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TES Infernal Tutoring #34

Since our last article, The EPIC Storm (TES) made another Top 8 finish at the latest Leaving a Legacy Open V! But the deck has also Top 8'd the most recent Legacy Challenge as well as the Legacy Format Playoff! When you look at these three events, it is pretty clear that RUG Delver and Turbo Depths are currently the decks to beat in the metagame.

As far as The EPIC Storm goes, there hasn't been a whole lot of deck changes. There have been some Wishclaw Talisman lists floating around, but the general consensus has been that it is better in Ad Nauseam Tendrils (ANT) than TES. Other than that, it is business as usual, so let's jump into our scenarios!

Max Carini

Special Guest

Max Carini

Max Carini is an IT auditor hailing from the Bay Area and a self-described “rectangles-with-text” hobbyist. After watching Ad Nauseam resolve during coverage of an SCG Open in 2014, Max decided to wade into Legacy Storm combo under the MTGO nome-de-planeswalker “wonderPreaux.” A half-decade later, Max endeavored to leave his house and attend paper events, finishing in the Top 8 of two 3Ks, taking second at the SCG CON Play-4-Power event, and scoring a Top 16 finish at GP Atlanta. Outside of work and wizard-duelery, Max has an abiding interest in music and energy drinks.

Deck List

SITUATION No. 1 - RUG Delver

In our first scenario, we are playing against RUG Delver. RUG Delver picked up in popularity with the printing of Wrenn and Six. RUG Delver can be a very challenging matchup because they have so much countermagic, disruption (Wasteland and Stifle), and a pretty fast clock. While Wrenn and Six was a huge boon for the deck, I think it made our matchup slightly better because Wrenn and Six is generally a pretty dead card against The EPIC Storm. RUG Delver often has a hard time answering 10+ Goblin Tokens, so this is the matchup where we want to board in two Empty the Warrens if possible.

HOW I SIDEBOARDED:

-1 Burning Wish, -1 Infernal Tutor, +2 Empty the Warrens

We are on the play in game two. Our opponent mulliganed to four. We have an incredibly explosive hand with no protection. Would you go for it here? Does the London Mulligan impact your decision?

Situation 1

Special Guest

Max Carini

Max Carini

This prompt is way more interesting in the era of the London Mulligan, I think I would gun it every time if I was playing against the top four cards of the opponent's deck. In this case, the mulligan choice allows the opponent to build a 4-card hand to navigate through what is obviously a disadvantageous position. The consideration at the forefront of my mind is, no matter the size of the hand you're keeping, you have to have a hand that actually plays the game; a hand of two copies of Force of Will, a land, and Flusterstorm would be the worst case scenario for the context of a turn one or turn two combo. Would you really keep a hand with no creatures (or cantrip to find one) in the context of playing a tempo deck? Sitting inert against the combo deck that is already three cards up sounds like a plan for disaster as the Storm player could sit back and pick apart your limited card count piece by piece. If the opponent here has Force of Will, that's representing half of their hand gone which would be quite a devastating blow if not for the Storm hand here being very fragile as well. Going all in and getting hit by Force of Will would drop both players to two cards, and the opponent likely has a land among them, whereas we would be sitting on a Lotus Petal and inactive Mox Opal (the saving grace being that there's a decent chance that the blue card pitch may be their Delver of Secrets or Ponder that intends to represent a threat).

I think the play here is to set the artifacts and play Brainstorm off of Mox Opal, intending to go off turn one to invalidate Flusterstorm, Stifle, Daze, and Spell Pierce— limiting the opponents already constrained count of relevant cards. Most games I could see losing here start with me getting "Forced" and the opponent then having something like land, Delver of Secrets, and X while I'm sitting on artifacts only. By Brainstorming first, I can still bite the bullet with Dark Ritual, Lion's Eye Diamond, and Infernal Tutor into Empty the Warrens. If I find nothing relevant, I can fortify my position if I hit a land, discard spell, or even Chrome Mox off of the Brainstorm. On a mull to four, one of which likely has to be a land, I can pass after Brainstorm and come back the next turn with a discard spell against their five total cards. Alternatively, finding a permanent mana source means that I'm much more likely to recover after Force of Will if I don't win right away going for Goblin Tokens.

