August marks ten years of The EPIC Storm, I’m beginning to feel a little reminiscent of the last ten years. Right about now is when I began working on combo archetypes before landing on TES over the summer. Below you will find some of my favorite The EPIC Storm memories! They’re in no specific order. Anything in a block-quote was taken from old tournament reports, I provided links to video coverage when available. Enjoy!

Oh, how the deck has changed.

Grapeshot on Camera

Grapeshot
Vendilion Clique

 

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Finals: Ben Green with UWr Delver (‘Murica)

The room was absolutely empty. We could hear Adrian’s and Joey Pasco’s voice carry from across the hall. SCG told Reuben to play some music to drown out their voices. Rueben said since Ben was on the draw he had first pick, Ben had no preference. I nominated a local Syracuse band, probably my favorite band, Polar Bear Club. Once they were on, I had a great feeling about walking away with a trophy.

Game One: The first two turns are pretty uneventful, we both play, “Land, go” and then play another land and cantrips on our second turn. On turn three I play a Gitaxian Probe which reveals Ben’s hand,Force of Will, Vendilion Clique, Force of Will, Spell Pierce, Swords to Plowshares, Wasteland and Geist of Saint Traft. the draw off of Probe is a Cabal Therapy! Lay Underground Sea and Cabal Therapy, Ben plays Force of Will removing Geist of Saint Traft. On my next end step Ben plays a Vendilion Clique and puts my only “Tutor effect” Burning Wish on the bottom. I play “Draw, go” for a while as Vendilion Clique repeatedly attacks me. I play a Probe and Duress the turn before the combo turn. I decide that it’s time to get the gears moving when I’m at four life. I draw Burning Wish as my draw for my turn. Lay Scalding Tarn and play Brainstorm. Lotus Petal and Rite of Flame. Spell Pierce comes quickly out of Ben’s hand. I play another Rite of Flame off of a Lotus Petal. Break my Scalding Tarn to shuffle my deck hoping that Ben will Stifle it, he declines. Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual and cast Burning Wish.

Wish retrieves Past in Flames. Cast Past in Flames floating RB, Ben doesn’t Daze. Rite of Flame, Ben Dazes, in response I cast Dark Ritual and pay. Dark Ritual, Duress discarding Stifle, Rite of Flame, Gitaxian Probe going to one life. DRAW Lion’s Eye Diamond! Break it for UUU and cast Ponder which finds Gitaxian Probe, Burning Wish and Lion’s Eye Diamond. Take Lion’s Eye Diamond, play it, and break it. Probe paying a blue, draw Burning Wish. Cabal Therapy discarding both Swords to Plowshares. Burning Wish and cast the Grapeshot in my sideboard. One at Vendilion Clique the rest at Ben.

Sideboarding: -1 Infernal Tutor, +1 Cabal Therapy

Game Two: I keep my starting seven while Ben does not. Ben starts with his Stars Tundra and plays Engineered Explosives on zero and a Delver of Secrets. I play City of Brass and Lotus Petal, tap City of Brass and Ponder. Ben flips his Delver with a Ponder, attacks and then casts Ponder. I lay Polluted Delta (side note: In the coverage Reuben wrote that I favored this Delta. I can’t tell if it’s sarcasm or not, but I absolutely hate it) and cast Brainstorm, put back two Rite of Flame and shuffle with Delta finding Underground Sea. Cast Duress and discard Lightning Bolt leaving him with Geist of Saint Traft and a land. I break Lotus Petal and Cabal Therapy and discard Geist of Saint Traft because I don’t have a Tutor effect and it’s a fast clock. Ben lays his land and passes with a mystery card. I draw Brainstorm, lay Scalding Tarn and cast the blue instant. It finds Infernal Tutor. I put back Gitaxian Probe and Lion’s Eye Diamond. At this point my life total is somewhat low (11) and my route to victory is Ad Nauseam. Which is why I put back the Diamond. My hand now is three Dark Ritual and Infernal Tutor. I fetch with Tarn and find the second Underground. Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Ben fetches twice and casts Vendilion Clique! I he puts my Tutor on the bottom, I draw Lion’s Eye Diamond and pass. Ben bashes me for six, I draw and we’re moving to game three.

