Welcome back to the Infernal Tutoring series!
After a fair amount of testing, we decided that (v4.2) is the list we still want to be playing, at least for the time being. If you haven't, I highly recommend checking out Bryant's article The Importance of Confidence, as it goes into more detail regarding the switch back to the (v4.2) deck list. Personally, I am a fan of switching back. Pulverize is still a fantastic card right now, and with Steel Stompy on the rise since Grand Prix Birmingham, I think it is getting even better.
As for our guest this month, he is none other than a fellow TES pilot and good friend of mine – Landon Sworts. He is fresh off a first-place finish at a Duel for Dual's tournament. When he is not crushing it at paper tournaments he is dream crushing your would have been 5-0's on Magic Online. In any case, definitely watch out for Landon on Legacy tournament coverage in the future.
A few words on Landon Sworts (StonedForgeMystic):
Landon first started playing Magic with the release of M10 and made his move to Legacy around Innistrad. A life long interest in degenerative gaming strategies and an affinity for the combination of Gitaxian Probe and Cabal Therapy made The Epic Storm an almost too appropriate deck choice for Landon. After a near two year hiatus from Magic; ranked as the number one Pokémon Go player in the United States, Landon has returned returned to his roots in Magic: The Gathering and The Epic Storm, spending the majority of the last eight months counting to twenty on MTGO.
For this week, the latest version of The EPIC Storm (TES) was used from the website.
h4>SITUATION #1 - 4c Control (Czech Pile)
4c Control is a very even matchup I'd say. While they usually only have Force of Will in the main deck when it comes to counter magic, they also run other forms of disruption such Hymn to Tourach, Thoughtseize, and Leovold, Emissary of Trest. In most matchups with a lot of discard, I like to play out my copies of Lion's Eye Diamond to avoid them being discarded, however, this is very risky in this matchup due to Kolaghan's Command. Generally, I like Empty the Warrens in the matchup. It helps get under Hymn to Tourach and Leovold, Emissary of Trest. That being said, expect your opponent to have post board answers to Empty the Warrens, such as Marsh Casualties and Toxic Deluge. Other sideboard cards to watch out for are Flusterstorm, Surgical Extraction, and even sometimes Hydroblast.
How I Sideboarded:
-1 Burning Wish, -1 Ponder
+1 Empty the Warrens, +1 Cabal Therapy
We are in game three, we played a Cabal Therapy targetting our opponent. They played a Snapcaster Mage and used it to flashback their Flusterstorm on our Cabal Therapy for three copies. Our opponent now has three cards in hand and now three creatures in play, and now one available mana source with Deathrite Shaman being untapped. Our hand has all of the tools we need to be able to combo off. We pretty much have two options in this scenario. The first one is to respond to the Flusterstorm copies with Dark Ritual, and pay for the copies in order to attempt to resolve our Cabal Therapy, which would leave us with exactly enough mana to combo into an Empty the Warrens for potentially eighteen Goblin tokens. If we get Cabal Therapy to resolve, we have a few options as far as what to name with it, with one mana source open our opponent has enough mana to cast another Flusterstorm or a Hydroblast, both of which would prevent us from going off this turn. This all being said, Force of Will isn't the only card that stops us here.
The second option is to let Cabal Therapy get countered and take our chances with our opponent only having three cards in hand, this option would let us combo into a natural Tendrils of Agony kill to end the game on the spot. We can also opt to pass the turn if we do let the Cabal Therapy get countered, however, I don't believe the state of the game gets much better for us after this turn.
How would you play this out? If you get Cabal Therapy to Resolve what would you name?
I think responding with Dark Ritual is 100% the safest play to make here. If Dark Ritual resolves and I pay for Flusterstorm, I would name Force of Will with the Cabal Therapy. My reasoning for this is that all four copies are still in the deck, and it's more likely they have Force of Will than Hydroblast, Spell Pierce, another Flusterstorm, or even Surgical Extraction. If the coast is clear I would make eighteen goblins and flashback Cabal Therapy naming Marsh Casualties. I don't believe letting the Cabal Therapy get countered is necessarily wrong, as a natural Tendrils of Agony kill is hard to pass up, but it's a judgement call at that point.