#TEAMTES

Josh Hughes

Josh Hughes

With London Mulligan, I think the chance of Force of Will or Force of Negation is extremely likely on a Mulligan to four. With that being said, I would go for it every time!


Bryant Cook

Bryant Cook

There's almost no reason to not cast Brainstorm first to look for a land, protection, or a main deck copy of Empty the Warrens. Odds are our opponent mulliganed into interaction of some sort (the percentage is even higher with London Mulligan and copies of Force of Negation). Don't play the game that just out-right forces you to lose by going all in. Brainstorm allows you to sculpt a back-up plan in-case things go awry. Even if your three cards off of Brainstorm aren't great, you're still able to cast an Empty the Warrens for at least 14 Goblin Tokens.


AJ Kerrigan

AJ Kerrigan

I've gone back and forth on these scenarios, but I think being able to beat cards like Flusterstorm is more important than trying to Brainstorm and hoping to hit one of our six discard spells. These spots are hard and have a lot of moving parts to consider, so I wouldn't be surprised if I'm just wrong for wanting to go for it. Force of Negation and the London Mulligan certainly changes the conditional probabilities away from our favor here, so I'd be willing to use Mox Opal to Brainstorm and just try again next turn where we can still beat Daze or Spell Pierce.


Anthony Laverde

Anthony LaVerde

I wouldn't be surprised if my answer was the odd one out here, but I wouldn't risk going all in when our opponent mulled all the way down to four. At this point, the game is basically ours to lose. I'd start by playing out our artifacts and casting Brainstorm off of Mox Opal, hoping to find a discard spell so we can easily beat our opponent's expected weak hand. With this being game two, it's worth noting that our opponent likely was trying to mull to interaction so it is more likely that they do have a "Force."


Landon Sworts

Landon Sworts

I would absolutely go for it here! Force them to have it. Most likely Goblin Tokens from Empty the Warrens will be enough, so with that in mind we could even Brainstorm before casting Dark Ritual in search for an additional mana source and a discard spell. Either way, I would absolutely combo with this hand; with or without the London Mulligan.


Alex Poling

Alex Poling

I would go for Ad Nauseam here. With the opponent on four cards, there is a good chance they just kept a playable hand. If they're lucky they may have a Spell Pierce or a Daze, but that just makes me want to go for it this turn even more. If they have Force of Will then so be it. That's the risk I'll take.


Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee

I really don't think we can afford to go for it here. Our opponent has a minimum if 87 percent chance to have a live Force of Will to blow us out. My line would be to cast Lotus Petal, Lion's Eye Diamond, Mox Opal, then Brainstorm to look for some manner of protection.


Alex McKinley

Alex McKinley

The London Mulligan influences the play a little bit here. I think its unlikely overall that a RUG Delver player would mulligan to strictly Force of Will, but its worth considering. For this reason, I would start by playing out all of the artifacts and then casting Brainstorm, looking for another mana source and a discard spell. Even if the Brainstorm misses, there is still enough mana to go for an Empty the Warrens line. On four cards, the opponent is unlikely to be able to answer 14 Goblin Tokens and the Brainstorm is able to put back good cards to put us in a position to recover in the event that the opponent does have a Force of Will to counter the Infernal Tutor.

SITUATION No. 2 - Hogaak Zombardment

We are currently playing against Hogaak Zombardment. Hogaak Zombardment is a new take on a classic Legacy deck, where the opponent creates a ton of Zombie Token and then ultimately hurls them at the opponent for one damage using Goblin Bombardment. Generally, this is a pretty good matchup for The EPIC Storm, but there are many times where you can get caught on the wrong side of a Cabal Therapy or the opponent outraces your Goblin Token with their Zombie Token. You almost have to approach this matchup like Dredge, where you want to stay away from Goblin Token if possible.

