”Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”
In a game of variance, there is no one true way to determine the best iteration of a deck. As metagames shift and adapt, one must also adapt the list they are playing with. Sometimes this means changing sideboard slots, replacing flex slots, or even swapping the number of key cards. In a format like Legacy, where the vast majority of paper players are invested into a single archetype, the meta does not shift as dramatically as it would on MTGO. However, sometimes the printing of new cards can increase the power level or popularity of certain archetypes. This attracts those players who may have taken a break from the format and shelved their particular deck. Luckily, The EPIC Storm (TES) has yet to be poorly positioned in a meta, though we have had to adapt and change the list throughout the years.
When approaching a deck like The EPIC Storm, it is never wrong to try new and creative cards in the flex slots or in the sideboard. The best way to discover powerful cards is to test and not be afraid to fail again and again. It may take hundreds of games with a poor card choice or sub-optimal build to come to a personal conclusion on the particular cards. I encourage everyone to share their personal experience with whatever they test, and if you have recorded data then it is even better. We spend a lot of time working on our decklists and card choices, however, we are still human here on the site. I know I personally have overlooked amazing cards that are now staples in the sideboard, while I have talked up cards that now should probably never see the light of day in the deck.
Card ideas for the Flex Slot
I think the obvious first choice would be to test Preordain in the flex slot. I feel that additional selection will help you find the necessary limiter of your current hand or Burning Wish to get out from under a potential lock piece. Right now with the uptick in Karn, the Great Creator, we are seeing a diverse field of permanent hate cards. The ability to filter our draws to either quickly answer or to setup combo turns is vital for the health of The EPIC Storm moving forward.
To keep on the topic of card selection, I think the new Narset, Parter of Veils could see a place in one of the flex slots of The EPIC Storm. This card allows us to dig deeper through our own deck, while also helping us combat the other blue decks of the format. If you were to run Narset, Parter of Veils, you may consider taking out a copy of Burning Wish and adding some number of Cabal Ritual. I have heard from some storm players that they have had success at the local level with this card in the 75, and I would be extremely interested in seeing how it performed over a few hundred games.
As discussed above, I can see a time and place where most TES lists begin running Cabal Ritual in place of the fourth copy of Chrome Mox. In theory, this would bring the list closer to a hybrid TES/Ad Nauseum Tendrils strategy. However, in a Karn, The Great Creator meta this might not be a horrible idea as we can rely less on our artifact mana rocks, while still having outs to an early Chalice of the Void. I think the ability to run two copies of Cabal Ritual and three copies Chrome Mox makes Past in Flames a viable option for the 75.
If you want to test an off the wall idea for the flex slot and are hellbent on playing Mox Opal, might I recommend testing a Mishra’s Bauble. This card would help you reach metalcraft and could also potentially help with naming off of a blind Cabal Therapy. The extra card draw is nice if you crack it before your opponents drawstep, this way you will draw your card at the beginning of your upkeep. In the same light, Urza's Bauble can be used in the slot to fill the same purpose. At the end of the day, it comes down to the preference of seeing a random card in the opponent's hand on demand or being able to see the top of the deck before they draw.
Now for all you tried and true innovators out there, I recommend taking a look at Teferi, Time Raveler. This card honestly excited me the most when it was spoiled, but not for TES at first glance. I really feel it could make an interesting Esper list merging Show and Tell with Academy Rector. However, if there is an uptick in Grixis Control with all these MUD and Chalice of the Void decks running rampant through the leagues, I feel this card could take TES in an interesting approach. There’s something cool about the thought of being able to cast Thoughtseize and or combo off during the opponents end step. The ability to also bounce an artifact and draw a card isn’t something to be overlooked.
Card ideas for the Sideboard
We can’t talk only about the flex slots without also discussing future sideboard slots. I feel that this topic is a lot more open-ended than the flex slot conversation, although I am more than happy to be proven wrong. I wrote an article last month discussing the pros and cons of Surgical Extraction, and so I won’t discuss it in this article. For sideboard slots, you want to think about what matchup you are trying to answer, and if you want it to be included as part of the Wish Board. Both of these are great things to keep in the back of your mind, however, do not let it limit what you could possibly test.
I believe Wasteland will soon to be seeing a huge uptick in the meta with the resurgence of 12-Post decks. I think there is some merit to considering Pithing Needle in the sideboard. This card may just be too slow, or not relevant enough to include in the sideboard, however, it has seen play in the past. We can also avoid incidental hate such as Ratchet Bomb or Engineered Explosives. Testing for this card could provide valuable information if the format continues to trend in the direction I discussed above.
Sticking on the topic of sideboard artifact slots, Nihil Spellbomb could be a great addition in lists that are still running one to two copies of Mox Opal. The ability to attack the graveyard, count towards metalcraft, and help us with card advantage could prove useful in the coming months. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this in a TES sideboard in Atlanta this September, but like the other cards discussed Nihil Spellbomb would need to see adequate amounts of testing first.
Another great card that has been popping up in TES sideboards is Mizzix's Mastery. The idea of this card is to replace Past in Flames in the sideboard, which arguably is our weakest path to victory. Without overloading Mizzix's Mastery, the goal of casting this card is to replay an Ad Nauseam that has been discarded or countered. I believe that this is a much stronger option for TES moving forward, as it requires less red mana overall.
The final inclusion I wanted to talk about in the sideboard is a change of pace and a creature: Goblin Cratermaker. This tricky Goblin allows us to take advantage of our opponents lack of removal post-board and can help us deal with Chalice of the Void when needed. Sometimes, it can be helpful in the Sneak and Show matchup to deal with Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn, though this scenario should rarely come up. This card might just be a worse than the Burning Wish target Pulverize, although I can see the merits of siding in creatures in certain matchups.
The Importance of Trying Something New
As mentioned earlier in the article, statistics in a game of variance are extremely important to finding and developing the “ideal” TES list. As the famous saying goes “It takes a village”, which could not resonate more in the Legacy and the Storm circles. We are truly lucky to have a wonderful community, whose passion drives the development and success of The EPIC Storm. Like with anything in life, innovation is found in the rubble of past attempts. To continue growing, we must all test, record, and report our failures and successes with new lists. Remember, if you are unsure where to begin, you can always reach out to anyone on the site or in the community for advice. Although let me leave you with my personal list breakdown for anyone trying to start theorycrafting and deckbuilding in the archetype’s mainboard: 13-14 Lands, 11-12 Artifact mana rocks, 8-9 Draw spells, 7-8 Discard spells, 8-10 Mana accelerators, 4 Infernal Tutor, 3-4 Burning Wish, 1 Empty the Warrens, 1 Ad Nauseam, and 1-2 Flex slots.