With the release of Conspiracy: Take the Crown, there's been two printings that heavily influence the EPIC Storm. Unfortunately, neither of these cards are tools for the deck - instead they're cards that help shut the storm down. I'm talking about Sanctum Prelate and Recruiter of the Guard.
When initially reading the pair of cards, my mind instantly went to, "Well, Death & Taxes just became a whole lot better". But is that it? I think it's safe to say that Recruiter of the Guard will only see fringe play outside of the white hatebear deck. But I think Sanctum Prelate is a little more versatile, it could easily see play in the sideboard of Miracles to help fend off the storm or even shut down Show and Tell.
The new white "Imperial Recruiter" will help find tools to weather the storm, including: Phyrexian Revoker, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and even Sanctum Prelate. The "Chalice of the Void" with legs is scarier than one may think, if it chooses two, TES is down to just Empty the Warrens as a win-condition. Which the deck must then must find without any Tutor effects. If Sanctum Prelate is on four, the deck is forced to win with Grapeshot in a difficult match-up. Four is the safest number to name if a Death & Taxes player is unable to differentiate the EPIC Storm from Ad Nauseam Tendrils.
I've spent the last week mulling over what I should do to combat Sanctum Prelate, before coming to a plan, I figured I should ask my trusted advisors what they thought:
After months trying to find a solution to hateful artifacts, here comes a Chalice of the Void on legs with no creatures drawback (Thorn of Amethyst) and resistant to artifact hate? Really? Any decks could find it troublesome, but The EPIC Storm doesn't play creatures, so the permission Sanctum Prelate gives is useless to us and we barely have creature removal. Honestly, I feel a bit disgusted, after the other white creatures Death & Taxes has received recently (Recruiter of the Guard and Thalia, Heretic Cathar). It seems like the new direction Magic is taking will make it harder and harder for non-creature decks.
I don't believe every deck will splash white for this specific card. It's very good, maybe excellent, but by no means necessary. That being said, it has a massive advantage over its hatebear siblings: it disrupts storm while protecting itself at the same time. Let's take a look:
This means whatever we were using as removal for hate creatures, we'll need to get more diverse and have at least two different cards at different mana cost to get rid of Sanctum Prelate. A single card requiring a minimum of two different sideboard slots is something I haven't seen that often in TES. For a list like mine, which runs both Grapeshot and Massacre, I don't think I would make any changes at this point, but maybe change my playstyle and board in Massacre? It sounds awful and I don't plan on a change it tomorrow, but Sanctum Prelate at two shuts off Burning Wish as a resource. We were siding in Grapeshot and using Burning Wish for Massacre, maybe it's time to change. If not boarding Massacre, Tendrils of Agony would be an other choice, hoping we can win with the main deck only – without using converted mana cost cards at two.
Against the EPIC Storm, I see it as a better Meddling Mage. I believe I'll still be more afraid of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and maybe Ethersworn Canonist too. Even after the match-up got easier since the Pulverize inclusion. Comboing a turn faster is the biggest factor in the comparison. Because of this, I believe the game plan won't change much against the hatebears heavy deck; it's still win before the hate comes online. However, against decks which we didn't use that game plan (Miracles) could be stress tested and I could see greater minds than mine working on speed rather than removal against decks using Sanctum Prelate. I wouldn't be surprise to see a return of the Miracles theory crafting and how to build up a win starting turn one, instead of the (now accepted) grind.
Lastly, I've been wondering if some X spells couldn't be of use due to their flexibility and avoidance. I know how it can sound a bit ridiculous, but Engineered Explosives and even the classic Fireball have been on my mind since I saw the spoilers.
Sanctum Prelate, the latest in Wizards of the Coast's crusade against combo, will definitely affect The Epic Storm sideboard if it begins to see play. In the main deck, I don't expect to want to make many changes, but you can always turn copies of Duress into Thoughtseize since Cabal Therapy would otherwise be working overtime versus Death and Taxes. As usual though, the game plan should still just be to win as quickly as possible before the hatebears can come down.Postboard though, we have two different options. The first is to avoid bringing in too many reactive cards so we can still answer Thalia, Guardian of Thraben quickly, but not dilute our deck too much so that we can still be faster than Sanctum Prelate. If we want to ensure that we have answers to the card though, we will want to diversify the mana costs of answers in our sideboard. 4 Abrupt Decay won't cut it since they are probably naming two with Sanctum Prelate anyway. We either want to board in copies of Massacre (but this can be risky since I suspect the second most popular number on Sanctum Prelate to be four in this matchup), or we can just play a few copies of one mana bounce spells like Chain of Vapor, which have always been in and out of the storm sideboards. There is potential for cards like Drown in Sorrow or Virtue's Ruin to see their day in the sun, but they are just so weak against Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that they are unlikely to be worth it.