I would use the Dark Ritual to pay for Flusterstorm, and then if it resolved I would name Force of Will. The opponent has already used one Spell Pierce, one Flusterstorm, and zero copes of Force of Will. The odds favor them having a Force of Will, and wanting to protect it with their Flusterstorm. Where I went from there would determine what's in their hand. I obviously wouldn't go for Empty the Warrens if they had another Flusterstorm or Spell Pierce, but if they had nothing then I would. If they had a wrath effect then I could make goblins and flashback the Cabal Therapy to take a cantrip or the wrath.
It's a little bit difficult without knowing the exact context of the game, particularly how aggressively our opponent is willing to counter things, but the thing to consider here is why our opponent would use Snapcaster on our Cabal Therapy. I'm inclined to believe it's because they have another counterspell they are protecting, since it's unlikely we would name Snapcaster Mage if they had let this resolve. I also do think that Empty the Warrens will be good enough to win this game, especially since we'll be able to flashback Cabal Therapy to take a Marsh Casualties or Toxic Deluge. For that reason, I want to use Dark Ritual to pay for Cabal Therapy. Whatever we name, if we name wrong, we'll most likely have to draw another discard spell to get out of it, so I want to just name whatever they are most likely to have, which in this case is Force of Will since they've already used a Flusterstorm and often play fewer Flusterstorms than Force of Wills.
I'd actually pay for the Cabal Therapy with Dark Ritual and name Force of Will. If you don't see a Force of Will you can still decide to go for Goblins and potentially flashback Cabal Therapy or to wait a turn to Ad Nauseam instead.
Based on the context of the game I would imagine they're protecting a Force of Will or a sweeper. Looking at the most probable scenario, they have a Force of Will and a blue card. It's less likely that they have exactly Surgical Extraction and a sweeper or even two unique sweepers. Which makes the best line paying for the Flusterstorm using Dark Ritual, then playing out the rest of your hand into Empty the Warrens and then taking their most valuable card with Cabal Therapy.
With 3 cards in hand it’s reasonable that our opponent could have Force of Will and a blue card, or even a second Flusterstorm (as his untapped Deathrite Shaman would suggest). I feel better with this Cabal Therapy resolving; respond to Flusterstorm by sacrificing Bloodstained Mire (15 life) fetching Badlands and casting Dark Ritual (Storm 4). If the opponents hand is Force of Will, blue card, and Flusterstorm or Spell Pierce we are in a bit of a bind but I believe the odds are in our favor. If the opponent lets this Dark Ritual resolve we use the three mana to pay for Flusterstorm and decide what we are going to name with Cabal Therapy. Most 4c Control decks run 1-2 Flusterstorm in the sideboard so having the second Flusterstorm in hand is less likely than them having 1 of 4 Force of Will. I would name Force of Will and hope our opponent doesn’t reveal a hand with Surgical Extraction and a sweep effect. Cast Lotus Petal (Storm 5), tap Volcanic Island and cast Rite of Flame (Storm 6) adding 2 red to our mana pool, sacrifice Lotus Petal adding 1 black, cast Lion’s Eye Diamond (Storm 7), cast Infernal Tutor (Storm 8); retain priority and sacrifice Lion’s Eye Diamond bringing our total mana count to four red to cast Empty the Warrens (Storm 9). After all of our copies of Empty the Warrens have resolved we can deal with any cards in our opponents hand that could keep us from ending the game in the following two turns (Marsh Casualties, Toxic Deluge, etc.) by using a flashback Cabal Therapy (sacrificing one of our 1/1’s).
