Welcome back to the Infernal Tutoring series!
Hey Stormtroopers, I'm back with another episode of Infernal Tutoring. I have been getting tons of practice with the deck since the last installment and feel like I am fast improving with the deck.
However, The EPIC Storm still proves to be the hardest deck I have ever played in Magic: The Gathering. The increased threat density of both Burning Wish and Infernal Tutor can be hard to juggle and often times I am finding myself unsure on when to use excess tutors for utility or hold on to them until the combo turn.
This month's situations will be screenshots from Magic the Gathering Online in which I was put in a difficult scenario with many decision trees. Part of becoming good at playing Storm is figuring out how to operate on limited resources with limited time and many options, and these situations all highlight that.
For this week, the latest version of The EPIC Storm (TES) was used from the website.
SITUATION #1 - Grixis Delver
The meta is starting to settle after the April banning of Sensei's Divining Top and the Grixis colored (or Grixis with a splash) decks of the format have clearly emerged as top dogs. With Grixis Delver taking up nearly 20% of the meta, 4c Control another 12% and Storm as almost 7%.
Grixis Delver can be a very good matchup for The EPIC Storm. However, they do have all the tools to beat us. Like all Delver decks they combine a fast clock with mana denial and counter magic but where the matchup is really won or lost a lot of the times is through Cabal Therapy and Young Pyromancer. If they are able to get this engine online they can quickly mind twist us and we may never be able to rebuild the critical mass necessary to go off. Because of this it is important to go off before they can assemble this engine.
Empty the Warrens is amazing against Grixis Delver, and The EPIC Storm utilizes that card probably better than any deck in the format. However, sometimes Empty the Warrens can get tricky against them because of their ability to create a massive amount of tokens with Young Pyromancer and stabilize at a low life total.
In this situation, we are playing Game Three vs Grixis Delver and have side boarded according to the website's recommendations.
Website recommendation for side boarding:
-1 Ponder, -1 Burning Wish
+2 Defense Grid
We have had to fight our way through a fair bit of disruption this game including a Force of Will, a Daze and a Null Rod that we discarded all while having our life total clocked by a Delver of Secrets. On their turn, our opponent tapped out for a Young Pyromancer and we know their hand is Snapcaster Mage, Wasteland and 1 blank. Odds are that the game does not get better for us if we wait, as any Cabal Therapy off the top will likely end the game, and we will be going down to at least 5 life.
We have a Badlands, an Island and a Swamp out. Our hand is: Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond and Burning Wish. We are at 10 life while our opponent is at 18.
We are able to make 9 mana this turn and are facing down a flipped Delver of Secrets and a Young Pyromancer. I see it as us having three options. Option #1 is that we can cast the Rite of Flame or Lotus Petal and then the Burning Wish and Grapeshot our opponent's board, buying us at least a few more turns although the Snapcaster Mage will be beating us down soon. Option #2 is to Burning Wish for another Burning Wish or Dark Petition and then grab Empty the Warrens and make 12 Goblin tokens However, our opponent already has a permanent blocker and a Young Pyromancer to make more tokens, as well as a Snapcaster Mage that will also remove one goblin so this may be risky. Option #3 is that we try and resolve Ad Nauseam with 0 mana floating from 10 life. Relevant information regarding the Ad Nauseam is that there are 3 Lotus Petals, 3 Chrome Mox and 1 land drop left to make this turn.
Which option do you take?
An important part of Storm is putting yourself into positions to win. You can't be scared when you play Storm, and by casting Burning Wish for Grapeshot I do not think we put ourselves in a winning position. So instead we have to ask ourselves what is more likely? Us fizzling on Ad Nauseam, or our opponent beating 12 Goblins? I think that 12 Goblins gives us the highest chance to win this game. If anything the tokens will swing in one or two times, buying us time to find some more mana and another tutor to end the game.
