Welcome back to the Infernal Tutoring series!
Hello Legacy Storm players! We are back with this month’s Infernal Tutoring article! Since my introductory article, we’ve seen some interesting changes in the Legacy metagame. Death’s Shadow has come out of the woodwork as the premier delver deck, dethroning RUG Delver, while Miracles and Grixis Control seem to be battling neck and neck for the spot of the premier control deck. There’s also been a rise in creature-based midrange decks like Death and Taxes, 4C Loam, and Maverick; while there’s been a small downtick in combo decks like B/R Reanimator and Sneak and Show. Naturally, The EPIC Storm has been evolving to keep up with these changes, and it seems that the community is currently torn between the Grixis build and the Green splash. The Green splash offers Xantid Swarm and Abrupt Decay, while the Grixis build offers more stability for Sideboard cards like Pulverize because we can afford to play an additional Badlands. Regardless of your preferred build, I believe we are finally close to having the dust settle on the Legacy metagame, and if things stay the way they have been, I am confident that The EPIC Storm will continue to be a very strong deck choice!
Lucas Esper Berthoud(LegacyMaster):
I am Lucas Esper Berthoud, a Gold Pro and member of Hareruya Latin, runner-ups of the latest Pro Tour Team Series. My biggest accomplishment is winning Pro Tour Aether Revolt last year. When preparing for the team Pro Tour, I fell in love with all things legacy, and storm in particular. Every game feels like a unique puzzle and offers so many possibilities to take calculated risks and read your opponents.
- 4 Burning Wish
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 4 Thoughtseize
- 4 Duress
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Ad Nauseam
SITUATION #1 - Miracles
In this first scenario, we are in game two against Miracles. Miracles is a deck that people thought would die after the banning of Sensei's Divining Top, but as we all found out two years later, the U/W/x control shell is still very strong and extremely resilient (shocking, right?). Miracles tries to take control of the game by having very efficient answers to both creatures and spells, and it uses lots of card draw to sculpt a perfect hand to combat their opponent’s strategy. In recent deck iterations, it is common for Miracles to play two copies of Counterbalance in their main deck, which can make game one very hard to win. If all of that wasn’t enough, most builds are also going heavy on basic lands, to lock opponents out with Back to Basics, so be careful how you fetch!
We were able to land a turn two Defense Grid, which is one of our best Sideboard cards in this matchup. Over the next few turns, the opponent played a Stony Silence and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, while we continued to sculpt our hand. We know that the opponent has two copies of Brainstorm, a Counterspell, and one unknown card. Since Jace, the Mind Sculptor is gaining our opponent consistent card advantage, and the opponent is getting to the point where they have enough lands in play to nullify the power of Defense Grid, we need to act fast. How would you win this turn, or put yourself in a winning situation?
I think this scenario kind of showcases how weak Defense Grid can be in long "grindy" matches, while also showcasing the raw power of Cabal Ritual. (Something that TES players aren't used to!) In this scenario, we know that the opponent has one Counterspell that they can use this turn with their five available mana. We are two cards away from having Threshold, which is interesting because if Burning Wish resolves, it won't go into our Graveyard so we won't be able to hit threshold this turn.
I like starting off by casting the Burning Wish, and if it does resolve, I'd grab Past in Flames to set up a kill on a later turn. If the opponent does counter Burning wish, we need to use our fetch land first to get Threshold and then cast Cabal Ritual. This will set us up for a clean Ad Nauseam.
I see 3 lines from here: Ad Nauseam for value (now), Burning Wish for Empty the Warrens (to cast it next turn), and Burning Wish for Past in Flames (to cast it even later in the game, leveraging Cabal Ritual).
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a ticking time bomb. I'd rather make the play that makes them have an answer now than the one that requires more set up and lets them see more cards.
So, I'd fire Ad Nauseam, load up my hand and play from there. I think it's safe to go low in life total in this matchup, particularly because a Vendilion Clique would have been cast already if they had it. This line is pretty all-in in Ad Nauseam resolving because even if in theory you can set up a late game with Past in Flames, you wouldn't be able to hard cast Cabal Ritual anymore — but it's a risk you have to take.
Burning Wish for Empty the Warrens seems unlikely to work. We couldn't force any mass removal effect so far, and committing to that line would delay our value Ad Nauseam for a few turns.
Burning Wish for Past in Flames is definitely interesting. If it weren't for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, I could see myself casting Burning Wish to bait a counterspell before committing to Ad Nauseam. As it is, I think the spell we cast this turn is more likely to resolve than the spell we cast next turn, so Ad Nauseam takes the nod. At some point, I'd fire of Past in Flames for a big turn.
SITUATION #2 - B/R Reanimator
We find ourselves in game three against B/R Reanimator on the play (Miracles do happen)! Reanimator is one of the decks that got a huge boost from the banning of Deathrite Shaman, but has been slightly on the downtick in the Magic Online metagame. Reanimator looks to put a big creature like Griselbrand in the graveyard using either Faithless Looting, Entomb or Unmask, and then attempts to cheat the big creature into play using Reanimate, Exhume or Animate Dead. With cards like Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox, and Dark Ritual, they are often able to put a creature into play on turn one easily. B/R Reanimator also has turn zero hate with Chancellor of the Annex, and a full suite of discard spells to slow us down. The fact that the deck is so explosive and also disruptive makes it one of our toughest match-ups.
We're in a frustrating spot. Our hand is a textbook perfect turn one kill, and things were really looking up for us. Then the opponent revealed a Chancellor of the Annex, which put a huge dampener on our plan. The opponent kept a seven card hand so the chances of them putting a turn one creature into play are very high. How would you win this turn, or prevent the opponent from getting his combo off on turn one?
