TES Infernal Tutoring #21

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!

Special Guest

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.

Deck List

 

 

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!

HOW I SIDEBOARDED:

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.


The opponent only gets to cast any one of their spells this turn because of Defense Grid. I would start by baiting with Burning Wish, hoping it does not resolve. Burning Wish going to the graveyard allows gives Threshold for Cabal Ritual by sacrificing Polluted Delta. If it does resolve, I would get Past in Flames and hope to draw more rituals. If they counter the Burning Wish, I would cast Ad Nauseam and if a land drop is still available, go for a win, otherwise set up for a kill next turn, by either going through Past in Flames or by bouncing the Stony Silence.

This situation is frustrating, and also one of the reasons why I don't like Defense Grid. I would try to bait the Counterspell with Burning Wish. The reason I like this line is if the opponent counters it, not only does it get the Counterspell out of their hand, but it also gives us threshold if we also crack out Polluted Delta. If Burning Wish resolves, I think I would grab Past in Flames and try to play a "grindier" game, having Defense Grid in play means that our opponent most likely can't cast two different pieces of countermagic in the same turn.

This is a pretty bad scenario here for us, and will probably require out opponent messing up for us to win. I would lead off with the burning with off of Badlands and Island and hoping the opponent countered it. They would have to tap out in order to play their counterspell. Once countered the Burning Wish and a fetchland can go to the graveyard giving us Threshold to cast Cabal Ritual into Ad Nauseam. Because of the Stony Silence we may not be able to win without using artifact mana, but we can load up our hand to win on the following turn. If they let Burning Wish resolve I think I would grab a Past in Flames to gain access to a discard spell on the next turn.

This game doesn't really appear to be going anywhere meaningful. Fortunately, barring exactly Counterbalance, we aren't too afraid of giving our opponent one or two more turns, and we could desperately use the draw-steps. In the meantime, just keep passing the turn. There is nothing meaningful to get with Burning Wish right now. If our opponent cracks their fetchland or casts a Brainstorm on our end step, we get to cast an Ad Nauseam in response. Remember that you can respond to a fetchland on the stack before the land comes into play. Responding to Brainstorm is the best case scenario because it means they can't have Force of Will or Flusterstorm either, but definitely just take any opening under Counterspell that your opponent gives you.

I would start off by tapping the Island and Badlands to cast Burning Wish, this plays around Back to Basics (somewhat). If it's countered, you can use your Polluted Delta to get Threshold for Cabal Ritual. From there cast Ad Nauseam. If the Burning Wish resolves, you get Past in Flames and build for a longer game. I think Defense Grid was very good here as it stopped your opponent from getting you with Brainstorm hiding cards, and then Brainstorming again into their countermagic. (this assumes they have a juicy target for your Duress that isn't the Brainstorm).

Special Guest

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.

HOW I SIDEBOARDED:

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!


Given that the best that can be done through the Chancellor of the Annex is make 8 goblins with Empty the Warrens, my goal would be to stop them from putting a creature into play on turn one. I would cast Lion's Eye Diamond and let the trigger counter it, and then Thoughtseize, and then play the second Lion's Eye Diamond to avoid it being discarded. I do not think that casting Dark Ritual into both Thoughtseizes gives good odds of winning the game. There are 26 cards that allow casting Ad Nauseam on the next turn, which is a 49% chance. I like those odds enough to rely on one Thoughtseize.

This is easy. I would crack the Bloodstained Mire for any black source, most likely Underground Sea. Then I would play a Lion's Eye Diamond to trigger the Chancellor of the Annex. With the trigger on the stack I would cast Dark Ritual and pay for the trigger, this leaves with two black mana floating. I would then play the second copy of Lion's Eye Diamond, cast Infernal Tutor, crack both copies of Lion's Eye Diamond for three black mana and three red mana, then tutor up Ad Nauseam and cast it leaving one red mana open. I like leaving the red mana floating because we'll need it to cast Burning Wish, and we have more copies of Rite of Flame in our deck than Dark Ritual.

I would play out a Lions Eye Diamond to get countered by his Chancellor of the Annex. This will allow me to play my land and cast Thoughtseize to try to disrupt our opponent from a turn 1 creature or protect our hand from any disruption. You could let the Thoughtseize get countered and try to fade a turn 1 by the opponent to combo off the second turn, but I don't like that plan as much. I think the chance of them having a turn 1 creature or a discard spell to take our tutor is too high. I would take my first line and try to rip a non-Rite of Flame mana source to tutor for an Ad Nauseam on our second turn.

