I am always trying to find a way to innovate and make The EPIC Storm a better deck, it never ends. I mentioned at the end of my Grand Prix: Louisville article that I felt the deck needed to move the Bayou from the main deck to the sideboard for increased mana stability. I had two mulligans due to the Bayou not being the fourth copy of Bloodstained Mire, other people have echoed the same thoughts. Aside from that (it would be a pretty boring article if it only talked about the merits of Bayou's place - amirite?), I noticed through the Grand Prix that I was relatively unimpressed with Empty the Warrens. It's something I haven't felt since the era of Dig Through Time, I wanted some time to analyze the metagame and my opinion on it's place. Let's take a look at how Empty the Warrens looks against the field:
- Miracles - Due to Terminus and the recent popularity of Engineered Explosives to combat the Chalice of the Void decks, making Goblin tokens against Miracles is not advised - in fact, it's pretty terrible.
- Death & Taxes - Goblins are terrific in this match-up as long as you make enough to beat Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull. See math here!
- Sneak & Show - Like any combo match-up, the objective is to win the game first, it doesn't matter who "combos out" first. Winning with Goblin tokens take time, which is a luxury that we do not have against a 7/7 lifelink creature or Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn.
- RB Reanimator - Once again, a deck with a 7/7 lifelink creature (while being slightly faster) and the possibility of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite - I'll pass on Empty the Warrens here.
- Sultai Delver - Empty the Warrens is really a toss-up here, great in game one, but post-board there's typically Golgari Charm and Toxic Deluge. Both of which are seeing more play due to True-Name Nemesis seeing play in the Leovold, Emissary of Trest decks.
- Grixis Delver - Generally fine here, if Empty the Warrens is done early enough in the game, Young Pyromancer isn't too much of a concern. That said, as the game goes on making Goblins becomes more and more questionable. Most Grixis decks typically only play a single out to Goblin tokens, so there's some risk, but the probability is usually pretty low.
- 4c Chalice Loam - An easy way of getting underneath Chalice of the Void! Sign me up.
- Storm - Empty the Warrens is a turn three kill if dropped on turn one, most combo decks in the format can kill the opponent if left unmolested until the third turn. This is no exception.
- Aluren - Probably okay here? They're a little slow, but if they open with a speedy draw a horde of Goblins could lose.
- Eldrazi - Great match-up for Goblins as listed above for 4c Chalice Loam, that said, it's numbers are really diminishing.
- Dark Bant / Leovold Sultai - The best win condition storm has with a Leovold, Emissary of Trest in play is Empty the Warrens. That said, these colors do have answers to Goblin tokens, but they aren't in the Reid Duke deck list.
When you break it down and really look at it, Empty the Warrens isn't great against the field at the moment. The metagame is very hostile at the moment, with the fair decks that it's good against not being large portions of the widely played decks. It's bad against Control and Combo, then the midrange decks it's good versus some and just okay against others. This has caused me to cut one of my favorite cards from the deck - there are no "sacred cows" with The EPIC Storm.
GP: Louisville Deck List
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 3 Cabal Therapy
- 3 Duress
- 3 Burning Wish
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Past in Flames
- 1 Ad Nauseam
Current Test Deck List
- 4 Burning Wish
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 4 Cabal Therapy
- 3 Duress
- 1 Ad Nauseam
This suggested list is a little unconventional, it started when I decided to cut just Empty the Warrens. At that point, I was a little uneasy on Past in Flames without a main deck win condition. What did I do? Pretty standard procedure, I started messaging people who's opinions I value and then made a post in The EPIC Storm Facebook Group. From there the wheels really started turning and we ended up with a storm list that does what TES is best at, winning post-Ad Nauseam.
With the list from Grand Prix: Louisville, I died twice after resolving it due to less Chrome Mox and a higher ratio of four casting cost cards. With the purposed list, you can go down to two life against non-red decks safely - that said, you shouldn't need to with three copies of Chrome Mox. With no four casting cost cards in the deck, you're able to draw an additional three to four cards (on average) if you absolutely need to.
