Through the Looking Glass: Steel Stompy with Max Gilmore

Special Guest

A few words on Max Gilmore (@MXGonline):

Max Gilmore is a Legacy Jack-of-all-trades, but is probably best known for his eagerness to put Swords to Plowshares in the same deck as Delver of Secrets. Max is always on the lookout for the next broken thing, and works to keep himself at the forefront of Legacy innovation. His effort to stay ahead of the curve has rewarded him with high match-win percentages at Grand Prix and on Magic Online. His most recent project is Steel Stompy, which he has worked to elevate from a rogue deck into a real metagame contender.

Recently, Max has launched a website, which you can find here.

What kind of anti-storm hate does Steel Stompy play pre-board?

In the main deck, my build of Steel Stompy plays 4 Chalice of the Void, 4 Thorn of Amethyst, 4 Lodestone Golem, and 3 Phyrexian Revoker, summing up to a full 15 pieces of anti-storm cards. This means that on a random 7-card hand, I have an 88% chance of having 1 of these cards, and a 57% chance of having 2 or more. When you consider that I’m likely to mulligan any hand without a good Turn 1 play (Chalice of the Void, Thorn of Amethyst, or Steel Overseer), these odds go even higher. Steel Stompy (and other stompy decks) tend to mulligan well, preferring to look for a powerful (read: fast) opening hand than just a hand with more cards in it. By successfully resolving a lock-piece early on, Steel Stompy more than makes back the lost equity from a mulligan.

What kind of creatures does Steel Stompy play compared to other colorless decks like Eldrazi?

In short, instead of playing Eldrazi, it plays the Vintage “Shops” creatures. I’m currently playing a full set of Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer, Walking Ballista, Lodestone Golem, and Vault Skirge, and rounding it out with a trio of Phyrexian Revoker. Karn, Scion of Urza is also pretty much a creature - much like a History of Benalia would be in a standard white aggro deck. Instead of making 2/2 Knights, however, he makes 7/7 Constructs.

That said, I’m also playing 2 Eldrazi in the 75, as a pair of Thought-Knot Seer in the sideboard. It turns out that a 4/4 Thoughtseize that you can often resolve on Turn 2 is a pretty powerful effect, especially in matchups where you are interested in sniping a particular hate-card out of the opponent’s hand. For example, against Storm decks, being able to take the Hurkyl’s Recall, Echoing Truth, or Burning Wish with Thought-Knot Seer is invaluable for keeping the Chalice of the Voids and Thorn of Amethysts in play until you are able to attack the opponent to zero.

Would you say the die-roll heavily affects this matchup?

Yes, absolutely. In all games, but especially Game 1, If I’m able to resolve a lock-piece before TES gets a turn, I’m a heavy favorite to win. If I’m on the draw, TES has a decent shot at either 1) discarding the one lock-piece I have in hand, which happens around 43% of the time, or 2) winning on Turn 1, which happens around 25% of the time.

However, it’s worth noting that, on a mulligan, I’m very likely to use my “scry” to try to find a lock-piece, meaning that is two extra Duress-proof “looks” at a Chalice of the Void or Thorn of Amethyst I can jam down on Turn 1. Also, on a 7-card keep, I’m also quite likely (~21%) to just draw what I need off the top, as a combination of having a dozen great draws and personally being a giant lucksack.

How much does Steel Stompy care about an early Empty the Warrens combo?

A lot. Game 1, beating 10+ Turn 1 goblins (possibly even only 8), on the draw, ranges from “very difficult” to “impossible.” My creatures don’t typically survive combat with a Goblin until Steel Overseer loses summoning sickness, and by that point, it’s often too late. Also, Ancient Tomb is my most reliable Sol Land. If I can’t tap it for mana (due to not having the spare life total), I’m even less likely to win than I would otherwise be.

Games 2 and 3, I have a sideboard containing a full quartet of Ratchet Bombs, so if you’re going to move in on the Turn 1 Empty the Warrens plan, try to incorporate some discard into the combo, or just accept that you have a roughly 40% chance of losing those Goblins. Keep in mind this may still be your best odds to win the game, overall. It’s also worth noting that I’m playing more Ratchet Bombs than most Steel Stompy builds, with other players averaging around 2, both in the sideboard.

Would you say Steel Stompy is more favored against Storm than any other “Stompy” or Chalice of the Void deck?

I think my win percentage is about the same against Storm with Eldrazi Aggro and Steel Stompy, which have to be close to 90% in my favor. Steel Stompy almost always wins Game 1 against Storm, while Eldrazi has fewer cards that matter (just Chalice of the Void and Thought-Knot Seer). Post-board, however, cards like Hurkyl’s Recall or Pulverize are far more devastating against Steel Stompy, since they not only answer the lock-pieces, but the entire board.