It turns out I could’ve played around the Vendilion Clique if I had known about it. If I went Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, hold priority and cast both Rituals Ben can’t interact with that line of play. However, hindsight is 20/20 and I wasn’t playing around a two-of in my opponent’s deck.

Game Three: We both keep our hands, Ben doesn’t seem thrilled with his seven. I play Ponder and stack Lion’s Eye Diamond and Lotus Petal on the top. Ben lays a Volcanic and passes. I play a Polluted Delta and bait out Ben’s Stifle. I pay life and cast Gitaxian Probe which reveals Lightning Bolt, Island, Tormod’s Crypt, Brainstorm, Geist of Saint Traft and Volcanic Island. draw the Lotus Petal. Lay down two Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor and Empty the Warrens! Fourteen Goblins arrive on the table.

Ben casts Brainstorms and doesn’t find the Explosives. Lays a Misty Rainforest and passes the turn. I draw Cabal Therapy and then attack for fourteen. Cast Therapy naming Brainstorm with all intention of flashing it back until I see his hand. It’s miserable. He’s all in on a shuffle into Engineered Explosives. Ben flips the top card of his deck and it’s…

Scalding Tarn!

10-1-1

From the moment I started playing in Star City Games events my long-time friend Mike Edinger stated that I needed to, Grapeshot some mother fucker in the face”.

His words, not mine. Mike, I certainly made you proud and let’s be honest, I kind of wanted to do it too. Grapeshot is my favorite magic cards and killing people with it feels way better and more demeaning than killing anyone with a Tendrils of Agony. What made this specific scenario of using the Grapeshot even better was that I did it while winning a Star City Games open. While these recollections are not in any order, this is certainly one of my two favorite memories.

Turn 1 – Silence, Kill You

Silence

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Quarterfinals: Feature Match (Camera) vs. Ralph Fitzpatrick with 4c Cascade

Game One: I keep a pretty loose hand of Gitaxian Probe, Gitaxian Probe, Gemstone Mine, Gemstone Mine, Scalding Tarn and City of Brass. Ralph starts out with Scalding Tarn for Taiga and plays Grim Lavamancer. I draw Dark Ritual for turn and cast Gitaxian Probe, all spells Ralph can’t cast due to only having one land. It gives me plenty of time to set up. I play a second Probe and a Ponder. Ponder finds Brainstorm to work with my Scalding Tarn. I draw Lion’s Eye Diamond for turn. Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor (Reveal Lion’s Eye Diamond), Dark Ritual, Rite of Flame, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor, Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish and Tendrils of Agony.

Sideboarding: -1 Infernal Tutor, +1 Cabal Therapy

Game Two: Ralph has a first turn Deathrite Shaman. I draw Silence for turn. Cast Gitaxian Probe revealing Force of Will, Lightning Bolt, Sylvan Library, and two Tarmogoyf. Cast Gitaxian Probe draw Lotus Petal, Gitaxian Probe and draw Infernal Tutor. Underground Sea, Lotus Petal, Silence, Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor and Ralph conceded the match. A turn one with Silence back-up on camera!

8-1-1

While this is certainly awesome, it’s not as significant as the others in my opinion. That said, I included it based on how rare the situation actually happened. With Silence being an “off-color” disruption element, you could not cast it off of Dark Ritual or Rite of Flame. Meaning that playing Silence on the first turn AND THEN killing the opponent almost never occurred. This recorded match is essentially a TES unicorn anomaly and pretty freakin’ sweet.

Tight Play!

Duress
Stifle

 

Round five: Tom Ross with Infect

Seated in a feature match area (and every single round after this), Tom seems stoic and cold. Very little communication.

