Through the Looking Glass: Ad Nauseam Tendrils with Brandon Osborne

Special Guest

A few words on Brandon Osborne (Control4Daze on MTGO):

Brandon began his Magic addiction on the blacktops at recess in 1994...eager for the opportunity to trade a freshly pulled dual land for a Force of Nature. Playing until 2001, Brandon had some success on the JSS with two of his favorite decks of all time, Counter Rebels and Fires (of Yavimaya). After a 14 year hiatus from the game, Brandon picked up Standard at the release of M15, and slowly worked his way down the formats, until arriving at Legacy. Inspired by Kai Sawatari's T4 finish at Grand Prix Kyoto, he built and quickly fell in love with ANT – with notable finishes including an SCG Classic win and a Magic Online Challenge win. He is a fan of play-style extremes, control, and combo – hence his alias, Control4Daze.

Would you keep a hand on the draw that is a turn two win, even if it has no discard spells in it?

Let me preface this by saying I loathe mulligans with storm.

In general, I am inclined to say yes, I will keep this type of hand (in most instances); however, the answer to this question is contextual — it is dependant on the texture of my specific hand. For example, a turn 2 win that has multiples of a single card, specifically a ritual (susceptible to Cabal Therapy), and only one piece of action (no cantrips and an Infernal Tutor, or one cantrip and no Infernal Tutor) or a hand that is dependant on a single Lotus Petal, with no land, could potentially get sent back for 6 new cards. If my hand has a nice mix of rituals, an Infernal Tutor, Lion's Eye Diamond, and a cantrip, despite no discard, would certainly be a keeper. It’s not going to get much better, despite the absence of a Thoughtseize or Duress.

On that note, I play the storm match-up differently than most people. I would much prefer to proactively develop my game plan rather than reactively disrupt your plan, especially when I'm on the play. If my opponent plays out a Lion's Eye Diamond on turn 1, and I am on the draw, I will react and attempt to disrupt them accordingly.

How concerned are you with Empty the Warrens? Does the recent addition of Cabal Therapy influence this at all?

As an ANT player, very rarely is Empty the Warrens a card that is on my radar. I have definitely had instances where Bryant has cast Empty the Warrens and then flashed back Cabal Therapy Afterwards, shredding my hand and dismantling my gameplan, but the instances of this happening are few and far between. The inclusion of Cabal Therapy definitely increases the value of Empty the Warrens in the matchup, but it seems like it should be a distant plan B to Ad Nauseam versus ANT. Empty the Warrens should be a metaphorical “break glass in case of emergency” kind of card in the TES vs. ANT matchup.

How highly do you value hands that have cantrips and discard spells, but no fast mana or business spells?

I love these types of hands — if it were up to me, I would just spin my wheels every turn and never actually do anything, casting cantrips “Ad Nauseam” (*Ahem* Miracles *cough cough*). A versatile hand where it can morph into what I want it to be, in 1-2 turns time is ideal versus any iteration of Storm. It negates the value of your opponents discard, and you can leave the valuable cards on top of your deck so you are not vulnerable to your opponent’s discard spells. “Mo’ Cantrips, Mo’ Bettah” is what my mother always taught me!

Which are you more likely to try to win with, Past in Flames or Ad Nauseam in the pseudo-mirror?

Past in Flames is generally the best card in the mirror match — it provides both speed, value, and resilience. Any time I have a Past in Flames in my opening hand in any storm matchup, I feel favored.

As an ANT player, I am not boarding out any of my “business” spells versus TES; therefore, my Ad Nauseam is generally a very mediocre option. Additionally, I will sideboard out a Lotus Petal in the matchup, which makes Ad Nauseam even worse of an option. Despite this, if my only line is to go for Ad Nauseam, and I have a relatively high life total (15+), I’m still going to go for it, because I may not get another chance. In ANT, Ad Nauseam is more of a “draw 10 cards, win the game next turn” kind of card than the instant win condition that it is with TES.

How often do you consider Telemin Performance? How likely are you to prepare for it? What are your opinions are cards like Extract or Sadistic Sacrament in the sideboard?

The answer to this question is very dynamic and dependant on what the online trend is, at a given moment in time. I play a fair amount online, and unless I start to see a trend of Telemin Performance getting cast against me on a more frequent basis, I will not be bringing in my friend Xantid Swarm. Furthermore, If I am on the play and suspect Telemin Performance, I still might not bring in any answer to it, with the exception of Flusterstorm. I want to be proactive, not reactive.

Extract?!?!? I had to look that one up (Great artwork - bet it looks awesome in foil!)! I have never had it cast against me — and I imagine most people wouldn’t consider playing it due to it’s incredibly narrow-nature. Unless ANT was 10+% of the metagame, I think Extract would be a poor choice as a wish option. However, if you really really want to beat ANT, it certainly is a good choice — the same applies for Sadistic Sacrament. I would rely more on being a better storm player than your opponent than devoting sideboard slots to cards that will be applicable 5% of matches you play. I would not play either of those cards right now.

Against TES what are you looking to hit with your discard spells in general, do you value attacking mana or tutors higher?

I typically value Lion's Eye Diamond the highest when aiming my discard at another storm opponent, whether it's versus TES or ANT. If Lion's Eye Diamond is not an option, it once again depends on the hand. If there is more than one tutor, I’m taking a ritual. If there is only one tutor but a bunch of rituals, I’m taking the tutor. Very rarely do I like taking discard spells, with my discard — I find that game plan too reactive.

Who do you believe is favored in game one? Does this change post-board? If so, how does Flusterstorm play into this?