However, these are both higher than my win rates against Storm with Eldrazi Post or the Eldrazi Midrange (Oblivion Sower) deck. I haven’t played Moon Stompy, but I can’t imagine that Storm’s matchup against that deck is particularly great.

Keep in mind, however, that none of these matchups are “good” for Storm decks. We’re not discussing the difference between “favored” and “unfavored”, but between “favored” and “practically a bye.”

Which storm variant do you think Steel Stompy have a better matchup against;
The EPIC Storm, or Ad Nauseam Tendrils?

This is an interesting question. Let’s look at Game 1. On one hand, it is easier to hamstring TES with a single lock-piece. TES usually combos on tighter margins than ANT, so something like a Thorn of Amethyst is a lot harder to play through. ANT can sometimes win through a critical mass of Cabal Rituals, which TES doesn’t have the luxury to do. However, Game 1, multiple lock-pieces can be completely lights-out against ANT, but TES can still have the Game 1 “out” of Burning Wish into Pulverize, provided the mana and time to cast it.

Post-board, I feel more comfortable vs. ANT, since “I sure hope they don’t make a bunch of goblins before I get a turn” is a more realistic ask. At least I have 4 Ratchet Bombs as answers.

How highly do you value Wasteland knowing your opponent on The EPIC Storm is likely playing a Pulverize in the sideboard that can be obtained with Burning Wish?

I’ll use a Wasteland against Storm decks as soon as I no longer need the mana to cast lock-pieces. While a Wasteland is -1 mana, a Thorn of Amethyst is -1 mana per spell cast. Wastelanding the opponent is a priority, but it falls below “jamming out lock-pieces.”

It’s all contextual, but if I had to delay Wastelanding in order to cast a Lodestone Golem the turn after, I would typically wait.

A situation I can imagine where I wouldn’t wait is if it is clear my opponent is stuck on 1 land, and I already have a Thorn of Amethyst in play. Here, I would just Wasteland instead of potentially giving my opponent a “window” in which to do something. Of course, if playing the Wasteland destroys the City of Traitors I have in play, this gets more complicated, and becomes a function of how many lands I have in hand and what my board development would look like in either case.

With Thorn of Amethyst in play, Burning Wish into Pulverize is a 4-mana play involving 2 Mountains. With more taxing effects, this becomes even less practical. However, if my hand is heavy on Chalice of the Void, but light on Thorn of Amethyst and Lodestone Golem, I would prioritize Wastelanding an exposed nonbasic Mountain to play around the line of Burning Wish into Pulverize.

Would you keep a hand that has a one piece of disruption in it such as a Chalice of the Void, but no creatures? Why or why not? Does this change after sideboarding?

Game 1, the deck contains 23 creatures (plus 4 Mishra’s Factory), so the metrics for keeping a hand have very little to do with creature count. Blind, Game 1, the metric for keeping a hand is “a powerful Turn 1 play.”

Post-board, against combo, a lot of the less-impactful creatures come out in favor of more anti-combo cards, so it is more likely to have a hand with disruption but no clock. Provided the mana acceleration to play these cards starting Turn 1, you pretty much always want to keep these hands. You draw a fresh card every turn, and it’s either going to be a land (good lands in this situation include Wasteland, Mishra’s Factory, and Inventors’ Fair), a creature (there’s your clock!), or more lock-pieces (can’t have too many of these).

What does your overall sideboarding look like against The EPIC Storm?

(Insert disclaimer about boarding being subject to change depending on what I see out of my opponent in Game 2)

Take out: 4 Walking Ballista, 1 Karn, Scion of Urza, 3 Vault Skirge

Bring in: 4 Ratchet Bomb, 2 Thought-Knot Seer, 2 Warping Wail

The main differences in sideboarding against TES and ANT are with the cards Arcbound Ravager and Leyline of the Void. Cards like Echoing Truth (typically out of TES) or Hurkyl’s Recall (typically out of ANT) make it far riskier to move in with an Arcbound Ravager against open mana on the Storm side. However, Arcbound Ravager has utility against Echoing Truth. If you have multiple of a particular lock-piece in play, you can use Arcbound Ravager to sacrifice the one being targeted with Echoing Truth, fizzling the spell, and keeping your other copies of that card in play. Against ANT, which has both Echoing Truth and Hurkyl’s Recall, this is less reliable, so some copies of it can come out in favor of Leyline of the Void, which pulls more weight against ANT than TES, leading nicely into the next question.