Game one: I win the die roll which probably results in my mulligan. I keep a hand with two discard spells, unfortunately I draw two more before I lose. Awkward.

Sideboarding: -3 Cabal Therapy, -1 Empty the Warrens, +3 Xantid Swarm, +1 Bayou.

Game two: Underground Sea, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Rite of Flame and Ad Nauseam.

Game three: Tom fetches and searches for Tropical Island and casts Noble Hierarch. I play an Underground Sea and Ponder. Tom quickly puts a Gitaxian Probe on the table, my hand is capable of going off next turn with one of the two Duress as back-up, but needs the Bloodstained Mire as it’s only red source. Tom plays a second Noble Hierarch and attacks for two. I draw, lay the Bloodstained Mire and cast Duress. Tom floats a blue and casts Daze, I think and it feels like a trap. I remember that early lists played Stifles but then he moved to a white splash. I didn’t want to risk the Stifle, I let my Duress get Dazed. Move to combat, second main phase use the Mire to find Volcanic Island, pass. Tom plays a Inkmoth Nexus and attacks again. I draw a third land, lay it and cast Duress. Tom reveals Spell Pierce, Stifle and lands – Spell Pierce down. Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Burning Wish, Dark Petition, Ad Nauseam.

10-4 | 5-0

The reason this is so memorable to me is the ability to read the situation paired with knowledge of ever-changing decklists. Plus, I totally got to use Dark Petition in my first big event with it!

Dark Petition

Dark Petition

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Same event in the very next round, I got to use Dark Petition on camera to close out another match. This time against Dylan Donegan! In our first time meeting, he denied me of a top 8 in Baltimore. This time I get revenge, even with Dig Through Time on his side.

TES Mirror Match

Ad Nauseam
Rite Of Flame

 

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Round Six: Royce with TES

Royce and I knew there was a chance that we would play when we realized that we were both undefeated up until this point. Unfortunately, it happened sooner rather than later. Also unfortunate, this is a match-up that is almost purely draw-dependent. Gerard walks over, points at me and says “You’re on camera.” I chuckle to myself.

Game One: Royce starts the game with a Gitaxian Probe, leaving my hand naked: Underground Sea,Brainstorm, Chrome Mox, Burning Wish, Silence, Lotus Petal and a Rite of Flame. He then Ponders and leaves Lotus Petal up to represent Silence. I mimic him with a Sea and Petal before passing. We spend the next few turns playing cantrips and setting up the win along with disruption. I get to know Royce’s hand too thanks to my own Probe, which reveals two copies of Silence as well as a Duress. It’s not looking great for the home team. Royce casts Duress discarding my Silence, leaving me unable to interact. I untap, lay City of Brass before casting Burning Wish. Royce breaks Lotus Petal and Silences me. I retrieve a Cabal Therapy. Royce untaps, plays a Probe and draws a gold land for his Silence, then passes. On my upkeep, Royce Silences me. I draw Silence and pass. Royce draws and casts Burning Wish. I Silence him. I untap and play a few Petals. I cast Cabal Therapy naming Rite of Flame so that if he had any, they would add to my mana while making sure the coast was clear. Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor for Ad Nauseam.

Sideboarding: -1 Empty the Warrens, +1 Cabal Therapy

Due to Royce cutting the second Cabal Therapy, he didn’t really have the option to bring in his lone Therapy. It’s much more important to have the copy in the sideboard for Burning Wish in the mirror. At the same time, it’s pretty important to take Empty the Warrens out of the deck for game two as passing the turn and attacking is not be the best way to win in a combo mirror. I imagine he sided in a Xantid Swarm to combat Silence in Empty’s place.

