TES Infernal Tutoring # 8


It's once again a pleasure to welcome you in the Infernal Tutoring series! Be warned, this edition is stacked. Before jumping right back into action, I've been playing a bit with different deck lists as of late.

From the get-go, I knew I needed to include Pulverize. I know there has been discussion about it, but yes, I've actually used Burning Wish for it and won a game after. However, it never happened against Eldrazi – but against very heavy artifact decks you only see on Cockatrice or rather, only see against Storm players. It's like they knew what you were on and chose the hate accordingly... right? In the end, Pulverize is a meta call and I couldn't answer if you should bring it to your large paper tournament. I just know for sure I'll be running it for a long while, online and offline.

I did manage to fit a Thoughtseize in the sideboard. I don't want to play without a Burning Wish target Thoughtseize anymore.

In addition to that, the resurgence of BR Reanimator decks (which in my opinion, has taken Storm decks' due place in the metagame) brought Void Snare back in my list. I've won games removing Iona, Shield of Emeria. Metagame adaption: success!

Lastly, I've tried a basic Island. This pushes the mana base to its limit, running only 6 fetchlands and Bayou main deck, which is especially hard when you run Pulverize and need to sacrifice two mountains. It also requires three Chrome Mox to run. I expect this to change but it has been exceeding expectations so far. For this reason I'll keep it for the moment, despite the need for more Mountains.

Deck List

 

SITUATION #1 - NIC FIT

While Legacy is a very open realm, I believe there are some facts about the metagame, such as a deck playing Counterbalance will also run Sensei's Divining Top. In the same vein, I believe that if an opponent plays Veteran Explorer, a Cabal Therapy will follow...and they're most likely on Nic Fit.

That's what I tell myself as my opponent starts the game. I keep what I consider to be a very good hand, which goes as follow:

Brainstorm, Dark Ritual, Badlands, Polluted Delta, Burning Wish, Lion's Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal.

I am met with a Verdant Catacombs, Forest and a Veteran Explorer. Now as written previously, an opening with Veteran Explorer announces an incoming Cabal Therapy. Even if my opponent didn't know what I was on, they could afford a blind guess and then sacrifice their creature to get rid of one of my combo piece. Also, I know Nic Fit decks use Pernicious Deed, which is deadly against Empty the Warrens. In other words, if you wait, they'll shred your hand apart, if you don't, you need to win before their answers save them.

My draw is a second Burning Wish. Because my hand has so much potential, I decide to preemptively play Brainstorm. Normally, I would have saved it in response to Cabal Therapy because it's often better to hide the information for as long as you can. However, a few pieces would allow me to combo for the win right now and if the Brainstorm failed to give me proper tools – I could always hide my critical combo parts from my hand (in this case, the Dark Ritual and a Burning Wish). After playing my artifacts (yes, remember to play your Lion's Eye Diamond when you can against heavy discard!), that would leave the flashback Cabal Therapy with nothing juicy to grab, however, it would also mean I would have to pass on Veteran's Explorer ability if I wanted to keep my good cards on the top of my library. No free Swamp!

I cast Brainstorm from a searched Volcanic Island, It appeared to be the correct move at the time. It reveals Chrome Mox, Bloodstained Mire and Dark RitualI would need to leave at least one critical piece in hand for Cabal Therapy next turn (I can't hide both Dark Ritual and a Burning Wish) and because playing the artifacts would increase the risk of a successful blind naming against me, I believe it's best to combo right now with what's available. Two options are appealing to me and both require the lands to be left on top.

nic-fit-untouched-02EDITOR'S NOTE: You may click on the images to enlarge for better viewing.

 

The sequences both start with this: (Brainstorm), Lotus Petal, Lion's Eye Diamond, Chrome Mox (imprint: Burning Wish), Dark Ritual (from the Lotus Petal, mana BBB), Dark Ritual (BBBBB), Burning Wish (from Chrome Mox and B), sacrifice Lion's Eye Diamond (RRR, BBBB).

Ending 1: Empty the Warrens, with a Storm count of 8, for 16 goblins, with two mana floating.