Decks like Steel Stompy and Eldrazi Post have been known to sometimes play Leyline of the Void in their sideboard, how highly do you value cards like this as well as other graveyard hate against The EPIC Storm?

TES is not nearly as graveyard-reliant as its ANT cousin, and as such, I don’t bring in Leylines against TES, while I do bring them in against ANT. The way to beat Storm is to shut off each avenue that Storm can take to beat you.

Against ANT, the typical routes to victory are:
-Cabal Ritual chains (beating a Chalice of the Void or Thorn of Amethyst by making a ton of extra mana)
-Past in Flames loops (from any life total)
-Ad Nauseam (from a high life total), especially backed by discard for Ratchet Bomb
-Empty the Warrens (typically on turn one)

Leyline of the Void shuts off both the Cabal Ritual and Past in Flames loop lines, so they serve as an important cog in the ANT-beating machine.

Against TES, the typical routes to victory are:
-Ad Nauseam (from a high life total)
-Empty the Warrens (typically on turn one), especially backed by discard for Ratchet Bomb
-Burning Wish, into Pulverize, into pretty much anything.

TES is not nearly as graveyard-reliant as ANT, so Leyline of the Void does not typically pull its weight. The slot is better served as being any other card, including just a beater, to make Ad Nauseam a riskier line. Also, putting Leyline of the Voids into your deck means you risk drawing them after the opening hand, where they are close to dead draws. While Steel Stompy can cast a Leyline of the Void, and I have done so, it’s not something I’m looking to do.

After sideboarding you are presented with an opening hand that has a Ratchet Bomb, but no other pieces of hate, do you keep?

This is an easy mulligan on a 7. The deck has such a high density of must-answer cards for TES, that a card that only answers the Goblins after you’ve gone for the combo is going to be worse than a 6 card hand with multiple haymakers. On a mulligan to 5 or lower, I’d probably keep this, as “hope you just go for Goblins and I can blow them up” or “hope you play out your artifact mana under a Thorn of Amethyst but don’t combo” are both better than my average 4 card hand.

What changes would you make to your sideboard if The EPIC Storm was a larger percentage of the metagame?

More copies of Thought-Knot Seer. A 4/4 Thoughtseize that doesn’t die to artifact destruction is quite a devastating effect. The larger presence Storm decks have in the metagame, the happier I am registering Steel Stompy. As built, it is very favored against Storm, both ANT and TES.

What kind of mistakes do you see Storm pilots make against you when you are playing Steel Stompy?

The first one that comes to mind is using Thoughtseize to discard one of my two copies of Phyrexian Revoker when you’re on the play, Game 1. I think a lot of Storm pilots don’t realize that I typically don’t know you’re on Storm until you tell me so, either by playing Storm-specific cards (like playing out Artifact Mana before I can play a Thorn of Amethyst) or by behaving in such a manner that I can deduce that you’re on Storm. Discarding Phyrexian Revoker with Thoughtseize is the latter.

Underground Sea into Thoughtseize is not a Storm-specific play, and if you see my hand, and know I’ll have a choice at either playing “fair” cards like Steel Overseer, or blindly jamming a Phyrexian Revoker, taking a Phyrexian Revoker with Thoughtseize is a surefire way to make sure the other one (or another topdecked lock-piece) comes down ASAP, with a Phyrexian Revoker almost always naming Lion's Eye Diamond.

Generalizing this a bit, the best way that Storm can steal a Game 1 against Steel Stompy, short of winning on Turn 1, is to trick me into thinking you’re Grixis Control or Grixis Delver, where my priorities shift. Against Control, I’m more likely to want to get my value-generating cards in play (e.g. Steel Overseer) under a Hymn to Tourach, and against Delver, I’m more likely to try to build up a 4/4 Vault Skirge.

Keep in mind that Chalice of the Void is a better card against Grixis Delver than Grixis Control, and Thorn of Amethyst is better against Grixis Control than Delver. Try to leverage the information disparity as much as you can to get me to place you on the “wrong” deck.

Another mistake is keeping slow hands, Post-board. I especially mean cantrip-heavy hands on the draw, but a hand with 2+ cantrips on the play is also probably not great. I’m going to try to not to let you develop. You’re likely not going to have the time to both answer the lock-pieces and cantrip into what you need to win.


I would like to take a moment to thank Max Gilmore for joining Through the Looking Glass and providing some spectacular responses on the Steel Stompy versus The EPIC Storm match-up.

Thank you for reading!


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 twice. 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.