In this scenario, we are in turn two about to resolve our Burning Wish. We need to decide what we want to get with our Burning Wish. The two scenarios that I see are Empty the Warrens for 14 Goblin Tokens or Echo of Eons with two mana floating. Both are risky, but what would you choose here and why?

Situation 2

Special Guest

Max Carini

Max Carini

I agree with the general Dredge-like texture of this matchup, especially since most of what guides my decision here is sitting in the opponent's discard pile. Looking at the state of the board, my best parsing of this is that the opponent's Carrion Feeder ate a Stitcher's Supplier that came down turn one, and a Faithless Looting was also resolved, setting the opponent up with an engine of Bridge from Below, Gravecrawler, and Carrion Feeder. The problem I see with making 14 Goblin Tokens is that the opponent can then use their untapped lands to recur and sacrifice Gravecrawler to generate two Zombie tokens. Then, the opponent should sacrifice Carrion Feeder to itself for a fourth token. Carrion Feeder can't block and once a Goblin Token gets blocked and dies the next turn, the Bridge from Below is lost anyway. We should credit the opponent having the presence of mind to gambit away their already-endangered engine for the sake of a fourth blocker. This means we would be crashing through for 10, six, and two damage before ultimately getting stopped. We would have to find another Burning Wish for Tendrils of Agony to deal the last damage while the opponent can start swinging back at us or running in disruptive discard spells. What's worse is that this is assuming the opponent has nothing to do with four cards after we pass with 14 Goblin Tokens. If the opponent has even a third land to generate five blockers, the math swings farther out of our favor – and it gets worse with something like Putrid Imp or Stitcher's Supplier enabling a second Bridge from Below on the last Carrion Feeder turn.

As it stands, the Goblin plan takes three turns to probably not work under the condition that the graveyard-creature synergy deck can't do anything synergistic with a turn to play creatures and have a graveyard — I'd probably take my chances on the Echo of Eons here. There's some consideration when you play these “wheel”-type effects as to what mana to float and whether to shuffle in the Lotus Petal or not. I think here it's better to leave Lotus Petal as you already have another floating mana as to marginally increasing the chance of hitting a business spell or cantrip is fine. I'm inclined to float the black mana and use both red for Burning Wish. That way, you can deploy a discard spell in the event of a fizzle and take one of their discard spells or combo spells if you wheeled into a clunky seven.

#TEAMTES

Josh Hughes

Josh Hughes

I think in this spot, 14 Goblin Token is still too risky for me. I would go for the Echo of Eons line. This of course could back fire, but I would prefer a chance to win on the spot!


Bryant Cook

Bryant Cook

I would Echo of Eons. The likelihood of our opponent beating a small horde of Goblin Tokens due to Bridge from Below is too high for me. I would much rather take the chance on spinning the "Wheel" with Echo of Eons on a fresh seven cards especially with two mana floating. Plus, you get to shuffle in the graveyard-deck's vital tool. I also enjoy that we have a discard spell Imprinted onto the Chrome Mox, so there's one less card we don't want to draw in our library!


AJ Kerrigan

AJ Kerrigan

14 Goblin Tokens seems unlikely to be good given our opponent's graveyard, but I also don't have a ton of experience with the matchup. Echo of Eons with Lotus Petal and Chrome Mox up should be good, and we'll potentially have slowed our opponent down enough in the cases where our hand can't win.


Anthony Laverde

Anthony LaVerde

You actually have to go for Echo of Eons here, Empty the Warrens is not an option. The reason being is that with Bridge from Below and Gravecrawler in our opponent's graveyard, they can make a 2/2 Zombie Token for every land they have every turn! With a land drop, they would have four Zombie Token that can block the first turn, and then seven Zombie Token the second turn. The math just doesn't work in our favor even if they miss on land drops. That being said, you can float after casting Echo of Eons, so just make sure to do that so you have perfect mana.


Landon Sworts

Landon Sworts

Just because the opponent is a black deck that is more likely to play Plague Engineer than counter magic, I would choose the Echo of Eons line. Even if the line fails; forcing the opponent to shuffle their graveyard into their library has value.