I was still uneasy about cutting Past in Flames as it had really been an all-star in my testing prior to the Grand Prix. That's when I started documenting games in which it was dead or a liability. What happened is that Red Black Reanimator took second in Louisville and the stock in Surgical Extraction went through the roof. Casting Past in Flames made me feel uneasy as it's less of a guaranteed win than Ad Nauseam with Faerie Macabre and Surgical Extractions everywhere. I've also seen a fair share of Grafdigger's Cage, all of this solidified the opinions saying that I should cut Past in Flames.
This leaves us with a deck list that is amazing at achieving it's goal of resolving Ad Nauseam and then winning afterward, with increased speed and protection the deck list has been performing very well against the other Combo decks as well against the control decks.
I mentioned Surgical Extraction, don't forget about it when it comes to sideboarding. You're pretty much obligated to bringing in either Tendrils of Agony or Empty the Warrens based on the matchup. You may be thinking, "Well doesn't this defeat the purposed of this new streamlined list?" - not really. Post-board games for storm have always slowed down slightly, mainly due to opponents siding out their dead cards for things that actually interact with us. It's nothing to over think or truly worry about.
With Past in Flames and Empty the Warrens leaving the deck, there were bound to be some additions. The first would be an extra discard spell in Cabal Therapy, it keeps the mana curve low for Ad Nauseam while being additional disruption in this hostile metagame. Initially when this list was being created, Thoughtseize was thrown into the mix because the deck could support it with less dangerous reveals off of Ad Nauseam. In some matchups it was terrific and then there's anything with Deathrite Shaman and/or Delver of Secrets, it was just too much lifeloss and often caused situations where you felt forced to pay mana for Gitaxian Probe. I ended up settling on Cabal Therapy and Duress.
The next slot is up for debate and that is the third copy of Chrome Mox. It could be the fourteenth land (likely the Bayou, which would allow for Reverent Silence), but this would make your Ad Nauseams less effective. It's hard to say this early in the development of the current list if it'll change, we need more data to find out which slot is better.
Cabal Ritual left, which isn't too shocking without Past in Flames. It was a nice addition, but with all of the graveyard hate running around - it's just not worth it. On the bright side, it freed up a slot for the fourth copy of Burning Wish to return.
Advantages & Disadvantages
Well, what's the reason for playing this list? Why is it actually better?
- Higher consistency with both mana and Ad Nauseam kills.
- Extra protection and speed (Chrome Mox & Cabal Therapy).
- A more focused game plan - this one may seem a little weird. But sometimes the list with Past in Flames & Empty the Warrens felt a little torn, the deck list was fine, but sometimes you would open up a hand that consisted of Rite of Flame, Chrome Mox, Past in Flames and a bunch of lands and my thought was, "What am I even doing?"
- Very resilient to graveyard hate.
- Less susceptible to sweepers (Terminus on your Goblins).
- Additional Burning Wish to find answers.
How is it worse?
- You lose the four mana main deck line to Empty the Warrens.
- Longer games against discard decks are tougher due to no main deck Past in Flames.
This deck list really leans into what TES has always been best at instead of trying to adapt what other storm decks do, which may change in the future. Metagames change, I could easily see myself playing the pair of red four mana sorceries again. One of the beautiful things about this deck is that it's ever changing and can adapt to any metagame, which is why The EPIC Storm has existed for 10+ years. It's important to keep in mind that you can still Empty the Warrens & Past in Flames through Burning Wish, don't feel obligated to win with Ad Nauseam.
I'd like to reiterate this to make it pretty clear, the deck will still have a four mana line to Goblin tokens through Burning Wish. It just will no longer have one through Infernal Tutor. In some matchups where Empty the Warrens really shines and Ad Nauseam is questionable, you can always Infernal Tutor for Burning Wish to make Goblins as well.
There's absolutely nothing wrong structurally looking at my deck list from Grand Prix: Louisville other than that the times have changed. Graveyard hate is at an all-time high due to Red Black Reanimator and taking losses for playing into your opponent's game-plans doesn't interest me.
These things said, this concept is still in it's infancy and being worked on – I've only played it in a handful of local events to some success. I'm looking forward to hearing your questions and thoughts!
Until next time, keep storming!