Game Two: I keep an opening hand of Rite of Flame, Scalding Tarn, Misty Rainforest, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond and Lion’s Eye Diamond. Which is quickly revealed to Royce. He does the usual cantrip business. I draw a Silence, I play out everything I can and pass. Royce plays a Duress. I discard the drawn Silence. I search during Royce’s end step for an Underground Sea and then draw Ad Nauseam! Misty Rainforest is quickly put to the graveyard for a land in order to cast Rite of Flame into Ad Nauseam. I decided to break one Lion’s Eye for three red to ensure an easier victory while leaving myself a way to become hellbent for Infernal Tutor if need be.

6-0

Royce is a good friend of mine, not only magically but in life. Which made playing against him at 5-0 a little bittersweet. It’s not too often TES get’s a mirror match where both players are undefeated, yet alone on camera.

After the match we went over to the coverage booth to see how the twitter feed (before Star City Games used twitch) reacted to the match. We received a “Good, good. But Royce, You should at least cut his deck.” As if I planted the Ad Nauseam there. I went back and rewatched, I shuffle for over a minute before Royce shuffles.

We still laugh about the comment to this day.

Defeating Reid

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This match’s significance isn’t really based on the games played (They weren’t incredibly interesting) but on the opponent. I’ve played against a lot of high-level players, none of which have the skills Reid does. He’s probably the best player I’ve ever played (and in this scenario, beaten) and a great person as well. He’s truly what everyone says about him.

GP: Columbus 2010

Round Fifteen: Ari Lax with ANT

Game One: He has two Duress and tons of mana and resolves Nauseam before I can.

Sideboarding: -1 Empty the Warrens, +1 Pyroblast

Game Two: This game is a straight up cripple fight. He goes all in turn one after I go Sea, Ponder into Chant, Petal go. He casts 2 Lotus Petal, land, Grim Tutor for Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Infernal, I chant him. He gets Duress. It’s dragged out a ton, I mini Tendrils him down to 5 at one point. We each had tons of protection to rip apart the other person. I end up drawing Infernal casting it, getting Nauseam and passing. He passes. I cast Nauseam from 24… he keeps saying,”just show me the Tendrils”, I refuse because well he has a condescending tone in his voice the entire round and was a bit cocky. I Burning Wish for Grapeshot, he responds with, “Real cute, real cute.”

Game Three: I keep a hand of Tendrils of Agony , Duress, Underground Sea, Chant, Ponder, Gemstone, Petal. He plays Thoughtseize, takes Chant. I draw Duress, I Duress him, take Ill-Gotten Gains because he wasn’t able to be hellbent without it. He casts Duress, takes Duress. I draw Orim’s Chant. Ponder, Shuffle, draw Lion’s Eye Diamond. Play it, pass. He goes all in, I Chant him. I draw Infernal Tutor and win sometime after. He lost the confidence he had the first two games during game three, he was much more of a real person.

13-2 | 25-10

The true power of Grapeshot and my first (and only, let’s be honest) Grand Prix top 8 berth. That said, I was probably a little harsh on Ari in my report. Since then I’ve worked with him on storm/TES and he’s not that bad of a guy.

Nihil Spellbomb

Nihil Spellbomb

Round Seven: Feature Match vs. Michael Caffrey with Thopter Control

Mike and I unfortunately don’t have better tiebreakers than the other X-1’s and have to play it out.

Game One: Mike wins the die roll and begins with Ancient Den, Mox Opal, into Top. I play land-go. He plays Thopter Foundry. I play land-go. He plays Tezzeret, makes an artifact a dude swing. I play Dark Ritual, Duress, taking a Force of Will, Rite of Flame, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Chrome Mox, Ad Nauseam in response to the Chrome Mox imprint trigger, and in response to that break Lion’s Eye Diamond for BBB! First time I’ve ever done the Chrome Mox trick and it’s for a spot in the top 8 on camera, how awesome.

Sideboarding: -1 Infernal Tutor, -1 Ponder, -1 Chrome Mox, +3 Pyroblast

Game Two: Mike casts Enlightened Tutor for Ethersworn Canonist. Backs it with Counterspells. I lose.