Theoretically, I’m not exactly sure which deck is favored in this matchup, to be perfectly honest. From my experience, TES tends to be a step quicker, while ANT tends to be more resilient — it’s a tale as old as time.

If my TES opponent keeps 7 cards and is on the play game 1, I am definitely on my back foot; however, based on my personal experience and results, I am inclined to think that ANT has the advantage in a 3-game-set (but then again, I feel favored in the true mirror match versus ANT as well). Looking at the matchup from an objective standpoint, Past in Flames, and Flusterstorm out of the sideboard, are incredibly impactful cards, and may just tip the scales in ANTs favor. My vote is for ANT, but I may be (slightly) biased.

How concerned are you with cards like Tormod's Crypt or Surgical Extraction out of the sideboard?

Good question! I certainly dislike seeing Tormod's Crypt out of my opponent’s TES deck, more so than Surgical Extraction, due to the fact that it disables the most important card(s) in my deck, my (2) Past in Flames; additionally, there is splash damage, as it kills the value of Dark Petition as well. Surgical Extraction, while still an excellent choice in the matchup, is much easier to play around.

That being said, at this moment in time, I will play around Surgical Extraction if I can, but most times will go for the kill, in spite of a potential Surgical Extraction from my opponent. Surgical Extraction has the “surprise factor” going for it.

Both cards are fine options, but if I was playing TES and attempting to beat ANT, I would definitely play Tormod's Crypt over Surgical Extraction.

How would your sideboard change if both ANT and TES were a much larger part of the metagame? Conversely, how do you think it would affect TES’ sideboard?

There have been times when I’ve run cards like Sadistic Sacrament, Surgical Extraction, Tormod's Crypt, etc.; however, as an ANT player, it’s hard to find a 3rd card to cut when sideboarding versus any storm deck. I don’t want to dilute my game plan to a point where I feel reactive, so I don’t know that more than 2 to 3 cards would ever be a consideration, despite how prevalent the deck is in the metagame at a given time. I don’t think Wizards is printing any new storm spells any time soon, so I’m not too concerned with the deck becoming a significantly larger portion of the metagame to the point where I would want more than 2 slots devoted to it in my board.

How do you feel about ANT lists that have Chrome Mox in the sideboard? If you played it, would you bring it in against TES?

When playing the Storm (ANT or TES) mirror match, a (perceived) mistake I see people making is voluntarily 2-for-1’ing themselves. In most instances, I am more than happy to have a card stripped from my hand, if it is taking you two cards to do so. Card advantage is of the fundamental principle that carries through and applies in most instances, from a conceptual — in a critical mass deck, such as Storm, being mindful of this concept is even more important than in the average deck.

With that in mind, I am very reluctant to give an endorsement to a card that inherently requires card disadvantage to function. Chrome Mox can absolutely be an asset when Ad Nauseam is on the stack, but in general, with ANT, Past in Flames is the most valuable “business spell” in the deck, and how I want to win in most matchups. In a large portion of matchups where Ad Nauseam is good post-board, Empty the Warrens is as well; consequently, I do not see the necessity to cut other valuable sideboard cards for a marginal improvement when casting Ad Nauseam periodically.

Hypothetically speaking, if I were to run Chrome Mox in my 75, I would not bring it in against TES, for the above-mentioned reasons. Additionally, sideboarding more than 2-3 cards in the matchup is excessive. I’m more than happy bringing in 2 Flusterstorm and calling it a day.

How does having a second copy of Past in Flames in the deck affect the matchup?

In my experience, Past in Flames is the best card you can have for the storm mirror in most situations — it is excellent when it is in your opener with Lion's Eye Diamond, and usually is the best possible top deck in the late game as well. As many of us have experienced, when playing against a storm variant, you very regularly arrive at this weird place in the game where there are 2-3 lands, a Lion's Eye Diamond, and a Lotus Petal in play, with 0-1 cards in hand. In these instances, a lot of the time, Past in Flames simply wins the game. For me, Past in Flames is a huge reason why I have decided to pilot ANT instead of TES — the card is very good.

What are your thoughts on both ANT and TES’ positions in the current legacy
Metagame?

As I write this, 1 day post-Grand Prix Niagara Falls, I stand by the fact that I think ANT is a fine deck choice for the given metagame. The resilience of Past in Flames, in ANT, and the versatility it provides in the long game, are big reasons why I think the deck has had some moderate success recently; however, it is my understanding that TES has a leg up against certain popular decks, such as Death & Taxes and Moon Stompy. Given the success of UW variants at the Grand Prix, particularly Niagara, in theory, I think that ANT is likely the better metagame choice at the moment, but I can’t say that I have tested both to be certain. If the metagame shifted more towards chalice/non-blue strategies, TES might be the better option.

What other advice do you have for fellow storm pilots regarding the storm mirror?

General rules I tend to follow when playing against storm variants:

  • Don’t 2-for-1 yourself
  • Be proactive!!! Develop your game plan, rather than disrupt your opponent, when on the play (unless you are protecting a turn 2 kill).
  • Stop playing scared. You’re not dying on turn 1 95% of the time, and likely not on turn 2 either.
  • Play out your Lion's Eye Diamond to avoid having it discarded.
  • Be patient with casting your Brainstorms — developing your gameplan while playing around your opponents discard is a win-win.

I would like to take a moment to thank Brandon Osborne for joining Through the Looking Glass and providing some spectacular responses on the Ad Nauseam Tendrils versus The EPIC Storm match-up.

Until next time, keep storming!


Anthony LaVerde

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.