Ending 2: Dark Petition (BBBBR after Mastery), Ad Nauseam with no mana floating.

The thought of a multi-turn win crosses my mind, somehow using a Burning Wish for a non-lethal Tendrils of Agony and the other for a Past in Flames. I can't seem to make the math work or at least I can't see a scenario where it becomes the best option when pressured by two strikes of Cabal Therapy.

I end up choosing Ending 1 and go for 16 goblins. I believe the chances to have Pernicious Deed in hand are half the chance than Cabal Therapy (assuming 4 copies of Cabal Therapy and two of Pernicious Deed), especially since Veteran Explorer is hinting at the discard spell. Moreover, the used Lotus Petal and Chrome Mox are limiting my chances to get an initial mana source on the Ad Nauseam. Lastly, Pernicious Deed costs three mana and I believe I would at least have an attack to drop enough life for Grapeshot range.

Do you agree with these decisions?

I can't stop second guessing and keep wondering what would have happened if I waited one more turn. I don't think Dark Petition into Ad Nauseam would have been better: I don't think the probability for initial mana sources were high enough and I believe the probably for a non-lethal Ad Nauseam (keeping seven cards) would have been outclassed by the probability of two successful Cabal Therapy (from mana and flashback).

For what I can see, that leaves the multi-turn sequence, or the acceptance of taking a hit from Cabal Therapy and hope there is enough mana left for a lethal turn two. Sure, it was likely they would remove a mana piece, but a second land and the now-untapped Volcanic Island could maybe have been enough.

I don't think the choice I made was a bad one, I believe the numbers were favorable to me and that I got unlucky with him having both solutions. However, it doesn't mean the odds couldn't have been more favorable with an other sequence, which is what I'm questioning.


Given where we have found ourselves in this situation, I would take the Dark Petition into Ad Nauseam line. Unless we run fairly poorly, we should be able to craft a hand that either wins immediately, or can keep us at a healthy life total and power through a Cabal Therapy. A lot of Nic Fit lists are starting to shift to 3 Pernicious Deed, and I don't believe that Cabal Therapy will be so bad for us that it would be comparable to just losing the game to Empty the Warrens. Between Pernicious Deed and some number of Sensei's Divining Top in the deck, their ability to find a Pernicious Deed begins to approach 50%. I think that Ad Nauseam could be better than coin flip to win this game.

If you decide to cast Brainstorm in your turn 1 here, do it via Lotus Petal so you don't Brainstorm-lock yourself like you did in that example. Which I consider an absolute no-go if you have alternatives line "land, go" and using the Brainstorm for defense, or use the mentioned Lotus Petal.

I do not understand why you opt to Wish for Empty the Warrens and leave two mana open instead of grabbing the sideboard Dark Petition and go for the mainboard Empty the Warrens and 2 more goblins total in the "Ending 1" scenario.


I would've just jammed Ad Nauseam, there's still five initial mana sources left in the deck to reveal with plenty of life and no clock on the table. If you don't manage to kill the opponent, you can always set up for next turn by diversifying your threats (Infernal Tutor & Burning Wish) while laying down your artifact mana. Even if the opponent manages to have Cabal Therapy, plus a way to kill your Lion's Eye Diamonds you still have cards in hand to battle back, unlike the Empty the Warrens plan.

SITUATION #2 - DEATH AND TAXES

This second play-through might answers some questions on The EPIC Storm Facebook page. This is a classic game against Death and Taxes, post-board, after we won the first game. The main issue here is the viability of Ad Nauseam with many Abrupt Decay in the deck. I believe some hate has to be removed when on the play against Death and Taxes if we really want to turn two win, but this is a game on the draw, thus the following sideboard changes:

-4 Ponder, -2 Duress, +4 Abrupt Decay, +1 Grapeshot, +1 Void Snare.

The game starts with my opponent playing basic Plains, pass. With my first draw, my hand is the following:

death-and-taxes-untouched-01

 

Rite of Flame, Volcanic Island, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Badlands, Infernal Tutor, Cabal Therapy, Grapeshot.