Alex Poling

Alex Poling

I'd cast Echo of Eons. I think the opponent has a high chance of beating 14 Goblin Token here. Currently, they have Gravecrawler and Bridge from Below in the graveyard. Those two, combined with the Carrion Feeder's sacrifice ability, can create many zombie tokens. There's also Faithless Looting in the graveyard and three cards in hand. The chances of winning with Goblin Token is very low.


Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee

I'm going for Empty the Warrens here. It forces the opponent to come up with significant action in the next two turns, and their current board position is not enough by itself.


Alex McKinley

Alex McKinley

The biggest factors in my decision here is the Bridge from Below in the opponent's graveyard and the fact that we have played a land this turn. Bridge from Below lets the opponent do some ridiculous token generation depending on their hand. This would brick the Empty the Warrens strategy, leaving little for us to fall back on. I do not like casting Echo of Eons without a land drop if winning the game on the same turn is important. In this case, passing the turn is fine and Echo of Eons has the added benefit of removing the opponent's graveyard, which sets them back really far.

SITUATION No. 3 - RUG Delver

In our final scenario, we are playing against RUG Delver again (it's everywhere!!) 

HOW I SIDEBOARDED:

-1 Burning Wish, -1 Infernal Tutor, +2 Empty the Warrens

In this scenario, we went for an Echo of Eons line (floating). Our Echo of Eons resolved, and our new seven cards were Duress, Polluted Delta, Badlands, Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish, Dark Ritual, and Ad Nauseam. I started by playing Badlands and then Dark Ritual. I then cast my Infernal Tutor, which resolved, grabbing my second copy of Duress. Duress number one was Dazed, I didn't pay. Duress number two was met with another Daze.  At this point, we have access to six mana. Do you let Daze resolve, and go for the Burning Wish, or pay for Daze and then Ad Nauseam from eight life?

Situation 3

Special Guest

Max Carini

Max Carini

This is a scenario where it's interesting to see what happened on the way to this moment. It's hard for me to see behind the MTGO window of the stack, but it looks like the opponent is floating blue mana, meaning they can cast any Flusterstorm, Spell Pierce, or Stifle they were possibly dealt. If I were to guess, I'd say the game probably involved trading discard spells or rituals against counters, and then we slipped through with Burning Wish and a pair of Lotus Petal to account for the six floating? Probably something like that. Now the decisions points are whether to pay for Daze and which business spell to use and, given our exact mana count, those decisions are basically intertwined.

Given our single-digit life total, and the extra copies of Empty the Warrens in the deck, Ad Nauseam is not a very attractive choice. Moreover, if Ad Nauseam was the plan, I think the sequencing here was debatable; playing Dark Ritual followed by Duress, knowing we can Burning Wish for another seems like the better choice if we wanted to use Ad Nauseam. With more floating mana going into the first Duress as to disincentive Daze in response, we can Burning Wish for another Duress instead of showing the opponent we have two (a successful Ad Nauseam probably needs to see Lion's Eye Diamonds, so using Infernal Tutor as the kill card is likely okay if we must use the Burning Wish). If we get countered, since any Force of Will, Flusterstorm, or Spell Pierce stops both business spells. It's also worth noting that Burning Wish basically won't have the opportunity to get Tendrils of Agony and win after this turn whereas we could theoretically draw another Dark Ritual and Ad Nauseam from 5-6 life the turn after this. So... do we want to (likely) protect an 8-life Ad Nauseam, or do we want to run an unprotected Burning Wish with a terribly small chance of an Ad Nauseam backup? With the floating blue representing any counter, all of which beat Burning Wish into Tendrils of Agony, I think the “backup plan” is too slim a chance to consider and we have to pin our hopes on Ad Nauseam to reveal some of those zero mana artifacts we like so much (also, the opponent can't have two counters).

