony our opponent for eighteen life, which puts them to one and keeps us alive for a few more turns so we can find Grapeshot to finish the job. By keeping Dark Ritual on top we also have the option of finding Grapeshot with our second Infernal Tutor instead of Tendrils of Agony, which would wipe our opponent's board except for one elf that they get to save with Wirewood Symbiote. The third option we have with keeping Dark Ritual on top is to Ad Nauseam from a virtual five life with no mana floating, an important thing to know here is that we have played a land this turn. Of course, we can always shuffle the Ponder as well and pray that we find a Lion's Eye Diamond to win the game right now.
How would you play out this turn?
This was a tough one, none of our options here are exactly ideal. I drew Dark Ritual from Ponder and went with the Tendrils of Agony line, putting our opponent to one life. I felt like this gave me a way better shot of winning the game than going for Ad Nauseam at a virtual five life or risking it all by shuffling Ponder, considering we only need to draw into Grapeshot to win the game now with this line. If we wanted to wipe most of their board with Grapeshot, we would have to draw into so many more cards to come back in the game.
First of all, I would have sideboarded a little differently. I would left 1 Empty in and kept Tendrils of Agony in my sideboard. I prefer Grapeshot to be in my main deck over Tendrils of Agony, but I still like keeping 1 win condition in my sideboard. If I see a Gaddock Teeg or a Ruric Thar then I'd replace the 2nd Empty the Warrens with a Chain of Vapor. It looks like any decision here leaves us in a very rough spot, but if I was in this situation I'd probably just go to Grapeshot his team and let him protect his Deathrite Shaman, by putting it into his hand. It only gives us like 3 turns to draw the perfect cards, but I don't see another line with a higher chance of winning.
I'll start by eliminating a few options. Grapeshot seems really bad, as we will almost certainly die to one Deathrite Shaman before we can win the game. Ad Nauseam from seven life with no mana floating also doesn't feel great if we have any other choice. Basically, do we think we are more likely to shuffle and find a Lion's Eye Diamond (or a Dark Ritual since that puts us in the same place), or keep the Dark Ritual and then hope to find the one Grapeshot in the three or four turns in will take our opponent to kill us. A super rough estimation tells me that shuffling is better, since we also have some potentially good Brainstorms should we find that. I'm willing to believe the math actually suggests keeping this Ponder and going for Tendrils of Agony, but that's not what my gut tells me.
This is a dire situation and a non-lethal Tendrils won't get you anywhere as your opponent can regain life with Deathrite Shaman to getthemselves out of reach of Grapeshot. Ad Nauseam is also no option in my eyes as you can't afford to lose more than 4 life and have no mana float anyways. In short: We are getting not really anywhere with this Ponder.
I think this is one of your better situations in these articles so far. I'll start off by saying that Ad Nauseam is a no-go, your probability to win is way too low to be considered. I also believe the Grapeshot your team line is bad as it sets you so far behind that you'll need several turns in order to rebuild when you only have three turns before you're dead, I think this actually has a lower win probability than Ad Nauseam. The two options that I think are best are the blind shuffle for Lion's Eye Diamond or Tendrils of Agony them to one life.
What is unfortunate about this situation is that you sided in Grapeshot. If you kept it in your sideboard, four copies of Burning Wish still left makes this decision very easy.
The odds of drawing Lion's Eye Diamond is 8% in this scenario. Which is very low. Meanwhile, you have two Infernal Tutor and then Grapeshot itself. Which is slightly less than 8%, the difference to me is that you still have ten cantrips in the deck to help you find Grapeshot. Because of this, I would put my opponent to one life and then hope to get lucky in my few remaining draw steps.
If my calculations are correct, going for Grapeshot means we'll end the turn at 5 life, then our next 3 turns will end at 5, 3, and 1 life. If we Tendrils of Agony the opponent instead, we'll end the turn at 23 life, and our next 2 turns will end at 15 and 7 life. So, I think we can discount the Grapeshot line since it only buys us 1 more turn than the Tendrils line does, and putting our opponent to 1 rather than 18 is worth way more than that one turn, considering that Grapeshot will be in the deck. I also don't really think Ad Nauseam is worth consideration here, so I'm really just weighing looking for Lion's Eye Diamond now vs. going for Tendrils of Agony and hoping for Grapeshot in the next 2 draws, and I think that Tendrils is actually the better choice. Shuffling gives us 4 outs in the deck (plus Gitaxian Probes as redraws) and 1 chance to find one. Going for Tendrils of Agony gives us 3 outs for next turn (2 Infernal Tutor and 1 Grapeshot) and 1 out for the following turn (Grapeshot), but any cantrips we draw can be used to draw towards those outs, and if we hit mana on the first draw, Infernal Tutor becomes live for the second draw as well. There is something to be said for the fact that Tendrils of Agony gives the opponent more draw steps to shorten the clock, as Natural Order and Green Sun's Zenith kill us on the spot, but I think I'm ok with giving them those outs in exchange for a wider variety of live draws for our next turn.