Thanks for starting us off with such a tough one Cyrus! This is a doozie. 1) I really dislike the Grapeshot line, as without Ponder or Brainstorm in hand we have no way to rebuild. 2) With 12 goblins I think there is a pretty decent chance we get there – but we have to be very careful with our attacks – leaving back enough blockers to make sure their clock is 4 turns. You can pencil out a few scenarios for how the Snapcaster Mage into Brainstorm hits – but I am pretty sure we’re advantaged. 3) I really don’t have a good enough handle on the Ad Nauseam probabilities to feel like I can make an informed decision here – I’d love it if someone would build a monte carlo simulation we could customize to these spots. The fact that we haven’t yet made our land drop makes a big difference in this spot in my opinion – but I still don’t think we’re advantaged to win off of Ad Nauseam here. 4) I think there is one more line which is worth evaluating: Burning Wish for Past in Flames. In the current game state we would be digging out of the graveyard with 6 mana floating. The fact that we are constrained on blue mana, and that we don’t have a Tendrils of Agony in the deck, make this line a lot less attractive in my opinion. I am happy to be convinced otherwise – but I would probably make goblins and pray it’s enough.
I would make the 12 goblins. Rite of Flame, LED, Dark Ritual, Burning Wish for Dark Petition for Empty the Warrens. I think Ad Nauseam is a little too risky and would force us to kill this turn. We would not be able to Ad Nauseam and then pass the turn. Having not played a land yet is good news, but still a little risky for me I think. The Grapeshot plan is my least favorite. Sounds like delaying losing. The 12 goblins because on the board it kills in 2 turns and based on known information they only have access to making 1 elemental token from Snapcaster Mage into Brainstorm. They won't have enough creatures to be able to stabilize without some help off the top of their deck, so that is the play I would make.
It seems unlikely that our opponent will be able to fight through 12 Goblin tokens as the configuration of cards that would allow him to survive are reasonably unlikely given our opponents hand.
In my opinion there are not really any other options than trying to win here. Sweeping the board forces you to find another Burning Wish and/or Infernal Tutor out of only 6 remaining in the deck before Snapcaster Mage and disruption will tear you apart.
This seems fairly easy to me. The Ad Nauseam line is incredibly risky even with a land drop due to the fact, that it must kill this turn. Grapeshot stalls the same but leaves the opponent at a big advantage of Snapcaster Mage, Brainstorm and Wasteland. The only real option is to Burning Wish, Dark Petition, and then Empty the Warrens.
SITUATION #2 - Miracles
The New Miracles deck has proven to be an incredibly interesting matchup. We don't have the incredibly versatile (and clunky) Abrupt Decays to combat the hate they bring in any more. And because they are no longer playing Sensei's Divining Top or Counterbalance, they have upped the number of counterspells they are playing, forcing us to win through an insane amount of hate.
Although permanent based pieces of hate such as Leyline of Sanctity and Meddling Mage are also popular, Ethersworn Canonist has proven to be the standard piece of hate that you can expect.
To combat Ethersworn Canonist and the multitude of counterspells that Miracles plays I sideboarded according to the website and we are in Game Three.
Website recommendation for sideboarding:
-2 Chrome Mox, -2 Ponder,-1 Empty the Warrens
+2 Defense Grid, +2 Rending Volley, +1 Tendrils of Agony
In this situation, we are facing down two Ethersworn Canonists and our opponent likely has multiple pieces of countermagic up. We are currently on a 3 turn clock with Badlands, Island ,and Defense Grid on our side of the field. Our opponent has 4 lands, and so can cast either Flusterstorm or Force of Will, and even Counterspell if they hit another land drop.
Our hand is: Lion's Eye Diamond, Lion's Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor, Infernal Tutor, Rite of Flame, Duress and Rending Volley.
We are being locked down under the Ethersworn Canonists and our Defense Grids are not allowing us to cast the Rending Volley on our opponents turn.
How can we sequence our next few turns to give us the best chance of winning this game?
This is a tricky one. I think we need to start off by casting Infernal Tutor for a second Rending Volley while our opponent is locked out by the Defense Grid, as we may not get another chance to do that. We then take 4, going down to 8 and can untap and Rending Volley one of Ethersworn Canonists. Our opponent can then attack us down to 6 and we can Rending Volley their second one on our turn. Hopefully, by this time we will have found a land, a Lotus Petal, or some cantrips in order to cast the Duress. Because our initial mana sources are constrained we may need to cast the Duress on one turn and then go off the following turn and hope that our opponent doesn't have multiple pieces of relevant interaction, or just makes a mistake and counters the wrong spell as they will likely only be able to cast one spell on our combo turn. We will likely be at too low of a life total to Ad Nauseam at any point in this game, but by killing the Ethersworn Canonists we can hopefully buy ourselves enough time to find more rituals and win through Natural Storm or a Past in Flames loop.