#TEAMTES

Josh Hughes

Josh Hughes

In this scenario I would pay the one to (hopefully) ensure that Ad Nauseam resolves. While this plan seems really risky with three Empty the Warrens in the deck at eight life, I think it is the line that gives us the highest chance of winning.


Bryant Cook

Bryant Cook

This is a great scenario! I don't know if I love the sequencing that got us here, but that's okay — I personally wouldn't have searched up a second copy of Duress. I likely would've allowed the Burning Wish to get countered saving mana in the process. I don't think I love Ad Nauseam with three copies of Empty the Warrens in our deck, especially when we need to flip a number of zero mana artifacts as well as Burning Wish or to a lesser extent, Infernal Tutor. Not to mention, we've already used up our land drop and two initial mana sources in Mox Opal and Lotus Petal. The good thing is it doesn't look like our opponent has any mana floating, which means we don't need to be concerned with Stifle or Spell Pierce. I would cast Burning Wish and pray.


AJ Kerrigan

AJ Kerrigan

Ad Nauseam from eight with no mana floating and no land drop left and a Lotus Petal and Mox Opal missing from our deck seems lower probability to win than the odds our opponent just doesn't have a Force of Will. I would not pay for Daze here.


Anthony Laverde

Anthony LaVerde

This is a bit of a judgement call. On one hand, our opponent could have cast Daze on our Duress because they have no other interaction and they want to protect that information. But on the other hand, in six cards it is likely that they have a Force of Will/Force of Negation and a blue card. That being said, we are not likely to win with an Ad Nauseam from eight life with three copies of Empty the Warrens in our deck anyways, so I would go for the Burning Wish line.


Landon Sworts

Landon Sworts

Interesting scenario! I definitely see an argument for either line. I think personally, my gut tells me to try to resolve Burning Wish for Tendrils of Agony. It's possible the opponent has a Force of Will or Force of Negation, but I think it's probably more likely that they don't than us flipping enough mana sources to generate six mana at only eight life considering we need at least four cards to pull off a win with Ad Nauseam from this position. Part of me feels this way because the Infernal Tutor itself resolved as well as the additional copies of Empty the Warrens that are currently in our deck. My guess is that the pair of Daze are the only free counter magic they drew from Echo of Eons. The amount of time the opponent spends thinking about allowing spells to resolve could possibly impact my decision in the moment, If they had tanked over Infernal Tutor I would possibly choose to roll the dice and take the Ad Nauseam line instead. By casting consecutive copies of Daze, the opponent certainly could be protecting additional disruption in their hand. It really is a tough call. I would most likely choose Burning Wish over Ad Nauseam here, but in interest of full disclosure I'm not 100 percent positive that in the moment I would come to the same conclusion.


Alex Poling

Alex Poling

In either scenario, we lose to a Force of Will, so I won't factor that into my decision. We have to decide what is more likely, that we win with 14 Goblin Tokens or find a way to win with Ad Nauseam from eight life. I think the odds are higher with Empty the Warrens. The opponent only has one creature in play with zero lands.


Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee

I think the risk of going for Empty the Warrens is lower than the risk of casting Ad Nauseam with three Empty the Warrens in our deck. We've established how poorly RUG can deal with Goblin Tokens, so I believe that is the safer line.


Alex McKinley

Alex McKinley

I think I would not pay for the Daze here. Assuming the opponent has access to about five Force of Will effects, they have about a 42 percent chance (five looks in 50 cards) to find one. This is about equivalent to going off on turn one so I think I would just cast the Burning Wish to find Tendrils of Agony to end the game.

I wanted to give a shout out to Bryant Cook for his Leaving a Legacy Top 8 finish! The EPIC Storm is in a great spot right now, so I encourage everyone in the community to keep trying new builds. Until next time, keep storming!


Joshua Hughes

Like many others, Josh started playing Magic: The Gathering in middle school, where he learned to base his self-worth on how many dragons he owned. These dragons ended up coming in handy 15 years later when he got back into Magic and started playing EDH. After playing it for about six months, Josh heard rumors about a format with decks that could win on turn one. Since then, Josh has focused completely on Legacy.