SITUATION #3 - ANT
Somehow I keep finding myself in very interesting situations in the Storm mirror! As I've said in the previous times that I've covered this matchup, it is imperative that you play out your copies of Lotus Petal and Lion's Eye Diamond if you don't plan on winning that same turn to avoid having them get discarded by a Duress or a Cabal Therapy. Of course, also watch out for Flusterstorm after game one if your opponent is on ANT and not TES. One of the most difficult aspects of this matchup is choosing what to take with your discard spells, if you take the wrong spell you could end up losing the game next turn.
How I Sideboarded:
-2 Empty the Warrens
+1 Tendrils of Agony, +1 Cabal Therapy
I could definitely see leaving in one copy of Empty the Warrens in this matchup with V4.4, as it is a lot better when you have four copies of Cabal Therapy in your deck for this matchup. I usually bring in Tendrils of Agony to avoid losing the game to a Surgical Extraction targeting a Burning Wish.
We are in game one, and cast Empty the Warrens last turn for a total of twelve Goblin tokens as our hand didn't have much else going on. We sacrificed one of them to flashback a Cabal Therapy to make our opponent discard a Dark Ritual. On our opponent's turn, they played a Brainstorm and then a Ponder and passed back the turn. We drew Duress for the turn and attacked for eleven. On our second main phase we cast the Duress, our opponent revealed a hand of Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Infernal Tutor, Brainstorm, and Tendrils of Agony. If we take the wrong card here, we could potentially lose the game on our opponent's next turn. It is worth noting that our opponent shuffled their library with Ponder, so the top card of their library is unknown.
Which card would you have our opponent discard with Duress?
I took Brainstorm as it's the most volatile card in our opponent's hand. Our opponent shuffled their library with Ponder, so if they draw a blank they have to dump their hand to cast Tendrils of Agony on us for less than lethal, which puts us in a winning position. We straight up lose if they draw a Lion's Eye Diamond, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.
I would take the Brainstorm here. It gives them the highest chance of finding what they need to win the game. If you take the Infernal Tutor they can very easily find what they need with their card for their turn plus a Brainstorm. I look putting the pressure on their draw step to be perfect. I would not take 1 of the rituals since they are very redundant, and that means they get to keep Brainstorm, ritual, and a tutor which I think is way too strong.
The two choices that make the most sense to me are Brainstorm and Infernal Tutor. Brainstorm means we lose if their draw-step yields any cantrip or a Lion's Eye Diamond, which isn't too many cards, but I believe that if we take Infernal Tutor, their draw-step plus their Brainstorm needs to find any reasonable way to cast additional spells such as a land and another cantrip, or a Gitaxian Probe. The odds seem close, but I lean towards taking Brainstorm since, when it feels close, I like choosing the line that sets them see the fewest cards since that opens the fewest potential doors that I haven't been able to consider. It's possible there is a world where taking Dark Ritual means they get choked on colors, but I think that just leaves them with too many great draws.
I'd take the Dark Ritual in order to put them into the tough spot in regards to getting a critical amount of black, red, and blue mana to win next turn.
It's between Brainstorm and Dark Ritual right? If you take Brainstorm and they draw a blank, they can Tendrils of Agony you down to four life and they'll gain ten. If it's another spell that generates another spell, you lose. It's worth noting that the opponent doesn't have any red mana so that Past in Flames isn't online. If you take Dark Ritual, your opponent is priced into casting Brainstorm and has to hit a land, Lotus Petal, or another Dark Ritual or else they lose. Even if they do, they have to Cabal Ritual and then Tendrils of Agony assuming they don't draw into the nuts and also kill you. I think I would take the safer line of discarding the Brainstorm, but it's actually very close.
This one's against me, but I'll pretend to be on Anthony's side for the sake of the exercise. My first inclination is that I don't want to leave the opponent with Dark Ritual/Cabal Ritual + Infernal Tutor + Brainstorm in hand, since the Brainstorm can clear any dead cards (including the Tendrils of Agony) and fairly likely produce a win. This would mean we have to take either Brainstorm or Infernal Tutor. If we take Infernal Tutor, then the opponent has 4 castable spells in hand for next turn. Given that Brainstorm replaces itself and can filter the card drawn for turn as well, that likely results in 5 castable spells + Brainstorm next turn, which is one storm short of lethal. If the opponent finds Gitaxian probe in those cards, then they can probably get to lethal, but other cantrips won't work unless the opponent also finds Lotus Petal to go with them. Now suppose we take Brainstorm. The opponent has to find either Lion's Eye Diamond or Brainstorm in order to be able to cast Infernal Tutor for Past in Flames, and Infernal Tutoring for another card in their hand isn't going to get them to 7 spells next turn unless they draw a cantrip into a ritual effect. I could see either Brainstorm or Infernal Tutor being the correct choice, but I would go with Brainstorm.
After playing many, many matches with V4.4, I can honestly say my favorite thing about the deck list is the fourth copy of Chrome Mox. It just feels great for every single one of our non-blue matchups, and for the Delver decks. Going forward I can definitely see the fourth copy of Chrome Mox being a staple for future deck lists, whether it's in the main deck or the sideboard.
Keep storming on, and ALWAYS win with Grapeshot if your storm count is high enough, just to flex on 'em.