Since our last Infernal Tutoring session, we've had a couple minor tweaks to our deck list. We cut the copy of Telemin Performance in our sideboard for a fourth copy of Empty the Warrens. This decision was brought upon by the fact that Grixis Delver is the best deck in the format, and Empty the Warrens is incredible in that matchup. The other reasoning is that we only use Telemin Performance in very few matchups, and even then it is only good in game one for some of them, such as Lands and Storm. The other minor tweak was cutting one copy of Abrupt Decay for a copy of Echoing Truth. This was done because Echoing Truth is better in every matchup that isn't Miracles, and recent Miracles lists have shaved copies of Counterbalance anyways.
Now that we got the changes out of the way, let's once again dive into some scenarios!
For this week, the latest version of The EPIC Storm (TES) was used from the website.
In the current metagame, Dragon Stompy has grown a lot of popularity, this is due to it having the tools to beat a lot of the current best decks with cards like Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, and Trinisphere. After they lock their opponent out of the game, their plan is to present a threat that wins the game quickly, such as Goblin Rabblemaster and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. There are quite a few variants of this deck, such as Moggcatcher builds, however as far as the matchup goes for The EPIC Storm, they all have the same game plan in mind.
This is an incredibly volatile matchup, we want to go off quickly before our opponent can lock us out of the game with a Chalice of the Void or Trinisphere. Sometimes a Blood Moon can even lock us out of the game if our opponent plays it on turn one. This all being said I believe this matchup is still slightly in our favor. Empty the Warrens is really good here, you just have to watch out for potential copies of Fiery Confluence or Ensnaring Bridge your opponent might be playing. The matchup gets better post board when we bring in our answers to hate pieces. This is where the matchup is better than a deck like Eldrazi, as they don't have ways to attack our hand like Thought-Knot Seer. It is also worth noting that sometimes Dragon Stompy loses to its own inconsistency, and going all in on Blood Moon can sometimes be a liability for them, it all depends on the context of what is in our hand.
In this scenario, our opponent was able to play copies of Chalice of the Void (On one.) and Trinisphere very early. As the turns went on they have played threats such as Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Pia and Kiran Nalaar. In our last two turns, we were able to destroy our opponent's Chalice of the Void with Abrupt Decay and we just bounced their Trinisphere back to their hand on their last end step with Chain of Vapor. We can play our spells again! The only problem here though is that we are very dead if we pass the turn. At six life, neither Empty the Warrens or Ad Nauseam are good options, we have to think of another way to win the game this turn.
How can we win the game this turn?
I believe our only out here is to take our chances with a Past in Flames line, I would cast Infernal Tutor to get a third copy of Dark Ritual, then I cast all three copies of Dark Ritual for seven black mana, then I play both copies of Lotus Petal, cast Burning Wish for Past in Flames, cast Past in Flames, replay the copies of Dark Ritual, cast Infernal Tutor for Burning Wish, then cast both copies of Gitaxian Probe hoping to hit a red source of mana. It is worth noting that we have not played a land this turn.
Before I get into the nitty gritty details of this EPIC situation. Hey, before I’ve even scrolled down far enough to see what we are strategizing about today - I am taking umbrage with Anthony “not Tony” LaVerde (the green?) wrote in his introduction: “Grixis Delver is the best deck in the format”. There’s a game theory question, you are in a room with 1,000 people, and three hold ‘em hands are dealt face up: AA, KT, 72 (we’ll ignore suits for now). Everyone in the room has $10 to bet on the hand they think will win, the winners split the spoils of all the losers bets. In a vacuum AA “wins the most” but in this scenario, AA wins about 74% of the time, KT 15% and 72 10%. The Best hand to bet on is the one for which the ratio of people betting on it is less than it’s EV - so if fewer than 100 people bet on 72, then that is where you should put your money. Magic isn’t about a “best deck” it is all contextualized with what you know how to play, and what the metagame surrounding you is. I’m pretty sure all of us here think Storm (ANT or TES), is the best deck, and if you don’t then go back to Thraben University, and stop spying on your opposition... Where were we?
