Special thanks to Zac Turgeon for his contributions to today's article.
Before the bannings of Deathrite Shaman and Gitaxian Probe, Dragon Stompy was by far the most prominent prison strategy you would see in Legacy. With most fair decks having a very greedy manabase, Blood Moon was very, very good. However, I wouldn't expect to see Dragon Stompy diminish, as it is a very powerful deck. With the metagame not settling yet, it is hard to say what is to come, but I believe that Dragon Stompy won't be going anywhere. This month we brought on Zac Turgeon to help players of both decks better understand the matchup and its intricacies!
A few words on Zac Turgeon (Optimis344 on MTGO and Twitch, The_Amazing_Zac on Twitter):
Zac Turgeon has been playing card games his whole life, and MTG competitively for the past 7 years. He picked up Dragon Stompy in 2013 because it was a prison deck, and that wasn’t really possible in other formats. He popularized the “Goblin Stompy” version with Moggcatcher, and then the current planeswalker heavy version. Outside of Magic, he enjoys cooking, reading, drinking scotch and hopes to one day open up an upscale ice cream shop.
Well, the obvious answer is to deploy as many lock pieces as possible as fast as possible, with priority going to Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void on two, and then Chalice of the Void on one. If I have kept a hand without a Trinisphere or a Chalice of the Void, I am looking to end the game as quickly as possible. This means that a turn 1 Goblin Rabblemaster is the next best thing. In this matchup, the Blood Moon effects aren’t very good unless you can back them up with a Chalice of the Void on zero, or if they are on turn 1 on the play. If I know that I am facing TES (or ANT for that matter) before the match begins, I will mulligan aggressively for the important pieces as cards like Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Ensnaring Bridge aren’t going to be good enough most of the time.
Pretty poorly. For me to keep a hand without a lock-piece knowing I am playing storm, it basically needs two copies of Goblin Rabblemaster and a way to cast them on turn 1. Fiery Confluence is a great tool to have, but it’s a sledgehammer and not a scalpel. It may be too slow depending on the mana situations and the number of goblins made.
They are ok, but they need additional help. A common opening is a Blood Moon effect and then a Chalice of the Void on zero. This normally buys enough time to win the game. But without a Trinisphere or Chalice of the Void to hinder Lotus Petals, it becomes a risky proposition. So if Blood Moon is my only lock piece, I want to back it up with a quick clock to limit the draws to colored sources.
I would keep that specific hand (assuming it had the mana to cast things). The keys from the Stompy side of things are all about the speed of the game. Storm decks, in general, are pretty easy to lock out, but because of that, they will always have the required hate cards to escape eventually. So mulligan hands that don’t have strong turn 1 plays or that are too slow.
Goblin Rabblemaster. While the card seems like a dopey creature, it kills incredibly quickly. If the opponent is at 20, it kills unassisted 3 turns later. If a second Goblin Rabblemaster comes in on the next turn, it cuts down the clock by a turn. A Fiery Confluence also cuts the clock by a turn. That means that if you see a Goblin Rabblemaster on turn 1, you are looking at only 2 turns to combo off before you could die.
I cut 4 copies of Ensnaring Bridge, and 4 copies of Chandra, Torch of Defiance for 4 copies of Scab-Clan Berserker, 2 copies of Abrade, and 2 copies of Kozilek’s Return. It’s pretty hard to Ensnaring Bridge lock out an army of goblins without already winning the game. Chandra, Torch of Defiance is just too slow, even on turn 1. Kozilek's Return and Scab-Clan Berserker are pretty obviously good in the matchup. The copies of Abrade aren’t good, but they have specific uses. Because of the threat of a Chalice of the Void on zero or a Trinisphere, most storm players will play out their copies of Lotus Petal and Lion's Eye Diamond. Trading an Abrade for a Lotus Petal or a Lion's Eye Diamond isn’t a glamorous move, but it’s better than the Chandra, Torch of Defiance that would be in that spot.
I personally hate the Sneak Attack version. The reason that Dragon Stompy works is that it’s essentially a two piece combo deck, that becomes a powerful midrange deck. So piece 1 is the mana and piece 2 is the payoff. The payoff can be anything from a lock-piece to a Chandra, Torch of Defiance. If the game progresses, then your deck becomes a midrange deck, with sweepers and powerful planeswalkers.
In the Sneak Attack version, you are a 3 piece combo, with no backup plan. You still need the mana and the payoff, but now you also need a facilitator in the form of Through the Breach or Sneak Attack. Additionally, if there plan fails, they have so many more dead draws because of the amount of large creatures that clog the hand.
I’m sure there are metagames where Sneak Attack is better, but I certainly haven’t found one. You just increase the fail rate on an already volatile deck, in exchange for winning in a more spectacular way.
It really depends on how the metagame shakes out. Right now, everything is in flux, and this deck is very matchup dependent. Basically, of the 20 or so major legacy decks, I feel favored against all of them that don’t have Stoneforge Mystic or Show and Tell. That may sound like I am talking it up, but frankly, I think its the truth. The deck still has a natural fail rate, so you can certainly lose good matchups, but as the metagame shifts, those are the two cards to watch for. If those increase, this deck gets worse or has to adapt.
I think it got worse for me. While I still feel favored, my game 1 got worse. Now in addition to losing the roll and dying to a turn 1 kill, now I need to worry about losing the roll and having my hand-picked apart. Before, almost no one would lead on a turn 1 Cabal Therapy in the blind and name a card correctly. Now, a Thoughtseize will always know which card to hit.
Well, it certainly made my game 1s worse. It has also made Chalice of the Void on 2 more important than it was before. Normally, a Chalice of the Void on 1 and a clock would be enough. Now I know that if I can possibly get a Chalice of the Void on 2, I should do everything in my power to do that, even if it costs me speed in other areas of development.
They let me have a turn. The best way to beat me is to take riskier lines that allow for quicker kills. This includes things like making 8-10 goblins on turn 1. It's much harder for me to be the reactive deck, rather than the proactive deck so taking the fight to me before I can deploy a pile of lock pieces is much better than spending turns finding the perfect line and being shut down by walls of hate.
As noted earlier, I now think that it is worth trying to jump through hoops to play a Chalice of the Void on 2. Failing that, it’s very hand dependant. I will say that most of the time it is a Chalice of the Void on 1 if you have no other plays. But that means you have to use two mana. Chalice of the Void on zero will happen only if it is accompanied by another turn 1 play, most notably a Blood Moon or a Goblin Rabblemaster. So most of the time, Chalice of the Void will be on 1, but if you can drop a Blood Moon or Magus of the Moon before a basic land has been fetched, getting down one on zero is incredibly important.
I want to give a big thank you to Zac Turgeon for joining for joining us on this month's Through the Looking Glass! His thoughts definitely gave me a better insight on Dragon Stompy as a deck as well as the matchup. Feel free to comment or reach out to either of us for any questions you might have on the matchup!
Thank you for reading!
For more information on the Dragon Stompy versus TES matchup see these resources:
05-03-2018 Matchup Mulligan: Dragon Stompy by Bryant Cook on theepicstorm.com
11-20-2017 TES Matchup Battles: Dragon Stompy by Alex Poling on theepicstorm.com