There has been some uproar in the Storm community after Sanctum Prelate as been spoilered, which, in combination with Recruiter of the Guard will alter the face of Death & Taxes in Legacy, but even aside that deck, Sanctum Prelate can slot into Maverick and other non-blue decks unlike Meddling Mage. The two cards share some traits in making cards uncastable, but while Sanctum Prelate is more expensive to cast, the effect is in a whole different league. We all know the effect of Meddling Mage which is able to shut out up to four copies of your opponent's key cards, Sanctum Prelate goes far beyond that by locking out entire mana costs. Against blue-white decks you can lock out all Brainstorms, Ponders & Co. plus their removal in form of Swords to Plowshares, which means that Sanctum Prelate is able to demolish large parts of any Legacy deck at once in a symmetrical way, as she isn't blocking creatures and she will be run in creature-centric decks anyways.What does it mean for Storm? If Sanctum Prelate is able to block either Dark Ritual, Ponder, Brainstorm and Gitaxian Probe or Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish and Abrupt Decay? I think the card is a game-ender once hitting the battlefield as none of the Storm variants is able to work around that card. We can cast Abrupt Decay on Meddling Mage, Ethersworn Canonist, Thalia and even Chalice of the Void, but this new card can mess with your deck AND protect itself unlike the other named cards.
Gaddock Teeg, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and friends made winning harder, but Sanctum Prelate is a three-mana "I win" button against Storm. Don't just look at Death & Taxes and think the card is irrelevant because it's slow. It has potential to slot in Miracles to block Abrupt Decay and other spells while Counterbalance shuts the door for the converted mana cost spells of one for the win. Expect to see that card popping up in sideboards!
With their guidance, I hit the ground running trying to come up with a new list. My initial impression was that I thought AJ's suggestion of moving Thoughtseize to the main deck to combat the hatebears was interesting. The more I think about it, the better it seems due to Eldrazi as well. I've always been hesitant of this change when suggested due to the life-loss in an Ad Nauseam based storm deck. But with the ever-growing amount of permanent based disruption - it seems inevitable. This is something I'll need to test thoroughly to get a better grasp on, but I really like the idea of saving sideboard space.
The next change I thought up on my own as a reaction of Abrupt Decay being converted mana cost two (now less effective against Miracles). I'm recommending bringing back an old favorite of mine - Wipe Away. It fills a very similar role of Abrupt Decay of dealing with Counterbalance, but also answers Sanctum Prelate (unlike Krosan Grip). This should help a lot in the Miracles match-up. Not to mention, it slows the opponent from floating a Flusterstorm on top of their Library with a Sensei's Divining Top if you cast Wipe Away on their end step!
There was one slot left in my sideboard after this, I'm still not sure what it should be. Here's what I've been considering:
The fourth copy of Abrupt Decay feels excessive due to Sanctum Prelate and the addition of Miracles, I believe it's simply too many slots dedicated to a similar cause. I've traditionally been a fan of a Burning Wish target discard spell, especially when you can bring it in for the combo-mirror. However, slots are somewhat tight and we're no longer swapping copies of Thoughtseize for Duress. Which leads me to believe that this slot will be used less frequently. Another thought would be to slide Bayou back to the sideboard to smooth out the mana with another Bloodstained Mire, but at that point I feel we're not getting the best "Bang for our buck". It's a wasted slot.
Which leaves me with two real options, Chain of Vapor or Chrome Mox. Caleb Scherer has been championing copies of Chrome Mox in his ANT sideboard since piloting TES a few times, turning his list into a hybrid against faster decks. Well, if the metagame is leaning towards more copies of Death & Taxes and Eldrazi - it might make sense to increase the number of Chrome Mox. Speed is everything in those match-ups! For the more conservative, there's Chain of Vapor to answer Thalia, Guardian of Thraben easily while providing a different mana cost answer to Sanctum Prelate.
- 4 Burning Wish
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 4 Cabal Therapy
- 2 Thoughtseize
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Ad Nauseam
It might be best to wait and see results before panicking, but as of right now this is the plan. I haven't tested it much yet, it's pretty much pure theory crafting at this point. But I'd love to hear thoughts, concerns or suggestions. Thanks!
Until next time, keep storming!