Assuming our opponent does not have graveyard hate in hand (seems unlikely they would), we can win through a Past in Flames loop. We have 9 mana in hand and can use Infernal Tutor for another dark ritual, giving us 9 mana out of the yard to tutor for a burning wish and lethal Tendrils of Agony. Just make sure to flashback the infernal tutor before you Gitaxian Probe (pro-tip).
This one seems pretty easy I think. I would tap the Bayou for both copies of Dark Ritual (5b) and then tap the Badlands for red and using 1 black for burning wish (4b) and grab Dark Petition. Spend all 4 black mana and tap the Island for Dark Petition (4 storm) and grab Lion's Eye Diamond putting us to 3 black floating from Spell Mastery. I play both copies of Lotus Petal and the Lion's Eye Diamond (storm 7 with 3B floating). Then cast Infernal Tutor cracking Lion's Eye diamond for 3 red. 8 storm, 1B 3R floating and 2 Lotus Petals. I would Infernal Tutor for Burning Wish for Tendrils of Agony. 10 storm.
We definitely have to Past in Flames here. The two options are to Infernal Tutor for a third Dark Ritual and then hope our two Gitaxian Probes can find a red source without also finding us a card that we can't get out of our hand. Alternatively, our Infernal Tutor can get Lotus Petal, and then we can flashback Infernal Tutor for Lion's Eye Diamond, giving us three Blue mana with our two Probes, Brainstorm, and Ponder to find any mana source (not just red) and one of our three remaining combinations of Burning Wish. I'm not actually sure which line is more likely to win, so I'm inclined to the former just because it's simpler and even though you see far fewer cards, you need fewer pieces to come together. That said, some quick math tells me the latter might actually have higher odds to win, in which case that line is better. Either way, it's marginal enough that you can do whichever feels best to you.
This one looks straightforward: Tap Bayou for black, cast Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor to grab the third Dark Ritual, play the Lotus Petals and Burning Wish for Past in Flames. If you don't mess up your mana in regards to the Island and realize that you need Badlands and the two Lotus Petals to cast the full "loop" (Burning Wish-> Past in Flames-> Dark Ritual-> Dark Ritual-> Dark Ritual-> Infernal Tutor-> Burning Wish-> Tendrils of Agony) and you win on the spot.
Yeah, I don't think this is terribly difficult. You tap Bayou, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor (Reveal: Dark Ritual), Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Burning Wish, and then Past in Flames (You have a black floating because you have to use a Lotus Petal). From there you still have Island and Lotus Petal, so you don't even need to find a red source.
How would you resolve this Brainstorm and play out the turn?
Thankfully we have four copies of Ponder in our sideboard because of sideboarding. I resolve Brainstorm by putting Abrupt Decay and then Burning Wish on top of my library, then cast a Burning Wish grabbing a Ponder, cast a Chrome Mox imprinting the Ponder, and leave Chain of Vapor up to deal with our opponent's incoming Marit Lage. Next turn we will have enough mana to cast Burning Wish for Dark Petition, then cast Dark Petition for Ad Nauseam.
Burning wish for ponder, Cast chrome mox with ponder under it, using the blue to Chain of Vapor their Marit Lage token (if they make it which they might not, which would be funny and make this line potentially a sweet bluff). Then keep playing magic.
This is one of the things I really like about sideboarding Ponder out in a lot of matchups is the ability to Burning Wish for it. Usually it's to cast the Ponder, but being able to put it under a Chrome Mox also isn't bad. I would take this line and put back a Chrome Mox and Abrupt Decay. This will allow us to be able to bounce his token on our end step and hope they don't have a follow up lock piece. If they don't we can combo off either next turn or the turn after.
We can't win the game this turn and our opponent can kill us next turn. Put back Chrome Mox then Abrupt Decay, Burning Wish for Ponder, and play Chrome Mox imprinting Ponder. Then, whether they make the token or not, we Burning Wish for Dark Petition on the next turn. We're still a bit short of getting Ad Nauseam on the that turn, but we have the Abrupt Decay to help us feel a little safer, and as long as they don't give us any reason to need to go for it, we can even sit back for a bit and wait until we have 10 mana to play around Crop Rotation for Bojuka Bog. I wouldn't be surprised for this game to go on for three or four more turns.
I would throw back the redundant copy of Burning Wish and Chrome Mox (on top) and slow-roll in order to dodge an end-of-turn Marit Lage. The following turn you can Burning Wish for Dark Petition with Abrupt Decay + Chain of Vapor in hand as your safety net and win from there.