This seems pretty straight forward we need to deal with the Ethersworn Canonists and have the tools to do it. I would take advantage of our mana constrained opponent to Infernal Tutor for Rending Volley and then kill the Ethersworn Canonists over two turns. We’ll then have some breathing room to draw into ways to fight through the opponent’s countermagic.
This is a really tough spot. I would start off with an Infernal Tutor for a second copy of Rending Volley. Can't combo off without removing both copies of Ethersworn Canonist. I would do this now while the opponent can't consider countering it due to Defense Grid. My game plan moving forward be to hope my opponent only has one counterspell in their hand that pairs with our 1 discard spell and have 2 Rending volleys for their 2 Ethersworn Canonist. We are probably at least 2-3 turns from comboing off, so the context will change a lot by then. I am just hoping for a lot to go right over the next couple turns because of how bad of a position we will be in. Too low for Ad Nauseam, not enough resources for a Past in Flames kill and hoping they only have 1 counter is just asking for a lot here.
We need to find a second Rending Volley and start casting them as soon as possible to win, so I would definitely start with an Infernal Tutor for another Rending Volley. I would then start casting them over the next two turns. Our best hope is to draw more mana sources, including some rituals, and hopefully either use Duress to take our opponent's only counterspell, or draw a Burning Wish and fight through our opponent's inability to use multiple counterspells in a single turn. More than likely though, we are going to just have to hope that our draw pans out for us and/or that our opponents hand is a bit light on counterspells. Using the Duress the turn before we combo is fine unless our opponent has all of their mana untapped to pay for Brainstorm through Defense Grid. That said, I would still like to wait if our mana situation allows us. We also don't necessarily need to rush into anything unless we really think its likely our opponent will get access to another Canonist. We've removed their pressure and can take some turns to sculpt our hand a bit.
I see no alternative to doubling Rending Volley with Infernal Tutor and slowly digging out this unfortunate position. Due to the low life total and available mana, a Tutor Chain is most likely the only option to win afterwards.
There isn't much else to be said that hasn't been covered by everyone else. Double Rending Volley for the win!
SITUATION #3 - Miracles
In this match, we are playing Game 1 vs. the Miracles list that recently took down MKM Prague. This version is a little more streamlined than some of the other Miracles lists and plays 4 main deck Monastery Mentor and 3 Dazes so they have a much faster clock and some additional free disruption.
Our opponent just played a Monastery Mentor on their turn 4 and has left up a Tundra and we know that their hand has Ponder, Daze, Portent, Snapcaster Mage and 2 unknowns.
The Monastery Mentor is going to quickly threaten our life total and turn off our Ad Nauseam.
It is our turn 5 and we have a Volcanic Island, an Underground Sea, and a Badlands out. Our hand is Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond, Ad Nauseam, Infernal Tutor, Cabal Therapy, Brainstorm and Lotus Petal.
The obvious line is to cast our Lotus Petal, our Dark Ritual and our Ad Nauseam with protection from Daze. We don't have a land drop left to make this turn but we do have plenty of life to work with.
However, we probably don't want to risk cracking our Lion's Eye Diamond in case our opponent has drawn Force of Will or Spell Pierce.
I decide that my chances of hitting a mana source off my Brainstorm are good enough to risk it and if I find a Gitaxian Probe or another Dark Ritual, I will feel a little more comfortable with Ad Nauseam.
However our Brainstorm was a brick and has left us with the same options but less mana to work with, a Brainstorm, a Ponder, and a Scalding Tarn.
How would you resolve this Brainstorm, and then proceed with the rest of the turn?
I think the mistake I made here is that I cast Brainstorm instead of Ad Nauseam. As I mentioned in the first situation, you need to put yourself into a winning position while playing Storm. If you play Storm scared and try to play around everything all the time you will lose to yourself more than you lose to your opponent. It does suck to lose to Force of Will when we have a Cabal Therapy in hand but I like our odds better here than allowing our opponent to untap with a handful of cantrips, an active Monastery Mentor, and a Snapcaster Mage in hand. Play the Dark Ritual, the Lotus Petal, and then the Ad Nauseam, if they Daze you pay for it and if they Force of Will you are rebuilding with 3 lands, a Lion's Eye Diamond, and an Infernal Tutor which is not the worst place to be.
In terms of salvaging the mistake of casting the Brainstorm I think that we should put back the Scalding Tarn and the Brainstorm and then Ponder, hoping to find another Ritual or just shuffling those cards away if need be and then go for the Ad Nauseam line next turn with slightly less life to work with.