In scouting him the previous round against Andrew with Past in Flames, he only had Meddling Mages and graveyard hate that I saw. Oh well.

Sideboarding: -1 Silence, -1 Rite of Flame, +2 Echoing Truth

Game Three: The beginning few turns were Duress and Meddling Mage naming Dark Ritual. His Mage gets in there, I draw Pyroblast and kill the Meddling Mage. I follow up with Orim’s Chant the next turn with Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual, Ad Nauseam. I showboat for a very long time, probably about ten minutes, and Grapeshot him for 35-40.

Maybe you should’ve been playing Forest, Mike.

6-1

Some time, years ago, I made a joke about how I don’t lose to decks that play Forests. Mike Keller went out of his way to then make a mono-green prison deck with Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere among other hate pieces that won with Natural Order into Terastodon or Progenitus. I lost. Michael Caffrey enjoyed reminding me on a regular basis that I lost to a “green” deck. I was going to Grapeshot him, I was going to Grapeshot him hard.

Many Grapeshots were had in game three. What I left out of the report was that Mr. Caffrey and I both savagely misplayed. During the “I showboat for a very long time, probably about ten minutes, and Grapeshot him for 35-40″ I had played a Past in Flames not realizing that Michael had a Nihil Spellbomb on the board – it was off to the side of the table. Fortunate for me, he forgot as well. After I was done knocking him out of top 8, a spectator came by and said, “Unless I’m missing something, you two realize there was a Nihil Spellbomb in play. Right?” Our reactions were not the same. Mine was immediate laughter.

I might not be able to beat Forests, but I can beat Michael Caffrey.

Lucky Abeyance

Abeyance

A match against Anwar Ahmad (For those of you who don’t know, Anwar had a huge influence on Legacy in it’s early days. He was a writer for Star City Games as well as a fantastic deck builder.), when he was piloting a creation of his – Permanent Waves (PW). You can probably guess the archetype based on the deck name. For those of you who aren’t very clever, it’s a sorcery speed High Tide deck. At the time, all of the High Tide decks were instant speed and based on the card Reset (Made popular by David Gearhart).

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the match, even if I don’t remember all of the details. It was at The Mana Leak Open 3, I had won my first big event at the previous series and was anxious with excitement. That said, it’s safe to say that I was a little disappointed when I just missed top 8. In the middle of the event, I was paired against the Legacy guru in the middle of the event. It’s game three, Anwar has a second turn Merchant Scroll for Force of Will. I don’t remember many of the other turns of the match, but I do remember the combo turn. I played multiple Orim’s Chant into Anwar’s Force of Will(s), none of which resolved. What did resolve was my Dark Ritual and Rite of Flame into Diminishing Returns (I don’t exactly remember what mana I had floating). I “remove the top 10 cards of my library from the game” because I certainly couldn’t “Exile” them in 2007-2008 and then draw seven.

At this point there’s several spectators including my friend and teammate, Adam Barnello. I peel each card slowly and I realize that my hand comes just short, I had an Infernal Tutor, a few Abeyance, Lotus Petal, a few more Rituals but couldn’t win the game due to the inability to become hellbent. I realize that the game is lost (I imagine that Anwar would kill me on his turn), but the only way I could win is if the top card of my deck is Lion’s Eye Diamond AND Abeyance resolves. I Dark Ritual, play Lotus Petal and cast Abeyance. It resolves… I draw. It’s Lion’s Eye Diamond! I couldn’t believe it and was in disarray. Probably from Adam Barnello shaking me from behind, I’m fairly certain he was more excited for that draw than I was.

The game ended with a Tendrils of Agony and a handshake. Even in a ridiculous situation and in loss, Anwar was a great sport.

One Match. One Lotus.

Black Lotus

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Semifinals: Feature Match vs. Eli Kassis with Sneak & Show

Due to the fact that I made top 4, Eli had to win the event to pass me in points for the Championship, and Player of the Year. If he took second there would’ve been a tie. In the case of a tie there would be a five game playoff with any deck of our choosing at the Invitational. The opposing player wouldn’t receive any information on the other player’s deck.