Given that we lose to so many cards, I think we have to accept that we are throwing away a Lion's Eye Diamond to this Chancellor of the Annex trigger so that we can resolve a Thoughtseize. We could instead make 10 Goblin tokens, but against a lot of their draws that won't be good enough. I also have no interest in casting Dark Ritual to play two Thoughtseizes, since we need the Dark Ritual. I also want to play out the second Lion's Eye Diamond against most of their hands that we'll see with Thoughtseize even though getting Dark Ritual or Infernal Tutor sucks too, since Lion's Eye Diamond is likely the least replaceable card in our hand. Hopefully, they have a turn-two kill and we can just take a discard spell with Thoughtseize, or their hand is all in on the combo which we can stop. In either case, any mana source lets us win on turn two and any other draw still lets us Thoughtseize next turn.

I love this trick! The first thing you do is search up a black source with the Bloodstained Mire, from there you cast Lion's Eye Diamond, with the Chancellor of the Annex trigger on the stack you can cast Dark Ritual to pay for the Lion's Eye Diamond. After that, play the second Lion's Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor, and Ad Nauseam! I would float a red mana as you need to cast Burning Wish to win the game, but also there are more black cards to imprint onto Chrome Mox than red cards.

Special Guest

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.


I would put back Infernal Tutor under Lotus Petal. My goal would be to make the Brainstorm seem as appealing as possible, given that overall it is the least important card. Not letting our opponent see access to red mana makes the hand look very clunky and need more setup. If they take the Brainstorm, I would go off with Thoughtseize protection and make 12 goblins.

I would put Lotus Petal back first and then leave Lion's Eye Diamond on the top of our deck. The reason for this is that our hand has two tutor effects, and Lion's Eye Diamond is the most crucial card in our hand here. I'm guessing that with making this play our opponent would most likely make us discard Brainstorm, but they could also take Thoughtseize. If they take Brainstorm we would cast Thoughtseize and try to go off on turn three. If they take Thoughtseize we could cast Brainstorm and try to go off on turn two. I think if they take Thoughtseize, they are likely representing Force of Will.

I would put the Lions Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor back with Infernal Tutor being on the bottom. I would imagine the opponent would take the Burning Wish in that scenario if they didn't have a counterspell, or they would have taken the Thoughtseize if they did. Depending on what my opponent took would obviously change my follow up decision, but with giving the opponent these options it would be a big tell on what they have. And if they took the Burning Wish I would be able to combo off the following turn by using the Lotus Petal to cast both copies of Rite of Flame, the Lion's Eye Diamond, and then using the Underground Sea to cast Brainstorm, and sacrifice the Lions Eye Diamond during priority, to draw the Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam. If they took something else it would change a lot, but that is how I would play it. In game 1 I'd really only fear a Force of Will and they probably have more discard than counters.

It seems that, given the stock decklists, the big things we need to worry about from our opponent at this point are Force of Will and Wasteland. Our hand also has too many breakpoints if we lose this Lion's Eye Diamond I think, because so many cards from our opponent punish our ability to use Empty the Warrens effectively in this spot if we have to pass the turn one time. If we are putting back Lion's Eye Diamond, the question of what other card we put back is difficult. We are a bit constrained on colors, such that as it currently stands, we are unable to cast Thoughtseize, Brainstorm, and Rite of Flame all in the same turn, which means that if we want access to both of the cards we put back next turn (through Brainstorm), it means not casting Thoughtseize. We are also pretty weak to our opponent taking Lotus Petal, just because we need the diversity of colors. For that reason, I like putting back Lion's Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal, with Lotus Petal on top. We are fine with the opponent taking Rite of Flame or any of the tutors. If they take Brainstorm, it means we can't win next turn but get to cast Thoughtseize and likely try to win on the following turn. If they take Thoughtseize, then we can use Brainstorm to allow us to Empty the Warrens (or maybe even Ad Nauseam) and just accept that we lose to one of their (typically) three Force of Wills some amount of the time.

I think I would put Infernal Tutor on top with Lion's Eye Diamond on top of it. I put Infernal Tutor on top of the deck over Burning Wish, because these decks tend to have effects like The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale or Pernicious Deed to kill a horde of Goblin tokens. I would expect the opponent to take Burning Wish with their Thoughtseize. Draw Lion's Eye Diamond, play Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Lion's Eye Diamond, Brainstorm off of the Underground Sea, in response add BBB with Lion's Eye Diamond, draw the Infernal Tutor and then cast it. Search up Ad Nauseam and then win the game. Something to keep in mind about these BUG Lands decks is that there are only three copies of Force of Will, pairing this with a very low blue card count.

Special Guest

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. Opponent takes Brainstorm; we do the same as "2"
  4. 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.
  5. 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!


Josh Hughes

Like many others, I started playing Magic in middle school, where I learned to base my whole self worth on how many Dragons I owned. Spoiler alert, I owned a lot of dragons. These Dragons actually ended up coming in handy fifteen years later when I got back into Magic and started playing EDH. I played EDH for about 6 months, but after hearing rumors at the casual tables about a format with decks that could win on turn one, I started focusing completely on Legacy.