SITUATION #2 - RB Reanimator
Ahh, the Legacy online boogeyman deck. If you play The EPIC Storm on Magic Online, you will play against this deck a lot, and I mean A LOT. It truly is one of our more difficult matchups, as this deck has the potential to completely run us over, especially when Chancellor of the Annex is in their opening hand. The matchup seems simple and easy to figure out, however there is a lot of variance and thought that goes into it. When playing against RB Reanimator, two of the questions I ask myself the most are "What can my hand do if my opponent has a Chancellor of the Annex?" and "I can't go off this turn after playing this Brainstorm, how should I resolve it in case my opponent gets a Griselbrand into play and gets a little greedy with draw seven activations?". Believe it or not, a lot of my wins in this matchup are from my opponent going down to four or five life from drawing seven cards with Griselbrand after casting Reanimate on it, then I just Grapeshot them for lethal after they wiff or if I hid Burning Wish on the top of my library with Brainstorm. Other than that, go off as fast as possible and avoid going for Empty the Warrens unless you absolutely have to.
Now, this being a deck that has a lot of discard, it is good to play out your copies of Lion's Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal to avoid them getting discarded. That being said, ewlandon is the most prominent and successful pilot of RB Reanimator, and he has actually brought in copies of Ancient Grudge and Wear // Tear from the sideboard against me before for exactly this reason. I would still always play out copies of Lion's Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal anyways unless I know he has it, but it's still important to keep in mind regardless.
How I Sideboarded:
-4 Ponder, -1 Empty the Warrens
+2 Chain of Vapor, +1 Echoing Truth, +1 Cabal Therapy, +1 Chrome Mox
While there was recently a new edition of Matchup Mulligan for this matchup, I do think this is one of our hardest matchups when it comes to hand evaluation, therefore I'd like to keep the conversation going. We are in game two on the play, and facing a mulligan decision. This hand has all of the things I like to see in this matchup...except for a business spell. We have a Duress for disruption, as well as Chain of Vapor in case of an early Chancellor of the Annex or Iona, Shield of Emeria. Not only that, but this hand has the ability to play around a Chancellor of the Annex in our opponent's opening hand, due to being able to throw away the Chrome Mox. Finally, this hand has a good amount of fast mana, with Dark Ritual and Lion's Eye Diamond. Generally, I value having Lion's Eye Diamond in the opening hand very highly as we can play it out without the fear of it being discarded. Like I said though, the main problem with this hand is that it doesn't have any business and we'll have to draw into an Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish, or Ad Nauseam to win.
Would you keep this hand?
Easy keep. There's a lot to love about this hand. Being able to throw away your Chrome Mox to a Chancellor of the Annex trigger is huge, as it lets us Duress them on turn one without having to burn a Lotus Petal. Having Lion's Eye Diamond in the opening hand is also huge, as we can just play it out, which makes our top-deck game that much better. If you can discard the right card sometimes games in this matchup can go long, so this is a bigger deal than you might think. Chain of Vapor is also good, as it can bounce a Chancellor of the Annex or an Iona, Shield of Emeria. If we can find an Infernal Tutor soon, we are in very good shape. This hand is a no brainer to me.
I would keep this hand. I would hope the Duress could buy me at least a turn or two to be able to find a cantrip or a business spell. We have access to 4 Brainstorms, 4 Infernal Tutors, 4 Burning Wish, 1 Ad Nauseam, and 4 redraws with Gitaxian Probe. I would consider those odds to be good enough, and with Duress being able to get a couple more turns should be good. Our hand is also pretty resilient vs Chancellor of the Annex, discard, and some reanimation targets. The odds of our 6 being better than this setup is probably lower. I would keep.
This hand is super close, but I do think we keep. Duress should do some amount of work, and this hand has most of the components we will want. While it is unfortunate that we are mostly at the mercy of our deck, we do have the ability to cast at least one Ponder or Brainstorm. If I had access to a lot of data, I might be able to conclude that a random 6-card hand has a faster average combo than this hand, but off the top of my head I don't believe that is the case, and so I want to keep this hand.