If you aren't really thinking about how the stack works, you might end up throwing away a turn one win. At first glance, I was actually considering tossing a Lion's Eye Diamond into the Chancellor trigger so that I could Thoughtseize, but then I thought of a much better line!
I started by playing out the Bloodstained Mire, then I played a Lion's Eye Diamond. The Chancellor trigger went onto the stack and then I was able to respond by fetching for a black land and playing Dark Ritual. I paid the Chancellor tax, and then had two black mana floating and played the other Lion's Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor, Ad Nauseam for the win!
I have some experience playing with BR Reanimator, so hopefully, I can give perspective on what they might be doing.
The range of keepable hand from Reanimator is fairly large, especially on seven cards. The key point here is to understand that their deck demands some respect, but not too much.
I think that most Reanimator players would snap keep a hand with Chancellor of the Annex and a single relevant action spell on turn one. This could be either a turn one creature or a turn one discard spell. I also think that every Reanimator player would snap mulligan a Chancellor of the Annex without another turn one play when on the draw.
For those reasons, I agree it's important to respect them having at least one possible action on turn one. We should definitely throw away a Lion's Eye Diamond to Chancellor trigger and cast Thoughtseize. But should we play around them having two possible actions on turn one?
I believe the answer is "no". It would cost us too much. For us to cast double Thoughtseize this turn, we'd lose Dark Ritual and this could translate to them having multiple draw steps to recover.
The final decision is playing the second Lion's Eye Diamond this turn (to play around discard) or to hold it back to allow a copy to be fetched by Infernal Tutor or to protect it against Wear/Tear. I prefer just casting it. Artifact hate is unusual from the post-board, and getting hit by a single discard spell is going to be bad no matter what, but playing the Lion's Eye Diamond is better against two discard spells.
SITUATION #3 - BUG Lands
We are playing against BUG Lands in game one, and we’re on the play. This matchup can be pretty tough because BUG Lands plays hand disruption cards like Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, and Liliana of the Veil; while also playing countermagic options like Force of Will, Flusterstorm, and Stifle. While BUG Lands generally tries to win with Dark Depths, there is only one copy in the deck, so the deck aims to control and lock down the board while slowly setting up their kill. Just like RUG Lands, this deck utilizes the Life from the Loam engine and Wasteland for recurring land destruction, so you need to be very careful with when and how you play your nonbasic lands.
Our opponent opened up with Thoughtseize, so we cast Brainstorm in response. Our hand is now two copies of Rite of Flame, Brainstorm, Lotus Petal, Thoughtseize, Burning Wish, Lion's Eye Diamond, and Infernal Tutor. What two cards would you put back with Brainstorm, and why?
I think I should have started off with the turn one Thoughtseize, so that might have been a misplay on my part. Regardless, we are now in a spot where we are Brainstorm locked with no second land. These Brainstorm scenarios are challenging because we have no way of knowing what the opponent will take, so it turns into a mind game of sorts. I think the card that we want to protect the most is the Lotus Petal. If the opponent takes that, we won't be able to hit a red source for a while, which can be very problematic with our hand. Depending on what we think our opponent is playing, which I initially thought was Storm, I would want to try and win quickly. I think I would put back the Infernal Tutor on the bottom, and then the Lotus Petal on top. There is a chance that the opponent could take our Lion's Eye Diamond, but I think most opponents would take the Burning Wish in this situation.
If our opponent did take the Burning Wish, I would play out the Lotus Petal and play both copies of Rite of Flame (four red mana), play out the Lion's Eye Diamond, and then Brainstorm (holding priority) cracking the Lion's Eye Diamond for Black mana (three black, four red mana) so that I could play the Infernal Tutor into Ad Nauseam.
This is fun. I'd return Thoughtseize and then Lion's Eye Diamond (to draw it next turn). Here is how I'd expect the game to play out:
- Opponent takes Infernal Tutor; I'd cast Brainstorm, hopefully, hit a black mana source (to have Thoughtseize backup, but this isn't essential), and cast a gigantic Empty the Warrens (Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Lion's Eye Diamond, and Burning Wish)
- Opponent takes Burning Wish; we go for Ad Nauseam (Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Lion's Eye Diamond, and Infernal Tutor). I'd prefer to risk running into Force of Will than give them access to a discard spell, 1-mana counterspell, or a second discard spell.
- Opponent takes Brainstorm; we do the same as "2"
- Opponent takes Lotus Petal; we cast Brainstorm to find a red source, then proceed to play a gigantic Empty the Warrens. If we fail, I'd put Infernal Tutor and then Thoughtseize on top of the library, and cast Lion's Eye Diamond.
- Opponent takes Rite of Flames; same as "1".
All scenarios seem reasonable. Infernal Tutor and Burning Wish are redundant, so you let them take their choice. Thoughtseize isn't essential, so you bury it deep. Lion's Eye Diamond is the card that must be protected, so you leave it on top.
More conservative lines would involve casting a Thoughtseize next turn and setting up a kill on turn 3. I think it's a wash between Thoughtseize and letting them have an untap step, which is why I prefer the more aggressive line. There is also a chance you can go for Empty the Warrens with Thoughtseize backup on the scenario "1" above.
In closing, I would like to encourage everyone to keep experimenting! I have had a blast this month trying different deck configurations and builds, and it's crazy how much adding or removing a single card can alter how the deck functions. I don't think there is a current best build, so I think it's all about finding what fits your unique playstyle and running with that build!
Until next time, keep storming on!