This is very decent but vulnerable to a turn two Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. A decision has to be made already: do we sacrifice our Badlands to a probable Wasteland in order to cast Cabal Therapy blindly, hoping to hit Thalia, Guardian of Thraben? Or, in other words, what hurts the most: the probability of losing a land this early in the game or the probability of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben against us next turn.

I believe Thalia, Guardian of Thraben would cripple my game much worse than a Wasteland, despite the Grapeshot in hand. I play Badlands, Cabal Therapy, naming Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. It hits!

The remaining cards are Phyrexian Revoker, Recruiter of the Guard, Sanctum Prelate, Wasteland and Stoneforge Mystic.

Unsurprisingly, my opponent drops Wasteland, but chooses to tap it to cast Phyrexian Revoker (naming Lion's Eye Diamond). I draw a Polluted Delta, preventing the Hellbent effect as I have two lands in hand. I pass the turn after laying it down.

After dropping a Mishra's Factory, my opponent attacks with Phyrexian Revoker. Stoneforge Mystic hits the table, searching for a Batterskull and the Wasteland is kept untapped. It would destroy my Badlands on my upkeep.

Lion's Eye Diamond is my draw and I know I need to move fast. Sure, I can't use Lion's Eye Diamond yet due to Phyrexian Revoker, but Grapeshot can get rid of it and free the artifact.

I start the sequence as following: Volcanic Island, Rite of Flame (RR), Lion's Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, activate Polluted Delta for Underground Sea, Dark Ritual (RR, BBB), Grapeshot (R, BB, Storm 5).

death-and-taxes-untouched-03

 

To choose the proper target with Grapeshot, I need to know what I'm doing with Infernal Tutor afterwards. I'm at this point on mana short from a lethal Tendrils of Agony.

Option 1: Grapeshot for 1 on Phyrexian Revoker, 4 on my opponent. Cast Infernal Tutor (R, Storm 6), sacrifice Lion's Eye Diamond, play Ad Nauseam using the Lotus Petal and remaining mana (Storm 7, no mana left) and hope an Ad Nauseam from 17 life finds what it needs.

Option 2: Grapeshot for 1 on Phyrexian Revoker, 2 on Stoneforge Mystic, 2 on my opponent. Cast Infernal Tutor (R, Storm 6), sacrifice's Lion's Eye Diamond, play Empty the Warrens (Storm 7, one Lotus Petal left). Flashback Cabal Therapy naming Batterskull, leaving 13 Goblins against a Mishra's Factory and at least two other creatures in my opponent's hand.

What option is the more appealing?

I went with Ad Nauseam.

I'm struggling to find a line from our opponent that makes Empty the Warrens bad here. Even if your opponent casts his best possible creature next turn, which would be another Stoneforge Mystic, he still takes 12 and goes to 6, even then Umezawa's Jitte isn't good enough. If they happen to have a second Batterskull in the deck for some reason, and their two draw steps were Swords to Plowshares and Plains – they still take exactly lethal after taking 10 and gaining 4 from 6 life. Therefore, I would take the line that casts Empty the Warrens and flashes back Cabal Therapy on Batterskull.

It is correct to aim the Therapy at the Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. With that being said: Go for Ad Nauseam as its less of a gamble than 13 Goblins against at least two blockers and potential sideboard cards.

On the turn your opponent played Phyrexian Revoker you had the option to Grapeshot – which is a tough decision, because if you do, your opponent's Sanctum Prelate could be tough to deal with (assuming they name one or four) or if you don't you have less mana on the combo turn. You don't know if they drew a land or even if it would be a white source. I believe you took the safer and more likely correct line there, however, against an empty board - I would've made a horde of goblin tokens. D&T doesn't traditionally play too many answers, but also, they only have two lands - no need to flashback the Cabal Therapy. It's free points of damage you're throwing away.

SITUATION #3 - BR REANIMATOR

Let's take a more lighten turn for this last situation, as we play against BR Reanimator, game 2, on the play. Yes, that means we lost the first game. For once the opponent keeps without a Chancellor of the Annex in hand.

I keep a hand of Duress, Underground Sea, Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame, Ponder, Chrome Mox and Infernal Tutor.