I'll be honest, I'm not sure if I would've seen the line that Anthony took. That was a good find and most likely the correct one.
SITUATION #3 - Miracles
Even though we shaved an Abrupt Decay, Miracles is still a good matchup for us. A lot of Miracles lists are shaving a copy of Counterbalance now and some are even cutting it, how much better could it get for us? Miracles has remained to be a very popular deck online since the lists without Sensei's Divining Top started to surface. If you play a league online, I would expect to run into Miracles at least once.
We're in game one on the draw, our opponent on their first turn played a Volcanic Island into a Preordain, putting one card on top and one card on the bottom of their library. At this poin, I thought they were on Sneak and Show. On my turn, I drew a second land and decided to play a Ponder to look for more resources, and kept a Dark Ritual and a second Lion's Eye Diamond on the top of my library. On our opponent's next turn they played an Island and then jammed a Counterbalance, which really surprised me. I got the feeling that they either knew what I was on because of the Bloodstained Mire I played, or they looked up my username. Either that or their hand was generally weak. On our next turn, we're in a weird spot, the top card of their library was unknown so I decided to try and check it by playing a Chrome Mox, our opponent then declined the Counterbalance trigger, so I played a Lion's Eye Diamond to check it again. They revealed the top card of our library and it was a Swords to Plowshares. We basically have two decisions here, we can wait until we have a better luck of the draw on Counterbalance, or we can attempt to jam twelve Goblin tokens this turn even though Empty the Warrens isn't the best in this matchup due to Terminus.
Would you jam?
I would definitely jam. With a Counterbalance in play and it only being game one, the game would definitely become a lot harder to win if we pass the turn. While it's easy to hesitate making Goblin tokens in this matchup, our opponent does not have a white source of mana right now, and they would need both that and a setup for Terminus to beat twelve Goblin tokens, while a Force of Will just ends the game here, I think those are the odds we have to take.
This situation is frustrating. Swords to Plowshares on top invalidates our cabal therapy, meaning that going for goblins, not only means we need to dodge Terminus, but also that we need to dodge Force of Will. Without bounce spells in the main, I think it is still worth the risk however. Goblins it is.
I would make goblins here. I can't imagine it getting easier from this point. We already have a storm of 2, so I would play the second Lion's Eye Diamond and Burning Wish breaking both copes of Lion's Eye Diamond for Empty the Warrens for 10 goblins. They need a white source and a cantrip to find it over 2 turns. I don't think this is great odds, but I think it's better odds than waiting around.
Realistically, them being able to Terminus your Goblins will require them to have some number of cantrips next turn whether that be Portent or Brainstorm or Ponder. If they have those cards, it also becomes incredibly likely that they can float a two-drop on top assuming they know how the matchup works. In fact, the likelihood that they can float a two drop is higher than the likelihood that they find Terminus I think, but it's probably close. We can never really beat a Force of Will in their hand anyway, so just jam a bunch of Goblins into play and hope they don't find Terminus any time soon. Regardless though, if you do decide to wait, you should definitely play Lion's Eye Diamond this turn.
Unless I miscounted, we talk about 12 or 14 Goblins (a 2-turn clock), depending on if something was imprinted into the Chrome Mox or not. The odds are not getting better than this, meaning Goblins are the way to go.
I think it was wrong to not imprint on the Chrome Mox - for what it's worth, the Rite of Flame has very little value this game. I too think it's right to just jam Goblins, they don't have a white source and a two turn clock should be good enough.
Overall the meta is in a spot right now where The EPIC Storm is an excellent choice. We are well equipped to take down the best decks in the format. If you are going to be at Grand Prix Seattle I will be glad to see you there. I am very excited to see what this upcoming event will bring to the table.
See you Storm Cowboys!
Anthony LaVerde has had numerous Top 8 finishes of competitive Legacy events over the past five years, most recently making top 8 of the Leaving a Legacy Open series three times. When he is not playing at paper events, you can find him grinding on Magic Online under the username "Aigis." Other than being a pilot of The EPIC Storm, Anthony is also a Smash Bros player, punk music aficionado, and a sales consultant.