I don't know, if I like this hand given the removal of the 4 Ponder leave you with very little business. That should give you about 24% chance to draw one of remaining business spells in this situation. That's far from good, but I don't think the odds of getting a better hand after a mulligan are that much higher. I would keep, even if it's a risky gamble.
All day. I honestly don't understand why this is even a scenario. You can throw away Chrome Mox into a Chancellor of the Annex and still Duress. From there, play out the rest of your hand to avoid discard and play off the top of your deck.
I would take this against R/B Reanimator any day! The positive things about this hand start with how important it is to be able to play our Lion’s Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal on turn one before our opponent has a chance to cast Unmask, Thoughtseize, or their own Cabal Therapy and wrecking our resources. On top of that this hand has two pieces of disruption in the form of Duress and Chain of Vapor. Duress turn one on the play is a fine place to start the game, if we can delay them from getting Griselbrand into their Graveyard long enough find an Infernal Tutor we may be able to win with an Ad Nauseam line which would be ideal. Chain of Vapor is great in this match up. While maybe it would be cool to have drawn a second Lion’s Eye Diamond or maybe a cantrip, Chain of Vapor is not a card to sleep on. Not only being able to answer Iona, Shield of Emeria and Chancellor of the Annex, Chain of Vapor can also put us in scenarios where we can keep our opponent from taking advantage of lifelink with Griselbrand. A couple activations of the draw 7 ability can leave them at low enough life total that a Grapeshot or “mini” Tendrils of Agony could win the game easily. With all that being said we still have access to Chome Mox, which in this match up is a perfect spell to cast to start the game if our opponent reveals Chancellor of the Annex from their opening hand. This hand has a ton of play and just needs to find a tutor effect. Keep.
SITUATION #3 - Steel Stompy
Steel Stompy has been on the rise since it reached the Top 8 of Grand Prix Birmingham, it is quite popular online as of right now. Where do I begin with this deck, it is vicious. Not only do they run Chalice of the Void and Thorn of Amethyst, but some lists also play four copies of Thorn of Amethyst as well four copies of Lodestone Golem, both in the main deck. Their creature package actually looks similar to an Affinity deck. They have the ability to go wide with creatures like Vault Skirge, Steel Overseer, and Arcbound Ravager. I will say, Pulverize is amazing in this matchup. Not only does it destroy all of their hate pieces, but it also destroys all of their threats, making the path for Goblin tokens all the more clear. They also usually have Ratchet Bomb in the sideboard, so keep that in mind if you plan on casting Empty the Warrens after sideboarding. Regardless, it is still a stompy deck, so going off quickly in this matchup is important.
How I Sideboarded:
-4 Ponder, -2 Cabal Therapy
+3 Echoing Truth, +2 Chain of Vapor, +1 Chrome Mox
We are in game two on the play and it is our first turn. We can either just combo into ten Goblin tokens, or we can cast Duress or Cabal Therapy and try to go off next turn. I believe there is an argument for either, unlike other stompy decks, Steel Stompy has the ability to go wide with their creatures, so only ten Goblin tokens could very well be beaten in my opinion, not only that but they also run Ratchet Bomb, so it isn't a guaranteed kill. However, Steel Stompy also has a wide range of hate pieces, if we Duress away a Chalice of the Void, we could still lose to a Thorn of Amethyst or at the very least have to burn our Lotus Petal to play Cabal Therapy on the potential second hate piece.
Which line would you take?
If this was any other "stompy" deck, I would shove Empty the Warrens down their throat without second thought. With how fast Steel Stompy can go wide compared to other Stompy decks, I felt more inclined to lead off by fetching for a basic Swamp and casting Duress. For this matchup, ten goblins isn't a lot. I would feel more comfortable taking whatever hate piece they might have, and potentially go for an Ad Nauseam line the next turn. If they top deck a Thorn of Amethyst or Chalice of the Void, I would accept losing to that rather than losing to their board state just being better than ours, and this isn't even taking Ratchet Bomb into account. If their hand turns out to be the nightmare hand and they have both Chalice of the Void and Thorn of Amethyst, I would burn our Lotus Petal to cast Cabal Therapy so we can have our opponent discard both. I can see jamming the ten goblins being correct, however, this is the play I would rather make in specifically this matchup.