With only a single Infernal Tutor as engine, the hand is rather fragile to discard effect. I believe a turn one Ponder would be best if goldfishing, but playing against known discard spells the Ponder would need to find an engine and an accelerator to make itself useful.

I've also been told in earlier Infernal Tutoring to avoid the control game when playing against another combo deck. But what does that exactly mean on this turn one?

Option 1: Play Ponder and search for acceleration! You're the best combo deck, don't be afraid and jump straight into it for a turn 2 win!

Option 2: Play Duress and take out their discard spells! If you were to be reckless you wouldn't play discard spells in the first place. They're meant to open the way, or protect your key pieces.

Option 3: Play Duress and prevent their win on turn two! If you can't assure a turn two win for yourself, make sure they don't either. To play control until you combo is still better than no combo at all, right?

In other words, even an excellent Ponder wouldn't be enough to win this turn. It could however secure a turn two win, taking for granted excellent cards and Hellbent capacity. Duress is more versatile, but in the case they have more than one discard spell, we can't protect our Infernal Tutor and wasted precious time. It also requires more decision making.

I move on and... play Duress. It reveals Badlands, Bloodstained Mire, Marsh Flats, Exhume, Exhume, Faithless Looting, Thoughtseize. As expected, both Duress options are up: cripple their engine or cripple their hate.

br-reanimator-untouched-01

 

Was Duress the right move to make? Also, what would you take between Faithless Looting and Thoughtseize?

 

I went for Thoughtseize to protect Infernal Tutor. I didn't believe much in a turn one Griselbrand. Sure, Faithless Looting, could allow a turn two, but since they are playing BR Reanimator, I take two things for granted: no free counterspells and no haste creatures.

That means, even if they turn two Griselbrand, we still have a full turn three to combo. Even if the draw on turn two is bad, we can still Ponder and believe in turn three. And who knows, maybe they will use Reanimate on Griselbrand, and let us win with way less Storm counters than we're used to due to the life loss? The only real downside about this plan is the possible Iona, Shield of Emeria, but I take for granted they only run a single copy of it and thus will be hard to find on a single Faithless Looting.

 


Given that we cast Duress, I would definitely take Thoughtseize. It cripples us enough that they get a significant amount of time to find a new way to get creatures in the graveyard. Should we have cast Duress? I lean towards yes. My worry with Ponder is that if we find the exact card we want (Lion's Eye Diamond) but otherwise mediocre cards with no second tutor, we basically need to shuffle given that they play 8 or more discard spells to take our Tutor. The biggest downside to Duress here is if they have two discard spells, as we then fall incredibly far behind, but they are only 23% to have 2 or more discard spells as opposed to 42% to have exactly 1. Ponder will be fairly good next turn, and gives us a great chance to combo on turn 3.

There is not a single card to find with Ponder which allows you to win immediately, your best shot is gaining time with Duress. In this scenario you have no other choice than stripping your opponents Thoughtseize and hope your next draw step or your turn 2 Ponder either give you the needed mana to combo yourself, or you find Cabal Therapy to strip both of their Exhumes.

I too would've played Duress, the Black/Red Reanimator deck is slightly faster than we are. Another reason is that by keeping Ponder back, if they do have a discard spell, it helps shape the hand based on what is needed. With this hand, I think I would take Faithless Looting. Here's why: If you think about how the game will be played out, they'll cast Faithless Looting and with any luck, hit a creature. On your turn, let's assume you draw a land and not something incredible or bad, you're going to need more than one turn after you Ponder. By taking the Faithless Looting, they're doing nothing on turn two, flashing back on turn three (which is essentially a Time Walk), giving you plenty of opportunity to combo off. By then you're likely to have found more mana and something useful. I think the line of taking Thoughtseize puts you in a place where you have to win quickly meaning drawing a Lion's Eye Diamond for turn (Dark Ritual won't add up to seven and Goblins aren't great here).

And that's it for this session!

It was really a pleasure to showcase these games as a learning tool. Feel free to comment, participate on the Facebook page, or even add me @LDX on Cockatrice! Times are surely rough when trying to achieve mastery against so many hate decks, but we'll see the end of it all.

Storm will rise again.

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