Game One: I play a few establishing cantrips while Eli decides to play a Show and Tell into Progenitus. I end up taking a very long Brainstorm but end up making the correct decision. I play a Lotus Petal then Dark Ritual, the Ritual is countered by Spell Pierce. Lion’s Eye Diamond and Chrome Mox come down into a Burning Wish that tutors for Diminishing Returns. I’m forced to pass the turn and try again. I take a slam from Progenitus.  Another Brainstorm followed by Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, and Rite of Flame. Spell Pierce comes down to target Rite of Flame, I Dark Ritual in response, Eli Dazes the Ritual and I pay. I then cast Duress, Eli Forces my Duress, I play Silence, Lion’s Eye Diamond, and Burning Wish into Tendrils of Agony.

Sideboarding: -1 Infernal Tutor, -1 Ponder, -1 Chrome Mox, +3 Inquisition of Kozilek

Game Two: I make a critical error this game with my second discard effect not taking Intuition. I was blind and didn’t see the line of play into Show and Tell, I almost got away with my mistake but Eli found a Force of Will off of the second Griselbrand and drew seven to Counterspell my Ad Nauseam. My fault, I should’ve known better

Game Three: Eli keeps a no-lander that is quickly revealed to my Inquisition of Kozilek. Luckily enough for him he drew a land for turn. Eli then plays Ponder into another land. Show and Tell soon comes down putting an Emrakul into play. The Emrakul forces me to attempt to win the game through Eli’s double Force of Will, Blue card, and X. I fetch and run out a Dark Ritual and then another. Eli forces the Silence that I had just cast. I follow up with a Rite of Flame, and then play a Burning Wish. This was the test to see if Eli had another blue card, he didn’t Force! I get Past in Flames after some careful consideration. Put Lion’s Eye Diamond down and play Ad Nauseam asking if Eli had the blue card. He did.

5-2-1

Back in 2012 I was in points race with Eli Kassis for Jupiter Games’ Player of the Year. We were neck-and-neck (I was a few points ahead) going into the last event of the season. We played each other twice, which means I had two opportunities to deny him a Black Lotus in one event. I fell victim to bad luck in one round and a play mistake in another.

I would do it all over again and not take a prize split. The thrill of playing one match for $1400 (At the time the beat white-border Black Lotus was $800 and the prize for first was $600) was exhilarating. The rush, intensity and adrenaline of playing a match like that felt like none-other. Each play was more important than the last. Playing this match has certainly helped me in other high-stress big events, experience is key. Sometimes you need to fail once to succeed many times.

My only regret was not playing tighter and not seeing the Intuition line in game two.

First Turn Griselbrand

Griselbrand
BurningWish

 

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Probably my favorite memory. Todd Anderson and I were in a tight match at Star City Games: Baltimore, the winner was likely to make Top 8! (SPOILER: I had bad tiebreakers, had to play against Dylan Donegan and lost.) The first two games were blow outs on each side with the third game being insane. I have a turn one Ponder, Todd decides to play a turn one Griselbrand (I put a land into play) and then dies.

Todd activates Griselbrand (going to 13 life), discards and passes. I start off with Lotus Petal (Storm 1) and Cabal Therapy (Storm 2) (Naming Force of Will and hit).

Dark Ritual (Storm 3 – BBB) and Duress (Storm 4 – BB).

Lion’s Eye Diamond (Storm 5 – BB) and (using Lotus Petal and breaking Lion’s Eye Diamond) Burning Wish (Storm 6 – BBBB).

Todd and I shake hands, then he forces me to show him the Tendrils of Agony after my suspicious sigh of relief. It was an incredible match and one of the few times I’ve won with a Griselbrand on the table.


After rewatching videos and reading old tournament reports my one lasting thought is, “Why the hell am I not playing Grapeshot anymore?”