Without looking at their deck list, as if I was in a tournament, I would guess they have 10-12 hate cards in their deck, that are less than 3 mana, post-board. The likelihood of them having at least 1, and with them keeping 7 is very high. I think even the chance of them having 2 is fairly high. Even if we hit with our discard spell we would still be relying on a brick on the top of their library. With the assumption that the opponent could have at least 1 or 2 lock pieces I would make 10 goblins. The chance of them going wider is a lot lower with the more lock pieces they have. I would also take the risk of them not having a sweeper and not using flashback on Cabal Therapy. I think it's a huge risk, but one I'd probably take. My guess would be that I need every goblin to be able to beat their going wide strategy or if they had like a Walking Ballista to shoot some of them down. They probably only play 1-2 copies of Ratchet Bomb, and I don't think losing 1 goblin is worth it, knowing how fast their deck can go wide. If it was something like Eldrazi Aggro I would flashback Cabal Therapy, because they can't go as wide.
I want to make 10 Goblin tokens and flashback Cabal Therapy on Ratchet Bomb. Given that almost all of the creatures they could play on turn one are X/1s, and that a one of their fast lands requires them to lose a lot of life, nine Goblin tokens should be enough to win the game in most situations. It won't be enough every time, but I feel reasonably confident in it. I don't like casting Duress because they could have two hate pieces and on top of that, there is no guarantee that we'll be able to do anything more than produce 10 goblin tokens next turn anyway. While our Cabal Therapy would be better next turn because we'll have seen their hand, nine Goblins almost certainly won't be good enough next turn against most hands.
Given all the redundant hate pieces Steel Stompy runs, I would be more afraid of them than sideboard sweepers or options to go wide. I'd go for the goblins.
In my experience against Steel Stompy, ten goblins isn't as good as it is against other Chalice of the Void variants – mostly due to Vault Skirge and Arcbound Ravager. This provides an out that isn't Ratchet Bomb, because of this I would search up the basic Swamp and cast Duress. If they have a second piece of hate, I would play Lotus Petal and Duress. If they don't have anything else, if you draw a mana source you can Ad Nauseam on turn two which is great. If not, you can jam another Cabal Therapy. I just don't like my odds with nine to ten creatures.
My least favorite thing is to lose the game because I didn’t go for it. Even if we discard a Chalice of the Void from the opponents hand they could just draw another piece of hate on their turn and lock us out the game or begin amassing a board state with creatures that makes Empty the Warrens worse the later we resolve it. So let’s go for it right now. Sacrifice Polluted Delta fetching Underground Sea, cast and sacrifice Lotus petal (Storm 1) using it to cast Rite of Flame (Storm 2) for 2 red, cast Lion’s Eye Diamond (Storm 3), tap Underground Sea for 1 black, cast Infernal Tutor (Storm 4); retain priory: sacrifice Lion’s Eye Diamond for 3 mana. Tutor and cast Empty the Warrens (Storm 5) making 10 Goblins and giving us a win in 2-3 turns depending on our opponents hand. At this point we could flashback Cabal Therapy naming Ratchet Bomb but doing so could slow our clock allowing the opponent more time to find an answer or buildup a strong enough board state to stabilize so I probably would leave Cabal Therapy in the Graveyard this time.
With Grand Prix Richmond around the corner, there is definitely a lot of experimentation to be done in testing. Until then I think deck list (v4.2) is a great choice to bring to any Legacy tournament, it is the list I would feel the most comfortable sleeving up.
Starting next month, the torch for Infernal Tutoring will be taken on by two new writers who show great promise, as I will be focusing on other content for the website. No matter what though, I hope my time with the Infernal Tutoring series has been informative for pilots of this deck we all love.
Until next time, thank you! And always go for the Grapeshot kill when possible, just to flex on em'.