Before having cast the Brainstorm: I really like using our Ad Nauseam here and knowing that we often won’t be going for the win this turn, but instead get to draw a ton of cards and sculpt a badass hand to wreck with next turn. There’s even a reasonable argument for casting Ad Nauseam on our opponent’s upkeep so that they are more mana constrained if we want to go for it next turn (I think the fact that they have Snap Caster Mage into Brainstorm tilts it in favor of going for it on our turn).
As played I think I would put back the Brainstorm and probably the Ponder; play the Lotus Petal and Infernal Tutor for a second Cabal Therapy. A good rule of thumb with storm is to play in such a way that you cut yourself off from as few lines as possible. This line admittedly violates that rule and is very aggressive. But I think we have an excellent chance of winning with Ad Nauseam next turn if we are able to assemble enough disruption.
I think casting the Brainstorm was a mistake. I would have used that 1 land for a Therapy on Force of Will. I think his plan was to end step cast Portent. This leaves you in the exact same mana situation (2 lands, Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal and Lion's Eye Diamond). We have 5 mana for Ad Nauseam and a Lion's Eye Diamond to pay for Daze and leave 2 mana floating. If Cabal Therapy doesn't resolve I jam. If it does resolve and reveals no disruption then we are in the clear for take off with our Ad Nauseam, and if it does reveal a different piece of disruption then we can plan our game plan around that piece (maybe we can still go this turn or maybe next turn depending what it is).
I'm a bit confused why we played our land before casting Brainstorm, as getting a Brainstorm countered by Flusterstorm here is great for us. I also don't think I would have cast Brainstorm, and instead fired off Cabal Therapy on Force of Will or Flusterstorm. At this point though, we have to wonder why our opponent didn't Ponder or Portent last turn. It signifies either a Flusterstorm or a Brainstorm. In either case, our Cabal Therapy is looking pretty weak as we don't have any great information about the exact nature of our opponent's hand. Comboing feels dubious this turn, as the Daze forces us to crack our Lion's Eye Diamond or, even worse, find two initial mana sources off of the Ad Nauseam instead of one. I like putting back Scalding Tarn and Lotus Petal, and using a Ponder to likely get a shuffle and further sculpt our hand. Our opponent can hit us for 3-5 next turn and do some hand sculpting, but if our Ponder, Brainstorm, and Cabal Therapy are even a little bit kind, we should be able to make meaningful progress towards winning next turn. Their countersuite is a bit light game one, so there is only so much that they can have access to. Even if they are able to counter Ad Nauseam through our Cabal Therapy, we'll still have the Lion's Eye Diamond and may be able to make some headway on the following turn if our hand-sculpting found us enough rituals for a decent Past in Flames.
The easiest solution would have been to slam Ad Nauseam before casting the Brainstorm, but in the given situation, I would put back Ad Nauseam and Brainstorm on top, followed by Dark Ritual to provoke a response. If there is no reaction or a mere Daze, you can pay for it to follow up with Cabal Therapy for Force of Will to clear the way. That leaves you with at least 2 mana (3 if your opponent didn't cast Daze), a Petal as well as a Lion's Eye Diamond (up to 7 mana total), which is enough mana to use the Ponder to draw into Ad Nauseam and cast it though Daze.
Sorry for the short responses from me this month, but the boys aced it. There was no reason to cast Brainstorm. The best line would've been Cabal Therapy and then eventually Ad Nauseam.
Writing last month's Infernal Tutoring and seeing what the great Storm players that write for this site had to say really opened my eyes up to some things. On several of the situations they saw lines that I had not even considered, but more than anything I realized that almost all of them played with much less fear than I did.
Not playing scared is my take away from this month's installation as well. Storm is a deck more than any other where you need formulate a game plan and constantly be progressing towards a winning situation. Not every line is going to be perfect, and you will not always have perfect info and sometimes you will have the Force of Will or Flusterstorm and you will lose. But that is part of playing the deck and part of Magic. Making the highest percentage play is incredibly important, and getting distracted by other factors will only take away from yourself.
The EPIC Storm is an incredibly complex and powerful deck. We are casting so many spells and operating under the thinnest of margins all while trying to win in the first few turns of the game. By playing with confidence and playing to win, we put ourselves in the best position to do so.
Until next time, keep storming on!